Hungary’s Hidden Faces

The 12th century ruins of the citadel in Visegrad inspire a certain degree of awe. The hills of northern Hungary spread out to the north toward Slovakia and west toward Austria. The Danube flows from the west and makes an abrupt turn south toward Budapest at the foot of the citadel. It is not difficult to see why Julius Caesar 2000 years ago chose to build a fortress on this very spot for the security of the province of Pannonia. Through the middle ages countless rulers, conquerors and despots built their own fortifications here to look down over the river that is an artery running through Hungary and indeed much of Europe. The fortress was a symbol of military might and a refuge in times of invasion, which, during Hungary’s long and turbulent history, was a frequent occurrence. Today tourists speaking Hungarian, German, French and English fan out examining medieval ruins and gazing at the incredible panorama for a long time. A flag rustles in the wind, its red, white and green flowing magnificently above the countryside. The red star of Soviet occupation has long since been torn from its fabric forever.

I take many pictures; I find it very difficult to take any bad ones. I think to myself that Visegrad is one of many parts of Hungary that the traveler who thinks it only necessary to spend a week in the capital should see. The view is stunning, the air is thick with history and atop a neighboring hill sits a restaurant where they serve wild game and red wine for $10 a plate that one can consume while watching the shadows of clouds race across the green hills. I sit on the long wrap-around terrace of this restaurant drinking coffee while my girlfriend has a conversation in her native tongue with a close friend. The Hungarian language has no close relatives among European tongues. It has none of the guttural hardness of German, or the melody of French and Italian, nor is it nasal, like most Slavic languages. As a Finno-Uraltic language, distant cousin to Finnish and Estonian, it numbers among the 5% minority of European languages that do not have Indo-European roots. This linguistic disparity accounts in part for the fierce pride the Hungarians have in their uniqueness and longevity among European nations.

Hungary sits as an island between the Germanic and Latinate nations of the West and the Slavic nations of the East. Considered an Eastern European nation by outsiders, Hungary is, in fact a catholic country, not orthodox, having received its royal crown with trademark crooked cross from the Pope Sylvester during the 9th century AD. It has been perched between tectonic military, cultural and religious tides that have swept east and west over central Europe for millennia, yet somehow the Hungarians have managed to maintain their identity. Their manners are ever impeccable, declaring Jo napot! (good day) to strangers on the street or bringing wine, flowers and pastry to the houses of guests. Hungarian cuisine retains its age-old pastoral flavor centered on tender chunks of meat with rich sauces and of course paprika.

I think on this uniqueness as I sit and try to make out the few words that I know from the machine gun litany of vowels and consonants that my companions speak with such fluid ease. Nearby sits a group of young Russian tourists. They talk very loudly and smoke many cigarettes while telling stories that are apparently very funny. I wonder if it is difficult for them to feel at home in a country that they used to occupy. If it is, you could never tell from the great time they appear to be having.

Later we are very lucky to catch a fast river boat that will take us back to Budapest. We arrive just before the ferry is to cast off and the ticket vendor is very annoyed as she holds the boat for us and runs back to the ticket office to bring our tickets and the change for the large bill with which we paid. Soon we are sitting in the long squat cabin of the ferry while the banks of the Danube whiz past the window. The boat only holds 30 or so people but there is a bar and everyone is drinking something. Most people, including my companions drink Tokaji, the sweet dessert wine for which Hungary is quite famous. Families on holiday smile broadly and tell stories while looking out the window. The summer sun is beginning to set and it is a glorious day.

In just a half an hour we disembark on the banks of Pest. On the Buda side of the river to the west, the sun is setting over Buda castle, the immense palace built during the time of the Hapsburg occupation. Tourists mill about everywhere on the Duna Corso, choosing from among the many riverfront bistros to have a quiet outdoor dinner or haggling with old women peddling hand-embroidered tablecloths. While this is the Budapest of postcards and family photo albums, the sweeping vista of Gellert Hill, crowned by its statue of liberty, Castle Hill and of course, the Chain Bridge, is still one of great beauty. I have seen this view before and yet I am no less impressed with it. A short walk away in Vorosmarty Square a young gypsy plays Brahm’s frenetic Hungarian Dance # 5 with glasses of water and a spoon. A large crowd gathers to listen. My girlfriend, a Hungarian, and therefore a tough sell, enjoys the performance so much that she sends me over to give the man 200 Forint for his effort. The square borders on Vaci street where countless shops sell traditional Hungarian wares: paprika in assorted dispensers of cloth, tin or porcelain, palinka in hand-painted bottles, and, of course, more table cloths embroidered with colorful flowers and red peppers that are the trademark of Hungarian crafts. We walk up and down for awhile, window shopping in a throng of people, where, for the only time during this trip I can hear a lot of English spoken with American accents. Eventually, all shopped-out, we decide to head back to our apartment.

After a week in Budapest I know the metro very well. It is my lucky gift to be able to negotiate the mass transit system of any major city in the world after only a short time. We travel on the yellow transit line, the oldest subway line in Europe, to the district in which we are staying. At every stop there is a distinctive jingle with which we cannot help but hum along. The terminal on the other end of the line is filled with people. These are people that tourists staying in a Holiday Inn might never see. They are workers returning home from their jobs dressed in smart business clothes or the stained rags of the plain laborer. They are the gypsies who inhabit these subterranean depots and sit on crates everyday socializing with one another and smoking cigarettes. They are the vendors who sell all manner of produce from wooden crates. You don’t have to ask these vendors for organic food. Here it is all organic and when you bite into a paradiscom (tomato) you can taste the flavor of the black earth in which it was grown. There is a drug store that sells over-the-counter creams, soaps and shampoos with English labels on the front of the bottle and caution labels in Hungarian on the back.

The people leaving the metro walk to the tram stop nearby on Mexico road, or to their cars. While much of the architecture of Budapest is a stately Victorian, the cars that Hungarians drive belie the recent history of affliction and poverty. Trabants and Ladas, the fruits of communist mass production make the American standard of economy car, the Honda Civic or Geo Prism, appear mammoth by comparison. They are slow, smoky automobiles made of plastic or fiber glass. On the outskirts of the city more relics communism can be seen like the endless rows of prefabricated apartment buildings that line many streets like filing cabinets, examples of a utilitarian form of architecture that reminds me more of the housing projects on the upper east side in Manhattan than the elegant capital of a European nation.

Our apartment is on Nagy Lajos Kiraly Street and is located in a modest but fashionable neighborhood to the north of the city center. It is a prewar affair with high ceilings and huge floor-to-ceiling windows. We stay for free courtesy of a friend who lives here but has gone out of town for a few months. This convenience makes what is an already rather inexpensive trip even cheaper. Since the country joined the EU in 2004 prices are on the rise but aside from shopping and tourist conveniences, day to day living is still extremely affordable. My girlfriend, who grew up in Pest, always does the haggling however. If they hear one word of my New Jersey accent the price of anything we buy is liable to double without warning.

Near our apartment is the city park, a shady expanse with a zoo and amusement park. In the park also lies the Szechenyi thermal baths, a 19th century pleasure palace filled with Renaissance style halls in which one can bathe in the scalding waters that rise up from the many geothermal fissures beneath the city. In the large pools young European tourists with dread locks and facials piercings soak beside obese old Hungarian men who play chess on poolside tables. On the far side of the park through the impressive expanse of Hero’s Square lies Andrassy Road, a tree lined boulevard stretching into the heart of the city that rivals the Champs Elysees in cosmopolitan flair. Stop at building 60 on this road and you will find a most unusual museum. This severe grey Victorian mansion was once the headquarters of the fascist Arrow Cross party, from which, at the behest of Hitler, members sought out party enemies for torture and murder. After the Soviet liberation, the KGB chose the very same building for the very same purpose. Its cellars were turned into a soundproofed prison for torture and execution while passersby on the street above had no clue as to what was going on inside. Today 60 Andrassy road exists as the Terror House, a monument and exhibit chronicling the horrors of Hungary’s past, from World War I through the end of Soviet Occupation. The Terror House and its grim secrets form a stark contrast to the otherwise regal aspect of the Hungarian capital. This contrast is what makes Hungary not just a place worth visiting but an essential experience for anyone who wants to really know Europe.
This is my second trip to Hungary. I do come here for views of the Danube, Buda Castle, Hero’s Square or the fantastical spires of the parliament building. But I also come here to see the relics of the iron curtain, the Ottoman occupation, the Roman ruins and the leftovers of other historical eras that have touched Hungary, eras that once only existed for me in books. I come to see a fertile land from which some of my ancestors came. I am drawn to the complexity of this nation. Such elegance is so often juxtaposed with squalor and it fascinates me. I come to wander through the chaos of the yearly Sziget Music Festival, a labyrinth of music, food, games, young people and really cool t-shirts that in everyway mirrors an American Phish show. I also come to sit down at the dinner table in a Hungarian home with friends and family and enjoy home cooking, warm hospitality and great conversation with a people who are thoughtful, proud and witty. Hungary is not under glass; it is no museum piece. It has flavors and sounds and smells and they are not always pleasant, but they are most certainly real. I come to Hungary mainly for this reality, a culture that you can touch and one that will touch you back.

