ARTS & LEISURE NEWS

 

2012


A visit to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

and  the Shaw Festival’s 50th Anniversary.


There is no better way to tour Niagara-on-the-Lake than in a stylish horse and carriage ride.

Photograph  by David Cooper

One of the prettiest towns in Canada is Niagara-on-the-Lake, a picture perfect postcard town. Norman Rockwell would have felt right at home with his paints and easel here. With its lakeside location, tree-lined streets and old houses that makes this an extraordinary place to experience. Not only is it particularly pretty place there are many things to see. There is no better place for a cultural experience than the well-known George Bernard Shaw Festival. As a theater critic I am of the belief that all theater is not good unless proven otherwise. Well, to my surprise I watched the best productions I have ever seen. The wonderful acting, and direction puts each production into a class with a New York City’s Broadway production.


The Festival Theatre. Photo by Jeff Priest.


There are three theaters in this small town, the Festival Theater with a house of 856 seats an outdoor patio and overlooking beautiful gardens and grounds and the theater itself is a modern arrangement of woods. The Royal George Theater with 328 seats with Edwardian Gilt moldings, red walls and golden lions. It has a long history of entertaining the troops during World War I.  And finally the Court House Theater is a 327-seat building with a thrust stage. The Shaw Festival is the only Festival in the world that is mostly devoted to the plays of George Bernard Show and his contemporaries 


The plethora of surrounding vineyards since 1980 has grown from operating as an essentially small cottage industry to being internationally recognized vintners capable of turning out quality wines.  Many of the wineries are open year-round. The tourist office in town has lists of the 30-some wineries.


There is a varied selection of hotels and bed and breakfast so you have only to go on
the web to find your choice. I stayed at The Prince of Wales Hotel & Spa, a gem that as soon as you walk into the lobby the interior proclaims itself as something truly special.


The Prince of Wales Hotel, established in 1864, offers visitors the finest in dining and accommodations. Photograph  by David Cooper


The Prince of Wales has an irresistible blend of architectural perfection and distinctive artwork with the finest tradition of hospitality. Every guest is special. Flowers play an important role in the overall look of the interior and exterior. The Prince is located on the main street conveniently located to theaters and shopping. This luxury hotel stands out for excellence in all things. The Hotel is also known for there fine dining of French cuisine in their formal dining room. You can get more information on all the before mentioned suggestions by going on-line and putting in their name.


Some of the 2011 productions are:


Mark Uhre as Freddy Eynsford-Hill, Gabrielle Jones as Mrs Eynsford-Hill, Sharry Flett as Mrs Higgins, Benedict Campbell as Henry Higgins, Patrick Galligan as Colonel Pickering, Deborah Hay as Eliza Doolittle, Kiera Sangster as Lady Boxington and Kyle Blair as Lord Boxington in My Fair Lady. Photo by David Cooper.


My Fair Lady

Heartbreak House

The Admirable Crichton

Drama at Inish – A Comedy

On The Rocks

Maria Severa

Candida

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

The President

Topdog/Underdog

When the Rain Stops Falling


For more information and ticket information: 

SHAW FESTIVAL THEATRE
BOX 774 10 QUEEN’S PARADE
NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, ONTARIO L0S 1J0
CANADA

1-800-511-5HAW        



Reviewed  by  Joyce Hauser




Dominican Republic


On November 16, 2011, JetBlue Airways expanded their service between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to La Romana International Airport (LRM), flying out twice weekly on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It is not surprising that JetBlue ranked “Highest in Customer Satisfaction Among Low-Cost Carriers in North America’. Most impressive is while other airlines are reducing the amount of space in coach JetBlue has super-spacious legroom. The staff inside and outside the plane is tuned into your needs.  I join in the accolades for JetBlue. For information visit www.jetblue.com


After our comfortable flight we landed in La Romana, Dominican Republic and a stone’s throw from Casa De Campo. Casa de Campo is a member of The Leading Luxury Hotels of the World, which assures one that it is a superior hotel. 


Casa de Campo started when Gianfranco Fini & Piero Giacosa – Two Italian gentlemen with roots as designers and visionaries had a dream. They took their dream half way around the world to the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean - and a country called the Dominican Republic. Here they met with the owners of the fabulous Casa de Campo resort. The resort owners listened to their dreams, and gave it wings.

 

Today, this 7,000-acre resort inspired by the old seaside villages of the Mediterranean is Casa de Campo. Together with its modern and colorful residential architecture, including 105 units of villas and townhouse-type apartments, many with private piers, is a place to relax, fall in love, and keep as busy as you want in this complete resort. All the villas are spacious yet cozy. Families can enjoy connecting rooms or a suite... and larger families or friends traveling together will love the private home-like comforts.

