All posts by Deb Schaffer

The Outer Banks – Sun, Sand, and Sea

For centuries, people have been coming to the Outer Banks on the coast of North Carolina. The Indians that lived there, the colonists that disappeared, and the pirates that roamed the waters all understood that life on these islands could be brief.

Fortunately, that is no longer the case. Even in the Spring, the beach is still alive with birds, sea creatures, and people. We wanted to see for ourselves what the fuss was all about. Why do so many people flock to these shores every year?

Our visit was just one week. Our plans were to visit the Wild Horse Refuge near Corolla, play a few rounds of golf, and visit the four lighthouses that define the Outer Banks.

We were successful.

Wild horses on the beach

Backcountry Safari Tours provided us with a Wild Horse Safari by Segway that was a blast.

Having some experience with Segways, we were ready to go quickly. Soon we were driving on Highway 12 – on the beach road. Suddenly we came across a small herd of horses on the beach.

Outer Banks

These horses are descendants of Spanish mustang ponies left here centuries ago. They live here wild – so you can’t get too close.

We headed to the refuge and unloaded the Segways. Soon we were zooming around the dunes through the refuge.

Outer Banks
Ready to go!

We saw plenty of hoof prints, but no horses in the refuge.

We did leave the refuge and ride the Segways around the area and did find a few horses grazing alongside the road.

They ignored us.

Outer Banks
Ignoring the humans taking pictures.

Contact Backcountry Safari Tours for more information on the Wild Horse Safari trip.

Lighthouses

Our other goal, besides playing golf, was to visit all four of the famous lighthouses in the area: Bodie Island,  Cape Hatteras, and Ocracoke Island, and Currituck Lighthouse.

Outer Banks
Bodie Island Lighthouse
Outer Banks
Ocracoke Lighthouse
Outer Banks
Cape Hatteras Lighthouses
Outer Banks
Currituck Lighthouse

We walked each lighthouse except Ocracoke. There are no stairs in that lighthouse any longer.

We really enjoyed North Carolina. For us in the Rocky Mountain West, the sun, sand, and sea were a wonderful change of pace.

Costa Rica photo essay – Doka Estate Coffee Plantation

I love Costa Rica – the sun, the beach, the jungle all speak to me. This last trip, we spent time at the Doka Estates Coffee Plantation. Here are some of the pictures from that tour.

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The Doka Estate is in Alajuela, Costa Rica. It’s about a 40-minute drive up the mountain from downtown San Jose.

There is plenty to do at the Estate once you’ve gotten your coffee fix.
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The tour begins with a quick growing lesson. All the plants at the Estate are started and nurtured by hand on-site.

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Eventually, the plants are big enough to go into the fields and produce coffee cherries.

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All the work is done by hand. Each coffee picker fills this basket with coffee cherries to earn around $8 U.S. per basket.

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After separating and drying the beans, they are bagged and shipped to various brokers throughout the world.

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Here’s what coffee looks like when it’s drying.

Costa Rica

After the tour, relax on the balcony and enjoy the view!

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Travel Deal: Costa Blu Dive & Beach Resort in Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye
San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.
Photo: Dennis Redfiled

Looking outside and seeing the snow, I’m in the mood for a beachy, tropical resort.

The Costa Blu Dive & Beach Resort is partnering with Groupon Getaways to offer a great deal on stays in Ambergris Caye. Two guests stay 3 nights for $495, five nights for $825, and seven nights for $1,155.

The Costa Blu Dive & Beach Resort

This resort has 36 one-bedroom suites, all with private balconies overlooking the beautiful Carribean Sea. Each room is outfitted with a flat-screen TV, king-sized bed, and wireless internet. The resort also offers diving equipment and equipment for other water sports, including kayaks. Sun at the seafront pool or walk the beaches. Enjoy your meals at the Blu Restaurant.

Belize and Ambergris Caye

Belize and Ambergris Caye is known for its proximity to the world’s second longest barrier reef. If you’re a diver, you’ve either already been here or it’s on your bucket list. There are many different excursion companies available to take you to the best diving and snorkeling locations.

