Tag Archives: Emma Palova blog on Word Press

About Costa Rica

Visit Costa Rica in 2017

Plan your trip into the Central American paradise now during the dry season. The town of Jaco bustles with activity.

jaco nightlife (2).jpg

Links about Costa Rica

Lokal Travel’s Upcoming Epic Trips to the Osa Peninsula

Watch for more links and photos from this Central American paradise.

At home in Uruguay

Uruguay attracts with beaches and vineyards

Note: This is the second account of Tamela Spicer’s recent travels to Uruguay in South America.

By Tamela Spicer

EW Emma’s Writings

On my recent trip I had the pleasure of indulging in many of Montevideo’s finest pleasures, including a stunning Opera at Teatro Solis and a world-class ballet led by the infamous Julio Bocca from Buenos Aires. I also discovered something new, the wine road. Created in 2005, Los Caminos del Vino features a variety of small boutique vineyards along the southern region of Uruguay, many of them within 30 minutes of Montevideo. Wine making has been part of Uruguay for several decades, but it has only been in recent years that the wines have gained international attention.

For me there is something magical about vineyards. Of course, I enjoy the wine, but more than that, I love the peacefulness of miles of vines growing in the countryside. In Uruguay it doesn’t take long to find that countryside. More than 80 percent of the land in Uruguay is agricultural. The small number of cities populate the edges of the country, with large ranches filling the interior. In that space between the city and the vast ranches of the interior lie beautiful, peaceful vineyards.

Uruguay is gaining international attention primarily for Tannat wines. The iconic grape was brought from southern France in the 19th century and the rich soil with the ocean air provides for excellent growth in Uruguay. Most of the vineyards are small, family owned facilities, but the flavors are rich and bold. After an unplanned stop at the wine school where they provided an impromptu tour, we visited Bodega Artisana along Los Caminos del Vino. Artisana is actually owned by an American who visited Uruguay years ago and fell in love with the area. While the owner still lives in the United States part of the year, locals manage and operate the vineyards. They gave us  a private tour and tasting. It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon and of course, I brought home a few bottles.

South American wines
Los Caminos del Vino in Uruguay

Those few bottles that make the home don’t last, so the challenge becomes finding someone who sells your new favorite so you can restock. There are a variety of laws that govern distributors in the United States, and each state has their own rules. The other challenge is that not all vineyards produce enough wine to export. When I’m visiting a vineyard out of the country I always ask if they have a distributor in the states. Often times you can contact the distributor and they will be able to tell you if the wine is available in your area. Local wine shops are sometimes able to find a particular vintage, and of course the Internet is very helpful in tracking down a favorite bottle. Availability depends largely on geography. For example, due to the local wine industry, Michigan has strict laws on wine imports, particularly from foreign vineyards. The key in finding that favorite wine is just ask; or if all else fails, perhaps you need another vacation to return to that special vineyard.

Wedding in Uruguay
The couple exchanges rings in a wedding ceremony in Montevideo.

Vineyards, beaches and the arts made for a wonderful, relaxing vacation. But it was the time spent with family and friends that made this trip to Uruguay special. Being able to enjoy Martin’s two weddings was a joy. In Uruguay only magistrates can legally conduct a wedding. So if a couple wants to marry in a church they must first  have a civil ceremony performed by a magistrate. The first wedding was a small affair held at Adriana’s home on a Wednesday evening. Just under 100 guests were present as the bride and groom, along with several witnesses, signed the official marriage ledger and the magistrate announced them as husband and wife. The ceremony began about 7:30 pm and the party lasted well into the night until the police showed up around 2 am due to a noise complaint.

However, the couple exchanged rings at a church wedding on Saturday. Over 400 guests came to witness the ceremony that began around 9:30 pm. Unlike here in the states, in Uruguay there are no large bridal parties, only the parents stand up in witness of the church ceremony. Friends and siblings enjoyed the honor of signing the registry during the civil ceremony so at the church wedding they simply sit back and enjoy. And of course, the party.

