Hotel del Coronado offers Labor Day package in San Diego

Hotel del Coronado shines at dusk in San Diego. (Photo courtesy of Hotel del Coronado)

Hotel del Coronado shines at dusk in San Diego. (Photo courtesy of Hotel del Coronado)

For those looking to celebrate a long, Labor Day Weekend with a glimpse into classic Victorian architecture dating back to the holiday’s origin without sacrificing the modern amenities of today, Hotel del Coronado is offering two packages for some end-of-summer savings.

Del Beach & Breakfast Package

Start the day with an ocean-view breakfast, and then lounge all day on the new “Del Beach” and enjoy the warm sun and sparkling blue waves while sipping a cocktail or enjoying a beach lunch. The “Del Beach & Breakfast” package includes:

15% off overnight accommodations (two night minimum stay)

  • Daily breakfast buffet for two at Sheerwater (includes tax and gratuity)
  • One full-day rental of two luxury lounge chairs and a half-moon cabanette at Del Beach
  • Promo Code: DELBEACH1

 Del Perks Package

Get some added perks included in your room rate when you stay two nights or more! With the “Del Perks” offer, your room rate includes your:

 Daily resort charge (a $56 value based on a two-night stay)

  • Overnight self-parking (a $74 value based on a two-night stay)
  • A daily $50 resort credit (a $100 value based on a two-night stay)
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Grand Tetons: Snake River raft tour was one of trip’s highlights

By Steve Scauzillo, Staff Writer

This park has 300 historic buildings. One place that fits that category and then some is Jenny Lake and lodge. Named after the trapper Beaver Dick Leigh’s wife, Jenny, the lake, lodge and visitor center blend into the idyllic setting.

If you get there early, grab a boat ride to Hidden Falls. Or just wander the lake’s gentle shores. You might catch a family of deer grazing near the boathouse.

The raft tour of the Snake River was one of the highlights of our trip. No rapids, just smooth sailing with an expert guide who pointed out the nesting bald eagles overhead.

My wife also spotted a river beaver on the muddy bank. Tours are available for $65 for adults out of Jackson Lake Lodge. You don’t have to be fit to do this. All we did was sit and let the man with the oars steer us into hours of tranquility.

I saved the best for last: A tour of Oxbow Bend, the most photographed area in the United States. In fall, the gold and burnt orange leaves shimmer against the backdrop of Mount Moran and the whole Teton Range.

Be sure to ask for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Ranger. He adds music from Bob Dylan and The Byrds to an engrossing evening of history, politics and nature.

When you’re planning your trip to the Gran Tetons, just remember to tell your travel agent: It’s the place with the unusual name. It was named by French trappers who missed their women.

Don’t miss this place.

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Grand Tetons: Lots of easy hikes in this national park

By Steve Scauzillo, Staff Writer

If you enjoy hikes but aren’t the most athletic, there are a lot of easy ones in Grand Tetons National Park. We checked out the list of hikes with the friendly ranger at the Colter Bay Visitor Center.

The next day, my wife, Karen, and our 21-year-old son, Andy, were 10 minutes into a woodsy jaunt along Jackson Lake when I yelled out: “Deer!”

The doe shot me a look with her big, black eyes and then moved on.

Later, we arrived at our destination: Swan Lake. Here, a family of white swans took up residency at the far end of a blue kettle lake half-covered in green lily pods. The distant sound of the birds’ honking told us this was their home — we were only guests.

Jackson Lake is controlled by Jackson Lake Dam. So with the drought, the water levels were low. When the Congress preserved the lake as part of the park, it did so knowing that a large portion of the water belonged to the Idaho potato farmers.

Naturalists wanted to renege on the agreement but the farmers held firm. After much debate and bitter fights, the 484-square-mile park became one of the first with a dam on a river to be preserved. A compromise, indeed, that took three acts of Congress starting in 1929 and ending in 1950.