-Rich Carriero

Short North District, Columbus Ohio

By Janie Blank

Do you like the arts? Do you like things a little out of the mainstream? Do you like a unique restaurant, one that is not a chain? Are you interested in an historic district with lots of charm? If you answered yes to these questions then you will probably enjoy a stroll through the Short North. The Short North is made up of the High Street commercial district, most commonly known as the Short North, and residential areas, Victorian Village and Italian Village.

The Short North is known as an arts district. It is connected to downtown by something known as the Cap. The Cap is actually shops and restaurants that are built over the highway between the Convention Center and the Short North. It has wide sidewalks and a Victorian facade that matches the historic train station arches that once stood in this place. It is lined with outdoor dining and flows into the shopping, art galleries and restaurants that make up this area.

A fixture in Columbus social life is Gallery Hop which takes place the first Saturday night of every month. The area comes alive with thousands of people who stroll along High Street, browse through shops looking at every type of art imaginable being shown in galleries, retail shops, hair salons and restaurants. It is definitely the place to see and be seen. The first Gallery Hop was in 1984 and now over twenty years later it is more popular than ever.. If you can plan your visit to Columbus around the first Saturday night of the month then you are guaranteed a fun evening. My daughters live in Chicago and always try and schedule their trip home for the first weekend of the month.

Some of the fun galleries are the Kathryn Gallery featuring a variety of wonderful painters, the Sherrie Gallery which has a lot of art ceramics and the Lindsay Gallery, which shows mostly self taught folk artists. Another favorite is ROY G BIV. See if you can figure out the name. Virtually every shop, restaurant and hair salon will be showing works for sale. One of the neighborhood favorites is a funky artist named Rick Borg who often parks his dilapidated old station wagon n a side street and sets up his colorful paintings done on old scraps of wood, cupboard doors and I even have one painted on a shutter! Don’t let his casual demeanor fool you. He has a Fine Arts degree from Ohio State University.

The Short North features some great shopping as well. There are antique stores, consignment shops and vintage clothing. You can find fixtures and gifts at Loot and Wells Landing, a kitchen store called the Kitchen Sorcerer, a store full of kitschy fun things called Cowtown Art, and the Global Gallery that has items from all over the world. For books there is An Open Book. For Jewelry there is Alexanders or None Other Too. Paul Robinett is a popular place for hand poured candles that are shipped all over. PM Gallery has lots of small art items from glass balls to funky switch plates. PM is one of the oldest shops in the district.

If you come for Gallery Hop you will want to check out the restaurants and make your reservation well in advance. One of the oldest and a personal favorite is Rigsbys Cuisine Volatile. When it first came to town twenty years or so ago we called it California Cuisine. It was something new here. The owner is a chef and had trained in California and brought the open kitchen concept to Columbus. It is still a one-of- a-kind with brick walls and glass fronting the street and a classy bar. As a matter of fact all along High Street you will see the hip crowd gathered at wine bars. The Burgundy Room has great tapas, Hyde Park on the Cap is the in steak house and Lemon Grass and Lui Pon Xi feature upscale Asian cuisine. If you are looking for a more casual atmosphere you can go to Bettys Diner for meatloaf or the Happy Greek. Macs is a great bar with Pub food where you might find beef stew or Shepherds Pie on the blackboard.

As you might have guessed I have barely skimmed the surface on the wide variety of shops, galleries and restaurants that are in this remarkable area. If you have the time you might want to do additional research on your own. (www.theshortnorth.com/shops%20and%20galleries.htm)

Within the Short North are also two historic neighborhoods of gorgeous old world architecture. Victorian Village renovation is virtually complete. The centerpiece of Victorian Village is Goodale Park named after Dr. Lincoln Goodale. He donated 40 acres to the city around 1850 and it is thought to be one of the first public parks in the country. The man thoroughfare is Neil Avenue, a beautiful tree line street, part boulevard hat connects downtown Columbus to Ohio State University. The street is well over a mile of Victorian mansions the majority of which have been restored. If you are interested in architecture from this era, strolling the streets of Victorian Village should be on your list of things to do in Columbus (www.victorianvillage.org/page5088.cfm)

The other area is Italian Village and this centers around Fourth Street to the East of the Short North. There are still many houses in Italian Village being renovated and many good buys yet to be had. Many new buildings made to look like the architecture of the era are going up as well for those who do not want the work of maintaining hundred year old buildings. Italian Village centers around an historic church built in 1898 called St. John the Baptist and is the center of the Italian Festival held around Labor Day each Year. If you like good Italian food do not miss this festival!

A new development called Jeffrey Place is being built on a tract of land once occupied by the Jeffrey Manufacturing Company on Fourth Street. This development features condos and lofts and is a focal pint of the area. Kramer Place is also getting a lot of buzz. Barry Bolts has also developed some old commercial buildings for use both commercially and for residential. He has commissioned local artists named Curtis Goldstein and Michelle Attias to do an outdoor mural along the railway that is intriguing. Curtis has also done a full brick wall mural along High Street right in the center of the Short North that is a copy of a George Bellows painting, Cliff Dwellers. George Bellows was a Columbus native. (brickstreet-arts.org/info.htm). (For additional information on Italian Village try this site (shortnorth.com/ItalianVillageHistory.html).

The Short North packs a lot of fun and history into a small area. You cannot say you have been to Columbus if you have not been to the Short North.

Traveling across Cuba (By 4Ernesto)

Winter 2003; our wedding took place in December the same year. We were thinking of traveling to Europe but then Cuba suddenly popped up. It was a destination we both wanted to go and at that moment it seemed perfect since we had enough money to spend and no children to leave behind.

We went to several travel agencies but what we had on hand at the time was disappointing. They all offered three or four days at Havana and ten to twelve days at Varadero (a tourist beach resort). Besides that, the price we had to pay was huge. What we really wanted was to visit the whole island, which is quite big since you need two hours by plain to go from Havana to Santiago de Cuba. Another negative aspect was that we had to pay “all inclusive” for our stay in Varadero, and take extra journey trips from there which meant that we would pay a full day for a stay in Varadero but we would not be there. So, we decided to examine other options.

We bought a Cuba travelers’ guide from a bookshop and we started reading it. It seemed quite good because we could find anything we could ask for; hotels, maps, restaurants, advice on how to travel on the island, and other websites where we could find more information. It even had information about the culture, the food and the weather. Having in mind that we wanted to visit the whole country we designed a trip according to our taste. We visited the given websites and we communicated with Cuban agencies asking them prices for what we were looking for. They were very quick in responding to us with hotel names, prices and every little detail we asked them for. After checking all possibilities we decided to buy the air tickets from the travel agency in our country and the rest through the internet. By doing that we managed to organize a trip as we liked it and save almost 1/3 of the amount we should have paid if we booked everything from an agency.

The day of departure came. Our connecting flight was from Frankfurt. The trip was quite long and a bit tiring as it took us almost 14 hours to arrive in Havana. The minute we stepped food on the ground I felt quite strange. Funny thoughts came in my mind. I turned to my husband telling him “What happens if nobody shows up to pick us from hear?”, and we started laughing but before we commented further on that, we saw a lady coming towards us asking our names. She was sent by the travel agency to give us the first instructions and take us to the car that would drive us to the hotel in Havana.

