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SATURDAY, MAY 25TH, 3PM-4PM - "The All-Inclusive Regent Seven Seas Cruise Experience" Having recently returned from extensive Bahamas/Caribbean cruises, travel events and site inspections - I learned that the best value for upcoming summer and fall vacations may be the excellent discounts, particularly in the luxury travel brands. One of the best is the all-inclusive luxury cruise market and one of my favorites, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, continues to offer exceptional values on many worldwide sailings. Regent Seven Seas is an award-winning , all-suite , all-inclusive cruise line with three luxurious mid-sized ships (Seven Seas Voyager, Seven Seas Mariner and Seven Seas Navigator), carrying 490 or 700 pampered guests, to some of the most glamorous and off-the-beaten-path places on the planet. Some of Regent's all-inclusive experiences include roundtrip air, unlimited shore excursions, pre-paid gratuities, specialty restaurants, unlimited beverages plus open bars, lounges and in-suite mini-bar replenished daily…and so much more. Kate Otto, Regent Seven Seas sales director, will be my in-studio guest next Saturday at 3 p.m. on "Let's Talk Travel with AAA" on WHP-AM580. Before you settle for the "same old - same old" vacation, be sure to tune in and learn why a Regent Seven Seas cruise may be a perfect fit for you.
SATURDAY, JUNE 1ST, 3PM-4PM - "HOW TO STAY HEALTHY WHILE TRAVELING" Not much is worse than you or a family member getting sick while on vacation. What do you do - especially if you are in a foreign country or an exotic destination and the nearest medical facility is hours away? Can you prepare in advance? You bet you can. Since the early days of "Let's Talk Travel with AAA" one of the most popular shows continue to be the "How to Stay Healthy While Traveling" interview segments with Dr. John Goldman, medical director for Pinnacle Health Infectious Diseases and Travel Clinic. And to add some "reality show drama" - I was recently diagnosed with lyme disease (via a blood test) and had been referred to Dr. Goldman, who just so happens to be my in-studio guest at 3p.m. next Saturday on "Let's Talk Travel with AAA" on WHP-AM580. Lyme disease, especially during summer vacation months, is one of the most frequent travel medicine inquiries we receive. At this point in time Dr. Goldman has recommended I continue my antibiotic treatment and wants additional testing for other causes. In addition to a feature on lyme disease, Dr. Goldman will answer many listener questions - including what to pack in a traveler's first aid kit ; new virus threats ; food poisoning ; heat stroke and immunizations needed for exotic destinations. Prevention is key. When traveling, always wash your hands thoroughly and frequently to prevent the spread of illness. And remember, if your travels take you to a Third Word country : If you can't cook it, boil it or peel it , then forget it.
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I admit it.
I'm an anglophile and I'm not alone.
There seems to be a gigantic love affair with Britain and everything British. Between Kate and Will's royal marriage ; the PBS hit series Downton Abbey ; Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee ; London's Olympic games and the ongoing antics of Prince Harry - we just can't get enough. And although I enjoy all of that…it's the English countryside that I absolutely love.
For many of us, the Cotswolds defines what we imagine the English countryside to be. The endless sheep-clad rolling hills where ancient castles, abbeys, towers and historic manor houses dot the scenery. The villages. The sleepy , thatched roof, gently-curving, honey-colored stone villages that seem more fairy tale than real life. Busy market towns, centuries old pubs overflowing with laughter from the locals and picturesque tea rooms where tea and scones are not just a way of life, it is a highly respected daily ritual.
My husband, Stewart, and I just returned from a trip to the Cotswolds and I can't stop thinking about it. It was - as they say - brilliant!
We flew to London (Heathrow), quickly cleared customs and hopped onboard the super-efficient Heathrow Express to Paddington Station. Once there, we purchased tickets for the 90-minute train ride to Moreton-in-Marsh, a convenient Cotswold hub and well-known for antiquing and quality shoppes.
Our destination was Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire, which has gained the enviable reputation as the "Cotswolds hidden gem".
