xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo Elderhostel Notebook #76 Nov 3, 2000 oxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox Welcome to Elderhostel Notebook, the e-zine where hostelers compare notes on elderhostel programs. EN is an independent project, appreciative of but not associated with Elderhostel Inc. http://www.elderhostel.org EN has a WWW site at http://homepage.mac.com/jimolson/EHnotebook To subscribe to the e-mail edition and/or to submit reviews of programs taken send an e-mail to the editor, Jim Olson, at EHnotebook@aol.com Please keep all correspondence in simple e-mail text format. ################################################ From the Editor's Notebook ################################################ I wasn't able to include all of the reports sent in to date, but any not used in this issue are in the reserve file and will be in the next issue. ################################################ Program Reviews ################################################ Berlin/Paris Elderhostel #80071 Cal Poly, Cambria Pines Lodge, CA St Mary of the Wood, Atawalk, Indiana The Art Institute of Chicago Queen Mary - Long Beach, California -- ____________________ Berlin/Paris Elderhostel #80071 "Joyce S. Cohrs"
This program, run with the cooperation of IST Cultural Tours, ran from September 30 - October 15, 2000, and included one week at the Underlinden Hotel in Berlin and one week at Citadines Apparthotels Montmartre in Paris. On the whole it was a great trip, especially the week in Berlin, as to content. The one down note was the lack of organiztion in Berlin on the part of IST which led to some problems which did not threaten the program itself but brought about complaints about arrangements which were completely avoidable with a little foresight. The tour leader in Berlin didn't have a clue about what her role was or how to make sure things ran smoothly. Her boss was equally, or more, at fault. We stayed in the former East Berlin within walking distance of the Brandenburg Gate and many other historical buildings. The main lecturer, Tom Abbott, was an American who had lived in Germany more than 20 years and is an art historian. He also led the city tour and the day tour to Potsdam. Public transportation was less than a block away and we could use it easily. Berlin is like one big construction site and the wall is no longer in evidence at all. We also went to a cabaret performance and an opera in the restored opera house. Many meals were served in the hotel restaurant which had an especially lavish breakfast buffet. Berlin is the place to be in Europe according to the lecturers at both sites. In Paris our hotel was a couple of blocks from the famous Moulin Rouge. It was on a side street but the main street was rather seedy with sex shops, etc. It was very convenient to both bus and Metro and we were able to travel anywhere easily. Arrangements were very well taken care of here by an experienced tour leader. The main lecturer, Frabrice Callet, was fluent in English with some accent problems which were easily decoded by us in the first day or two. He and another guide accompanied us on our tours of Versailles, the Louvre, and the Orsay so that our group of 35 could be split into two sections. We attended a chamber music concert in a medieval chapel and had our farewell dinner in the elegant dining room at the Louvre. Meals were especially good and served in a number of restaurants as the hotel did not have a restaurant. Many of the Elderhostlers had been in Paris before but the lectures and tours presented different aspects from what most had heard or seen previously. Just two other notes about the trip: 1. IST in the U.S. did not seem to be very good at travel arrangements and many people complained about inconvenient routing and long layovers. 2. There was more petty crime on this trip than I have seen before. Three men had their wallets lifted by pickpockets and two women had their handbags stolen. One was taken right outside the Paris hotel one morning as a youth grabbed it off the shoulder of the traveller. Most of this occurred in Paris. There were individual safes in the rooms in Paris but even these experienced travellers did not seem conscious enough of the danger. Joyce Cohrs email@example.com _____________________ Cal Poly, Cambria Pines Lodge, CA Gavian@aol.com My first requirement in choosing an EH is always the site, and in this case the Cambria Pines Lodge more than lived up to its blurb. It's a long-established retreat center on 25 acres of pines, within walking (hilly) distance of the charming little town of Cambria. The rooms are large (some even with fireplace), with TV, morning coffee, and 2 dbl beds. There's an indoor pool and spa available. The place is built around large lovely gardens. We ate, exercised and had classes all in the same room...but it was large enough for our group of 36. The food was served buffet style, and was healthful, ample and not particularly exciting (no choices)...but we don't go hosteling to "dine", do we? One of the high spots to the (5-day) week was (were?) the co-ordinators, Shirley Jack Yates. It was their first time, and I hope they go on forever. This was my 25th EH and I've never had finer hosts. They were charming, but efficient, knowledgeable and good-looking and extremely helpful. As to the courses, we had Tai Chi, and Zoos, but Cal Poly has many different weeks and other courses offered. But whatever you choose, be sure to pick one