Barging through Burgundy, Day 5-6: Walking Tour of Dijon’s Old City

The Caprice finishes its cruise of canals and rivers of Burgundy in Dijon © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Thursday: Arrival in Dijon

We are only a few miles to the last lock before Dijon, the capital of Burgundy, and the French landscape, though still predominantly countryside, becomes more and more populated and commercial as we come closer.

After breakfast on board the Caprice, our charming barge hotel, we take bikes and explore a village.

Back on board the Caprice, Chef Herve treats us to a cooking demonstration – he is preparing salt-encrusted salmon, which is the lunch entree, along with a variety of salads.

The Caprice, one of France Cruises’ luxury hotel barges, floats up a canal in Burgundy © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The wine is a 2010 Musadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie, from the Loire Valley, with a fresh, sharp, neutral flavor to compliment fish; and a 2010 Burgundy red, Saint Armour, named for the village which was named for a martyred Roman soldier, with a fruity flavor of currants.

The last bridge before we enter Dijon’s port is one where we all have to duck – it seems the barge uses every inch of space above.

We come into the port of Dijon, where we will stay overnight.

Caprice’s Chef Herve serves the salt-encrusted salmon for lunch; earlier in the morning, he provided a cooking demonstration © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Guy, who has been our guide and bus driver throughout our journey, takes us for a guided tour into the Dijon’s old city, the climax to an incredible week-long journey into Burgundy’s countryside. Dijon is the crowning jewel.

The historic district is just a 15-20 minute from where the Caprice is docked, so we can return on our own and have a couple of extra hours to explore.

As always, Guy, who is a former journalist, is fascinating, illuminating with stories and anecdotes what we can appreciate visually.

He reminds us of the popular Burgundy drink, Kir, which was named for a mayor who served from 1946-1960, was a priest, a canon, and a member of Parliament- the famous drink is named for him. “He did nothing in Dijon – that was reason it is well preserved.” The current mayor, on the other hand, wants to modernize, and is constructing a street car (light rail).

The magnificent architecture of Dijon’s Old City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Dijon is a household name because of the mustard, which is still produced here, but these days, they import seeds from Canada. It is also a center for artificial flavors and fragrances.

Dijon is the capital of Burgundy – hospitals, university, administrative services (government), and the main stop between Paris and Lyon.

Burgundy was an independent state, and allied with Britain against France. The last Duke was killed 1463 – his enemy was King Louis XI of France, known here as “the Sneaky One” because though France had a treaty with Burgundy but the King still invaded Dijon.

One of the highlights is the main indoor market – a marvel of steel architecture that goes back to Eiffel, though his colleague finished the project.

The Caprice squeaks under the bridge as we float into the port of Dijon © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

It is just across from the church of Notre Dame with a marvelous bell clock. “The King of France tried to bribe a town in Burgundy to rebel, and when it did, the Duke besieged it and as punishment, in 1673, took the clock. At the time, it only had a man with the pipe; then in 17C, the people of Dijon (who have a good sense of humor), added a woman so the man wouldn’t be lonely, and in 18C, added two children.” The man strikes the bell on the hour; the woman on the half, and the children on the quarter hour.

Notre Dame has stunning gargoyles, but Guy tells us that a usurer was killed when a gargoyle broke off and fell on him. As a result, the “corporation” of loan sharks demanded they all be taken down; but finally, they were cleaned and replaced in 18C. Notre Dame was defaced during the 1793 Terror, and the anti-religious furor that swept through.

The Church of Notre Dame provides a dramatic backdrop at the end of the Rue Musette © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The owl is symbol of Dijon, and there is an owl on Notre Dame that legend says, you touch with your left hand to have a wish come true (it’s been rubbed smooth over time).

Here we come to the Maison Millière, the charming shop we had first encountered on our first afternoon in Dijon, which specializes in hand-crafted owls.

There are fabulous buildings – stately majestic public buildings, grand mansions that served the noble members of Parliament – through Dijon.

Many of the grand buildings have been “re-purposed” after the Revolution.

Guy, our guide from the Caprice, explains the legend of rubbing the owl that is on the side of the Church of Notre Dame, with your left hand: wishes come true © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Plaza Royale was renamed Place de la Revolution, and the avenue renamed Avenue de la Liberte.

What is astonishing is how many famous people are associated with Dijon: the architect of Versailles, Jules Mansart, also designed the Plaza Royale; Francois Ronde, who designed the Arc d’Triomphe in Paris, is from here.

I wander on my own, and am fascinated with the street names, many with biographical information

In the square of Dijon’s Old City, buildings from the Renaissance flank a carousel from 1865 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Rue Danton was named for “conventionnel organisateur de la defense nationale, ne en 1759, mort sur l’echafaud en 1794.” I am fascinated and subsequently learn that Georges Danton was a French Revolutionary leader and orator, often credited as the chief force in the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of the First French Republic (September 21, 1792). He later became the first president of the Committee of Public Safety, but his increasing moderation and eventual opposition to the Reign of Terror led to his own death at the guillotine.

The clock above the church of Notre Dame, with the man who strikes the hour, his wife who strikes the half hour, and their two children who strike the quarter hour. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

I come upon Eglese Saint Philibert, originally built in 12th century, and destroyed in the Reign of Terror that followed the French Revolution. It is now undergoing a restoration.

I am so happy that I will have two extra days in Dijon (see story).

Gala Farewell

I walk back to the Caprice in time for our gala farewell dinner.

The last night of our cruise is a gala dinner (we “dress” in our finest, that is what we have with us) – the table, in a U-shaped banquet formation, is set magnificently, with fresh lilies and zinnias.

A fountain provides respite during a walking tour of Dijon’s historic district, spanning 97 hectares © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The menu consists of foie gras with leek salad with a sweet fig jam; filet de boeuf with red wine sauce, potatoes from Noirmoutier and mushrooms.

The 2007 Sainte Croix du Mont, a Sauvignon Blanc, Tina tells us, is produced at a vineyard on right bank of Bordeaux in southeast France, where there are early morning mists (usually not good for wine) is difficult to produce. “You need a lot of luck. The grapes have to develop a ‘local rot’ – a fungus – which actually produces a bursting sweetness. The yield is small – you have to pick the grapes by hand when ripest – a lot of work. It’s lighter than a dessert wine but full bodied.”

The red is a Grand Barrail Larose St Emilion 2009, a Bordeaux.

Three houses dating from the 1400s in Dijon’s Old City: the middle one is propped up by the two on either side © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The cheese tonight is a Roquefort – the quintessential sheep’s milk blue cheese from Avignon in the south of France, owes its distinctive character to a mold found in the soil of local caves

The second cheese is a Brie de Meaux, from the Ile de France, a creamy cow’s milk similar to Camembert. “King Louis XIV had 3 passions: poetry, wine and cheese,” Tina, the general manager, says. “He would send a damsel a cheese with a poem”

The dessert is a Chef’s surprise (actually a birthday cake for one of the guests).

Lunch onboard the Caprice always features red and white wines as well as cheeses © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Friday morning, after breakfast, we depart the Caprice. The whole crew, wearing their Barging Through France shirts, line up to greet us and bid us farewell. It is that most amazing and gratifying feeling that only travel provides when you get to realize how everyone has bonded and formed friendships in just a week’s time.

Incomparable Value in France Canal Cruising

In reflection, I think this is as perfect a trip as it could have been, vastly exceeding my expectations – in terms of the sights we have seen, the interesting attractions and excursions, the quality of the wining and dining, the cruise experience – France Cruises, the American agent for Barging through Burgundy which owns and operates the Caprice, really offers superb value for money.

The gala farewell banquet onboard the Caprice features a beef filet with red wine sauce © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The passengers onboard have really bonded – gives you plenty of opportunity – we are not on top of one another, but the meals, where you basically sit where you want or where there is room, so the table groupings always change, and you get to know one another, or when walking or biking along the canal, or on the bus or walking through the villages during our excursions, or in the evening sitting around in the lounge or on deck… people came from all over and many different backgrounds, but shared an interest and eagerness to learn and experience things, and we each shared from our own experience and knowledge base.

The immersion into French food and wine – especially with the selection of wines and cheeses at lunch and dinner – has been very satisfying and also interesting, since food and wine are so inextricably linked to culture and heritage of a place.

The size of the boat and the service makes it ideal for families, family reunions and groups of friends traveling together. There are barge boats that a single family can hire and guide themselves , though it seemed to me to be tricky process to go through the canals – some were automatic, operated by sensors, some had attendants, but some involved hand-cranking the bridge or pulling a chain to activate the doors.

Many people have the concern that you can get bored on a barge cruise or feel confined, but we are never bored or stir crazy – because of the opportunity to go off the boat and explore, especially by bike, and also the excursions. Those who want a more sedentary experience can have it, as well.

This size boat and the itinerary are perfect for us – not too small that you are forced to be on top of people or lacking in level and quality of service, and not too big.

The crew of the Caprice at the farewell gala banquet © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The daily excursions are marvelous and interesting and take you to places you might not have known to visit, and into the essence of what the region is -particularly the visit to the Chateau Rully with the Count – just seeing the portraits on wall of his ancestors, the very mug his 14th century ancestor had drunk from (that he still uses), the personal artifacts of the family were amazing.

Considering all that is provided, and the high level of service, the experience fulfills France Cruses’ boast that this cruise affords some of the best value in canal cruising in France (particularly with the special offers and packages that are available from time to time). I am a believer.

For information, contact France Cruises, Inc.,9901 IH 10 West, Suite 800 | San Antonio, TX 78230, 866-498-3920 or 210- 775-2184; Email:Marketing@FranceCruises.com, visit www.FranceCruises.com orwww.FranceCountryTours.com. Visit the blog The France Insider.

The cruise aboard the Caprice is now completely updated for next season:http://www.francecruises.com/barge-354-Caprice-742.html

Dijon is such a fascinating city, our exploration continues (see A Walk Through the Centuries in Dijon, France).

(Originally published in 2011)

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Barging through Burgundy, Day 3-4: Hotel-Dieu, Beaune, Clos de Vougeot

Panels of the Polyptych, completed in 1445, attributed to Flemish artist Roger Van der Weyden, at the Hotel-Dieu, Beaune © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Caprice barge hotel take us through some of Burgundy’s most important attractions

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

These next two days aboard the Caprice barge hotel, we cruise to a spiritual center, which is in the capital of Burgundy’s wine region, the Hotel-Dieu in Beaune, and the next day to the “mother church,” as it were, of Burgundy wine, the Clos de Vougeot, seat of the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, the Burgundy wine society.

Tuesday.

I get up early enough to have another walk in this picturesque village of Chalon sur Saône, before the barge pulls away at 8:30 am. We sail down the River Saône as we enjoy breakfast.

Hotel-Dieu a charity hospital founded in 1443, is one of the most important monuments in Burgundy © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We spend a lazy morning, sailing on river – this part more typical of a cruise. We sit and read, chat with our traveling companions, and look out at the pleasant landscape – riverside homes, and occasional heron or egret.

Before we know it, it is time for lunch – “charcuterie” (a cold meat platter), green bean salad, tomato and feta cheese salad, green salad, and lemon tart.

The wine is 2010 Macon Villages, a Burgundy white Chardonnay that is light, fruity, and perfect for lunch; and Cotes du Rhone, 2010, of Lyon, fruity flavor of cherries and red berries, a blended Gambon Cabernet, light wine for lunch

Hôtel-Dieu has Burgundy’s largest roof of colored, varnished tiles © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We arrive at Seurre, a lovely riverside town with a 16th century church and beautiful brick houses from the 17th century and travel by bus 26 km to visit the famous city of Beaune.