 


The first thing to do when you get to Casa de Campo is breath deeply and smell the fresh air. Enjoy the  historic landmarks of the Island and explore off-the-beaten-path destinations, from hidden beaches to small towns. Learn to surf, snorkel or kayak. You’ll find the itineraries on the Dominican Republic are endless. From romantic escapades to family fun from whale watching to walking on the beach or simply sitting back and doing nothing.


You won’t want for something to do with an outstanding variety of dining, recreation, and activities available including a top golf course.  Ranked as the number one course in the Caribbean and 43rd in the top 100 courses, worldwide, by Golf Magazine, Pete Dye's classic Teeth of the Dog attracts the best professional and amateur golfers in the world.


In close walking distance to Casa de Compo the Dominican stonecutters, woodworkers, and ironsmiths combine their crafts to create the rich architectural landscape that emerges as Altos de Chavon.

Today this vibrant cultural village perched high above the Chavon River embodies half a millennium of the island's finest tradition of crafts and art. The distant mountains of eastern Hispaniola merge with the sea to create the perfect setting

A walk down the cobblestone paths of Altos de Chavon reveals, at every turn, an architectural wonder reminiscent of another era. Coral block and terra cotta buildings surround craft workshops, artists’ studios, galleries, shops, and restaurants. It's a place where artists become your friends and share their works with you. This amazing village is the site of many fine restaurants, boutiques, museums and the Altos de Chavon School of Design affiliated with Parson’s School of Design in New York.

The Casa de Campo Marina is where resort guests shop, dine and gaze at some of the finest vessels cruising the high seas; lovers of the sea reside; and cruising yachtsmen moor for maintenance, or come and enjoy.  www.marinacasadecampo.com And take advantage of the award winning eco-immersion Cygalle Spa guaranteed to relax even the most stressed out.


Photo by Eleanor Foa Dienstag

The performing arts are showcased in the village's spectacular 5,000-seat open-air amphitheater. Since its inauguration in 1982 by Frank Sinatra and Carlos Santana, the amphitheater has hosted concerts, symphonies, theatrical events, and festivals featuring such renowned artists as Julio Iglesias, Gloria Estefan, Sergio Mendes, Dizzy Gillespie, Air Supply, Pilobulos, and the Dance Theater of Harlem.



The next day after an enormous breakfast at the Lago Grill Restaurant we made our way to the Las Palmas Cigar Co. We joined the tour of this largest handmade cigar factory in the world. The exclusive Cigar Factory Tours offer visitors the unique opportunity to navigate through the factory, employing more than 4,500 people. Here, you will see the handwork of the cigar industry's most experienced craftsmen and women. Witness the making of the most prestigious brands: Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, Seijas Signature, Mi Dominicana, H. Upmann, VegaFina, and more. The factory tour was fascinating.


We went through Casa de Campo’s kitchens to observe the care and Attention that the food from each of the restaurants in Casa de Campo Received. When we sat down for each meal we were assured that every thing on our plate had followed the proper hygienic procedures.  The plethora of dining options at Casa de Campo meets the desires of all its guests. The resort’s inclusive supplement features the best in  popular restaurants such as the Beach Club by Le Cirque, La Casita at the Marina, and the new indoor/outdoor La Cana Restaurant & Lounge by Il Circo and more. The meals were delicious all with a picturesque view.  I had the best octopus and eggplant paragon at The La Casita Restaurant.... Bon Appetite


After four days of a marvelous vacation at Casa deCampo we boarded JetBlue.


Reviewed  by  Joyce  Hauser




THE GRAND CANYON


The Grand Canyon is a wonder of nature and the talent of architects and designers that make it possible to safely experience the beauty and excitement of this phenomenal and breathtaking scenic adventure. 

I started my journey to the Grand Canyon via Railway in Williams, Arizona after departing from the United Airlines Plane in Phoenix at the Sky Harbor International Airport. First stop was the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. A lovely place we called home for a night.  With a hospital staff, comfortable beds, more than adequate amenities and a convenient location I more than recommend it. . We toured the locomotive shop, a few steps away where the trains received their love and attention. I must say I have a new respect for the men who take care of these giant vehicles. 

Grand Canyon Railway & Resort is home to the historic Williams Depot,
and the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. The railway is located in Williams, which is a small frontier town nestled in the mountains of Northern Arizona. With accommodations, food options, old west entertainment and transportation located in one convenient location, Grand Canyon Railway & Resort was the perfect place to start a Grand Canyon tour.

The excitement of being at the historic 1908 Williams Depot (gateway to the Grand Canyon) at the start of the following day was just the beginning of what we were to see. Before the train departed for the South Rim we enjoyed a Wild West shootout featuring the Cataract Creek Gang in an outdoor theater.

