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Vacations, Day Trips and Getaways

Vacations, Day Trips and Getaways

Construction of Marriott in Tuckahoe on Track for Spring Completion PDF Print Email


By Susan Miele

Oct. 3, 2018:  Out-of-town guests coming to visit? Lost your power and need temporary lodging? Have a client coming for a long meeting? Know someone visiting one of the local colleges? Accommodations will soon be available at a new Marriott Spring Hill Suites on Marbledale Road in Tuckahoe.

With an anticipated opening in the spring of 2019, the Marriott Spring Hill Suites will have 153 guest rooms on five floors and amenities that include a small swimming pool, street-level parking, and a stand-alone restaurant.

As a precursor to the building’s construction, a cleanup of underground contaminants was required, resulting from the site’s prior use as a landfill and industrial waste dump and, later, an auto-repair and storage shop. According to Tuckahoe Village Administrator David Burke, the environmental cleanup was completed according to plan, with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation standards being fully maintained, as confirmed by periodic testing. Facade and other work are currently under way, and electric, plumbing, and mechanical work are expected to begin soon.

This new Marriott will be a convenient place for visitors to the local colleges and hospitals as well as for out-of-town guests. The hotel can also accommodate business travelers but, according to Burke, it will not be equipped with large-scale conference rooms, and corporate retreats and conferences are not anticipated.

Management of the restaurant will be outsourced to a third party; that operator has not yet been determined, Burke said. 

Pictured here: The new Marriott Spring Hill Suites to open in the spring of 2019.

Photo by  N. Bower

Adrienne Smith, the Constant Traveler: Island Idylling in Idaho PDF Print Email


By Adrienne Smith

Jul. 18, 2018:  Your Constant Traveler has been, let's face it, inconsistent over the last year and a half. This has been due to family needs, which have clipped her wings and taken the air out of her sails.

But she's back now with, perhaps, less exotic tales of adventure.

Awkwardly switching voice, I took a recent trip to Jackson, Wyoming, that necessitated a stopover in Idaho Falls, ID.

Of course, I could have stayed in a Ye Olde Holiday Inn, but I was looking for insane adventure. Felicitously, a lodging called Destinations Inn offered me more than I could possibly dream of.

Featured on the hotel's site were offerings of fantasy suites. The Egypt room featured sandstone columns, hieroglyphic-covered walls, and an "antechamber of an Egyptian king pyramid." Or I could opt for the "wild, pristine and relatively untouched" Alaska suite. If I so wished, I could go with the Rome room, complete with Trevi Fountain bathtub, guaranteed to make me "feel like Caesar himself."

Choices, choices: a Venetian hideaway including a gondola bathtub, an Arabian sheik's tent, Athens, including a Parthenon view from the bathtub.

New York, Paris, London, and others were slightly less enticing, perhaps due to my familiarity with the real things.

So what did I pick? The Hawaii room, with a perilous rope bridge up to the sleeping area, murals painted with the swelling Pacific, and an enormous lava rock spa bath, from which, once having entered, I could just barely extricate myself.

Hawaiian chants emanated from the radio, an actual fountain babbled eventually annoyingly just below me, the latter stimulating unwanted responses from my aging, ever-reactive anatomy. This was, most certainly, the afore-desired insane adventure, even without the massive projection TV screen, which dropped from the ceiling to show me every pore on screen actors' faces.

But this was not to be the end of my ersatz Hawaiian experience, for I discovered that a mere 60 miles away lay the Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, an honest-to-god possibly extinct volcanic region.

Galloping off to the Craters the next morning, I came upon a scene not unlike parts of Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii, and, true to its name, a moonscape. The landscape teemed with lava cones, one of which I was able to climb. Lava with their ropelike trails from slow and gentle flows to rough, explosive deposits were in view as were the hauntingly delicate and beautiful flowers that eventually take root in the seeming wreckage. Had I brought a flashlight with me, I would have been able to explore several caves, known as lava tubes in Hawaii.

