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Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, June 2007 Issue



Travel Savings Alerts
P.O. Box 91033
Columbus OH 43209
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ISSN: 1542-801X, Copyright © 2007 
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In This Issue:
Shenandoah Valley Hot Air Balloon & Wine Festival

Hot Air Balloon & Wine Festival

  • Emerald Isle Getaway from $799
  • Tips to Prevent DVT
  • Seasonal Rates at Mandarin Oriental Hotels
  • 5th Night Fr,ee in U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Mayflower Park Hotel $19.27 Rate
  • Choice Hotels Two Fr.ee Nights
  • Branson Busts Gas Prices
  • Fre.e food at Walt Disney World
  • Discovery Fr.ee Attraction Passes for Kids
  • Cool Prices at the Arizona Biltmore
  • Save on Anguilla Resorts & Villas
  • New York City Explorer Pass
  • Trump NYC Summer Deal
  • Apple Core Hotels NYC Summer Package
  • Elite Island Resorts Summer Deals
  • go! Web-Only Specials From $19
  • Skybus 10 Seats for $10 on Every Flight
  • Fall Splendor in Virginia Wine Country by Kay Douglas
  • Summer Savings at Jolly Beach Resort

  • Emerald Isle Getaway from $799

    Dooley Vacations encourages travelers to explore Ireland beyond the Blarney Stone and uncover the Western and Northwestern regions of the country. The Emerald Isle getaway incorporates non-stop flights on flyglobespan to Ireland West Airport Knock and a rental car with unlimited mileage, so you have the opportunity to take in the Cliffs of Moher, festivals in Galway City and medieval Donegal Town.

    The package starts at $799 per person including airfare, six-night accommodations’, a rental car, and daily breakfast. Departure taxes are not included and the price is based on travel from New York. Boston departures are an additional $60 and include accommodations for six nights. Additional departure cities are available at a higher price.

    The package is valid for travel June 30, 2007 through October. Your trip begins with a one-night stay in the Ridgepool Hotel in Ballina followed by five-nights in your choice of traditional Irish B&Bs. Upgrades to Town & Country B&Bs (with private bath) and automatic rental car are available from an additional $79 per person.

    Dooley Vacations or 877/331-9301.


    Tips to Prevent DVT

    When you travel, usually you sit in a stationary position for a long time in a car, plane or train. There is a connection between long-haul travel and developing potentially-fatal deep vein thromboses (DVT) – blood clots that form in the veins.

    After many studies, research in 2003 revealed that the highest risk of venous thromboembolism was within two weeks of a long-haul flight. The study concluded that the annual risk of venous thromboembolism was increased by 12 percent if one long-haul flight (traveling more than 10,000 km) is taken yearly.

    A number of factors in aircraft cabins increase the risk of developing DVT or PE (clots passing to the lungs where they may obstruct the blood flow and could result in death). These include immobility due to cramped seating positions, possible dehydration from alcoholic drinks and other diuretics such as tea and coffee, and the low humidity of the aircraft cabin, relative hypoxia and reduced barometric pressure.

    The overall risk of thrombosis after a long-haul flight is estimated to be about one in 2,000. For people with known risk factors the risk may be higher. The combination of immobility and personal risk factors potentially could be the reason for long-travel-associated DVT in some but not all travelers.

    "As physical therapists and experts in movement, we guide and provide exercises as preventive measures of this potentially killer condition," says Zahra Ghasemi, PT, MS, physical therapy supervisor at Cedars Sinai Medical Center. This intervention is more critical for people with the following risks:

    • Over 40 years old
    • Hsve already experienced blood clots
    • With a family history of blood clots
    • Who have/had cancer
    • With certain blood diseases
    • Being treated for circulation problems or heart failure
    • Recovering from recent surgery (especially hips or knees)
    • With an inherited clotting tendency
    • Who are pregnant
    • Who are new mothers
    • Taking the contraceptive pill
    • On hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

    Consider these risk-reduction strategies before traveling if you have any of the listed risk factors:

