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For a small charming city, North Carolina’s Wilmington has produced a lot of famous people.
Among the names that can be found on the local Walk of Fame includes basketball legends Michael Jordan and Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon; NFL quarterbacks Roman Gabriel and Sonny Jurgensen; tennis pioneer Althea Gibson; country music star Charlie Daniels; revered newscaster David Brinkley; actor Pat Hingle; and motion picture producer Frank Capra, Jr.
Capra, who died in 2007, was the son of legendary film director Frank Capra. One of the reasons that Wilmington became known as Hollywood East was because of his tireless work bringing in productions. Tax credits and a rather balmy climate (it’s about as north as you can get and still find palm trees) also helped.
Past CW Network television shows such as Dawson’s Creek and One Tree Hill were filmed there as well as the recent CBS’s summer primetime sci-fi soap opera, Under The Dome. Films that were shot here include Iron Man 3, We’re The Millers, and The Conjuring. A good way to learn about Wilmington’s place in the entertainment world is to take a 90-minute tour with Hollywood Location Walk.
The film and television industry has also favored Wilmington because of zoning ordinances that have helped the town maintain its 19th century look. A 30-minute carriage ride with Horsedrawn Tours (they use rescued Percheron draft horses and don’t have to face the political scrutiny that Central Park operators have) is a great way to appreciate the city’s antebellum homes and other historic buildings.
Wilmington was settled by European Americans along the Cape Fear River. Its historic downtown has a one-mile-long Riverwalk, originally developed as a tourist attraction, and in 2014 Wilmington's riverfront — which was named the "Best American Riverfront" by USA Today — is minutes away from nearby beaches. The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Wilmington, North Carolina, as one of its 2008 Dozen Distinctive Destinations.
City residents live between the river and the ocean, with four nearby beach communities: Fort Fisher, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, and Kure Beach, all within half-hour drives from downtown Wilmington.
So Cape Fear figures prominently in many local institutions.
Although Wilmington doesn’t have a zoo or aquarium, it does have the Cape Fear Serpentarium which houses a very large collection of reptiles that include crocodiles, vipers, snakes, anacondas, and iguanas. Next door to the Serpentarium is the appropriately named Museum of the Bizarre which contains numerous film props and circus sideshow exhibits.
The Cape Fear Museum of History details how Wilmington was affected by both the American Revolution and the Civil War. There is also a display case of Michael Jordan’s memorabilia from his days at both Laney High School and the University of North Carolina.
There is a touch of New York in Wilmington. The city’s Forest Hills section is named after Queens’ Forest Hills Gardens and there are many Tudor homes on its tree-lined streets.
There are plenty of reasonable places to stay in downtown Wilmington and the fairly new Courtyard by Marriott gives good value and has a great location. You can get a filling southern breakfast a block away at Basics restaurant.
Other eateries such as The Pilot House and Boca Bay are terrific fine dining seafood restaurants. If you prefer a more informal setting, try Shuckin’ Shack which is obviously known for its oysters.
Wrightsville Beach, located on the Atlantic Ocean, is situated five miles east of Wilmington. There are plenty of hotels which aren’t operated by chains but are instead family-run businesses. A good example is the Blockade Runner Resort which opened just over 50 years ago and reminds you of those fun Catskills Mountains hotels from yesteryear particularly around breakfast time with its plentiful buffet. The Blockade Runner offers sailing and surfing lessons. Summer lasts a lot longer here and you can hit the waves without turning blue almost up to Thanksgiving.
The boats from Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours dock right across the street from the Blockade Runner and pretty much guarantee that you can see a few dolphins on its 90-minute cruise. Just down the road from the hotel is the Bluewater Grille where you can enjoy terrific cuisine on a pier that juts out into the Atlantic.
Brunswick County’s Sunset Beach is located 45 minutes south of Wilmington and it’s just a half-hour north of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. You can easily jog or ride your bike on Sunset Beach because of its tightly packed sand. There are also aviary and turtle sanctuaries here.
The Sea Trail Resort located on the inland side of Sunset Beach has three championship courses but it also caters to the novice golfer thanks to the staff’s excellent instructors who are led by Raymond Reyes.
One drawback to Wilmington is that it has limited air service to our area.
However, North Carolina’s capital, Raleigh, is an easy two-hour drive northwest on I-40 and there is JetBlue service between JFK and there. Raleigh is also a fun place to visit with its plentiful free museums.
There’s a free bus route “(the “R-line”) that takes you to almost any place that you need to go. And Glenwood, a lively entertainment district situated there in Raleigh, features a lot of restaurants including the just-opened Raleigh Beer Garden. A fairly new Hampton Inn is located here as well.
