Starling Travel

January 17, 2006

Park City: Washington School Inn

Filed under: Lodging,Utah — Michael Moncur @ 5:00 am

Washington School Inn

We’re writing about Park City, Utah this week as people from all around the world will soon arrive there for the Sundance Film Festival.

The Washington School Inn is a small bed and breakfast inn in a converted schoolhouse. While they’re already booked for Sundance this year, any other time it’s a great place to stay in Park City.

The Washington School was built as a 3-classroom schoolhouse in 1889. In 1985, it was renovated and became the Washington School Inn. It’s a historic building listed on the national Register of Historic Places.

The Inn has 15 rooms, including three deluxe suites. Each room has a private bathroom. The rooms have numbers as well as names like “Ms. Hedges” and “Ms. Reese”. Each is decorated in its own way and, if you’re picky, you can look at pictures of each one and choose your favorite.

Having grown up reading mystery novels, this seemed to me the sort of place where a Murder Most Horrid would occur, leaving the innkeepers and the assortment of eccentric guests as suspects. Fortunately, when Laura and I stayed there for two nights last fall, I’m pleased to report that nothing untoward happened.

Washington School Inn

The staff there is incredibly friendly, and after two nights we felt like we were at home. Breakfast is served daily and was a very impressive selection, all homemade and far from the typical hotel breakfast. Snacks are available in the evening and were usually very tempting and very fattening.

Parking is available across the street for guests, which is nice when the city is crowded. If you’re skiing, they provide lockers in the basement to store skis and equipment. The owner was happy to let us park our bicycles in the garage next to the Inn.

Amenities include a nice hot tub, sauna, a shared mezzanine area with TV, a library of books to read, and a beautiful outdoor garden area with chairs and tables. It might feel like an anachronism in this quaint inn, but high-speed wireless Internet is available at no charge for guests.

Park city’s historic Main Street is a very short walk from the Inn, so there are many restaurants, shops, and art galleries you can explore without driving. Ski lifts are also close, and Park City’s many mountain bike trails can be reached easily on bicycle.

Prices are about what you’d expect for a luxury hotel in a resort town, but quite affordable in the less busy times of the year. Rooms start at $120 April through November, with higher rates during ski season ($265) and even higher rates during the Sundance Film Festival ($320).

Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or just a cozy place to sleep in between ski runs or bike rides, The Washington School Inn is a great place to stay.

Location: 543 Park Avenue, Park City, Utah. The Washington School Inn is one block over from Park City’s Main Street (old town) and near the Town Ski Lift.

When to Stay: Winter if you enjoy the scenery or skiing and don’t mind the prices and crowds; Summer or Autumn if you prefer lower rates, great weather, and your choice of nearby uncrowded restaurants and shops.

Official Site: Washington School Inn

January 16, 2006

The Sundance Film Festival

Filed under: Travel,Utah — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

The Sundance Film Festival 2006

I can feel my city gearing up for the Sundance Film Festival. This year it runs from January 19th to January 29th. I can already smell the excitement in the area. You may not know, but the film festival isn’t solely in Park City. There are three venues in the Salt Lake area that show films. We have film festival revelers enjoying our city for almost a month:

Park City is a quick drive from Salt Lake, so there is still time for you to come and enjoy my city. The hotels in Salt Lake are much more affordable and the drive up Parley’s Way is short when compared to Los Angeles commuting.

For more information about The Sundance Film Festival:


January 13, 2006

Small Pleasures Week: Penguins at the Flamingo Hotel

Filed under: Nevada,Travel — Michael Moncur @ 5:00 am


Continuing our series on small pleasures in Las Vegas: the Flamingo Las Vegas, one of Vegas’s oldest remaining hotels, may not be the most elegant place on the strip, and it may not have the shopping and restaurant options of the newer casinos, but it does have one thing they’ll never have—Penguins.