It was an old 4 star hotel in the middle of the city called

Raquel Hotel

. The architecture was excellent, and the employees working there were very friendly. We had a small trouble with hot water since the boiler was broken, but fortunately it was fixed the next day of our arrival. The cuisine was fine, we had the chance to taste a delicious soup made of beat-root. Opposite that hotel there was a primary school. The children looked so beautiful in there school uniform, they reminded us of our life in school, laughing and playing all the time.

We stayed in Havana for three nights. We visited a lot of museums but unfortunately not all. The one that really impressed us was the “Museum of Revolution”. All the history of the Cuban revolution against Batista’s regime was there. We were informed, impressed, surprised, and above all happy because we had the chance to see how people really fight for there freedom…

Viniales is a destination that everybody must go when visiting Cuba. There, we were able to visit cigar plantations and buy original Cuban cigars in low prices. We visited also the cigar factory and we saw how they make them. There we found out that the different brand names given to them are not because of the maker but because of the different varieties of tobacco plants. During that trip we had the chance to visit the whole area of Viniales and buy some beautiful wooden figures and some others made of banana leaves. A factory making rum was another place we went. Men were very pleased they had the chance to buy fine rum. But the most exciting of all was

Tropicana Cabaret

, with an excellent music, excellent show and excellent service!!!

The next destination was Santiago de Cuba, the second biggest city in Cuba. The hotel was new and its location was outside the town. The view of the city at night was wonderful from the hotel, with all those lights shining like stars. There, we had the chance to make a tour of the city and visit

La Grande Piedra

. From there you could see the whole Santiago territory and the mountains of Sierra Maestra where the first revolution groups started the guerilla warfare. The hotel service was excellent. The dining room was large with everything you could ask for. Food, drinks and sweets were delicious!!

We visited Baracoa as well, a small town eight hours away from Santiago de Cuba, the 1st settlement that Christopher Columbus build on Cuba. The people there were very friendly, and we had the chance to dine in a small house that was renovated and converted to a restaurant. There was an exotic coast, scenery that can only been seen in movies.

Just visit it!!!

Schriver House Museum: A Walk Into the Past

One of my favorite tour experiences in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is the extensive Schriver House Museum found on downtown Baltimore Street. I would definitely recommend this place to old-house enthusiasts, history lovers, and anyone who loves Victorian decor. After the transition from rundown old house to fantastic 19th century home was complete, the beauty and charm of Baltimore Street increased tenfold. Schriver House Museum, built in 1860 just before its owner George Washington Schriver went off to war, has been restored to look much as it did during the battle in 1863. For years, if you drove Baltimore Street, you would see an ugly green exterior with little care taken in preservation, but the house is now one of the most beautiful in town.

The first thing you will want to do is walk down the side path (to the left of the building) and see all the bullet and cannonball holes in the old brick walls. It really gives you a feeling of how old the house truly is and what it was a witness to. After entering, you will be given a guided tour (ours was a woman dressed in a Civil War-era gown) of all the stories in the house, from the cellar to the attic. Unfortunately, I was asked not to take photos, and I don’t know if this rule is still in effect. You can, however, buy postcards that portray some of the rooms in the house. The cellar is a dismal place where barrels are stored, but you can also find George Schriver’s saloon. He also operated a Ten Pin Alley on the premises. Bottles and tables sit much as they did over 140 years ago, as though Hettie Schriver and her daughters never returned after they fled the battle.

Three of the most striking restored rooms, at least in my opinion, were Sadie and Mollie’s bedroom (the Schrivers’ two girls, five and seven in 1863), Hettie’s bedroom, and the expansive Victorian kitchen filled with all kinds of cooking ingredients and utensils. In the bedrooms you will see a hint of the modern, like familiar toys and games, mixed with other things you may not be so familiar with, such as the chamber pot under the bed! You may appreciate the beautiful dark wood furniture in George and Hettie’s room, contrasting sharply with the polished wood floors. There are many other rooms you can see, like the sitting room, the parlor, and the work room. Outside a garden can be found. I have always appreciated the old-fashioned beauty of wallpaper in 19th century homes, and some of the decor chosen for the Schriver House’s walls is certainly elegant.

You may get a creepy feeling when your guide takes you to the attic; dark and damp, it seems isolated from the rest of the house. It is a known fact that sharpshooters from the South took up residence here during the battle, sending death missiles to Union soldiers, and that at least one man probably died in the attic. Artifacts found in the attic attest to the sharpshooters’ presence. You may find yourself glad to get out of this particular part of the house (unless you are a ghost-hunter or paranormal enthusiast, in which case it may be your favorite part). When you go back downstairs again, don’t forget to view the display cases that house items found throughout the home. The Schriver House Museum gift shop is also worth a browse; there will be many gift ideas for you or someone else who loves history. Be sure to ask any questions you may have, either during your tour or at the ticket counter.

The George Washington Schriver House Museum is located at 309 Baltimore Street. Admission (in Sept 2006) is $4.75 for kids younger than 12, and $6.95 for adults. You can take a group to the Schriver House but special rules apply and you will have to visit their official website to check it out. Remember to find the pictures of George, Hettie, Mollie, and Sadie on the site, too; it’s fascinating to see the people that actually lived in the house you will be touring. Sadly, you will also discover that George died in a prison camp during the war. Hettie later remarried and is buried in another state.

By Lacie R. Schaeffer

Fall Family Time in Western Kentucky

By Misti Sandefur

It’s almost time friends… the decorations are coming out of storage as everyone is preparing for Christmas. Personally, Christmas is my favorite holiday, because it’s a time when we celebrate the birth of our savor, Jesus Christ. Christmas is also a time for families to gather and feast on turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pies, and much more. Mmmm… my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

There’s more to Christmas than gifts, decorations, untangling lights and family gatherings, it’s also a time for you to have some blissful “family time.” Pull your children and your hubby away from the video games and tell them it’s “family time.” Drag out the Christmas lights, make sure they work, and begin decorating your home for Christmas. As time ticks by, you might find yourself in the holiday spirit, so pop a Christmas CD into the stereo and sing along as you decorate.

Another activity you can enjoy with your family is crafts. How about sitting down together and making a beautiful Christmas wreath to add to your decor. Here’s how you and your family can create that beautiful Christmas Wreath…

What you need:

One wire coat hanger
Several boxes of small sandwich bags (not the ziplock kind)
Scissors
Big red bow or red ribbon
Super glue

Directions:

1. Without taking apart or disturbing the hook (you’ll need that to hang the project later), simply mold the triangular area of a wire coat hanger into a circle. Parents should probably do this so the younger children don’t get any ideas or hurt themselves.

2. Cut down the sides of each sandwich bag so it turns into one long, wide strip (similar to a cheese slice after it has been opened). For the younger kids that can’t use scissors, they can help by tearing down the sides of the sandwich bags if they’re careful.

3. Tie each bag into any kind of knot onto the circular area of the hanger. Be sure to pull the knot tight, and have the ends on separate sides of the hanger. Also, make sure you keep the baggies close together — push them together to fill in gaps as needed. You will need a ton of baggies (close to 200). The cheapest ones you can find are fine and still look just as nice.

4. Super glue one red bow at the top (centered). If you’re really creative, you can use ribbon to make your own red bow for the top. Parents should super glue the bow so the younger children don’t super glue themselves.

Once the project is completed, you will have a very cute Christmas reef that’s ready to hang on any nail or doorknob. It will last for years!

When you’re tired of being indoors, take the family outdoors and enjoy some of the festivities around the Western Kentucky area.

Have you ever worked through a maze on paper? Were you good at finding your way to the finish line? Opening September 16, test your maze skills off paper at the Corn Crop Human Maze event held every Saturday night… and Halloween night (5:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.).

At the Corn Crop Human Maze (beside Murray State University), you can attempt to find your way through six acres of 10 feet tall corn stalks that twists and turns for two miles. The occasion also includes activities, drawings and giveaways. For more information call 270-887-4290.

Beginning on September 29 Owensboro will celebrate fall with their fifth annual Pumpkin Fest. The town has loads of fun planned. There will be games for the children, a carnival, raffles, a motorcycle show, musical entertainment, pumpkin relay races, a challenge for scrapbookers and so much more. To find out more visit their Web site (http://www.owensboropumpkinfest.org).