Jackson Lake Lodge is part of the history of the Grand Tetons. The view from inside the main room envelopes you like a warm bath. Your eyes travel past the floor-to-ceiling windows into the 40-mile Teton mountain range outside.

There’s a short, 1-mile hike outside the wood veranda that’s perfect for burning off the calories from breakfast at the lodge’s famous Americana restaurant, the Pioneer Grill.

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Grand Tetons: L.A. families can fly or drive to Wyoming

By Steve Scauzillo, Staff Writer

You don’t have to rough it or learn how to honk like a goose to enjoy the Grand Tetons.

First, you can drive or fly. It is in Wyoming, so it’s not too far. Flights to Jackson or Boseman, Mont., are convenient. You can hire a car service from the airport.

My family and I made it part of a two-fer with Yellowstone, which is less than an hour’s drive away.

After checking out bubbling geysers, waterfalls and ambling bison at Yellowstone, we hopped in the rental car and drove this gorgeous big-sky country into Teton.

Confession: I liked Grand Teton Park better than Yellowstone. Teton is balm for the anxious soul. It’s less crowded and more beautiful.

We went in the off-season, when fall breezes brought a chilly snap to the fresh air. They also delivered thunderstorms and hail, but that didn’t last too long, and by the next day, gave way to blue skies and cotton-ball clouds.

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Grand Tetons: Put this national park on your must-see list

By Steve Scauzillo, Staff Writer

Fishermen, hunters and naturalists don’t need to read what I’m writing about because chances are they’ve been there.

They’ve fished its lazy rivers. Hunted for game. Peered through binoculars in the freezing cold for a glimpse at the fleeting pronghorn elk.

It’s Grand Teton National Park.

This preserved, not totally pristine but picturesque wonder of the national park system receives plenty of popularity from the specialized outdoor adventurers but might be overlooked by family vacationers.

They’d rather go to Yosemite National Park, the Grand Canyon, one of those awe-inspiring parks in Utah and of course, Yellowstone National Park. But you might want to put Grand Teton on your list of must-see natural places, even if pitching a tent or bird-watching in the rain ain’t your thing.

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Dining with the devil in Auerbach’s Cellar in Leipzig, Germany

The imposing New City Hall has been the seat of government since 1905. (Photo courtesy of Leipzig Tourism and Marketing)

The imposing New City Hall has been the seat of government since 1905. (Photo courtesy of Leipzig Tourism and Marketing)

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Leipzig’s  imposing New City Hall has been the seat of government since 1905. It is opposite the city library on Leipzig’s ring road.

The 36-story City-Hochhaus, at 466 feet tall, is the tallest building in Leipzig. Owned by Merrill Lynch, the building was designed by architect Hermann Henselmann to resemble an open book.

By now everyone was hungry, so we went to Auerbach’s Cellar, probably the best-known and second-oldest restaurant in Leipzig. One of the city’s most important wine bars by the 16th century, it was described in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s play “Faust I” as the first place Mephistopheles takes Faust on their travels.

Auerbach’s Cellar sits below the Mädlerpassage shopping arcade in Leipzig’s historical district near the market. It has five historical dining rooms.

Auerbachs Keller restaurant depicts scenes from the Faust legend. (Photo courtesy of Leipzig Tourism and Marketing)

Auerbachs Keller restaurant depicts scenes from the Faust legend. (Photo courtesy of Leipzig Tourism and Marketing)

According to legend, the alchemist Johann Georg Faust rode a wine barrel from the cellar to the street, something he could have accomplished only with the help of the devil.

By then the tykes were tired, so we didn’t get to see some of the other famous attractions, including the botanical garden, which is the oldest in Germany; and Leipzig’s zoo c, which covers 56 acres with 850 species. The zoo is known worldwide for its carnivore exhibit. The zoo has bred more than 2,000 lions, as well as 250 rare Siberian tigers.