For more info on Wilmington log onto wilmingtonandbeaches.com or call (877) 406-2356.
For more on Sunset Beach, try ncbrunswick.com or call 910-755-5517.
And to start exploring Raleigh go to: visitraleigh.com or call 800-849-8499.
It would be the luck of the Gods to stumble upon a feisty young male elephant who would miraculously fend off a pride of 14 female lions on a Norman Carr safari in Zambia. It would be a battle for the ages... but not the death. And the video would go viral on YouTube and inspire close to a half a billion eyes in over 120 countries, all who've watched this extraordinary footage, a feel-good story with a happy ending. A rarity these days.
And now, for the first time, here is the true back-story of what actually happened that led up to this extraordinary sighting. One not soon to be forgotten. Throughout my entire career, one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve had as a journalist -- and in my life -- has been going on safari. Since 1994, I’ve been on some of the most memorable safari trips in six countries, some that might even impress some of the most experienced guides and adventure travelers. At times, surrounded by celebrity, though it never diminished the experience. Surreal moments like hot air ballooning with the likes of Zigfriend & Roy, or being chased by elephants with supermodel Naomi Campbell, watching rhino mating with actor James Earl Jones, Iman, Grace Jones, and the late Lord Lichfield. All well-documented by various newspapers and news agencies over the years. You see, fame means nothing in the bush. Fame has no influence over The Big Five. And I have the tales to prove it.
After over 200 safari drives from as far away as Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania and Zanzibar, I thought I’d seen, not all, but more than most. And I guess I had. But even with so much history behind me, there was more to be made. For you see, little did I know one of the greatest sightings of all time was to come. One that would grab the attention of the world.
Norman Carr is considered to be the father of Eco-community based tourism in Zambia. Born in Malawi, he was then sent to England to complete his education, and returned at age seventeen. Within a few years, he became an elephant control officer for then Northern Rhodesia.
During WWII, Carr served as an officer with the Kings African Rifles. The experience would change Carr forever. This is when he came up with the concept of walking safaris where people could smell and touch the Earth, and photograph animals and money would go directly to the local communities, one that would evolve into incomes and go to the African people. For the first time, visitors would shoot with cameras -- instead of guns.
Without a doubt, Norman Carr's spirit still lives on vibrantly in South Luangwa Park where his Chinzombo Camp exists, and most of his ashes are scattered.
We came to pay our respects. Literally a stone's throw from our sighting, there he lies, buried under a simple grave stone, with a safari-worn bronze plaque that reads: "May he rest in peace here in the spirit of the park which will forever be his monument." Ole Norman's spirit must have been hanging around the park that day. I can just see him talking to the bush Gods, going, "These people seem like nice folk. Let's give them a really good show!"
And he did not disappoint.
The shocking vision of 14 lions on top of this poor 8 year-old male elephant brought to its knees, had us writhing in emotional pain. "Oh no! Oh no!" is all our guide, Innocent, could exclaim. We thought we were going to see the most horrific kill one could imagine. Instead, we saw one of the greatest battles of any safari in any century.
"Hercules" would be the elephant's name. Mindy Roberts, the young lady who keeps Norman Carr Safaris at the top of its game, would get the honor of naming him. And history would be made.
Long Island University Art Professor, Dan Christoffel, Australian journalist, Nina Karikowa, and UK naturalist Steve Baker would join me and we would forever be bonded by this defining moment. Who knew that right beyond Norman Carr's grave we would all bear witness to this shocking sight of 14 lions pummeling this young turk. And we would be transformed.
When you watch the video, you can hear both Steve Baker and I overcome with emotion. "Where are those other bloody elephants!" Baker would exclaim. And he was right. Till this day, we have no idea as to how this youngster got separated from his herd. Sometimes young male elephants wander away from the main herd to test themselves and act as young males do! Normally, if a herd of elephant are nearby, they would have come charging to defend -- to the death, if necessary -- one of their own. But they were nowhere in sight. And they would not come to help this poor animal.
In Zambia, they call November "Suicide Month." With temperatures sometimes as hot as 120 degrees fahrenheit, the rains are so desperately needed. The river beds are at their lowest point, some bone dry. And until the rains come, well, the animals get a bit crazy. And that's what makes this sighting all the more extraordinary. It's the feel-good story of the year. To watch this young elephant use every instinct it had to fend off this very hungry pride -- was a miracle in the making.