Actually, they have a variety of different birds living in an enclosed outdoor area behind the casino, next to the parking garage. As you might expect, they have pink flamingoes, but the penguins outnumber them, and are far more entertaining to watch.

In case you’re wondering how penguins survive hot days in Vegas, don’t worry—these are African penguins and can handle higher temperatures than the typical antarctic varieties. They are native to warm islands off the coast of South Africa. They handle the summer heat by spending most of their time underwater, and since they’re not accustomed to the chills of a Vegas winter (temperatures in the 30s to 40s) their island is artifically heated.

They actually have professional zookeepers on staff to manage the birds, and if you go at the right time you can hear them talk about them while they feed the penguins. (They eat surprisingly large fish, swallowed whole, which is not quite as cute as you’d expect a penguin feeding to be.)

crowned crane

Other birds in the garden include various ducks, Crowned Cranes, and Ibises, along with the local blackbirds and sparrows that have moved in. There are waterfalls and ponds filled with colorful Koi. All in all, it’s a peaceful oasis right in the middle of the Vegas Strip, and you can easily spend a couple of hours there without spending any money. There’s a food court nearby and you can eat at an outdoor table while you watch the birds.

Directions: Flamingo Las Vegas is at the center of the strip, next to Caesar’s Palace. It’s a stop on the Las Vegas Monorail, so it’s easy to reach from other hotels on the strip.

When to see: When the temperature gets to 80 degrees or so, the penguins spend most of their time underwater to avoid the heat, so it’s best to visit them in the colder months, early mornings, or evenings.

January 12, 2006

Small Pleasures Week: The Luxor Atrium

Filed under: Nevada,Tourist Attractions,Travel — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

The Luxor Hotel has one of the world’s largest atriums. The camels near the Cairo Bazaar are happy to tell you that nine Boeing 747s could be stacked within the Luxor’s atrium. I’ve never seen that demonstration, but when I am standing underneath the inside of the pyramid, it’s impressive. They say it has 29 million cubic feet. That means nothing to me, but standing within it, I am awed.

The atrium is so large that I can’t take a picture of it. I have tried several times. The pictures from the balcony of my hotel room, look like they were taken from a rooftop and the pictures taken from below can’t encompass the enormity of it. I have to just remember it, since I can’t document it with my camera.

The first time Mike and I noticed birds in the atrium, we were looking at the attractions level from our balcony. (Continue Reading…)

January 11, 2006

Small Pleasures Week: Pottery and Patio World

Filed under: Nevada,Photos,Shopping — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Pottery & Patio World at the Sloan Exit in NevadaAt the Sloan Exit just 12 miles South of Las Vegas, sits three and a half acres of pottery called Pottery and Patio World. You can see it from the I-15 Freeway. The colorful pottery beckons to me every time we drive past it. I don’t actually need any pottery or statuary, but it looked so beautiful from the freeway that we stopped this time. It was even more impressive close-up.

We talked to the manager, Missy, and she said that all their pottery is Asian. They purchase it from China, Malaysia and Vietnam. One of the benefits of this pottery is that it’s fired instead of baked, which makes it last far longer. Their fountains and some of their statuary are concrete. Most importantly, their prices were very reasonable.

Here is a slideshow of the beauty that we saw when we visited Pottery & Patio World a couple of days ago:

I found this place to be incredibly relaxing. The color-coded pots were lined up in military rows. The fountains gurgled and bubbled at me. The wind was strong that day and kept whipping my hair into the photographs. Missy said she loves it here when the temperature is 100° F, but the day we were there, it was a cool 55° F day. I contemplated spending the day there, among the fired pots, writing and watching the random tourist drop by. Instead, I ran off to do other things in Las Vegas, but I was calmer and happier because of my time I spent there.

Here is a link to Pottery & Patio World on Google Maps:

January 10, 2006

Small Pleasures Week: Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Cactus Garden

Filed under: Food,Nevada — Michael Moncur @ 5:00 am

Continuing our series on small pleasures in Las Vegas, here’s one way to have some fun near Vegas without losing your shirt. The Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Cactus Garden is located in Henderson, Nevada, about 10 miles from the Vegas strip. While chocolate and Cacti don’t have much in common, fans of either one will find something fun here.

