Ravenwood Castle

Sometime in 1997, when our children Aubrey and Aaron were fifteen and fourteen, the lovely Robin and I took us all to Ravenwood Castle, a large bed-and-breakfast in Vinton County, Ohio.

Ravenwood is a faux mediieval castle, obviously much scaled down, but fun nonetheless. The "castle" offers an assortment of beautifully furnished guest rooms, and the grounds around the castle include various cottages, cabins, and even gypsy wagons.

First-class meals are served in the "Great Room." If I recall correctly, breakfast is served daily, and multi-course dinners by reservation. There is a well-stocked library in the castle, and a Tea Room and Gift Shop.

Robin and I stayed in the Empress Matilda room (above), and Aubrey and Aaron shared the Rapunzel room (below), up a narrow flight of stairs from our room (Ravenwood does not permit more than two guests in any room).

It was a fun stay for the four of us. Not cheap, but one of the more enchanting and memorable experiences in our travels.

Uncle Linny's

Always ask the hotel desk clerk for restaurant recommendations.

In Pontoon Beach, Illinois, tonight, just east of St. Louis. After checking into the Holiday Inn Express with my dad, it looked like our only choices for dinner were Denny's or McDonald's. Enter: desk clerk.

She recommended we drive just a couple blocks away to Uncle Linny's, a local eatery.

Man, am I glad we did. The place was packed--on a Tuesday evening! And the food was first rate (I had potato soup, grilled pork chops, baked potato and green beans--even the green beans were exceptional!).

So thank you, Uncle Linny. And Holiday Inn desk clerk.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Pontoon Rd,Pontoon Beach,United States

11 Most Amazing Discoveries of 2010

I planned to write a quick post on the "10 Most Amazing Discoveries of 2010" in our travels, but just couldn't narrow it down to ten. It was hard enough to list just eleven. But eleven will have to do. Even so, it leaves out so many wonderful discoveries, like the Tomb of Hatshepsut in Egypt, the beautiful city of Strasbourg (especially Petit France) in France, and Heidelberg and Mount Nebo, and more! It's hard to believe all the wonderful experiences we had in 2010.

But here are eleven of the best:

11. Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon.

We couldn't make a visit to Portland without visiting one of the most famous and enjoyable bookstores in the world, now, could we? I only wish we had had a few more DAYS to spend there.

10. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and Bridal Veil Falls. Among Others.

In the company of Don and Arvilla, we visited some of the most scenic places in the world, in this amazingly beautiful area. Bridal Veil Falls was one of numerous falls we gaped at that day.

9. Beautiful Charleston, South Carolina.

We performed the beautiful wedding of a beautiful bride last Summer, and squeezed in a little walking tour of Charleston's historic district. Wow.

8. The Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

We love this resort in Gatlinburg, not only because it's beautiful and fun, but also because we spend time there with our children and grandchildren. Nothing better on God's green earth.

7. The giant sycamore leaves in Herborn, Germany.

We were astounded to see the size of the Fall leaves in this picturesque town in Germany. I thought they were maple leaves, but when I described them to a friend, he suggested they were probably sycamore leaves. Whatever. They were huge.

6. The village of St.-Marie-Aux-Mines in Alsace, France.

It was so cool to walk the streets and visit the shops of this town in the Alsatian valley, where we know my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather once lived, sometime before 1712.

5. Petra.

2010 was not quite a month old when the lovely Robin and I laid eyes on the ancient city of Petra for the first time. Mind boggling.

4. The pyramids at Giza.

We also visited Egypt for the first time in 2010, and of course got to visit the Great Pyramids at Giza, as well as others in the area. And the Sphinx. And Memphis. And Luxor. Oh my.

3. The Western Wall at night.

I've been to the Western Wall numerous times, but never at night. It was a brand new experience, and (as always) holy and moving.

2. Sunset on the Sea of Galilee.

I've also sailed the Sea of Galilee several times before, but always in the morning. This year, I was part of a group that set sail just before sunset. Three words: Wow. Just wow.

1. The Nile.

On our early 2010 sojourn in Egypt, we had the thrill of enjoying a felucca ride on the Nile. It sounds so exotic just to say that, and it was.

I've had many amazing travel experiences in my life, but this past year HAS to rank as the most memorable year of travel.

Why I Won't Rent From Dollar Again

With the help of a wonderful travel agent (you should email me, I'll give you his info), I booked a rental car for my recent European speaking trip. With Dollar. Never again.

When I arrived at the Frankfurt, Germany, airport, my host met me (and the lovely Robin). We went to the rental counter in our arrival terminal. No Dollar counter there. Turned out the only Dollar rental counter was in another terminal (coulda rented from Hertz, Avis, Budget, you name it, from that terminal...but not Dollar).

So the three of us took a train to the next terminal, and found the Dollar car rental counter. I was greeted by a surly clerk, who clearly had better things to do than to spend his time talking to me. He looked up my reservation, and soon proved he was not always surly. He could also be condescending.

He asked me if I had read the terms on their website. I answered something like, "Sure, why not?" He wasn't amused.

He told me that unless I had a Gold Mastercard to pay for the rental, I would be required to pay $20 extra per day for insurance. I told him I was well insured as a driver, even for overseas rentals. Didn't matter. I told him I had an American Express, Visa, or Mastercard he could choose from. He said only a Gold Mastercard would work.

My host spoke up, in German, offering to place the charges on his credit card. Nothing doing.

I was tempted to go to another rental company and seek better terms. If it had been just me and Robin, I would have. But my host, who had left home at 5 a.m. that day, was very patiently waiting to lead us out of the airport and to our hotel, an hour away. So I agreed to the charges.

On my return, I contacted Dollar, and told them the story. They sent me a terse response, saying, basically, "Sucks to be you."

So I won't book another rental from Dollar. Ever. I'm sure it won't hurt their bottom line. But it won't hurt mine, either.