"I would not eat the soup of life with a fork; I would continue to use a big ladle." Those words of my late friend, Holocaust survivor, and world-renowned restaurateur George Lang, have remained with me long after his death.
Surviving a year of my husband's health issues with flying colors, my handsome hunk of a husband and I threw away all the forks in our life and once again continued to enjoy the soup of life with a super large ladle.
And, although we chose not to travel too far from home this past year, we still managed to fill our soup bowl to the brim. Come along for a taste of our delicious year.
OCEAN CRUISE: Silversea's Silver Spirit sailed my husband and I on a Caribbean cruise…one of the most relaxing, rejuvenating, cruises I've ever taken. For 8 glorious days we escaped Cincinnati's snow and ice. We soaked up sun and sea, either from a deck chair on our private veranda, or on shore in Cozumel, Costa Maya, Belize, Guatemala and Key West. We were waited on hand and foot by our butler and the Silver Spirit's delightful staff (whose services came with all gratuities included); ate gourmet meals (in our choice of six dining venues), and toasted my birthday and our 25th wedding anniversary with complimentary champagne and beverages (provided at no charge to all passengers on every Silversea cruise).
SILVER SPIRIT ANCHORED IN BELIZE
RIVER CRUISE: Volunteer Princess yacht's two-and-a-half hour Starlight Escape Dinner Cruise stepped me into a world of ease and relaxation on the Tennessee River. We were treated to breath-taking views of the Knoxville shoreline that changed with each of our four delightful dinner courses. On board, we had another of the many 25th anniversary celebrations we toasted this past year. We traveled downstream on the Tennessee River, passing under the bridges of Knoxville. The skyline included Neyland Stadium, Thompson Boling Arena, the Sunsphere, and the beautiful shoreline homes of Sequoyah Hills.
VOLUNTEER PRINCESS DOCKED IN KNOXVILLE
BOUTIQUE HOTEL: The Oliver Hotel, situated in the heart of Knoxville on Market Square, is an original expression of the city. Originally built in 1876 as the Peter Kern Bakery, the building has hosted everything from the Kern's candy counter and soda fountain to a drugstore, and dancing hall. Known for it's quirky, eclectic style, the hotel is the only boutique property in Knoxville with a style that plays tribute to the buildings history, yet offers charming sophisticated rooms with modern amenities. The hotel's Peter Kern Library, a cozy bar where Knoxville socializes, cleverly incorporates its menus into old World Book Encyclopedia covers.
HOTEL TRANSFORMATION: Embassy Suites, Ft. Lauderdale has had a happy face lift transforming its lobby, atrium, event spaces, restaurant, and guest suites' bedding to create a more beautiful and comfy atmosphere at my Ft. Lauderdale home-away-from home. Add to this, daily complimentary cooked-to-order breakfasts as well as complimentary daily Manager's Cocktail Receptions, a complimentary business and fitness center, and tropical swimming pool area, and it is little wonder why it is one of the best hotel buys in South Florida. Located a short distance from the airport, and six blocks from Port Everglades, it is also the best place from which to start and finish all cruises out of Port Everglades.
LUSH VERDANT POOL AREA AT EMBASSY SUITES FT. LAUDERDALE
INN: The Gratz Park Inn exemplifies the Southern grace and charm for which Lexington, Kentucky is known. Nestled in the heart of the downtown's historic district, the Inn was built in 1919 as a medical office. In 1987 it was renovated to become a luxury hotel. Gratz Park Inn, and the nearby Gratz Park, are named after the late Benjamin Gratz (1792-1884), a graduate lawyer and the youngest of 12 children born in Philadelphia to Jewish merchant Michael and Miriam Gratz. He headed a prominent manufacturing business and is buried, along with his good friend Henry Clay, in the Lexington cemetery.
SMALL CITY: Knoxville, Tennessee, resting on the banks of the Tennessee River and back-dropped by the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, is one of travel's best-kept secrets. Surrounded by unsurpassed natural beauty, it is a magical meld of rustic, Appalachian wilderness and a cosmopolitan downtown. Blending small town charm with some big city attractions,
YOGA BENEATH THE SUNSPHERE IN KNOXVILLE'S WORLD'S FAIR PARK
BIG CITY: Chicago, Illinois, "that toddling town" that keeps reinventing itself, never ceases to amaze me. The "Windy City," teeming with life and exuding an excitement all its own, is now fully grown into a sophisticated metropolitan area that rivals any major city in the world. Millennium Park is a masterpiece! Chicago's twenty-nine miles of lakefront, that form the front lawn of what has become one of the world's greatest cities, make that vibrant city a 'shore' bet.
CLOUD GATE IN MILENNIUM PARK
MUSEUM: The Headley Whitney Museum is the shining jewel in Lexington's crown. Founded on La Belle Farm in 1968, the museum's Jewel Room houses one of the world's best contemporary collections of bibelots. The museum's dollhouses were created for Cornelia Whitney, daughter of Marylou and Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney. They are replicas of buildings on the Whitney estate. The dollhouses are authentic down to the smallest detail…the books in the library actually are printed…there is a small diamond ring on a dresser…the silver on the dining room table is sterling silver… the Aubusson carpets are reproduced in petit point and there is food in the kitchen cupboards.
THE GOLD AND JEWELED BIRDCAGE BIBELOT IN THE HEADLEY WHITNEY MUSEUM
STEAK RESTAURANT: Gibson's Steak House Chicago is the classic Gold Coast steakhouse that attracts celebrities and VIPs. If you want to combine great food with a casual-yet sophisticated-atmosphere and Chicago nightlife, head to Rush Street on the Near North Side. Gibson's' next-door sibling, Hugo's Frog Bar is a hopping scene specializing in seafood but serving the same steaks as Gibson's.
PARK: The Kentucky Horse Park, the only park of its kind in the world, is a working horse farm, an educational theme park, and an equine competition facility dedicated to man's relationship with the horse. Herbert Haseltine's larger-than-life statue of Man O' War awes visitors as they enter the park. Reinterred beneath the bronze statue of "Big Red" are the remains of this legendary racehorse. In the Big Barn, one of the largest wooden structures in North America, I got up close and personal with some of the gentle giants that reside within.
ELISHA BLOW-DRYING THE "FEATHERS" OF CLYDESDALE LOU IN THE BIG BARN
JANET STEINBERG is an award-winning Travel Writer and a Travel Consultant with THE TRAVEL AUTHORITY in Mariemont, Ohio.