Naples Depot Museum

Naples Depot Museum

TEDDY’s RATING: 

The history of Naples and the railway industry in Florida is in full display at the Naples Depot Museum in downtown Naples, Florida. Train enthusiasts and history buffs alike will enjoy the interactive exhibits and artifacts at this small, but entertaining museum.

Interior          Interior

The museum is set inside the restored Seaboard Air Line Railway passenger station which originally opened in 1927. But more than just trains are showcased here. The museum tells the story of Naples and Southwest Florida and “how trade and travel transformed Naples from a small village of 300 into the Gulf Coast resort city it is now.”

Interior          Interior

The museum is free, but donations are welcomed. On Saturdays, kids can ride the miniature train around the property.

Kid's train          Interior train car

The Naples Depot Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of a group of five museums in Southwest Florida. The others are the Collier County Museum in Naples, the Marco Island Historical Museum on Marco Island, the Museum of the Everglades in Everglades City and the Immokalee Pioneer Museum in Immokalee.

Dates of Visit:  January 2013

http://www.colliermuseums.com/locations/naples_depot.php

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North To Alaska Part 4

Denali Express

This day we boarded the Denali Express train taking us from Denali National Park down to the cruise ship port in Whittier.

You would think that a 10 hour train ride would be boring and uncomfortable. But this one wasn’t. The seats were very plush. Everyone had a great view of everything with the glass-domed observation railcars. And there was a Princess Cruise Line “guide” of sorts who told us a lot about the area. His name was Paul. And as it turned out, he was celebrating his 48th wedding anniversary that day. His wife, Doris, was a cruise line employee as well.

Train Interior          Teddy on train

I saw probably the most moose I’ve ever seen in my life while riding on the train. Besides the moose, there was quite a lot of beautiful scenery traveling the almost 300 miles from Denali to Whittier.

Train around bend          Train-scenery

The train had a nice dining car where I tried another unusual meal: macaroni and cheese with reindeer kielbasa. It was quite yummy.

There are two different itineraries for cruise-tours on Princess (and I’m sure other cruise lines do the same thing) where you can either cruise before or after your land portion. We choose after so that we could relax on the latter half of our vacation. The land portion did tend to be hectic, changing hotels every night. So we were glad to be able to have the last seven days be onboard the Island Princess.

Island Princess

TEDDY’s RATING: 

 http://www.princess.com/

At this point, I have to say that I wasn’t all that happy or impressed with Princess Cruise Lines. I had been on a Princess ship way back in the early 1990s on a cruise of the Mediterranean. But since I’ve sailed on Royal Caribbean, I much prefer that line. But Princess had more offerings in Alaska, so we went with them. There were just a lot of little things about Princess that annoyed me, things that I wouldn’t have encountered on a Royal Caribbean ship.

Ship-Atrium          Ship-Pool

The first was that embarkation was unbelievably slow. We got on the ship much later than expected, which meant we got to dinner much later and in turn missed the first stage show that night. Then when they had the mandatory muster (drill in case of emergency, wearing your life jackets, etc.), the audio didn’t work where we were so we had to wait until it got fixed and then listen to the entire presentation again, all while standing cluttered with about 100 other passengers in a hallway.

Teddy-desk          Teddy-balcony

But anyway, we were onboard the ship looking forward to seven days of cruising to Glacier Bay and the three ports: Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan.

Dates of Visit:  June 2011

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North To Alaska Part 3

Lodge property

Continuing where I left off a few weeks ago, here’s Part 3 of my adventures in Alaska.

The next stop on the journey was Denali National Park and on this day I was celebrating my birthday. More on that later.

Lodge property          Teddy at Denali

Lodge room          Lodge

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://www.princesslodges.com/denali-lodge.cfm

The drive from Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge to the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge was about 2 hours.  Our room was wonderful, with a view of the river below.  This is supposed to be the largest hotel in Alaska. Like the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge, the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, though affiliated with Princess Cruise Lines, is not exclusive to the cruise line.  You can stay there even if you’re not booked on one of their cruises.  It’s a vast piece of property with the hotel, restaurants and shops.  This is where I took the Gravatar photo of me in the fur coat!

