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Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Monumental Afternoon

McKinley Monument
Canton, Ohio
Canton, Ohio will be bustling this week as football enthusiasts from all over the country will teem into the city to partake in the myriad activities planned for the 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival.  While the Pro Football Hall of Fame should not be missed, don’t overlook the The William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum during your stay.
There you will find many interesting artifacts related to the life and times of President William McKinley (the 25th President of the United States) and his family.  I was lucky enough on my visit to be paired with a wonderful docent named Carl Patron, who shared fascinating stories about the McKinley’s as they related to the items on display.
If you are a “Pawn Stars” fan, you may remember a recent episode featuring Ida McKinley’s now famous diamond tiara. The tiara was purchased by Rick Harrison, co-owner of the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas for $43,000.  Mr. Harrison was planning to use the special tiara to raise 
McKinley Monument and Museum
Ida McKinley's Diamond Tiara
money for the National Epilepsy Foundation.  According to Mr. Patron, “Ida McKinley had epilepsy and so does Rick Harrison.”  In order to return the tiara to its rightful home, Rick Harrison agreed to sell the tiara to the museum for the price he paid for it. 
For the star gazers in your group, consider visiting the Hoover-Price Planetarium during your time at the museum.  Although the presentation lacked star quality, the equipment and depiction of the night sky were out of this world.
The exercise enthusiast in your group will enjoy climbing the 108 steps of the McKinley Monument to view the final resting place of President William McKinley.  The impressive monument resides over the city and is a tribute to the President who called Canton, Ohio his home.
McKinley Monument & The William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum
McKinley Monument

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Walk Like A Parisian

Bountiful bins full of colorful produce, fragrant flower bouquets, the aromatic scent of fresh baked baguette, a vast array of cheese and other gastronomic delights; too many to choose from.  You will find all this and so much more as you stroll the narrow cobblestoned street that is Rue Mouffetard.
Located in the 5th arrondissement, of Paris, Rue Mouffetard is the quintessential Parisian experience.  It is here that the locals catch up with their neighbors, pick up their daily baguette, and purchase a variety of fresh groceries for their dinner.
Rue Mouffetard Paris

Known as one of the most reputable and renowned pedestrian streets in Paris, Rue Mouffetard is the perfect place for visitors to truly experience life like a Parisian.  From wine shops to chocolatiers, lively sidewalk cafes to street vendors pedaling freshly made crepes; everything your heart and palate desire can be found on the famed Rue Mouffetard.  It is a truly enjoyable experience you won’t want to miss. The next time you are in Paris, take a walk on Rue Mouffetard and walk like a Parisian!

If you go:
Take Metro 7: Les Gobelins / Place Monge. 
Tuesday to Saturday 7am-1pm for groceries
10 am-6 pm for shops, cafes, and restaurants

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Reims, France: Architecture, History, Champagne!

With its 13th-century gothic cathedral, its rich historical significance, and its vast array of champagne caves, the city of Reims makes a great day trip from Paris.  Located 80 miles north-east of Paris, in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France, this historic city is easy to reach by car or high speed train.

Notre-Dame de Reims Cathedral
Notre-Dame de Reims
Rising up from the cobblestone streets in the center of the city is the magnificent Notre-Dame de Reims Cathedral.  Known as the coronation cathedral of France, French kings were crowned here for centuries.  The cathedral itself boasts many historical treasures including exceptional statuary, rich tapestries, and amazing stained glass windows.

I personally enjoyed my visit to this cathedral better than Notre-Dame de Paris.  It was far less crowded and touristy.  Not to mention the fact that the Chagall stained glass windows are beautiful!

Chagall Stained Glass windows Notre Dame de Reims
Chagall Stained Glass- Notre-Dame de Reims

Although Reims has a modern day feel, it is a city steeped in history.  On what was formerly a 4th century Roman chalk quarry, and later the site of The Saint Nicaise Abbey run by 13th century monks, Champagne Taittinger now makes it mark on history and wine making.