It’s a fascinating feeling to know that this was the place that cowboys roamed the plains of the Wild West and train travel was the prominent means of transportation to the Grand Canyon. Traveling in a vintage style streamliner the train made it's way across the beautiful Northern Arizona countryside.  The train offered kaleidoscopic views of the San Francisco Peaks and rolled through valleys adorned in wild flowers, dense pine forest, high desert plains and small canyons.  

The train whistle and the passengers who waved to the on lookers created a ride that put us back to the good old days. Coach attendants provided us with appetizers and drinks and good service.  Aboard the train we enjoyed the tunes of talented strolling musicians. And an old west train robbery was reenacted and the antics of western characters as they recreated train travel as it was in the early 1900's.  

The train arrived at the historic 1910 Grand Canyon Depot.  It is among the three remaining log depots still in operation in the United States. 
Buildings like the El Tovar Hotel, Hopi House and Bright Angel Lodge were extras to see as we pulled into the station and disembarked from the train.  Set among the landscape, Grand Canyon Village gave no hint of the beauty that lay beyond. 


Let me stop with my tour right here to introduce you to a few facts about the National Park Service (NPS) that is responsible for the overall management of the Grand Canyon. As a branch of the federal Department
the Interior, the NPS has the responsibility for preserving the natural and cultural values of our national parks, protecting the wildlife. And then there is Xanterra that has contracted with the NPS to operate hotels, restaurants, sightseeing tours, retail shops, a service station and many other visitor services. Xanterra operates all lodges within Grand Canyon National Park at the South Rim and the Grand Canyon Railway. The company’s mission is to preserve the famous Fred Harvey tradition of service and to maximize the visit experience, while protecting the Grand Canyon as a national treasure. For more details contact Xanterrat www.grandcanyonlodges.com or www.thetrain.com 


Also, for more information about the businessman and visionary Fred Harvey click on the book section on the top for the fascinating book  “Appetite for America” by Stephen Fried


I was to learn about Xanterra Parks and resorts and how they have adopted a value system that reflects their social responsibility. They operate its steam locomotive fueled with recycled vegetable oil. During the winter and Northern Arizona’s rainy season GCR collects rainwater to use in its stream engine boiler. For this and many environmental causes Xanterra has been the recipient of over 50 outstanding achievement awards. 


And so we made our way to the village and the Grand Canyon and the first thing to see was the Designated National Historic Landmark The Hopi House. They have been selling authentic American Indian arts and crafts to visitors since the Fred Harvey Company opened it doors in 1905. Hopi House was designed by architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, one of the first American architecture to appreciate the utility and beauty of American Indian design.


Looking over the Grand Canyon, from the South Rim, you are looking at the most breathtakingly beautiful place on earth, (averaging 7,000 feet [2,100 m] above sea level, rafting, hiking, running and helicopter tours are especially popular.) The rim and floor of the canyon is accessible by foot, muleback, or by boat or raft from upriver. Hundreds of fit and experienced hikers complete the trip every year. From Williams, Arizona: it is easy to get to Grand Canyon South Rim “Old West” style, on the Grand Canyon Railway! Relive the journey undertaken by travelers throughout two centuries, in a genuine steam train dating back to the early 1900’s, aboard one of five classes of passenger cars: Pullman Coach, Budd Coach, First Class, Observation Dome and Luxury Parlor Car.


The Grand Canyon Railway operates year-round, rain or shine (except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), departing daily from Williams, Arizona, with a 3-4 hour layover at the South Rim (layover time varies by season). As mentioned overnight packages are also available where you can spend the night at the historic Grand Canyon Railway Hotel in Williams and/or inside Grand Canyon National Park. Visitors traveling during the winter season can also take advantage of special discounts, or enjoy the popular Polar Express Tour.


And a last bit of advice Grand Canyon is on the desert and water is scarce. At the South Rim water must be piped in from Roaring Springs, below the North Rim. Be conservative in using water but make sure you drink enough liquid not to become dehydrated.


And finally I guarantee you will feel as I do – The Grand Canyon is not to be missed.  For more information contact  the Grand Canyon Railway.


Reviewed  by Joyce  Hauser



FROM  LUXEMBOURG   TO   FLANDERS


Upon arriving at the Brussels-Zaventem Airport and a two-hour bus drive we arrived in Luxembourg City.  Checking into the Hotel Le Royal downtown Luxembourg the hospitality was obvious and we knew it was going to be in a wonderful hotel to call home for the night. It warranted the five star status and was one of the “Leading Hotels of the World” hotels. More about the Hotel Le Royal at the end of my report on Luxembourg.


The afternoon was spent in an elegant car-free shopping district around Grand Rue. Many of Europe’s leading designers are represented in boutiques around Grand -Rue and adjacent streets. In a never ending line of high fashion to bargain shops and department stores with windows full of such tempting cakes and pies and breads and all manner of pastries. The choices would give the healthiest person a sugar high.  And while you are in the area
the art galleries are eye catching and you are welcome into the store even if you don’t buy. And some of the City's more popular purchases include designer jewelry.