Denali Park Sign

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://www.nps.gov/dena/index.htm
http://www.denali.national-park.com/

The Denali Natural History Tour started at 2:30pm, so we had a great lunch at the King Salmon Restaurant. We boarded an old school bus for the tour of the park. At the park’s front entrance, we saw a moose with her babies and there were plenty more moose to see along the way. Of all the animals that are abundant in Alaska, I saw more moose than anything. Not any bears, a few sheep, but lots and lots of moose. Thirty-nine species of mammals make their home in Denali along with about 170 species of birds, 10 types of fish and one amphibian, the wood frog.

Denali National Park and Preserve is, of course, named after the centerpiece of the park, Mount McKinley. Mount McKinley is also called “Denali,” which means “The High One” in the native Koyukon Athabaskan tongue. The park will be celebrating its 100th birthday in 2017. There are six million acres of land, but there’s only one road through it.

Denali National Park          Alaska Salmon Bake

For dinner that night, my birthday dinner, I had totally yummy elk sliders at the world famous Alaska Salmon Bake restaurant. You can eat exotic in Alaska without eating salmon. As you know, I’m not a fan of seafood.  On my birthday this year, 2013, it will be 100 years since the first man reached the summit of Mt. McKinley’s South Peak.  He was a native Alaskan named Walter Harper.

The following day we would board the train for the 10 hour journey down to the port of Whittier where we would embark on the next leg of the tour aboard the Island Princess cruise ship.

Dates of Visit:  June 2011

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Psychedelic Donut Delights

Peace Love Ext

TEDDY’s RATING: 

As I’ve written before, I always like to promote small businesses. And when a small business is really worth promoting, that makes it all the better. Not only are the donuts at Peace, Love and Little Donuts delicious, but the owner has such enthusiasm for his business and his product, you can’t help but promote both.

Peace Love DonutsPeace, Love and Little Donuts is located in Naples, Florida and is owned and operated by a part-time private pilot, Mark Couch. When I told Mark about my blog, he was very interested in finding out my thoughts on his donuts. He was super friendly and told me all about the business and why he started this venture. (He’s a Gulf War veteran who was looking for a career change.)

These donuts are smaller than your average donuts, about two and one quarter inches in diameter, so they’re a bit expensive for their size. But what you’re paying for are the unusual flavor combinations.

There are 32 different flavors, but not all are available every day. Prices range from $0.85 to $1.29 per donut depending on the toppings, or lack thereof. The donut flavors are inspired by desserts and other sweet treats: apple pie, blueberry cheesecake, banana split, s’mores, Nestle Crunch, strawberry shortcake and pina colada. There’s also raspberry Peace Love Donutslemonade, lemon ginger, chocolate coconut, Boston crème, chocolate pretzel with sea salt and Devil’s Food.

If you read the reviews on Trip Advisor, Urban Spoon and Yelp, you’ll see people raving about the maple bacon donuts. I love maple, bacon and donuts, so I gave this one a try. It was an interesting collection of flavors, definitely worth trying. Not that I’d eat a dozen of them, but really good. I also tried the apple pie and raspberry lemonade, both of which were quite yummy.

I’m not a coffee drinker, but there are people who rave about the coffee served here. It’s called “Intelligentsia” and apparently isn’t served in very many establishments.

The only negative I have to say about the place is that it’s hard to find. Your GPS will tell you that you’ve arrived, but if you didn’t know that the place was part of Wayne’s World BP gas station, you wouldn’t see it. There are no large signs near the road because businesses in the area are restricted as to what signage they can post.

The Naples location has a Facebook page, but no website. You can read more about Peace, Love and Little Donuts on the website for the three Pittsburgh locations.

http://www.peaceloveandlittledonuts.com/home.html

Dates of Visit:  January 2013

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Paradise at Naples Botanical Garden

Naples Botanical Garden

TEDDY’s RATING: 

There’s nothing more relaxing on a beautiful day than strolling through a lovely, peaceful garden. And one of the most lovely that I’ve been to so far is the Naples Botanical Garden in Naples, Florida.

This 170-acre site is located between the 26th latitude north and the 26 latitude south allowing it to showcase some of most diverse plants from around the globe, including those from Asia, Brazil, the Caribbean and, of course, Florida. And throughout the gardens, there are some amazing sculptures done by a native from Zimbabwe.

Naples Botanical Garden          Naples Botanical Garden

The garden is comprised of 7 areas.

In the Children’s Garden, kids can interact with the environment, water plants, play, and explore the incredible Butterfly Garden.