Although the elephant got away, a cape buffalo an hour later had a much worse fate. The African sun had already set but we could hear the animal crying out in the distance. The following morning we would find the massive animal's corpse, picked to the bone.
Since the sighting, according to Roberts, Hercules has been sighted by sighted multiple times reunited with his herd. A miracle to be savored.
Norman Carr: Creating A Legacy
With his love and vast accumulated knowledge and deep respected relationships with government officials, Norman Carr created a legacy. He would set up National Parks where Princes and Dukes would visit and tell the world of this man who created something beyond. “A Beyond” of natural wonders to be experienced and savored. Travelers would tell friends. And they would all come. And soon safaris would be a way of life for this new country, Zambia, in 1964, which just celebrated it's 50th anniversary. It would be right before his retirement in 1950 that Carr would set up his first tourist safari camp. And Kapani, which still exists today, was the last camp he built just outside the Luangwa Valley National Park, a national park originally initiated by him. It would be his final home from 1986 thru 1997.
After studying numerous photos of Norman Carr, it's easy to gain insight into this incredible man’s world. There can be no doubt that Norman Carr was an extraordinary person. If a word could describe the qualities and essence of his complex character it would be "humanity." Through all his activities, in all his works, he insisted that all the safari’s activities benefit the people of the South Luangwa and Zambia. This remains the residue of his influence, and the essence of Norman Carr Safari s today. The schools he created are still very active today and are always in need of support.
In fact, close to $10,000 USD has been raised for a local Zambian school fund from the footage. We know Norman Carr would be proud. Even now, I'm sure he's looking over us, smiling broadly, waiting for our return so he can share even more safari magic with us. We wouldn't miss it for the world.
Other Norman Carr Safari Camps:
Mchenja has one of the most glorious camp settings right on the banks of the Luangwa River. There are five specially designed octagonal tents that each have their own private en-suite open air bathrooms and Victorian style baths with river views. Luxurious, elegant, stylish and overlooking a sweeping bend in the Luangwa, it is a stunning landscape to behold.
Mchenja means "ebony" and you are surrounded by ebony trees. In fact, the lounge is built around one of the old fallen ebony trees where guests come to cool off in the camp’s plunge pool. Brunch is regularly served in the shady lounge but dinner is more spectacular -- often served on the river bank under the stars.
You have walking safaris or game drives where wildlife is abundant. On our first game drive alone, we came across a kill of a cape buffalo by a pride of seven female lions still feeding along with 10 river crocodiles, an attempted kill of two cape buffalo by another pride of lions on the river bed, a leopard on the hunt and a huge heard of 60+ elephant seeking water for drinking and bathing.
Our safari guide, Aubrey Njobvu, proved to be very knowledgeable and inspiring adding to the sense of adventure. We were in safe and reliable hands, one of the key positive highlights of a Norman Carr Safari camp.
Chongwe Safaris is one of the oldest and most reputable companies in the Lower Zambezi. Established in 1996, the safari camps are located in one of the best locations in the Lower Zambezi. There are four camps in a variety of settings including the confluence of the mighty Zambezi and Chongwe Rivers and opposite the renowned Mana Pools and a private island in the middle of the Zambezi River.
The camps are Chongwe River Camp,Tsika Island, Kasaka River Lodge or private Chongwe River House. At all four there plenty of activities including canoeing, fishing (fly and popper), boat safaris,day and night game drives and walking safaris.
Chongwe River Camp -- Tented Camp: There are 9 tents strung out along the Chongwe River that have the best views in the Lower Zambezi. You can look over grazing lawns with a view of the mountains to one side and the Zambezi River to the other. Huge elephants always walk through camp, eating the winterthorn seed pods like candy. I know this, personally, as I literally had a regular male walk up behind me unknowingly while I fiddled with my cell phone trying to get on the internet. Yes, the internet is dangerous!
There are two luxury tent suites that occupy prime position at the confluence of the Chongwe with the Zambezi, offering a completely private, butler-serviced accommodation and dining options. Bedrooms in both suites are created from spacious colonial-style tents with plunge pool, fire bit and outdoor bathrooms.
Chongwe River House: Definitely one of the happier safari camps we've ever visited with huge open spaces, curving walls with branches inside, large open and private sitting areas, waterfall showers, pebble ceilings, inside waterfall, stunning views and completely exclusive and private with your own chef, guides, vehicles and hosts. Unique. Bold. Natural. Special magic. Private.
Kakuli Bush Camp
Kakuli is a tented camp with spectacular views of the Luangwa River. It is the only true bush camp that stays open almost all year when the green rainy season arrives.