So moonlike is the monument that Apollo astronauts Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell, Eugene Cernan, and Joe Engle learned about volcanology here in 1969 before they departed for the moon.

So who says you have to fly 10 long hours to see Hawaii when it is virtually at your back door in Idaho!

Pictured here:  The rope bridge leading up to the sleeping area in the Hawaii room at Destinations Inn.  

Photo by Adrienne Smith

Bayside Travel Voted Best Travel Agency in Westchester PDF Print Email


By Sally Winston, Bayside Travel

Jul. 11, 2018: Bronxville-based Bayside Travel has been voted Best Travel Agency in Westchester by the readers of Westchester magazine. The agency is honored to have won. This is the fourth time the readers of Westchester magazine have awarded Bayside Travel with this distinction.

Westchester magazine gives the readers a chance to vote on Westchester’s best offerings. More than 18,000 ballots were cast on the online readers’ ballot, which ran from early December through the end of January. The results determined the winners in all major categories to decide the 227 readers’-selections winners. Bayside Travel is pleased to be recognized as the best in travel.

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.

Bronxville Graduate Cristina Slattery Travels to Saudi Arabia: Initial Impressions of the Kingdom PDF Print Email


By Cristina Slattery

Apr. 11, 2018:  In February, I flew to Riyadh to interview high school students who will be applying to elite American colleges and universities. I was nervous as I stepped off the plane since it was my first visit to the kingdom, but I was delighted when I met a fellow American interviewer who had arranged the trip and the friendly driver who would take us to where we would be staying.

I was told I needed to wear an abaya – a black robe – at all times, and I put it on as soon as I got in the car to leave the airport. I also put on the headscarf and would wear it throughout my days in Saudi Arabia, although I was informed that it was becoming less important for women to cover their hair. (In an interview with CBS News in March, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman stated that Saudi women should not have to wear black abayas going forward – they should dress modestly, but he explained that the Koran does not specify exactly what type of garment a woman needs to wear; Saudi Arabia could soon look very different.) 

When I visited, the temperature was ideal--in the 70s and dry. I had some free time before I was to spend two full days interviewing girls who would like to study in the U.S., and I decided to go to a festival that had been recommended by a Saudi member of a Facebook writers’ group I joined in 2017.

I attended this festival with the driver who had picked me up from the airport--we went in the daytime, and it was less crowded than it would be when people finished work--but it helped me to get a sense of the history of the nation and learn about the different regions of the country. 

Al Janadriyah was filled with exhibits and stalls where vendors sold foodstuffs and handicrafts. There was a woman wearing the niqab--a full face covering--who was selling brightly colored dresses for young girls, and there seemed to be a certain irony that this woman covered entirely in black with only her eyes visible was selling clothing in such exuberant colors. 

Saudi woman wearing black sells brightly colored clothing for girls and other products.

At Al Janadriyah, the military was showcasing its accomplishments as well. Weapons used in the past were featured in tents visitors could stroll through and a lot of information on anti-terrorism efforts was provided. As I do not read Arabic, I could not see if much coverage of the military operations in Yemen was given, but I tend to think the current conflict was not a focus, which makes sense from both a security perspective and perhaps from a public relations viewpoint. 

The author with a member of the Saudi Special Forces.

Five times a day, observant Muslims--Sunni Islam is the only permitted religion in Saudi Arabia--pray when they hear the distinctive call to prayer. When the call to prayer comes in the middle of the day, shops close and people resume their lives fifteen or twenty minutes later. These prayer breaks were observed when I was interviewing students who, despite their traditional Saudi dress, sounded like eager and ambitious teenagers anywhere when they talked. (All of the students I interviewed spoke English well.)

The girls I met played basketball, volunteered for local charities, and participated in Model United Nations, and many had visited Europe and/or the U.S. Some were artists and some hoped to study engineering or become doctors. A couple expressed their love of Agatha Christie’s novels to me. One had just started a newspaper at her school the day I met her and another who suffered from diabetes said she hoped to invent an artificial pancreas in the future. 

