Joan Mead-Matsui

Guest Travel Writers and Bloggers

2017’s Best Winter Holiday Destinations


Do you have a hankering to travel?

The Best Cold and Warm Winter Holiday Destinations 


WalletHub, the personal finance website, released its 2017’s Best Winter Holiday Destinations report today.

The study is a supplement to its money-saving selection of the Best Travel Credit Cards. 

Information provided courtesy of WalletHub.

Washington (October 31, 2017)
Focusing on cost and convenience rather than scenic beauty, WalletHub’s analysts compared more than 60 of the largest U.S. metro areas grouped by warm and cold weather. Each destination was analyzed based on 32 key metrics, primarily the expense and hassle of traveling to each location but also on other indicators, such as weather forecasts, safety and variety of activities.

Here’s a quick glimpse at some of the report’s most interesting findings:


Best Cold Destinations for Winter Travel Best Warm Destinations for Winter Travel
1 Chicago, IL 1 Orlando, FL
2 Portland, OR 2 Las Vegas, NV
3 Washington, DC 3 San Diego, CA
4 Pittsburgh, PA 4 Austin, TX
5 New York, NY 5 Los Angeles, CA
6 Seattle, WA 6 Houston, TX
7 Minneapolis, MN 7 San Antonio, TX
8 Philadelphia, PA 8 San Francisco, CA
9 Boston, MA 9 Tucson, AZ
10 Denver, CO 10 New Orleans, LA


Best vs. Worst


  • The average flight to a popular cold winter destination costs $277.61, lasts 3 hours and 49 minutes, and has 0.38 connections. In comparison, the average flight to a popular warm winter destination costs $407.43, lasts 5 hours and 59 minutes, and has 0.59 connections.


  • Among cold destinations, Albuquerque, New Mexico, has the lowest price for a three-star hotel room, $37, which is 2.6 times lower than in New York, the city with the highest at $98.


  • Among cold destinations, New York has the most restaurants (per square root of the population), 10.52, which is 10.1 times more than in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the city with the fewest at 1.04.


  • Among warm destinations, Orlando, Florida, has the most restaurants (per square root of the population), 6.06, which is 22.4 times more than in Deltona, Florida, the city with the fewest at 0.27.


Cold Weather Destinations Map:

Source: WalletHub

Warm Weather Destinations Map:

Source: WalletHub

To view the full report and your metro area’s rank, please visit:


 About WalletHub:

WalletHub is a personal finance website that empowers consumers to make smarter financial decisions — from getting the best credit card and car insurance policy to identifying the best city to live and start a career. WalletHub does so by providing consumer-friendly tools that leverage big data and user reviews.



Dunes Manor Hotel & Suites

Travel Review Dunes Manor

The prize for spectacular views goes to The Dunes Manor Hotel & Suites, Ocean City, MD.  All rooms offer a beachfront balcony, a vibrant sunrise, and a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean. All photos by Joan Matsui Travel Writer and Photographer


A Perfect Balance

Fun and Sun


You’ll find your idea of fun at Dunes Manor Hotel & Suites, Ocean City, MD. Building on a dream vacation is exactly what the management at the Dunes Manor Hotel & Suites has done since April Fool’s Day, 1987.

Milton and Thelma Conner dreamt of owning a full-service hotel on an inherited vacant oceanfront block of land. Tenacity is what kept Mrs. Conner from selling the Dunes Manor Hotel & Suites after her husband’s death.

To carry on the tradition, the Dunes Manor creates year-round opportunities for guests to interact and mingle or find plenty of activities both on-site and in and around Ocean City.

The Dunes Manor is a landmark property along that popular stretch of Maryland beach. Before I give you a rundown of the new fall activities in the works, you should understand you won’t EVER be bored during your visit. In fact, the variety of weekly activities for guests of all ages is what has kept couples and families coming back year after year. There’s so much to see and do from the moment you arrive. The mood is family-oriented but there were also couples traveling alone and in small groups. I refer to those as a “mini-reunion” and the Dunes is an ideal location to meet and spend time with friends.

Wave Goodbye to Boredom


What’s Happening at Dunes Manor Hotel & Suites?

Guests who want to integrate fitness, frolic and fantasy into a beach getaway can participate in these fall activities free of charge. Schedules vary from season-to-season but organized events and classes are planned if you want to join the fun.

  • Monday Night Football – featuring door prizes, football bingo, big screen viewing of the games, and food/drink specials.  (Mondays, beginning at 8 p.m.)
  • Girls Night Out – featuring rotating activities through the month that will be led by local artisans, including paint n’ sip, makeovers/stylings, cupcake decorating, jewelry making, and crafting.  (Thursdays, 6 – 8 p.m.)
  • Mind & Body Class – featuring weekly rotating themes of Hatha and Vinyasa yoga, barre workouts, and Bootcamp workouts.  (Saturdays, 8  – 9 a.m.)
  • The Craft Cafe – featuring locally inspired crafts (pumpkin stenciling, chalkboard painting, embroidery), freshly baked desserts, and coffee/tea.  (Saturdays, 1 – 3 p.m.)
  • Swim-In Movie Night – featuring screenings of popular movies at the hotel’s indoor pool, complimentary candy and popcorn, and food/drink specials.  (Fridays, 7 – 9 p.m.)
  • Beach Treasure & Scavenger Hunt – featuring puzzles, trivia, and searches for trinkets at local arcades and retailers.  All participants will receive souvenirs and hotel swag.  The grand prize winner will receive a free hotel stay.  (Sundays, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
  • Beach Photo Op – featuring free 5” x 7” or telescope photos taken on the beach.  (Sundays, 4 – 5 p.m.)

