On a Spot for the Bucket

Blackpool may not mean anything to most – but it holds significance to some. Eight years ago, it was unknown to me – very insignificant. Today, it’s on my Bucket List.

Blackpool is on England’s western coast – in Lancashire county – north of Liverpool and northwest of Manchester – and one of England’s most popular seaside resorts.

Today, Blackpool offers its infamous tower, a giant ferris wheel, an amusement park, a seaside promenade, gardens, a water park, Madame Tussauds,, and other attractions. Actually, this doesn’t seem like a place for me, let alone my Bucket List.

For me, Blackpool is about it’s famed dancehall. The original Blackpool Tower Ballroom dates back to 1894. During the dance craze of the 1920s-1930s, dancers filled Blackpool’s ballroom floor.

The ballroom still hosts one of the world’s most famous and long-running ballroom dance competitions (Blackpool Dance Festival) with dancers from across the globe coming to compete. The ballroom has also hosted other dance competitions and BBC shows Come Dancing and Strictly Come Dancing.

I’ve stated (several times) that my wife and I don’t compete – we dance for fun and being with friends … and to be honest, attending the famed festival isn’t the reason for its Bucket List status. Unless reserved as a rental space for an event, the ballroom has regular hours for open dancing.

Given the floor, the historic significance, and the ornate surrounding – absolutely Bucket List for us. Better yet, the ballroom also hosts an afternoon tea with dance to the sounds from the mighty Wurlitzer organ – which sounds quite delightful.

On Finger Lakes

Smooth as glass

Seneca Lake smooth as glass at Watkins Glen

Last fall we spent some time in New York’s Finger Lakes region. Given May was Finger Lakes Wine Month, thus I missed the perfect chance to look back. Oh well, better late than never

The Finger Lakes region is in central New York, far from the hustle and bustle of New York City. On the map, there are a series of long, narrow, parallel lakes looking like fingers, which are actually very deep.


For many years I’ve heard of people vacationing to the Finger Lakes region – but the urge to go never overwhelmed us enough to act on a trip. Given last year’s change of address, 2014 turned out to be a good time for a driving vacation.

As people who enjoy the fruit of the vine, wine was our primary focus. Although known for many years for its sweet, low-cost wines, todays Finger Lakes winemakers produce very respectable wines.

View from Dr. Frank's

View from Dr. Frank’s

Anyone expecting hardy reds will be (for the most part) disappointed. Reds as Cabernet Franc and some blends are good, but far from the deep, rich reds from California or Washington.

Riesling is king of grape in the region. Although I prefer a wide variety of red wines, Rieslings have captured my attention for a long time. Similar to their Germans and the French Alsatian counterparts, Finger Lake winemakers produce Riesling in a variety of styles, which range in sweetness and dryness.

Most tasting rooms have a small fee ($3-5) for a series of wines. To me, the following wineries were exceptional (lake name in parentheses)
Domaine LeSeurre (Keuka)
Dr. Frank Konstantin (Keuka)
Herman Wiemer (Seneca)
Lamoreaux Landing (Seneca)
Ravines (Seneca)
Thirsty Owl (Cayuga)

Towns as Watkins Glen, Hammondsport, Seneca Falls, and others are small, but large enough to have restaurants, small hotels, and bed & breakfast inns. Besides wineries, the region also includes state parks, hiking trails, local artisans, and museums.


Taughannock falls


Ithaca is one the region’s largest cities (30,000+), and is home to Cornell University. Because one of my Bucket List oddities is to visit all the Ivy League universities, we enjoyed the campus, the botanical gardens, and arboretum.

3 daily bell concerts at the famed Cornell tower

3 daily bell concerts at the famed Cornell tower


Visitors Center at the Cornell Botanical Gardens

Visitors Center at the Cornell Botanical Gardens


Corning (population 11,000+) is less than an hour away, and home to the Corning Museum of Glass. Our original itinerary didn’t include a stop, but to me, this was the biggest surprise of our trip. Simply fabulous!

Corning Museum of Glass

Corning Museum of Glass

A masterpiece by Tiffany at the Corning Museum of Glass

A masterpiece by Tiffany at the Corning Museum of Glass

For readers in the northeastern US and eastern Canada, the Finger Lakes region is a worthwhile destination – so, consider it.

Useful References
Finger Lakes Wine
Cayuga Wine Trail
Seneca Wine Trail
Keuka Wine Trail
Cornell University Botanical Gardens
Corning Museum of Glass

On Exploring the Most Beautiful; Part 2

Whether old or new, one can find spectacular human creations across the globe. Whether the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, or others from the modern world, our world has much to offer. Where is the most spectacular place you’ve visited?

Maybe readers will give you ideas of places to visit in the future. Do you get any ideas? For me, with its small towns hugging the steep hillsides that go down to the sea, Italy’s Amalfi Coast is breathtaking. Enjoy.