More moderately priced items are concentrated around the train station area. The streets surrounding Place d’Armes feature mainly souvenir stores, with an abundance of handmade items such pottery and clocks, and art galleries that offer paintings, decorated porcelain plates, and cast-iron wall plaques. 


A captivating contrast of old and new, Luxembourg City's past is celebrated by its
World Heritage status; its present sway by its position as headquarters for several significant European institutions. It is a walking city, small enough to explore on foot, but offers a wealth of attractions, including The Grand Ducal Palace (admire the façade of the 16th and 18th Centuries), the Monument of H.R.H. Grand Duchess Charlotte (on the thrown. 1919-1964), Cathedral Notre-Dame (17th and early 20th century),the “Petrusse Valley” with its lush vegetation and spectacular Adolphe Bridge (in 1903, the World’s longest one arched stone bridge). Continue to the municipal park designed around the year 1900 as a green half-circled belt around the dismantled fortress by the famous Parisian garden architect Edouard Andre’.


And if you have time another suggestion is to visit the “Villa Vauban – Luxembourg City’s Art Museum” opened after renovation works in May 2010.  The exhibition from Mid-December: “Under full sail – Dutch 17th century seascapes”, organized in collaboration with the “Kunsthalle” from Hamburg, Germany.


Before dinner I went back to the Hotel Le Royal, Luxembourg and spent a
little time checking out this beautiful hotel. Most important was that it was ideally located in the heart of Luxembourg City, between the green parks and the "mini Wall Street", within walking distance of the old quarter of the city, and only a few steps from the main shopping area. The hotel features executive floors with special amenities. All rooms are equipped with individual air-conditioning, two-line telephones, 32-channel satellite televisions with interactive services, 24-hour Reuters stock exchange reports and CNN, fax machines, and personal computer connections. It certainly deserved the distinction of being endorsed by the “Leading Hotels of The world”. Also, you don’t have to go any further than the Le Royal hotel for a wonderful Dinner in the “Restaurant La Pomme Cannelle” located on the ground floor of the hotel.



The Leading Hotels of the World understands the finer points of hospitality and luxury. Indulge yourself in a lifestyle of luxury at one of our 5 star hotels and the unparalleled comfort they offer. The Leading Hotels of the World's featured hotels cater to the discriminating few, where first class service is a norm rather than an exception. The Leading Hotels of the World features small luxury hotels resort hotels as well as world-renowned stately hotels offering all the possibilities for family getaways, romantic escapades and business meetings. Whether you need accommodation for business or pleasure, The Leading Hotels of the World will have the perfect solution for you. Online hotel reservations have never been easier.



Brugge, Belgium: Old World charm


Visiting Brugge, Belgium, feels like time traveling to the late Middle Ages and into the pages of a storybook.


This ancient city in the Flanders region, about a 15-minute drive from the North Sea,  beguiles travelers with well-preserved medieval architecture and swan-filled canals. Add to that world-class art, choice restaurants, trendy shops and enough diversions to keep you hopping for three days.


Brugge's  historic city center was declared a
UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000. Yet, this is no stuffy living-history museum; it's a vibrant mini-metropolis, where horse-drawn carriages mingle with bicyclists and motor scooters.


Better known by its French name, Bruges, it draws up to 4 million visitors a year, according to tourism officials. It's jampacked in summer, but go during cooler months, as we did, and you'll have plenty of elbow room to savor its charms.


Our base for three nights was the romantic Pand Hotel. Nestled in a tree-shaded square, it's within easy walking distance of  Brugge's main attractions. Originally an 18th-century carriage house, the Pand has 26 rooms, individually and handsomely decorated. Suites feature four-poster beds, Ralph Lauren fabrics and baths with private whirlpools. A full, sumptuous breakfast is available. Public rooms include a pine-paneled library with fireplace, intimate bar and outdoor patio with fountain. The atmosphere blends elegance and homey comforts without snooty airs. Staffers strive to keep guests comfortable and content. For information on the Web: www.pandhotel.com.


The aura of elegance mixed with down-to-earth hominess continues as you explore Brugge, which is walker-friendly. Major attractions are centrally located. English is commonly spoken. Residents are friendly and helpful to meandering tourists.


Brugge means  "harbor" in Flemish. During its heyday from the 13th to 15th centuries, Brugge was a business powerhouse, and thriving center for arts and culture. A long decline followed but yielded unexpected future dividends. Poverty prevented modernization; World War II bombers passed over. As a result, it's one of  the best-preserved medieval towns in Western Europe. It's even more enchanting at night when floodlit buildings are reflected in the canals. 


