December 31, 2008

Good bye 2008

December 29, 2008

Wag Hotels and traveling with your four-legged co-pilot

Do you have a co-pilot that has four legs? I'm talking about a companion that can be as messy and as bossy as any roommate. I'm not referring to the little teacup sized pups carried around by popstars. Well sometimes that sweet co-pilot cannot always come with you on a trip.

A good friend and fellow writer Maria Goodavage, has lots of resourceful books to help dog lovers. Her books are illustrated by the great Phil Frank, a cartoonist from the San Francisco Chronicle. The guides come with a wealth of information including lots of specific resources for those of us living in California, as well as the San Francisco Bay Area. And she just issued an updated version of her San Francisco guidebook this year.

Another great resource in the Bay Area are Wag Hotels for dogs and cats! They offer wonderful boarding and pet care in an environment that is healthy for your best friend and little buddy.

December 25, 2008

Christmas Greetings and Cheer

December 24, 2008

December 20, 2008

Travel writing with Uptake

I have taken my writing to a more grassroots level and am now writing regularly for - a travel site that aims to make the process of booking travel online easier.

Uptake has the largest database of US hotels and activities - over 400,000 of them - from more than 1,000 different travel sites.

Check out my scintillating piece from the other day about the fabulous Pat Kuleto owned steakhouse Epic...and read about a romantic night out in San Francisco during the holidays.

Don't "they" always say that you are suppose to find your passion and make a living from that? I'm half way there. I love to travel and take photos - to get out and about - and I love to share my finds with friends and really almost anyone who basically asks me.

With Uptake, I get to write about restaurants and vacation ideas and everything in between - and share this information with anyone who clicks on my pages or subscribes to my RSS Feed - how easy!

I will be writing at Uptake every week since they really value my perspective - I hope you will come visit me there.

December 18, 2008

Sustainable Agriculture

As a global citizen I care about the world around me as much as I care about my immediate community. Here in San Francisco we are fortunate to have the Center for Urban Education and Sustainable Agriculture operating out of the Ferry Building at the end of Market Street.

In their latest newsletter I read all about an important petition that I think we can all get behind. I did and I hope you will consider joining your voice to this good cause:

Inspired by Michael Pollan's New York Times Op-ed, Farmer in Chief, sustainable food advocates — including Alice Waters, Dan Barber, Wendell Berry and Marion Nestle — have all signed this crucial online petition. Today, over 34 thousand advocates have urged president-elect Obama to choose a Secretary of Agriculture with "a significant grassroots background in promoting sustainable agriculture to create a prosperous future for rural America and a healthy future for all of America’s citizens."

Food Democracy Now! is a grassroots movement initiated by farmers, writers, chefs, eaters and policy advocates who recognize the profound sense of urgency in creating a new food system that is capable of meeting the changing needs of American society as it relates to food, health, animal welfare and the environment.

December 17, 2008

More than rejuvenation when you travel to Hawaii

This year more than any other is the best time to visit the Hawaiian Islands, and I cast my vote for Kauai.

I've written on these pages about my love for the Hawaiian Islands before but with the world melting and the financial markets melting, the reasons to go this year are crystal clear. And going to Kauai isn't just about rejuvenation, it is about perspective.

For me, visiting this particular island always changes my perspective on the world and on my life. I appreciate what goes into creating the beautiful landscape as soon as I walk off of the plane. Walk almost anywhere on the island and you can find a spot to sit and contemplate the years of lava flow that creates each individual island. Looking at the growth of the valleys and the amount of animal and plant life - how can you not feel small and insignificant?

Whenever I go to Kauai, I love to rent an apartment along Hanalei Bay rather than stay in a hotel. I've found this team has the weekly range for a 2 bedroom-2 bath condo is $1100-$2500 which seems about right if you want a view and walking distance to the ocean. The Princeville and Hanalei side feels a little slower, if that is possible but I love it. Hawaii and its aloha spirit offers the traveler more than you can imagine - if you have yet to go, consider a week this winter in Kauai.

December 16, 2008

Christmas Travel

How far have you ever traveled to go home for the holidays? In college I used to stay at school and go to a friend's house for Thanksgiving. However Christmas was always special and no matter how far I had to go or how long it took i.e. how many buses, connecting flights, layovers in Denver or Dallas-Fort Worth, I always made it home in time for Christmas Eve around the tree.

When I lived overseas I also returned home stateside in time for Christmas, except for one year. It still is one of my most bittersweet memories. How could I complain about not being home for Christmas when I had this wonderful opportunity and life set up in another country?

I had a lot to be grateful for that year - on the return to my overseas home I had a free first class flight to the island of Kauai. Though I tried not to complain and look on the bright side that year, I will admit to playing I left my heart in San Francisco about a hundred times - and tearing up almost every time it played.

Watch and listen to this and tell me you don't feel that tug on your heart - especially if you are far away from home and your home is San Francisco...

Music and a song's lyrics can create a touch point in our memories. When I travel on trains, planes and automobiles I like to listen to music - like most of us - and when you add a holiday like Christmas to the mix, look out. Do you have a favorite song attached to a journey home? Tony Bennett sings this favorite Christmas song of mine:

I'll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents under the tree

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

December 15, 2008

Train travel gets big push from Obama!