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Battle of the Nations Monument towers over Leipzig

The Monument of the Battle of the Nations marks the spot where Napoleon was defeated in Leipzig. (Photo courtesy of Leipzig Tourism and Marketing)

The Monument of the Battle of the Nations marks the spot where Napoleon was defeated in Leipzig. (Photo courtesy of Leipzig Tourism and Marketing)

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

My niece’s in-laws were anxious to show me around their lovely city. They had lived behind the Iron Curtain for many years.

Today, Leipzig is very much a Saxon city. Its stately architecture reflects a rich past as a commercial center with the oldest trade fair in Germany.

As we strolled down the busy boulevards, the youngsters offered a nonstop commentary loosely translated from their grandparents’ tales.

We visited St. Nicholas Church, which was built around the founding of Leipzig in 1165. It is in the heart of the city at the intersection of two Roman trade routes, the Via Regia and Via Imperii.

St. Thomas Lutheran Church is where Johann Sebastian Bach worked as the choir director from 1723 until his death in 1750. Bach is buried here and a statue of the famous composer sits outside the church.

St. Thomas Lutheran Church, where Johann Sebastian Bach worked as the choir director from 1723 until his death in 1750. Bach is buried here and statue of the famous composer sits outside the church.(Photo courtesy of Leipzig Tourism and Marketing)

St. Thomas Lutheran Church, where Johann Sebastian Bach worked as the choir director from 1723 until his death in 1750. Bach is buried here and statue of the famous composer sits outside the church.(Photo courtesy of Leipzig Tourism and Marketing)

They drove me out to the Battle of the Nations Monument. The imposing 300-foot-tall monument commemorates Napoleon’s defeat in 1813. It is said that it stands on the spot of some of the bloodiest fighting, from where Napoleon ordered the retreat. When the Allies invaded France the next year, Napoleon was forced to abdicate and was exiled to the island of Elba in May 1814.

More than 500 steps lead to a viewing platform on the top, which has wonderful views of the city. The crypt has eight large statues of fallen warriors. The second story of the monument has four great statues 31 feet tall. They represent the four legendary qualities of bravery, faith, sacrifice and fertility.

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Leipzig’s Festival of Lights marks 25th anniversary of peaceful revolution

Leipzig celebrates the Peaceful Revolution with its annual Festival of Lights. (Photo courtesy of Leipzig Tourism and Marketing)

Leipzig celebrates the Peaceful Revolution with its annual Festival of Lights. (Photo courtesy of Leipzig Tourism and Marketing)

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Since 2009, the Festival of Lights has commemorated the nonviolent march of 70,000 demonstrators on Oct. 9, 1989.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the peaceful revolution, the festival’s organizers are expecting tens of thousands of visitors from throughout Germany.

They have planned a long weekend of cultural events, beginning with the peace prayer and democracy speech at St. Nicholas Church.

It will be followed by the Festival of Lights on Augustusplatz square that evening.

All along the route of the historical march through the city center, special exhibitions and performances will highlight the history of Germany’s division. International artists will use audio, video and lights to explore the themes of freedom, democracy, nonviolence and civic engagement.

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Leipzig’s peaceful revolution led to fall of Berlin Wall

Prayer for Peace in St. Nicholas Church in Leipzig, Germany. (Photo courtesy of Leipzig Tourism and Marketing)

Prayer for Peace in St. Nicholas Church in Leipzig, Germany. (Photo courtesy of Leipzig Tourism and Marketing)

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Strangely enough, the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago began with a peaceful revolution in Leipzig. The nonviolent demonstrations for democracy and peace began here, then spread throughout East Germany.

Stranger still, I now had family in Leipzig. My niece married a German businessman from this charming city and they volunteered to show me around, her 4- and 6-year-olds serving as my friendly translators.

Our little caravan marched down the same streets where thousands of demonstrators demanded freedom. Freedom of speech, freedom to travel, freedom for political reform.

This powerful movement began with morning peace prayers at St. Nicholas Church on Sundays in November 1982. Over the years, the movement grew and the demonstrations moved to Mondays.