    • Wear loose clothing.
    • Find a comfortable position in your seat and recline if possible.
    • Do not cross your legs when sitting (doing so compresses blood vessels).
    • At stopovers and refueling points, leave the plane and walk as much as possible.
    • Move at regular intervals to increase blood flow through the veins.
    • Walk around on long flights (when permitted).
    • Drink plenty of water.
    • Avoid excessive alcohol, as it has dehydrating effects.
    • Postpone long-haul flights for three months after hip or knee replacement surgery.
    • Learn and apply in-seat exercises to ensure circulation is kept active with no blood stasis. Exercises on APTA's Consumer Web page
    • Use elastic/compression stockings.
    • Women taking contraceptive pills or hormone replacement therapy should regularly do the exercises described on APTA's Web site to help reduce the risk, as well as consider the use of elastic/compression stockings.
    • Obtain additional information from your physical therapist or gynecologist if pregnant or nursing.
    • Take along current prescriptions for all essential medicines.
    • Ensure that there is adequate medical insurance for your trip.

    APTA's Consumer Web page.


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    Seasonal Rates at Mandarin Oriental Hotels

    Mandarin Oriental’s groupwide offer, Seasonal Choices, provides accommodations, breakfast, late check out and a f.ree extra bed for a child under 12 at weekday and weekend rates worldwide.

    Through Sep. 30, 2007, Seasonal Choices is available at the Mandarin Oriental Prague, the group’s newest property and the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, which completed a $150 million renovation in 2006.

    Seasonal Choices combines accommodations with bed and breakfast and double occupancy at the same rate as a single. Rates do not include local government taxes and service charge where applicable and are subject to availability and change. This package is not available to groups and cannot be combined with any other offer. Certain dates may be restricted.

    The full range of Seasonal Choices rates can be viewed and booked through Mandarin Oriental’s website.

    Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group.


    5th Night Fr,ee in U.S. Virgin Islands

    In tribute to the 90th anniversary as a U.S. Territory, the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism and the U.S. Virgin Islands Hotel and Tourism Association offers a 90th Anniversary Celebration package when you visit the islands through Aug. 31, 2007. This offer recognizes "Transfer Day," the period in 1917 when St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas shifted from Danish rule to a United States territory. If booked by July 15, 2007, the 90th Anniversary Celebration package features a fr,ee fifth night based on a five-night minimum stay at participating hotels, plus savings up to $500 on a variety of included activities, tours and extras.

    When you book the package with a St. John or St. Thomas hotel, you will receive two tickets to Coral World, Atlantis Submarine, VI Ecotours and the Paradise Point Tramway; an island tour for two with Tropic Tours; use of a GPS unit for two days provided by Calabash Technologies; $90 off a purchase of $500 or more at Diamonds International; $90 off a purchase of $500 or more at Cardow Jewelers; and $90 gaming dollars from Southland Gaming.

    When you book the package in St. Croix, you will receive a bottle of Cruzan rum; $100 match-play at Divi Carina Bay Casino, plus two of the following fr,ee options: Buck Island excursion for two; a sunset sail for two; a rental car for three days; an island tour for two; golf with greens fees and cart for two at The Buccaneer or Carambola Beach Resort; a scuba two-tank dive or dive lesson with one-tank dive for one; or a 50-minute spa treatment.

    As a United States Territory, the U.S. Virgin Islands does not require proof of citizenship from U.S. citizens arriving from Puerto Rico or the U.S. mainland. Entry requirements for non-U.S. citizens are the same as for entering the United States from any foreign destination. Upon departure, a passport is required for all but U.S. citizens.

    90th Anniversary Celebration package or 877/LIB-USVI.



    Mayflower Park Hotel $19.27 Rate

    In 1927, the Mayflower Park Hotel was born in Seattle. It started life as the Bergonian Hotel and has been in continuous operation ever since.

    In honor of its 80th Anniversary, the Mayflower Park Hotel invites the young at heart to take advantage of their anniversary hotel package. From July through December 2007, all 80 years olds can take advantage of the 80th Anniversary Hotel package for $19.27. This special rate is limited to the first 80 bookings and is available on a space available basis with a two night maximum stay. A valid driver's license or birth certificate is needed for proof of age.