The small community of Hazel, Kentucky will host its 17th Annual Hazel Day Celebration. The Hazel Day Celebration (http://www.hazelky.com/hazeldayrelease.htm) is held to commemorate their past and present. While there, you can view old photographs and memorabilia. Furthermore, there will be free horse and buggy rides, an open car show, an old-fashioned cakewalk, a washer pitching tournament, musical entertainment, pumpkin and face painting, train rides for the kids, a dunking booth, parade, quilt auction, antique tractor display, sorghum milling and a whole lot more!

The Aurora Country Festival takes places on the Kentucky Lake in Aurora. The festival starts on Friday, October 6 and ends on Sunday, October 8. Your family can enjoy sorghum squeezing, cooking, a talent contest, vendors, a parade (Saturday), a game of Bingo, free entertainment, country music, juried crafts, demonstrators and more. To find out more about this annual festival call 270-703-6060.

Gather the family for some good old-fashioned fun at Campfire Tales. Campfire Tales is held at the Nature Station in Western Kentucky. You and your family will gather around a fire to roast marshmallows and hear stories told by Letitia Usher. The hosts ask that you bring along a flashlight and blankets or lawn chairs so you’ll be comfortable. Moreover, there’s also a fee of $3/$4.50 per person. To make reservations call 270-924-2020.

For many years, Trigg County has been known for their country hams, and on Oct. 20 -22, 1977 they decided to hold their first annual Trigg County Country Ham Festival. Because the festival was successful, and has grown over the years, Trigg County continues to hold this annual event.

This year’s Trigg County Country Ham Festival will commence October 13 and come to an end on October 15. You can enjoy a petting zoo, vendors, food, rides and much more. Oh yes, we can’t forget the delicious ham. Therefore, before you leave be sure to sample the ham that the county is well-known for. For more information about the festival — including the festival’s history — visit their Web site (http://www.hamfestival.com/).

On October 21 is the Little Spooky Spooks festival at Kenlake State Resort. Dress in your spookiest costume and head for Kenlake State Resort for some frightening family fun. There will be spooky animals, a storyteller spinning scary tales, candy and refreshments. In addition to all this, your family can also create a unique craft. Everyone is welcome!

Also on October 22 is the Haunted Hallway Trail at Kenlake. If you and your family are up for a scare, you may want to inquire about this event while at the Little Spooky Spooks festival. For additional information call 800-325-0143, or e-mail Kenlake@ky.gov.

What does fall bring to mind? Hayrides, of course! At the Nature Station in the Land Between the Lakes, you and your family can experience an old-fashioned fall hayride through the woods. Led by staff, the fall hayride will include activities, games and nature-viewing opportunities for all ages! The hayride takes place on November 11 (9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.).

Dress your family for the weather and head to the Nature Station. $2 per person; register at the front desk on that day. Trips will depart throughout the day.

On Halloween night, some churches in the Paducah area will be hosting safe events for families with children. Lone Oak First Baptist Church has a Family Fun Festival. Lone Oak will feature several inflatable games including “Adrenaline Rush,” “Titanic Giant Slide” and “Moon Walk.” There will also be a basketball shoot, football throw, “Mouse House” putt-putt golf, Duck Pond, Grab-a-Pumpkin, Hit Me in the Kisser, Face Painting, Pit of Doom, Ring Toss and etc. Candy, balloons, popcorn and soft drinks are all free. As usual, they will also have a “Trunk or Treat” with hot-rod cars, antique cars and decorated vehicles.

At Lone Oak Church of Christ there is a Community Trunk of Treats with over 200 car trunks for trick-or-treating. (Lone Oak will be getting a lot of candy.)

Halloween Safe Night for Kids at Mt. Zion Baptist Church features a “Flashlight” Trick-or-Treat. For those of you nearer to Mayfield, check out the Trace Creek Baptist Church in Mayfield. They will be hosting Fun Night and will be offering games with prizes, a dunking booth, hayride, puppet show and more. This is designed for children through the sixth grade, but games and activities will also be provided for the very young. Each child attending will receive plenty of candy! Costumes are welcome, but as this is for younger children, please don’t dress as ghosts, goblins, witches or other scary costumes.

Get into the Christmas spirit at the Pennyrile Polar Express & Downtown Christmas Tree Lighting (free) event on December 9 — 4:00 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. 15 minutes before the event ends the tree lighting will take place at the Founder’s Square in Hopkinsville. For more than one hour, you and your family can enjoy stories, carriage rides, crafts, miniature trains and a whole lot more.
Location: E. Ninth Street between the L&N Depot and Founder’s Square.

Mark your calendars for Christmas in the Park at Kenlake State Resort Park! Area homemaker groups will be decorating Christmas trees in the upper lobbies, Santa will pay a visit to the kids, and there will be crafts, pictures, cookies and punch. Call 270-474-2211 to find out more.
Date: Dec. 10, 2006.

At last, does your family get a feeling of excitement when they think about haunted houses? Then you should definitely mark your calendars for a couple of the haunted house adventures in the Western Kentucky area!

Scream Fest 2006 will be on October 6 – 8, 13 – 15, 20 – 22 and 27 – 31. The location is in Paducah at Talon Falls Haunted Screampark, and as the name implies, it is sure to leave you screaming! If you survive the Screampark and think you can handle more, try the Dead End Haunted House located on I-24, exit 7, west of highway 62, six miles on left. Watch for the skull sign! To visit both the Screampark and the Dead End Haunted House the ticket price will be $20, but bring a Pepsi can or flyer and you get a discount. Portions of the proceeds go to benefit the West Kentucky Crime Stoppers, Child Watch, and West Kentucky Community and Technical College Scholarship fund. This years theme: “Crypt of the Vampire” — home of the un-dead.

For show times, pictures and other information visit the Scream Fest Web site (http://www.talonfalls.com).

Looking for a more original haunt with Ogres, Goblins and Killer Clowns? On Friday and Saturday nights starting in October, Oller’s Oddities Circus of Monsters, located at the old Gold’s Gym building near Kentucky Oaks in Paducah will give you that haunting amusement. Proceeds go to benefit Western Kentucky Easter Seals.

That brings to an end the fall fun that awaits you in the Western Kentucky area. Monday I will cover the Indiana area.

If there’s an area you would like me to cover — an area I’ve not done yet — let me know the area by posting your comment and I’ll cover it for you. If you’d rather not mention an area or events in the comment area, then you can send your request or event information to me via fax. My toll-free fax number is 866-653-9818. Be safe and enjoy the time with your family!

Choosing a Hotel in Prague

By Janie Blank

We have been yearning for a trip to Prague for years. Somehow other things seem to have taken its place until now. We are off to London to stay with friends for three weeks. During that time we are taking some short trips. One is to Prague. It is just for three nights but hopefully we can pack a lot of sightseeing into the time we have.

We plan to be there in mid-October. The first thing we learned is that high season extends through October. So no discounts there. I usually buy a Fodors to start and see what he recommends. One of our favorite finds is a small hotel in Paris that Fodors called the best buy in the eighth arrondissement back in 1995. Friends have told us hotels in Prague are expensive but you will make it up on the food. That being said there still are multiple price ranges. The key is figuring out what neighborhood you want to be in and working from there.

We booked our flight from London on EasyJet (www.easyjet.com). The fares are amazingly inexpensive when converted to US dollars (www.xe.com/ucc). EasyJet is British so everything is priced in pounds. We are flying roundtrip from London for $272 USD total for two of us. Like going from Columbus to Chicago. Because I liked the EasyJet website and found the ease in booking very user-friendly I decided to click on their book a hotel button and see what they had. They had only some of the same ones Fodor had but enough that you could get a feel for their rating system.

EasyJet has a pretty good map you can click on for location of the hotel. This worked fine if what I was looking at was within the small map in my Fodors. But if it was outside of that area I had no idea how close or far it might be. The main landmarks that most of the sites refer to is Wenceslas Square, however on the map it is written in Czech as Vaclavske Namesti. So of course it takes awhile to figure this out! A hotel will say, for example, that it is a fifteen minute walk from Wenceslas Square.