Whether you prefer to spend your day sprawled on a beach blanket or you’re an itinerant explorer yearning to visit each and every attraction, it’s time to book your fall ocean getaway or plan your 2018 summer family vacation.

A Lasting Impression


If you envision crowded Ocean City beaches where you’re elbow-to-elbow with fellow beach-goers, you should know the boardwalk’s shops, arcades and amusement areas absorb a significant amount of traffic. We visited during one of the busiest times of the year and found the crowd evenly dispersed along the three-mile boardwalk. My kids had ample space to create sandcastles and forts in the sand.

Keep in mind we arrived in Ocean City during a tropical storm warning. Driving rain, powerful wind gusts that were strong enough to knock me off my feet and some rather extreme waves greeted us. As with any vacation, travelers should keep in mind inclement weather is always a possibility and have a “Plan B” set in case sun-bathing and riding the waves are not options.

Stormy skies upon our arrival in Ocean City

Fortunately, the weather continued to improve and the next morning we awakened to a clearing sky and partial sunshine.

As a tropical storm moved away from Ocean City, MD and the sky continued to clear, Kento Matsui watched passers-by arrive at the beach.

I enjoyed my time at the hotel very much. It was wonderful to be able to see the beach from my room and wake up to the smell of sea air. I left the door open at night to let the air in. The beds were very comfortable and I slept well that night. We had our own kitchen where we were able to cook or we were near the boardwalk restaurants if we didn’t want to. We were also oceanfront, so I could walk out onto the beach whenever I wanted. ~ Kento Matsui

As I prepared breakfast in our newly-renovated one-bedroom suite, we planned our day to include a few hours on the beach followed by activities the hotel offers.

There’s no need to toss left-over meals in the trash. Reheat or prepare a quick meal in your guest room.

Don’t forget to take time to relax


Any time is “naptime,” whether you’ve been immersed in activities all day or you need a quick recharge. The decor is soothing and relaxed, even for a teenager with boundless energy. 

Newly-decorated rooms are dressed in colors and patterns that are best described as inviting and calming. The pink headboards in our suite remind me of pinkish sand and seashells you’ll find on the Ocean City, MD beaches.

Signature Afternoon Tea, a Photo Op (on the beach), Morning Yoga, and the much celebrated “Pirate” Scavenger Hunt are four of the most popular planned activities at Dunes Manor.

A Tradition of Afternoon Tea


Afternoon Tea Dunes Manor Hotel & Suites

Mrs. Conner’s welcomed guests each afternoon for tea. The tradition continues decades later. The staff keeps the tea and silver cookie trays well-stocked. 

One of Mrs. Conner’s signature events that have endured for years is Afternoon Signature Tea. Her goal was to mingle with and also encourage interaction among her guests. Wherever you roam during your stay, be sure to set your alarm for 3 p.m. and make your way back to Dunes Manor for tea time.

Afternoon Tea at Dunes Manor

Even after the crowd has thinned, the staff at Dunes Manor keep the tea and coffee piping hot as they diligently restock the silver trays with chewy, delicious cookies.

Afternoon Photo Op?


Family Photo Op Dunes Manor

Preserve family memories in a photo you’ll cherish forever.

Chances are you are the photographer in charge of capturing your family vacations. Is someone in your family left out of a prized vacation photo? What if you could preserve those precious memories with the entire family present? Dunes Manor has a professional photographer available for a family photo or couples’ photo op. Inquire about the date and time when you book your stay at the hotel.

Dunes Manor Summer Photo Op

A professional photographer is at your disposal during the summer afternoon photo op.

The hotel offers a one-hour window for families to meet on the beach and the most current package includes a free 5″ x 7″ or telescope photos with the Atlantic Ocean as the backdrop.

Imagine years from now when you find this photo.

“Be” a MORNING person at the beach


Sunrise Ocean City beache

Why waste a glorious morning? Set your alarm so you’ll awaken before the sun begins to rise. Roll out of bed and come to the beach for a morning walk and experience why a sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean is a spectacular event. 

Good Morning, Beach


Dunes Manor Review Joan Matsui

Shown after sunrise, Yoshi Matsui was ready for a walk on the beach. He discovered his “peace and quiet” before heading back to the hotel for breakfast.

Dunes Manor was exciting. When I was there (in August), I wanted to go to the beach every day. The waves were big, (because of a tropical storm) so it was fun to mess around in the water. I also liked the boardwalk because of the varieties of shops and restaurants. The room was fantastic and we had a great view (of the ocean) from our balcony. I also enjoyed the Saltwater Taffy. ~ Yoshihiko Matsui

Usher in your day with “Morning Yoga”



Morning Yoga Dunes Manor

Do you find yoga invigorating AND relaxing? Dunes Manor offers an opportunity for guests to wake up their senses with free “Morning Yoga.”