A 50-minute bus tour gives an overview of a compact, egg-shaped city with winding streets and alleys, tidy cottages, steep gables, two grand squares named Markt and Burg and public buildings that look like giant wedding cakes carved in stone. For information, visit: www.citytour.be.


Take a 30-minute motor-boat ride on Brugge's extensive network of  canals and you'll see why it's been dubbed the "Venice of the North." Passengers get voyeuristic glimpses of private homes with lush gardens, and public areas, including the lakeside Minnewater, where swans seem to outnumber people. For information: www.brugge.be.



Arts & Leisure News Service recommends the following:


-The 13th-century Belfry, rising 270 feet in Market Square, is the city's prime symbol. It offers visitors a commanding view of Brugge's terra cotta rooftops and surroundings, after climbing 366 spiral steps. On the way up, don't miss the medieval treasure chamber and 47-bell carillon.


-The art scene flourishes in Brugge and the Groeninge museum is its No. 1 art museum. On display is a splendid collection spanning Flemish Primitives, the Renaissance, expressionism, surrealism and modern art. For information about both: www.brugge.be.


The Madonna with Canon van der Paele is one of the masterpieces of the museum.


-Arts indulge other senses at Choco Story museum. Brugge touts itself as the world's "chocolate capital." Choco Story immerses visitors in all things cocoa, from its origins as a coveted drink in ancient Mayan Mexico to its evolution as a world-popular confection. The museum offers insights into ingredients and methods that produce high-quality chocolate treats and why Belgium produces some of the world's finest. For information: www.choco-story.be.


-Over at the Church of Our Lady, crowds file in to see the Madonna and Christ Child, a marble statue by Michelangelo (1504-05), acclaimed for his realistic depiction of the infant Jesus. The 13th-century Gothic church is the world's tallest brick building, at 381 feet.


-Spiritual vibes are also strong at the Beguinage, a housing compound built in 1245 for women known as "beguines." They were committed to religious life  without taking traditional vows. This tranquil site includes a large, tree-shaded courtyard and garden flanked by whitewashed houses and a church. Today, Benedictine nuns are in residence. The grounds and a tiny museum are open to the public. For information about both: www.brugge.be.


Belgium is rich in culinary delights. and you can’t  go wrong with the following, in Brugge, whether sampling Belgium's signature waffles at fast-food eateries or dining at upscale restaurants. Three merit thumbs up from Arts & Leisure News Service:


*Locals and foodies agree that De Visscherie near Brugge's fish market is the No. 1 spot for seafood. The Flemish-style cod and Dover sole I tried were equally memorable. Unusual appetizers also were delectable, especially a swordfish mousse in finger-size crispy cone. For information: www.visscherie.be.

*For romantic ambience, try Cafedraal, a warren of cozy rooms with dark-wood paneling and red walls in a 15th-century former home. Fish-shaped lanterns suspended over an adjacent bar add a quirky touch. An outdoor courtyard enclosed by brick walls offers secluded al fresco dining. Specialities include shellfish, fish and meat dishes on a  menu that changes weekly. For information: www.cafedraal.be

         *A favorite restaurant was Patrick Devos, featuring intimate rooms with art deco and art nouveau stained-glass panels. It's a glamorous setting to enjoy creative seasonal dishes matched carefully with wines. Each course I tried was special, such as mushroom-stuffed quail and seabass with leeks, oranges and lime sauce, accompanied by potatoes with goat cheese. The meal unfolded like a ritual with the waiter describing each course in detail for a sustained teasing of taste buds. It was an unparalled dining adventure in an unparalled city.


For general information about visiting Brugge: www.brugge.be and www.visitflanders.us.


Reviewed  by  Victor Zak 


TAIWAN

My trip to Taiwan started with  a wonderful  flight on  China Air flying Business Class.  The  food was delicious.  the  attendants were  extremely  helpful, and after  a  good sleep I was ready to see and experience  Taiwan. 

I had never traveled  to Taiwan, and it was quite fortuitous that I got there just in time to celebrate the Chinese New Year. At the Miaoli Jhunan Sport Park the opening ceremony of the 2011 Taiwan  Lantern Festival took place. The festival took up at least four blocks with wall-to-wall lights including lanterns, animals and trees. 2011 is the year of the Rabbit and I will never treat the Rabbit without respect ever again.  Waiting for the perfect time in the evening a large Rabbit just sitting in the dark was waiting for the drum band and dancers to take their places and then this large Rabbit was lit, a spectacular view replete with fireworks. That was my first day and I was on a high after this amazing day.


According to Tainan County Magistrate Su Huan-chih the 2011 Taiwan Lantern Festival not only had the usual traditional lantern festival atmosphere but also featured the latest images of the science park's high-tech Solar City project. The plan was to combine traditional culture and modern technology to present to the world a whole new shiny version of this annual extravaganza.