Champagne Taittinger Champagne Caves Tour
Hand-carved stairway circa 13th century
A tour of the champagne caves is well worth the trip and lasts about an hour.  As you descend into the caves, you take the same journey into the cellars the early monks did before you, as they carefully crafted their wines.  True to tradition, every bottle of champagne stored here today is still hand turned and cared for with exacting detail for a minimum of six years prior to being released for distribution. 
Taittinger Champagne Caves
Champagne Taittinger storage process
Champagne Taittinger wine caves
Champagne Taittinger caves

 Although many champagne houses in Reims offer tours, the Champagne Taittinger tour is excellent and available on a walk-in basis.  Tours are offered in English as well as French, morning and afternoon.  Check local listings for the tour schedule.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Not For Those of Nervous Disposition!

The Catacombs of Paris
The Catacombs
Sixty five feet below the city of Paris lies a macabre yet interesting display of history.  This underground necropolis know as The Catacombs, houses millions of bones belonging to cadaverous Parisians.

The Catacombs
Bone display inside The Catacombs

Although far older than 228 years, The Catacombs were officially blessed and consecrated in April 1786.  It was then that city officials deemed the above ground cemeteries a public health hazard due to overcrowding.

Taking two years, and thousands of man hours, the bones from the Cimetiere des Innocents graveyard were transferred to this unique underground golgotha. Subsequent transfers from additional boneyards are represented in this gruesome crypt below the city. 

Bones from St. Jean Cemetery-The Catacombs
Bones from St. Jean Cemetery

Today, The Catacombs are officially part of the History of Paris Museum. They showcase millions of years of geological history, as well as the charnel house holding the remains of over six million Parisian souls.  The bones are stacked and arranged in provocative displays in an attempt to honor the lives of those entombed here.

Catacombs of Paris
Inside The Catacombs of Paris

 If you go:
  • Plan to arrive early.  For safety reasons only 200 visitors are allowed in the tunnels at one time.  Crowds circle the block waiting to purchase tickets for this intriguing tour.
  • There are no restrooms once inside The Catacombs.  Be sure to use the washroom before you go.
  • The Catacombs are open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 AM to 5 PM.  Closed Mondays and public holidays.
  • Wear good walking shoes.  A steep winding staircase takes you into The Catacombs, and once inside there is a 2 kilometer walk through the ossuary.
Remember, The Catacombs are not suitable for small children, those with heart, respiratory or mobility problems, or those of nervous disposition!


Monday, February 24, 2014

A Few of Our Favorite Places
Sharon McKarns and Kendra Thornton

With all the great options available for travel these days it can be difficult to choose where to go and what to do when you get there. Some of the best places I have visited were recommendations from friends, fellow bloggers, and travel experts who have been through the trenches looking for that perfect trip or outing. Travel expert Kendra Thornton and I thought it would be fun to share some of our favorite places with you.

Family Fun on the Strip by Kendra Thornton
Las Vegas is both a great place to live and a spectacular destination for a family vacation. There is literally so much to do here that you might find yourself feeling a little torn about what to experience next. Don't waste a single minute of your trip trying to decide.

Learn to Golf Like Tiger Woods
When my husband and his buddies tried this, they had a great time! Tiger’s swing coach, Butch Harmon himself, teaches the Butch Harmon School of Golf in the Rio Secco Golf Club. While his expert staff heads most classes, Mr. Harmon teaches in person once per year in three-day stretches. This activity can be purchased along with a stay at Caesar's Palace, and transportation is included. It's an ideal surprise for the man in your life, and it gives you an excuse to hit the spa!

Unique and Interesting Museums
Despite the plethora of casinos and bars, Las Vegas isn't lacking in the finer things. With a variety of unique and interesting museums to visit, you'll find it easy to get your culture fix. My kids really enjoyed the Discovery Children's Museum. I particularly enjoyed the Neon Museum downtown, which is an outdoor attraction designed like an artistic junkyard. It features walkways, ramps and stairways that do a great job of highlighting the city's neon tradition. Another great place to visit is the National Atomic Testing Museum, only 65 miles from the Nevada nuclear test site.