that features "Sangs Clatters: a Glimpse of Scotland". Maisie Eggers, the instructor, is a National Treasure worth coming across country for! She could read the dictionary in that great accent and I'd be enthralled, but she gave us a wonderful picture of growing up in Glasgow, and some history of the Highland Clearances, and life in the crofts. The climax was a Ceilidh the last night; a tribute to Robert Burns, and even serving a real Haggis, with all its ceremony. There were two field trips in a very comfortable bus: one to a Tasting and Tour of a Winery, and the other to the Zoo in Atascadero, where we had a glimpse behind the scenes of this very fine little zoo. We also had a free afternoon, which many used to visit the famous (kitschy) Hearst Castle nearby. We went up the coast a ways to see the Elephant Seals on the beach. Because of its location, this site requires a car, so most of the group were fellow Californians. Another slight drawback was noise....the buildings are not well-insulated, so if you have inconsiderate neighbors, you would do well to call the desk...they take quick action. But those are very small things compared to the pleasure of this EH. If I didn't have the rest of the EH Catalog to visit, I'd go back in a minute! Terry Kirker _________________ St Mary of the Wood, Atawalk, Indiana firstname.lastname@example.org My wife and I just returned from Atawalk: The Covered Bridges of Indiana 14552 elderhostel. It was our first one, so we had little to compare with. We enjoyed our experience and recommend it to you all (especially if the problems cited below are corrrected). Here are our comments: SCHEDULE: We arrived on St Mary of the Wood College campus on Sunday afternoon. Check-in went smoothly. We were greeted and directed by Veronica. Sunday evening we had a brief mixer session, which was helpful. I wanted to watch the Bears game (dumb, but faithful...that's me), but couldn't find a cable-connected TV on campus. Monday morning Ann Lynk, Director of Visitors and Convention Bureau, gave an interesting, spirited talk about the history of the Covered Bridge Festival. Lots of emphasis on "it's about the money." Monday early afternoon was a video on the history of Providence and a brief, informative tour of Sisters of Providence hall and church. Then we had a very good class session with Mike Cooper, who taught us about the engineering design and restoration of covered bridges. An hour of swimming preceded supper. That evening a local gradeschool group presented a program of (very little) information about their studies of the bridges. Tuesday morning we received a great lecture on history and lore of the bridges by Sherm Chancellor. He then took us by school bus to many of the bridges. We got to crawl around and under them to our hearts' desire. He showed construction, deterioration, and restoration aspects. We had lunch on the road at Tangiers, home of the "buried beef". It was lots better than it sounds. Then it was on to more bridges and back to the College. That evening they arranged for us to watch "The Bridges of Madison County" on the TV/VCR at the College. Wednesday we were off on the bus to see more bridges with Sherm all morning. We finished up the tour at noon and were on our own for four hours of arts and crafts shopping in Bridgeton, IN, one of the several towns in the area that host the Covered Bridge Festival, returning to the College for supper. Most of us watched a video movie that evening. Thursday morning the group's only activity was a 2-hour session on Flora and Fauna of Indiana. It turned out to be a brief walk on campus to collect leaves, then making leaf-print-t-shirts. Good fun, but not what any of us had in mind. We were free in the afternoon. Veronica made special arrangements for the school van to take some of the group back to the Covered Bridge Festival for more shopping. The rest of us went to Terre Haute, which has some interesting old buildings, a nice house-museum, and lots of strip-mall shopping south of town. That evening we had a special "Amish" closing dinner. It was good, but not really special. We received our certificates and a beautiful, framed print of a covered bridge (nice!). Later, most of us watched another video in the guesthouse. Friday there was NO planned program. We ate breakfast and left. LOCATION: St Mary of the Woods is a beautiful, old campus about 5 miles outside Terre Haute, IN. In October the beautiful scenery in the area is worth the cost of the elderhostel. The dining halls are about 1/4 mile from the Guesthouse where we stayed. It was an easy walk, but would have been a bummer if it had rained. HOUSING: Rooms were neat and clean. Our room was spacious and comfortable. Lighting was poor (bring 100W bulbs). The building only has heating, so it would have been less comfortable if the weather had been warm. We shared a bath with another couple. This was just a minor inconvenience. FOOD: Breakfasts were self-serve. The serving area was crammed into a small, dead-end room. When we suggested they open another, existing door in the room, the staff explained that it would be inconvenient for them(!). There was a variety of breakfast items, but nothing special. Lunch and supper meals were in the school's dining room. The food was institutional, well prepared, and ample. Suppers were at 5:30....too early by our standards, especially as isolated as we were from town and cable TV. LEADERSHIP: Veronica and her assistants, Lori and Julie, were