BY JANET STEINBERG There’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday. There are flash sales and coupon sales…limited time sales and half price sales. The question is, who doesn’t love a good sale? But the best deal of all 2019 was my Year-End Sail on Silversea’s Silver Whisper. Because...

BY JANET STEINBERG   "There's a few more lonesome cities that I'd like to see, while the wine of wandering is still inside of me.” Rod McKuen   “The Bucket List” was a 2007 movie with a plot that followed the terminally ill Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as they traveled...

BY JANET STEINBERG   Back in the 1980s, when I first visited the Grand Bay Hotel in Coconut Grove, Florida I fell in love.  Not with a man, but with an outstanding sculpture.  I was mesmerized by ”WINDWARD”, the late Alexander Liberman’s red steel work of art soaring...

BY JANET STEINBERG My love affair with chairs began back in the 1980s when I spotted a Hanes hosiery ad with a gorgeous ballerina, hose-clad leg extended, and seated on a black leather chair with a single aluminum leg.  I later learned that the ballerina’s J....

BY JANET STEINBERG   In November, Germany, and the world, will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Overnight ‘The Fall of the Wall’ not only changed an entire nation, but it also changed the rest of the world. The reunification of Germany ended...

By Janet Steinberg   Beware! Fado fever is catching. Fado is the national song of Portugal.  This melancholy singing expression of the state of the soul (from the Latin word fatum) signifies prophecy or fate…a life commended by the oracle…one that nothing can change. Wherever you may travel in Portugal, you will be mesmerized by the dialogue of emotions between a round Portuguese guitar and a sad voice singing fado. Come along with me as we tour Portugal, the country that borders the Atlantic Ocean on the west, Spain on the east, is one of the warmest countries in Europe, and is the country some predict will be one of the top travel destinations of 2020. LISBON: Bom dia (good day) is the friendly welcome you’ll receive as you arrive in Lisbon (Lisboa), the scenic capital city located on the banks of the Tagus River.  It has long been argued whether the Tagus River, a winding silver ribbon that mirrors the city, ebbs up to meet the city or whether Lisbon extends down to meet the river.  Whatever the case, the seven hills of Lisbon and the wide mouth of the Tagus form a perfect picture postcard that is illuminated by the extraordinary amount of light that is reflected off the massive expanse of the river.  Little wonder that the Tagus River is said to be a large natural mirror that amplifies the aurora of the sun. The Torre de Belem (Belem Tower), built in the year 1521, looks like a miniature castle on the banks of the Tagus River.  It was granted World Heritage status by UNESCO in 1983, and is one of the most popular attractions in Lisbon.  
 
BELEM TOWER ON THE BANKS OF THE TAGUS RIVER
  The Padrao dos Descobrimentos (Monument to Prince Henry the Navigator) is on the northern bank of the Tagus River. The monument calls forth the age of great discoveries. Thirty-four statues render images of important personalities who, one way or another, have contributed to Portugal’s reputation in the age of discovery. The main figure represents Henry the Navigator.  
 
PRINCE HENRY THE NAVIGATOR MONUMENT
Other attractions include the Sao Jorge Castle, with its panoramic views of the city; Edward VII Park; Pracia di Comerce ("Black Horse Square"); the Cathedral, with its Arab mosque design; the Chiado area's outdoor elevator designed by Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame.  
 
VIEW FROM EDUARDO Vll PARK
  Lisbon is known for its hearty, reasonably priced Portuguese cuisine.  Fresh seafood is a staple of the Portuguese diet.  Regional specialties include: grilled sardines, seafood stew called caldeirada, and a hearty soup of spicy sausage and potatoes known as caldo verde. Following any dinner in Lisbon is the time to experience a melancholy fado performance. SINTRA: When you are in Lisbon, save a day to get out of town.  Head for Sintra, the picturesque town where Portuguese royalty spent their summers.  The majestic and romantic Pena Palace, situated on a high mountain peak is an eclectic mixture of styles that exemplifies the 19th century Romanticism style of architecture. Vividly painted terraces, decorative battlements and mythological statues are in stark contrast to the lush greens of the forests that encircle Pena.  
 
THE MAJESTIC PENA PALACE
  Have a typical Portuguese lunch at Restaurante Regional De Sintra or at the Seteais Palace, a deluxe five-star hotel where the walls of the public rooms are hand-painted with motifs of the 18th century.  While in Sintra, don’t miss tasting the deliciously well-known tarts called "Queijadas.”  
 