Checking into the Hotel Sun Moon Lake with its exceptional views over the emerald crystal waters of the famous lake was a delight for the eyes. It is popular among adventurous Travelers offering easy access to recreational activities like boating, hiking, swimming, biking and even fishing, especially in the nearby Hanbhi Hiding Trail and Shueiche Lakeside Trail. Located at the heart of Nantou, guests are also within reach of premier attractions like the Meihe Gardens and the Longfong Temple. The hotel is outfitted with modern conveniences catering to leisurely needs, banqueting requirements, conference calls and even touring requests. There are 2 restaurants plus Starbucks cafe and teashop and each room has all the necessary amenities.


Our first stop after a restful sleep was Puli and The Chungtai Monastry. The monastery is incredibly impressive. Some of the residents of the area think that Chung Tai Chan monastery is even flashy, a show of wealth and power that is difficult to reconcile with the ideas of simplicity and non-attachment taught by Buddhism.

Venerable Master Wei Chuehg a monk born in China in 1928 founded Chung Tai Shan monastic organization, of which the monastery is the headquarters. One  of the most remarkable of the Flora Expo structures, the Pavilion of New Fashion, also named the EcoARK. Shaped like a giant wooden ark, the pavilion is not only eye-catching but, featuring a structural skeleton made of Taiwan-grown bamboo, walls built with recycled plastic bottles, and powered in part by solar and wind energy, it is also a decidedly "green" building. Along the curving Water Purification Corridor you can delve into the building's eco-secrets as you learn about natural water purification, and the Ark Lab will feature video displays on the building's planning, groundwork, construction, and operation.

Presenting an estimated 25 million plants, the Taipei International  Flora Expo was a massive event with countless attractions. There was much ground to be covered, but with the four park areas serving as venues being well connected by easy-to-follow footpaths, shuttle buses, and even a ferry service on the Keelung River, seeing it all even within a single day was not out of the realm of possibility.

Taiwan is not usually high on the list of destinations for Western tourists. However, despite this general perception, Taiwan actually boasts some very impressive scenic sites, and Taipei is a vibrant center of culture and entertainment. The island is also a center of Chinese pop culture with a huge and vibrant entertainment industry. Taiwanese cuisine is also highly regarded among other Asians. People tend to think of Taiwan as a small, crowded island filled mostly with electronic factories, and if you stay in Taipei or along the west coast you might indeed maintain that illusion. However, the island is also home to high mountain ranges, great beaches and stunning national parks - many with hot springs.


Chiang Kui-Shek  and General  McArther from the USA





The National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial  that was erected in memory of Chiang Kai-Chiang former President of the Republic of China. The structure stands at the east end of Liberty Square , site of the National Concert Hall and National Theater  and their adjacent parks as well as the memorial. The landmarks of Liberty Square stand within sight of Taiwan's Presidental Building in Taipei ‘s Zhongzheng District. At the heritage display
room, visitors may see historical records, valuable preserved photographs, and old commodities used by the former president. Through these displays, visitors will have an understanding of the precious historical properties of Taiwan. Also, Chiang Kai-Shek’s vehicles are showed in the central corridor. In addition, the auditorium offers a place for expert speeches and receptions of important foreign guests. The former president’s office was restored according to real positions in the memorial room.Through visiting the memorial hall, visitors will understand Chiang Kai-shek and his working manners and establishments of the former president.


The National Palace Museum houses  over 600,000 ancient Chinese artifacts. The National Museum is an art gallery and museum  built around a permanent collection centered on ancient Chinese artifacts . It should not be confused with the Palace Museum in Beijing  (which it is named after); both institutions trace their origins to the same institution. The collections were divided in the 1940s as a result of the Chinese Civil War . The National Palace Museum in Taipei now boasts a truly international collection while housing one of the world's largest collections of artifacts from ancient China.

While in Taipei we stayed at the Palais de Chine Hotel. Opened in May, 2010, The Palais de Chine Hotel is a superior Taipei Hotel with an excellent location at the transportation hub of Taipei City. With Q Square, Vieshow Cinemas and Taipei Bus Station next door, guests can enjoy convenience in shopping and transportation quite easily. Taipei Main Station is only a 5min walking distance away where guests may easily access to other Taiwan cities by Taiwan Railways and the Taiwan High Speed Rail.