    The 80th Anniversary Package includes: accommodations; valet parking; two cocktails with two keepsake cocktail glasses.

    For people born after 1927, this package is available for $239 for a classic guest room plus tax or $269 for a deluxe guest room, plus tax. The package is based on a space available basis and does not include tax.

    Mayflower Park Hotel or 800/426-5100.

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    To get your Fr-ee Fun San Diego brochure, for a $1 handling fee, click here to send us an email.


    Choice Hotels Two Fr.ee Nights

    Choice Hotels International offers a "With Two F.ree Nights, How Will You Spend Your Days?" promotion, where you receive Choice Privileges bonus points worth two fr.ee nights at more than 1,000 Choice Hotels properties across North America.

    Get the Choice Privileges Visa card and get two fr.ee nights after qualifying purchases are made. Apply for the card through Aug. 16, 2007, make purchases totaling $150 within 75 days of the account open date and you get enough points for two fr.ee nights at Comfort Inn or Suites, Quality Inn, Sleep Inn, Clarion, MainStay Suites or Suburban Extended Stay locations in North America.

    Two f.ree nights are based on an 8,000 point Choice Privileges reward night in the U.S. A fr.ee night may require more points at certain hotels. For point level information, visit the web site.

    Please allow four to six weeks after the qualifying transaction(s) post for the points to be deposited into your Choice Privileges account. You must maintain a U.S. address (including U.S. territories) to have a Choice Privileges Visa card account. Choice Privileges terms and conditions apply.

    With the Choice Privileges Visa credit card, provided by Bank of America, you can earn fr.ee nights even faster. Every time and everywhere cardholders use the Choice Privileges Visa credit card for purchases, they earn additional Choice Privileges points.

    Choice Privileges membership or 888/770-6800.



    Branson Busts Gas Prices

    The Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce offers a Gas Buster discount card, accepted at dozens of live shows, area attractions, lodging properties, retail shops and restaurants. The card gives you $50 off purchases plus a chance to win a grand prize getaway to Branson.

    Through Oct. 31, 2007, the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce will give a Gas Buster discount card to anyone who presents a valid drivers' license and a minimum of $40 in gas receipts incurred within 48 hours of their arrival. The Gas Buster cards are available at the Chamber's two Welcome Centers, on U.S. Highway 65 and Missouri Highway 248, and at Hwy. 65 and Missouri Highway 160. The Welcome Centers are open 8a.m. to 5p.m., Mondays through Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 4p.m. on Sundays.

    Gas Buster card holders are automatically entered to win the grand prize four-day/three-night vacation for four to Branson, which will be awarded on October 31, 2007.

    Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce or 800/214-3661.



    Fr.ee food at Walt Disney World

    BOOK BY JUNE 24 - - Walt Disney World offers fr.ee meals with its discounted resort packages for late August through mid-September arrivals.

    Packages must be booked by June 24, 2007. The offer runs Aug. 26 to Sept. 22, 2007, for five- and six-night packages from $455 for adults, $223 for juniors and $184 per child. These packages include, at no additional charge, the Disney Dining Plan, normally $38.99 per day for adults and children age 10 and older.

    Travelers can choose from 20 different cuisines at 100 restaurants for one sit-down meal, one snack and a quick-service meal every day.

    The packages include theme park tickets, hotel accommodations and meals, normally at a per-diem rate. The fr.ee meal plan will save visitors about $194 per adult.

    Walt Disney World Resort.


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    Discovery Fr.ee Attraction Passes for Kids

    Discovery Cruise Line, a tour operator to Grand Bahama, offers kids under six years old the opportunity to sail and stay fr.ee. Additionally this summer, kids get fr.ee attraction passes to some exciting places in the Bahamas and South Florida. To be eligible for the promotion, each child under six years old must be accompanied on board Discovery and to the attraction by a full fare paying adult. One child per adult.

