Thursday, December 20, 2012

Don't wait to visit Glacier National Park

Mountains, lakes, wildlife, and shrinking glaciers make for an unforgettable visit

You don't have to go into the back country to see bears in
Glacier National Park.
Warning: Don’t get out of your car when bears are nearby. Yeah, right. I’m staying in the car when dozens of other people are scurrying along the roadside to get the best photos of the black bear nibbling berries in front of us?
Maybe it wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve done when traveling, but it was one of the most exciting. In fact, I had the opportunity several more times during our August trip to Glacier National Park in Montana. The count during our five-day visit: 10 black bears and one grizzly plus numerous elk, moose, fox, mountain goats, and various small ground creatures like squirrels, chipmunks, and marmots—all viewed up close and personal.

Wildlife viewing is a favorite pastime in Glacier National Park—a great reason to put this park on your travel “short list.” But there are also other reasons why you should plan a visit--now.
Only 26 of the 150 glaciers that existed in the park in the 1850s are still there today. And for most of those, visitors see just remnants of ice high in the mountains. It’s estimated that there won’t be any more active glaciers in the park by 2030.

Kayaks on Lake McDonald

Even without wildlife and glaciers, the mountains and lakes provide some of the most spectacular scenery in the United States. Whether you view it from hiking trails, boat rides, private or tour vehicle, or while sipping a glass of wine at one of the park’s original lodges, the vistas will become etched into your heart and mind. Every turn in the road, every direction you look, there’s another landscape you’ll want to remember forever.
Rocky Point hike overlooks Lake McDonald

Specials on lodging now
Early fall is a great time to visit Glacier National Park. Golf packages are available for guests staying at Grouse Mountain Lodge until September 22. From September 20 through May 15, 2016, book three consecutive nights at Grouse Mountain Lodge and the fourth night is free.

As summer ends, it’s prime time to enjoy a beautiful drive or take a breathtaking hike on one of the trails. Explore the changing landscapes and get your third night free when you stay at any of the park’s properties now.  Book online or call 406-892-2525 to reserve.

A large park

Glacier encompasses one million acres, so it’s really not practical to try seeing it all in one visit. We chose to stay in two distinctly different areas, although we drove through additional regions of the park. We entered the park at St. Mary’s and still had about 50 miles to drive to the southern forested region around Lake McDonald. The cottages were small and rustic, but the lake, the largest lake in the park at 10 miles long and 472 feet deep, was lovely and the setting serene.

View from Many Glacier Lodge
We also stayed at Many Glacier on the east border, which, along with Swiftcurrent, is known as an excellent wildlife corridor—a fact we found to be very true. In order to enter Glacier National Park at Many Glacier, we had to exit the boundary and re-enter at the MG ranger station. But that provided excitement in the form of an opportunity to watch a large grizzly bear graze his way through a stand of berry bushes very near the road.
Several hikes start near Logan Pass
Of course, we (my husband Larry, actually) drove on the amazing, curvy Going to the Sun Road (a highlight of our park touring) to Logan Pass Visitor Center as we made our way to Many Glacier. If you're not comfortable behind the wheel, take a guided tour--but don't miss this experience.

The hike to Hidden Lake near there is one of the most stunning paths anywhere.  Wildflowers brightened the trail even though patches of ice remained in late August. It’s a doable hike for most people, as are many of the trails in Glacier. Sections of the park are well-suited to backpackers and overnight campers, but staying in original park lodges and learning the  history of these accommodations adds to the Glacier park experience. Just be sure to book far in advance for a summer visit.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier




Thursday, December 13, 2012

Waterfalls inside a mountain? Yes, atTrummelbachfalle in Switzerland

Waterfalls in Switzerland don’t seem too unusual. It snows, and in the spring water cascades down the mountains making lovely scenery.

But when the waterfalls are inside a mountain the scene becomes even more spectacular.  That’s what we found at Trummelbachfalle where ten glacier waterfalls rumble, tumble, and spray over and through rock formations.  Located a few miles from Lauterbrunnen near the tiny village of Stechelberg, Trummelbachfalle was our first stop when heading to Interlaken from the Jungfrau region.
Accessible by tunnel lift, some of the waterfalls are illuminated, which highlights the immense flow—20,000 litres of water per second—as water pours from the glaciers on Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau Mountains. In addition, the water carries 20,200 tons of boulder detritus per year that finds its way into Switzerland’s many rivers and lakes.