Woman's hand decorated with henna design that is typical of the region.

The students I interviewed were too young to drive, but women driving on the streets of Riyadh should be commonplace by the time these students graduate from high school. From my experience being driven in the city of six million people, I can say that I do not envy anyone driving on roads in Riyadh! There are hardly any stoplights, drivers are aggressive, and the number of reported accidents is very high. 

We passed the Ritz-Carlton several times, as it was on the way to where the interviews took place. This edifice--it is mammoth--is where many members of the Saudi establishment had been held by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman for activities related to corruption. As has frequently been noted in the Western press, this new leader is seen by a segment of the population in the kingdom as a visionary while others find the rapid pace of change that he plans a very unsettling notion. 

Before I left Riyadh, I visited the Al Faisaliah Tower. It is architecturally intriguing and I wanted to see the view of the city from near the top of the building. I also spent some time in the mall that is located there and walked by stores operated by international brands that would be familiar sights in upscale shopping malls worldwide. (The Starbucks I visited was not in this mall, but the coffee chain has come to Riyadh and there are separate sections for men and women, in keeping with Saudi customs.) When one enters and leaves Al Faisaliah Tower, a plaque that indicates that the building was opened on May 14 of the year 2000 is visible. For me, it was jarring, though not unexpected, to see the contractor listed as the Saudi Binladin Group. 

View of Riyadh from Al Faisaliah Tower.

Although I spent only a few days in the kingdom, I interacted with many impressive young students. Undoubtedly, some will experience culture shock when they come to study in the United States in the future. Change that couldn’t have been anticipated even a few years ago is being ushered in by the current regime and the next generation is absorbing these changes and will likely be the key to leading the country to greater interconnectedness with countries such as the United States as the future unfolds. 

Pictured at top:  Saudi women wearing typical black abayas.

Photos by the author

Editor's note:  Freelance writer Cristina Slattery is a 1993 graduate of Bronxville High School and has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek Japanand many other websites and publications.

Editor's note:  As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes press releases, statements, and articles from local institutions, officeholders, candidates, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.


Trip to Botswana by Patricia Cotti of Bayside Travel PDF Print Email


By Patricia Cotti, Bayside Travel

Mar. 21, 2018:  Botswana does not disappoint. It delivers a premier safari experience. It should move to the top of your bucket list of travel destinations.

Botswana is in the center of southern Africa. It is landlocked between Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. It is about the size of the state of Texas and has a population of approximately two million. 

The majority of Botswana is a desert. However, there are seasonal rains and flooding from its neighbor to the north, Angola. This creates the Okavango Delta, named a World Heritage Site. This, then, becomes a wetland within a desert. As a result of this phenomenon, there is a great diversity of flora and fauna to be viewed.

It is important when visiting Botswana to stay in both water-based and land-based camps in the Okavango Delta. This offers different experiences and activities. The Linyanti, an area to the northeast of the delta, offers further diversification of wildlife and ecosystems and is an excellent combination.

The government of Botswana has an enlightened view of tourism (the second-most important resource after diamonds). The government practices sustainable ecotourism. They promote high-quality, low-volume tourism to create a sustainable industry that employs a large number of its people while still preserving the wildlife and conserving the environment. What does this mean to the visitor to Botswana? It means that the visitor experiences small luxury camps in remote areas with direct access to the wildlife--often visible from your own tent! You will experience close encounters with the wildlife but never in a viewing competition with other visitors.

Let me try to describe a typical safari experience. My international flight began in New York and ended in Johannesburg, where I connected to the city of Maun, Botswana. There we were met and taken to a twelve-seat light aircraft that would shuttle us between lodges. Upon landing, we were met at the runway strip in the bush by the land rover vehicle that would be the mode of transportation while we stayed at the camp.

