Posts Tagged With: tour

Come Sail Away – Captiva Cruises

Captiva cruise Cabbage Key


One of the best ways to get to know some of the islands off the coast of Ft. Myers, Florida, is to board one of Captiva Cruises, north of Sanibel Island.

Captiva Cruises has been operating their tours since 1986. They have several great excursions to choose from. Their cruises include the following: dolphin watch and wildlife adventure, a sunset serenade, beach and shelling, sailing cruises and half day cruises to several of the out-islands including Useppa Island, Boca Grande, Cayo Costa, and the one we took to Cabbage Key.

Captiva cruises          Captiva cruise-Restaurant

We boarded our boat for the one hour ride out to Cabbage Key. Captain Yogi Schmidt was our tour guide. He filled us in on a lot of history about the area including a detailed story of the damage Sanibel Island suffered during Hurricane Charlie in 2004.

Cabbage Key is an isolated island in Pine Island Sound. It’s considered a true “old Florida island hideaway.” There’s a main house on the island which is an inn and restaurant. It was built in 1938 by playwright and novelist Mary Roberts Rinehart. There are also several small cottages on the property available to rent.

Cabbage Key cottage          Captiva cruises-water tower

It is rumored that Jimmy Buffet was inspired to write his song “Cheeseburger in Paradise” while on Cabbage Key. Although Captain Yogi said he’s heard that same rumor on various islands, even as far east as the Bahamas. Jimmy Buffet is not confirming or denying where he got the idea for the song.

Captiva cruises-tower view          Captiva cruises

But one thing is for certain, the restaurant at Cabbage Key is one that’s decorated like no other. The walls are covered with thousands and thousands of one dollar bills. The tradition of taping an autographed dollar to the ceiling or walls of the restaurant started with the fisherman who used to come into the area after their trips to sea. If they had a good catch that year, they’d sign their name on their money and tape it up inside the restaurant so that they could use it when they had a bad year.

Captiva cruises-money on ceiling          Captiva cruises-outside restaurant

Other than having lunch at the restaurant, there’s not much else to do on Cabbage Key. There is a short nature trail that meanders through the island. And you can climb the water tower to get a great view of the area.

Captiva cruises-Cabbage Key trail          Captiva cruises-Cabbage Key house

If you’re looking for a truly relaxing day on the water and a chance to explore the out-islands off Florida’s southern west coast, take a tour with Captiva Cruises.

Dates of Visit:  October 2012

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Lovely Lake Lure


Nestled in the heart of Hickory Nut Gorge, just east of Asheville, is Lake Lure. Yes, it is a lake, but it’s also the name of the town. And as every tour guide will tell you, it’s the location where they filmed the 1987 version of the movie “Dirty Dancing,” starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey.


The centerpiece of the lake is the 1927 Lake Lure Inn & Spa, renovated in 2005 with original antiques and artwork. The inn has hosted a wide range of guests including celebrities, like Swayze and Grey, but also Presidents Roosevelt and Coolidge. It’s a beautiful location for weddings or a quiet romantic getaway.

In addition to the historic inn, there are some absolutely amazing homes around the 720 acre lake.


To explore Lake Lure, you can take one of the boat tours from the Marina. From April through October, hourly tours are conducted. During summer months, they offer box lunch cruises and dinner cruises.


If you’d rather just soak up the scenery on dry land, relax on the Beach at Lake Lure. Here you can picnic, build sandcastles or play in the water park.


And if you’re into something more strenuous, take one of the challenging hikes around nearby Chimney Rock State Park. At the top of Hickory Nut Falls there are fabulous views of the lake.

Whatever you’re interested in, swimming, golfing, hiking, rock climbing, canoeing, fishing, boating, water skiing, or just relaxing, you can find it at Lake Lure.

Dates of Visit:  May 2009

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Explore Asheville on the Red Trolley Tour


If you’ve never been to Asheville, North Carolina before, or even if you have, taking the Red Trolley Tour is a great way to spend your first couple of days in town.

The fully narrated tour takes you to some of the best of Asheville, a city that’s more full of history than you might expect. The Red Trolley Tour is run by Grey Line, a worldwide leader in city tours. The drivers are very knowledgeable about the area and some of them are very entertaining.


What’s great about this trolley tour is that it’s a hop on/hop off style tour. You can get off at any of the 9 stops and spend as much time there as you’d like. Grab a bite to eat, go shopping, stroll around. Then, just hop back on when the next trolley comes around. With trolleys stopping every 30-60 minutes, you have a chance to explore the stops at your leisure or just stay on the trolley for a one and a half to two hour tour of the city.

The ticket price includes two full days of unlimited riding privileges. You can catch the trolley and buy your ticket at any of the stops, but the best place to catch the trolley is at the Asheville Visitor’s Center where they have free parking and restrooms.


Here are the 9 stops on the Red Trolley Tour:

Stop 1: The Asheville Visitor’s Center. Here you can get all kinds of information about the area-hotels, restaurants, activities. And there’s a gift shop!

Stop 2: The Grove Park Inn. This legendary hotel is a must see, even if you don’t stay there. The views of Asheville and the surrounding areas are beautiful from the Grove Park Inn. You can also visit the Grovewood Gallery and the Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum on the property.


Stop 3: Thomas Wolfe District. Your Red Trolley Tour ticket includes free admission to the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Historic Site. (Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to visit the Thomas Wolfe House, though I had wanted to. We ran out of time!)

Stop 4: Pack Place, Pack Square. This is right in the heart of downtown Asheville. From this stop you’re within walking distance of some great shops and restaurants.