Beaune is the wine capital of Burgundy most famous for the magnificent Hôtel-Dieu, a charity hospital founded in 1443. The most important monument in Burgundy, it boasts the finest Burgundian-Flemish architecture in the world (and I believe it) and the largest roof of colored, varnished tiles, its opulence seemingly contradicting its purpose.

The Hotel-Dieu was built in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, the chancellor to the Duke of Burgundy, Philippe-le-Bon. Rolin was in charge of finances (collecting taxes), and lo and behold, became extremely wealthy. At the end of his life, he had a great desire to “give back” to community (and buy a place in heaven). In 1463, King Louis XI, said, “This is a beautiful thing to do with all the money he stole.”

Beds separated by red velvet curtains at the Hotel-Dieu, Beaune © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Remarkably, though no longer a hospital, the Hotel-Dieu is still a retirement home – with the longest waiting list in France. It is a wealthy institution from tourist revenue and donations over the centuries in the form of the vineyards and the wine that is produced. The home owns 60 hectares of most prestigious Bourgignon vineyards. At the annual wine auction, the wines typically fetch far more than wine is worth, to give “donation”.

The “new” part dates from the 17th century.

During June and July there are concerts here.

Inside, we see a vaulted gothic ceiling – how the hospital room would have had beds, with red velvet curtains for privacy, lining each side of the room.

The hospital area in Hotel-Dieu, where beds with red velvet curtains line both sides of the vaulted room © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We see where “Seule etoile” is spelled out in floor tiles, an expression of love from Rolin to his wife, meaning “only star,” which comes from the way he referred to his wife, “The only star of my heart.”

The kitchen has a huge dual-hearth Gothic fireplace, with its original accessories; the floor of the hearth is tiled with the “Seulle star” motto. Most interesting is the steel spit, made in 1698, which is turned by a little “robot,” Maitre Bertrand, dressed in the traditional costume of large floppy boots, white breeches, red jerkin with gold buttons and a white cap with turned up brim.

The Hotel-Dieu in Beaune boasts the finest Burgundian-Flemish architecture in the world © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We visit the centuries old pharmacy and can see the machine that was used then to make suppositories.

There are shelves stocked with bottles of ancient remedies from that time, like Teriacr, one of most common remedies of the time, made from venom of viper. I see a jar dated 1777.

In the pharmacy at Hotel-Dieu, the charity hospital founded in 1443, see centuries-old jars of medicines © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The glass bottles still contain “specifics” with names that sound like they have come out of Harry Potter: woodlice powder, eyes of crayfish, vomit nuts powder, elixir of property.

The piece de resistance of the hospice is the Polyptych, kept in a darkened room which you enter through a glass door. These are unimaginably stunning panels commissioned by Rolin in 1443 and completed in 1445, attributed to Flemish artist Roger Van der Weyden. Representing Last Judgment, it was placed above the altar of the Chapel, but was only allowed to be seen by the sick on Sundays and feast days.

The Polyptych at Hotel-Dieu in Beaune is attributed to Flemish artist Roger Van der Weyden © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The detail is so exquisite, there is even a large magnifying glass that makes sweeps over the panels. You see St. Michael weighing souls, Christ, Virgin Mary (trying to alleviate judgment), St. John, apostles. The people who are damned are on the right; the left has people who will go to heaven.

Then you walk through a room of tapestries – the largest series of seven tapestries, woven at Tournai at the beginning of the 16th century, tells the parable of the Prodigal Son. Another series of Brussels tapestries dating from the end of the 16th century, tells the story of Jacob.

Our walking tour continues in Beaune – the church of Notre Dame, dating the 13th century, has a magnificent stained glass window, rare for its grey and yellow coloring, dating from 16th century.

Panels of the Polyptych, completed in 1445, attributed to Flemish artist Roger Van der Weyden, at the Hotel-Dieu, Beaune © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

This being the capital of Burgundy wine, there is a Museum of Wine (we visit an outdoor display of ancient presses) and walk through ramparts from the 15th century.

After Guy’s guided tour, we still have two more hours to explore Beaune on our own before returning to the barge by bus. It is a bustling city, with loads of wine cellars and shops and cafes, befitting a wildly popular tourism center.

Beaune is a bustling city in Burgundy © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Back at the Caprice, I go off to explore Seurre, which dates from 1278.

The “new” town hall was built 1771, with neoclassic façade.

L’Eglise Saint Martin dates from the 13 C-14C; it was damaged in 16 and 17C but restored. The chapels were built for the most revered families of 15 and 16 C. The largest chapel was for the Bossuet family, the most influential family in the city. Some were elected city magistrates and mayors of Seurre, but the family had humble beginnings as wheel wrights. (There is a Rue Bossuet in Dijon.)

Clos de Vougeot, seat of the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Testevin, the Burgundy wine society © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Dinner consists of a marvelous gazpacho soup with crayfish; codfish in a delicious lobster sauce served with artichoke, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes; and for dessert, a grape tart.

The cheese selection, Comte, is from the Franche-Comte region, and Sainte Maure is a masterpiece of Touraine goat cheese, rolled in black wood ash, recognized for the long straw through the middle (which facilitates handling).

Clos de Vougeot, in Burgundy’s Cotes de Nuits region, famous for its vineyards © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The wine this evening is a Montagny l’er Cru (“cru” means it is a superior wine); and a 2010 Chinon from the Loire, which has a sharp, firey, fruity, black currant flavor.

I am thoroughly enjoying these anecdotes about the wines and cheeses.

Clos de Vougeot & The Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin

Wednesday.

We start the day sailing on the River Saône to St. Jean de Losne, where we connect to the canal de Bourgogne.

The Cotes de Nuits, Burgundy’s famous wine-making region © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We see scores of barges here, including many live-aboard barges that people either rent or own. I don’t envy their effort to get through these locks on their own.

Today’s shore excursion takes us through the Cotes de Nuits region, famous for its vineyards, to Clos de Vougeot, where wine has been produced by local monks since the 12th century. It also is the seat of the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, the Burgundy wine society.

Winemaking in the Cotes de Nuits dates back to the 12th century © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The 12th century monks of Citreaux transformed winemaking, turning their vineyard into a model for “scientific” pruning and cultivation.

In 1790, during the French Revolution, the Abbey and its annexes including the Vougeot vineyard, were confiscated and declared “Property of the Nation”. For the next century, the domain changed owners frequently. It was gradually broken down until 1889, when the buildings and remaining vineyard came into the hands of Leonce Bocquet, a Burgundian owner, who saved the edifice from destruction and spent vast amounts of money restoring it.

The Caprice cruises the picturesque canals of Burgundy © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Etienne Camuzet, acquired the chateau in 1920 and made it available to the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, an association of wine growers, in 1934.

In 1944, it became the “spiritual” home to the Confrerie, which became the caretaker of the Clos de Vougeot, turning the chateau into a kind of Acropolis of Burgundy where pilgrims from the world over come (www.tastevin-bourgogne.cominfo@tastevin-bourgogone.com).

Roger, the first mate, maneuvers the Caprice through the narrow canal lock © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The association wanted to elevate Burgundy wine, which had fallen in prominence to Bordeaux wine. The society was meant to market the wine, but they did something quite clever: they invited popular entertainers (like Maurice Chevalier) and important diplomats to become Members of the Society. It worked, and they brought back Burgundy as a major player in the international wine industry.

On the walls, we see the annual photo of the Society members, looking regal in their sashes.

The motto here: “Jamais en vain; toujours en vin” (“Never in vain; Always in wine”)

From here, we go to a private wine tasting in Nuits St Georges before we return to Caprice.

The Caprice cruises through picturesque countryside of Burgundy © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Along the way, we see fields of sunflowers browning – used for fuel – and solar panels on “ancient” houses.

Meals are an Event

Meals are an event on the Caprice. The tables today are decorated with colored napkins, beautiful place settings. Tina waits for everyone to be seated, and then makes a presentation of the menu, the wines and the cheeses, telling interesting stories about them.

The lunch menu consists of feuillete de tomatos – sundried tomatoes and goat cheese in pastry; wild rice and tuna; celery root salad; green salad ; and for dessert, crème brule.

The Caprice cruises the canal of Burgundy © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The wines are Cotes Chalonnaise and Cotes de Provence Rose

After lunch, we bike along the tow path of the canal.

The gatekeeper at lock 62 shows us his museum of collections – everything from postcards to wine to coins.

Dinner this evening includes melon with cured ham and St. Croix du Mont wine; Duck breast served with a peach sauce, Provencale tomatoes and sugar snap peas; and for dessert, almond cake with a lemon tea mousse and passion fruit.

Fine dining aboard the Caprice

© Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The wines are a 2009 Saint Veran, a rich buttery white Bourgogne and, befitting this morning’s visit, a Bourgogne Hautes Cote de Nuits, a rich red, fruity wine.

The cheeses today are Morbier, a cow’s milk cheese, sometimes known as night/day cheese becasue one side is made from morning milking and the other is evening, Tina says. “With a good palette, you can tell the difference -stronger tasting side is the morning milking, more flavor.”

Valencay is a goat milk cheese in the shape of a truncated pyramid, with a salty flavor and crumbly texture, coated in wood ash to preserve the flavor. Tina tells us the story of the cheese, which dates back to Napoleon: it was made in his honor in the shape of a pyramid, expecting Napoleon to be victorious in Egypt. Instead, Napoleon, who lost in Egypt, was offended by the point of the cheese, so it is always made with a truncated pyramid “so not to offend his relatives” (it is fantastic).

The Caprice is owned by Barging Through France, and represented by France Cruises, Inc, San Antonio, Texas, 866-498-3920,www.francecruises.comwww.FranceCountryTours.com.

(Originally published in 2011)

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

Barging through Burgundy, Day 2: Chateau de Rully

Chateau Rully in Burgundy, France. which has been in the same family for 900 years © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Day 2 aboard the Caprice barge hotel brings us to a castle in the same family for 900 years

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Our second day’s excursion through Burgundy, France, aboard the Caprice, a barge hotel, proves to be an extraordinary highlight.

We travel by bus to the Chateau Rully, dating back to the 12th century. Most incredibly, the chateau has remained in the same family for 900 years.

Compte Raoul de Ternay and family greet us at their home, the Chateau Rully in Burgundy, France. The chateau has been in the same family for 900 years © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

It is a most impressive structure, as we drive up through acres of vineyards to what looks more like a castle than a chateau. We will have a private tour by the current owner.

As we walk up the stone path, we are met by the youngest heir, Comte Raoul de Ternay (the third generation of the Ternays), his wife pushing a stroller, and their young son.

This is the home he grew up in, and which is still the home for their extended family, including his mother and aunt.

The Chateau Rully is surrounded by vineyards © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

He explains that the family name has changed over the centuries, when ownership transferred through the female line. The main family names have been Rully, Saint-Léger (until end of 16th century), Montessus (into the 20th century) and nowadays Ternay. Most fascinating are the portraits of these ancestors that line the walls.

Ternay took over when his father passed away 16 years ago; the family must maintain the chateau without any state support, so 10 years ago, he opened it up to visitors.

This is so much different than seeing a castle, but having some sense of the people who lived in it. But there is no denying, the structure is formidable.

Portrait of Marie Ferdinande Agathonge de Vaudrey, imprisoned during the French Revolution, the local people protested and demanded her liberation. She saved the chateau for the family © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

This medieval fortress was built around a 12th century square keep (Donjon), the oldest part of the chateau that remains. It reveals some interesting features of medieval military architecture with its parapet walk, battlements, machicoulis and loopholes.