In October 1989, the peaceful protestors filled the streets shouting “We are the people,” “Freedom, free elections” and “Freedom for the prisoners.”

The large police force couldn’t cope with the huge nonviolent crowds. Later, 120,000 people from all over East Germany joined the demonstrations, demanding freedom at long last.

Finally, Erich Honecker, the head of the Communist Party, left office after 18 years for “health reasons.” On Nov. 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall was opened. East and West Germany were finally reunited.

“These events were of immense historical importance for Germany, and also played a key role in shaping the course of European unity,” notes Petra Hedorfer, chief executive of the German National Tourist Board.

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Travel Buddy ships out to Misty Fjords National Monument

New Eddystone Rock pops up from Misty Fjord National Monument

New Eddystone Rock pops up from Misty Fjord National Monument

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

It may not be a three-day survival test like they give eighth graders in Ketchikan, but my four-hour trip to Misty Fjords National Monument gave me a glimpse into the natural beauty of southeastern Alaska.

My adventure showed me the spirit of Alaskans as well as the scenic beauty. The national monument is part of the Tongass National Forest, comprising 2.3 million acres of rain forest in the Alaskan Panhandle. It is 40 miles east of Ketchikan.

And yes, one of the finals in the eighth grade is a local version of “Survivor: Ketchi kan.” To hear deckhand Elizabeth Jagusch tell it, it’s not that bad – EXCEPT for the constant rain, no food or water.

But what the hey, that’s why they take survival training in the local schools. And Jagusch got an A+ in her survival test. She didn’t get eaten by a bear, suffer from hypothermia or starve.

Her stories are just one of the many things that make the Misty Fjords trip so enjoyable. That and the naturalist on board turning out to be the son of a longtime friend and fellow ski writer Bob Cox, whose column has run in the Torrance Daily Breeze for many years.

Randy Cox grew up in Torrance. After school, he moved to Flagstaff, Ariz., where he’s a ski instructor in the winter. This year, Randy decided to take a summer job in Alaska, landing up in Ketchikan.

“It’s so different here, because there’s only 40 miles of road and most of the traffic is on only 10 of those miles,” Randy explained. “So everyone uses ferries to get around. It’s awesome.”

Torrance native Randy Cox talks about Misty Fjords National Monument.

Torrance native Randy Cox talks about Misty Fjords National Monument.

Our group was traveling on a high-speed catamaran to Misty Fjords. We had sailed into the harbor at 7 a.m. on Holland America’s Westerdam. And departure was set for 1 p.m.. so we didn’t have much time. Fortunately, this tour company combines the high-speed cat (think Catalina Express) with a return by seaplane.

Even at 30 knots, the trip to the national monument took two and a half hours. Along the way, Capt. Keith Reeder, Randy and Elizabeth kept the passengers entertained with interesting stories. They mixed facts with local flavor to capture the spirit of the Far North.

These granite mountains were carved out by glaciers during the Ice Age. Randy said the monsters were 6,000 feet high. Boulders the size of houses scored the mountainsides, giving them the striations you still see today.

Today, the u-shaped fjords are 1,000 feet deep, bracketed by cliffs rising another 3,000 feet. The mountains are often shrouded by the moist air rising from the fjords, giving the wilderness its name.

Hundreds of islands dot the landscape. Annette Island is the only native reservation left in Alaska, according to Randy. “In the 1870s, the natives were given a choice,” Randy said. “They could renounce their sovereignty and receive a stipend, or keep their sovereignty for no stipend.”

Every clan but one took the money, about $1 million each according to the naturalist. The tribes used the money to form corporations, some of which are the largest in the state today.

A different island is used for the survival challenge every year. And the name of the island is no longer announced to the public.

“Some of the parents cheated by planting supplies on the island before their children got there,” Randy noted. “So the choice is now a secret known only to the schools.”