After referring to the maps in the Fodors and to EasyJet and other travel websites I got by Googling hotels in Prague I decided I still needed a better map. I am kind of a big picture person and need to see the entire area before I can then key in on the specific locations. I want to know where they are in relation to each other. I went to another bookstore and this time I also found a Fodors but it was entitled Pragues 25 Best. Although I am sure this will be very helpful for the short time we are spending there since it refers to 25 tourist attractions, the thing that sold me was that is has a big fold up map of the city.

Once I spread out the map and then compared it with the smaller maps offered for the location of each hotel I felt like I was in business! I was particularly enamored with a hotel called the Green Garden (http://hotelgreengarden.cz/index.htm). If you have time just click on this and listen and look at the intro. It will make you want to visit Prague if not the hotel. After looking at the map I was concerned that it was a little farther from the main tourist attractions and might be on a noisy, busy street. However, I plan to check it out while there for future reference. It was not named in Fodors but was an EasyJet choice.

Eventually, after reading the hotel section in the original Fodors Prague I got a feel for the various neighborhoods and narrowed my choice down to three: the Old City (Stare Mesto), the New City (Nove Mesto) and the Male Strana. Not sure how they translate this but my Latin background would make me think BAD City! Ha! However Fodor highly recommends this area as being quiet and on same side of the River as the Castle which is a must see. I took a close look at hotels that seemed nice but were under 100 pounds per night. Actually EasyJet does a nice job of pricing them for the length of the stay you entered including all fees and taxes so if it says you are paying 177 GBP (actually what we are paying and converts to $331 USD as of today’s exchange rate) then you can convert that to USD and know that is your total cost. I like this a lot. We all know how that Hampton Inn for $89 a night turns out to be $117 with tax!

It is hard to say exactly how I made my final selection. All of the hotel rooms look stark with ugly bedspreads, even in the most expensive properties. So we are prepared for something fairly plain. One seemed to have trolley tracks in front so we were concerned about noise and we ruled that one out. Another looked really nice, but maybe a little close to a major intersection. The third was very close to the river as well as the Charles Bridge (this is called Karluv Most on the maps by the way), another big tourist attraction so we decided to go for it. It is on the Male Strana side but just a block from where they say restaurants line the river. The one we settled on was a City Partner hotel called Hotel Atos. I am completely unfamiliar with City Partner and probably could have done some additional research on this chain. I did look at some reviews from other websites and they all gave it a four out of five so I am hoping they are people with similar likes as mine! I assume it is like a Best Western or something. The negative to one persons review was the food included for breakfast is kind of cafeteria style. Although another liked it, so we will have to just experience that first hand. Since we hear food is good, plentiful and cheap we can always just find a little cafe if we do not care for the breakfast provided. Hopefully since we will be there at the end of the season things will have slowed down and all the school group and teachers will have departed and they will have more time and patience for us.

There seem to be hundreds of hotels so I am sure there is probably something fabulous I missed right next door. I guess we will know to make a recommendation to someone else!

Fall Family Time in Southern Illinois

By Misti Sandefur

Do you find yourself spending less time with the ones you love? Take a break and enjoy the company of your family, because you never know what tomorrow might bring.

By now you may be saying, “You’re right, we should have more ‘family time’, but how? Where do we go, what can we do?” I’ll answer that question for you, and from time-to-time I’ll be your guide to events around the United States. In addition, I may also mention activities for indoor & outdoor fun, craft ideas, and anything else that I think will bring fun for your whole family.

I’ll start the first “family time” article off with the fall events around the Southern Illinois area. Furthermore, this first article will list some fun activities you can enjoy with your family too. Let the fun and festivities begin!

Red, yellow and gold. The fall colors here in Southern Illinois have begun, and they can be as spectacular as any in the country are. With your family, get pleasure from the beauty nature brings our way. Together, take a walk in the woods and talk about all the colors around you. Pick up some leaves along the way, bring them home with you, and place them in a scrapbook or family album to cherish the memory you have just made together.

Scavenger hunts make for great indoor and outdoor fun; search fests for the entire family. Have everyone write down some items that can be found outside (or inside if the weather is bad). Put the name of each item into a hat. Shake the hat, and afterwards have everyone draw a piece of paper out of the hat. Make sure there is an even number in the hat so everyone has the same amount. For example, if there are four players, there should be twenty pieces of paper in the hat, thus leaving each player with five pieces of paper.

Once the hat is empty, give everyone a watch, set a time to meet back at the spot you’re standing in, and have everyone search for the items written on their paper. Be sure they keep an eye on the time, because once the time is up, they must return to the meeting spot with the items they found. It will be a race to see who can collect the most items before time runs out.

The winner will be the person who found the most items. If more than one has the same number of items, break the tie by having someone name another item, and at that moment have those who tied go find the item. Whoever finds the item and returns to the meeting spot first will be the winner.

For many, fall is also a time to enjoy the festivals and events around the area. I’ve scoured the Internet, local papers and flyers of Southern Illinois and compiled a list of all the fun you can have on this vibrant fall season. If I missed something, it’s not because I didn’t look!

Do you and your family enjoy arcade games? Mark your calendars for the second annual Pinball and Arcade Supershow starting on September 29 (3:00 p.m.) and ending on September 30 (starts at 11:00 a.m.). With an entry fee of only $10, you can play all the pinball and/or video arcade machines you want. In addition, if you’re really good at pinball you can participate in the pinball tournament.

The Pinball and Arcade Supershow takes place at the Herrin Civic Center. For more information phone 618-751-8458.

Carnival rides and games, hickory-smoked barbeque, a pet parade, games for the kids, karoke, food of all kinds, vendors, a motorcycle show and rides on the Shawnee Queen River Taxi are just a few of the many activities your family can enjoy at the annual Hardin County Fluorspar Festival!

The annual Fluorspar Festival is held on the first weekend in October every year. Just drive into Rosiclare Illinois and the festival is all up and down Main Street. I can assure you there’s something for every member of your family to enjoy, and every year a parade brings the event to an end.

Grab the family and enjoy three days of Johnson County’s Fall Festival! If you or a member of your family can sing well, you have to enter the karaoke contest. In addition to the karaoke contest, there will also be a parade, Mr. and Miss Pageant, carnival rides and much more.

The festival will be held in the Vienna City Park, and it begins on October 6 and ends October 8. For more information phone 618-658-2063.

If you love chili, wrestling, haunted hayrides, pancakes, cake walks, live bands, flea markets, petting zoos and exhibits, you should make a drive to Carrier Mills beginning October 6 for their Catskins Day celebration. The fun and entertainment will last for three days, and believe me when I say, “you’ll have a BLAST!”

To obtain more information and a schedule of each day’s events, pick up the phone and call 618-658-2063. You won’t want to miss this event!

On Saturday, October 7, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., your family can take part in Anna’s Leaf, Bark and Seed Hikes. On this hike, you and your family will discover the reason leaves change color, and you’ll also learn how to identify trees as the leaves on them disappear. The hike through nature will take place at the Giant City State Park. This one can be educational for the children.

For more information, call 618-457-4836. One other thing, if you can’t make it on October 7 another hike will take place on October 14 — same time, same place.

Gather up the family on November 11 and head to Anna to honor our veterans. At 2:00 p.m. Anna will host their Veteran’s Day Parade. The parade will start from the city park entrance on Davie Street, and from there it will follow through Main Street to Jefferson Street, and back to the park. For more information, call 618-833-5182. Don’t forget to grab sacks for the kids; they’ll need them to catch any candy thrown toward them during the parade.

Also on Saturday, November 11, round up the gang and get an early start on your Christmas shopping! You and the family will enjoy shopping, as the Merchants’ Christmas Open House gets underway. There will be Christmas music and decorations, baked goodies for everyone, and a whole lot of shopping in the stores of downtown Golconda.

Since the Merchants’ Christmas Open House lasts all day, you can enjoy the Veteran’s Day celebration in Anna and then head to Golconda after the parade.

Beginning Thursday, November 16, loads of fun will be waiting for you under the big tent! No, it’s not the circus, it’s much better! Yes, that’s right, Golconda’s annual Deer Festival; I can smell the barbeque and funnel cakes already!

All the fun and celebrations will begin with a community service on the evening (7:00 p.m.) of November 16. The community service brings gospel music sung by the community’s choir.