During the 14th century, the defense system was improved a path round, the battlements, with crenellations for firing weapons, merlons for protection, and loopholes for archers. A dry ditch (moat) was built around the château to reinforce the defense – the only way in was a drawbridge.

As we walk in, Ternay explains that the dry moat was removed by his great grandfather at the end of the 19th century, after he fell in.

Compte Raoul de Ternay hosts a wine tasting in the massive kitchen of the Chateau Rully © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We walk past a statue of Saint Mary. He tells us that the chateau was occupied by Germans during World War II for only about two months before D-Day, but for most of war, his great grandfather managed to keep them out, insisting that the historic building would be bombed if they occupied it. His grandmother installed the statue of Saint Mary, for having survived World War II.

It makes you think about how this building managed to survive through all the tumult over the centuries.

The main building dates back to the Renaissance.

Cote de Nuits, wine region in Burgund © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The current appearance of the chateau was designed in the 15th century with the addition of a small courtyard and North and East wings, turning the fortress into a manor house. Outbuildings, and the great and lower courtyards were added in the 18th century. An 18th century building boasts Burgundy’s largest stone roof.

The Chateau is by no means a museum and very much a private home, he tells us, so we will see a television among other modern accoutrements, and family photos – which to me, makes it all the more interesting.

We enter the home, where he tells us the main staircase dates from the 17th century – the weight is concentrated on the walls, making for an open entry space.

The pleasant dining room aboard the Caprice barge hotel © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“The staircase doesn’t creak,” he says, joking that he could sneak into house when he was younger.

We are ushered into a beautiful salon, which he says is used very few times a year because of the fragile furniture. There are two mirrors, made in two different eras: a 17th century mirror made in six parts because that is what the technology allowed (the Chateau de Versailles has same kind of mirror); the second was made in the 18th century, in two parts, because of the technological improvements.

Chalon sur Saone © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Most fascinating to me are the portraits we see of his ancestors – the great grandfather who protected the castle in World War II.

But most interesting of all is the portrait of Marie Ferdinande Agathonge de Vaudrey. Born in 1740, she was 16 when married and had 15 children by the time she was widowed at 32. She was imprisoned as an aristocrat during the French Revolution, but the local people protested and demanded her liberation, and finally, the authorities said, “Take her and get out.”

She spent much of the Revolution in the castle, protected the castle, and was largely responsible for keeping it in the family, he says.

Chalon Sur Saone © Karen Rubin/

news-photos-features.com

Asked how long was she in prison, he says that family tradition said just three or four days but he found documents that showed she was in prison for 8-9 months.

Still, he distinguishes how “there were two revolutions, the one in the cities, and the one in the towns. The Revolution in the countryside wasn’t so ‘dramatic,’ the count says.

Chalon Sur Saone

© Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

He points to a stunning wood cabinet that was made in 1899 by his great-great-grandfather, a master wood maker and artist, made of mahogany from Cuba.

We are brought into the kitchen – an amazingly massive room with vaulted ceilings built in the original keep, and a massive 1771 fireplace. It was “modernized” in the 19th century with a stove and the fireplace was no longer necessary. The stove itself, is fascinating to behold.

St Vincent Square, unchanged in centuries. The centerpiece is an 11th century cathedral © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Here Ternay hosts a wine tasting made from grapes from the Chateau Ruilly vineyards.

Everywhere you look in this great room, there is some fascinating artifact, including a 14th century old mug from one of his ancestors, which he says he still uses.

(Chateau de Rully 71150, 33 (0) – 385872089, chateauderully.com)

Cruising on the Canal

Wood decoration on a tudor building in Chalon Sur Saone © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We return to the Caprice for lunch: salads of carrots and coriander, lentils cooked in orange juice, a wonderful Quiche Lorraine, chocolate mousse for dessert; and enjoy Pinot Noir – Bourgogne 2009 and Pinot Gris Van D’Alonso 2009.

We float down the canal as we dine. You chat amiably, savor the flavors, and see the scenery flow by in slow motion.

Tapestry in St Vincent’s, Chalon sur Saone © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

I am relishing the benefits of a cruise style of trip: you have all the relaxation and comforts of a resort-style vacation, with all the interest and variety of a sightseeing-style trip, and without the packing. We are, after all, immersed in a foreign country with a storied history. But the character and size of this barge makes it all the more special, and river cruises are particularly special because of the pace of the journey, and the fact you are always seeing interesting landscapes on both sides.

The 12th century cathedral, St. Vincent Square, Chalon sur Saone © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

You notice everything: now we are going through the lock and going down. Lock 28 has the date in stone: 1862.

I am enjoying lunch so much, I lose track and realize I have just five minutes to prepare to get off at lock 28.

The Caprice barge hotel, tied at the steps to Chalon sur Saone © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Tina tells us we have to get back on by Lock 34 or else the towpath turns away from where the Caprice will go on to enter the River Saône.

The route here is gorgeous pastoral scenery of farms and fields.

We bike up to lock 34, have more time, so go back to 33, then walk back to 34.

It’s Lock 35 that has the severe drop, 55 feet, which brings us level to the river.

Biking along the towpath adjacent to the Canal du Centre © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We float into Ville Chalon sur Saône: you really appreciate arriving in the city by water: the view is stunning, dramatic, with the ancient city on both sides of the water, spanned by an elegant bridge.

Chalon was built alongside the Saône about 3000 years ago. It was a naval base even during Antiquity, hosted large fairs during the Middle Ages, and was a trading center into modern times. It has a magnificent old town, which is so revealing for the way the street names, etched in stone, have been replaced.

The magnificent scenery along the Canal du Centre, Burgundy © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We tie up right at the city’s stone steps that lead from the water.

We arrive mid afternoon. Guy leads us on a walking tour of the old town just after we arrive.

The picturesque scenery as we float along the Canal du Centre, Burgundy on the Caprice © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Chalon was important during Roman conquest of Gaul – Julius Caesar, 52 BC. This was last navigable port from Mediterranean. Roman ships carried wine northbound; that’s when the vineyards were started.

Chalon was part of Burgundy, which in the 12 C was an independent realm governed by a Duke (Dijon was the capital). Burgundy allied with England in the Hundred Years War. this brings up the story of Joan of Arc: in 1429, Joan of Arc began her quest to unite the French behind the future Charles VII and drive the English out of France. Joan was captured by Burgundian troops and handed over to the English, who burnt her as a witch (for wearing men’s clothes), at English-held Rouen in 1431. English Henry VI was crowned king of France in Paris.) We see what remains of a fortress.

The Caprice cruises the Canal du Centre © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

During WWII when Germans invaded France, and the Demarcation line was drawn between Fermany and Vichy, it went through Chalon. Jewish resistance fighters went through (to get to Switzerland).

Just up from the stone steps where we tie up the barge, we come up into the square, where we see a statue to Nicephore Niepce who invented photography in 1765 (he was a colleague of Daguerre’s).

The beautiful Burgundy countryside beside the Canal du Centre. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Guy guides us through the town for the first hour – his commentary is absolutely fascinating and the town has wonderful architecture. Soon we are in front of Niepce’s house, where he lived in 1765, looking probably much the same as when he left it, on a picturesque narrow street he would have loved to photograph.

We see how street names have changed with political tides – there is Rue Voltaire, named during the Restoration, in the 1820s.

The beautiful Burgundy countryside along the Canal du Centre © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We come upon the St Vincent Square, unchanged in centuries. The centerpiece is an 11th century cathedral – the façade has been replaced after it was destroyed, but even then, the “new” facade dates from 1780. The base of the tower dates to the 12th century; the base of the Church is Romanesque; the gallery is Gothic; the organ is Baroque. There are some magnificent examples of centuries-old tapestries.

After our walking tour, we still have an hour more to explore on our own before returning to the Caprice for dinner.

This isn’t just an old city, it is a bustling town of 80,000 with a vibrant shopping street, and if you cross the bridge, you get to a modern residential area.

The Caprice cruises the canal

© Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The dinner, Monday, is another extraordinary event: escargots a la crème d’ail (snails in garlic sauce); breast of guinea fowl served with a honey and saffron sauce, baby vegetables.

The cheeses tonight are Brillat-Savarin, developed in the 1930s in the north of France and named after a renowned 18th century food writer Brillat Savarin.

Also Epoisses, a local Burgundy unpasteurized cheese from the village of Epoisses in the Cote d’Or, halfway between Dijon and Auxerre; the rind is washed with Marc de Bourgogne, a local pomance brandy.

Chalon sur Saone at night

© Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The wines are a Petit Chablis and the red is a Moulin a Vent, a Beaujolais made from the Gamay grape which, we learn, has a thin skin and is low in tannins.

The desserts are an assortment of traditional Burgundy sweets.

Chalon is such a beautiful city, after dinner, we walk down the gangplank, up the Medieval stone steps back into the town to walk about the old city. Yellow lights hit the stone of the buildings, making the most stunning shadows, shapes and textures. (We need to return by 11 pm, because they take up the gangplank.)

The Caprice is owned by Barging Through France, and represented by France Cruises, Inc, San Antonio, Texas, 866-498-3920,www.francecruises.comwww.FranceCountryTours.com.

(Originally published 2011)

____________________

© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

Barging through Burgundy, France: A Visit to Chagny Market

 

Cruising on the Caprice barge hotel is a marvelous way to experience the French countryside © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is late afternoon when we get our first glimpse of the Caprice, the barge hotel that will be our home for the next week as we cruise along the canals and River Saône through Burgundy.

I literally fall in love with the boat, looking much like a Monet painting on the mirror-still water of the canal. It is absolutely sweet, charming, inviting.

The gorgeous Burgundy countryside on our way to St. Leger Sur Dheune, where the Caprice is docked © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We have arrived where the Caprice is docked at St. Leger Sur Dheune after about 1 1/2 hour bus trip from Dijon. Dijon is an enchanting Old City, just a few hours outside of Paris, that I bless my good sense to have planned to stay over at the historic Sofitel Hotel when we return (the cruise alternates routes; this is the northbound route that ends back in Dijon).

During the course of the next week, the canal and river cruise of Burgundy on the Caprice proves to far exceed my hopes and expectations – everything from the creature comforts onboard, the fine dining and wining, the pleasant company of our fellow travelers, the picturesque landscapes and fascinating attractions, the opportunity to bike and explore storybook quaint villages, the relaxed and casual atmosphere that is eminently more satisfying than lounging on a beach.

The biggest surprise for me are the excursions. Each day we are taken by bus to some really fascinating place, with our own guide.

The Caprice was built as a commercial barge, carrying grain, timber and coal, and converted to a passenger ship 25 years ago. It has a “boatee” shape – not squared off, flat like other barges – designed for rivers as well as canals.

The vineyards of the Cote de Nuits region, Burgundy, France © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The upper deck of the Caprice has a two-tiered sundeck with tables, chairs and umbrellas. and is decorated with pleasing flower pots. The indoor salon has comfortable upholstered seating and large picture windows, and is separated from the dining area by a bar stocked with beverages and ice. The dining area has lovely picture windows that let in light and let you see the countryside float by as you linger over your meal.

We gather together in a comfortable lounge for an orientation to the barge and our cruise, meet the staff, enjoy a welcome drink of the traditional Burgundian Kir Royale and meet our fellow travelers.

Our group is extremely diverse and comes from all over: Colorado, Connecticut; Cleveland, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan; Ft Lauderdale, Florida; Vancouver, England, Australia, and New York.