    The following attractions are participating in the promotion: in Grand Bahama: Bahamian Getaway Island Tour, Glass Bottom Boat, Fantasia Snorkel Tour, and UNEXCO'S Dolphin Close Encounter; in South Florida: Butterfly World, Lion Country Safari, Mai-Kai Restaurant, Miami Seaquarium, and Jungle Island.

    Tickets to the Grand Bahama attractions must be purchased on board during the cruise. Tickets to the South Florida attractions will be provided to passengers during the cruise.

    The cruise price includes games, activities, and Discovery's Kid's Club. There's "grown up fun" on board, with a Las Vegas-style casino and live music shows. Plus there is plenty of room to stretch your legs on one of the decks.

    Discovery sails daily from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale to Grand Bahama Island, departing at 7:45 a.m. and returning at 10 p.m. Discovery offers same day roundtrip cruises and cruise and stay vacation packages at most of the island's hotels.

    Discovery Cruise Line or 888/213-8253.



    Cool Prices at the Arizona Biltmore

    Have a cool time in the desert with a getaway to the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa that features the lowest rates of the year.

    Through Sep. 17, 2007, the resort offers a $50 daily food and beverage credit along with rates that start at $169. Rates do not include tax and resort fee.

    Summer activities include wine tastings, cigar rolling, “s’mores” roasts with a cowboy balladeer sing-along, and the “Dive-In Movies” where children and adults enjoy feature films projected onto a large screen while floating in the Paradise Pool. The Kids Korral program offers supervised sports, games, arts and crafts for children five to 12 years old.

    The historic Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa offers 738 guest rooms on 39 acres at the foot of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.

    Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa or 800/950-0086.


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    Save on Anguilla Resorts & Villas

    This summer, Anguilla’s luxury resorts, villas and Charming Escape Collection hotels offer low prices.

    Sheriva at Sheriton Estates, 264/498-9898, is a new 20-room hideaway designed for discerning travelers. The property offers three fully staffed villas from 14,000 to 21,000 square feet. The staff includes housekeepers, laundresses, groundsmen and concierge. Larger accommodations starting from a four-bedroom villa include a private chef and personal concierge. Villas include a fully equipped gym, a 60” plasma television, a Bose music system and games. The summer promotion for the oversized Loft Suites with a private balcony, kitchenette, and a rooftop terrace are available for $645 per night, plus tax and service fees. The Endless Summer promotions gives you seven nights for the price of six, 10 nights for the price of eight, or 14 nights for the price of 11.

    The recently refurbished Sirena hotel, on Meads Bay Beach, offers single rooms from $61.60 per night and doubles from $81.20 per night (some restrictions may apply). Sirena Hotel or 800/331-9358.

    Cuisinart Resort & Spa Suite Escapes 2007 - Stay five nights or more and get a beachfront junior suite for $385 per night. Rates include airport greeting; breakfast daily; hydroponic farm tour; use of health club; scheduled fitness classes; use of tennis courts; and use of non-motorized water sports. Rates are valid through Nov. 6, 2007, based on single or double occupancy. A 10% government tax and service charge will be added. Holiday blackouts and additional restrictions may apply. Reservations 800/943-3210.

    Beachcourt Villa, for reservations contact Lisa Webster at 264/235-4615, Located at Shoal Bay East, BeachCourt Villa is a 10,000 sq. ft. luxury villa with swimming pool and tennis court. Built on a hill, the villa sits about 40 feet above the water, maximizing views and breezes. For the summer season, daily rates are $750 for a one bedroom; $1,000 for 2 bedrooms; $1,300 for four bedrooms and $1,500 for 6 bedrooms.

    The two-bedroom Villa Mañana cottage or 877/888-3788, on Anguilla’s southern coast, offers summer rates of $630 per night (including 10% government tax and 10% gratuity). Any seven-night booking from August to October receives the eighth night fr.ee.

