Blogs > News-Herald Food and Travel

Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Live web cam on Crystal Serenity

On Sunday I'll board the Crystal Serenity in Venice for cruise of the southern Mediterranean.  Ive been following the ship through its live webcams which gives views from the bridge, starboard, port and computer lab. Right now, shortly after 2:30 in the afternoon in Willoughby, its close to 8:30 at night. The ship is off the coast of Croatia where it's dark. Everybody must be at dinner since the computer lab is empty. Have a look yourself by clicking on

 Then scroll to the bottom right side of the page to Live Views and  have a look.
Remind yourself to click on this link again at 3 p.m.Sunday afternoon. I plan to be in front of the webcam then at 9 p.m. Venice time to let you know I've arrived.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rob Kneen recalls 1962 beginnings of Traveline

Traveline celebrates its 50 years in business on Thursday, Sept 27, with a party from 4 to 8 p.m. beneath a tent erected at their Lawnfield Inn,  at Mentor Ave and Route 615 in Mentor. Food will be catered by Skye, which has evolved into a dining out favorite for many inside the inn. Step into the tent to sample the yummies and to wish Traveline founder Arline Kneen the best but also be sure to go into the hotel's lobby where a chocolate fountain will be bubbling with dessert bites.
 When I asked Rob Kneen for a little history about  how Traveline came to be, he responded with this fond recollection:

Traveline was started in 1962 as a result of the fact that my parents, Bob and Arline, unlike most couples in the 60’s who spent their money on bigger finned cars and split level homes, spent every available disposable dime on travel. Even before being in the travel business, travel was their greatest pleasure and they included us kids in the fun. When I was 9, they took me and my sisters out of school early, loaded our old Fold Falcon on a tramp Cunard Line steamer and we spent 4 months of the summer of 1962 traveling throughout Europe, staying in hostels, pensions, and the occasional traditional hotel. Their friends came to know them as the couple to call to find out the best hotel in Paris or where to dine in Rome. They were historians, making sure that we saw many of the most renown battle grounds of WW II, the most beautiful museums – they even took us as kids to visit a concentration camp to make sure we understood how out of control man’s inhumanity to man could actually get. A searing image in my mind to this day. Upon their return, my mother received SO many calls for travel recommendations that she thought “Hey, I could get paid to do this if I opened a travel agency! Why not get paid for what we love doing most.” As in most businesses, It was a touch and go during the first two years after opening their original office in downtown Willoughby. But my  mother has an unsinkable Molly Brown quality and was determined to make a go of it. Businesses that survive from start-up require a classic entrepreneur who understand that building a business means leaving the Nine to Five mentality behind, doing what you need to do – as well as having your kids learn some aspects of the business as part of their daily chores. I was taught how to hand write airline tickets at our breakfast table at home, while getting my first car – a 1958 Ford – was contingent upon me stopping by the office each day to deliver those tickets. Some of the people who helped us in the old days are still there today. For example, Sue Voyten has been with the company for 46 of our 50 years learning the business from the ground up and developing a clientele that now call her from around the world. Having joined the company myself full time in 1975 – choosing the travel business over law school – I have been fortunate to have a boss who is both my mom and a business partner who has allowed me the freedom and the flexibility to take risks with new technologies and opening new areas in which to market our services ranging from New York to Northern California. Today, thanks to a keen eye on bringing new and young people into the company, we’ve been able to flourish in the era of super technology and the internet. Here’s a unique statistic. Traveline was on the internet before there even WAS an Orbitz, a Travelocity or an Expedia. Our key to success has always been maintaining that unique blend of technology and skilled human interaction.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Montenegro bound

Feedback about Kotor in Montenegro is something I need as I prepare for next week's voyage from Venice. It will be one of my port visits but I know little about it.  My research for this trip, which was put together quickly, was interrupted by surgery and recuperation so I am not as much up to speed as I usually am before traveling.

I know it's south of Dubrovnik, a delightful city I've visited twice before, and know that Montenegro is one of the world's newest countries.