Make Yoga a part of your day. Even if you’re not a yogi, a gentle morning stretch can work wonders for a variety of health ailments and prepare you for a day that might include walking along the boardwalk, shopping, or visiting one of the local attractions. Inquire about the yoga and fitness schedule at the registration desk when you check in.

beach yoga

I didn’t need any coaxing to join the morning Yoga class. My gaze was fixed on the waves as I moved through a gentle morning Vinyasa routine.

PIRATE Scavenger Hunt

You never know where you’ll meet a “PIRATE”


Quick! Take cover when you meet a Pirate face-to-face in a Dunes Manor corridor.


Pirate Scavenger Hunt Dunes Manor

Both young and older scoundrels comb the halls in search of much-coveted treasures.   

The Pirate Scavenger Hunt gets underway in the foyer of the lobby at Dunes Manor. After a quick introduction, kids embark on a mission to uncover treasure hidden throughout the hotel. Parents tag along for support so it’s a safe, fun-filled event. The aim is to meet the pirate character at the last stop of the hunt and collect prizes.

Dunes Manor Travel Information

This young forager selects his prize from a treasure box. 

The “pirate” awaits the children at the last stop of the scavenger hunt. I didn’t participate in the hunt, but I had a chance to watch the children race to the finish line and redeem a prize. And of course, I couldn’t pass on a photo op with the pirate. 

Accolades and Information


Dunes Manor Hotel & Suites is rated by TripAdvisor as #6 out of 104 hotels in Ocean City, MD.

Activities are free for hotel guests and local residents are also invited to participate for a nominal fee. No registration or RSVP is required. For more information, contact Tracy Rice (, 410.289.1100).

Explore Ocean City


My assignment at Dunes Manor Hotel & Suites was comped but my opinions are my own.








Travel is something we all say we want to do more of. But have you given much thought to the method of travel you’d use?



Travel has many benefits to our life. You take a turn and see a lake unfolding. Yоu can fееl the breeze оn your fасе аnd smell the tурісаl hоt air оf a trорісаl ѕummеr. Thеrе рlауѕ a grоuр оf monkeys bу thе wаtеr. You quietly stop pedaling to watch over the little ones.

That is one in many fond memories of your travels on two wheels. To travel by bike is much more than those memories. It is a way of life with excellent moment and joy.

Cycling could be the answer you’re looking for. Here are our top ten reasons why a bike is the best way to travel.


You Enjoy Getting Off the Beaten Paths and into More Adventurous Ones


You enjoy getting off the beaten paths and into more adventurous ones

Sometimes traveling is more adventurous than anything. You are getting many paths that are such full enjoyment through a bike riding. You can visit many famous and popular places by riding a bike.

Furthermore, some paths are much more beautiful when you are exploring on a bike.


Keep Fit and Healthy in Your Life


Keep fit and healthy in your life

Cycling is a low-impact, natural form of exercise for anyone and everyone. It improves your body strength and builds mass muscles. It raises up your heart rate and reduces the chance of heart attack, blood pressure, diabetes, etc. Moreover, cycling can give you a beautiful body shape. However, Some ladies prefer rope jumping instead if cycling as they like to avoid crowed on the road, which is perfectly okay with me. Keeping fit and healthy is the most important things.

It doesn’t require any kind of unique skill or ability, just a good sense of direction to keep you going. Cycling increases stamina, balance and strength – useful for those climbs in the Adelaide Hills to find the perfect view!

You meet interesting people

Along unbeaten раthѕ, уоu mееt some local people whо have nеvеr seen foreigners bеfоrе. They are often much less grumpy than town dwellers who secretly blame you because their city is overcrowded. They are more likely to be interested in talking to you, showing you a beautiful route or offering you some home-grown fruits.

You might also meet like-minded cyclists and share a grilled fish over a campfire. Thіѕ kind оf relaxing еnсоuntеr dоеѕ nоt happen as оftеn when уоu drіvе a саr or rush аrоund іn a cross-country bus.


You Can Excuse Yourself for Eating More


Cycling is one of the best exercises of fun. One hour of moderate-level cycling burns nearly 600 kilojoules, and once you’ve stopped moving your body continues to burn excess kilojoules in repairing itself. Whаt better wау tо celebrate thе ѕuссеѕѕ of your easy, fun, еxеrсіѕе-fіllеd dау thаn wіth a feast of еріс proportions?


You Have the Unlimited Freedom


You have the unlimited freedom

You can stop at any time and visit any place along the road or take a photo of an astonishing sunset. You won’t find those benefits while using рublіс transportation. You can go as fast or as slow as you want and you can rest at any time (but be sure to observe traffic laws).