Teddy at Botanical Garden          Naples Botanical Garden

The Brazilian Garden, with its bold colorful flora, pays tribute to Roberto Burle Marx, known internationally as the “father of modern landscape architecture.”

Naples Botanical Garden          Naples Botanical Garden

The Caribbean Garden features tropical forests, exotic plants and even cactus.

The Karen and Robert Scott Florida Garden displays sabal palms, bougainvillea and silver palmettos, as well as Florida’s grasses, wildflowers and citrus trees.

Naples Botanical Garden          Naples Botanical Garden

The Lea Asian Garden is divided into several different “rooms” depicting the cultural diversity of that area of the world. It’s not just rice paddies and coconut groves. You’ll find ferns, palms, hibiscus and bamboos throughout this area.

Naples Botanical Garden          Naples Botanical Garden

Cross the boardwalk over the Water Garden and see water lilies, lotuses and papyrus.

And The Preserve is a 90-acre nature sanctuary that is home to pines, oaks, marshes, mangroves and hundreds of animal species from eagles to otters, bobcats to tortoises.

Naples Botanical Garden          Naples Botanical Garden

There are also 2.5 miles of walking trails on the property where you can lose yourself in the peace and quiet beauty. It’s also a perfect place for weddings or other events.

The Naples Botanical Garden is open 9-5 daily, 8-5 on Tuesdays.

Dates of Visit:  January 2013

http://www.naplesgarden.org/

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North To Alaska Part 2

Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge sign
The second leg of our Alaska cruise-tour didn’t start off all that well, but it ended up being great. We were told that the bus would pick us up to take us to the Mount McKinley Princess Lodge at 10am. Well, were waiting in the room and got a call at 9am asking where we were! We were told the wrong time. Luckily, we were ready to go and ran down to get the bus.

It was a three hour drive from Anchorage to Mount McKinley. Of all the sites and experiences I had in Alaska, seeing Mount McKinley is one of the best. We were very fortunate to have had a crystal clear sky, no fog, no clouds obstructing the view of the very top of the highest peak in North America.

Teddy at Mt McKinley          Mt. McKinley

Here are some facts about Mount McKinley:

Mount McKinley is also called “Denali,” which means “The High One” in the native Koyukon Athabaskan tongue. It is the centerpiece of Denali National Park and Preserve.

The summit is 20,320 feet above sea level.

The first recorded attempt to climb the mountain was by James Wickersham in 1903. He climbed the Peters Glacier and the North Face which is now known as Wickersham Wall.

The first ascent of the main summit was on June 7, 1913. And the first man to reach the summit was an Alaska native, Walter Harper.

In 1947, Barbara Washburn became the first woman to reach the summit. And her husband, Bradford, became the first to reach the summit twice.

The first solo ascent was by Naomi Uemura in 1970. Sadly, she died upon returning in 1984 to make the first winter solo ascent.

Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://www.princesslodges.com/mckinley-lodge.cfm

The Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge, though affiliated with Princess Cruise Lines, is not exclusive to the cruise line. You can stay there even if you’re not booked on one of their cruises. (But I’ve read that you get a better room with a better view if you are.) The rooms were nicely appointed and large, but the property is so big you have to take a shuttle from the main building to many of the outer buildings where the rooms are.

When we arrived we had a nice lunch at the Grizzly Bar which had a great view of the mountain. Then we walked around a nature trail on the property.

Teddy-McKinley window          McKinley Room

We had booked a horseback riding excursion at 5pm. We were picked up at the hotel and taken to the horseback riding place. Our guide was Laramie – what a character! We were the only two on the trail ride and he told us some colorful stories about his life as a rodeo performer. He was only 26 and already had an artificial hip. The trail ride lasted about an hour and we got even closer to Mt. McKinley. The view was like something from a John Wayne movie.

Horseback Riding          Horseback Riding

For dinner, we ate at the 20,320 Alaska Grill, named after the height of McKinley.

The next day we would be exploring Denali National Park.

Dates of Visit:  June 2011

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North To Alaska Part 1

AnchorageThere are a lot of people who have said that a trip to Alaska will change your life. Now, I know they are referring to experiencing the majestic beauty of our 50th state, snow-capped Mt. McKinley, Denali’s population of amazing animals, glaciers, whales and more. I did greatly enjoy all those things, but not to such an extent that I’d rush right back there anytime soon. The major life changing experience I had was how much the trip depleted my bank account. But don’t get me wrong. I am very glad I went. It’s a trip I had always wanted to take and one that I did enjoy very much.