helpful, responsive, flexible, and active. When problems developed, they acted to fix them. However, there were several gaps in coverage, and we had problems contacting them when problems came up. CONTENT: We talked to many friends before going on this elderhostel. They all commented on the "rigorous" activities and how busy they usually were on elderhostels. This was NOT the case here. We had many, BIG "freetime" gaps.... too many. Our experienced group members agreed. The program really ended Thursday at noon(!!!), so we only had a 3 1/2 day elderhostel. The program should have been fleshed out with more content (shopping isn't content), such as information sessions and/or field trips on the history of southern Indiana, Terre Haute (quite an interesting history there!!!), local attractions, flora and fauna (educational this time), and canals. Overall, we enjoyed our first adventure and recommend it to you. We are already looking for our next one. Bill and Ann Carter email@example.com _____________________ The Art Institute of Chicago #13000-1001-01 October 1-7, 2000 firstname.lastname@example.org This excellent program used selected paintings, sculptures, and artifacts in its collection as foci for informative lectures (one or two daily) on art, from ancient to contemporary times. Participants (44 in our group) were housed and ate breakfast and dinner at the historic 106-year-old Chicago Athletic Association building, a short block and across the street from the Art Institute, on Michigan Avenue. Rooms were comfortable and well appointed; food, satisfactory; service, excellent. We had lunch daily at the Institute's school delicatessen. Extras--in our case, two evening plays and a two-hour downtown afternoon walking architecture tour--could be reserved in advance and cost extra. Other options (no charge) included daily one-hour morning Tai Chi classes, a special evening lecture, and a onetime after-dinner calligraphy class. We had one afternoon free. The program site is within walking distance of such Chicago landmarks as the Field Museum, Cultural Center, original Marshall Field's Department Store, Sears Tower, Palmer House, Museum of Contemporary Art, and Terra Museum of American Art. ______________ Queen Mary - Long Beach, California -- The Center for Studies of the Future Oct. 8 - 12, 2000 Program 52355-1008-01 Kgnu@aol.com The Queen Mary is fabulous! Owned by the city of Long Beach, she is permanently berthed in its harbor and operates as a luxury hotel. Her elegance is evident immediately as all staterooms, passages and public areas are richly panelled, utilizing some 50 different kinds of wood, many varieties from trees which are now extinct. In addition, sparkling crystal murals, complimented by gleaming brass and German silver are resplendent in the stairwells. The QM is home to several million dollars worth of exquisite art objects. She is in a constant state of renovation to preserve her elegant 1930's atmosphere, while upgrading to accomodate the expectations of today's guests. Forget everything you've heard about cramped shipboard cabins. As a ship's officer pointed out during one lecture, "This is a liner, not a cruise ship." Guests are housed in spacious, air-conditioned, first class staterooms. Our room was equipped with a coffeemaker, refrigerator, hair dryer and phone jack for internet access. (It's my understanding that other rooms may be lacking in some of these amenities.) My roommate, Mary Alice, and I found ample storage space in the closet, desk and a multitude of drawers and cubby holes. Two portholes provided daylight and gave us access to fresh air. The hotel staff is courteous, friendly and attentive -- an eager crew who provide service with a smile. The local newspaper was left at our door every morning, and maid service is provided daily. The meals served on board are delicious! The QM chefs do an excellent job of prep and presentation. We breakfasted aboard ship, and also enjoyed two superb dinners. The breakfast buffet included eggs, potatoes, bacon and sausage, as well as a variety of cereals, rolls, pastries, juices and a spectacular array of fresh California fruits. Though most of us chose the buffet, we were given the option of ordering from the menu. At the first group dinner, the main course choice was chicken or fish. Our farewell dinner options were chicken or steak. All were served with rice or potatoes, and a tasty fresh vegetable medley. Most meals were served in the Promenade Cafe -- a beautifully appointed salon on the Promenade deck. The waiters are attentive without being intrusive, and the service is excellent. (As specified in the catalog, they are not prepared to cater to special dietary needs.) Some hostelers make it a policy to carry little money, based on their understanding that all expenses and tips have been prepaid. This isn't the case on the Queen Mary. Unless you're a very light eater, you'll need a bit of breakfast and lunch money. You'll also need some cash for tips. For example, upon arrival, bellhops greet you at the parking lot entrance, put your luggage on carts and escort you to the lobby, which is upstairs. If you arrive before check-in time, they stow the bags for safekeeping, until your room is available. After delivering you and your luggage to your room, they expect, and deserve, a tip. CSF provided breakfast vouchers for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. These had a face value of $10. Hostelers pay the difference if tabs exceed that