Tina, the general manager, is from the UK, who we come to know as incredibly pleasant, efficient, and good-humored, welcomes us with a very helpful orientation to the boat and the program, and introduces the staff: Chef Herve, hostesses Sophie (who is now married to Herve) and Molly, Roger, the first mate and Captain Willy.

Tina gives us a wonderful orientation to what we will experience.

The boat floats so slowly along the canal, “a toddler can toddle at the same speed,” she says, so we can walk along side, and get back on at the next lock, or bicycle the towpath that goes alongside, or take the bike to explore nearby villages. (We just have to give some advance notice to Roger, the first mate, to hand us down the bike).

The Caprice barge hotel, tied up at St Leger Sur Dheune, at the start of a week-long cruise through Burgundy © 2011 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

During the course of our cruise, we will go through some 21 locks. Going through the locks is a main source of interest and excitement.

“We make it look easy but there is only two inches of space – so don’t stick your limbs out.” At the point the barge is level with the shore – just a few moments, really – that’s when we can get off and walk or bike along the towpath, or even bike into nearby villages, catching up with the barge further on (they give us an approximate time schedule).

She warns us that some of the bridges we go under are extremely tight space – and may even brush the top of the boat, so if we are standing on the high terrace, “be aware, you may have to duck.”

There are windows in cabins, but we need to close them when we are moving – because water will come in like waterfall.

The stunning scenes along the canal at St. Leger Sur Dheune ©  Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The water on the Caprice is potable, but bottled water is provided, as well, and we can help ourselves to a chilled supply in the refrigerator, where there are also sodas and beer.

Wines – red and white – are served at lunch and dinner, and there is also a bar – you run your own tab by simply marking down what you have consumed.

Coffee and fresh fruit are set out all day long, and a platter of cookies is there for us when we return from our afternoon excursions.

A bell is rung 5-10 minutes before lunch and dinner, and to signal when we need to get ready for excursions.

Breakfast is more casual. We can help ourselves to a marvelous buffet, available from 7:30-9:30.

Biking on the towpath along the canal.

Everything is extremely well organized: Each day, they post the list of the locks we will be going through, with the distances to the next one, mostly half to one-mile apart (that lets you know when you can get on/off), and also post the menu, and the schedule for the day, and each day they tell us what we will be seeing the next day.

Each day, we arrive in our new destination for the night around 4:30-6 pm and dock, giving us time to explore these quaint villages and towns by walking or biking.

We will spend the first two days on the Canal de Sange – traveling about 8 miles – then join the River Saône, spend one full day on river, and then the next day, start on the river and end on the Canal de Bourgogne which will take us into Dijon.

Tina tells us that after 11 pm, the crew goes to sleep and “the last person in locks the door.” If we want to stay out later, we need to take a key to open the door.

The decor on the Caprice is extremely pleasing – nautical with rich blues and polished wood and brass fittings.

Below deck, Caprice has 10 cabins averaging 82 sq. ft. with (big surprise) private bathrooms. The cabins are cozy and comfortable, with warm wood paneling, a window, decent lighting, and good storage.

Our bags have already been brought to our cabin – we spend just a couple of minutes and then rush off. We have just enough time before dinner to explore so we immediately take off on bikes and along the towpath. This turns out to be some of the most picturesque countryside of the trip, and the late afternoon golden light makes it that much more enchanting. The farms dot the rolling countryside, we come upon some of the most contented looking cows I have ever seen, and some donkeys. The evening is picture perfect as the sun goes down.

Picturesque villages along the canal in Burgundy ©  Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Everyone is seated at dinner by the time we return and we take the last open seats. Tina has waited for all of us before she starts the presentation of the menu, describing the courses and explaining the wines and the cheeses with fascinating insights.

This first night’s dinner lets us experience Chef Herve’s genius at combining flavors and textures: a salad of goat cheese with whole grain mustard greens, pine nuts and black current; the entree of Cod with balsamic reduction, red tomato (so full of flavor) and saffron risotto (texture is exquisite). The presentations are stunning – worthy of the finest restaurant. A feeling of absolute contentment rushes over me.

Indeed, the cruise is not just a “heart of Burgundy” itinerary, but a food and wine itinerary, and during the course of our journey, we really take a journey into French food preparation, and wines and cheeses (though I am pleased that the preparations are not as rich as they could be, and overall, you do not feel guilty enjoying the meals).

At lunch and dinner, there are both a white and a red wine and a couple of cheeses – different each time, so during the course of the cruise, we have had an amazing tour of French wines and cheeses.

This first night’s wine selections are Sancerre and Brouilly, served with a flourish.

Scenes out of an Impressionist painting are just beyond where the Caprice is tied up, at St Leger Sur Dheune at the start of the canal cruise ©  Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The cheese is a delectable Camembert, one of France’s most famous, originating from Normandy, where cows graze on rich soil scattered with apple trees. Also, Fourme d’Ambert, from the Auvergne region, and one of the oldest cheeses in France, dating back to Roman times; it is one of the mildest blue cheeses with a creamy flavor and nutty finish. This cheese, Tina tells us, is injected with wine to help with ripening and for sweetness.

In these kinds of trips, the most interesting part is getting to know your fellow passengers, and each meal, we sit where we like (or where there is still an open seat) so over the course of the cruise, we get to spend time with everyone.

We meet Sidney, 90 years old, who tells us that she took her first trip to Europe when she was 16, in 1937, sailing across the Atlantic to Paris on the Bremen, a German war prize, operated by Cunard. She tells us how she arrived the day before July 14, Bastille Day, and stayed with a woman whose fiancé was killed in World War I. In Connecticut, she started a school, became a reading teacher, and then opened a bookstore. “Amazon.com killed it,” she says, and that’s when she started traveling again. At another meal, we learn that Sidney’s aunt married Teddy Roosevelt’s son; that one side of her family came on Mayflower while the other came in chains from Scotland.

Sunday, Market Day in Chagny

Breakfast is served fairly casually – a buffet that is set out between 7:30-9:30 am, satisfying both early and late risers.

We begin our cruise on the Canal until the bell rings signaling that we should assemble for the bus, and we are taken on our first excursion, to the charming town of Chagny, where the weekly Sunday market is underway (each of the cruises visits one of the local markets).

A picturesque scene in the late afternoon at St. Leger Sur Dheune at the start of the cruise on the Caprice © 2011 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

It seems everyone has come from throughout the region – there is every manner of food – cheeses, breads and pastries, luscious looking fruits and vegetables, meats, plus clothes, CDs, housewares. There are amazing aromas and sounds, colors and textures. There must be a mile of stalls. It is exciting, vibrant, and marvelously colorful.

At one stall, there is a selection of chickens still with the heads on, ducks, and some other unidentifiable fowl.

The Caprice, one of France Cruises’ luxury hotel barges, floats up a canal in Burgundy © 2011 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

I love seeing the French words on signs, hearing French and feeling my French jog back to memory in my brain.

We return to the Caprice for a delightful lunch of baked ham with Chablis sauce, broccoli salad, prawn and pasta salad, and green salad. The food is all delectably fresh – Herve shops twice a week at markets such as these.

The wine is a Bourgogne Chardonnay, and a Saumur Champigny.

The dessert is a creamy but solid white cheese, doused with a currant sauce that is magnificent.

We notice many live-aboard barges – some are rentals – and have an amazing appreciation for their skill in managing going through the locks, which often are just big enough for the barge. Most of the locks are self-service – some of the locks open automatically but others have to be hand-cranked.

We don’t stay on the barge long – every opportunity we grab the bikes and ride along the tow path or veer off into nearby villages.

In the afternoon, the Caprice ties up to give us time to explore a charming village, where we are able to bike around, enjoying the traditional architecture.

This evening’s dinner: a quail salad (with beet shoot sprout that gives it a remarkable texture), delectable roasted lamb in a rosemary sauce with potato, all with a gorgeous presentation. The dessert, a passion fruit shortcake.

The Caprice barge hotel takes you on the canals and rivers of Burgundy, passing gorgeous countryside and quaint villages © 2011 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The wine selections are a 2010 Pouilly Fume, from the Loire, with a wonderful dry, citrusy, fresh taste, and an Hautes Cotes de Beaune (where we will visit tomorrow), a medium bodied wine from grapes grown on high slopes.

The cheese selections are Chaource, is a triple creamy cow’s milk cheese that melts in your mouth like snowflake, and Cantal.

I am appreciating Chef Herve’s cooking – a young fellow, he is a master at unusual combinations of flavors and textures – his selections are always surprising.

The Caprice is owned by Barging Through France, and represented by France Cruises, Inc, San Antonio, Texas, 866-498-3920,www.francecruises.comwww.FranceCountryTours.com.

(Originally published 2011)

____________________

© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

USAF Thunderbirds Headline Memorial Day Weekend Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach, Long Island

USAF Thunderbirds in formation, at the Bethpage Air Show, Jones Beach, Long Island © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

The US Air Force Thunderbirds headlined the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach State Park, Long Island, flying the thrilling red, white and blue F-16s. The event over Memorial Day Weekend, May 27 and 28, honors those who have died in service to the nation and veterans.

USAF Thunderbirds solos demonstrate a tactical maneuver © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
USAF Thunderbirds solos demonstrate precision flying © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com
USAF Thunderbirds demonstrate precision flying © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com
USAF Thunderbirds solos demonstrate a tactical maneuver © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New this year was the Warrior Flight Team, a 501(c)(3) charity comprised of a team of all volunteers, which works to bring career opportunities to veterans. They brought two Soviet-era jets, built in Czechoslovakia (when they were put on the market, collectors could buy them for something like $75,000): Black Vandy 1 and Roman 86, raced around the sky at 560 mph showing precision flying and tactical maneuvers.

New this year at the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach was the Warrior Flight Team flying Soviet-era jets, built in Czechoslovakia, Black Vandy 1 and Roman 86 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A personal favorite is the GEICO Skytypers Airshow Team, a flight squadron of six vintage WWII era U.S. Navy SNJ-2 trainers . The team performs a thrilling, low-altitude, precision-formation flying demonstration filling the sky and coming from all directions (even right at each other) to provide spectators a unique viewing experience while showcasing the tactics and maneuvers utilized during training during WWII.

GEICO Skytypers, flying World War II-era training planes, demonstrate tactical maneuvers and precision flying © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com
GEICO Skytypers, flying World War II-era training planes, demonstrate tactical maneuvers and precision flying © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The airshow traditionally kicks off with a ceremonial parachute drop by a representative of the US Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights, delivering the American flag to a tiny target on Jones Beach. The whole team then returns for a demonstration performance. They barrel out of their plane from an altitude of 12,500 ft, at a speed of 120 mph before pulling the cord to release their parachute; in one demonstration we see what happens when a chute fails at just 5,000 ft. (they have a spare chute). We learn that the parachutes they use, use the same aeronautical techniques as the original Wright Brothers plane in 1903.

Golden Knights, the US Army’s parachute team, at the Bethpage Air Show, Jones Beach, Long Island © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Golden Knights, the US Army’s parachute team, at the Bethpage Air Show, Jones Beach, Long Island © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The US Army Golden Knights parachute team make a precise landing right on Jones Beach © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The line-up also includes many returning favorites, as well as some new entries:

106th Air National Guard Rescue Wing deploys worldwide to provide combat search and rescue coverage for U.S. and allied forces – indeed, only last month they rescued the cargo ship Tamar. They are a World-Class Team of diverse, adaptable personnel recovery focused war fighters with a mission to provide worldwide Personnel Recovery, Combat Search and Rescue Capability, Expeditionary Combat Support, and Civil Search and Rescue Support to Federal and State authorities; since 9/11, they have been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and East Africa. The 106th Air National Guard Rescue Wing provides Personnel Recovery to the state of New York. They demonstrate how they parachute into all sorts of conditions – today into the water, and how they are recovered into helicopters that follow along the C-130 (which can refuel planes in flight; the wingspan of the C-130 is so enormous – it is actually the distance the Wright Brothers flew on their first famous flight). Just how dangerous this is was demonstrated the next day when a US Navy Seal tragically lost his life in a parachute demonstration on the Hudson River for Fleet Week NYC.

