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.
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.
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.
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
CLICK ON ARROWS AT RIGHT TO VIEW A PHOTO GALLERY OF SAN ANTONIO
It’s no secret that San Diego is one of the nation’s most appealing vacation destinations--for so many reasons. Combining year-round, near perfect weather with a spectacular natural setting, the region is home to exciting theme parks, world-class arts and culture, unlimited outdoor recreation, a vibrant downtown, eclectic dining options, top-rated resorts and spas, a rich history dating back to the 18th century, a dazzling variety of shopping opportunities, and 70 miles of glorious beaches, just to name just a few of its attractions!
In fact, San Diego is home to such a plethora of exciting things to see and do for persons of every age and budget, it can be overwhelming for a potential visitor to choose from such a wealth of options. To put some fun and ease into the planning process, check out some sample itineraries in the PHOTO GALLERY below and enjoy my recommendations for a fun-filled day or two (or more!) in beautiful San Diego.
Photos, All Rights Reserved © Joanne DiBona CLICK ON ARROWS BELOW FOR SLIDE SHOW
When was the last time you took a vacation you could describe as “magical"?
Please enjoy my article describing the exhilarating –and yes, magical--experience of swimming with the docile whale sharks in Baja's Gulf of California. It was all part of an amazing 6-day adventure at the Las Animas Eco-Lodge located on a pristine beach outside of Bahia de los Angeles.
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.
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).
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.
Although just 22 miles off the Southern California coast,
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 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.
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.
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.
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
Those of you residing in--or visiting--Southern California might want to add a trip to the Channel Islands to your travel itinerary. This chain of islands, which includes the popular and historic Catalina Island, is often referred to as the "Galapagos of North America." This article highlights a day trip to the ruggedly beautiful and pristine Santa Cruz Island, located just 35 miles from Ventura, California.
published May 17, 2015,
San Diego Union Tribune
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hearst Castle is a national and historical landmark located at San Simeon, on the central coast of California. It was designed by architect Julia Morgan between 1919 and 1947 for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Its considerable collection of art and antiques spanning thousands of years is open for public tours. The castle is a part of the California State Park System and attracts millions of visitors from around the world annually.
Just when I thought I'd fulfilled my "bucket list" requirement for 2014 with a magical trip to the Galapagos Islands, my husband Tony and I received the incredible opportunity to travel with the outfitter Baja AirVentures from San Diego to the Gulf of California for the truly once-in-a-lifetime experience of swimming with docile whale sharks, the largest "fish" in the sea.
Getting there was half the fun. Gliding over the massive terrain of the Baja California Peninsula and the coastline of the Gulf of California was almost a religious experience...it was so breathtakingly beautiful. Before we knew it, our plane gently descended onto the air strip at Bahia de los Angeles to begin our adventure.
A scenic boat ride from town brought us to Las Animas Eco-Lodge, where our expectations were again exceeded, as we really weren't expecting such comfort in such a remote location. As we pulled into the placid harbor and docked on the expansive, white sandy beach, we felt as if we were part of a “world’s most beautiful beaches” travel magazine spread. This is "glamping" at its finest (glamorous camping for those of you not familiar with this term).
The meals were lovingly-prepared and tasty and we often enjoyed fresh fish caught that day as well as ceviche and other local specialties.
The staff was exceptional in all aspects, genuinely eager to please us and cater to our every need. Our pilot guides Fred and Andy, in addition to being expert aviators, astounded us with the scope of their vast knowledge of the history, wildlife and fauna of the region. Their guidance did much to enhance our appreciation of this magnificent place, and their genuine love of Las Animas shone through in all their communications with our group.
Why did we choose this trip? A recent visit to the Galapagos Islands in March of this year whetted our appetites for more such soft travel adventures. We had heard from friends that the Midriff Islands in Baja California’s Gulf of California is known as “The Galapagos of North America” so we were intrigued. A quick internet search brought us to the Baja AirVentures web site, where (after reading all the glowing reviews) we booked the “Whale Shark” tour.
And YES, it is the Galapagos of North America! Topographically, the regions are very similar, although we enjoyed a rare occurrence: the greening of the otherwise arid desert landscape because of the heavy rains of September. As in the Galapagos, we viewed blue-footed (and even yellow-footed) booby birds, magnificent frigates, countless sea lions, Sally-Lightfoot crabs, manta rays, sea turtles, dolphins and many other species both regions share. And while giant tortoises don't roam the wetlands as in the Galapagos, the gentle, magnificent whale sharks more than make up for this omission.
The highlight of this voyage was to experience the proximity of these rare and elusive creatures. At one point, we counted 24 gentle giants swimming around us. Unbelievable! I must mention that even though you may not feel inclined or capable of jumping in the water to swim with the whale sharks, you will be able to admire them just as easily from the excursion boat that took us out daily.
I also must add that we were a group of 8 travelers from around the country (of various ages and walks of life) who started out as strangers and departed as friends, bonded by memories of a magical travel experience.
On our final evening, several of us walked along the shore and watched the sparkles under our feet and the glowing fish in the waves, the bio-luminescence phenomenon of the ocean that I have read about but never experienced. And oh, the heavenly sky in this wilderness defies description. I’ll never forget the site of that jet black globe peppered with glowing stars and constellations, including a magnificent Milky Way the likes of which I’ve never seen and will never forget.
We may be physically back home in San Diego, but our hearts are still on the shores of Las Animas Wilderness Lodge. And I suspect they might remain there for quite a while…..
Since a picture is worth 1,000 words, please log onto my PHOTO WEBSITE for a gallery of photos of this incredible adventure.
The Southern California coastline is dotted with luxury resort properties ready to welcome leisure and business travelers-- such as the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point.
Residents and visitors to San Diego had the opportunity in 2014 to go back in time 3,000+ years to experience the discovery of the tomb of the legendary 18-year-old Egyptian King Tutankhamun, aka King Tut.
Making its West Coast debut, the breathtaking exhibition presents a recreation of the legendary boy king’s tomb and treasures exactly as they were discovered by Howard Carter in 1922.
Because the fragile originals are no longer permitted to tour outside of Egypt, this exhibit features 1,000 scientifically-produced replicas hand-crafted by Egyptian artisans.
For those who might hesitate to view less than the "real" thing, rest assured that this exhibit will definitely not disappoint, but vividly bring ancient history back to the 21st Century.
As pointed out by Mark Lach, creative director at Premier Exhibitions, Inc., presenter of the exhibition, "Because we are using recreations of the originals, we are able to stage the exhibit to replicate the astonishing discovery of the tomb by Howard Carter in every detail, something that wasn't possible up to now."
Sure enough, the visitor is taken through scenes that exactly replicate what Carter and his companions must have viewed in their initial entry into the tomb, in every detail, and through every chamber leading to the discovery of King Tut's magnificent, multi-level sarcophagus. Audio tour equipment augments the visitor experience.
For more information on upcoming exhibits, call 619.232.3821 or visit www.sdnat.org.
I am honored to be designated as USA Today/10 Best's "Travel Photography Expert." I only had 10 words to describe each tip in this list, and I hope these succinct tips can help budding travel photographers get the best shot.. I still use them myself on every shoot.