amount. (The difference is not refunded if you spend less.) The buffet is priced at $9.95, before tax and tip. Thursday's "prepaid breakfast" was continental style -- sign in and pick up coffee, juice, and pastries in the bakery and eat on the deck or in your room. The lunch plan was a bit unusual. At registration, each hosteler was given an envelope containing $20 -- which was designated as "lunch money" for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, when we'd be on our own. Monday's group lunch was pizza. Our schedule read, "Meet at Italian restaurant in the Marketplace across from the ship." Upon arrival at the restaurant, we were told to use the back door, which was labeled "Employees Only." Here, we were sent through a cafeteria-style line, past a makeshift counter where small salads, packets of dressing, and beverages were set out. We were given a slice of pizza on a paper plate and sent outdoors to eat. (Had we known in what to expect, many of us would have skipped this experience, and opted to dine aboard ship.) This course is not for people who have difficulty walking. In a classic example of understatement, the catalog listing shows 700 feet as the maximum distance between housing, classes, and meals. The ship, itself, is 1,019 feet long. There are ten decks, and the class tours had us scampering over four or five of them, using the stairs to move between decks. (The two elevators are slow. Folks who used them had to catch up with the group, usually missing out on a few things.) In addition, the schedule includes a walking tour of downtown Long Beach, a visit to the aquarium, and two evening meals at a downtown Greek restaurant. Long Beach provides free bus service to these locations. However, you have to walk across the Queen Mary's sizeable parking lot, to and from the bus stop, and will very likely have to stand while you wait. Some folks in our group were unable to participate comfortably in these activities. Classes include a study of Art Deco, the Art of the Queen Mary, as well as the histories of the Queen Mary, movies and Long Beach. Given California's laid-back lifestyle, when it comes to classes, flexibilty is the name of the game. If you seek structure and compliance with pre-ordained schedules, this may not be the course for you. Adjustments are frequent and require a willingness to go with the flow. The two ship's officers who lectured and led a tour, knew their material and presented it in an interesting way. Sean Smith, the Art Deco instructor, is a youthful grad student, who initially appeared ill at ease. He stammered a bit, then conceded that ours was his first Elderhostel class. He mentioned that he was more accustomed to teaching college students and to saying "Yes sir" or "Yes ma'am" to people our age. At that point, I cut him a bit of slack on the grounds that 'He'd been raised right.' Following the lecture, Smith led us on a tour where he pointed out and explained the decor and details of some of the artwork on board. Here, he was in his element, and seemed to be more comfortable, and ably fielded our questions. Gary Hammond, whose audio-visual presentation on was scheduled from 8:30 till noon failed to appear on Wednesday. Our coordinator filled the timeslot with videos of old movies. Mr. Hammond showed up at 11 o'clock on Thursday morning. His presentation was crammed into the one-hour slot that had been allotted for a lecture on the Port of Long Beach. This very interesting and entertaining class titled, "The films and music of the Queen's era," was, unfortunately, cut short because of a noon check-out time. (I heard no explation regarding the scheduled lecture about the port.) One of the brightest spots in the agenda was our walking tour of downtown Long Beach, led by Lucy Daggett. Lucy is extremely well-informed about local history, art and architecture and sparkles as she enthusiastically shares information about the town which she so obviously loves. Our group got an added bonus during this outing, when the tour ended inside a church, where the pipe organ was undergoing extensive repair. One of the workers graciously treated us to a brief, but masterful, impromptu concert. Another highlight for me, was the visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific. We lunched in the cafeteria, primarily on salads or sub sandwiches, and then were free to roam at our own pace. Knowledgeable docents are available to answer your questions, and there are many hands-on exhibits where you can, for example: Reach into the water and touch the sting rays (whose barbs have been removed.) The aquarium has both indoor and outdoor exhibits. The specimens original habitats range from frigid Alaskan waters to the tropical reefs of Micronesia. My personal favorites, the sea otters, put on a non-stop performance that continually kept the viewing area crowded with observers. I'd be remiss if I ended this narrative without mentioning Peg Steel, our coordinator. As stated earlier, the QM is constantly undergoing repair and renovation. During our brief stay, this work required the occasional closing of stairways, passages and in one instance, the dining room. In addition to coping with teachers who failed to show up, Peg had to deal with rerouting us to avoid construction areas. She made heroic efforts to keep our group of 40 happy in spite of the foul-ups. Somehow, Peg kept smiling. Also, hats off to the ships' officers and crew, who went out of their way to make our stay pleasant. Micki Nelson