Water flows in a twisty corkscrew pattern.
As we rode in the lift to see the waterfalls, faint rumblings gave clues about what was happening deep inside the mountain. An amazing engineering feat has created walkways for visitors to witness the only glacier waterfalls in Europe that are inside a mountain and still accessible. 
Some of the waterfalls are long, deep, and dark, casting cool spray on our faces as we walk by. Others closer to the outside world can be seen with natural light as they wear away rock walls. One of the most interesting was Corkscrew Falls, which twists and winds through a convoluted rock formation deep in the cavern. All give off resounding echoes as they crash with a powerful flow of water.
Powerful water splashes through the rocky mountain.
Allow at least an hour to see the falls. You go upstairs to view falls six through 10 and downstairs to see two through five. Number one starts inside the mountain but is visible outside pouring water into the river that disperses the glacial flow further downstream.

After exiting Trummelbachfalle, we stopped at the outdoor tent operated as a fundraiser by local groups to get a cold drink and snack. Fields across the street were filled with early spring flowers blooming in shades of yellow, white, and purple—and there was yet another waterfall to photograph.

Photos by Beverly Burmeier

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Visit the "Top of Europe" at Jungfraujoch, Switzerland

Train to Jungfraujoch, Top of Europe
We’re in Interlaken, Switzerland, about to embark on a day long excursion to Jungfraujoch, which at 11,300 feet altitude is called the “Top of Europe.” The weather prediction is for 90 percent chance of rain, although it’s bright and sunny early in the morning. Blue skies and fluffy white clouds seem to foretell a pleasant day, but we’ll soon know the difference altitude makes.

Larry and I walk five minutes from our hotel to the Interlaken Ost (East) train station and catch the train to Grindelwald. We change trains at Kleine Scheidegg to the cog railway that goes across Eiger Mountain; that part of the journey takes one and a half hours. Having been in Switzerland for several days already, we’ve become pretty good at navigating the widely-used train system.
We travel through a valley with beautiful green, rolling hills. Scattered houses on hillsides dot the landscape like Monopoly houses on a game board. Cattle and sheep graze in the fields. But by the time we reach the Keline Scheidegg rail station at an elevation of 6,700 feet, snow covers the mountains. It’s a surreal scene in shades of black and white: Pristine undisturbed snow glistens in bright sunshine.

One of the stops inside a mountain tunnel.
The cog railway travels at a steep incline along the side of Eiger Mountain, then heads across Eiger (with a view of the glacier), Monch, and Jungfrau Mountains. Although windows on the train will lower for taking photos, it’s quite chilly outside, so we wait for stops along the way. Two times during the 7.3 km tunnel passage the train pauses for about 10 minutes, so passengers can quickly get out and take pictures of the icy landscape through openings carved in the mountainous rock of the tunnel.
Ice surrounds Larry in this
Ice Palace display
After arriving at our destination, we miss getting a map of the place and wind up following a tour group until we find our bearings.

We walk carefully on slippery paths in the Ice Palace and marvel at the carvings of bears, penguins, deer, and other figures displayed in icy vignettes.  These ice sculptures are permanent displays, so the temperature is best tolerated with gloves and jackets.

Visitor building with cables all around.
Yes, it was very bleak and cold.
After a snack we take the elevator to the Sphinx, where an outdoor terrace provides exceptional views of surroundings mountains. Except today (early May) it is snowing—so thick and heavy the only vision we have is of pure white all around. We’re disappointed that the weather has become so cold and windy, but that’s the chance visitors take when planning this mountainous trip. Even the section called Ice Fun was closed—no skiing, sledding, or even snowballs to duck on this day.
Still, Jungfraujoch is such a unique experience through a snowy Alpine wonderland that I’d recommend it if you are in the region. After a few more photos, we board the train for the return trip. Traveling through dark tunnels makes my eyes heavy, but I snap out of it so as not to miss remaining views of the journey. We change trains twice and are relieved to get back to milder temperatures at Interlaken. 