The reception was fairly typical of what we might enjoy in the states. Held at a local country club, there were beautiful floral arrangements, a wonderful meal and plenty of champagne. Unlike in the U.S, there were no bridal party photos or cutting of the cake, but there was a special waltz for the bride and groom and the party lasted well into the night. Actually, all night long. We had breakfast around 5 am and we finally left the country club just after the sunrise around 5:30 am.

South America
Montevideo is the capital of Uruguay

Even if you don’t have a wedding that would take you to Uruguay,  you should go none the less. It is a beautiful country filled with warm, welcoming people. Whether it’s wine, beaches or ranches, Uruguay has a lot to offer. As for me, well I plan to return again soon. I’m currently working on plans to that will allow me to spend three or four months a year in Uruguay, a nice way to escape our Michigan winters. Maybe you’ll join me one day soon and I’ll give you a tour of my favorite vineyards.

About the cover photo: Vendange 2013 in Burgundy, France, inside the wine caves.

Copyright © 2015 Emma Blogs, All rights reserved





Mackinac Island Winter

Mackinac Island winters provide for a magic time

EW Emmas Writings

Mackinac Island, MI -As the cross-country skis swish through a foot of fresh fallen snow on a perfectly groomed trail to the Arch Rock, the heavy pine branches sweep the shimmering white blanket.
A scenic view by the icy limestone rock formation uncovers the vast blues of Lake Huron and the northern sky. Looking down 150 feet from the observation bridge, visitors can easily spot the Lake Shore Road wrapping around the island like a snail or a silver thread.
A skier emerges from the woods in the fairy tale setting. Speaking with a slight accent, M.J. explains his summer job on the island. M.J., a farmer from Zimbabwe, made Mackinac Island his home because it reminded him of Africa. He is a driver for the Mackinac Island Service Co., that operates transportation on the island.
“The horses are not here now,” said M.J. “They’re on a retreat in Pickford.”
Yes, here on this island, horse reigns as the “King.”

Main Street Main Street Mackinac Island

Vehicles have been banned from the island since 1898, when the first car frightened the horses. In winter, a fraction of the total 600-horse livery remains to taxi guests from the docks on the Haldimand Bay and the airport plateau to the inns that stay open.
For islanders like M.J. and the Park Place Suites innkeeper Jamie Schwemin, winter is magic time, a break from the seasonal bustle of the island.
“Winter’s better. It’s quiet and the skiing is phenomenal,” she said. “This is it. We love it.”
Winter months on the island are dedicated to cross-country skiing, snow shoeing and chili cook-offs. There are 18 miles of classic ski and skating trails on the east side of the Mackinac Island State Park.
The trails lead through the vantage points on the islands, the bluffs. The East Bluff provides the best panoramic view of the island. Below the bluff sleeps the city of Mackinac Island with the black steeple of Ste. Anne protruding into the sky.
To the right, Fort Mackinac stands sentinel to the island’s history, a mix of Indian, French, English and American heritage. The Round Island Lighthouse marks the gateway to the Mackinac Island Marina.
Further west out of the fog rises the almighty “Big Mac”, a suspended five-mile long bridge that connects Michigan’s Lower Peninsula with the Upper Peninsula.

Fort Mackinac Fort Mackinac

The East and the West Bluffs carry the magnificent Victorian cottages with elaborate stables built by Michigan lumber barons and Chicago meat packers.
“The bluffs were the main reason for the settlement of the island,” said local island guru and tour guide extraordinaire Tim Leeper.
Certainly, the bluffs can easily be seen from a distance aboard a ferry coming to the island from the mainland. The Arnold Line provides regular transportation even in winter.
If the straits freeze, a charter plane is available from St. Ignace on the mainland. And then a horse-pulled taxi to the island’s cozy inns will make sure guests arrive to their destination.
The sparse arrival or departure of a ferry on the island in winter time reminds one of bustling ports of yesterday. The significance of such an event can only be matched by the departure of “Titanic.” Everybody is there to take in the spectacle.
Horses and buggy drivers along with merchants patiently await the ferry. It is customary for the local innkeepers to be waiting for their guests at the docks with sleds and carts to haul luggage. What will it bring ashore?
“Welcome, are you Emma?” asked Leeper holding on to an orange and blue baggage cart reminiscent of an Oriental jinrikisha.
Everything on the island is done out of pure necessity to be self-sufficient without motor power, except for the recent influx of snowmobiles.
“They’re a necessity,” said Schwemin.
Skiing or walking through downtown Main Street, also known as the historic Harbor District, is like stepping back in time. The brightly colored facades of the mid 1800s buildings look like a movie set from Hollywood.
The main island thoroughfare is an eclectic mix of hotels, pubs, shops and galleries built in Victorian style. A Russian student clerk at the Coin Shop with memorabilia of all sorts talks about living on the island.
“It’s beautiful,” she said. “You meet so many different people.”

