Lompoc California....A Wonderful Visitor Destination Just Around the Bend from Santa Barbara

If you haven't thought about visiting Lompoc while touring California's Central Coast, think again.

Lompoc is known as the City of Art and Flowers, and it delivers on those promises and much more. 

Lompoc's Glorious Flower Fields, © Joanne DiBona

Lompoc's Glorious Flower Fields, © Joanne DiBona

Nestled just one hour northwest of Santa Barbara California, Lompoc is an emerging destination that offers a rich historical past, a picturesque wine trail and local tasting rooms featuring award-winning varietals, nationally-renowned civic murals, the awe-inspiring historic La Purisima Mission, rugged ocean vistas, hiking and biking trails, and just about any activity you have come to enjoy in other Central Coast locations. 

Please enjoy my USATODAY PHOTO GALLERY of this beautiful destination.

It's Bluebonnet Time in the Birthplace of Texas

Conveniently located halfway between Houston and Austin on Hwy. 290 in Washington County, the historic and quaint town of Brenham Texas offers the visitor a variety of experiences. An historical downtown features a wide array of antiques and specialty shops, as well as a variety of lodging and dining options.

Brenham's Colorful Historic Downtown, © Tony DiBona

Brenham's Colorful Historic Downtown, © Tony DiBona

The nearby Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site features a state-of-the-art visitor center and is the location of Independence Hall, where founding fathers signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. The George Bush Presidential Library is located in nearby College Station.

In Spring, Brenham is a popular destination for travelers who descend upon the region to view the bluebonnets that proliferate in the fields and pastures.

Close Up of the Famous Texan Blue Bonnet © Joanne DiBona

Close Up of the Famous Texan Blue Bonnet © Joanne DiBona


Click HERE to see a USATRAVEL photo gallery on this region.

USA TODAY Features Photo Show of Catalina Island as a Winter Holiday Destination

In the winter months, Catalina Island, located just 22 miles off the coast of Southern California, is a perfect winter visitor destination, especially during the holidays. A photo gallery  is currently featured on USA TODAY's 10Best home page.

View on Avalon Harbor, Catalina Island   © Joanne DiBona

View on Avalon Harbor, Catalina Island   © Joanne DiBona

Joanne DiBona Honored with San Diego Press Club Excellence in Journalism Award

I am proud to announce that my travel article, Natural Selection…An Enchanting Cruise through the Galapagos Islands, has won First Place in the recent 42nd Annual San Diego Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards in the category of Daily Newspapers & Websites: Travel.

Travel is always a tight and crowded competition category, which makes this award especially significant.

Southern California's Enchanting Catalina Island--The Pleasures of an Off-Season Visit

A winter rainbow provides a magical backdrop above the historic Avalon Casino on Catalina Island. Photo:  Joanne DiBona  

A winter rainbow provides a magical backdrop above the historic Avalon Casino on Catalina Island. Photo:  Joanne DiBona  

Fall and winter are the perfect seasons for a visit to Catalina Island, located just 22 miles off the shore of Southern California. Summer crowds are gone, and Catalina is relaxing, romantic, and filled with all sorts of activities and events for every taste. Read how my husband and I spent our December birthdays on this magical island. San Diego Union-Tribune, Catalina Without the Crowds, October 18, 2015. 

See a complete PHOTO LIBRARY of all the images of this trip to Avalon and the Catalina Backcountry.


Stepping Back in Time: Spirit of Old Japan Permeates Walking Tour of Ancient Highway

Since I was a little girl, I've always dreamed about visiting Japan. I finally made it to my enchanted land and discovered it in a uniquely adventurous way:  on foot. Enjoy an account of my trek through the heart of central Japan on the ancient Kiso Road and Nakasendo Way.

To view a complete library of all the images of this incredible journey, please access the file at Joanne DiBona Photography

To view a complete library of all the images of this incredible journey, please access the file at Joanne DiBona Photography

Lompoc California: Discover What's Around the Bend in California's Central Coast

If you haven't thought about visiting Lompoc while touring California's Central Coast, think again.

Lompoc is known as the City of Art and Flowers, and it delivers on those promises and much more. Nestled just one hour northwest of Santa Barbara California, Lompoc is an emerging destination that has it all: a rich historical past; a wine trail and local tasting rooms featuring award-winning varietals; nationally-renowned civic murals; the awe-inspiring historic La Purisima Mission; scenic back roads; rugged ocean vistas; hiking and biking trails; and just about any activity you have come to enjoy in other Central Coast locations. 

Colorful murals such as this can be found throughout the charming town of Lompoc.

Colorful murals such as this can be found throughout the charming town of Lompoc.

Visit EXPLORELOMPOC.COM for information about lodging choices and recommendations for places to see and things to do in this fascinating, and yet-to-be-discovered Central Coast destination.