PICTURESQUE TOWN OF SINTRA
Return to Lisbon along a road that borders the Tagus River.  The scenic route affords a peek at the former fishing port of Cascais and the turn-of-the-century luxury resort of Estoril with its renowned casino.   MADEIRA:  The sub-tropical island of Madeira is part of the Portuguese archipelago that hugs the North Atlantic Ocean 400 miles west of North Africa.  This flower-filled island of volcanic origin is a magical meld of Europe and the tropics. With the waters of the Gulf Stream lapping at its shores, Madeira is blessed with a near perfect year-round climate of comfortable summers and mild winters. The island’s lush, irregularly cut mountains scrape across the sky, while the bays, the beaches, and the cliffs meet the deep blue crystalline sea. The beauty of nature is harmoniously contrasted with the cosmopolitan throb of Funchal, the capital of Madeira.  The amphitheater-like city, which rises from the harbor, was named Funchal from the abundance of fennel (funcho) that used to grow there. No stay in Madeira would be complete without going up to Monte, either by taxi (or preferably) by cable car.  In Monte, you will find the Monte Palace Tropical Garden and the famous wicker toboggans, a popular tourist attraction.  
 
WICKER TOBOGGAN RIDE FROM THE MONTE
  The Monte toboggan is a wicker basket assembled on an iron frame with wooden runners.   It carries two passengers and is controlled by ropes and manpower.   Two men, traditionally decked out in white cotton clothes and Madeira-emblazoned straw hats, and using their rubber-soled boots as brakes, pull and push the toboggan down the winding, narrow streets at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.  This 19th-century style of transportation from Monte to Funchal is quite a contrast to the 21st-century cable car that zips you from Funchal up to Monte. If time permits, you must get out of Funchal for a day.  Twenty-five miles north of Funchal is Santana, the village famous for its A-framed, thatched-roofed, cottages called palheiros.  Stop for lunch at Quinta do Furao Restaurant and then head on to Parque Tematico da Madeira.  
 
STRAW HAT SCULPTURE OF MADEIRA’S  ICONIC STRAW HAT IN TEMATICO PARK
  Opened in October 2004, Parque Tematico da Madeira (Tematico Park) is called a Theme Park, but in no way does it resemble a Disney Park. With no amusement rides, this park depicts the history, culture, and traditions of the people of Madeira in pavilions and open-air spaces. With its glorious climate, friendly people, low crime rate, rugged landscape, and abundant vegetation, the scenic island of Madeira is fast becoming one of the most popular destinations in Europe.   OPORTO: Portugal's second -largest city, located along the Douro River estuary in Northern Portugal, is one of the oldest European Centers.  Its historical core was proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. Driving along the Avenida dos Aliados, enroute to the Duoro River, you will view some of the city's most impressive buildings such as the 1915 train station, the 18th century Church of Clerigos, and the austere Se Cathedral, a 12th-century Romanesque building. Head down to the Ribeira quarter to enjoy a boat ride on the Douro River (River of Gold). The water affords a totally different panorama of Oporto’s skyline.  
 
CRUISE THE DOURO RIVER IN OPORTO
  On the opposite bank from where you board the boat, you can visit Vila Nova de Gaia, home to the port trade and numerous wine lodges. Most of them were established in the 18th century; their brand-name port wines are known worldwide.   Duoro river cruises culminate with a visit to a winery with an "OPORTOnity" to learn the process of wine making, and to have a tasting of their fine Port wines. JANET STEINBERG resides in Cincinnati but call the world home.  She is the winner of 47 national Travel Writing Awards.

By Janet Steinberg

“People are always asking me about Eskimos, but there are no Eskimos in Iceland.” - Bjork

 

They shouldn't call Iceland “Iceland”.  The misnomer of this Scandinavian island dates back more than a millennium (874 AD) to Ingolfur Arnarson, a Norwegian Viking frequently credited with discovering the island.  By naming it Iceland, he hoped to discourage future voyagers from settling on this green and appealing island.  Throughout the centuries, unsuccessful attempts have been made to rename the country.

Once thought to be a cold barren place sans people, this Arctic land that has no snow and ice in the summer has been ranked second on the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) list of the ten hottest destinations for 2019.  Berries, vegetables and flowers grow in many places and from March to September the sun shines on the entire region for at least part of the day.  At the onset of summer, the sun never sets and white nights illuminate the annual Arctic Open Golf Championship that begins at midnight sometime during the month of June.   To quote Jack Nicklaus: “There’s probably more golf played in Iceland than most places in the world. They play 24 hours a day in the summertime and the northern part is warmer than the southern part.” Iceland, just 625-miles west of Norway, is a craggy land of fire and ice...where steam and snow are side by side...where erupting volcanoes, boiling geysers and bubbling hot springs lie next to glistening glaciers and ice fields.  This land of pure untamed nature is etched with craters of slumbering volcanoes that pockmark an eerie landscape so lunar-like that America's moon-mission astronauts trained there.  
 
ASTRONAUTS TRAINED ON ICELAND’S LUNAR-LIKE LANDSCAPE

Known as "The Land of the Midnight Sun," Iceland, a country the size of the state of Ohio, has a total population of 340,410.  Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik (meaning Smoky Bay) is often called "The Smokeless City" because it is heated by geothermal energy in the form of boiling water piped directly from natural hot springs.  Perlan (The Pearl) is a domed architectural wonder that, in 1991, was constructed atop a cluster of six geothermal water storage tanks. The symbol Iceland's capital city, Perlan houses an exhibition space, a planetarium, a restaurant and an observation deck. Perched 200-feet above sea level atop Öskjuhlíð Hill, it offers a view over the city and its surrounding area.