If you don’t dive, explore the island’s Mayan heritage and jungles. There is shopping in San Pedro, along with many restaurants, and galleries. The island is small, about 36 miles long and only about 5 miles wide at it’s widest point. You’ll see that most people get around with golf carts, bikes, or just walking.

Getting There

If you’re flying out of Dallas, Houston, Miami, or Los Angeles there are direct flights. If you’re flying out of Denver, the best fares I saw were from Tuesday to Tuesday, flying through Dallas. The rates were about $420 per person, roundtrip in March 2016.

Fly into Belize City and  take the ferry to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. Or you can take an intra-country airline to the island. Airfare is not included in the stay packages.

Visit Groupon.com by February 16, 2016 for more information and to book your trip. There will be a 6% resort fee and 9% tax collected upon arrival. Travel by June 30, 2016.

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The 2016 North American International Auto Show

Despite the bone-chilling cold here in the Detroit area, I braved the elements to visit the North American International Auto Show downtown at Cobo Center. I hadn’t been the show in a few years and it’s fun to go back.

We parked on the roof of Cobo Center. Get there early if you want to park here – it does fill up by mid-day. There are other parking garages around the Center, but there may be a walk involved.

For some, the auto show might be a great big room with lots of new, expensive cars. In my observation, here are the coolest things I saw at the show.

Feel like the floor is moving? It might be!

There are many cars sitting on turntables moving slowly. I stepped up to the Alfa Romeo exhibit and for a moment, I felt like I was moving! It was the car that was moving, not me.

It’s important to watch the floors in the hall. There are lots of steps and ramps and you’ll need to pay attention to where you’re putting your feet.

Auto ShowYou can get into the cars

It was a surprise to me that folks didn’t know you can get into the cars and play around with the knobs and buttons. Yes, visitors to the show can get into most of the cars. Open the trunk and let the kids climb in. Just don’t shut them in!

How else will you get a picture in the latest Mercedes sedan or the newest Corvette?

Only the most expensive cars are off-limits.

The huge video screens

Maybe it’s just me – I don’t go to a lot of large conferences or shows. The multi-story video screens were quite a shock. Watching a video that’s two stories tall is quite the experience.

Chevrolet had wraparound video screens. The audience felt like they were in the car and driving down the road. How fun!

Auto Show
Viper virtual reality

The virtual reality booths

Most of the biggest manufacturers had some type of virtual reality game or booth that visitors to the show could play. There were lines of folks to get a chance to drive a Viper through virtual reality.

Toyota had a Teen Driver booth where they put virtual reality goggles on the driver and the participant drove down the street trying not to hit the taxi cabs while the phone rings and the radio blares. And everyone can watch them drive on the monitor.

The models

It’s 2016 and the car companies are still hiring beautiful women to stand by the cars  in eveningwear and look, well, beautiful. In four inch heels.

Sometimes the models speak. Often they do not – they just stand there.

This year I did notice that there were some good looking guys talking about the cars as well. I didn’t see any men just standing next to a car as it twirls on the turntable. Nor did the men have on formal wear, sport tank tops, or uncomfortable shoes.

I never understood the need for a model to stand by a car. Is the car not beautiful enough to be alone? I guess if the women, or man, is explaining the features of the car, that makes a bit more sense.

It’s a tradition.

This little car in the Toyota booth

Auto Show
Toyota IRoad car

There are lots of cool concept cars in the show. I thought this one was very neat. It’s a two-seater, has three wheels, and leans into the turns like a motorcycle.

That’s the top coolest things I saw at the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center in Detroit.

Did you go to the show? What was your favorite?

 

 

Gilt Group adds travel to their deals

Las Vegas Sign
Las Vegas Welcome Sign

It’s the end of the year, and I’m working on some stories to submit and thinking about my travel plans for the next year. Like most folks, I’m definitely susceptible to a great deal.

As I trolled through my email, I came across and new travel deal site from Gilt Group. To get there, you need, go to GiltTravel.com, or go to your account on Gilt.com and click Travel on the menu.

Today’s deals include a great rate on a mid-town Manhattan hotel,  the Executive Hotel Le Soleil New York.  The room rates start at $99 per night per room and looks like there are dates open through March 2016. If you need your New York fix, they may be a great way to get it. Here’s the link.