The slide show below will give you a quick taste of what Lompoc has to offer the visitor. For a more in-depth look at this destination, visit my Lompoc Scenic Photo Site. All photos on this site:  © Joanne DiBona/ © Tony DiBona

Click the arrow to the right below to start the slide gallery.

San Antonio Texas--What's Old is New

While San Antonio, Texas is deservedly proud of its iconic landmark, The Alamo, the city offers a wide variety of attractions and activities for visitors of all ages. The recent expansion of the world-famous River Walk has also stimulated renovation projects of historical sites along its way, as well as new construction. A cultural tourism mecca, San Antonio's history can be seen today in its 18th century Missions and historic downtown, as well in its many outstanding museums. Recreational activities abound along the river and in the city's parks and neighborhoods. Colorful festivals year-round, a rich ethnic heritage, a vibrant dining scene, and a convention center expansion are just some of the reasons visitors continue to make their way to San Antonio for business and pleasure. 

All photos © Joanne DiBona  © Tony DiBona, All Rights Reserved


Joanne's Newest Travel Picks....for comfort and safety

Summer travel is in full swing and I’m always looking for items that make me feel more comfortable and secure, whether I am traveling to Europe or to our local San Diego beach.

If, like me, you find it difficult to snooze on a long flight because you are distracted by cabin lights or a seat neighbor who won’t stop talking, the
1 Voice Sleep Headphones Eye Mask  is for you.  The mask itself is made of memory foam, is plushy and comfortable, and does a great job of blocking out all light due to its generous size.

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But the really cool feature is the fact that the headphones are built right into the mask, so the only thing between you and soothing music on your phone or MP3 is a light cord (provided).  

Oh yes, did I mention the mask is machine washable, making it easy to keep clean.

Having just one item that takes the place of two also saves room in my travel carry-on—always a plus.

 Speaking of beaches, I now have a favorite water tumbler to cart along in my beach bag—Zerowater.  In my quest to rid myself (and the environment) of plastic water bottles, I now make my own filtered water using this innovative system. Just fill it up with tap water and let its 5-stage Ion filter do its job on all impurities such as aluminum, lead, mercury, pharmaceuticals and chemicals. The tumbler does such a great job in removing these pollutants that it has earned top endorsements by Good Housekeeping, the Water Quality Association, and the National Science Foundation.


The sturdy, leak resistant and BPA-free bottle holds a substantial 26 oz of water, perfect for a hot day at the beach.  It pays for itself, especially if you are a frequent flyer. Just cart it empty through airline security and head to the nearest public water fountain—knowing you are getting the purest of filtered water without having to pay those inflated prices for bottled water.








Who ever thought self-defense could be stylish?  I always carry pepper spray, especially when I am walking in a big city on my travels, but I always end up tucking the ugly spray container in my purse (which sort of defeats the purpose if I needed it quickly).

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The Blingsting pepper spray line was created by a mother-daughter team whose love for anything cute and sparkly got them thinking that, if women had fashionable choices for personal safety, they would be more likely to keep them handy. The spray comes in 8 colors to match any outfit, and it’s even refillable so if you have to use your sting, you don’t have to lose your bling!

Be warned, however, that the spray (which is so cute you might forget to take it off your bag) is not allowed on commercial aircraft. It is certified for use in all 50 states.

Being safe never looked so good.

Catalina Island: California's Island Resort

Although just 22 miles off the Southern California coast,

Catalina Island

remains a world apart from the hustle and bustle of the mainland. The town of Avalon, founded in 1887 as a seaside resort, evokes a charm that is undeniably unique and captivating. It's no surprise that it was a favorite stomping ground for the rich and famous over the decades. View a SLIDE SHOW to see this magical island through my eyes (and camera lens)!

 The picturesque harbor in Avalon, Catalina Island   © Joanne DiBona       

Il Cortile Ristorante....an Authentic Taste of Italy in Paso Robles California

The quaint city of Paso Robles, with its picturesque historic downtown and renowned wine region, delights the visitor with its share of Central Coast charm. But it also offers something very special: an authentic taste of Bella Italia at the Il Cortile Ristorante in the heart of downtown.

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While the restaurant's hip, chic décor evokes California cool more than rustic Tuscan, the spirit of Italian cuisine definitely is reflected in the innovative and extensive menu. Having traveled many times to Italy, the birthplace of our parents, my husband Tony and I pride ourselves on our knowledge of the authentic cuisine of our heritage.

Our culinary tour of the Old Country began with our “antipasti” a masterfully seasoned plate of grilled octopus in a spicy vinaigrette, followed by carpaccio di anatra, thinly slice duck blanketed with gorgonzola sauce, balsamic reduction and caramelized onions.

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Il Cortile's pastas are all home­made, which was clearly evident after our first bite of our secondi piatti, second course. Tony claimed that his selection (ravioli stuffed with lobster and served in a shrimp-­infused tomato sauce) ­­competed nicely with his Sicilian grandmother's similar family recipe. I, in turn, savored ravioli stuffed with ricotta and tossed with asparagus in a light white wine sauce. To be honest, my grandmother never came close to creating such a wonderful dish.