On the second day, November 17, beginning at 6:30 p.m., you can enjoy the Baby Photo contest followed by the Little Mister and Miss Pope County Deer Festival Pageant. After the Little Mister and Miss Pageant, the Junior Mister and Miss Pageant will begin.

If you don’t get your fill of pageants on November 17, return to the big tent on the 18th (7:00 p.m.) to see which young woman from Pope County High School is crowned Deer Queen.

Ending the festival will be the annual Deer Festival Street Parade. The parade will begin at 2:00 p.m., and afterward you can buy a pound or two of the best barbaque in town! Yum, yum, I’m hungry just thinking about it.

Honest, you just can’t pass through Main Street in Golconda without stopping-in at the Annual Deer Festival. Lots of fun for the whole family! Load up, head for the “big tent,” and enjoy barbeque, funnel cakes, corn dogs, entertainment, pageants, and a whole lot more!

Get into the holiday spirit and take the young ‘ins to see Santa Clause and get candy on December 2. On this date, Metropolis will host their Christmas Parade. The parade will feature floats, bands, and yes, Santa Clause too.

If you would like to find out more about the Christmas Parade in Metropolis, phone 1-800-949-5740, or send an e-mail to deneal@verizon.net.

From 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on December 9 Golconda will start their annual Christmas House Tour. Participants will depart from the museum for a candlelight walk and Christmas caroling to the courtyard. At the courtyard, everyone will enjoy hot chocolate to warm their bones, cookies to satisfy their need for sweets, and a visit from good ole’ Saint Nick. There will also be a bonfire to keep you warm. Call 618-683-9702 if you’d like additional information.

Would you and your family like to discover how the plants and animals living in the Shawnee National Forest adapt to the winter atmosphere? If, on December 9, you pay a visit to the Giant City State Park Visitor Center in Anna you will discover the facts as you take part in the Wonders of Winter Walk. The walk will take place at 1:00 p.m., and will last until 2:30 p.m.

Not only will you find out how the plants and animals adjust to the winter atmosphere, but you and your crew will also enjoy the scenic views of the Shawnee National Forest. Dress warm and have fun!

That concludes the fall festivities in the Southern Illinois area. Tomorrow I’ll have even more fall fun you and your family can enjoy, and the events listed then will be in Western Kentucky.

If there’s an area you would like me to cover — an area I’ve not done yet — let me know the area by posting your comment and I’ll cover it for you. If you’d rather not mention an area or event in the comment area, then you can send your request or event information to me via fax. My toll-free fax number is 866-653-9818.

Don’t forget, mark your calendars, and make your plans for the entire family. Until tomorrow, may God bless you and yours!

Cam’s Charleston: Touring the Holy City with a Local

There’s a ticklish irony knowing that my friend Cam lives in a city known as “the Holy City.” Luckily for him, Charleston is so nicknamed for the numerous church steeples defining the skyline. He recently played tour guide and introduced me to his Charleston, South Carolina.

Our Saturday morning began with sipping coffee, catching up and planning the rest of the weekend at downtown’s East Bay Coffee House. It seemed to be one of a few places open. Sitting in the oversized sofa tucked in the back by the bar, I felt like one of the artsy poets who perform during Monday Night Blues. A poetry reading begins at 8:00 p.m., followed by musicians at 9:00 p.m.

We then wandered through the historic City Market between North and South Market Streets. It was a little overwhelming taking everything in. Built in the late 1800s as a produce and meat market, these four brick stalls hold a mix of Charleston’s finest handicrafts, baked goods and modern knickknacks. [Tip: Bring quarters for parking].

The area’s most popular crafts are hand-woven, aromatic sweetgrass baskets. Weaving dates back to the 17th century when Western African slaves were introduced to South Carolina’s Lowcountry. The baskets had functional uses then, but today, are art masterpieces. Women sit, weave and take the time to say “hello,” in and around the market. The baskets’ sweet, woody aroma was one of the best scents in Charleston!

We tasted a local treat called benne wafers from Market Street Munchies. These thin, crunchy cookies are sweet with a hint of saltiness. The benne seeds look and taste similar to sesame seeds and were introduced by West African slaves. The seeds are believed to harbor good luck to those who eat them.

Being a Saturday, the Charleston Farmer’s Market was happening at Marion Square. This is the place to find farm-grown and organic fruits and vegetables, vibrant wildflowers, jewelry, handmade soaps, jellies, artwork and other crafts. The Farmer’s Market is open every Saturday now through December 17, 2006. In 2007, it should begin again in April sometime.

Earrings, necklaces and rings made from shards of white and blue Chinese porcelain and set in sterling silver really caught my attention. The porcelain dates back to the Qing and Ming Dynasties (300 to 600 years ago). The artists, Fran Ridgell and Robert Clair, collectively called South East Creations, spent time in China and Japan and recently moved back to the Charleston area. Forty percent of the proceeds from the jewelry sales go to the Cambodian Academic Relief Project serving needy students and schools in Cambodia.

Despite the thick, sticky humidity on this September morning, we walked down historic streets gazing at mansions with amazingly lush mini-gardens. We crisscrossed over Church, Meeting and King Streets, seeing the transition from modern, high-end shops to classy antiques and art galleries. In the residential areas, tall oak trees arched and provided much appreciated shade. [Tip: Wear flat shoes, no heals. Some of Charleston’s historic streets are cobbled and would be difficult to maneuver in stilettos].

Over on Archdale Street, the Unitarian Church in Charleston’s Churchyard called us in. The canopied tree walkway looked invitingly cool. We were intrigued to see what was at the other end and found something like a secret garden, except it was a graveyard. Grass seemed a bit overgrown, but the walkways along the weathered headstones (dating back to at least the 1800s) are maintained. Pink and orange flowers peeked out of the tall grasses and a chorus of birds sang along with the organ playing in the church.

Rumbling tummies called us to the rolling surf of nearby Folly Beach. One of Cam’s favorite spots – for lunch, dinner and evening – is 11 Center Street. The first floor has rows and rows of wine. I picked out an “okay” Oregon chardonnay from the cooler and took it upstairs for a bird’s-eye-view of Folly Beach’s main drag and the water. 11 Center Street serves a Tapas menu with Mediterranean-American flare. The coconut onion rings were tasty. Imported beers and microbrews are available, too.

Our evening plans were made with help from the area’s free entertainment publication, the Charleston City Paper. Decisions, decisions. It was off to Theatre 99 to see the weekly Saturday performance of The Have Nots! Improv [Comedy] Jam. As we wandered along the waterfront killing time for the 8:00 p.m. show, gussied-up wedding parties left churches and starry-eyed newlyweds cuddled in the back of horse-drawn carriages.

If you’ve seen Drew Carey’s television show, Whose Line Is It Anyway? then you understand improvisational comedy. Audience participation is a must and Cam being a born performer, volunteered to help the comedy troupe with a skit. Bottom line, funny stuff. [Tip: Bring cash; credit cards are not accepted; and don’t be shy during the performance!].

A late-night, light meal and hookah pipe topped off the night at Cafe’ Paradiso on South Market Street. We sat by the sidewalk eating a plate of fresh hummus, zippy tabouli and other Mediterranean treats while smoking a hookah pipe, rented from Cafe’ Paradiso. A live band drew a crowd, as did the hookah. Passersby stopped and watched, thinking we were smoking something illegal, when in fact, we were smoking mint flavored tobacco. Cam invited the curious folks over, explained the pipe and offered tokes to everyone from young college students to gray-haired, sophisticated ladies.

Shrimp and grits was my Sunday morning breakfast at the St. John’s Island Cafe’, a little place we found on our way to the Charleston Tea Plantation. Cam enjoyed the seafood omelet and portions were generous. The Cafe’ looked like a favorite among locals.

The Charleston Tea Plantation was the main reason for making the trip to the area. The drive down Maybank Highway is beautiful; huge oak trees dripping with Spanish moss canopy the road. Private plantation homes are on either side of the street, hidden at the end of long, winding driveways. Just when we thought we missed it, we’d spot signs giving us mileage updates.