Ethel M Cactus Garden

(Continue Reading…)

January 9, 2006

Small Pleasures Week: Only Vegas

Filed under: Nevada,Travel — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Only Vegas Adverts

We have been in Las Vegas covering CES (the Consumer Electronics Show). All over the Las Vegas Convention Center are these small billboards, urging conventioneers to stay an additional night. They are from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Based on the flock of people heading for the airport, not many people heeded their call.

We planned on staying another day past the end of the convention, so I find the signs funny. Even though we are staying a night longer than the convention, they are enticing me to stay yet another night. Even as I type these words, I find them appealing. I feel like I should stay another night.

Las Vegas is the town that people always say they lost their shirt in. That’s not because of the hotel costs or even the rising cost of food and gasoline. It’s because of the gambling. The appeal of winning 10.7 million dollars might be what makes people stick the coins in the slot machines, but gambling isn’t the only thing to do in Las Vegas. This week, I will be highlighting unique and interesting things to do in the city without spending big bucks. I call them Small Pleasures and you get to enjoy them all this week.

January 6, 2006

Eats, Nevada is no more

Filed under: Nevada,Photos — Michael Moncur @ 6:00 am

Last month Laura posted a slideshow of photos we took in September of Eats, Nevada—the remains of a cabin-style roadside motel at I-15 exit 25, about 12 miles south of Las Vegas. We’re in the area again, and discovered that the dilapidated cabins have been torn down…

September 3, 2005:<br/> BEFORE

January 5, 2006:<br/> AFTER

It took us a while to verify that this is the same place, since they did a very thorough clean-up job—even the power lines that used to feed the site are gone—but you can see how the mountains match up in the photos above, and we found a freshly filled-in hole where the signs shown in our slideshow used to be.

For now, seeing this view is very strange, as if the desert has reclaimed the area from civilization in just a couple of months. I’m sure some nondescript condos will appear in a year or so, and there will be nothing to show that the cabins ever existed. Granted, they were falling apart and probably quite dangerous, but we’ll miss them.

January 5, 2006

Snowbird Ski Resort in the Summer, Utah

Filed under: Places To Visit,Travel,Utah — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Every summer Mike and I make sure that we go up to Snowbird Ski Resort. We don’t ski and we hate crowds, so Snowbird at this time of the year is unpleasant, crowded and expensive. It’s not expensive for a ski resort, but for someone who isn’t planning on skiing, the hotel rooms are too much for me to spend.

In the summer, however, the hotel rooms can go as low as $75 a night. There are a lot less people there and the wildlife deign to visit sometimes. Mike and I went to Snowbird last August and here is the collection of pictures we took while we were there.

While we were there, we ate at the pizza joint at the lodge. For the evening, we ate at Aerial restaurant, which is a place that you probably want to dress up for a little bit. It was our anniversary, so we were already dressed up. By the way, the goat cheese tower isn’t nearly as tall as we expected when we ordered it. We expected something similar to the tower of onion rings that they will serve at those restaurants where they have junk nailed to the walls. Instead of ten inches of goat cheese, we were served an inch and a half of goat cheese and beets. It tasted really good, but it didn’t really live up to its name.

Truly, the best part of Snowbird in the summer is the privacy and the beautiful mountains. There are hiking trails to explore. You can take the tram up to the top of the mountain and hike down or just ride the tram back down. The pot guts (ground squirrels) in the area are very shy and it takes a lot of patience to get them to take Cheese Nips from your hand. Don’t buy the low fat Cheese Nips. They won’t even go near them. We made that mistake once.

There have been many times when we have seen deer at Snowbird in the summer. Since there are so few people there, the deer are less timid. They will run away quickly if you encounter them, but at least you’ll get a chance to see them.