On Exploring the Most Beautiful: Part 1

We like to travel, thus have seen some places. Then again, the world offers so much, yet I have seen so little. How would you answer this question: Where is the most beautiful natural view you’ve ever seen? The Grand Canyon? Victoria Falls? A mountain view? A local scene? … after all, beauty is also close to home.  For me, the answer is easy … the Na Pali coast on the west side of Kauai. Enjoy.

On a Big Apple Dawn

After an evening of dinner, a show, and some dancing, we returned to our cabin for the final night …
… only to rise early for the special treat from the deck to the east …
… but the show we came to see was to the west …
… as we approached the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge …
… which the ship cleared with a little to spare …
… to eventually dock on the New Jersey of the river with a wonderful view of Lady Liberty and the Manhattan skyline featuring One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, and the morning clouds getting ready to make a break.
From the dock, our return home started as we went directly to the airport, so we couldn’t connect with NYC area bloggers as Lame, Guapo, Kay, and Weebs. But if you are late joining this trip, click here to get you to the start, plus each post will end with the next stop.

On Remember (the) Maine

Remember the Maine was a battle cry associated with the Spanish-American War in the late 1800s. This post is not about the ship explosion in Havana harbor, but about our two port stops in Elyse’s beloved Maine.

We had visited Maine 15 years ago (or more), but this was our first visit to Bar Harbor. This small town is a resort town in a scenic setting and the getaway into Acadia National Park.

Bar Harbor received its name after a sandbar that only appears in the harbor during low tide. It’s a nice walk, but get back before high tide returns.

Bar Harbor Low

A nice walk across the bar to a small island …..

Bar Harbor High

…. just don’t get stuck out there

With its outcroppings of pink granite, Cadillac Mountain is Acadia’s high point, and its summit provides an outstanding view of the harbor and surrounding islands.

Bar Harbor Cadillac

3 Ships brought 6,000 people (We had the best spot on the right)

Our next-day visit to Portland delivered a warm, sunny day. With a population of about 66,000, Portland is Maine’s largest city. With walks along the Eastern Promenade, through the trendy neighborhood of Munjoy Hill, to the commercial district, and visiting the stores, galleries, and restaurants of the vibrant Old Port District, who knows how many miles we walked.


Portland Old Port District

The Old Port District is alive!

On to the last stop.

On Mary Time

Whether Mary had a little lamb, Hail Mary, or Along Comes Mary, this post has nothing to do with Mary – but everything to do with our cruise stops in Canada’s maritime provinces.

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (population 35,000) is PEI’s largest city and provincial capital. It may be a city, but it sure as a small town feel. It’s also the setting of the novel Anne of Green Gables.

We walked around the residential neighbors with well-maintained homes and took the long walk to Victoria Park and beyond to the lighthouse. Interestingly, the rocks and sand are red, and even the shallow water near the shore had a red cast.

One of the many gorgeous old homes

One of the many gorgeous old homes

The red in Charlottetown

The red in Charlottetown

The boardwalk along Victoria Park is a refreshing walk

The boardwalk along Victoria Park is a refreshing walk

Charlottetown is also the home to Cows Ice Cream, rated the world’s best ice cream by Tauck’s World Discovery. We tried it, it was good, but sorry Tauck, it’s no Graeter’s, which wasn’t listed! Nor was Viveka’s beloved Mövenpick!

After Charlottetown, we cruised north to Corner Brook on Newfoundland’s west coast. This will probably be the closest I’ll ever be to Kayjai (she’s on the east coast).  On this day we were without a camera because of issues. Too bad because the fiord-like trip into Corner Brook was scenic.

Corner Brook, Newfoundland (pic from Wikipedia)

Corner Brook, Newfoundland (pic from Wikipedia)

Halifax was our final maritime stop. Unlike the two previous stops, Halifax is definitely a city … and the amount of new construction surprised us. Interestingly, the fortress that guarded the city is atop a hill above city center.

Old Clock installed 1803 just below the Citadel

Old Clock installed 1803 just below the Citadel

We didn’t realize the role that Halifax played in the Titanic disaster. With the nameless headstones, the trip into the cemetery with the most gravesites (121) from the ship was surreal.

Halifax Titanic Graves

The unidentified and the identified (amazingly, some were identified in 1992)

The unidentified and the identified (amazingly, some were identified in 1992)

We also boarded a bus for a trip to Peggy’s Cove, a small, picturesque fishing village found among the glacial remnants. Tour buses flock to this village for its charm, scenery, and lighthouse.

Peggy's Cove is picturesque

Peggy’s Cove rocky shore

Hope you enjoyed your quick journey to the Canadian maritime provinces of Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia.

Visit our next ports.