He said parents actually like the training. Ketchikan is a small, isolated town so there are no malls to hang out in. Instead, kids climb into their boats to explore the scenic wonder in their own backyard. Parents worried when their children couldn’t make it back because of storms or engine trouble.

“So survival training begins in the sixth grade and ends with the survival final,” Elizabeth said.

Passenger gather at railing to peer at granite cliffs sliding by in Misty Fjords National Monument. (Photos by Richard Irwin)

Passengers gather at the railing to peer at granite cliffs sliding by in Misty Fjords National Monument. (Photos by Richard Irwin)

The 14-year-old was dropped off with 20 other young women on a small island. An adult watched for safety as well as grading each teen.

Elizabeth said students could bring a sleeping bag and a 10 by 10 foot tarp. And an empty Folgers can became an important tool, being used for digging, carrying food and water.

“In our cans, we could bring a pocketknife, string, fishing hooks and first aid kit. We could add anything we wanted in a quarter of the can,” Elizabeth said. “Many packed candy bars, but I filled mine with rice and water purifier tablets.”

She said the first day was spent building shelters from the tarps in the pouring rain, drying wood for fires, digging a latrine and boiling water to drink.

On the second day, the students gathered food from the forest. By the third day, the kids were hungry for some protein, so they sharpened sticks into spears and waited for the tide to go out. Then they stabbed crabs as well as a two-foot long halibut in a small pool.

“Inside the halibut, we found a live squid,” Elizabeth said. “So I had a nice chunk of halibut with my rice and squid.”

The crew kept us entertained with interesting information and stories. At one point, we powered down and slid up to one of the imposing granite cliffs.

Reaching out, Randy pointed to some of the starfish clinging to the rocks, and a band of iron oxide that gave the rock an orange color.

Huge trees hung over the sides, clinging to the bare rocks by their shallow roots. Randy showed us a band of trees that had been knocked down by high winds.

Off in the distance, I spied a tower jutting out of the center of the fjord. Was it a ship? An oil derrick? I couldn’t hold my binoculars steady enough to figure it out.

Finally, Capt. Reeder explained that the 237-foot tall basalt rock was a volcanic plug. It was named New Eddystone Rock by famed explorer George Vancouver while searching for the Northwest Passage.

John Muir compared Misty Fjords with Yosemite Valley because of its similar geology. Light colored granite is gouged out by the glaciers, leaving the distinctive u-shaped valleys.

Randy described the Western Hemlock, Sitka Spruce and Western Redcedar that cling to the mountainsides. He even had saplings of each for the children to touch.

Soon we reached the floating dock, where seaplanes would fly us back to our cruise ships. Suddenly, two seaplanes banked around a curve, gliding gently down to alight in the calm water.

Puttering up, the pilots cut the engines just in time to slide gently into the dock. I’d always dreamed of flying a float plane in Alaska. And I got a classic DHC-3 Beaver to try it in.

The high-wing prop plane was developed by de Havilland Canada for a short takeoff and landing. The 1950s era instruments shared cockpit space with modern radios and GPS system. An old-fashioned yoke rested in the pilot’s lap.

Naturalist points out star fish living at base of cliffs in Misty Fjords National Monument.

Naturalist points out star fish living at base of cliffs in Misty Fjords National Monument.

Alaska’s most popular bush plane has been upgraded with noise cancelling headphones and large viewing windows. The headphones made conversation possible over the loud radial engine roaring only a couple feet ahead of me.

Taxiing out into the fjord, the pilot slowly added power until the pontoons left rooster tails behind us. Breaking free, we rose slowly through the valley, the granite cliffs bracketing us on either side.

The aerial adventure gave us another perspective of the national monument. As we wheeled through the skies, we felt like the Bald Eagles who populate the place.

Soon, the pilot had us back to civilization, where we landed smoothly next to the giant cruise ships nuzzled against the docks. We would soon be back aboard the floating hotels, where our survival skills would only be tested in the bars and casino.

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