This time of year at Snowbird, it’s an active and busy place. The ski lifts are running non-stop and excited skiers fill the place with energy. In the summer, it is much more quiet and relaxed. The restaurants have shorter hours and the shops are abandoned. The ski lifts are dismantled and the lift chairs are stacked behind the buildings. I love Snowbird in the summer and I’m eagerly awaiting the season when things calm down up there.

Snowbird Ski Resort 1-800-232-9542

January 4, 2006

Inner Child Vacations

Filed under: Places To Visit,Travel,Utah — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

This article had such a great name that I was drawn to it. My spoiled inner child has lots of fantasy trips that she would like to visit. What could Fodor’s give her?

Not much, apparently. Each of these trips are EXPENSIVE. I guess when they say “Fantasy” they actually mean “Pricey.” If I were to let my inner child run free with her fantasies, she would come up with a far different selection of trips:

The Daydreamer:

I love to sit in a busy cafe when I am in the mood to daydream. I love to take a sketch pad and try to draw the people around me or maybe my Moleskine and just write whatever comes to mind. In Salt Lake City, Utah, the best cafe to sit and people watch is a toss up.

Any Barnes & Noble: I like to buy a tea and sit in the cafe section, watching the people. Sometimes I make up stories about them in my head. Other times, I grab a book off the shelf that I would never deign to buy and read it. Address: Various Cost: $5-10 for tea and refills.

SouthTowne Mall Foodcourt: The busiest mall in the Salt Lake Valley is SouthTowne. If I can find a seat at the foodcourt, I can sit there all day watching the people. Sometimes I get a diet soda from one of the vendors, other times I just sit there without need for any more refreshment other than the loud and excited activity bustling around me. Address: 10450 South State Street Cost: $5 for a soda.

The Spy:

My favorite spot in Salt Lake City to pretend I’m a spy is the LDS Temple grounds. I’m not LDS, so there are areas of that tourist site that I am not allowed. The temple is available to only Mormon members in good standing (they need to have a Temple Recommend). Skulking around the temple grounds and trying to catch glimpses inside the temple itself makes me feel a little like a spy. There is always the question about what they do in there and the rumors among the uninitiated run rampant. Ask a Temple Recommended Mormon and they will tell you nothing. A visit to the LDS Temple is a venture in finding out the secrets that Salt Lake City has to offer. Address: 50 W. South Temple Cost: Free (unless you sign the visitor’s book and then you’ll get visits from the LDS Missionaries at great cost to your time and maybe soul).

The Diva:

The Utah College of Massage Therapy will treat you like you’re a queen, but only on Saturday and Sunday between the hours of 8:00 am to 5:30 pm. If you are willing to wait until the weekend, you can get a massage from one of their students for CHEAP. You can be a diva that saves money. Address: 25 South 300 East Cost: $25 for a 50 minute massage.

The Nerd:

The best place to nerd it up is Sam Weller’s bookstore. They have a simple selection of new books (Barnes & Noble will beat them every time), but the true beauty of this store are the used sections. There are used sections upstairs and downstairs. The hallways can be a little canavernous, so if you have claustrophobia, stay in the more open sections. Otherwise, you can dig through the tomes of the past to your heart’s content. Address: 254 South Main Street Cost: Free, unless you buy a book.

The Architect:

The Salt Lake Public Library

Our most stunning piece of architecture in Salt Lake City is the new City Library. The inner child that played with Lincoln Logs can take a walk up the incline of this building. There is art inside for you to peruse and the vistas from the walls of glass are stunning. Enjoy the park area at the top of the building and the fountains at the base. Address: 210 East 400 South Cost: Free, even when you borrow the books!

If I can compile this list about my hometown, I’m sure you can do the same. Sure, the Fiji islands may appeal to the inner child in you, but some time people watching at the best local sites might do the same. Your inner child doesn’t need to spend a lot of money to enjoy itself. You just need to give yourself some time.

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