106th Air National Guard Rescue Wing demonstrates a parachute rescue into water at the Jones Beach air show © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

John Klatt Airshows and Jack Link’s Beef Jerky teamed up to create a one-of-a-kind plane, the Screamin’ Sasquatch, powered by dual powerplants: a Pratt & Whitney 985 Radial Engine and a General Electric CJ610 (J85) Jet Engine with 3,000 lbs of thrust. This system allows the plane to achieve feats other stunt planes are unable to do. During his performance, Ret. USAF Lt Colonel John Klatt experiences forces of plus and minus 4Gs, which means a 200 lb. man would weigh 800 lbs. He travels at 250 mph.Considering the ridiculous aerobatics Klatt performs in the plane, it is astonishing to learn that the plane is a Taperwing Waco made famous by the barnstormers of the 1920s and 1930s, and is based on a 1929 Waco, modified and “beefed up” big time.

 

 

John Klatt performs thrilling aerobatics in his one-of-a-kind plane, the Screamin’ Sasquatch at the Jones Beach air show © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

A perennial favorite at Jones Beach is Sean D. Tucker, who performs impossible feats in a specially built, one-of-a-kind, most high-performance aerobatic aircraft in the world, the Oracle Bi-Plane. It is a fire-breathing monster with over 400 horsepower, weighs just over 1200 pounds,has a revolutionary set of wings that use 8 ailerons instead of 4, and responds to the slightest pressure on the control stick even at 300 mph. Sean flies the aircraft backwards, straight-down, tail-first at more than 100 mph. At points, he experiences 6 negative Gs. There he is, doing the inside outside loop; two consecutive Hammerhead stalls; the spiraling tower. More than half of Sean’s maneuvers are original and have never been duplicated by another aerobatic pilot. Amazingly, Sean started flying because he was afraid to fly, the long-time show announcer Rob Ryder notes. 

Sean D. Tucker in his specially built, one-of-a-kind, most high-performance aerobatic aircraft in the world, the Oracle Bi-Plane © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

David Windmiller, Long Island’s hometown hero (from Melville), thrills spectators in his Zivko Edge 540 aircraft, built especially for aerobatics, with seemingly impossible feats at speeds of up to 220 mph that keep his peers and his fans in awe. Windmiller has been flying since 14 year old, soloed at 16 year old and started aerobatic flying before he got his license and has accumulated 18,000 flight hours, including 8,000 doing aerobatics. He performs snap rolls, inverted flat spin (where the plane falls from the sky), 4 knife edge tumblers, inside-outside octogan loop. 

David Windmiller Long Island’s hometown hero thrills spectators in his Zivko Edge 540 aircraft, built especially for aerobatics © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Matt Chapman, flying for Embry Riddle, performs maneuvers in which he experiences as much as 9 positive Gs and 6 negative Gs. His Eagle 180 plane has parts from 3 countries. He’s also an American Airlines captain.

Matt Chapman flies for Embry Riddle © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

This year’s air show marked the return of the American Airpower Museum Warbirds, which present historic aircraft in a moving display.

One of the historic planes from Long Island’s American Airpower Museum © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

SUNY Farmingdale Aerospace’s Flying Rams flew seven of their 22 college-owned aircraft in a fly-by piloted by their top academic Professional Pilot performers. The State University of New York (SUNY) Flight Center is a crown jewel of the SUNY system. 

‘Yellow Peril’, one of the early vintage airplanes used for training pilots so-nicknamed for how dangerous they were to land, flown by the Bayport Aerodrome Society © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Bayport Aerodrome Society, formed in 1972 is composed of aviation professionals, recreational pilots, and people interested in preserving aviation history. ​As a “living museum” they have a variety of antique aircraft flying on the field including Bi-Planes, Champs, and Cubs. This was their first time at the Bethpage Air Show. One of their pilots, flying the plane with “26” painted on it, is 90-year old pilot who served in World War II. Another of their Waco planes was flown by Anne Lindbergh (wife of Charles Lindbergh), and later, by Tom Cruise. These planes, made mainly of wood (to conserve steel for the war effort) were used as trainers.

The Bayport Aerodrome Society vintage plane with #26 on its side is flown by a 90-year old pilot who served in World War II © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Bayport Aerodrome Society Waco plane of 1920s vintage is one that that Anne Lindbergh and Tom Cruise have flown © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

________________

© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

 

Yosemite National Park: Surprising Diversity, Dramatic Scenes Hiking Chilnualna Falls Trail, Wawona

 

The Chilnualna Falls Trail brings you close to dramatic cascades several times on the way to the top © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Eric Leiberman, Sarah Falter

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

It’s our second day in Yosemite National Park.

I am surprised at how much we could cover on our first day in Yosemite National Park, spent hiking in Yosemite Valley. This is the most popular and iconic part of this vast park, the size of Rhode Island, but the three trails we chose – Mist Trail, John Muir, Mirror Lake – haven given us a really good sense of the park, despite its size. Since we need to leave the area for San Francisco, 200 miles away, by 4 pm, we cleverly find a hike (thanks to the Tenaya Lodge concierge) that starts from just inside the South Gate, in the Wawona section, thereby cutting out 1 ½ hour drive each way jut to get into Yosemite Valley at the center of the park. We plan this out very well: the Chilnualna Falls Trail is just about 6 miles from the Tenaya Lodge, and is much, much, much less crowded – and yet, we meet some wonderful people from Australia and other places.

Within the first mile, you get to see beautiful falls on the Chilnualna Falls Trail © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is also sufficiently long hike to take about five or six hours – exactly the amount of time we have, and, we discover, offers dramatic, close-by views of the cascading Chilnualna Falls, the sweeping vistas of the southern  Yosemite, and wonderful diversity of the landscape, as the trail winds through a variety of terrain and habitats. Our choice proves brilliant.

We start out in the village of Wawona (you pass a general store so if you need supplies, this would be a great place), turn onto Chilnualna Falls Road and park at the trailhead (there are restroom facilities here).

Hiking the Chilnualna Falls Trail, Yosemite National Park © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This hike is billed as strenuous – mainly for a fairly steep, nearly mile-long beginning, that includes narrow, high stone steps (with the reward of a gorgeous cascading waterfall). Then it is a steady upward (though mostly gradual) climb for about 4 miles, with a 2,400-foot elevation gain to an altitude of 6,600 feet – that’s what makes the hike tough.

The Chilnualna Falls Trail hike is billed as strenuous – mainly because it is a steady upward climb, with the steepest part at the beginning © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Chilnualna Falls, which fortunately for us is one of the less known and visited falls (and not accessible by car), consists of five large cascades that slide through and over large granite rock formations – almost like the ruins of a fort, parts of which we get to climb.

At various points we come across the cataracts, up close, and each time, the sound and view is dramatic.

Hiking the Chilnualna Falls Trail, Yosemite National Park © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Finally, we come to a beautiful scene where the Chilnualna Falls comes to a ledge before going over a ridge. Here, we sit along some flat rocks right beside the water, and look over the forest and distant mountain peaks of the southern Yosemite and the Wawona Dome.

Peaceful contemplation alongside the Chilnualna Falls, Yosemite National Park © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

From here, you can continue on to get to the top of the fall (as well as connect to several other trails that go all the way back to into Yosemite Valley), but considering our time schedule (and looking out at rain clouds flowing in), we head down after a lovely picnic along side the cascading Chilnualna Creek.

Most of the trail is along the ridge so you have dramatic views of the creek or valley.  Some of it crosses through meadow, so there is wonderful variation. The views of the rushing water and waterfalls are surprising and dramatic.

The Chilnualna Falls Trail takes you through manzanita, oak and mixed conifer forest © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

One of the nicest aspects of this trail, as compared to yesterday’s hikes on the Mist Trail, the John Muir Trail and the Mirror Lake Trail, are the opportunities to appreciate some magnificent trees and flowers. After about a half mile (and the first cascade), the trail leaves the creek and heads up switchbacks through manzanita, oak and mixed conifer forest. In the spring, the hillsides are full of Mountain Misery – a spreading plant with beautiful white blossoms, which we get to see. In among the Mountain Misery you may well see Hartweg’s Irises, Indian Pink, Golden Yarrow, Narrow-Leaved Ceanothus, Utah Serviceberry and several more showy flowers. Some of the side seeps might be blooming with Seep Spring Monkeyflowers and perhaps Sunflowers.

In the spring, the hillsides along the Chilnualna Falls Trail are full of Mountain Misery © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The upper cascades of Chilnualna Falls are quite beautiful in high flow, and in the early season they will be flanked with Azaleas, Mountain Pride Penstemmon and Dogwoods, Pussypaws and others.

We don’t necessarily realize it, but we are also passing through territories of deer, coyote, mountain lion, and black bear. There are birds, as well, but we are a bit early to see the western tanager which can be spotted from May through September.

Hiking the Chilnualna Falls Trail, Yosemite National Park © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Finally, as we near the top, we have views over to Wawona Dome and finally of the falls themselves.

We have to climb down a little from the trail to these broad slabs so we have a beautiful view of the falls. It is a perfect place for our picnic lunch.

Coming back is much, much easier – basically a gentle downward slope, and you are looking out at the scenery. Even the obstacles are no concern because we have already done them.

We are down to the steep part when it begins to rain. There are a couple of obstacles – like leaping over flowing water (thank goodness for my hiking sticks!).

We make it all the way back just in time for it to rain in earnest, adding to our feeling of physical satisfaction and accomplishment. All in all, an 8.2 mile hike that takes from 10 am to 3:40 pm.

Eric climbs to get a closer view of the Chilnualna Falls © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

What I love most, after completing this trail, is how different the experience has been from the previous day’s hike in Yosemite Valley – the vegetation, the meadows, the general landscape – and how surprisingly gorgeous the falls and the creek, and especially, the peacefulness without the crowds.

Preparation: bring enough water (2 water bottles) and prepare for changes in weather: bring rain poncho and plastic bags to cover cameras from rain or mist; rain poncho; snacks, moleskin for blisters, hat, sunglasses and sunscreen, camera, extra memory card and battery, cell phone, an extra layer in case it gets cool. I have also found hiking sticks extremely helpful.

For non-hikers, non-DIYers, Tenaya Lodge offers a Yosemite Tour Package, via mini-bus, that includes lunch and narration, and guarantees waterfalls and wildlife and seeing the most popular sights of Yosemite. (Offered May 1-Nov. 30; from $575 spring, $685 summer, $555 fall; call 888-514-2167 or Tenaya Reservations directly at 559-692-8916).

Tenaya Lodge, 1122 Highway 41, Fish Camp, CA 93623, 800-722-8584, tenayalodge.com.

To plan your visit to Yosemite National Park, https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm, https://www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm. 

Even more helpful to plan your hike is this site: http://yosemiteexplorer.com/trails. 

