Monday, May 31, 2010


Waterloo, NYWhen you think of Waterloo you probably think of Napoleon's demise, or perhaps that awful ABBA song from the seventies. But Waterloo is also a lovely little village in New York's beautiful Finger Lakes region, and the official birthplace of Memorial Day. The holiday started as a way to remember the fallen Union soldiers from the Civil War. There are recorded observances that pre-date the one at Waterloo, but it was here that the event took the form we know today, and has been observed the last Monday in May ever since. President Johnson and both houses of Congress made it official in 1966.

The town gears up for this weekend all year long, and they do not disappoint the many thousands of locals and tourists that turn out to join in the celebration. The events range from solemn remembrance of Memorial Day (always on May 30th) at Maple Grove Cemetery, to a parade of classic "Woodie" automobiles down Main St., which were manufactured in Waterloo from 1939 to 1957. There's also an arts and craft show, horse and wagon rides, a kids korner, marching bands, civil war reenactments, canal and lock tours, a 5k walk/run, and even a biker rally. And if you've never been to the Finger Lakes region of New York, you should.

There are no timeshare resorts in Waterloo, but upstate new York does offer many wonderful timeshare locations. I am staying a few hours away at the Villa Roma Resort Lodges in Callicoon. This is a four season resort, offering access to great skiing in the Winter, wonderful hiking and sightseeing in the Spring and Summer, and a spectacular foliage display in the Fall. There's an on-site golf course, indoor pool, two heated outdoor pools, kids pool, jacuzzi and sauna, game room, spa, fitness center, ski area and lift, ice rink, and much more. I am staying in a two bedroom villa with a fully equipped kitchen, living room, dining area, jacuzzi style tub, and a balcony overlooking the spectacular Catskill Mountains. Looks like you can find a two bedroom rental on for $157/night. If you think you might like to own here, resales start at $450.

Well it is almost time for the annual Patriot Pizza Eating Contest, so I'd better go get loose. The winner is the first person who can devour an entire pizza, crust and all. I typically don't go for speed eating, and I don't expect to make it to the podium. I'm more of an endurance eater, but it's the least I can do for my country.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Citizen Seymour

Hearst Castle at San SimeonHola from La Cuesta Encantada, which in spanish means The Enchanted Hill. But I am neither in Spain nor Mexico. Rather, I am in the unincorporated and sparsely populated area of California coastline known as San Simeon. There is one house here, however, everyone should come see if they get the chance. Its owner just called it "the ranch" but today it receives over a million visitors a year as The Hearst Castle.

Yellow journalist and publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst commissioned the home in 1919 from San Francisco architect Julia Morgan. Over the course of the next two-and-a-half decades, one of the largest private residences in the United Sates was erected. When it was completed, the ranch was comprised of 90,000 square feet of interior space spread over three buildings. There are 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 41 fireplaces, 19 sitting rooms, 3 swimming pools, a movie theater, and even a zoo. According to the official website, Hearst introduced Morgan to the assignment by saying, "I would like to build a little something." Are you kidding me?!

Today the castle is operated by the California Parks Department and offers a host of tours. I took The Experience Tour, which is recommended for first timers. You get a thorough overview of the estate and its grounds, its design and construction, and its world famous art collection. Hey, did you know that in its day an invite to come stay as a guest of Mr. Hearst was an A-list celebrity-only affair? Sort of like P. Diddy's White Party is today, sans the booze and the cleavage. Mr. Hearst, you see, was a bit more of a conservative host. The guest list was limited to twenty, and all were expected to sit down to a formal dinner each evening where drinks were restricted to two per person. David Given once commented that, "the wine flowed like glue" at the castle. I guess that was one way to keep Churchill, a noted guest, from wrecking the place. Other famous guests included Charlie Chaplin, FDR, Lindberg, The Marx Brothers, Jimmy Stewart, Bob Hope, and many more.

It would seem that Hearst was the only person with the money and determination to build on this rugged section of the Santa Lucia mountains. So a timeshare rental, or any lodging, is going to involve a bit of a drive. But what a beautiful drive it is. I would suggest the WorldMark Pismo Beach Resort. It's a half a block from the ocean, has a pool and spa service, and is only about a hour from San Simeon. Right now there is only one rental listed on, but if you sign up for a posting alert, you can be notified as more become available.

FYI on your visit to Hearst Castle, don't ask your guide to see Rosebud. They've all apparently heard that one before and don't find it to be very funny. Who knew?

Monday, May 17, 2010


JFK Terminal #1 by Doug LettermanWell, I got my wings clipped today and am unable to fly out of JFK to my next timeshare destination. I was planning to jump across the pond to Scotland and write all about my experience renting a timeshare at the Seasons at Brunston Castle. But I won't be flying anywhere today. Volcanic ash. That's right, volcanic ash from Iceland cancelled over 1,000 flights into Heathrow this weekend, and mine was one of them. Raise your hand if you didn't know Iceland even had volcanoes. Same here. Looks like I'll be heading out some time tomorrow, I hope. So in the meantime, I thought I'd take some time and poke around the terminal a bit before trying to find a hotel for the night.

Hey, did you know when the Beatles landed at JFK it wasn't yet called JFK? Nope, it was Idlewild Airport. Doesn't really roll off the tongue so much as JFK does it? Seems there was a golf course here called Idlewild, and they ripped it up to put the airport in its place. Did you ever notice developers always name their projects after the thing they obliterated in order to build it? Fox Run, Quail Ridge, Towering Oaks, etc.? Except Donald Trump, that is. He just names them all after himself. Guess it's better than Idlewild.