The striking décor of the Palais de Chine a  five-star hotel of Parisian design, with plush fabrics, imported furniture, and antique pieces transformed 286 guestrooms into magnificent décors. It is replete with all the amenities needed to call home while in Taipei. The hotel boasts of  an array of  restaurants, ranging from Western and Chinese cuisine to a French-inspired teahouse. Offering internationally recognized service with a personal touch, this Taipei 5-star hotel is poised to become the leading destination for the privileged traveler. Taipei Fine Arts Museum  was established in 1983. Located in a purpose-built building inspired by the Japanese  it is the first museum in Taiwan dedicated to modern art . The 3,000 artworks in the museum are mostly done by Taiwanese artists and are organized into 13 groups. In 2001, the first museum dedicated to contemporary art opened as MoCa or Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei and was located in the old building of the Taipei City government. 


Taipei has an excellent, fairly comprehensive subway system called the MRT that makes traveling around the city quit easy.   Prepaid travel cards such as the EasyCard in Taipei for bus and metro travel are available at metro stations. EasyCards are read via proximity sensors so you do not need to remove the card from your wallet or purse. The MRT is very clean as there is no eating, drinking, or smoking inside of the stations or subway trains. There is also a special waiting area that is monitored by security camera for those who are concerned about security late at night.


Taipei 101 comprises of 101 floors above ground and 5 floors underground. The building was  architecturally created as a symbol of the evolution of technology and Asian tradition. Its postmodernist aproach to style incorporates traditional design elements and gives them modern treatments. The tower is designed to withstand typhoons  and earthquakes.  A multi level shopping mall adjoining the tower houses hundreds of fashionable stores, restaurants and clubs.


Taipei 101 is owned by the Taipei Financial Center (CC) and managed by the International division of Urban Retail Properties Corporation based in Chicago. The name originally planned for the building, Taipei World Financial Center, until 2003, was derived from the name of the owner.

Taxis are east to find in major Taiwanese cities. You don't need to look for a taxi - they'll be looking for you. The standard yellow cabs scour roads looking for potential riders such as lost foreigners. It is possible but generally unnecessary to phone for a taxi. To hail one, simply place your hand in front of you parallel to the ground. But they'll often stop for you even if you're just waiting to cross the street or for a bus. In less heavily trafficked areas further out from the transit hubs, taxis are always available by calling taxi dispatch centers.

Drivers generally cannot converse in English or read Westernized addresses (except for special Taoyuan airport taxis). Have the hotel desk or a Taiwanese friend write out your destination in Chinese, and also take a business card from the hotel. Show the driver the Chinese writing of where you are going. Taxis are visibly metered, and cab drivers are strictly forbidden from taking tips. A maximum of four people can ride in one cab, and for the price of one. Relative to American taxicabs, Taiwanese cabs are inexpensive.

While known for being a major player in the bicycle industry (through companies such as Giant and Meridia), until fairly recently, bicycles in Taiwan were considered an unwanted reminder of less prosperous times. Thankfully, this has changed in recent years. Bicycling is again on the rise, both as a tool for commuting and recreation, and support infrastructure is slowly being put into place. Several bike paths have been built, and recreational cycling has become quite popular amongst locals, especially on weekends. However, you should also be aware that local drivers have a well-deserved reputation for recklessness. As such, you should exercise extreme caution when cycling outside of designated bicycle lanes and trails.

SHOPPING

A typical night market in Taiwan may sell anything from food to clothing to fortune telling services. As in many Asian countries, night markets are a staple of Taiwanese entertainment, shopping and eating. Night markets are open-air markets, usually on a street or alleyway, with vendors selling all sorts of wares on every side. Many bargains can be had, and wherever prices are not displayed, haggling is expected. In the larger cities you will have a night market every night and in the same place. In smaller cities, they are only open certain nights of the week, and may move to different streets depending on the day of the week. Every city has at least one night market; larger cities like Taipei may have a dozen or more. Shops selling the same items tend to congregate in the same part of the city. If you want to buy something, ask someone to take you to one shop and there will probably be shops selling similar things nearby.


For those who do not like the concept of haggling and fake goods, there are many shopping centers in Taipei where prices are usually fixed and goods are genuine. Otherwise, shopping streets in larger cities like Kaohsiung and Taichung  can also easily get you what you want. And of course, there is the trendy Ximending in Taipei, where you can pretty much find anything associated with the youths, also at fixed prices.

Bargaining is OK and expected in night markets and small stores. Computer chain shops and department stores normally have fixed prices, but at least in department stores you may get a "registered member discount" if you're shopping a lot. Anyway it's always worth a try!

When bargaining at small stores, please note that the agreed prices are normally cash prices. If you like to use a credit card, the seller normally wants to add anything up to 8% to the price as a "card fee" etc. The fee consists actually of the credit company's commission and also the local sales tax/VAT. Even if you pay cash, you normally don't get an official receipt, as then the seller would have to report & pay their taxes in full. If you ask for a receipt or "fa piaoyou will get it but you may need to pay 3-5% more.

Popular things to buy include:

Jade. Although it can be hard to know for sure if the item you're buying is real jade or not, some beautiful objects are sold. Most cities have a specific jade market dealing in jade and other precious stones.