Our main course featured the restaurant's signature osso bucco which, as it should, melted off the bone to be enjoyed in its rich sauce. Paired with 2011 Halter Ranch Syrah, it was indeed a culinary match made in heaven.

We ended the meal with Il Cortile's Panna Cotta, a light creamy dessert topped with fresh Central Coast berries. Once again,Tony declared it was every bit as delicious as his grandmother's version and as he admitted later, may have been even better!

Il Cortile offers an impressive wine list, but if you wish to bring your own special vintage, there is a $20 corkage fee with a limit of two bottles.

 So, when in Paso Robles, do as the Romans do (or visitors who love incredible Italian cuisine) and enjoy an authentic taste of Italy at the Il Cortile Ristorante in the heart of downtown.

Savor the Best in Food, Wine, & Art at Maine's Kennebunkport Festival

The Kennebunkport Festival is an annual celebration of the best food, wine and art that Maine has to offer. Now in its 13th year, this classic event takes place in early June in the picturesque seaside  village of Kennebunkport, Maine. The festival is packed full of prominent chefs, bartenders, sommeliers, musicians, and artists that will make appearances in some 40 events, including cocktail parties, intimate gourmet dinners hosted in private homes, a gala party, a grand tasting event, art shows, after-parties, and an outdoor concert. 

View the SLIDE SHOW below for some highlights of the festival.

All photos ©Joanne DiBona unless otherwise noted

A Springtime Trek Through Old Japan: The Kiso Road

There is no better way to discover the beauty of Japan than by seeing it on foot. 

Walk Japan a pioneer of off-the-beaten-path walking tours of the country, offers a wide variety of excursions for every fitness level in key locations throughout Japan. Check out my photo essay, recently published on 


which details a magical Walk Japan trip that took us from the modern city of Nagoya to the historic old city of Matsumoto via the ancient Kiso Road and Nakasendo Way.


Staying Connected

Everyone worries about staying connected while traveling abroad—and about racking up hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in roaming charges with your local provider if you aren’t careful.

One solution many opt for is to purchase a roaming data bundle from your U.S. provider. But I found a less expensive and extremely effective solution through CellHire. The company offers super fast 4G-LTE coverage with unlimited data (and that is the key here, as you will need it to access maps, information, Skype and your favorite social networks) for $14.95 a day-$79 a week-$159 a month. They also allow five users to connect to the MIFI, so this is a no brainer for families or people traveling in groups.

The connectivity was flawless. Whether I was in a train speeding through the Japanese Alps, overnighting in a remote mountain inn, or walking through city streets, this device was a lifesaver. Very simple to use, it also boasts hours of battery life. Sweet!

Cellhire also offers a variety of other connectivity options, so check them out before your next trip abroad.

Powering Up

My internet connectivity issue being solved, my next worry was how to power my phone and laptop while I was traveling on foot over hiking trails and by train from town to town.  This is when my Apelpi external battery charger came to my rescue.

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In addition to packing a hefty 6400 mAh capacity via two USB ports (and robust enough to charge multiple devices throughout the day), this charger doubles as a fashion statement. Who can resist a red (or pink or green) apple doing its thing next to your phone or tablet?  Light-weight and extremely durable (it was dropped by mistake a few times and survived the abuse), this will definitely be my favorite tech accessory on my future trips.

Keeping Healthy

Sure, keeping connected on international trips is important…..but so is keeping healthy.

I had heard about the importance of wearing compression socks on lengthy international flights for people with deep vein thrombosis and other circulatory disorders, but I never considered them for myself—until I ran across the stylish RejuvaHealth line!

The company features a series of slimming, shaping and supportive stockings, leggings and socks that utilize graduated compression to relieve soreness, pain, and reduce the swelling that often occurs on long flights.

Figuring it was worth a try, I opted for a pair of Rejuva Knee High Coolmax compression socks for the flight as well as a pair of black footless compression leggings for the walking trails. I selected the 15-20 compression level, which was perfect for me.

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To be honest, I didn’t expect much. But now I am convinced I will never fly again without a pair of compression socks nurturing my restricted circulation! I can’t believe what a difference they made in my comfort during that long flight, especially when I couldn’t move my legs except for under the seat for hours on end.

The leggings also made a significant difference on our trek--when we hiked more than 7 miles daily—in that I didn’t get the soreness in my calves as I expected. I’ll soon add more RejuvaHealth items to my travel wardrobe, to be sure.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore: A Destination for All Seasons

The quaint town of Bayfield Wisconsin, on the shores of Lake Superior, is the gateway to the magnificent Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, a year-round visitor destination. Enjoy a slide show highlighting the culture and natural beauty of this area by logging on to  10BEST/USATODAY Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.