Stop 5: Haywood Park Hotel. This is another stop in downtown Asheville, close to the St. Lawrence Basilica.

Stop 6: Grove Arcade. The Grove Arcade is a lovely shopping area with some great restaurants and shops.

Stop 7: River Arts District. Asheville has a rich art community and the River Arts District is at the heart of it. Painters, potters, jewelers, sculptors, furniture makers, glass-blowers, photographers, all have studios in this area.

Stop 8: Biltmore Village. This historic area outside of the Biltmore Estate is a collection of cottages, galleries, shops and eateries.

Stop 9: Grand Bohemian Hotel. This stop is also inside the Biltmore Village.

And if you’re more daring, why not try the Haunted History & Murder Mystery Ghost Tour? This 75 minute tour takes you through “the dark side” of Asheville where you’ll hear ghostly stories about the Pink Lady of the Grove Park Inn, the mystery of the WhiteGate Inn and the child spirits at the haunted hospital. This tour departs from Pack’s Tavern on the weekends. Check the website for dates, times and prices for all tours.

Dates of Visit: May 2012

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Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

I just got back from a trip to North Carolina and I’ve got about 18 more posts to write about that. But, I figured I’d mix it up a bit and include a few posts about some places I’ve been other than North Carolina. We’ll be back there next week.


Let’s venture down to the Southernmost tip of Florida to Key West and the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum.

This colonial southern mansion style house was originally built in 1851 by Asa Tift, a marine architect and salvage wrecker, using his profits from salvaging sunken ships — of which there were many off the coast of Key West at the time. Hemingway and second wife, Pauline, received the house as a wedding gift from Pauline’s Uncle Gus in 1931.


It was the first house on the island with indoor plumbing and an upstairs bathroom with running water. The swimming pool on the property was the first pool on the island. It is said that Pauline, as a gift to her husband, had the pool built while he was off reporting on the Spanish Civil War. She supposedly spent $20,000 to have the pool constructed. Upon his return, Hemingway was not pleased with how much money she spent and is said to have yelled, “You might as well have my last cent.” This penny is embedded in concrete near the pool.

It is reported that the Pulitzer Prize-winning author spent the happiest years of his life in Key West. They were certainly very prolific years. Hemingway wrote many of his famous works in Key West including For Whom the Bell Tolls, Death in the Afternoon, To Have and Have Not, and The Snows of Kilimanjaro.

Not only did the famous Ernest Hemingway live here, but so did his famous six-toed cat, Snowball. It is said that Hemingway was given the white cat by a ship’s captain and some of the 40 to 50 cats that still live on the property are descendents of Snowball. Hemingway named these polydactyl, or extra toed cats, after celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Pablo Picasso, Mark Twain, and Charlie Chaplin. This tradition continues today.



The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is open from 9am to 5pm, 365 days a year. The admission fee includes a 30 minute guided tour or you can just wander around the grounds.

Dates of Visit:  July 2003

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A Yank’s Tour of the BBC

In 2005, for my 40th birthday, we took a trip to London. In addition to all the other great stuff to see and do in London, we were anxious to see if we could get a tour of the BBC. At the time, I had a great fondness for British TV and watched quite a few shows, but not as many as I do now. I guess now it’s an obsession. (See my other blog: We found out that, yes, the BBC does offer tours of their facility. So, we booked one.

The BBC Television Centre is located very close to the White City tube stop in West London. It was opened in June of 1960 and is considered one of the most recognizable TV facilities in the world. It’s been featured in the background of countless British TV shows, including Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which was shot inside the studios.

I wasn’t able to take any photographs inside, so I just have a few of the outside. Unfortunately, you can’t see the unique shape of the building from the ground. It’s actually shaped like a Question Mark. Supposedly, the building’s architect drew a question mark on a piece of paper thinking that it would be a perfect shape for the site.

Our tour started at 10:45am. Our tour guides were Debbie and Ollie. They were very entertaining and very knowledgeable. There was a lot of walking involved, up and down lots of stairs, down long hallways. The facility is huge. Being in the TV business, I had a lot of questions to ask. Basically, they do things the same way they do here. Freelance production personnel are sometimes hired for shows.

The tour included the newsroom where BBC World News is broadcast and two studios, seen from up above through the lighting grid. Top of the Pops was schedule to be taped later that day to air that night. The crew was setting up the stages and prepping for the shoot. Dr. Who, Fawlty Towers and Absolutely Fabulous are among the many programs taped or filmed in the studios.

They had a silly little weather center demonstration with a blue screen. Several members of our tour stood in front of it and played weatherman.

We saw the dressing rooms and heard some stories about celebrities that had stayed there. Unfortunately, I don’t really remember what stories they told us, but I do remember they were about a lot of the “divas” that would come to perform. They would have outlandish requests for things. Not unlike the “only green M&Ms” rumors you hear about rock stars.

Then there was a wacky quiz program that the tour was involved in. I was forced to be a contestant. They showed clips of shows and we had to answer questions about them. No knowledge of the show was needed. Just an observant eye. What color was Nigel’s shirt in that scene? Stuff like that. I won. My prizes, a BBC coffee cup and pen. Woo hoo!

From what I’ve read, the tour is pretty much the same today.  But they’ve added some props and memorabilia from BBC shows, including the Tardis from Dr. Who.   If you’ve never seen a TV studio before, it’s kind of fun to see behind the scenes and learn about some of your favorite TV shows. There are also opportunities to be a part of the studio audience during a show taping.   I would recommend the BBC Studio Tour, if you’re ever in London.

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