Kakuli means "old buffalo bull," and was an effectionate nickname give to ole Norman Carr himself by the local people of the Valley.
There are four traditional walk-in safari tents each with en-suite bathrooms made with natural materials. The bar and dining chitenje (lounge) is constructed of reed and thatch forming the centre point of camp. The entire camp is on an elevated stretch of river bank overlooking a wide grazing lawn which follows the Luangwa River until it meets the confluence of the Luwi River.
A lovely thatched chitenje acts as the centre of camp. It is on a wooden deck overlooking the grazing lawn that leads down to the two rivers and is a perfect spot in which to relax and watch the wildlife meander by; the views from Kakuli are spectacular. This area of Luangwa Park offers guests some of the best gameviewing opportunities in all of Zambia. Again, you can go by foot or by with a vehicle.
What's most spectacular here is when the rainy season arrives, better known as the Rivers and Rainbows green season where you can go on a boating safari as the rivers are full and you have an entirely different safari experience. It is when the region comes alive and you have vibrant green colors that will remain in your memory banks forever.
Again, Aubrey Njobvu is there to guide you. He is also the manager of this camp and no one knows better than he the resident pride of lions, leopards, wildlife habits and hidden wonders around Kakuli that await you.
For more information, go to: http://www.timeandtideafrica.com/
The opening night gala for the local 11th Annual Dubai Film Festival was the Hawking film, The Theory of Everything. I do not automatically agree with his views--quite stunted, in fact (some), but liked the film itself. I respect the views of Einstein much more. The closing night of the fest will be Into the Woods.
I am pretty amazed at the vast variety of people attending--many with small kids, too--a result of many special screenings of "kiddie" films--one of which I screened today, Fiddlesticks, a German opus for children, the director said. I foundvit highly disturbing and, under it all, very dark stuff, indeed. The director huffed at me that he knew "adults wouldn't like it." But the kids I asked were not quite sure what the German tale of overturning adult management of the elderly was about. It was amusing to see the same 'type' of people the world over sees as volunteers, people smitten with film, though their 'real professions' are in a googolplex of fields outside the exotic film biz. There are 600 vols at the fest, which is occupying three far-flung loci, and has a huge range of offerings to pique the interest. Symposia, discussions, events as well as films. After the films, or before, one is nestled in a myriad complex of restaurants, high-end shops, and the paraphernalia common to film festivals--quick snack shacks, oddments and stuff to whet the wallet.
For over 30 years, we have traveled all over the world and experienced many different types of properties. That's why when we visit properties that especially resonate with us we have to write about them!
We just returned from a trip to the “Two Macedonias,” the Republic of Macedonia and the Macedonian region of northern Greece. Two properties we visited stand out as outstanding places for exotic destination weddings.
Popova Kula (meaning Priest's Tower), located in the Povardarie region in Macedonia, is a unique paradise. When you arrive, you won't feel like you're staying at a hotel. You'll feel like you're coming home again! The warmth of this place will hold you in its grasp and you'll hope it will never let you go.
First of all, the landscape is breathtaking. The restaurant, on the second floor attached to a majestic tower, gives visitors a backdrop of lush greenery, with the spectacular mountain ranges of the Demir Kapija Valley. It is the central nervous system of the property, where all guests come to meet, eat, drink the impressive Popova Kula wines and talk about life. There is magic in this place, as you will find yourself losing track of the time and suddenly realize six hours later you've spent your whole afternoon there.
If you are a couple who has popped the question (or are thinking about it), has imagination, believes in fairy tales, wants a destination wedding in an exotic location and does not have a billionaire’s budget, Popova Kula is the perfect place to hold your wedding. Weddings are frequent here, although many people from outside Macedonia are not aware of it as a wedding destination. They should be!
Popova Kula is nicknamed the “Temple of Wine.” The wines of this place are to be taken seriously! Owner Jordan Trajkov has created an impressive portfolio of more than 23 different wines, including some wines made from the Stanushina grape, which is unique to his property.
And with wine, of course, comes celebration. Jordan will hand the property over to you and your party and will cater sumptuous wedding feasts, arrange activities and create a unique and unforgettable experience.
The ancient concept of the “unworldly dreamer,” a person who lives contentedly in an ivory tower, can be envisioned for a couple who decides to take their vows at Popova Kula. Wedded bliss is possible right here, tower included. The Popova Kula staff will work with you to plan a wedding that will leave all who attend breathless and in awe.