Computers. Taiwan designs and produces a lot of desktops, laptops, and PC peripherals. Travelers might be interested in visiting the large Information Technology Market at Taiwan for the best prices. Desktop computers and components tend to be the same price in Taiwan as in other areas of the world, though peripherals such as cables and adapters tend to be noticeably cheaper. If you're buying domestic, it's best to go to tourist hangouts to buy your stuff as you might be saddled with Chinese documentation otherwise. Also, notebooks are typically only available with a Chinese and English keyboard.

Lingzhi A type of bracket fungus that is often used as a Chinese herb. It supposedly has many health benefits with an apparent absence of side effects, earning it a high reputation in East Asian countries and making it rather expensive. Taiwanese lingzhi is particularly famous for being of the highest quality.

Tea. Taiwan is particularly famous for its oolong tea (available in at many teashops. Tea tasting in Chinese culture is akin to wine tasting in Western culture and you will find many grades of this same type of tea, with different methods of treating the tealeaves.

'Iron eggs irresistible delicacy

Note: In order to protect the environment, a government policy rules that plastic bags cannot be given freely at stores in Taiwan, but have to be bought (at a flat rate of NT$1) - bakeries being an exception as the items need to be hygienically wrapped. Re-useable canvas and nylon bags are sold at most supermarkets.

Pottery and ceramic fanatics and neophytes as well will love Yingge. The town lies roughly an hour south of Taipei  by train, and is famous for its high concentration of potters and ceramic makers. Some potteries offer lessons in basic pot making. And there are bargains to be had. Yingge is also home to the Yingge Ceramics Museum, where you can spend a leisurely hour or so exploring the history of ceramics in Taiwan and, more specifically, in Yingge. Check out the kiln on the second floor, designed to simulate an actual fired kiln, complete with fake red-hot bricks that looked so convincingly real.


Generally speaking, the foods of Taiwan was pretty good and  mostly derived from Mainland Chinese cuisines. It is possible to find Szechuan  food, Hunan food, and  Cantonese food and almost every Chinese cuisine on the island. This is especially true for Cantonese cuisine. The Taiwanese are passionately in love with eggs and seafood, as you will discover during your stay on the island. Fruits are another famous part of Taiwanese food. A wide range of fruits can be found at local fruit shops and stations. The subtropical climate allows for these different fruits. 

Taiwan is a place I will return to and if you are making plans for a new and interesting place to visit look into Taiwan.

For more information: www.gio.gov.tw/English

Reviewed Joyce  Hauser

May, 2013


     ADVENTURE  TRAVEL  FOR   PERSONS WITH  DISABILITIES

AND  SENIOR  TRAVELERS


Nearly 11 percent of the world's population has one form of disability. Until recently, such individuals had to enjoy most physical activities vicariously, but thanks to the creativity and interest of people who care, nearly all disabled people can enjoy one or more physically recreational pursuits. Now they can experience the thrill of adventure and the sense of accomplishment that most people take for granted.


Michael and Silvia Hill always believed that all travelers wishing to experience Africa, should. After years of research, they created Endeavour Safaris to include private, tailor made trips as well as scheduled departure safaris and tours for travelers with special needs. Guests with varying disabilities can discover countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and Zambia.


Desert & Delta Safaris owns and operates seven luxury safari Lodges in Botswana and Namibia together with Endeavour Safaris have adapted activities, rooms, vehicles and equipment for tourism for guests with disabilities.


Some of the special features that make this adventure feasible are vehicles equipped with a full range of operations that are well suited for the country and the area in which they operate. All the vehicles are equipped with hydraulic lifts and secure wheelchair lock down systems. Also, rooms that sleep two persons, a spacious timber and thatch chalet or luxury African safari-style tents which are raised on a teak platform and features an en suite bathroom and a private wooden viewing deck.


Dining areas serve individual plated and buffet-style food, with special dietary catering by prior arrangement.  Besides breakfast, brunch and dinner high tea is served on the deck overlooking the grounds.


 MALACHITE KINGFISHER PHOTO:  TED STEDMAN


And of course the most important reason you have made the trip is to see  the birdlife across Botswana which is unparalleled; its breeding herds of elephants that line the river by the thousands; while crocodiles bask in the sunshine and hippos lie submerged in the cool waters. add on to the mix  antelopes, giraffes, buffalos, zebras, lions, and leopards. These are memories you will long remember.


There are also a variety of tours and safaris for Senior Travelers.


For more Information on line: for Desert & Delta: www.desertdelta.com or e-mail reservations@desertdelta.com. For more information on Endeavour Safaris, visit endeavour-safaris.com or email: info@endeavour-safaris.com


Reviewed  Joyce  Hauser