My friend and colleague, Paull Tickner, recommended Chipping Campden (or "Campden" as the locals say) as an excellent home base for touring the Cotswolds. And since he is an award-winnning specialty UK tour operator plus a travel writer for "Niche Britain" ; "Britain Insider" and "Special Interest Britain" - and he also happens to live in Campden - who am I to argue? And of course, he was right.
We checked into Kiftsgate Cottage at the Cotswold House Hotel (www.cotswoldhouse.com), a beautiful Regency Grade II listed townhouse surrounded by a lovely English garden, in the heart of the village, across from the Market Hall - circa 1627.
We spent our first two days walking and exploring this ancient market town. (A typical English market town has a population of up to 5,000 and dates back to medieval times when the town was legally allowed to sell and/or barter produce and livestock - from neighboring hamlets and villages - inside their official market hall.)
There was so much to see and do in and around Campden, and lucky for us, we had Paull leading the way.
It honestly looks as though time has stood still, especially taking in the architecture of the buildings, as you walk along High Street.
Some of the highlights easily explored by foot include -
*Grevel House - the oldest house in Campden, built in 1367.
*St. James Church - a landmark for miles and considered one of the finest churches in the Cotswolds. Both Chipping Campden and the church were built by wool wealth and if you lift up the heavy wool carpeting by the alter you will see that the great wool merchants tombstones pave the floor.
*Old Silk Mill - filled with talented and creative artisans, jewelers and craftsmen who still follow the ideals of the famous 1902 "Arts and Crafts" movement to the Cotswolds.
*Eight Bells Pub - a 14th century inn serving good pub food and drink. Packed with friendly (and chatty) locals enjoying a pint - or two.
*The Almhouses - Built in 1612 to house 6 poor men and 6 poor women. To this day they are still used by 12 retirees from Campden.
Just a short drive from Campden will take you to -
*Kiftsgate Court Gardens - Since 1918, three generations of women gardeners have made Kiftsgate their family home and an award-winning garden estate. (www.kiftsgate.co.uk)
*Hidcote Manor Garden - If you like gardens, you'll love Hidcote. Considered one of England's best and a "Arts and Crafts" garden masterpiece operated by the National Trust. ( And to think, it all began in the early 1900's when an American mother, Gertrude Johnston and her son, Lawrence came to live in Britain and purchased the Hidcote Manor Estate.) (www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hidcote)
*The Pudding Club - popular "meetings" are held weekly when seven traditional puddings are eaten to find the "Pudding of the Night" at the Three Ways House hotel in Mickleton. (www.puddingclub.com)
*Sudeley Castle - A glorious castle filled with national and private treasures boasting a thousand years of English history. Once home to Queen Katherine Parr, the last and surviving wife of King Henry VIII and since 1969, ancestral home to American born, Lady Ashcombe. (My greatest suprise was our unexpected, fascinating and exclusive "sit down and tea" with Lady Ashcombe in her private "apartment" within the massive castle.) (www.sudeleycastle.co.uk)
Since Paull is a British tourism expert, I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions -
Q - What do most visitors to the Cotswolds want to experience?
A - During their stay, visitors want to discover something that makes England tick. The spectacular scenery, the villages, the castles, the walking paths - and a "quieter" way of life. Going to a market town pub, meeting and talking with the locals over a pint. Stopping for tea and just taking it all in.
Q - Is there an "official" Cotswold beverage or food that a visitor must try?
A - You must sample Gloucester cheese, "Old Spot" pork , local trout and Donnington Ales. Local produce is always excellent and enhanced by a game of Skittles with the proceedings to begin with a pint of real ale that's been locally brewed.
Q - I know the Cotswolds offer many things to many people (gardens, history, scenic walks) - how does one find out about tours that may be of specific interest to them?
A - Cotswolds accommodations (such as your lovely Cotswold House Hotel) and food quality is high and the Cotswolds is a cast iron "world-standard" attraction/destination along with Tuscany, the Hamptons or the South of France. It rarely disappoints and holiday time is so precious. For a closer look, check out http://www.cotswolds.com