See also:

Yosemite National Park: Best Valley Hikes for First Timers

Tenaya Lodge Provides Luxury Lodging Resort Experience at Gateway to Yosemite National Park

Muir Woods is San Francisco’s Cathedral to Mother Nature

____________________

© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

Yosemite National Park: Best Valley Hikes for First Timers

Hiking Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Fall in Yosemite National Park © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Eric Leiberman, Sarah Falter

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Yosemite National Park – America’s first – has been on my bucket list for years, so I am beyond excited when we arrive at the Tenaya Lodge, in Fish Camp, just two miles from the South Gate, and immediately start planning for how we will tackle the park the next day. I am intimidated at first by how vast Yosemite is – the size of Rhode Island I am told – and how to organize the logistics if I am going to see for myself the places that are etched in the images in my mind in only two days.

We spend a lot of time with the Tenaya Lodge concierge to get suggestions of where to go, which trails to hike, where to park (there is a bus shuttle system but during our visit, at the very beginning of spring, it wasn’t operating very well).

Because it is so early in the season, some of the areas (like Glacier Point) aren’t even open yet. But it also means that the waterfalls are at near maximum of their cascading flow: all the sound and the fury, the feel of the cool spray, the moist smell. On the other hand, as it happens, we are here on the weekend of National Parks Week, when admission is free, coinciding with Easter, so the park is likely to be especially crowded.

Coming through the mile-long tunnel into Yosemite National Park © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

But we pick out the trail for the day: Mist Trail – which is also one of the most popular (we discover) for good reason, especially this early in the season. In one trail, it seems to encapsulate the entire Yosemite experience of a reasonably vigorous hike over a good distance (3 miles roundtrip to Vernal Fall, with 1,000 foot elevation gain, taking about 3 hours), sensational views, proximity to a fantastic waterfall (Vernal) with views of the Nevada Fall (which would be a further 1.3 miles up Mist Trail from Vernal Fall).

Indeed, it is a shock to learn that though the Tenaya Lodge is a mere two miles from the South Gate entrance into Yosemite National Park, it is another 45 minutes drive (30 miles) just to get to the famous Tunnel View, then another 45 minutes drive to get to Curry Village where we will fnd parking for the Mist Trail.

The concierge prepares us well. We know that just outside of the mile long tunnel, to look for the parking lot for the iconic Tunnel View. “Take the first spot” she has advised.

The Tunnel View lookout place, in one image, offers a spectacular view of the quintessential Yosemite sites: Bridalveil Fall, Half Dome, Clouds Rest, El Capitan.

The Tunnel View lookout place, in one image, offers a spectacular view of the quintessential Yosemite sites: Bridalveil Fall, Half Dome, Clouds Rest, El Capitan © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Indeed, the biggest surprise for me is how accessible the iconic features of Yosemite National Park are from the road – I expected them to be more remote, reached only after long, difficult hikes through the wilderness.

And so I shouldn’t have been surprised by the steady stream – wall to wall in some spots – of people, just like us, seeking out the solace and majesty or our natural, national heritage. Indeed, last year saw a record – 331 million visitors to America’s 417 National Park Service sites (contributing $34.9 billion to the U.S. economy in 2016), 5 million alone to Yosemite (Grand Canyon got 6 million).

Yosemite’s falls are most dramatic in early spring © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Just a half mile beyond Tunnel View, you come to Bridalveil Fall – which has to be the second most visited place in Yosemite – and it is just a quarter-mile walk to the waterfall (a key reason it gets MASSIVE crowds that converge in this small spot; I even meet someone who had just been at a wedding right there). The famous Yosemite Falls, also, is visible from the road (we see it on our way out, when it is already getting dark), and the Lower fall is an easy one-mile loop (half of it is wheelchair accessible).

One of the spectacular views as we set out for the Vernal Fall on the Mist Trail © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

But we are here to hike! And the trails we have picked out are perfect for the level of physical exertion (and satisfaction), photographic opportunities, and the general appreciation of Yosemite that we are seeking today.

We have set our sights today on the Mist Trail which takes us alongside the Vernal Fall. The trail is both moderately challenging and an ideal distance (not too short, not too long), and unbelievably gorgeous, especially this early in the season, with the fall at maximum flow (especially after a winter where they had twice the normal snowfall; prepare to be sprayed). It is a steep hike beside the waterfall on a series of stone steps – narrow and very crowded, with most people walking up but some people trying to come down this way. (It is better to continue down on the John Muir Trail, which is not as steep or crowded and has fantastic views).

The Mist Trail is one of the most popular in Yosemite, for good reason © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The trail starts off with an .8 mile hike up to the Vernal Falls footbridge (there are restrooms and water fountains here which you should definitely take advantage of before continuing on); and then another mile hike up to the top of Vernal Falls. Along the way, we see a rainbow in the spray at the bottom of the falls.

Look for the rainbow in the spray at the bottom of Vernal Fall © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Vernal Fall lookout – a series of relatively flat slabs – is about 1000 feet above where we started and is extremely popular spot for picnicking, relaxing and taking selfies. We do the same.

From here it is a short walk up to Emerald Pool which, so early in the season is a rushing torrent rather than the calm pool it will become by late summer.

Top of Vernal Fall, Yosemite National Park © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is so scenic and seems so benign, but there are warnings signs not to be so foolhardy as to go near the water or (perish the thought) swim. People are warned to watch out for their children.  The rocks are slippery and this has been the scene of many accidents. I learn that in the summer of 2005, a hiker walked out into the water a bit to fill his water bottle, slipped, got caught in the deceptively strong current and was swept over the falls.

The John Muir Trail gives a wonderful view of the Nevada Fall and Half Dome, © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At this point, you can continue to hike another two miles to the top of the Nevada Fall, but we decide to hike down 3.5 miles along the less-steep John Muir Trail (versus coming back down on the Mist Trail). The John Muir Trail gives us a marvelous view of the Nevada Fall and Half Dome; much of the trail follows along a ridge that opens up to purple mountain majesty.

Views of purple mountain majesty from The John Muir Trail, Yosemite National Park © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It’s still early enough in the afternoon when we get back down to the base – delighted with how perfect the Vernal Fall hike was (altogether, we’ve hiked six miles, and climbed 1885 ft. in elevation) that we are excited to try another. We look over the list we have been given for a shorter, easy hike and set out for Mirror Lake.

Mirror Lake, Yosemite National Park © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Mirror Lake hike is supposed to be two miles round trip (taking one hour), but this is apparently if you just walk along the road. Instead, we take the trail that is apparently part of a five-mile loop around the lake which has more obstacles than I had bargained for. But there are some dazzling scenes along the way, and a stunning scene of the lake, so flat and still that it is literally a mirror reflecting back the stunning backdrop, and affords a closer view of the face of Half Dome.

To walk back by the road, Eric and Sarah scurry on a log across a narrow point which they imagine is a short cut to a road (the option is to hike around the lake). I’m not the scurrying-across-a-fallen-tree type, so I opt to backtrack along the same trial, which turns out to be fun, now that I know what the obstacles are (and that I can do them).

Finally meeting up with everybody in the car (after a MUCH longer walk back from the trailhead toward the parking lot, without seeing a single shuttle bus), which turns out to be a feat because cars are restricted, we set out to return to the Tenaya Lodge.

A view of Yosemite Falls © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

On the way out of Yosemite, we find ourselves crossing Sentinel Bridge which is supposed to be one of the best photo spots to capture Half Dome over the Merced River (the dusky light doesn’t cooperate, but that’s the element of serendipity that comes with every visit).

Then, the one-way road back to the South Gate passes by Yosemite Falls, agonizingly close (just a quarter of a mile), but it is too late to hike up to it in the fading light. We get a fleeting shot – I am surprised that it is so “exposed” to the access road – I imagined it was tucked inside.See https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/valleyhikes.htm

Preparation: bring enough water (2 water bottles) and prepare for changes in weather: bring rain poncho and plastic bags to cover cameras from rain or mist; rain poncho; snacks, moleskin for blisters, hat, sunglasses and sunscreen, camera, extra memory card and battery, cell phone, an extra layer in case it gets cool. I have also found hiking sticks extremely helpful.

For non-hikers, non-DIYers, Tenaya Lodge offers a Yosemite Tour Package, via mini-bus, that includes lunch and narration, and guarantees waterfalls and wildlife and seeing the most popular sights of Yosemite. (Offered May 1-Nov. 30; from $575 spring, $685 summer, $555 fall; call 888-514-2167 or Tenaya Reservations directly at 559-692-8916).

Tenaya also offers an itinerary you can take on your own to hit Yosemite’s highlights in a single day: Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Fall, Mariposa Grove, Glacier Point, Wawona, Royal Arches, Turtleback Dome, Three Brothers, Leaning Tower, Ribbon Fall, Cathedral Spires, Yosemite Chapel, Vernal and Nevada Falls. In summer, you have to park and use shuttle buses to get around.

Tenaya Lodge, 1122 Highway 41, Fish Camp, CA 93623, 800-722-8584, tenayalodge.com.

To plan your visit to Yosemite National Park, https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm, https://www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm. 

Even more helpful to plan your hike is this site: http://yosemiteexplorer.com/trails. 

Next:

Yosemite National Park: Surprising Diversity, Dramatic Scenes Hiking Chilnualna Falls Trail, Wawona

See also:

Tenaya Lodge Provides Luxury Lodging Resort Experience at Gateway to Yosemite National Park

____________________

© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Tenaya Lodge Provides Luxury Lodging Resort Experience at Gateway to Yosemite National Park

Kids wearing neon-glowing necklaces (as much to keep track of them, along with periodic coyote yells) examine a small seed by flashlight on the nightly walking tour in the forest around Tenaya Lodge © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Eric Leiberman & Sarah Falter

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The description of the Tenaya Lodge nightly Flashlight Hike sounded very tame. A mile-loop in the woods surrounding the resort. Indeed, it is designed for families. But shortly after starting out from the Lodge, flashlights in hand, as the dusk turned to darkness and any light that would have come from the lodge faded as we walked deeper into the forest, we realize this is really an adventure!

Amanda, our guide, introduces herself as a wilderness kid – she grew up in Yosemite National Park, literally next door to the Tenaya Lodge (the Yosemite South Gate is just 2 miles down the road), where her parents both worked, and she has guided horseback riding trips and skiing. Her commentary is absolutely fascinating.

“Trees are like people,” Amanda, the Tenaya Lodge guide leading the Flashlight Tour, tells us, adding a warning about “widow-makers.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the start, she introduces us to ”widow makers” (no joke: the branches that can break off these tall trees and kill), with the moral to the lesson, “Be aware of your surroundings.”

We also learn that trees are like people; that the trees in the forest (Tenaya Lodge is nestled between Yosemite and the Sierra National Forest) have a 600-year life expectancy; that the famous giant sequoias can live 1000 years and as large as they are, they come from a seed the size of a splinter inside a golfball-sized cone that only opens once it has been exposed to fire. The wood is mostly fire resistant and insect repellant and lumbering companies would have cut them down but for pioneering conservationist John Muir who convinced President Theodore Roosevelt to protect Yosemite and turn it into the nation’s first national park.

Native peoples used acorns as a source of food, and turned pine needles into a medicinal tea. She shows us a log that has been “damaged” by a bear pulling out insects (it eats 10,000 insects, or about 5 lbs worth).

We shine our flashlights onto a white thorn bush, where, she says, mule deer hide their young to protect from mountain lion; the babies stay until they hear their mother.

Using flashlights to find our way on the trail, over obstacles, through the forest © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By the light of our flashlights, we cross over a plank over a tiny stream, climb over a fallen tree trunk. At one point Amanda points to a pile of dead wood and warns, “Don’t go into it- rattlesnakes like to play there.” Rattlesnakes, I think to myself??? She shows us where trees have been destroyed by Bark beetle – the tree stops making sap, dries out, and has no protection. “These are ‘one match trees’ – very flammable.”