 I'll be aboard the Crystal Serenity and will be in port only one day but I hope to make some discoveries and shoot   photos and videos to share when I return. The ship is wi-fi enabled and I'll bring my computer, but I know from past experience that connections can be iffy by sea.

If you know about this part of the world or are acquainted with someone who might share some advice for my visit, please let me know in comments here, or by email at The News-Herald, where I can be reached at

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Venice to Istanbul next week

I'm home now, recuperating from surgery, but will join a cruise leaving from Venice on Sept. 30 - just a little more than a week away.

I'm pretty wobbly after general anesthesia and quite vulnerable right now   - a state of being that gives me lots of empathy for those who have given up traveling altogether. The familiar comforts of home are pretty attractive when one is as impaired as I feel today.

But giving up on travel is not on my agenda. I might be somewhat more challenged now, but I've done my homework and am confident I'll not only have great fun but will come back with a couple of stories for News-Herald readers.
I'm joining the Crystal Serenity for an 8-day voyage among a pair of Greek islands, to Kotor in Montenegro and on to Istanbul before a flight back home.

I've  sailed with Crystal Cruise Lines before and know that  I can expect to see many of the worrisome details of travel taken care of. They know when I am arriving and someone will meet me at the Venice airport to take me and my luggage to the ship so I have no concerns about having to roll my bag over bridges spanning canals or aboard the water taxis called vaporettos. I've done that before when traveling to Venice independently and know what a hassle that can be.
Crystal is also very attentive in letting passengers know just what they'll face on shore excursions. If  there's lots of walking over uneven or hilly terrain, you'll know it before you sign up. If it's smart to carry water ashore, you'll find out before you leave the ship - and it's pretty likely that bottled water will be available  to take ashore. If you choose to go off on your own, you will have access to good maps and advice about  shopping streets and cafes for a lunch ashore as well as areas best avoided.

At first I might not have all my usual energy,  but I'll find my favorite mask maker in Venice and stock up on gift masks.   I'll visit Ravenna, in Italy, for the first time and am hoping to arrange a sidetrip to Bologna, the hometown of my friend Loretta Paganini. As a wine lover, I couldn't miss the Temple of Dionysus on the sacred island of Delos, just a 20-minute boat ride from Mykonos where I'll be on Oct. 7. If I get tuckered I'll have two days at sea to rest on deck or arrange a spa treatment and by the time I get to Istanbul I should be fully energized for the Blue Mosque and shopping the Grand Bazaar.

I hope some of you caught my Twitter posts when I first learned of this great-deal cruise and perhaps you booked, too, and I'll see you on board. For the first time ever, Crystal is offering a handful of six-to- eight day voyages in the southern Mediterranean between now and mid-November - an exceptionally nice time of year in this part of the world. Best yet, those who book before Oct. 31 get the cruise for just $1,595 -an uncommonly good price for such an upscale cruise line. Crystal, in fact, has been voted as best in the world in many cruise surveys.  Airfare is extra, of course, but thanks to sharp-eyed travel agent Jennifer Fried at Traveline, our roundtrip air was a little more than $800 each.
So I'll be extending summer in the sunny Mediterranean this year. Check out the options at

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Summer segues into autumn

To me it's not summer until I feel the sand between my toes at the beach, eat sloppy slices of watermelon, watch the Grand River boat traffic from a perch atop Pickle Bill's rooftop deck and frequent a local farmers market.   I usually do all those things in May or early June just to make the season official.
This time of year I give a lot of thought to summer things I didn't do so I  can fit them in  before the leaves start to fall and autumn has arrived.

 I've already eaten clams, taken the morning the chill off  with a fire in my fireplace,  and shopped for both caulk and firewood. This weekend Ill be heading out to Ohio's wine country for a cask tasting of dry reds .from the Grand River Valley winegrowers so even though the calendar still says summer it's quickly drawing to a close.

Let me  hear your suggestions for paying tribute to the long summer of 2012, which to my way of thinking was a fine sunny one, though my farming friends may disagree. How do you say goodbye to summer? Tell me here in the comment function or email me at