    Cap Juluca, or 888/858-5822 - The hotel’s Romantic Rendezvous and Quick Getaway programs are available through Dec. 16, 2007. Romantic Rendezvous rates per couple are: Nov. 12 to Dec. 16, 2007 from $5,580; May 1 to Nov. 11, 2007 from $4,770. Package includes seven nights accommodations for two, champagne and flowers on arrival; four dinners for two; a one-hour massage for two; one group Tai Chi class; and a day-long snorkeling trip with barbecue lunch; a one-day car rental; arrival and departure taxi transfers from Anguilla's airport or the ferry; and hotel tax and service charge. The Quick Getaway includes four nights’ accommodations for two; four dinners for two; wine and hors d'oeuvres on arrival; half-day snorkeling trip; arrival and departure taxi transfers; one group Tai Chi class for two; and 20% tax and service charge. Rates through Nov. 11, 2007 start from $3,040 per couple; Nov. 12 to Dec. 16, 2007 start from $3,505 per couple.

    Desert Rose summer savings of up to 50 percent. The 11,000 square foot three bedroom villa on Captains Ridge in Island Harbour offers $1,000 off rental rates through Dec. 17, 2007. The daily rate for one bedroom with exclusive use of the Estate is $1,000; two bedrooms for $1,300; and all three bedrooms is $1,500. Rates include a deserted island for a day at Scilly Cay and fr.ee lunch there one of the three days a week it is open. Also included is daily housekeeping; continental breakfast and fr.ee phone service to the US and Canada. Children must be ten years or older. Government tax and service charge are extra. Call 498 -8777/ 497-5123, email: desertrose@anguillanet.com

    Villa View Fort, reservations from Grace’s Distinctive Properties, Ltd, 866/655-8800, an 8,000 square foot, four bedroom, six-bath property offers the Ultimate Summer Escape through Nov. 14, 2007 for $330 per person, per night, based on eight-person occupancy and a minimum of five nights. Rates include a welcome reception and tour; daily breakfast; afternoon refreshments; bar stocking service; cruise to Little Bay for swimming and snorkeling with gourmet picnic basket; Caribbean Night party (BBQ & drinks included) with steel band/dancing; professional childcare between 9a.m. and 5pm; personalized daily chef services for all meals (purchase of food items for lunch and dinner is additional).

    More summer specials are available at the Anguilla Tourist Board or 877/4-anguilla.



    New York City Explorer Pass

    Just in time for New York’s busy summer travel season, the New York City Explorer Pass is now available.

    The pass allows you to select from 15 top attractions and gain admission to any three or five of those attractions. The “five choice” pass introductory rate is $99 per adult and the “three choice” pass will intro at a $65 per adult. The pass is valid for up to 30 days once used at any attraction, so locals and visitors can benefit from the flexibility. It also includes savings of 10 to 50 percent on Broadway theater tickets, Madame Tussauds NY and souvenir shopping.

    The New York City Explorer Pass is accompanied by a fr.ee full-color pocket sized guidebook with detailed information about included attractions, special offers, helpful hints and maps to the city.

    New York City Explorer Pass sets itself apart from other New York attraction passes by offering you 30 days to enjoy selected admissions, so you can experience New York without rushing from attraction to attraction. It is also currently the only pass to include admission to a Hop-on Hop-Off Double Decker Bus Tour, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (VIP admission) and Top of the Rock Observation Deck with views of Central Park and the Empire State Building. In some cases, you can skip the ticket line.

    In addition to included admissions, New York City Explorer Pass gets you two-for-one admission to Madame Tussauds NY wax museum, 40 percent savings on the Sopranos Sites Bus Tour, 25 percent savings on souvenirs at The Library Shop at the New York Public Library, 10 percent savings on Broadway Theatre tickets.

    You can purchase the New York City Explorer Pass online.

    New York Explorer Pass or 800/887-9103.



    Trump NYC Summer Deal

    Book two nights at the Trump International Hotel & Tower at Central Park and get the third night fr.ee when you reserve a junior suite at the discounted rate of $720 per night (vs. $900).

    The package also includes an upgrade to an executive one-bedroom city suite at the time of booking; $50 credit towards a Liquid Gold spa treatment; and a Bergdorf Goodman Gift Card (the more you spend, the more you save).