Arch Rock Arch Rock

Across the street at Patrick Sinclair’s Irish Pub, it’s lively. The construction crew has just finished working on the Mustang Lounge remodel, and they are awaiting the next ferry headed to mainland. Winter time is also catch up time for the islanders to fix up everything for about one million visitors to the island every year.
The Loon Feather further down west on Main Street rents skis and snow shoes. The souvenir shop carries everything from all the previous Lilac Festival posters to lilac essence soaps and diaries.
The fragrant purple lilac along with fudge are the signature staples of the island even in winter time. Walking inside any of the fine island establishments, one can smell the essences of Mackinac Island whether it’s the lilac bath salts and soaps available at Alford’s Drug Store or souvenir fudge in a pretty white box.
Year after year, couples like Jeanne and Jim Boss of Rockford come to the island to celebrate their wedding anniversaries. The island provides an ideal setting for romance at any time of the year.
“I like the quiet, the eclectic collection of people and you never know who you’re going to run into,” said Jeanne Boss. “They don’t allow automobiles and they never changed that, it must be a hard thing to do.”
True, you never know who you’re going to run into on the island. It easily can be a movie star, a neighbor or a writer. The island traditionally draws artists as well as politicians.

Grand Hotel Grand Hotel

The island’s premiere landmark the stately Grand Hotel, built from white pine in Grecian style with a 700-foot long verandah, is a must see even in winter time when its closed. Its icy columns and roof are visible from the main land seven miles away.
Stopping the skis at the green historical register landmark is almost like having a tour guide or a lecture from the island’s history. The Grand Hotel is a jewel on the island’s historical crown.
Built by railroad companies for vacationers coming on steamers from the large cities in the Midwest in 1887, the hotel breathes elegance and relaxation even in today’s fast paced world of technology.
No wonder, it served as a set for the 1980 Jeannot Sczwarc romance movie “Somewhere in Time” starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.
Somewhere in Time Weekend is held at the Grand Hotel every October to commemorate the movie. A rock with a laser engraved image of Reeve and Seymour on the lakeshore trail is also a monument to the movie and the romantic charm of the island. Here by the three trees, Elise McKenna asks:
“Is it you?”
Chilled by the wind from the straits, a stop at the cozy Village Inn back in town warms up the stomach and the heart.
Chunky whitefish chowder, baked onion soup and planked whitefish are always on the menu. The town is lit now with lamps, and somewhere in the distance horse’s hooves softly clip-clop into the night.

Emma’s food pick on the island:

Village Inn on Hoban Street is open year round. Their specialty is planked white fish.

Village Inn on Hoban Street Village Inn on Hoban Street

 If you go to Mackinac Island


Arnold Transit Co. in St.Ignace

Great Lakes Air in St. Ignace

Winter horse taxi on the island

Park Place Suites on Market Street

Patrick Sinclair’s Irish Pub
Village Inn

Doud’s Mercantile
Alford’s Drug Store

Ski & snow shoe rentals
Balsam Shop
Feather Loon

Bundle up, it’s cold. Take your cross country skis with you even if flying. Buy Lilac Festival or Somewhere in Time posters, they make great souvenirs.
Copyright (c) 2014 story and photos by Emma Palova

Copyright (c) 2014 All rights reserved Emma Blogs LLC

Fall wedding travel

Go near or far for your perfect wedding


EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI-There is no such thing as a bad location for a wedding. I’ve been to weddings as far as France and in former Czechoslovakia, which was my own, and as close as to Alto and Hastings in Michigan.