A bowl of hot, cheesy lasagna is a welcome finish to the day’s adventure.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Eating your way through Door County, Wisconsin

Driving through coastal communities with names like Sister Bay, Egg Harbor, and Fish Creek was my first clue that Door County, Wisconsin would be a delightful destination with plenty of small-town friendliness and intriguing dining experiences. The Door does not disappoint.
Taste the cherry jam!
While visitors come for the peninsula’s 300 plus miles of shoreline, state parks, historic lighthouses, art galleries, wineries, theater, and shopping, Door County offers a variety of culinary options. For example:
  • Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery and Market—Everything’s coming up cherries here. Take a tour of the 50-year-old orchard and cider mill.  See how the fruit is picked and packaged, sample pies still hot from the oven, and then buy scrumptious cherry jam, dried cherries, or cherry wines to take home. Better yet, have a cherry picnic on premises.

Cream cheese filled cherry French toast
  • An authentic fish boil at the Old Post Office Restaurant in Ephraim is an experience unique to Door County. Whitefish freshly caught by local fishermen is cooked with onions and potatoes outside over a wood fire just as it was by the Scandinavian settlers.  A spectacular ending involves a “boil-over,” with flames shooting in the air to expel oils from the fish. The result is a delicious, mild-tasting main course, served with plenty of local sides and cherry cobbler for dessert.
  • White Gull Inn in Fish Creek is home to “America’s Best Breakfast” as voted by Good Morning America a few years ago.  Order the specialty, cream cheese-filled cherry French toast, for a sweet morning treat.  Beats pancakes any day. In winter, cozy up to the fireplace to start your day with a warm heart and full tummy--as visitors have done since 1896.
  • Wilson’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor in Ephraim features home-brewed draft root beer. A Door County landmark since 1906, Wilson’s specializes in ice cream treats like Cherry Berry Delight, Classic Turtle Sundae, thick floats and malts—and music from old-time jukeboxes. Sit outside under classic red and white striped awnings and bask in remembrances from years past—or just pretend you’re living in the good old days.
  • Sip Fred and Fuzzy’s famous cherry margarita while listening to live music at the Waterfront Bar and Grill in Sister Bay. It’s the perfect way to while away a summer evening.
  • Feel like splurging?  Head to Harbor Fish Market and Grill in Baileys Harbor for an evening of exceptional waterfront dining. Wander the garden area outside, or just enjoy the view from large windows indoors. Cherry martini, anyone?
  • Fine dining is also available.
    Relax by the bay with a cherry
  • Be sure to sample the whitefish chowder, a menu item at The Cookery Restaurant and Bar in Fish Creek since 1977. It’s a homey place, but the food is superb. Their bacon wrapped dates basted in maple syrup and Dijon are to-die-for.
  • Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Monday, December 3, 2012

Winter events at Wembley Area in London

Article and photos provided by Catherine Moraru.

Wembley Arena in London
Heading to London in December? If you’re in a party mood, check out Wembley Arena for an array of events to ensure that your Christmas season gets off to a show-stopping start. Wembley Arena is London’s most iconic concert and events venue with facilities for all kinds of performances, hotels, bars, and easy transportation to other parts of the city.
Whatever type of entertainment you are looking for during the season of fun and frolics, why not make the most of your time in the capital and stay at the Travelodge hotel near Wembley arena? Just a few steps away from your budget base you will be able to catch the tube into the centre and explore Christmas delights such as Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park and the Southbank Centre Christmas Market.

Events in December 2012
You Me At Six

After a phenomenal year for the five You Me At Six boys, they’re back at the Wembley Arena on 8 December to round up The Final Night Of Sin tour. Expect nothing but one of the best musical experiences, as Kerrang’s Best British Band performs hits such as No One Does It Better, Loverboy, Bite My Tounge, and more.
Disney On Ice Presents Passport to Adventure!

A variety of sporting events
are held in Wembley Stadium
Passport to Adventure is another date in the family adventure diary. Children will be mesmerised as their favourite Disney characters – including classics, princesses and Pixar creations – take to the rink to perform. Expect lots of cheery, upbeat action all set to a typical Disney soundtrack. Taking place in the Christmas holidays, from 28 December 2012 to 6 January 2012, this ice spectacular is the way to spend an afternoon, mid-festivities.
Other December dates for your diary: Bollywood Showcase 2012 (16 December), and Jeff Wayne's The War of The Worlds (6 December 2012)

Find events and book tickets directly online via the Wembley Arena website.Sometimes popular events sell out quickly. If you can’t find tickets for the event you were hoping to attend, check out for last minute purchases.
This article is sponsored by Travelodge and Thomas Cook tours.