Weekly travel rail, highlighting a U.S. tourist spot, travel tips, spring break info and more.


 


American Tourist: Nancy Ballhagen’s Puzzles
 
Highlighting a tourist destination in the U.S.

What is it: A puzzle lover’s paradise! With more than 3,000 kinds of jigsaw puzzles on the shelves, store owner Nancy Ballhagen has a one-of-a kind selection. Some you can purchase, others are collector’s items and only available to look at (there are some 200 finished puzzles on display). The most expensive puzzles are those Ballhagen cut herself. Using a scroll saw and a picture or pattern, Ballhagen is always working on her next project, but it is a slow process that often takes weeks to complete.

More about the puzzles: Besides custom-made pieces, glow-in-the-dark pieces, hologram pieces and puzzles that number up to 18,000 pieces can be found. There are puzzles in nearly every conceivable category.

History of the store: Ballhagen and her late husband Keith opened the small shop in 1991. Their fascination with jigsaw puzzles started in the couple’s dining room when they were short on cash and were looking for a way to spend quality time with the family. “We have always liked to work puzzles, but when my kids were little, we didn’t have any money and puzzles were pretty cheap,” Ballhagen said. “When we had company, we got together and would sit over a table with coffee and a puzzle. It is better than sitting in front of the TV.”

Where: Just off Interstate 44 outside of Sleeper, Mo., about 60 miles from Springfield, Mo.

Hours: Except for holidays, the store is Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

More info: www.missouripuzzle.com, 417-286-3837

Sources: Lake Sun Leader, www.missouripuzzle.com

Airport Adventures

If the thought of a plane full of naked people makes you a little queasy, stay away from Erfurt, Germany, in July. Travel agency OssiUrlaub.de announced it’s now booking seats on a naked flight from Erfurt to the popular Baltic Sea resort of Usedom, according to Reuters. Everyone on the July 5 flight – excluding the flight crew – will be in the buff. (And hopefully the seats will be thoroughly cleaned before the next flight.)

The List

The annual Mobile Travel Guide recently was released, and 41 lodgings, 17 restaurants and three spas were given five-star ratings. Here are the best restaurants and spas in America, according to MobilTravelGuide.com:

Spas:

Spa Montage at Montage Resort (Laguna Beach, Calif.)
Spa at Mandarin Oriental New York
Spa at the Sanctuary (Kiawah Island, S.C.)

Restaurants:

The Dining Room (San Francisco)
The French Laundry (Yountville, Calif.)
The Dining Room (Atlanta)
Georgian Room (Sea Island, Ga.)
Alinea (Chicago)
Charlie Trotter's (Chicago)
The White Barn Inn Restaurant (Kennebunkport, Maine)
Alex (Las Vegas)
Joel Robuchon at the Mansion (Las Vegas)
Jean Georges (New York)
Le Bernardin (New York)
Masa (New York)
Per se (New York)
Le Bec-Fin (Philadelphia)
The Dining Room at Woodlands (Summerville, S.C.)
Inn at Dos Brisas (Brenham, Texas)
The Inn at Little Washington (Washington, Va.)

Talk Like a Local
 
How to say hello and goodbye when in Poland:
 
Hello (informal): Czesc (Tch-esh-ch)

Hello (formal): Dzien dobry (Jeyn Dob-ry)

Goodbye (informal): pa (pah)

Goodbye (formal): Do zobaczenia (doh zoh-bah-chen-yah)

Good to Know

If you want to avoid the spring break crowd, don’t plan on taking your vacation between March 8 and 22, the peak time for college spring breaks. Airfare also spikes at that time, so you’ll save yourself some money if you avoid flying in March.

Fun Facts
 
- If you travel to Baku, Azerbaijan, make sure to see Yanar Dagh, a mountain riddled with natural gas vents that have been on fire for a thousand years. – Wikitravel.org

- Tradition calls for visitors to Nobel Laureate William Faulkner's grave in Oxford, Miss., to leave a pint of whiskey -- although he'd probably prefer Scotch. – Wikitravel.org

Travel Tip
 
Here are some packing and flight tips by travelers for travelers:

- Make a checklist of what you need, including numbers of pants, changes of socks, important documents, medications and emergency contact information.

- Check items off as you gather them.

- Color-coordinate clothing choices to maximize outfits.

- Pack travel-size packets of Woolite in case you need to hand-wash clothes in a pinch.

- Pack two large plastic bags to separate wet and dirty clothes from clean.

- Keep your passport on you at all times. Keep copies of your passport, ticket information and other important documents in more than one place, such as a wallet, hidden bag or purse. Give copies to loved ones and friends.

- Roll your clothes to save space and keep them wrinkle-free.

- Make sure your carry-on is really 22x9x14 inches so it fits in the overhead bin, or you may have to check it.

- Wear shoes that are easily removed for airport security screening.

- Wear comfortable clothes, in layers. Planes can be really cold, or really warm.

- Bring earplugs. They are lifesavers on noisy planes and noisy hotels.

- Jet lag: Try to adopt the arrival destination's time immediately. Stay up until local bedtime even if it's already 3 a.m. to you.

- Call ahead to make sure your flight is on time and if there are changes.

- Exit aisles have extra room. And sitting in the front of the plane means you get out first if there’s a delay and you need to race for a connection.

- Be patient.

- Remember it’s all part of the journey. (Compiled by GateHouse New York)

Number to Know: 8

Number of simultaneous Earth Day events planned for April 20 in the U.S. The main event will be in Washington, D.C., with the others being held in New York, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco.

GateHouse News Service