And she tells us something that we find very helpful when we are out on our own hiking, “moss only grows on the north side of tree.” We feel like we are true outdoorspeople.

Examining tree rings by flashlight for clues as to the history of a tree’s life and the environment, © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Towards the end of the hike, we come to a place where the trees, lifting up to the sky, open up, giving us an expansive view of a billion stars. A boy exclaims, “I’ve never seen the sky like this.”

Amanda says that when we see the stars, we are seeing deep into the past – it takes 1000 years for light to come to earth; sunlight is 8 minutes behind. “The Indians felt that sky was blanket over earth, raven poked holes to see sun… Anytime I am feeling bothered,  I just look up.”

This is just one of the activities available at Tenaya Lodge, and I would say it is a must – book in advance because it fills up; in winter, they offer a Snowshoe Flashlight Tour which must be sensational.

A lovely hike from Tenaya Lodge to the waterfall © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Actually, this was our second hike of the day, since arriving in the afternoon at Tenaya Lodge, which is located in Fish Camp, California, a 3 ½ hour drive (200 miles) from San Francisco.

Shortly after our arrival, we quickly drop off our luggage in our room, get directions from the concierge, and set out for a hike that starts from the resort’s entrance, up a logging road, about 2 ½ miles to a waterfall. The hike is perfect to acclimate ourselves to the 5,200 ft. elevation. We immediately fill our lungs with rejuvenating pure air, and recharge with the rhythm of a rushing creek.

Our hike is rewarded with stunning view of the waterfall, full after record winter snows, in the late afternoon light; Tenaya Lodge is promoting “Waterfall Season” this spring © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is so early in the season, there is still snow on sections of the trail, making the rushing creek and waterfall all the more dramatic. We are supposed to turn off at a green building, but actually overshoot (it turns out it isn’t a building, but rather a water management shed with solar panels on it). Retracing our steps, and calculating for the time until dusk, we (bravely) go through a fence, walk past a decaying wood cabin and come to where the trail narrows significantly, following along a canal on one side. There are spots where you can hear and see a rushing stream and distant sound of the waterfall. Following along, we come to a wonderful waterfall. By now, the late afternoon sun is like liquid gold spreading over everything. Magical.

We make our way back to the lodge with minutes to spare before joining the 8 pm Flashlight Hike.

The hike back to Tenaya Lodge from the waterfall © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Four Diamond Luxury Faithful to Rustic Environs

The Tenaya Lodge is a four-diamond luxury resort with every manner of amenity that nonetheless manages to be faithful to its rustic environs. It is named for Chief Tenaya, of the Miwok tribe of Indians who lived mostly along the foothills of the Sierras.

A rustic motif is faithful to its Yosemite National Park surroundings, but Tenaya Lodge offers four-diamond luxury © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Lodge is just two miles from the South Gate of Yosemite National Park, the most popular entrance (it provides year-round access to the park). The lodge makes every accommodation for the guests who will almost certainly find their way into Yosemite for hiking (they even have the moleskin package that is a lifesaver when you are getting a blister); the Deli, that is surprisingly well-stocked.

There is where you can pre-order lunch so you can grab it on your way out the door to hike (really a good idea so you don’t have to find your way to a restaurant in Yosemite).

Tenaya offers a few different dining options, accommodating late-night dining (which helps when you have been hiking in Yosemite all day).

The Sierra Restaurant where we enjoy fuel up on a lavish buffet breakfast before a day of hiking, is a casual restaurant serving breakfast and dinner, with convenient hours to accommodate guests.

Just next door (and providing overflow space at breakfast) is Jackalopes Bar & Grill serving lunch and dinner (conveniently, until very late)

Embers is an upscale, fine dining restaurant which covets a quiet atmosphere (no children), serving a leisurely two to three-hour meal, where they even make salads in front of you.

There is also a pizzeria in the cottages and in season, there is an appropriately named Summerdale restaurant, that is open seasonally off-site, that serves BBQ.

We settle into the cozy leather sofas in the expansive lobby, complete with stone fireplace and mounted deer head, like a true rustic lodge, and order items from Jackolopes for a very relaxing late-night snack. I love the Native American/western décor, and the exquisite photos of Yosemite Park that decorate the walls all through the hotel.

The four-diamond Tenaya Lodge is one of the most luxurious resort properties in proximity to Yosemite, and offers 297 guestrooms, suites and cottages.

Delaware North has spent $5 million renovating and upgrading the Tenaya Lodge since acquiring it in 2001 © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Tenaya Lodge was originally built 1990; but acquired in 2001 by Delaware North, a vast global hospitality company which, among other things, manages lodgings and concessions in several national parks including the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone national parks and manages Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex. Delaware North invested $5 million in significant renovations which were completed last year.

New Scandinavian-styled rooms at Tenaya Lodge © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Among the innovations are stunning Garden Suites, designed by Piccini Group, SF with a prevailing white Scandinavian modern design, designed to be quiet (so you can understand why adults-only and no pets, though other rooms are pet-friendly).

Contemporary suites have a native ambiance and new “spa rooms” are lavish.

There are also several stand-alone cottages (that were acquired in 2008) that have up to three bedrooms (refrigerator, no kitchen). The lodge has plans to build two-bedroom cabins.

Relaxation room at Ascent Spa at Tenaya Lodge © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Tenaya Lodge is a true resort with every manner of amenity. Delaware North opened Ascent Spa, 10,000 sq ft, with 12 treatment rooms, a relaxation room (you can order sushi, drinks), a mud bath, group relaxation room, and couples massage room.  (Spring spa specials: Receive a complimentary glass of champagne with any 60 or 90-minute spa treatment; a new spring Parafango Slimming Body Treatment “detoxifies and slims the body.”)

There is also a fitness center with sauna, Olympic-size lap swimming indoor pool, an outdoor pool, archery, rock climbing wall, arcade.

Indoor lap swimming pool at Tenaya Lodge © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is a robust schedule of activities like the nighttime Flashlight Hike and Paint & Wine evenings  (Thur. & Sat. 7-9, $55 pp), plus special events and activities, like yoga on the patio overlooking the forest. (A resort fee covers fitness room, sauna, fitness room but everything else is a la carte, though there are package offerings.)

In winter, there is an enchanting 3,000-sq. ft. outdoor covered ice skating pavilion (skate rentals available), which in summer becomes suitable for weddings and events.

There is a fire pit (you can order drinks to come down); s’mores kits; a sledding hill and a kiddie slope.

Winter activities also include kids snowmobiling, horse-drawn sleigh rides, snowshoe nature hike, skiing at Badger Pass, California’s original ski resort.

Spring, summer and fall activities include mountain biking, guided hikes, guided rock-climbing excursion, fly-fishing excursion, fishing, Yosemite Valley tours, steam train rides, Summerdale BBQ, gold panning, Bass Lake water sports, golf, horseback riding, white-water rafting. They also offer supervised kids programs, like an adventure camp. (There’s a daily activity schedule.)

Tenaya Lodge lobby lounge is a popular gathering place © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Tenaya Lodge is really family friendly (ideal for multi-generational getaways, family reunions, weddings and family events). When you check in, there is a special place for children to check in (a short staircase to the reception desk); and they go all out for holidays like Christmas and Easter (when we are there); on Easter Sunday, there was a petting zoo and pony rides.

It’s also delightful for all the seating areas where families can gather.

Extremely popular for weddings and functions, Tenaya Ledge has a ballroom that can accommodate up to 850 and 12 meeting rooms.

For the same reason it is so well suited for family gatherings, Tenaya Lodge is ideal for meetings and corporate outings (there is a whole list of special activities that can be built in for groups, from rock climbing classes and  whitewater rafting excursions, to culinary classes and competitions, guided fly-fishing trips and group geo-challenges).

Notably, Tenaya Lodge won LEED Silver building certification. (I note that there are 8 Tesla charging stations for electric cars outside). 

Nearby Activities 

Tenaya Lodge is right at the South Gate to Yosemite National Park; the lodge offers a mini-bus tour that takes in the highlights © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are any number of activities just beyond the Tenaya Lodge door, which the lodge can pre-arrange:

In winter, the lodge offer snowshoeing; in warm weather they offer mountain biking on its own forest trails, while a short drive away,  the Sierra National Forest offers some of the finest single-track riding anywhere, from easy to technical. (The concierge can provide detailed maps.). Half-day and full-day bike rentals available for adults and kids ready to explore the forest trails.

A short distance down the road is Miller’s Landing which has fishing; horseback riding is also nearby.

We came just a little too early in the season to experience the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. a one-hour, narrated excursion through the Sierra  National Forest on historic narrow gauge Shay locomotives over tracks once used for logging trains at the turn of the century.

The ride travels over four miles on the historic Madera Sugar Pine Railroad. There is a brief stopover in the Lewis Creek Canyon to see the locomotive up close, or explore the outdoors before your return trip to the station.  You travel along the historic right-of-way of the Madera Sugar Pine Railroad where mighty lumberjacks felled the timber and flumes carried the lumber to the town of Madera. The conductor tells of the history of the line, the trees, and the wildlife native to the area.

The line operates two historic geared steam locomotives called Shays. Both locomotives were from the Westside Lumber Company in Tuolumne, California. These two locomotives represent the original shays that worked this line from 1874 to 1931. The original Madera Sugar Pine Shay locomotives burned wood for fuel, while our two Westside Shay locomotives burn oil. Shay #10 was built in 1928 and weighs in at 84 tons, while Shay #15 was built in 1913 and weighs 59 tons. They also demonstrate how to pan for gold (you get to keep it!). And you can visit the Thornberry Museum which illustrates logging camp life at the turn of the century.

There is also a three-hour Moonlight Special, which starts with a BBQ dinner before boarding the logger steam train for a ride to the campfire sing-a-long program hosted by the Sugar Pine Singers. At the conclusion of the evening, you will re-board the train for a memorable trip up the mountain in the night.

Daily rides are available all summer. (The schedule varies seasonally and usually alternates with Jenny car rides. Reservations recommended.)

Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, 56001 Hwy 41 Fish Camp, CA 93623, 559 683 7273, Ymsprr.com; (www.tenayalodge.com/things-to-do/resort/steam-train-rides.

We have come to Tenaya Lodge for the express purpose of hiking in Yosemite National Park, but for non-hikers, non-DIYers, Tenaya Lodge offers a Yosemite Tour Package, via mini-bus, that includes lunch and narration, and guarantees waterfalls and wildlife and seeing the most popular sights of Yosemite. (Offered May 1-Nov. 30; from $575 spring, $685 summer, $555 fall; call 888-514-2167 or Tenaya Reservations directly at 559-692-8916).

Other tours are available as well.

We were so fortunate to arrive as the winter snows were melting. Indeed, after almost five years of drought, the waterfalls are fuller than ever this year. Tenaya Lodge is offering special Waterfall Season Hot Dates, now through June 26. (Go to https://www.tenayalodge.com/packages/hot-date-deals for promo code to get the special rate).

Tenaya Lodge is promoting “Waterfall Season” this spring © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Tenaya Lodge (like Yosemite) is very much a four-season resort (the South Gate, the most popular entrance to Yosemite, is open year-round), 55 miles north of Fresno Yosemite International Airport, 3 ½ hours drive from San Francisco Bay area and 4 ½ hours from the Greater Lost Angeles Area.

Tenaya Lodge, 1122 Highway 41, Fish Camp, CA 93623, 800-722-8584, tenayalodge.com.

Next:  Yosemite National Park: Best Valley Hikes for First Timers 

See also:

Muir Woods is San Francisco’s Cathedral to Mother Nature

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures.