    The Summer in the City Deal is available through Sep. 1, 2007 and is based on availability. The deal is not combinable with other promotions, is not available to groups, and is good only for Thursday, Friday and Saturday arrivals.

    Trump International Hotel & Tower features 167 guest rooms and suites with wireless access and views of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline.

    Trump International Hotel & Tower or 888/448-7867.



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    Apple Core Hotels NYC Summer Package

    This summer, Apple Core Hotels, a group of five midtown Manhattan properties, invites you to row a boat across Central Park’s 22-acre lake with its “Row a Boat” package. The promotion is available July 1 to 31, 2007 for $179.99 per night, exclusive of tax and based on availability. Children under 13 years old stay fr.ee when sharing their parents’ room.

    The “Row a Boat” package includes accommodations in the heart of New York City; one hour boat rental for up to four guests in Central Park; hot dog meal for two at the Express Cafe at Central Park’s Boathouse Restaurant; fr.ee breakfast and in-room coffee.

    Boat rentals are from 10 a.m. till dusk and available at the Loeb Boathouse, at the Northeast corner of the Lake between 74th and 75th Streets. The first hour is fr.ee, you will be charged $2.50 for each additional ¼ hour or portion thereof.

    When booking by phone, mention the “Row a Boat” package.

    Apple Core Hotels or 800/567-7720.


    Elite Island Resorts Summer Deals

    Book an all-inclusive Antigua vacation through Aug. 19, 2007, and save up to 40 percent with Elite Island Resorts' new packages.

    Elite Island Resorts' packages begin at $441 per person, based on double occupancy, for a three-night all-inclusive getaway. Elite allows you to explore your choice of three resorts on Antigua: St. James's Club & Villas on a private 100-acre estate; Galley Bay beachfront rooms and suites; and Grand Pineapple Beach, known for barefoot elegance and activities.

    All three resorts offer all-inclusive stays with lodging, three meals a day, all beverages, most land and water sports, hotel taxes and service charges. Per person rates, based on double occupancy, for three-night packages start from $441 at the St. James's Club, $483 at Grand Pineapple and $872 at Galley Bay.

    Elite Island Resorts or 800/858-4618.


    go! Web-Only Specials From $19

    go!, Hawaii's low fare airline, offers web-only special fares from $19. The discounted one-way fares are on select flights and dates through Dec. 31, 2007.

    Tickets are nontransferable and non-refundable. Seats are limited and fares may not be available on all flights. Changes can be made prior to departure for $20 per person plus any difference in airfare. Fares do not include security fees and taxes, which must be paid at the time of purchase.

    Book these fares online.

    go! or 888/IFLYGO2.



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    Skybus 10 Seats for $10 on Every Flight

    Skybus Airlines offer at least 10 seats for $10 on every flight with nonstop service from Columbus, OH to the Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay and Seattle/Vancouver areas, and to Ft. Lauderdale, Richmond, Kansas City and Greensboro/Winston-Salem, NC.

    They are not “promotional” fares that will go away in a couple of weeks. Tickets are on sale exclusively at the airline's web site for flights through Dec. 15, 2007. The $10 fare does not include security fees and taxes.

    On June 12, Skybus will begin service to San Francisco, Oakland and the Bay Area, through Oakland International Airport, and add a second daily nonstop flight to Los Angeles/Burbank.

    More destinations and flights will be announced as the airline’s fleet of A319s expands. Skybus has agreements to acquire more than 70 aircraft over the next five years. Skybus will lease additional aircraft as it builds its fleet this year and next.

    Skybus keeps its fares below competitors' fares by maximizing revenue with advertising on the inside and outside of its fleet. Nationwide Insurance sponsors one of Skybus' "co-branded" aircraft, with Nationwide’s messages on the plane's exterior and throughout the interior of the aircraft.

    Skybus' pricing lets you choose as many or few add-ons as you like. You have the option to check baggage, obtain priority boarding, and purchase food, beverages and gift items on board their flight.

    Skybus Airline.