I’ll be posting about my trip to Alaska in several parts over the coming weeks. Part 1 is about the first leg of this 10-day cruise-tour which started in the city of Anchorage.

Though Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska, it’s not the capital. (The capital is Juneau.) Over 40% of the population of the whole state lives in Anchorage. More than 60 glaciers, 6 mountain ranges, 300 miles of wilderness trails, and the nation’s 3rd largest state park are all around Anchorage. There’s even a salmon stream downtown!

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://captaincook.com/

Hotel Captain Cook          Teddy-robe

We arrived around 11pm and it was still light outside. For this first night, we stayed at the Hotel Captain Cook, a very nice, nautical-themed upscale hotel. Unfortunately, arriving that late meant that no restaurants were open. So, room service was the only option for any food. Chicken pot pie for a midnight snack?

The next morning we wandered around town, stopped at the Anchorage Farmer’s Market and then visited the Anchorage Museum.

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://www.anchoragemuseum.org/

Anchorage Museum          Anchorage Museum

Opened in 1968, the Anchorage Museum has a great collection of artifacts and exhibits about the unique history and culture of Alaska and its people. We spent several hours in there and didn’t even see all the museum had to offer.

Anchorage Museum          Teddy at Anchorage Museum

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://www.flyrusts.com/

Rust's          Rust's

After a quick early dinner, it was time for our flight-seeing “safari” over the city. A bus came to the hotel to pick us up and take us to Rust’s Flying Service. I was a little apprehensive about flying in such a small aircraft, but it was a fantastic experience.

Rusts Flightseeing          Mountains

The half hour tour took us over Anchorage, the Chugach Mountain range and Cook Inlet. Unfortunately, there weren’t any sheep, bears or moose in sight during our flight. But it was very picturesque and the pilot, Andy, very entertaining and knowledgeable. And you wouldn’t believe how smooth a floatplane’s takeoff and landing are. I highly recommend this type of sightseeing tour, in Alaska or anywhere.

Early to bed that night for the next day we were to begin our cruise-tour, starting at Mt. McKinley.

Dates of Visit:  June 2011

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Take in the view at the Bayfront Inn

Bayfront Inn sign

TEDDY’s RATING: 

I had intended for my next four-day weekend getaway to be on Marco Island, Florida. Now, Marco Island is a lovely place, but after some research, I found that there was much more to do in nearby Naples. (I’ll be writing about all those fun activities in weeks to come.) And I also found I could book a really nice hotel in Naples at an affordable price. That hotel was the Bayfront Inn on 5th Avenue.

Bayfront RoomThe luxury bay view room indeed had a wonderful view of the bay. The pillow-top beds were very comfortable. (Premium luxury rooms have Sleep Number beds.) And the huge shower was great.

There’s complimentary on-site parking, even a small parking garage. There’s a lovely heated pool and spa, although the pool seemed rather cold to me. And the Bayfront Inn is within walking distance of touristy Tin City and the upscale shops of 5th Avenue. This 5th Avenue is similar to its namesake in New York City with many posh restaurants and quirky, fun stores.

The Bayfront Inn is less than a mile from the beach. They have a 12 slip marinaBayfront Pool where you can dock your own boat or charter or rent one. The Naples Trolley Tour has a pickup/drop off point on site and you can catch a water shuttle right outside the hotel. Segway, kayak and bicycle rentals are also available.

The restaurant, The Bambu Tropical Grille, is a covered and open-aired dining area where you can sit by the marina and grab a bite to eat or sip your favorite tropical drink. And in my opinion, they make those drinks nice and strong.

Bayfront ViewI do have to say there were a few negatives at the Bayfront Inn, dropping the rating down from 5 to 4 paws. The landline phone was not working, but the front desk did send someone up to repair it right away. And unfortunately, there are a few little things that bothered me that are out of the hotel’s control. The Bayfront Inn is located on a major roadway, so there was a lot of noisy traffic. And the hotel is directly in the flight path of Naples Municipal Airport. Also, though it’s great that there’s weekend entertainment down near the marina, the music was quite loud and could be heard even though the windows were closed on our 4th floor room.

But overall, the Bayfront is a great place and I would stay there again. The staff was very friendly and attentive. The room was clean and comfortable and the location centrally located to all there is to see and do in Naples.