Rock Star Mini Golf
My children are huge fans of miniature golf, and I love taking them to new and interesting courses. Although Myrtle Beach features pirates and dinosaurs, Las Vegas is home to Monster Mini Golf's KISS course, a tribute to one of America's greatest rock bands. Here, you'll find 18 holes of KISS-themed glow-in-the-dark indoor mini golf. The course consists of monstrous electric guitars, an animated imitation of the group and a 12-foot Gene Simmons head to putt the ball into.

Family Vs. Food
Las Vegas affords ample opportunity to engage in your own version of Man vs. Food, so be sure to come very, very hungry. In the BRAND Steakhouse at the Monte Carlo, you can choose to take on a whopping 7.5 pounds of steak, which comes with two special sauces and a side dish. At a staggering $250, you have every incentive to finish it all, because it's free if you do. The Monte Carlo also offers another challenge: an 8-pound burger. It's so much fun to watch people test their mastication mettle with these delicious challenges!

Las Vegas is truly a unique place with one of a kind attractions and restaurants. Even the hotels are unique and new ones are being built seemingly everyday. With so many options of places to stay, sites like Gogobot make it easy to read user reviews so you can find the perfect hotel for you and your family.

Beauty and Adventure in the Red Rocks
by Sharon McKarns

As one of my favorite places to visit, Sedona, Arizona has something to offer everyone.  There is plenty to do to keep you amazed, entertained and challenged during your visit to this unique, world class destination. You can bask in the glory of a beautiful sunset as it reflects off the majestic red rocks of Sedona, or you can enjoy one of these great activities:

The Verde Valley Wine Trail
Sedona is a great starting point to indulge your passion for wine in Northern Arizona. You can visit one of several exceptional wineries in the region including Alcantara Vineyards, Page Springs Cellars, Oak Creek Vineyards, and Javelina Leap Vineyard and Winery.  All four stops offer a unique variety of wines to satisfy any taste.  Consider taking a tour with your girlfriends, or quench your palate with that special someone in your life.  The Verde Valley Wine Trail makes for a great day or weekend!

The Verde Canyon Railroad
Verde Canyon Railroad
Verde Canyon Railroad
Travel back in time as you and your family enjoy the beauty of the Verde Canyon on what some call Arizona’s longest running nature show.  Young and old alike will enjoy this twenty mile train ride as it winds through the most pristine part of Verde Canyon.  Sip champagne, grab a snack, relax in your vintage locomotive, or spend time on the open air car listening to a narrator share the remarkable history, geology and wildlife of the canyon.  Keep your eyes peeled.  You might spot a bald eagle, a great blue heron or some fascinating rock formations on the Verde Canyon Railroad.

Slide Rock State Park
Beat the heat as you experience the exhilaration of cool mountain water thrusting you down the natural rock water slide at Slide Rock State Park, in Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona.  Just a short drive from Sedona, Slide Rock is a thrilling way to spend the day with family and friends.  Pack a picnic and enjoy the picturesque surroundings of northern Arizona.  Don’t forget to take your bathing suit and a pair of water shoes. You’ll be glad you did.  If you go, plan to arrive early as the park often fills to capacity.
Sedona is a scenic, extraordinary destination with noteworthy resorts, restaurants and activities.  Visitors from all over the world savour the beauty of the red rocks and all that northern Arizona has to offer.

Now that we have shared a few of our favorite places, feel free to comment and share some of your favorite places.  We would love to hear from you.

Contributing writer, Kendra Thornton, appears as a travel expert on television stations across the country to offer travel tips and deals to millions of people every year. She makes regular appearances on ABC, NBC and CW stations in major cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. She has also made special guest appearances on The Nate Show, Fine Living Network and The Tyra Banks Show. Her firm, Thornton Public Relations LLC, is an independent, boutique public relations firm providing personal service and proven results. The agency’s distinguished work ethic and deep industry knowledge have earned it credibility with the media and respect from industry leaders.  Contact Kendra Thornton

Sharon McKarns is a travel writer eager to explore the world and share her travel experiences. Her goal is to pack her blog with interesting stories, beautiful pictures and useful travel information. Guest bloggers/contributing writers are encouraged to contact Sharon at  She is also on twitter: @travelpacked1.

Butch Harmon School of Golf