    Fall Splendor in Virginia Wine Country - - photos and article by Kay Douglas

    Long Branch MansionOne of the loveliest states in any season, Virginia is arguably at its finest in autumn, when stands of crimson-leaved maples border fields of honey-colored corn sheaves and ripe pumpkins. In the northwestern part of the state, flanked on either side by the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, lies the Shenandoah Valley, an area that beguiles visitors with its scenic byways and quaint towns.

    While many flock to Shenandoah National Park and its famed Skyline Drive to take in the fall colors in occasional bumper-to-bumper traffic, others find equally lovely (and quieter) vistas along other roads, such as Rt. 11, the Old Valley Pike, which stretches south from Winchester down to Lexington. Here there are plentiful opportunities to browse antique stores, stop at local produce stands, and take in civil war battlefields and other historical sites. And, as a further enticement, several “wine trails” provide ample opportunities to sample the most recent vintages while relaxing in beautiful settings.

    Shenandoah Valley Hot Air Balloon & Wine FestivalOctober is Wine Month in Virginia, so it’s no surprise to find an almost bewildering number of festivals and events taking place throughout the month. Since I’m a hot air balloon enthusiast, however, the one I find most appealing is the Shenandoah Valley Hot Air Balloon and Wine Festival, which takes place the third weekend in October at historic Long Branch Mansion. My husband and I sign up as volunteer crew members for a hot air balloon, but between helping out with early morning and evening flights, we have plenty of time to enjoy what the festival has to offer – everything from lawn tractor races to pumpkin carving demonstrations.

    The festival also provides a great way to narrow the field of wineries we’d like to visit later. Using a “divide and conquer” strategy, I taste white wines while my husband tackles the reds. At the end of a somewhat woozy afternoon, we’ve got a short list of promising vineyards.

    Working from this list, I devise a weekend trip based from Winchester, which provides plenty of lodging and dining choices. This Shenandoah Valley gateway town, though surrounded by an unattractive scrum of malls and highway interchanges, has a historic Old Town district that is well worth exploring. We spend a few hours wandering its brick-paved streets, briefly visiting George Washington’s Office and Stonewall Jackson’s Headquarters. Nearby is a charming tree-lined pedestrian mall with quiet cafes and intriguing boutiques, soon to be home to a museum honoring another famous Winchester resident – Patsy Cline.

    Old Town District, Winchester, VAOutside Winchester, off Rt. 7 at Millwood, we stumble upon a genuine find – Locke Store, set at the crossroads of Rt. 723 and 255. Stopping to take photos of a lovely restored 18th century mill, we notice that this old general store seems unusually busy. When we go over for a look, we find out why – it’s been converted into a bustling take-out deli featuring freshly-made local gourmet foods. I initially baulk at paying more than $7 for a smoked turkey sandwich, but the first bite tells me it was a bargain. It’s the best smoked turkey I’ve ever tasted.

    Not far away from Millwood, off Route 7, is Veramar Vineyard. We drive up a gravel road through woods bright with fall color before coming to the tasting room, which stands before a backdrop of rolling hills and neat rows of grape vines. This, I realize, is where I should have enjoyed my turkey sandwich – it’s the perfect spot for a picnic. And, I later find, a bottle of Veramar’s Seyval Blanc would have been the perfect accompaniment. I make a mental note and vow to get it right next time.

    Still another winery we visit that day, Windham, also makes me wish we’d had the foresight to pack a picnic. When we arrive, there are several picnics in progress on the lovely grounds. The tasting room at this family-run winery was S.R.O. on a sunny Saturday afternoon, so employee David Carnes set up a second tasting area in the cellar for overflow visitors. In this intimate setting, the flavors of the wines he poured were offset nicely by the aroma of oak barrels.

    Antique Store, Boyce, VAIn the little town of Boyce, an appealing outdoor display at an antiques shop catches our eye and we pull over. A long-tailed cat winds around my feet at the door and begs for attention, so I oblige it while Jack goes inside to peruse the wares. He’s notoriously prone to buying this and that during our travels, but nothing seems to catch his eye. Later he confides, “It was one of those places where you aren’t sure if you’re looking at a year or a price on the tag.”