Anyway, my tummy is telling me I should find something to eat. Looks like they have a couple of Panini Express locations here. Isn't panini express redundant? Ooh, and a Sbarro. I like that Meat Delight pie they've got. The name says it all. It's got sausage, ham, bacon, and pepperoni. They throw some parsley on there too, for balance. But I am always a sucker for a punny name, so I am going to go with Wok & Roll. How bad could it be?

Looks like they have Internet access as well, so I can jump on and line up some timeshare rentals for future dispatches. Did you know you can sign up for posting alerts on RedWeek? Yep. Just pick a resort like Harborside Resort at Atlantis in Paradise Island. Then on the right hand side choose Receive posting alerts, and you'll have alerts emailed to you when new postings are added. And you don't have to restrict it to just a single resort. You can isolate a specific city, state, or even an entire country. It's a handy vacation planning tool, and I highly recommend it.

Well I guess I'll check in with you next week, and hopefully I won't still be here at JFK. You know, like in that Tom Hanks movie The Terminal. Is it just me or wouldn't Yakov Smirnoff have been a better casting decision for that? Cheaper anyway. Do svidaniya!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City

The DonaldYou know that expression that "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas"? Well FYI, and I won't go into any details, that is not true at all in Atlantic City, NJ. But when it comes to casinos, golf, live entertainment, restaurants, and fantastic timeshare resorts, "America's Favorite Playground" is second only to Las Vegas. Plus in "AC" (as the locals call it), you've got the Atlantic Ocean, white sandy beaches, and the world's most famous boardwalk. Fuggedaboutit!

Atlantic City is a classic American reinvention story. What was once a sleepy little barrier island boomed to become a Guilded Age playground for the rich and famous. By the 1930s, AC boasted hundreds of resorts, hotels, inns, and rooming houses, with convenient train service from both Philadelphia and New York. During this period it gave the world saltwater taffy, the Miss America pageant, and was the inspiration for the Monopoly game board. Hey, did you know they even had a diving horse show here? Yep, a horse and rider would dive from as high as fifty feet up into small pool of water below. Turns out the horses didn't so much "dive" as much as they were tripped, pushed, and prodded into falling into the pool. Did I mention they don't do this anymore?

Anyway, the years after WWII saw AC fall into a steep decline, and by the 1960s it was teetering on the brink of obscurity and decay. But in 1976, New Jersey voters pass the Casino Gambling Referendum, establishing the first legal gambling casinos in the east. A new resort town was born, and Bally's, Caesars, Harrah's, the Tropicana, and the Borgata all sprung up. And of course the world was introduced to "The Donald" and his Taj Mahal, Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, Trump Marina, and his very peculiar hair.

I am renting a great timeshare at Atlantic Palace, right on the famous boardwalk, with stunning ocean views. Looks like you can get a rental here starting as low as $107/night. And if you think you might like to own, you can get in for as little as $1500. RedWeek members give this place 4 stars with lots of great reviews, so maybe you should sign up for a posting alert to be notified when new listings become available.

Well, I am off Tony Boloney's Pizza Slaughter Fest where contestants have to eat their way through one slice of each of the 30 varieties of pizza offered. I don't normally go for competitive eating (a.k.a. organized gluttony) but it's to raise money to help kids with cancer, and I gotta try this Casino Carnivore. It's 10 heaping layers of meat, ravaged by mozzarella. Are you kidding me!? They had me at "heaping layers of meat".

Monday, May 3, 2010

California Dreamin'

Pacific Grove CoastlineI am writing to you today from Butterfly Town, U.S.A., (a.k.a. Pacific Grove, CA) which has to be one of the most beautiful spots on all of the West Coast. And that's saying something. Bordered by the city and bay of Monterey, the Del Monte Forest, and the Pacific Ocean, Pacific Grove sits 150 feet above the sea like a glimmering jewel. Hey, did you know they have more Victorian homes here per capita than any other place in the U.S.? Yep, they've got more gables, turrets, wraparound porches, and gingerbread trim here than you can shake a stick at. You know that expression, "they don't build 'em like they used to?" Well, they never say that here. And if you somehow tire of its nature, art, fine food, historic homes, museums, or just sheer physical beauty, Pacific Grove puts you minutes away from the famed Pebble Beach and the Monterey Peninsula to the north, and Carmel-by-the-Sea and Big Sur to the south.

But you can't talk about Pacific Grove without talking about the butterflies. Migrating monarch butterflies make an annual mating stop in Pacific Grove from October to February each year. We're talking tens of thousands of them, folks. Like a shriners convention for insects. These little buggers fly from Canada to Pacific Grove each fall, traveling over 2000 miles in the process. I wonder if they log reward miles? Anyway, here's the thing, not one of the butterflies has ever made the trip before. In fact, a monarch butterfly's life span is so short that a bunch of them were born along the way, and still manage to figure out how to get here. I had a Rand McNally and a GPS and still got myself turned around on they way up from Frisco. And did you know there's a $1000 fine for even threatening a monarch butterfly here? Are you kidding me?! You gotta love California.

Anyway, I am staying at the Pine Acres Lodge which is about two blocks from the ocean, and walkable to everything in town. It's a low-key, family friendly place with a rustic motif. I've got a cozy one bedroom with a queen bed and sleeper sofa, and a small deck from which I can see the ocean and have a BBQ. Looks like you can rent one on in October (start of butterfly season) for $100/night. Our owners love this place, rating it 4 stars, but resales do come up from time to time. We've got two right now for $1500/ea. Seems like a deal, but I am completely biased towards anything Pacific Grove right now. Maybe sign up for a posting alert at this resort, and be notified when new units are added for rent or sale.

Well, I'm going to go dust off my golf clubs and hack my way through eighteen. They say there are seven golf courses within a ten mile radius of this place. With the way I play, that's about six too many, but who cares when your in Butterfly Town?