Expand Your Social Circle


Expand your social circle

Most cyclists would agree that riding in a group along the coast, or just to the best café in town, is a great way to spend a sunny Saturday morning. Cусlіng grоuрѕ and сlubѕ аrе аlwауѕ wеlсоmіng nеw mеmbеrѕ; уоu’ll rесеіvе mоrаl ѕuрроrt whеn рuѕhіng up ѕtеер hіllѕ аnd a раt оn the back when уоu’vе fіnіѕhеd a ride in record time.


You Are Environment-friendly


To travel by bike, you are much more aware of the changes in the background and appreciate things like unpolluted air, healthy-looking trees, and harmonious rivers and so on. Those are things that are not so quickly felt and understood when you are sealed up in an air-conditioned metal wagon. Car drivers sometimes end up forgetting about how important it is to have more fresh air and less smoke from burning fossil fuel.


Enjoy Beautiful Scenery


Enjoy Beautiful scenery

Put simply; South Australia is a stunning part of the world. Coastal views wind their way into rolling green hills which lead to striking city panoramas – and that’s just around Adelaide. Challenge yourself to a climb up Willunga Hill or Norton Summit while you’re here and soak up the change in perspective.


You Are Always Learning


Besides many things, you will learn about your own strength. Cycling is also a mental exercise. It has little to do with your physical condition, age and sex and more to do with pushing your limits. The weather can be just too hot and humid. Sоmе hіllѕ juѕt ѕееm too ѕtеер for уоu tо сlіmb uр. Yоu рuѕh your lіmіtѕ further реdаl bу реdаl. You get over the hill, and you feel great. Then you know boundaries are there to be broken.





Exercise releases feel-good endorphins, which relieve stress and make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Cycling is the best form of exercise we can think of to unwind and relax – just you, your bike and the open road. Regular bike riding helps you to removes stress, tension, depression and gives a fresh and soothing mind. Sometimes stress affects our sleep. So, indirectly it also gives us proper sleep and rest.

To enjoy the most comfortable journey, you should ride on a comfortable seat that doesn’t burn or sting on your butt even after your ride. You can pick the most comfortable bicycle seat from the “best bikes for women blog.” We picked the most comfortable bicycle seats after a lot of research and considerations.


Author Bio

Sophie Elise is a passionate cyclist, author, and blogger. She is very passionate about writing on different types of women’s bikes, accessories, health, fitness and more and regularly writes on


Trying to Save Money on Travel?


the best luggage deals

Does shopping for luggage make your head spin? Follow these tips to find the best luggage at affordable prices.

Why the luggage manufacturing business will probably never fail.

Written by Renee McDermott


One item travelers cannot do without is a suitcase. From rolling duffels and hard shell suitcases to backpacks and designer bags, the vast array of styles and options they offer consumers is enough to make your head spin.

And make your wallet a bit thinner.

Is Your Wallet FAT or Thin?


Many shoppers still head to brick and mortar stores when it comes to the final luggage purchase. After all, this is where you can open, close, lift, touch, zip, snap and test every aspect of a suitcase before you buy it. However, the price tag dangling from each bag is printed with a relatively high number compared to what you would find online.

Purchase Your Luggage Online?


Did you know that 88 percent of luggage is available online and that you can save an average of $110 by opting to purchase it there?

It is certainly a wakeup call for many travelers who think that the cheapest way to purchase luggage is during a seasonal sale or from the clearance section.

Let’s face it – traveling is expensive, and luggage isn’t always at the top of the priority list.

Thanks to the help of an in-depth study done by Test Facts, shoppers will be pleased to know that Delsey, Samsonite, American Tourister, and many more brands are all available online for less.

So should you head to your favorite online shop and start adding luggage to your cart?

Yes, but be aware of a few traps along the way.

For example, products with a high volume of negative reviews usually have a higher discount. While you may be getting a great deal on a heavily discounted bag, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is worth the purchase.

Do you want the zipper to fly off the track after your first trip with it or the retractable handle to break?


You get what you pay for, so shop wisely and make sure you understand the average lifespan of a suitcase or bag before you purchase it.

While you may not be able to touch or feel a potential piece of luggage on your computer screen, you can gain useful insight into its quality and durability by referring to customers’ comments. Many include photos of their purchase or detailed explanations of the product, which will put the wary shopper at ease. Popular products will have a high quantity of reviews, so it is easy to find all of the information you need to make a confident purchase online.

Based on the study, the three luggage manufacturers that offer the most savings (in dollar amounts) are Nautica, Kenneth Cole, and Victorinox.

And which online stores offer the most savings?


Surprisingly, Walmart online store is at the top of the list, followed by Century 21 and Target. Kohl’s and Macy’s, it seems, aren’t even worth considering.

The Bottom Line


Regardless of the brand you prefer, the statistics show that online shopping is best when it comes to purchasing luggage. Travelers on a budget can always turn to brick and mortar stores when it comes to touching and testing a product, but to save some real cash, be sure to make your final purchase online.



A Walk for Sunshine

Jeff Alt’s Walk for Sunshine

Adventure on the Appalachian Trail


A book review


“A Walk for Sunshine” is a special anniversary edition and a celebration of the 20th annual Sunshine Walk, Run and Roll, a fundraiser born out of Jeff Alt’s 1998 2,160-mile trek along the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.