Dates of Visit:  June 2010 & March 2011

http://www.bayfrontinnnaples.com/

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Kick up your heels at Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant

Exterior

TEDDY’s RATING: 

For quite a few years now, I’ve been in love with Celtic music – Irish, Scottish, even Canadian bands like The Chieftans, Solas, Altan, Leahy, Off Kilter, The Corrs and the Celtic rock band, Enter the Haggis.

Irish dancersWhat does this have to do with travel and food? Well, Raglan Road is an authentic Irish pub in Downtown Disney where you can enjoy a traditional Irish meal and be entertained by traditional Irish dancers and musicians. Two of my favorite things: great music and great food.

Raglan Road was constructed using salvaged pieces of Irish taverns and churches. The four bars are each over 130 years old. All of this adds to the authentic atmosphere and charm of Raglan Road.

Now, the Irish aren’t that famous for their culinary creations, but Raglan Road’s updated menu of old world favorites is definitely worth tasting. And there are a lot of choices on that menu. Master Chef Kevin Dundon has taken classic Irish dishes and pumped them up with a contemporary flair. It’s more Sod the Stewthan corned beef and cabbage. The menu includes Shepherd’s Pie, Fish and Chips, chicken and wild mushroom pie, bangers and mash, beef stew and several lamb and seafood options. For dessert try the amazing Strawberry and Apple crumble, the bread and butter pudding, Triful Sinful or the Black Forest Kiss.

I couldn’t decide between the Shepherd’s Pie and the Stew. I opted for the stew because the pie contains lamb, which I’m not that crazy about. But I am going to try the Shepherd’s Pie next time for sure. The stew was full of beef, carrots and potatoes and flavored with a hint of Guinness. For dessert, the crumble with vanilla ice cream was quite delicious.

Irish DancerAnd don’t forget the libations – beer, wine, specialty drinks and a wide variety of whiskeys. You can even have flights of beer or whiskey, a great way to try new flavors. I had Jay’Gail Sangria which was a blend of Magners Cider, Peach Schnapps, fruit liqueurs and juices. Yummy. With dessert, I asked for an iced Bailey’s coffee, not on the menu, but they made it for me. Also, yummy.

The service was exceptional. Our waiter, Todd, was very knowledgeable about the different beer offerings as well as the dinner menu. Our food arrived piping hot and very quickly.

Of course, since Raglan Road is part of the Walt Disney World Resort, you can expect high prices. But I think the delicious food is well worth it, plus you get free entertainment. There’s live music and Irish folk dancers “river dancing” seven nights a week. I think the price is quite reasonable for dinner and a show.

Date of Visit:  February 2013

http://www.raglanroad.com/

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Brook’s Gourmet Burgers & Dogs

ExteriorTEDDY’s RATING: 

Naples, Florida is a very affluent city. You expect to see lots of high-end shops and expensive restaurants on every street. And mostly you do. But there are a few small places where you can dress very casually and enjoy a burger and a beer. One such place is Brook’s Gourmet Burgers & Dogs.

InteriorWhen Todd Brooks moved his family to Naples from Kansas City he was looking for a location for his new restaurant that was small and personal, a place where he could get to know his customers. He found that in Lindburgers, a Naples landmark restaurant for over 25 years. Brooks renovated the building a bit, created a menu of 20 unique burger and hot dog options, and Brook’s Gourmet Burgers & Dogs was born.

The menu includes all beef hot dogs, Black Angus beef burgers, as well as turkey, bison and chicken burgers. With unusual combinations like Todd’s Way – bacon, three cheeses and a fried Western Burgeregg; Greek – onion, feta cheese, kalamata olives, green peppers and Greek dressing; Farm – barbecued pulled pork, fried egg and cheddar cheese; and the Reuben Burger, which is a Reuben on a burger, of course, you’re sure to find something to your liking.

I’ve read that the menu used to include a Twice Baked Potato Burger and The Donut Burger where two glazed donuts replace the bun. Yikes! Those two weren’t on the menu when I was there. I tried the Western Burger – onion ring, cheddar cheese, bacon and barbeque sauce. Delicious and overwhelming!

The portions were huge and the prices reflect that. The service was exceptional, very friendly staff.

Dates of Visit:  January 2013

http://www.naplesburgers.com/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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