Tours of the Charleston Tea Plantation began in January 2006 after three years of restoring the grounds. The tour is a brief trip through the factory, explaining how the tea leaves are harvested and how tea is “born.” Interestingly, black, oolong and green teas are all derived from the same tea leaf. What makes it a specific type of tea is how long the leaves are oxygenated. Iced tea is served in the gift shop section, which of course, sells tea and tea-related souvenirs. Visitors cannot wander through the rows of tea bushes, but can get pretty close.

During my brief visit to Charleston, I didn’t walk along on a ghost tour, visit the Slave Mart Museum or Boone Hall Plantation. Despite missing the typical tourist spots, I’m glad for experiencing the city through a local’s eyes. Especially those of a friend. Besides, this leaves more to explore on a return visit.

– JA Huber

Off to Orlando: How to Get the Most Out of Orlando Night Life

If someone mentions the city Orlando, it is likely that your mind becomes flooded with images of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and the “Happiest Place on Earth” or perhaps E.T., Jaws, and Hollywood movie sets, but there is more to Orlando than just theme parks and animated characters, especially when it comes to Orlando nightlife. Whether you are looking for a jazz club to hear live blues performances, a comedy club to literally laugh your tail off, or a nightclub to dance the night away, Orlando has a vast array of options to choose from. Various nightspots are located throughout Orlando but the majority of them fall in four locations that include Downtown Orlando, Disney’s Pleasure Island, Universal Studios City Walk, and International Drive. No matter where you are in Orlando, a fabulous experience awaits you at any nightspot and is usually only a twenty-minute drive away.

Club Paris
The notorious Hilton Hotels heiress herself, Paris Hilton, was involved in both the design and theme of this Downtown Orlando hotspot. Located in the heart of Downtown Orlando, Club Paris (http://www.clubparis.net) is decorated like that of a palace belonging to only the utmost royal princess. Decorated in carefully selected Italian decor, the signature crown that Paris Hilton is often seen sporting can be spotted throughout the club accented by the bright pink light that backs it. Hanging from the ceiling are crystal chandeliers that sparkle with a pink glow which undoubtedly give Club Paris a decadent and lavish feel. The club boasts over 22,000 feet of dance floors where patrons can dance the night away to the hottest tunes that are blaring from Club Paris’s top-notch sound system. If guests would rather lounge around and chat it up with someone special, there are many plush and metallic looking couches of blue, green, pearl, purple, and of course pink located throughout the club. Club Paris is a multi-level club with an exclusive VIP area located on the second floor. If guests choose to go up to VIP, they can relax and party in the comfort of a bedroom like area that includes a private dance floor and personalized VIP cocktail areas, which overlook the main dance floor. On the first floor, guests can party the night away while dancing on the main floor, lounging around on various colored sofas, and sipping on cocktails from the bars located on the main floor. Throughout the week, Club Paris has special events that bring in large amounts of individuals. On Wednesday night, Club Paris hosts Latin Night and guests can salsa or just “shake their bon-bon” to the hottest Latin music in town. On Thursday night, it is ladies night and there are drink specials and of course it is no surprise that Club Paris draws in many of the hottest Orlando women and men. On Saturday night local radio station XL 106.7 hosts Club Paris where everyone parties the night away while dancing to the hottest tunes and dance music. The dress code consists of club wear and feel free to dress up as much as you’d luck. At Club Paris, dressing to kill is usually the motto most individuals go by. Whether you are looking to just dance and drink the night away or party it up the VIP way, Club Paris is the place to see and definitely be seen.

Chillers
Located near downtown Orlando, Chillers offers a nightclub like experience in a semi-causal and relaxed atmosphere. Known for its fabulous frozen drinks, Chillers offers drink specials and is open seven days a week. The multi-level club offers different kinds of music on each individual floor and with good drinks and great music, it is no wonder why Chillers draws in tons of Orlando locals. Chillers, which is open seven days a week, boasts a rooftop bar which is called Latitudes, along with various bars on the other different levels of the club. On Wednesday nights, Chillers offers drink specials which include dollar drinks and while the atmosphere is pretty laid back, guests can either opt to dress in jeans or club wear, whichever suits their preference. If you are looking to dance and mingle, Chillers offers great drinks and drink specials and various types of music throughout the club.

Howl At the Moon
Howl At the Moon (http://www.howlatthemoon.com) is located off of International Drive, the tourist strip of Orlando. Home of the famous “dueling pianos”, Howl At the Moon, offers guests a dinner theatre-like experience that features live music and performances by only the best musicians and comedians. Guests are encouraged to sing along to the well-known tunes that blare from the pianos and believe me, after a few drinks you will be singing along with the rest of the crowd. The atmosphere consists of guests laughing as the entertainers play songs that just about everyone knows, while singing along as best they can. The atmosphere is intoxicating and you can’t help but be sucked in and have fun. It is impossible not to. Throughout the evening, there are audience participation activities and the employees also come up to the main stage and perform routinely. There are various events through the week including two for one Tuesdays, Ladies night on Wednesday, and College Night on Thursdays. The dress code ranges from casual to dressy casual and with so much activity and fun in one building, it is no wonder why both locals and tourists are drawn to party the night away at Howl At the Moon. If you are out for a first date or perhaps looking to relax after a long day at a convention, Howl At the Moon is the place to be for fun, laughter, entertainment, mingling, and drinks.

Adobe Gilas at Pointe Orlando
Located off of International Drive at Pointe Orlando, Adobe Gilas offers a casual bar experience which features drink specials and live entertainment. Due to its location, guests can enjoy drinks on the second floor at Adobe Gilas or head downstairs to catch a flick at the Muvico Theatres. In addition, one can do some shopping at a variety of brand name stores and little boutiques that include Express, Armani Exchange, Foot Locker, Gray Fifth Avenue, Players Golf, Chico’s, Everything But Water, the Sunglass Hut, and Victoria’s Secret. If you are hungry, you can dine at Adobe Gilas, Johnny Rockets, The Capital Grill, or Hooters.

Matrix and the Metropolis at Pointe Orlando
Located on the top floor of Pointe Orlando, Matrix and the Metropolis are two local clubs located side by side which draw in both out of town visitors and the locals. A single cover charge covers admission into both clubs and between the two there is a variety of music including Techno, Top 100, 80’s music, Reggae, and Euro trance, which is played by live deejays. In addition, the club boasts a multi million-dollar light show, which sets it apart from other Orlando nightclubs.

The Blue Martini
If you are looking for a nice restaurant and bar to go to, The Blue Martini, home of over twenty-five different martinis and located at the Mall of Millennia, is where you want to go. Guests can either spend their time in the VIP section or mingle on the outdoor patio or in the main room. The dress code is dressy so if you decide to head out to the Blue Martini, be ready to dress to impress. Various events are hosted throughout the week including Wednesdays’ Ladies Night and Sunday’s Reggae Night and on occasion, there will be performers who will perform live music for the guests.

Universal’s City Walk
In a tourism driven town like Orlando, it is no surprise that the major theme parks that basically are the reason Orlando is on the map, have decided to stake a claim in the Orlando nightlife. Located within steps away from Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios, City Walk offers a variety of ways to enjoy your evening.

Pat O’Brien’s at Universal City Walk
Known for their Hurricane drinks, Pat O’Brien’s is a place where guests can enjoy authentic cuisine and live entertainment. Pat O’Brien’s cuisine consists of a variety of Cajun specialties including jambalaya, catfish, and shrimp Creole. While dining or drinking, guests will undoubtedly be entertained and can sing along to “dueling piano” show that is performed throughout the evening.

Bob Marley: A Tribute to Freedom at Universal’s City Walk
Located in the heart of Universal’s City Walk, Bob Marley’s celebrates the musical legend’s career and life, providing guests with a unique experience and setting to enjoy his music and celebrate his life. Guests can dine on authentic Jamaican entrees, appetizers and desserts while either dancing the night away or watching live performances by reggae bands.

City Jazz and Bonkerz Comedy Club at Universal’s City Walk
If you are looking for a musical experience that includes a little bit of jazz, funk, r&b, soul, and rock, then City Jazz is the place to be. Guests have the opportunity to sip cocktails and dance while listening to live jazz music performances. It doesn’t end there. On Thursday and Sunday nights, City Jazz transforms into Bonkerz Comedy Club, a special comedy club that features nationally renowned comics. Guests will laugh the night away and may have the opportunity to be a guest participant in the show and on Sunday nights, guests can participate in comedy hypnosis if they dare. Guests must be eighteen or older.