Beaufort Books recently released the commemorative edition to celebrate Alt’s 147-day time out from civilization and more than $500,000 he has raised since 1998.

Alt experienced long days and nights alone as he braved a variety of weather conditions that ran the gamut from excessive heat and wind, 10-foot snow drifts to bitter cold and agonizing blisters to raise money for Sunshine Communities, a small community in Maumee, Ohio. His brother, Aaron has cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability and has called Sunshine home for more than two decades.

A Walk for Sunshine is a fascinating account of his travels that’s so well-documented, heartfelt, and humorous you’ll want to read from beginning to end in one shot. In one of my favorite passages, Alt describes a typical day on the trail.

Of course, a simple guess of “walking, eating, or sleeping” would sum up my typical day. My life was very simple. As I breathed, a beautiful sunset in a valley or paused at a stream to drink in the tranquil sound of fast-moving water, I envisioned different people from home who would appreciate what I was seeing and experiencing. I wished that everyone could stop what they were doing and walk with me. I wished Aaron could experience this adventure firsthand.”

Whether you’re inclined to spend your days hiking or you have a family member with disabilities, you will find Alt’s endearing portrait refreshing and inspiring.

A Walk for Sunshine was published on Sept. 9, 2017, by Beaufort Books, New York, NY and is available in print and e-book editions. For more information, visit

Learn more about Jeff Alt’s continuing travels and expeditions at



A Walk for Sunshine book review by Joan Matsui Travel Writer

Jeff Alt’s 2,160-mile trek along the Appalachian Trail has raised more than $500,000 for individuals with disabilities.



Celebrate National Public Lands Day

National Public Lands Day 2016 volunteers show their support by helping park rangers maintain precious land along the Delaware River. Photos courtesy of the National Park Service.

Celebrate the Public Lands You Love


One of the best ways to show your appreciation for the rivers and trails you enjoy year-round is to join more than 200,000 volunteers around the country on Sat., Sept. 30, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., as they celebrate National Public Lands Day.  

What is National Public Lands Day?


National Public Lands Day is an event organized by the National Environmental Education Foundation to promote enjoyment and volunteer conservation of public lands in the United States. The signature event is held on a Saturday in late September.

2016 National Public Lands Day volunteers lend a hand.

How can you help?

You can get involved and pitch in locally in Northeastern Pennsylvania at the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River. Volunteers are needed to help park rangers with three projects.

  1. Clean up trash from the river while paddling from Narrowsburg, NY to the Ten Mile River Access, NY.
  2. Maintain the Tusten Mountain Trail near the Ten Mile River Access by helping to widen the trail and vista, install trail markers, and remove hazards from the hiking path.
  3. Clear mile-a-minute and other invasive plant species from around the Zane Grey Museum and Lackawaxen Access.


National Public Lands Day by Joan Mead-Matsui

Be one of the 200,000 volunteers who pitch in to help maintain U.S. national parks.

National Public Lands Day will kick off at 9 a.m. at the Ten Mile River Access located on Crawford Road, Narrowsburg, NY. Following the kick-off reception, volunteers will be assigned to groups and move to their designated location to begin the projects.

The maintenance sessions will wrap up on a rolling basis as projects conclude.

To register, call 570-729-7134 ext. 220 or email Additional information can be also be found online at




An Expat Childhood: A Nutshell Summary

Points south and east


Finding yourself through travel and genealogy


By Ceil Lucas, the author of How I Got Here: A Memoir

Ceil Lucas How I Got Here Joan Matsui Travel

Ceil Lucas is the author of “How I Got Here: A Memoir

It would seem that I had an expat childhood.

The nutshell summary:  I was born in Phoenix in 1951; in 1956, my father the civil engineer accepted a job in Guatemala City.  In 1960, he was hired by the Food and Agriculture Organization ( FAO) of the United Nations located in Rome, Italy. I came to the US for college in 1969. I returned to Rome for the 1971-1972 academic year.

While I have traveled extensively, I have lived permanently in the United States since August of 1972.  Ages 5 to 21: four years in Guatemala City and 12 in Rome, with two nine-month stints for freshman and sophomore year at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.

I knew that I would eventually write a memoir about my childhood in Guatemala and Italy, to preserve the memories of living in Latin America in the mid-1950s, a fraught time, and in Italy in the 1960s, during the post-war economic boom. I learned to speak Spanish in Guatemala, learned to read and write in Spanish. I arrived in Italy at age nine, had many Italian friends, went to an all-Italian YMCA camp in Sardinia when I was ten and later went back as a camp counselor: total immersion in Italian from when we arrived and it left me with a strong Roman accent, quite distinct from the accents of Florence, Milan, Naples, or Venice.  I developed a deep attachment to Italy which I have maintained over the years, partly from teaching Italian to university students and adults for 44 years.

When I came back to the U.S. for college in 1969, my stance was often, “Well, I wasn’t raised here; I’m not from here”, hand on my hip, head cocked. This was 1969, in the middle of the Vietnam War, and I also brought with me general European opinions about it, opinions not favorable to the U.S. involvement. The deal with my parents had been that, if I wanted to go to college – which I did – it would be in the U.S., non-negotiable. So I came to fulfill my end of the deal, with a large part of my head and heart left behind in Rome.

But I have not one drop of Italian blood in me. I am frequently asked, “Oh, do you still have relatives in Italy?”  I never had any, ever, even though I sound like I must. As I was organizing the memoir, I had also started working on my family’s genealogy and came to find out my mother’s people came to Eastern Maryland from Scotland in 1654; my father’s people were Quakers who sailed to Philadelphia from Weymouth, England, in 1679. And the name in 1500 was De Lucas, with some Spanish blood as well.

As I organized the memoir and worked on the genealogy, I had to slowly come to terms with the fact that, when your folks arrive in 1654 and 1679, you’re “from here,” deeply American. No Italian blood but lots of Scots and English blood. Writing about all of my travels and working on my family’s history got me to my true ethnicity. It forced me to face the occasional difference between my identity quite naturally forged by a childhood outside of the U.S. and my American ethnicity, roots put down, in the case of my mother’s family, 122 years before there even was an America. I have come to feel like I know all of these ancestors and they made their way into what I call my genealogical memoir. I have gotten comfortable with all of them.

How I Got Here by Ceil Lucas on Joan Matsui Travel Writer

Ceil Lucas, sociolinguist, professor, and author

About Ceil Lucas


Ceil Lucas, the author of How I Got Here: A Memoir, is a sociolinguist. She holds a bachelor’s degree in French and Art History, a master’s degree in French and Italian, and a doctorate in Linguistics.  She spent 40 years as a professor and researcher at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. She began teaching Italian in 1973 and continues to do so.  She is the editor and co-author of 22 books. The memoir is available on Amazon.







Eye Protection to Suit Your Every Mood

Sunglasses for your adventurous spirit


Sunglass Warehouse


Has anyone seen my sunglasses?

Maybe they’re in my car or in my handbag.

The last pair of expensive designer sunglasses I purchased did not come home with me after playing a few sets of tennis. I left them on a bench near the tennis court and I experienced buyer’s regret for at least a few weeks after losing them.

Forget the expensive designer eyewear if you’re prone to breaking or losing your sunglasses.

Sunglass Warehouse review by Joan Mead-Matsui

Sunglass Warehouse has a fantastic selection of sunglasses to suit your every mood and activity.

Sunglass Warehouse offers a variety of styles and frames that can be worn for all of your activities from hiking and cycling to fly fishing. Your options are to buy sunglasses at affordable prices with no worries if you happen to lose or break them, or obsess about your designer frames when you should focus on your activity and have fun.

What if your sunglasses fall off your head into the water while you’re fly fishing or on a canoe or kayak trip? Will you dive into the water to retrieve your glasses? I hope not.

Sunglasses are not only accessories. They also protect our eyes from UV damage and Polarized lenses improve visibility for activities like fly fishing. Each of the five pairs I’ve sampled has withstood the test of time, after countless hours on the water.

Sunglass Warehouse has hundreds of styles of sunglasses that are priced at $20 or less. If you prefer round, square, oblong, Aviator, textured, black, blue or brown, you’ll find what you’re looking for at 

The site is easy to navigate and filters allow you to find your ideal pair from among Sunglass Warehouse (SW) Exclusives, Festival Shades, Brow Bars, Flat Lenses, Matte Metals, Retro Classics, Bold Shades, Colored Lenses, Cut-Out Shades and Rose Gold.



“Hail Caesar” at Villa Roma

 Old-World European Charm 


Villa Roma Resort and Conference Center


Villa Roma by Joan Mead-Matsui

Villa Roma Resort, 356 Villa Roma Road, Callicoon, NY is a hot spot for Catskill entertainment and lodging. Photos by Joan Mead-Matsui, travel writer, photographer, and videographer

Getaway from city life and EXPLORE 


Have you arrived at a destination knowing from the get-go you’ll have an extraordinary stay?

My first impression of Villa Roma Resort & Conference Center was “lively.” That’s a characteristic I look for when I first step foot on a resort property.

Upon my arrival, vehicles were lined up, as guests loaded and unloaded their luggage. Even in late winter, a time of the year many resorts refer to as the “slow season,” the lobby was bustling with activity.

Caesar Night – a sight to behold and cherish


Villa Roma by Joan Mead-Matsui

A group of senior citizens found plenty of time to catch up at “Caesar Night,” an evening dedicated to fine Italian cuisine and culture.

After spending an afternoon reminiscing in the lobby, the seniors reconvened for Caesar Night that evening. As I entered the main dining room, the maitre d’ was leading the crowd in a celebration of Italian cuisine and ancient culture. They chanted, “Hail Caesar,” as I discovered a most of the crowd was decked out in garb straight out of the Roman Empire.

Caesar Night is a Thursday night ritual at Villa Roma, marked by a seven-course feast prepared by Chef Peter Selthafner. An appetizer, choices of soup or pasta, salad, selections of entrée and a variety of scrumptious desserts are extremely popular among guests who want to take the time to relax and truly savor each course. When is the last time you devoted 90 minutes to casual dining and conversation?

The Regal Dining Room (located on the third floor of the resort’s new main building) is a perfect setting for Caesar Night and unhurried meals. You’ll find the decor – shades of rich blue and gold, decorative hand painted wall murals and large ceiling fixtures are the ideal backdrop for an Italian-themed meal.

Breakfast IS a BIG DEAL 


Begin your day with breakfast prepared YOUR way. A bowl of fresh fruit arrived at my table, along with a cup of decaf coffee, shortly after I was seated at a table by the window. Service was consistently top-notch during my 24-hour visit to Villa Roma.

Villa Roma by Joan Mead-Matsui

Fresh fruit was a sweet beginning to my breakfast.

Villa Roma is ideally situated in New York State’s Catskills’ region. The mountains and countless acres of greenery that surround the resort are a draw for the thousands of guests who visit the Catskills each year in pursuit of hiking, fishing, and skiing opportunities. Abundant activities and a friendly atmosphere keep guests coming back year after year for nearly six decades.

Dining options:

The Main Dining Room, The Beechwoods Restaurant, Beechwoods Grill, Roman Garden Cafe, Dolce’s Ice Cream Parlor, Coffee Bar (new) and Pool Grill

Villa Roma by Joan Matsui Travel Writer

The decor is vibrant, with plenty of space in the common areas for guests to meet.



In the fall of 1969, Martin Passante became the sole owner and by 1973, construction of the lobby and “Future” wing was underway. Prior to 1977, the resort was largely still a seasonal escape for guests but by the 1970s, the focus had shifted to year-round activities. Guests could still count on personalized service and made-to-order food but golf and planned activities were an added draw.

You can get your hands on a copy of the entertainment schedule, brochures highlighting upcoming events and special deals when you check in at the registration desk. Additional information is available when you download the “Good Times Newsletter.”

Always plenty to do


The Villa Roma guests see today has grown from an old-fashioned guest hotel with 46 rooms, 10 cottages, a pool, and two bocce courts to 24 timeshare buildings and 139 hotel rooms. Yet, the attention to details and outstanding customer service have not been sacrificed to accommodate more than 200,000 guests each year.

Recreational opportunities are plentiful. Golf enthusiasts can play a round at the resort’s 18-Hole PGA Championship golf course or get their tennis fix on the indoor and outdoor tennis courts. You’ll also find racquetball, volleyball, bocce, shuffleboard, basketball, indoor and outdoor heated pools, a fun park, fishing pond, Go-Carts, bumper boats, an arcade room, bowling alley, and fitness center. Villa Roma also offers nightly entertainment and three year-round dining outlets.

Regardless of the season or temperature, fishing and fly fishing are year-round sports enjoyed throughout the Catskills, but if fishing isn’t for you, follow this link to find a complete list of activities to pursue near Villa Roma.

Fishing news and the best locations to fish can be found here at



The two-bedroom efficiency can accommodate up to six guests, with plenty of room to move around.

In addition to two large bedrooms, one with a king bed and the second with one queen bed, the living area also offers a pull-out double sofa bed, which is a definite plus for night owls who want to channel surf the flat screen television.

Villa Roma by Joan Mead-Matsui

Villa Roma Two-Bedroom guest suites offer a kitchen for guests who choose to dine in their rooms. This suite is ideal for family travel.

A kitchen with a full-size refrigerator, stovetop and oven, microwave, and a dishwasher is located adjacent to the living room. The bathroom in this unit is equipped with a separate bathtub and a shower stall, so guests can enjoy a long soak or shower.

Villa Roma also offers a one-bedroom efficiency, one-bedroom suite, deluxe rooms with a private balcony that’s perfect for stargazing or daydreaming; traditional rooms, and lodge rooms located only a short distance from the main building.

Nightlife – Dinner and a show


When you’ve finished dinner, where will you find nightlife in the Catskills?

Marty’s Lounge is one of the Villa Roma venues where you can enjoy a late night cocktail, sporting event or a movie on a large screen TV.

Villa Roma by Joan Mead-Matsui

Hand-clapping or toe-tapping entertainment at Villa Roma Resort and Conference Center

Villa Roma by Joan Mead-Matsui

Dance the night away with your sweetheart at Villa Roma.

Villa Roma by Joan Mead-matsui

Musician and entertainer Tommy Walker’s evening show at Villa Roma is the icing on the cake. His repertoire includes famous Sinatra and Elvis tunes. Be prepared to sing along with Tommy. 

Villa Roma by Joan Mead-Matsui

Musician and entertainer Tommy Walker is a favorite for guests of all ages.

Upcoming Events You Won’t Want to Miss


You can count on being busy when you book your getaway at Villa Roma. Take a look at the following themed weekends planned for September, October, and November.


Murder Mystery Weekend

Fri., Sept. 29 to Sun., Oct. 1, 2017

October 27,28, 29, 2017

November 3-5, 2017

Bethel Woods Special

Book your accommodations at Villa Roma and slip away to the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts for a concert.


For more information, visit Villa Roma’s website or call 1-800-533-6767. 

My stay was comped but my opinions are my own.

Benefits of Gluten free diets

The Ones You Didn’t Know


By Sarah Jones


Gluten-free diets are all the rage. The proportions of the American population who follow a gluten-free diet have tripled between 2009 and 2014, despite not having any indications of celiac disease, according to the American Medical Association.

Celiac disease can be devastating, and a gluten-free diet is an essential measure to combat this condition. However, the question remains why so many others’ have chosen to go carb free?

What’s gluten?


Gluten is a protein found in plant foods such as wheat, barley, and rye that can cause a wide variety of ailments in those with Celiac disease, including severe stomach pains, lead to the formation of ulcers, permanently impact the linings of the intestines and may result in anemia.

Especially troubling is the prevalence of this disease has greatly risen from 50 years ago.

Furthermore, there are many benefits to going gluten free including losing a whole host of undesirable issues for people who don’t have Celiac disease but may have gluten intolerance. The symptoms typically associated with gluten intolerance include severe headaches, stomach pains, bloating, excessive flatulence, constipation, diarrhea, loss of feeling in your joints, skin rashes, acne and low concentration capacities.

Interestingly enough, the ingestion of wheat has been very strongly linked to the formation of eczema, and to the prevalence of sinus allergies, stomach pains and eye conditions, such as dryness. A reaction to wheat that leads to eczema can be caused by both an intolerance to wheat and by an allergy, as both affect the autoimmune system, which in turn affects the skin.


One of the first things that most people remark on when cutting out the gluten from the diets is the high amount of fruits and vegetables they have added to increase their fiber intake and, thereby, also increasing their subsequent stores of vitamins and minerals in their daily diets as well. It also leads to a much stronger immune system, helping you to fend off the cold and other seasonal bugs that may try and take you down during the year.

The second and probably one of the most lauded benefits is how much easier it is to lose weight without all of the common gluten-containing products on your plate. This weight loss can also be associated with an increase in vegetables and other complex carbohydrates over naturally refined carbohydrates that are typically eaten before going on a gluten-free diet.

A further benefit is that bloating will be significantly reduced, as well as constipation which is always a bonus. Also, the high levels of vigor and vitality people experience from this lifestyle is almost unanimous. It may be because when you eat gluten with other foods, the ability of your body to digest the other foods nutrients is impaired and therefore, you have far lower levels of the necessary nutrients entering your bloodstream.

If you are considering trying out this way of eating, you will most certainly not be alone. It is estimated that 22% of the global population are choosing to eat gluten free for either personal choice or because of allergies and intolerances. And the vast majority of these consumers seem to be between the ages of 25-34 or 50-64. However, age is just a number, and you really should do whatever you feel is best for you.

Tips to Stay Gluten Free While Travelling

For those of you who are not allowed to eat gluten due to your intolerance, but would still love to experience the tastes that travelling the globe has to offer, we have a few tips in mind that will keep your diet gluten-free.

  • Know what’s on the menu
    • Don’t ask the waiter or server if the food is gluten-free. Some will say it is gluten-free, when in fact, it may have a huge percentage of it in the meal itself. There is a small amount that can be tolerated, but it is best to know what the ingredients of the delicacy are before ordering. You may ask that of the server, but you’re better off Googling the dish before ordering.
  • Live in a place with a kitchen
    • It may feel tedious, but you can still enjoy local food offerings by cooking using local ingredients. Choose ones that are gluten-free. By now, you know which ones those are. If you must add an unknown ingredient, do your research first before adding it to your meal.
  • Find the nearest vegetarian or vegan restaurant
    • Most vegan and vegetarian restaurants nowadays serve gluten-free food because of the high demand. If you are in a place that has caught up with the GF trend, you may find a place or two that can cater to your dietary needs.
  • Bring your own food
    • Just don’t bring fruits or vegetables. You may bring packs of food in boxes; however, they will be checked and verified by airport authorities. Most airports do now allow fruits and vegetables to be brought in from other countries because of its risk to the ecosystem. That is why you are better off bringing pre-packaged gluten-free food if necessary – and it has to be checked in.
  • Customize your meal
    • Go to a reputable restaurant in the area that allows for customization of food based on allergies and dietary needs. They may be more expensive than local restaurants, but it is worth it if you do not have any adverse reactions. Reputable restaurants follow rules to the tee because they want to keep their reputation intact.

A final tip: Don’t be demanding about it. Request, ask, be polite. Your food may be gluten-free, but it won’t be spit-free if you’re demanding and irate while asking for your diet to be accommodated. And it helps to be friendly when you’re in a different place, right?

Choosing to eat in a way that will uplift your energy, mood, cognitive and physical function, while helping you to lose weight seems like a rather simple way to engage in with your whole self. So, the only thing left to ask is, are you going to be gluten free, too?

Sarah Jones contributes cooking advice to

Sarah Jones slices, dices and cooks her way to a healthy diet, but most importantly, she shares her knowledge with readers so they can enjoy preparing healthy meals.

Many thanks to Sarah Jones for sharing facts you should know about gluten. Sarah writes for Simmer and Zest, and “cooks, slices, and dices,” to be sure she stays healthy. More importantly, Sarah shares what she knows so others can enjoy cooking as well!


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