There was a ride to the camp. Members of the camp staff were awaiting our arrival. We were greeted with a sung greeting in the native language, cold towels, and refreshments. There was a short briefing, which reminded us that we should always be escorted to our rooms before sunrise and after dark.

Each morning at about 5:00 am, we were awakened by a knock on the door. There are no phones, radios, or TVs. One morning I did not get my usual wake-up call. However, I realized that it was brighter than usual. So I rushed to get dressed fearing that I had been forgotten. All of a sudden came the knock on the door. No, I had not been forgotten. I learned that two large cape buffalos were grazing around my tent, making it impossible to initially get close to my door. 

A hearty breakfast was served by 6:00 am. By 7:00 am, we were off on the first activity of the day. We spent hours in the bush in search of wildlife and were never disappointed. We waited and watched animal feeding activities and social behaviors. Mid-morning, there was a bush tea/coffee break, complete with fresh baked goods followed by a “pit stop with a view.” 

Brunch was served back at the camp, followed by a brief rest. After high tea, at about 4:00 pm, it was time for the second activity of the day. The animals are most active at sunrise and sunset as they move about in search of food.

“Sundowners” in the bush preceded dinner. We toasted each other and our good fortune while watching brilliant sunsets. Each evening we were lulled to sleep by the animal vocalizations, which initially caught our attention but eventually became familiar and recognizable sounds. This pattern was repeated as we moved to different locations and different individual camps.

There were always surprises—many surprises. The animals provided the most surprises. They were always very active and very numerous. We viewed families of lions in the shade of the Mopane trees or fording rivers; leopards resting on the limb of a tree; impalas, giraffes, cape buffalos, and zebras grazing on the plains; herds of elephants protecting the young while foraging for food; frenetic warthogs in constant motion; flocks of birds especially active in the delta.

Each lodge was a new and exciting experience. There were outdoor showers or tubs. Sometimes the resident baboon made an appearance at an inopportune moment. There were mango and guava smoothies in a basket in the bush in the middle of nowhere just waiting for us. There was a lunch picnic near a watering hole complete with buffet table, bar, dining table, and sofa cushions. 

We discovered the delta at sunset while peacefully gliding among a maze of reed and papyrus channels in a mokoro (a type of dugout canoe operated by a “poler”). It was a quiet, relaxing experience but the perspective at the water level was unique to view aquatic inhabitants.

Perhaps, the most amazing surprise came at Abu Camp where we had the opportunity to interact with the resident habituated elephant herds. There is an ongoing elephant research project. We were able to meet the elephants, learn their names, hear their often-difficult stories, and have our pictures taken as we fed, touched, and interacted with them and walked in the bush with them.

At night, we had an opportunity to sleep in a “starbed,” a raised platform above but within the elephant boma. We were coaxed to sleep by the sounds of the sleeping elephants below us. That is, of course, provided that you were not too distracted by the star-filled sky overhead. All amazing experiences.

On this great adventure, we flew in small planes, drove in Land Rovers, and were transported in mokoros, little motor boats, and mud buddies. We stayed in small, remote land- and water-based camps. We viewed diverse wildlife and studied their activities. (Botswana has the largest concentration of elephants in all of Africa.) We not only saw elephants but we interacted with them and gained a much greater respect for these gentle giants as well as other animals and their adaptions to survival in the bush. Through all of this, we stayed in wonderful lodges and had delicious meals. The experiences are imprinted in my mind, my heart, and my soul. I am still processing the events.

Botswana is an exceptional place. It is the ultimate safari destination. Travel is truly a life-altering experience!

Move Botswana right to the top of your bucket list! You will not be disappointed.

Pictured here:  Patricia Cotti of Bayside Travel (far left) on a safari organized by Bayside Travel.

Photo courtesy Bayside Travel

Editor's note:  As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes press releases, statements, and articles from local institutions, legislators, and candidates. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.

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