The Groove at Universal’s City Walk
Located in Universal’s City Walk, The Groove is a nightclub where guests can go to drink, dance, and listen to hits ranging from the Top 100 to music from the 70’s and 80’s. The Groove features a multi-level club that consists of three VIP lounges, each with different themes where guests can go to relax and strike up a conversation with that special someone. Guests must be twenty-one years of age in order to come party at The Groove.

Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville at Universal’s City Walk
If you are looking to hang out in a classic party atmosphere while sipping a margarita, Jimmy Buffet’s is the place to be. Guests will enjoy live entertainment after 10 pm and can choose from a wide selection of specialty drinks from any one of the three bars that are inspired by some of Jimmy Buffet’s songs. The names of the bars are the Volcano Bar, the Shark Bar, and the 12 Volt Bar.

The Red Coconut Club at Universal’s City Walk
The Red Coconut Club, which is Universal City Walk’s newest addition to Orlando nightlife, features signature martinis and a DJ spinning a variety of hits. On occasion, guests can enjoy live performances by selected bands. In order to be admitted into The Red Coconut Club guests must be twenty-one and older.

Pleasure Island at Downtown Disney
Now seeing that theme parks rule Orlando, it is no surprise that Disney has its own little form of nightlife located in Downtown Disney. Surrounded by themed restaurants including the Rainforest Cafe and Hard Rock Cafe, Pleasure Island houses all of the nightclubs ranging from dance clubs to comedy clubs. Guests can purchase a pass to a single club or opt for the pass that will get them into all of the clubs.

8 Trax at Pleasure Island
Located in Downtown Disney’s Pleasure Island, guests can flash back a few decades and boogie the night away at 8 Trax while grooving to music hits of the 70’s and 80’s. Television monitors are located throughout the club and guests can watch the music videos while dancing to their favorite tunes.

Adventurer’s Club at Pleasure Island
If guests are looking for a dinner theatre-like experience they will want to mosey on in to the Adventurers Club where they will encounter an interactive experience with an entertaining cast of characters. The setting takes place in a 1930’s gentlemen’s club and guests have the opportunity to participate in the club’s events that include a welcome party, a talent show, the Maid’s sing-a-long, and several others. The Adventure’s Club serves mixed drinks, soft drinks and bottled beer, but does not serve any food items.

BET Soundstage Club at Pleasure Island
If hip-hop and R&B are the types of music you enjoy dancing to, then the BET Soundstage Club is where you will want to go. The two-story club plays the latest in R&B and hip-hop music, which is spun by a live DJ. Television screens are located throughout the club and they display live shots of guests throughout the room.

Mannequins Dance Palace at Pleasure Island
It’s no wonder why the revolving dance floor distinguishes Mannequins from the other clubs at Pleasure Island. Guests can shake their groove thing to the latest in tech and trance music as the dance floor revolves. I have to say that getting on the dance floor is a breeze but getting off of it (especially if you’ve had a few cocktails and are in stilettos) can prove to be somewhat of a challenge. Guests must be twenty-one and older to go in Mannequins.

Rock ‘N’ Roll Beach Club at Pleasure Island
If you are looking for live music or just to hear some good rock ‘n’ roll songs of today and yesterday (or maybe even further back than that), the Rock ‘N’ Roll Beach Club is where you want to go. The three-story club doesn’t limit itself to playing a set type of rock ‘n’ roll music so regardless of what kind of rock ‘n’ roll music you prefer, you’re likely to hear it at the Rock ‘N’ Roll Beach Club.

Motion at Pleasure Island
Known for it’s enormous screen located in the center of the club that displays the music videos of the songs that are blaring throughout the club, Motion tends to be the most crowded of the Pleasure Island clubs and on most nights, there is usually a waiting line to get in. While you may have to wait a little bit in line, the wait is well worth it. Motion plays the Top 40 music and throughout the night you’ll usually hear an old party favorite. Guests can either go dance on the dance floor (which tends to get pretty crowded, especially after midnight) located on the first floor or head upstairs to lounge around on couches or sit down and study the dance floor, which can be easily seen from above.

The Comedy Warehouse at Pleasure Island
With stadium seating and a full bar, guests can enjoy cocktails while watching an improv comedy show. Red phones are located at the end of each row and guests may be called up by the comedians and then literally become a part of the comedy show. One thing is for sure, be ready to laugh like crazy if you head here!

While Orlando has clearly been put on the map due to the ever-expanding Disney World, the Orlando nightlife has quite a bit to offer as well. Whether you are looking to dance on a packed dance floor, attend a comedy show, or sing-a-long at a piano bar, Orlando has a lot to offer and with so many good choices, it is doubtful that you won’t find something in the Orlando nightlife that you absolutely love.

DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum: A Great Delaware Sidetrip

If you’re visiting Rehoboth Beach in Delaware or Ocean City in Maryland and want an attraction that doesn’t involve a suntan, check out the DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum for a new kind of experience. Located at Fenwick Island in Delaware, the museum is home to pirate lore, shipwreck treasures, fantastic artifacts, and an expansive gift shop. This is the perfect place for an ocean lover or pirate enthusiast, whether you choose to visit for a field trip, a family vacation, or a stop-off on a bigger excursion. DiscoverSea offers group tours as well. The museum can be found at 708 Ocean Highway. Visitors should have very little trouble finding it; I have visited the museum twice as a sidetrip from Ocean City and was very glad I took the time to explore.

Another great aspect of DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum is that you don’t have to pay to get in. You can browse the collection as long as you wish; of special interest are the glass cases that pay tribute to various shipwrecks along the East Coast. Spanish galleons such as the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, a royal ship that sunk violently during a storm in 1622, are showcased. You may have never heard of some of the vessels whose artifacts are on display here, but two are on the celebrity list: The Edmund Fitzgerald and the hugely popular R.M.S. Titanic. One of the most tragic stories involves the ships of the 1715 fleet, almost all of which were destroyed in a twist of fate. I was particularly fascinated with the story of the Atocha; luckily, when I got back home and wanted to study it, I found that DiscoverSea’s website was very informative as well and helped me continue my research.

Part of what makes DiscoverSea so interesting is its location; New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland are well known for their connection with shipwrecks and treasure. When you walk out the door of the museum you will find that the ocean is not far away, and you have the knowledge that some of the treasure you just read about could be buried in those waves. DiscoverSea’s pirate exhibits aren’t extensive, but if you like learning about swashbucklers you will find enough to satisfy you. If you place a coin in a machine in the museum’s second story you can hear pirates singing a rowdy tune. Downstairs (at least a few years ago when I visited) a life-size pirate in full regalia sits in a glass case.

The DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum’s gift shop, known appropriately as Sea Shell City, is a huge store offering everything from ship models to hermit crabs. If you’re going for a nautical theme you will probably be able to decorate your whole house here. The lighthouse collectibles and jewelry are of particular interest. Of course, you can buy sea shells (what good would an ocean-oriented gift shop be without sea shells?) and other shelled denizens of the ocean no longer inhabiting their former homes. The casual jewelry is very nice and features shell ornaments of various shapes and colors. One of my nicest ship models, the H.M.S. Bounty, was purchased at Sea Shell City. I can definitely vouch for the selection and only wish I could visit the store again.

If your visit to DiscoverSea and their gift shop has only heightened your interest in the sea, there are a few things you can do: First of all, find the Fenwick Island Lighthouse. Though the current white lighthouse was constructed in the mid-1800s, a lighthouse stood on this site throughout the 1700s as well. You can’t climb to the top, but you can tour the exhibits inside the bottom of the lighthouse and walk around the grounds to appreciate its sheer size. You don’t need to pay an admission to see Fenwick Island Lighthouse.

If you’re staying in Ocean City, find out if you can take a metal detector out and maybe discover some “treasure” for yourself. Although the chances of finding a colonial ship’s cache aren’t terrific, it will enhance the ambiance of treasure-seeking. DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum actually lights a fire in the mind; before I visited I was more the type of person who would just sit on the balcony and stare at the water, but afterwards, I thought of pirates and ships and I actually looked over the ocean and wondered what was out there.

By Lacie R. Schaeffer