    Two other wineries that made our list lie off Rt. 623, which parallels Rt. 11 south of Winchester. Electing to drive down Rt. 623 and then to head back on Rt. 11 seems a logical enough plan, though it doesn’t take into account my poor map-reading skills. But, as always, even when I’m hopelessly turned around, I still enjoy the scenery.

    Finally arriving at North Mountain Vineyards, I’m transported to Germany. Not only is the winery housed in a charming Bavarian-style building, but the winery plays up the connection with its “October Bavarian Days,” serving German foods and hosting an “Oktober Wein Fest.” Once again, I find the setting one that would make any leaf peeper happy. The maple trees across from the vineyard are aflame, while the russet hues of the trellised foliage are echoed in the hills beyond.

    Shenandoah VineyardsThe friendly woman at the last winery on our list, Shenandoah Vineyards, gives me advice on the best route back, and she provides some local lore and sightseeing tips as well. I’m encouraged to stop at Woodstock Courthouse, the oldest continuously-used courthouse west of the Blue Ridge Mountains to see the statue dedicated to Revolutionary hero John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, better known as the “fighting preacher.” With considerable relish, my raconteur relates how shortly after the Battle of Bunker Hill, Muhlenberg proclaimed to his congregation, "The Bible tells us ‘there is a time for all things’ and there is a time to preach, and a time to pray, but the time for me to preach has passed away; and there is a time to fight, and that time has now come.” He then cast aside his preacher’s robes, revealing the uniform of the Continental militia.

    Heading home after several days exploring the region, I reflected that there are many wineries and waysides yet to explore. We could easily have based our explorations from, say, Leesburg or Middleburg. Furthermore, several of Virginia’s best-known resorts offer attractively-priced fall packages. For example, last fall Wintergreen Resort near Charlottesville offered a two-night stay combined with half-day tour of three wineries for $135 to $216 per person, and that included a $50 dinner voucher.

    Another possibility – perfect for those who want to leave the navigating and driving to someone else – is to take a tour with Virginia Wine Country Tours. While the tours are $85 an hour for a minimum of four hours, if the cost is split by members a group, this can be a carefr.ee and classy way to explore the area, traveling by private limo stocked with gourmet cheese platters.

    One thing is certain: with more than 100 Virginia wineries to explore and more than 300 festivals and wine-related events spread throughout the year, you’re not likely to exhaust all the possibilities.

    For more information, contact Virginia Tourism or the Virginia Wineries Association.



    Summer Savings at Jolly Beach Resort

    Jolly Beach Resort, an all-inclusive in Antigua, teams up with Delta Vacations to offer a non-stop air-inclusive, all-inclusive vacation package with saving of 20 percent over regular rates from Atlanta.

    Jolly Beach Resort Non-Stop Summer rates start at $1,279 per person for a four-night stay and $1,619.00 for a seven-night stay based on double occupancy. Rates are valid for travel through Aug. 19, 2007 and include non-stop air on Delta Air Lines from Atlanta, accommodations, on-island airport transfers, all meals, snacks and afternoon tea, house brand beverages, non-motorized watersports, taxes and service charges.

    This special offer applies to new bookings only, and cannot be combined with other specials or industry rates; a three night minimum stay is required.

    The all-inclusive rate includes a range of fre.e watersports from snorkeling, windsurfers, pedal boats and kayaks to Sunfish sailboats and Hobie Cats. There are two pools, tennis and basketball courts, a games room and fitness center.

    Five restaurants offer a range of cuisines from casual Caribbean to Italian. Children ages five to 12 can enjoy the Kidz Soiree, a formal dinner without parents at the resort's Ristorante Bocciolo where they learn proper etiquette, one of many activities offered by the Jolly Kidz Club, also included in every Jolly Beach vacation.

    Jolly Beach Resort Non-Stop Summer package or 800/343-5372 and Jolly Beach Resort or 866/905-6559.


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    Information & Credits

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