M and I just returned from Las Vegas on our way back from a quick trip to Southern California for some visiting and golf. Gilt Travel also has a couple of great deals on Vegas hotels, including The Signature. The Signature is a condo-hotel located about a block off the strip. Rent a junior-suite starting at $74 per night for two people. The catch is that there is a $35.84 resort fee per night. But a luxury room for just over $100 per night is not a bad deal in Las Vegas. Visit Gilttravel.com for more information and to book your getaway.

Like this article? Click the subscribe link at the top of the page to get the latest information by email when it’s published. For more fun deals and information, follow Deb on Twitter at debtalkstravel.

These deals are subject to change or cancellation at any time, and restrictions may apply. Book early for the best deals.

Relax at the Brown Palace Hotel

Brown Palace
Brown Palace

The Brown Palace Hotel is an institution here in the Denver area. Since 1892, the Brown Palace has hosted royalty, presidents, and visitors to the Mile High City.

If you’re looking for that perfect holiday gift for your loved one, this might fit the bill. For $89 your best friend can get a massage or facial complete with a glass of champagne. The price also includes complimentary valet parking and $20 credit for retail products.

A visit to the Brown is an experience. Visit Travelzoo.com soon for more details and to buy your voucher.

Puerto Vallarta hotel deal – CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa

Sunset over Banderas Bay
Sunset over Banderas Bay by Deb Schaffer

Puerto Vallarta is a great winter getaway from Denver. Travelzoo.com has partnered with the CasaMagna Marriott to offer room rates starting at $109 per night for a garden view room. Guests can upgrade to a ocean-view room for an additional $30 per room.

This five-star resort includes five restaurants, three pools, and a spa. There’s plenty to do in Puerto Vallarta, from golf at the Marina Vallarta Golf Club, to a day trip to the Marietas Islands and see the blue-footed booby!

Visit Travelzoo.com soon for more information and black-out dates and to book your Mexican holiday!

Virgin America Airlines announces Denver to San Francisco route

Virgin America Airlines has announced they will be starting service between Denver and San Francisco on March 16, 2015.

Three flights per day are scheduled. The first flight is at 7:00 a.m., then 12:30 p.m., then a flight at 6:00 p.m. Flights are on sale starting at $52.80 per segment.

Virgin America will be new to the Denver International Airport, and those of us here in Denver are excited to have another great airline choice.

Like Frontier Airlines and Spirit – and nearly every other airline – even calling the reservation center costs something at Virgin America. You can buy a higher fare class and get your first bag checked free. Otherwise, you’ll pay to check baggage, but you won’t pay for carry on luggage.

Virgin America offers mood-lit cabins, Wi-Fi, custom leather seats in the Main Cabin, power outlets and touch-screen video offering entertainment.

Read more about Virgin America and it’s planned opening in Denver: Flights to Denver on sale.

Cruise deals in Europe – less than $100 per day

La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia

Travelzoo.com and Royal Caribbean Cruises have partnered to offer incredible cruise deals in the Mediterranean. Sail aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas or the Jewel of the Seas for as little as $799 per person for a 10-day itinerary.

$799 roundtrip Rome, Venice, or Barcelona to Venice. Visit Croatia, Turkey, Greece and Malta, depending on which getaway selected. There are select dates, so visit Travelzoo.com by Friday, October 16 for the dates and itineraries.

Like this article? Click the subscribe link at the top of the page to get the latest information by email when it’s published. For more fun deals and information, follow Deb on Twitter at debtalkstravel.

These deals are subject to change or cancellation at any time, and restrictions may apply. Book early for the best deals.

Denver airfare sales

Las Vegas Sign
Las Vegas Welcome Sign

Frontier Airlines and Southwest Airlines are having airfare sales for travel from Denver through the winter months.

On Frontier, travel to Las Vegas and Phoenix for as little at $58 one-way, travel to Dallas starting at $78 one-way. Check out the rest of the sale at Frontier Airlines.

Southwest Airlines is offering sale fares to numerous U.S. destinations. For example, fly Denver to Albuquerque for as little as $104 one way and and to Burbank starting at $94 one way. Find out about the other great deals at Southwest Airlines.