To learn more, go to:
Popova Kula Winery and Hotel“The Temple of Wine”Address: Bulevar na vinoto br.1 Demir Kapija, Macedoniahttp://popovakula.com.mk/
Lake Ohrid is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, rivaling such wonders as Lake Geneva in Switzerland or Lake George in upstate New York. The best time to visit is in September or early October, when the crowds have gone and the weather is still perfect -- you will have the entire lake almost to yourself! There are polite boatmen waiting to ferry you around at very reasonable prices. The cafes aren't crowded, and the entire lake front promenade will be almost yours.
You can take boat trips up and down the lake and have lunch right on the water. Also Ohrid Pearls, manmade from the scales of the Plasica, a fish unique to Lake Ohrid, are some of the most beautiful pearls in the world! They can be found in the jewelry collections of the Queen of England and many other celebrities. And they are not expensive! What better way to add to your romantic honeymoon than with a string of pearl beauties that will keep your newlywed wife in the most romantic of moods. Yes, Ohrid Lake IS paradise. So come and enjoy the crystal clear waters of this stunning, ancient lake. And do not forget to also enjoy the views as you walk up and down the hills to visit some of Europe's most ancient churches.
During your first day visiting the town of Ohrid (a UNESCO heritage site), it is a must that you visit Saint Jovan Kaneo. You will find a lovely lakeside path which takes you to a breathtaking view of this church, with the blue lake beyond it. This has been a holy place for centuries and Orthodox visitors treat it with enormous reverence. The history of the church is very interesting and the changes of use it has seen has fortunately not destroyed its wonderful frescoes. The stunning location is equally impressive when seen from a boat on the lake.
For other Sites near Lake Ohrid, don’t miss St. Sophia Church, an 11th century church that is regarded as the most beautiful and best preserved church in the Republic of Macedonia. The church has fantastic ancient restored frescos that during the Ottoman occupation were painted over. Ohrid also has a beautiful Roman theater (now used for performances during the annual Ohrid Festival) and an ancient fortress on top of the hill overlooking the town.
If you are a couple looking for opulence for your destination wedding, then the Eagles Palace in Hakidiki is your place! Located near the gate to Mount Athos (sorry girls, only men are allowed to visit the ancient monasteries, but you can see them from a boat!), the Eagles Palace has been the luxury beach resort of choice for the rich and famous ever since it opened its doors in 1973. It was Maria Callas’ summer resort of choice and to this day is the favorite destination for movie stars, world leaders and other celebrities. And yet it is also very welcoming to the less famous!
Built on a beach on the Aegean Sea, with its rooms cascading up a hill, the Eagles Palace offers luxurious accommodations, a spa and four magnificent restaurants that only serve seafood caught near the property together with locally sourced meats, fruits and vegetables. Most importantly for couples looking for the perfect destination, Eagles Palace specializes in creating the ultimate wedding experience for you and your guests. There is an Orthodox chapel on the property (for non-Orthodox, a ceremony can be held in front of the chapel).
Sommelier Christos Fragotsinos, one of the world’s leading experts on Greek wine, will curate the wines (including some exclusive wines made on Mount Athos) and the chefs can put together magnificent feasts in modern Greek, traditional continental and/or Asian styles. Your guests will be hypnotized by the beautiful beach and enchanted by visits to local historic sites and magnificent scenery. And the boat ride around Mount Athos is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
When you go to Eagles Palace you will probably fly into Thessaloniki. This lively, interesting and beautiful seaside city is worth a 2-3 day stay. And you can stay overnight at one of the Eagles Palace’s sister properties, The City Hotel or the Hotel Excelsior. Recently renovated, both hotels have great energy and charming rooms. The staff is very helpful and always smiling and willing to help. And, although the hotels are in the center of the city, the rooms are quiet. City Hotel is the older and simpler of the two properties. The rooms are well-appointed and there is a gym and spa facility in the basement that offers sauna, massages and skin therapies. The five star Excelsior, across the street from the City Hotel, is a new boutique hotel that offers luxury and comfort in uniquely decorated and furnished rooms. Breakfast in the penthouse is a must!
Check out the wedding video at http://www.eaglespalace.gr/weddings-events-ceremonies to see how special a wedding at Eagles Palace can be!
For more info, go to:
Eagles PalaceOuranoupolis, Halkidiki GR - 630 75, GreeceTelephone: +30 23770 31101-4, 31047-8
CITY HOTEL THESSALONIKI11 Komninon St.Thessaloniki GreecePhone +30 2310 26 94 21
THE EXCELSIOR10 Komninon St.Thessaloniki GreecePhone: +30 2310 021 020Reservations: +30 2310 021 000
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