And I will be going to a true pioneer international wedding at the Saint Patrick’s Church in Parnell and later to a nearby reception at the Wabasis Lake Lodge north east of Grattan.

We’ve considered Black Star Winery in Suttons Bay in Leelanau Peninsula or Stafford’s Perry Hotel in Petoskey.

Wabasis Lake Lodge
Wabasis Lake Lodge

Sometimes the travel for that many people becomes too complex. We even thought of getting a bus. But, our international family is already flying in from France and from Czech Republic.

I can’t imagine burdening them with more travel after crossing the big pond.

Although I can see my daughter Emma Chavent loving an extra side trip to Marocco. She is almost like Marco Polo. And my parents Ella and Vaclav Konecny would love to go to Israel.

Main Street Inn, Lowell
Main Street Inn, Lowell

And then more logistics kicks in such as, where will all these people sleep? And who will feed them? We all live out in the country, and there are not too many hotels around.

The first that comes to my mind is the Main Street Inn in Lowell and the Candlestone Inn in Belding.

Also you to have to stagger the fly in, otherwise we would be like taxi drivers racing between the Gerald Ford International Airport and Lowell.

Rule number one: They can’t all come on one plane even if it’s an airbus.

Rule number two: No stowaways.

Rule number three: No agendas like trying to squeeze in on top of the wedding Uncle Vas’ birthday or an anniversary.

Rule number four: The less luggage the better, but don’t forget your shoes and underwear.

We have yet to solve the storage and closet problems as well as lodging.

Food was easier to resolve for a welcome party for approximately 20.

We wanted something typically American like a huge ham with beans, but decided for a caterer instead.

Timing is everything. Don’t come one year before the actual wedding or stay and wait for younger sibling, who is still in kindergarten, to get married.

I have yet to come across more wedding travel tips as we approach the wedding day on October 25.


Stay tuned on http://emmapalova.com and other sites including https://etravelandfood.wordpress.com and http://ehealthandbeauty.wordpress.com


Going international

Destination Valparaiso


EW Emma’s Writings

After more than two decades of living in North America, the Pala and the Konecny families still like to patronize international venues around the world.

Here is a sampling of few of our favorites spread around the Midwest. The most recent one that we visited as a family was the Don Quijote Spanish restaurant in Valparaiso, Indiana for  my dad’s 80th birthday.

One day on their way from Chicago, my parents Vaclav and Ella Konecny spotted a billboard with the famous Spanish knight Don Quijote on a stretch of freeway 94.

Located about 12 miles from the Indiana State Dunes, Valparaiso is a small university town with a cosmopolitan fare.

The restaurant is a real Spanish treat owned by Mr. Carlos of Barcelona.

And does Mr. Carlos know how to cook and entertain.

Owner Carlos with Ella and Vaclav Konecny at Don Quijote restaurant
Owner Carlos with Ella and Vaclav Konecny at Don Quijote restaurant

The menu offerings range from pork, blackened lamb and salmon to seafood and the signature Spanish dish paella. The yellow saffron rice is sautéed with seafood and sprinkled with peas for a delicious meal for two.

Annually Mr. Carlos throws a picnic for customers around mid July.  He roasts two pigs and makes a big pan of paella.

The ambience is Spanish inside the Don Quijote restaurant.
The ambience is Spanish inside the Don Quijote restaurant.

It wouldn’t be Spanish if there wasn’t any wine. The garage is set up with mixers for Sangria and Margaritas, as well as bottled wine and beer.

Mr. Carlos’ clientele is truly international in customs and spirit. With Chicago only 60 miles away and the nearby Indiana State Dunes Park, the restaurant is a cool destination in summer or winter.

The tastefully decorated restaurant with an interior that resembles on outside street is a reprieve with its own store that carries authentic  Spanish goodies.

For more information go to  www.donquijotevalpo.com

The Dunes Region http://www.BeyondtheBeachDiscoveryTrail.com

Copyright (c) 2014 story and photos by Emma Palova