 

Okane is San Francisco SoMa Neighborhood Gastropub Serving Extravagant Japanese Cuisine at Everyman Price

Uni, the edible part of the sea urchin, is presented with the spiky part still on the plate at Okane, a Japanese gastropub in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Eric Leiberman, Sarah Falter

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Well off San Francisco’s tourist track, an exquisite dining experience awaits at Okane, a delightful, intimate neighborhood izakaya in the style of a Japanese gastropub, tucked into SoMa (South of Market), once a warehouse and light industrial district that became popular work/living space for musicians and artists and clubs until the techies took over and now is loosely known as the Design district.

Okane, which opened in January 2015, is the hip, casual sister restaurant to the more upscale, sophisticated Michelin-starred Omakase restaurant literally next door. Okane has already been rated a Michelin Bib Gourmand for 2017.

The casual, comfortable atmosphere at Okane Japanese gastropub confutes the elegance of the cuisine © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

But the casual appearance and really moderate pricing disguises the exquisite, opulent quality of the fish, much it that has been flown in directly from Tokyo’s world-famous Tsukiji Fish Market (when you arrive, the list of fish that have come in that day are on a board).

The presentations are breathtaking, but when you bring yourself to take a bite, every morsel brings an astonishment of succulent flavor, so that even the memory of the meal makes your mouth water.

The experience is the culinary equivalent of euphoria.

It’s also an education in Japanese cuisine.

Okane is a SoMa neighborhood izakaya – a Japanese gastropub – serving traditional and refined Japanese “comfort” food and contemporary sushi.  Many of the selections would be common in Japan but are rarer to find in a Japanese restaurant in America.

Albacore Aburi © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The menu at Okane, which is owned by Kash Feng and Jackson Yu who is also the Executive Chef,  features an array of shareable vegetable, fish and meat course (Ippin, or appetizers)s, rice and noodles, nigiri sushi and sushi rolls, and assorted specialties.

Highlights from the izakaya menu include the Salmon Aburi with avocado, served with ikura, shio-kombu and truffle; Wakadori Karaage (fried young chicken); Nebeyaki Udon with shrimp tempura, chicken, wakame, green onion and fish cake; and Oyako Donburi with chicken, egg and green onion.

We were treated to Uni, the edible part of the sea urchin (Mario, the manager, actually saved it for our arrival) presented with the spikey part still on the plate, which was so fresh that when you poked it, it would actually still move reflexively. The meat is sweet, creamy in texture and delectable.

Okane’s chef preparing his artful creations © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

This was followed by a sampling from the sushi menu, overseen by Chef Rico Li, who creates  a mix of traditional nigiri selections and contemporary rolls. Among the most popular (for good reason): the Ginza which features shrimp tempura (giving it a bit of a crunchy texture), avocado and cucumber, topped with torched Hamachi, jalapeño (a fusion tip of the hat to San Francisco), and spicy blue fin tuna, and Shibuya prepared with avocado, shiso, tobiko (flying fish roe), topped with salmon and a tiny lemon wedge and a Japanese mint leaf; and the Shinjuku, with snow crab and avocado, topped with A5 Wagyu beef.

Ginza Roll, one of the most popular selections at Okane Restaurant, in San Francisco’s SoMa district © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We were gobsmacked by a succession of offerings, each setting off flashes of euphoric delight with each bite:

From the Special Fish Ippin Ryori: Albacore Aburi prepared with Japanese mustard mayonnaise and truffle; and Salmon Aburi with avocado, served with ikura, shiokonbu, truffle.

Okane’s Shibuya Roll © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Agi Tataki, one of the chef’s seasonal sashimi offerings, is mackerel sashimi with ponzu (a citrus-based sauce), onions, ginger and momiji oroshi (grated daikon radish and red chili peppers).

From the sushi offerings, we savored barracuda, salmon belly, Hamachi (yellowtail that already comes sauced so you don’t dip it), Tai (sea bream), Kinmedai (golden eye snapper), prepared with sea salt, lemon and torched is also sensational.

Amberjack Nigiri © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The authentic Japanese cuisine is complimented with a comprehensive menu of sake, Japanese craft beer (Okane is one of the only San Francisco restaurants to offer Coedo Pilsner, IPA and Black Lager on tap), and wine.

Okane doesn’t do many desserts, but to finish the meal, we experienced black sesame ice cream that is the perfect combination of sweet/not sweet – a taste a little like peanut butter – that becomes addictive. (Save room!)

Black Sesame Ice Cream at Okane, a Japanese gastropub in San Francisco’s SoMa district © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You can sit at the sushi counter and be treated to Chef’s Choice, where you are served one piece to savor at a time, ($80 pp, compared to $150 at Omikase).

Okane is also unusual in serving brunch (what a concept!).

Okane’s interior design, by Aya Jessani, a San Francisco-based interior designer who also helped create the intimate space for Omakase – there are just 46 seats – is utterly perfect to make you feel absolutely relaxed, focused on nothing more than to savor every morsel.

Okane is the sort of place you happily wait in line for.

Hours Lunch: Monday – Friday, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Dinner: Monday – Thursday, 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday & Saturday, 5:30 p.m.-11 p.m. Check Average Lunch: $15-$20 Dinner: $30-$40 Capacity 46 seats and a four-seat sushi bar Private Parties For private events, contact Jean Francisco at jean@omakasesf.com or call the restaurant at 415-865-9788

Okane, 669 Townsend Street, San Francisco, CA 94103 415-865-9788, www.okanesf.com. Social Media Instagram – @okane_sf Facebook – @okane-523346331167212.

For more help planning a visit to San Franciscocontact San Francisco Travel. 415-391‑2000, www.sftravel.com. 

See also:

San Francisco Throwing Year-Long 50th Anniversary Celebration of Summer of Love – Be Prepared to Be Blasted into the Past

San Francisco Goes All Out With Special Events, Exhibitions Marking 50th Anniversary of Summer of Love

Biking is Great Way to Tour San Francisco’s Must-See Attractions

A Day in San Francisco Revisiting the Past: Plucky Cable Car Epitomizes City’s Grit, Determination, Innovation

Beach Blanket Babylon is Rollicking Fun Musical Revue in San Francisco’s North Beach

Beats of North Beach, Rolling Museums, Urban Oasis: San Francisco’s Cultural Highlights Where You Least Expect 

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

32,000 Cyclists Take over NYC Streets for 40th Anniversary of TD Five Boro Bike Tour

32,000 riders at the starting line for the TD Five Boro Bike Tour. This year celebrates 40 years since the first ride, when 250 participated.© Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

What is so special about New York City’s TD Five Boro Bike Tour is how, for one day, you and 32,000 of your closest friends, feel like you own the city. The streets, bridges and highways – like Sixth Avenue, the FDR Drive, the Queensborough Bridge, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Verrazano are your domain. It makes you giddy. Neighborhoods ring with sound and spirit – Greenwich Village, Harlem, Astoria, Greenpoint, DUMBO. Central Park’s blossoms seem to burst just for us.

TD Five Boro Bike Tour riders head up 6th Ave .© Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The ride this year marked the 40th anniversary of this event, which is the largest noncompetitive bike tour in North America. The ride has come quite a long way from that first one, in 1977, when just 250 people participated.

Riders, who race to get a spot as soon as registrations open (participation is limited to 32,000 but could easily be thousands more), came from every state in the nation (yes, Hawaii and Alaska), and 1300 riders came from 43 countries, as far as Australia.

Bill Nye, the Science Guy, tells TD Five Boro Bike riders, “The bicycle is the most efficient machine known to humankind”.© Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Bill Nye the Science Guy greeted the crowd as they lined up in downtown Manhattan, extending a mile, saying, “The bicycle is the most efficient machine known to humankind.” The ride, he says, brings the joy of movement, of being part of the city. Strong hearts. Free minds. Together we can change the world.”

New York City has really embraced biking, and now offers miles and miles of dedicated bike lanes – dozens more this year.

Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer said that 750,000 New Yorkers now bike regularly, 50 percent more since 2012. “Thank you for your bike lane advocacy, for being healthy, for being part of the city’s future.”

TD Five Boro Bike Tour group at Radio City Music Hall, 6th Avenue © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The annual event raises money for bike education – 17,000 people a year learn how to ride, the largest free biking education program in the country. Bike New York operates bike education centers, after school programs, summer camps, and this year launched a Women’s Initiative, as well as its first membership program. “Alums” from the bike education program are joining the ride this year as “Student Ambassadors.”

The surreal scene riding through the underpass on the FDR © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Numerous charities such as Doctors Without Borders, also use the event for fundraising, purchasing registrations which participants then raise money against.

One of the charities is the Lighthouse Guild, a not-for-profit vision and healthcare organization with a long history of addressing the needs of people who are blind or visually impaired, and will have several cyclists who are blind riding tandem bikes including a former triathlete, Charles-Edward, who became blind five years ago.

Spiraling down the ramp from the Queensboro Bridge passed Silvercup gives a dramatic view of Manhattan skyline .© Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The bike tour is also a model of sustainability, promoting recycling, water conservation, becoming the largest sporting event to be certified for sustainability by the Council for Responsible Sport 3 years ago and this year, earning gold level. Each rest stop featured “zero waste” recepticals.

The ride is designed to be a family friendly tour, not a competition, appealing to  all abilities, ages – a pace car keeps the speed down, and keep it safe.

“Diversity is what makes the ride,” says Sam Polcer, who handles communications for Bike New York.

Indeed, everyone marvels at how well organized the ride is and all the precautions that are taken to make the ride safe. The route has also been improved to unplug some of the bottlenecks of years ago, so there is a nice flow.

And there is such a sense of liberation to take over New York City’s streets.

The Rusty Guns, one of the many bands that keep riders’ spirits up as they travel through all five boroughs of New York City © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The ride embraces all five boroughs – and each shows off with street entertainment. In all, there were some 25 bands raising the spirits of the riders along the route, and at rest stops (Clif Bar sponsored a DJ and entertainment at the Con Ed rest area) and at the Finish Festival on Staten Island, where, for the first time, all the finishers received a commemorative 40th anniversary medal.

My favorite scene along the 40-mile TD Five Boro Bike tour: Empire State Building framed in the base of Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

As in recent years, the  event is preceded by a two-day Bike Expo, when cyclists can take advantage of discounts and giveaways by scores of bike, biking gear, and bike tour companies and destinations from the New York State’s Erie Canalway, to the Laurentians in Canada, to Taiwan, and special biking events like the Granfondo Campagnolo Roma,  October 6-8, 2017, through the World Association of Cycling Events, along with Granfondo Campagnolo Roma.

Messages of encouragement to get over the 1 mile climb on the Verrazano, the last challenge before the Finish Festival on Staten Island, at the 40 mile mark of the TD Five Boro Bike tour © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

In a first for the TD Five Boro Bike Tour’s 40th anniversary year, friends and family were able to follow their rider’s progress along the 40 mile route, by virtue of a chip embedded in the number card on each bike.

Riders could sign up to have their progress posted automatically on their Facebook or Twitter pages, or enter the phone numbers of up to three people to keep them updated via SMS (text), so that folks can know when they start the Tour, reach several rest areas along the route and finish.

For the first time, the Tour was also broadcast live by NTD.TV. It could be viewed at http://www.ntd.tv/live; https://www.facebook.com/NTDTelevision/ and http://youtube.com/user/ntdtv

Bike New York, 475 Riverside Drive, New York, NY, Suite 1300, New York, NY 10115, www.bikenewyork.org, Follow @bikenewyork on Facebook and Instagram.

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures