The Greatest Writers Who Called San Francisco Home

Jack Kerouac Sna FranciscoFrom the infamous 1906 earthquake and the Golden Gate Bridge to Alcatraz and exorbitant real estate prices, San Francisco is well-known for several fascinating reasons. What you might not realize is that many of the greatest 20th century writers have drawn inspiration from what is arguably the most beautiful city on the West Coast. Here is a handful of some the most prominent scribes to have honed their craft in San Francisco.

Jack Kerouac

Born Jean-Louis Kerouac on March 12, 1922, Jack Kerouac is probably the most influential poet/novelist to emerge from the Beat Generation. The father of spontaneous writing, Kerouac wrote about subjects many others in his generation wouldn't dare discuss, including drugs, poverty and Catholicism. His works included “The Dharma Burns,” “Mexico City Blues,” “Desolation Angels” and “On the Road.” Kerouac was born in Massachusetts, although he spent a large portion of his working life in the North Beach area of San Francisco. While there, look for Jack Kerouac Alley — a one-way stretch of road that was once a regular hangout for Kerouac and his friends during his many trips to the area.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Dubbed the inaugural “Poet Laureate of California” and founder of the famous City Lights Bookstore, Lawrence Ferlinghetti is a name many in the literary world often associate with San Francisco. Born in Yonkers, New York, in 1919, Ferlinghetti eventually made his way to the Bay Area in 1951. His first few years in the city were spent teaching French and penning now-famous critiques of artists and painters in the San Francisco area. In 1953, he opened the landmark City Lights Bookstore, which later became a publishing company that exposed the masses to some of California's most famous poets and authors, including Allen Ginsberg. Ferlinghetti's most famous work “A Coney Island of the Mind” was published in 1974 and has since been translated into nine languages.

Hunter S. Thompson

Best known for his novels and pieces published in Rolling Stone, Hunter S. Thompson was the granddaddy of the 1960s California counterculture and the creator of a writing style affectionately dubbed “gonzo” journalism. Born Hunter Stockton Thompson on July 18, 1937, in Louisville, Kentucky, Thompson led a typical suburban, middle-class existence during his adolescent years. After a short stint in jail and a brief career in the United States Air Force, Thompson began travelling extensively across the United States. San Francisco's burgeoning subculture became a favourite topic of Thompson’s, and eventually the writings evolved into some of his greatest works like “Hell’s Angels” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream.”

Amy Tan

Well known for her best-selling novel, “The Joy Luck Club,” Amy Tan is a Chinese-American author who was born and raised in Oakland, California. The natural struggles and complexities of mother/daughter relationships is a major theme in many of Tan's works, including “The Joy Luck Club,” which is set in San Francisco. Today, Tan is still living in the Bay Area and spends most of her time touring, writing and playing in the Rock Bottom Remainders alongside Stephen King, Dave Barry and Mitch Albom.

Planning a Literary Tour of San Francisco

There are a handful of formal literary tours available in San Francisco, several of which will guide you through a few of the aforementioned authors’ residences and former haunts. If you're planning to sign up for a walking tour, begin by researching the company offering the experience, including pricing, availability and the itinerary. Above all else, remember to wear a comfortable pair of shoes and bring along an umbrella and plenty of water before attempting to brave San Francisco's notoriously inclement weather and treacherously steep hills.

You've enjoyed your literary tour of San Francisco but aren't sure if you can afford to lodge in such an expensive city. Luckily, there are a variety of San Francisco hotels to choose from that won’t break the bank. You might even stay in the same room occupied by Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti or any of the other famous writers who passed through the city.

Image from Flickr’s Creative Commons

About the Author: Brian Short is a guest blogger and established poet from Montreal. He's currently residing in San Francisco and working on his sixth collection of poems dedicated to the Bay Area.


Traveling to Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Morocco and The Holy Lands

 Traveling to Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Morocco and the Holy Lands offer everything from stunning natural scenery to world-class cities to some of the planet’s most important cultural and historical landmarks. From the pyramids of Ancient Egypt to the amazing sights of Istanbul, this region offers a dizzying array of incredible places to see and interesting things to do.


The Sphinx and Pyramid in EgyptThe cradle of the Ancient Egyptian civilization and some of the world’s most historic landmarks, Egypt is both fascinating and exhilarating. Travelers will find many exciting Egypt Tours availble. Cairo boasts a wealth of world-renowned museums and historic sites to explore such as the famed Egyptian Museum, Tahrir Square and the Giza Zoo while the beautiful city of Alexandria boasts attractions like the Library of Alexandria, the Citadel of Qaitbay and the Alexandria National Museum. Other must-see landmarks and destinations in Egypt include the iconic Giza Pyramids, the Valley of the Kings and the Ancient Egyptian ruins of Saqqara and Memphis.


Ancient roman columns and paved streets in Jerash, JordonAn ancient and beautiful land, Jordan is home to some of the world’s most important cultural sites and stunning natural scenery all around. The archeological ruins of Petra are nothing short of astounding and are among the country’s premier attractions while the capital city of Amman plays host to fascinating Ancient Roman ruins and the must-see National Archeological Museum.


The Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey.Turkey boasts wondrous landscapes, ancient ruins to explore and some of the world’s greatest cities. Istanbul holds nearly 2,000 years of history and culture to discover as well as architectural treasures like Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace. It also boasts interesting historical sites such as the Galata Tower and the Old City Walls and a wide array of world-renowned museums like the Museum of Archeology. Another top destination in Turkey is the city of Antalya, known for its beautiful beaches and dramatic seaside scenery. Other top attractions and destinations in Turkey include Mount Nemrut, the ancient ruins of Ephesus and Ani, the breathtaking Mediterranean coastline and the bustling capital city of Ankara.


Ksar Ait Benhaddou in Souss-Massa-Dral along the Ouarzazate River. Morocco.This North African nation offers much to see and do as well. A leading destination is the famous city of Casablanca, renowned for its cafes, shops, galleries and historic sites like Old Medina. The historic city of Fez is known for its stunning medieval and ancient architecture while the capital city of Rabat hosts great museums like the National Archeological Museum and sites of interest like the stunning Royal Palace, Old Medina and the ruins of Chellah. Outside of its major cities, Morocco sports top destinations like the elegant beaches of Agadir and the ancient coastal town of Essaouira.

Holy Land

Saint Town JerusalemThe Holy Land offers a wealth of fascinating sites for people of all faiths and backgrounds. Jerusalem in particular offers amazing attractions like the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, the Old City, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the fascinating Israel Museum. Other premier destinations and attractions in the Holy Land region include the stunning Mount Sinai, Bethlehem, Nazareth and the beautiful Sea of Galilee.

Interested in visiting these and many other cultural and historical landmarks in the area? Travelers will find many Egypt travel packages are available to fit any budget.


Things to do in Carmona, Spain

Guest Post By: Maria Papadopoulou

Situated in the Guadalquivir Valley of Spain and surrounded by fields of wheat and cotton, there is Carmona, a  magnificent place that I instantly fell in love with when I first visited it a few years ago. There are so many things to do over there, that you won’t be bored, not even for a minute.

Alcazar de la Puerta de Sevilla

One of the most famous historical buildings in Carmona, Alcazar de la Puerta de Sevilla, is a must see for every tourist. Although remodeled and refurbished, it helps tourists understand the origins of Carmona’s fortifications, as well as the town’s history. The view from the top is simply breathtaking, I spent several minutes looking at it, totally mesmerized.

Puerta de Cordoba, Carmona, SpainRoman Necropolis

For those who love digging in the past in an attempt to understand the present and are not afraid of what they may find, Roman Necropolis, the ancient cemetery, is a place they should not miss. At the entrance, there is Tumba del Elefante, a huge elephant figure that will make every heart beat fast for a few seconds. The cemetery is very well preserved and it allows visitors to learn a lot about burial tombs at different stages of restoration. The second time I visited that particular cemetery, which as of 1992 is considered an archaeological site, I was given a free tour by the Director and learnt many more details about the place. Free tours are scheduled every once in a while, so visitors should take advantage of that if they want to delve deeper into the Necropolis history.

Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Asuncion

Located at the plaza del Marques de las Torres, is the beautiful church of Santa Maria, built in 1424, in gothic style. The serenity and peace of the place have such a calming effect; tourists will certainly feel as if they are talking a walk in the fields of Heaven.

The principal altarpiece features the work of Nufro de Ortega and Juan Vasquez.  There is a cute little chapel dedicated to San Jose, as well as an altarpiece dedicated to Pedro de Campana. I loved the famous sculpture of Christ on the cross, called the Desamparados (the homeless), as well as the painting of the 12 Apostles. They are truly masterpieces that once you see, you will never be able to forget.

Carmona has so many interesting places to visit and learn about. If you want to broaden your horizons, this is where you should go.

Maria Papadopoulou  is a freelance writer at as well as a translator and a proofreader.


Epcot Center’s Italy Pavilion

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

Epcot Center is my favorite park at Walt Disney World. Comprised of two sections, Future World and World Showcase, Epcot features different countries in its World Showcase, and the Epcot Center, Italy Pavilion is one of my favorites.

What I love so much about it besides the fact that I am in love with Italy is that so much of it authentic. Of course Disney has made that a key component when developing all the countries in Epcot's World Showcase. On approaching the Italy Pavilion I felt like I was back in Venice, one of the most beautiful cities in Italy. The large campanile or bell tower rising 83 feet high is an exact replica of the one in St Mark's square in Venice. This one is compete with a gold leaf angel on the top and the familiar green pointed spire.

Epcot Italy Pavilion Bell Tower and Doges PalaceJust across from it is a replica of the celebrated Doge's Palace with its prominent pink stone facade and white columns.  A footbridge similar to the 400 that are in Venice separates the Italy Pavilion from the lagoon where a gondola is moored just like they are in Venice. Unfortunately it is just for show and you cannot hire a gondolier to sing for you as you take a ride.

Inside the piazza is Neptune's Fountain and as you walk further there are two Italian restaurants, Tutto Italia Restaurant and adjacent to it is the new Tutto Gusto Wine cellar. Both just opened in May of 2012. Additionally there is another restaurant called Via Napoli. When I was there it was early in the morning so neither were open yet but I could see the waiters dressed ready to go and the chefs in the kitchen preparing the food for the day. Tutto Gusto features over 200 Italian wines, beers, grappas and coffee selections with small plates of food and an intimate environment. Outside there is also a cart where you can purchase wines and sweets.

Italian music can be heard as you stroll the area and sometimes there are street performers as well depending on the time of day.

Epcot Italy Pavilion Via Napoli RestaurantThe shops in the Italy Pavilion impressed me because all the items are really from Italy. I made a point to check the Murano glass jewelry and leather bags and all were made in Italy. No items from China were found here. The prices were fairly reasonable I thought, especially compared with prices in Italy where you are paying more because of the euro-dollar conversion.

I spoke with the young man working in the shop and he was from the Puglia region of Italy. Disney hires young people from Italy and contracts with them to work here for a year on a special visa. This young man spoke fairly good English and I enjoyed peaking Italian with him as well.


On your next trip to Disney World, be sure to go to Epcot Center and check out the Italy Pavilion. I live in Florida I know I will be going back soon.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

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Milan’s Galleria, Spectacular Architecture and Upscale Shops

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

Milan has a wonderful shopping arcade just across the piazza from its famous Duomo. This five-story glass-ceilinged building is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and a must-see for anyone traveling to Milan.

This arcade has the distinction of being the oldest shopping mall on the world, and is named after one of Italy's most famous kings, King Victor Emanuele II. In fact he actually laid the first stone of this galleria in 1865. The arcade was built to connect the large Piazza del Duomo with Piazza della Scala where the opera house, La Scala is located.Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milans Galleria, Italy

Mosaic Bull, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan GalleriaTwo years later in 1867 the galleria opened but was not completed for another ten years. This beautiful example of architecture is one of Milan's most popular meeting spots. Its facade facing Piazza del Duomo is framed with a triumphal arch. The interior is shaped like a Latin cross with one walkway 643 feet long and the other 346 feet across. Both walkways are covered with impressive glass and iron arched ceilings which meet at an octagonal center point. This central dome 154 feet high and 118 feet wide and it truly is beautiful.

On the floor in the center of the galleria is a mosaic bull, and tradition maintains that anyone who steps on the bull's genitals, and twirls around three times, will have good fortune. My Italian friend Angela who accompanied me the first time I visited this galleria assures me that this is true, and insisted that I participate in the ritual, as she was ready with her camera. Naturally I had to do it while bystanders looked on, waiting their turn to do the same.  The area is question was so worn from people performing this ritual that there was a hole in the floor. Periodically this has to be renovated with new mosaics.Spectacular Architecture, Milan's Galleria

Aside from the spectacular architecture, the galleria features some of Milan's more upscale shops and restaurants. To name a few that grace these halls are Prada, Dolce and Gabbana, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Bernasconi, and Rizzoli Bookstore. Until recently McDonald's was also inside the galleria, which may seem unusual, but it had been there for twenty years. Their lease was not renewed this year and McDonald's no longer is inside Milan's Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

Some of the famous restaurants and cafès in the galleria are the Savini Restaurant, Biffi Caffè, and Zucca's Bar. You may pay ten euros for a cup of cappuccino but you are in Milan's Galleria after all. Enjoy the ambience and splurge.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

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Daytona Beach Florida Offers Beaches and Racing

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

World famous Daytona Beach, Florida draws over 7 million visitors year round for two main reasons. Its 23 miles of hard white sand beach that is 500 feet wide at low tide has always attracted the Florida beachcombers, especially since driving is permitted right on the beach. The second main draw of course is the Daytona International Speedway, site of the famous Daytona 500 every February and the Pepsi 400 every July. The two go hand in hand since auto racing began on this sandy beach in the early 1900's.

Hard Sand of Daytona Beach, FloridaBeach Driving

Today you can drive on an 18 mile stretch of hard sandy beach at Daytona Beach. The remaining five miles of beach are set aside for beachgoers who prefer to not share the beach with vehicles. Although years ago there was no charge to drive on the beach, the price now is $5 per vehicle per day from February 1st through November 30th. After 3pm the charge is only $3 and driving on Daytona Beach is permitted from one hour after sunrise till one hour before sunset during the winter months of November through April, and from 8am till 7pm during the months of May through October. The speed limit is 10 mph and it is strictly enforced with fines of a minimum of $41. Seasonal passes are also available for residents and non-residents. All pedestrians and bicyclists can access the beach for no fee at any time.

Daytona Beach is a popular family vacation spot with hundreds of hotels right on the beach. The white sandy beaches remain a draw for millions of visitors, and when you are tired of a beach day, a fun way to spend part of a day is to tour the Daytona International Speedway.

Daytona International Speedway Tours

Depending on your level of interest, your time schedule and your wallet, there are three different types of tours from which to choose. The least expensive is the Speedway Tour which costs $16 per adult and $10 for kids from 6-12. This 30 minute tour will give you a chance to ride along Pit Row, stroll in the infield, experience the banked walls of the track and learn about the history of racing at Daytona. Tickets are sold at the track beginning at 9am daily for timed tours throughout the day.

For those looking for more, the All Access Tour is a 90 minute tour and costs $23 for adults and $17 for kids ages 6-12. Coupons are sometimes available and you can but the tour for as little as $15. On this tour you will driven  onto  the track in a little tram,  and go behind the scenes and see the Drivers' Meeting Room, the Nasser Garages, drive on Victory Lane, and go up to the Press Box seven stories above the track, which should provide some great photo opportunities.

Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FloridaThe VIP Tour is a privately guided tour on an air-conditioned bus where you will experience firsthand the Drivers’ Meeting Room, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garages and tech inspection, as well as the DAYTONA 500 Club President’s Row. You will drive on Victory Lane and get to see the track from a special suite seven stories above the track. In addition the tour includes special access to the Archives Building with artifacts and previous champion trophies, and other pieces of racing nostalgia.  The final part of the tour ends with in the Coca-Cola Theatre and you will also have a chance to see Matt Kenseth's DAYTONA 500 winning car. The three hour tour requires advance reservations and costs $50.


Blackout dates exist due to schedules races, practices and car shows. You can find these dates before planning a visit  by clicking here. The track is not open on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. No matter which tour you choose you will have time to get out and take photos. When I went I was most amazed with the feeling of experiencing the 30 degree banked turns on the track. It is worth the price for something you can only experience at Daytona Beach.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

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Things to do in Memphis, Tennessee

Guest Post By: Maria Papadopoulou

One of the most beautiful cities to visit in the United States is Memphis, in Tennessee.  Having friends there, I try to visit as often as I can both to see them and enjoy the city.  There are so many things to do!


My absolute favorite place to go to when in Memphis is Graceland. As a big Elvis Presley fan I enjoy tremendously the famous Graceland tour, as I have the chance to see first hand many of his old costumes and awards.

Downtown Memphis Tennessee at nightSun Studios

Another tour I enjoy tremendously when visiting Memphis is a tour at the Sun Studios, where famous music stars recorded their albums back in the 1950’s. Every rock n roll fan has to visit! He won’t be disappointed!

National Civil Rights Museum

Wanting to learn all about the civil rights movement history, I visited the National Civil Rights Museum several years ago.  There are so many things to see and learn though, so every time I visit Memphis I go back to the Museum to broaden my horizons some more.  Offering a huge variety of private collections, exhibitions, as well as educational programs, the National Civil Rights Museumis a great opportunity for tourists to spend their day in a constructive way.

The Orpheum Theatre

Managed by the Memphis Development Foundation, the Orpheum theatre, one of the most famous theatres in Memphis, presents 10-12 great Broadways shows every year. Tours are open to the public several times a year.  Visitors also have the opportunity to purchase merchandise from Orpheum Theatre by bidding on the various auctions that are held to help support the Theatre.

Mississippi River

When I want to go for a long walk, relax or have a picnic with my friends in Memphis, my first choice is the amazing Mississippi River, a must see for every visitor in Memphis.


The Art Museum of the University of Memphis

I love this Museum because it features a variety of temporary as well as permanent exhibits. Some of the most famous permanent exhibits which I absolutely adoreare the Works on Paper collection and the African collection. Everything is well organized so it is easy to understand everything, without getting confused.

With such a variety of different things to do, Memphis will not disappoint, even the most difficult tourist.  There is something for everyone, so definitely put Memphis on the top of your traveling list!

Maria Papadopoulou  is a freelance writer at as well as a translator and a proofreader.


Favorite Holiday Food in Hawaii

Guest Post: Ruth Elayne Kongaika

Here in the Hawaiian Islands, the holidays are not complete without plenty of great food. In our home, we usually have the traditional American food, and since there are so many different cultures here, we also have a potpourri of other delectable food items. This is necessary to please all the guests, and to share with the neighbors. At Thanksgiving, besides the turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy, you may find on the table some Hawaiian Pork Chops, Hawaiian sweet bread, and one of my favorites, mochi (yummy dessert made of rice flour). Christmas is more than ham, potato salad, fruit salad and pies, but also consists of laulau (taro leaves, corned beef, onions and coconut milk), raw fish, otai (watermelon, mango or apple drink which you scrape and add coconut milk and sugar) and pineapple bars, just to name a few of the possibilities.Loco Moco

In Hawaii, the word for delicious is “ono”. Sometimes we mix the two and say the food is onolicious! One particular tradition that seems to be carried over is the tradition of Christmas morning breakfast. A fast bowl of cereal will not do. This holiday feast consists of New Zealand sausages, bacon or ham, omelets, rice (gotta have rice), pancakes, waffles, or bread pudding. Real locals will go for Loco Moco which is a hamburger patty, two scoops of rice topped with gravy and covered with fried eggs. It could also have a macaroni salad on the side.

Here in the islands, we don’t eat until we are full, we eat until we are tired! So for some of us, breakfast may extend all the way until dinnertime. Never mind gout or diabetes during the holidays – that is what the New Year Resolutions are for! Just make sure your high blood pressure and other medications are on hand! Santa is more likely to find a whole suckling pig waiting for him than a little plate of cookies and milk.

Many Hawaiian families go all out and dig an imu (underground oven) where they may cook their turkey, ham, laulau, root crops like sweet potato or breadfruit and fish. Often they cook a whole pig in this traditional Hawaiian oven. The men do most of the heavy work, which is great for the women, who busy themselves with the desserts.

For those of you that like pork, but do not know how to make an imu, here is a great recipe for Hawaiian Pork Chops that is sure to please most palates:

Hawaiian Grilled Pork ChopsHAWAIIAN PORK CHOPS

Six lean boneless pork chops

One tablespoon prepared mustard

Two tablespoons white wine vinegar

One tablespoon hoisin sauce

One half teaspoon salt

One eighth teaspoon pepper

One 8 ounce can pineapple chunks in juice

Two tablespoons cornstarch

Two tablespoons water

One papaya, peeled, seed and sliced

Place chops in crockpot. In small bowl, combine mustard, vinegar, hoisin sauce, salt and pepper. Drain the juice from the pineapple chunks and add it to mustard mixture. Reserve the pineapple chunks. Pour the sauce over chops in the crock pot. Cover and cook on low for five to six hours or until the meat is tender. Remove chops and keep warm. Turn to high. Dissolve cornstarch in water in small bowl and stir the cornstarch mixture into the juices in the crockpot. Cover and cook on high for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the pineapple chunks and papaya. It is best if the papaya is firm – not mushy. Serve the pork chops and add coconut and macadamia nuts if desired. Yum!

Depending on where your ancestors are from, in Hawaii you may eat kimchi, malasadas, adobo, curry, or dim sum. I have acquired a taste for most of them (except kimchi), but my kids love it. Merry Christmas to all, and make sure you get your fill of onolicious holiday treats.Santa at Waikiki

Ruth Elayne Kongaika was raised in the mainland, USA, but has been living in the South Pacific for the past forty years. She enjoys trying to capture the beauty of the Polynesian islands through her photography, painting and writing. She has a blog which shares some of her art and favorite subjects at:



California’s Beringer Winery Tour

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

California's Napa and Sonoma Valleys are known throughout the world as producers of some of the best wines. The rolling hills and temperate climate are perfect for wine production and many of the wineries offer public tours. I was fortunate enough to have been able to tour several of these wineries, one of which was Beringer, who claims the distinction of being the first winery to offer public tours. They have been doing so since 1934.


Beringer is the oldest continuously operating vineyard in the Napa Valley, starting in 1876 when the Beringer brothers originally crushed 18,000 cases of grapes to make 40,000 gallons of wine. Seven years later Frederick Beringer built his mansion, the famous Rhine House, although he names it Villa Beringer. Four years later in 1887   Beringer Wines began winning awards. Even during Prohibiton Beringer wineries operated legally as they processed and manufactured sacramental wines for religious services.California Beringer Winery, Napa Valley  By Alaskan Dude

Winery Tour

Located at   2000 Main Street, St. Helena, California, Beringer Winery has some of the most beautiful grounds throughout the valley. Just browsing the grounds here is a photographer's delight. There is even a 200 year old leaning oak tree that is a favorite of many visitors, and you easily enjoy an hour strolling around this property, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Rhine House Taste of Beringer tour is priced at $40 a person and the Old Stone winery tour through caves and tunnels begins at $25 a person. Each tour offers something different.

The Old Stone winery tour lasts 30 minutes and delves into the history of the Beringer winery and includes tasting two wines for those 21 and older. There is no charge for guests under the age of 21. Reservations are suggested and tours start at 11:00 a.m. with the last tour scheduled at 4:00 p.m.

For those wanting a little more the Taste of Beringer tour is for you.  This one hour tour explores the history of the Napa Valley, and also explains the winemaking process as well as the Beringer winery history. The tour culminates with a wine tasting of three wines and some appetizers at a sit down event in the Rhine Mansion. Tour times are 10:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Reservations are required and guests must be 21 or older.

Some reviews complain that the price of the tour is too high, and occasionally you can find deals on Groupon for a better price so keep your eye open.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

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Natural Medicine Reigns in Tonga


Guest Post: Ruth Elayne Kongaika


After the birth of my first child in the United States, my husband and I moved to a third world country. I soon discovered what social medicine is like in a developing nation. When our children got sick, instead of making an appointment with a doctor, our only choice was to head for the hospital. There was only one hospital to serve several thousand people.

Back in 1974, we were lucky to only wait three or so hours for a doctor. There were no comfortable chairs to sit on. There were concrete slab that we could rest on. There were so many coughing, feverish and injured people waiting for help. We worried that if our child was not already seriously ill, she would be after we left the hospital.My two babies in Tonga circa 1975 Copyright Ruth Elayne Kongaika

Doctors had been trained in a third world country, usually Fiji. There was no state of the art equipment. Doctors are lower paid than teachers in Tonga. If we required a blood test, the closest laboratory was miles away, and the results would take two weeks or more.

If a prescription was given, we would head for the dispensary located in the hospital. We received medicine that had already expired, having been donated from a charitable organization in the United States or elsewhere.

Less than a year after we moved to the third world country, I had my second child. This was a very humbling experience for me. The hospital was full and I ended up having my baby out in the waiting area. Several people I had never met before gawked at me as I gave birth.

KavaThe hospital had neither disposable diapers nor a nursery. My baby had gastroenteritis and cried most of the time, and there was no doctor available to check on him. I went home from the hospital with a 103 degree fever and a sick baby. Family members are expected to take care of the patients at the hospital, and I had none of my own family living there. My husband’s parents were living in New Zealand at the time.

Thankfully, traditional knowledge has been passed down from generation to generation. It is crucial to the survival of the people of Tonga. Many have embraced a Western diet, and experience poor health as a result. Medicine made the "old way" utilize tropical plants, gifts of the sea, leaves from certain bushes and roots. Many families in Tonga treat their children with these natural resources. Most villages also have a “witch doctor” who is known for their success in healing through their own methods.

NoniMy two young babies got thrush, and were unable to eat anything for several days. They also had fevers, because of the infection in their mouths. I was so worried and took them to the doctors at the hospital. They gave me rinses and other medicine, which I used faithfully, but my babies were not getting better. After several days of this without improvement, the babies were taken to the local village healer.


The healer mixed several ingredients together including noni, kava and burnt coconut. She ground it up and poured it into the babies mouths. They cried and fussed, but I was so relieved that the gums started to show improvement almost immediately. I gained a healthy respect for Tongan medicine from that experience.

Ruth Elayne Kongaika was raised in the mainland, USA, and has been traveling in the South Pacific for the past forty years. She tries to capture the beauty of the islands through her photography, painting and writing. She has a blog which shares some of her art and favorite subjects at:


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