 
PERLAN IS A DOMED ARCHITECTURAL WONDER
Greater Reykjavik, the heart and center of the Icelandic nation, contains approximately one-half the population of the entire country.  Picturesque tin houses, in a riot of gay colors, surround the Arctic tern-inhabited lake in the center of the city.  The bustling harbor, the historic old town huddling nearby and the modern new town are all encircled by mountains for which the people feel an intimate affection.  
 
PICTURESQUE TIN HOUSES IN REYKJAVIK

Reykjavik (pronounced rake-ya-vek) is the most northern capital in the world.  In this city of civilized tastes, there are two symphony orchestras, the Icelandic Opera House, a major sports center, art galleries, the National Museum exhibiting artifacts of yesteryear, the Nordic House Cultural Centre, and Hallgrimskirkja Church that offers glorious views of the city and a glacier at the other end of Faxafloi Bay.   This Scandinavian city has a standard of living as high as any in continental Europe.  There are a wide variety of hotels in Reykjavik.  The Hotel 101, a 4-star boutique spa hotel, occupies an historic 1930s building in downtown Reykjavik. Overlooking the stunning harbor, its sleek monochromatic palette is the epitome of Nordic cool.

Iceland is as much the home of magnificent cuisine as magnificent scenery.  Icelandic menus offer lamb in all its variations and fish in countless permutations.  Traditional gravlax (raw salmon and chopped dill) tastes even better as you gaze at the pink streaks of a midnight sun.  An Icelandic buffet gives you a taste of Iceland.  The continental cuisine should be preceded by a glass of Brennivin, Iceland's "Black Death."    Laekjarbrekka , situated in the heart of Reykjavik in a restored 1834 house, offers an Icelandic tasting menu that might include the likes of hardfiskur (dried fish), hakrl (ripened shark meat) or hangikjot (smoked lamb).  Skyr, the uniquely Icelandic dairy product is a delightful dessert.  So, gjorid svo ve!  (Help yourselves!) Iceland’s countryside embraces the wonders of a land filled with natural beauty and dramatic contrasts. The Golden Circle is a popular day excursion from the city.  Favorite stops along the Golden Circle include Gullfoss Waterfall, Strokkur Geysir and Thingvellir National Park. Cascading with incredible power, Gullfoss Waterfall (“Golden Falls”) is Iceland’s most famous waterfall.  When the sun peaks through, this iconic force of nature is crested by a vivid rainbow.
 
GULLFOSS WATERFALL
Geysir Park, (geysir is the correct Icelandic spelling) is home to Strokkur ("The Churn"), the mighty geyser that erupts once every 6-10 minutes sending boiling columns of water anywhere from 50 to 130-feet skyward.  
 
TOURISTS AWAIT STROKKUR’S ERUPTION

Thingvellir National Park is a hallowed spot where the Vikings first met in parliament in 930 AD. Take a walk through the canyon that is the meeting place of two of the earth’s tectonic plates.  Also, not to be missed is the colorful Kerio Crater, an inactive volcano crater that houses a nearly-neon turquoise lake inside a stunning bowl of green moss and red volcanic rock.

 
 
THE COLORFUL KERIO CALDERA 
If time permits, visit the Westman Islands, the single most dramatic locale in Iceland.   On Heimaey you will see the pitch-black mass of Eldfell, the volcano that erupted in January 1973 and made world headlines when the town of Vestmannaeyjar had to be evacuated.  Iceland's greatest fishing harbor was almost closed off by lava from the eruption. Only ingenious high pressure hosing of seawater onto the advancing lava prevented the harbor from being destroyed.  From 700-feet above sea level, you look down on the rebuilt town that has piped into the slopes of the volcano to extract steam for heating homes and businesses.  As you walk over jagged boulders of hardened lava, you will spot a tiny splash of color amidst the rubble. The tiny clumps of pink and white blooms are called lava flowers.  From Early April to September, puffin birds inhabit the islands’ basalt cliffs. Iceland is the breeding home for about 60 percent of the world's Atlantic puffins that spend most of their lives at sea, but return to land to form breeding colonies during spring and summer.  In the spring, these sea birds are distinguished by their bright colorful beaks that fade to gray in winter.  
 
ATLANTIC PUFFINS 
 

A trip to Iceland, a fantasyland of fire and ice will alter any preconceived notion you might have had about the country.  Although perpetual darkness prevails during Iceland's winters, in summer there is no night.  Golfers putt, and photographers snap, beyond the bewitching hour.  Bathers swim in pools heated by thermal pools and the country is ablaze with colorful blooms.

One visit to this verdant Nordic nation just below the Arctic Circle will convince you...they shouldn't call Iceland ‘”Iceland”.   Janet Steinberg, winner of 47-travel writing awards, resides in Cincinnati but calls the world her home.