Barack Obama plans to arrive for the inaugural celebration via train - and he plans to pick up Joe Biden in Delaware on his way into Washington DC. How cool is that?!

The Presidential Inaugural Committee announced Monday that Mr. Obama and his family will board a train in Philadelphia bound for Washington on Saturday, January 17. They will stop in Wilmington, Delaware to pick up Vice President-elect Joe Biden and his family. The group will then travel together, stopping in Baltimore, before arriving in Washington’s Union Station.

Being someone who loves-loves-loves train travel, I was so happy to read this news flash today. To me this shows that the new administration supports commuter rails and greener transportation choices - which is important for our future. I hope to see more financial backing for Amtrak and the cross-country routes that include those cool vintage Pullman cars.

Last year Amtrak partnered with GrandLuxe Rail Journeys, which are definitely on my vacation wish list!

Photo credit to krikit

December 11, 2008

More Leg Room But Still Coach

Would you pay more for leg room? It seems as if airlines are looking to create an "a la carte" way to buy plane tickets. The industry wants to know what value we passengers place on the travel experience.

I suppose we all have our price points and a value we place for what is most important to us when we travel. Most lean towards the value of food on their flight or free drinks. My choices differ based on whether I am flying domestic or international.

I have not done it but I am sure I can find one friend who has bought a TSA - scanned retina and thumb print - pass to accelerate their way through security at the airport.

This discussion came up a couple of weeks ago in the Wall Street Journal, here is a bit from the story for our thread:

British Airways serves regular meals in its premium-economy cabin and boards premium-economy passengers with coach customers. Virgin offers a separate check-in area for premium-economy passengers, boards them along with business-class customers and offers food service that is upgraded from coach, but is nowhere near as elaborate as its "Upper Class" business cabin. Both airlines have separate toilets reserved for premium-economy customers, but on recent flights coach customers were using them, too.

Air France says its premium-economy cabin, which will start flying in October or November next year, will include a seat that pivots on the bottom like a movie-theater seat so that the person in front of you doesn't recline into your lap. Two rows of premium-economy seats will take up the same space as three rows of economy seats, and on wide-body jets with nine seats across each row in coach, premium economy will have eight seats across.

- Has the surcharge for bags affected your travel plans?
- How much is comfort worth to you?

With ski season here, will you pay the extra fees for your boots and other equipment - or skip the airline and ship them to your destination?

Photo credits

December 9, 2008

Exploring Northern California Beaches

I love this area of California and I love taking Sunday drives along the coast. Each time we do, there is always something new to discover. We have visited little seaside towns along Highway 1 and made lots of new friends along the way.

Of course many of my discoveries include new places to eat - love that our Garmin GPS includes restaurants!

A recent coastal gem we explored was Pescadero, south of Half Moon Bay on Highway 1 and north of Santa Cruz. More on that experience soon, I have a great spot to highlight, Duarte's Tavern! We're going there for a 'noggin soon and some crab.

December 7, 2008

On the road in California during the holidays this year

This year we are putting miles on the Toyota Prius rather than rubber stamps in our passport. Where will you spend your holidays? Besides being my home, I am reminded that California is a popular destination.

Given the drop in gas prices lately and the fact that after five years our car is still getting over 40 miles a gallon, I say we made the right decision to skip the airports this winter.

However that doesn't mean we are missing out because California has some great places to get to by car. I'm talking the greenest museum and aquarium, world class ski resorts and breathtaking national parks.

Getting out on the road this winter will be an adventure and one that I plan to start preparing for now with a winter roadside kit with water, map, blanket, flares and a flashlight. I probably will order something from a place like this.

December 5, 2008

December 4, 2008

Joe's Stone Crab in Las Vegas

This is my plate of stone crab from Joe's Stone Crab in Las Vegas. Seriously, I ate all of it. We had the best waiter and having booked our table well in advance, our wait at the bar, which is crazy with people and chaos with the drink servers, was minimal before we were seated in a booth.

Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab was such a great place to go out for a nice old school dinner in this crazy city. Since I don't gamble - except with my diet - my only sin (besides bargains) is spending too much on dinners out. I was in Las Vegas to hang out with family before heading to the Grand Canyon, and though I didn't shop, I wish I had this scoop because I might have scored some outlet bargains. Next time.

December 2, 2008

Maverick Rides Around the Grand Canyon

I absolutely loved the Grand Canyon! Seeing for the first time this national landmark was awe-inspiring.

This western landscape invokes all the old Gene Autry movies of Saturday mornings. If you have the time then I have to recommend going to the south rim of the canyon during these winter months. [Having many friends with children I know it is easier for trips like this to be in the summer during school breaks, but maybe a winter break would work?] My trip was just a couple weeks ago and the sky could not have been more blue. The temperature was mild during the day and crisp at night.

When you go, I highly recommend taking one of the awesome helicopter trips around the canyon. This is the best use of your time for the amount of landscape you get to take in at once.

I did hear from a guest at our hotel that there are some outfits that have huge issues with their scheduling (he was bumped for his allotted time then was sitting around waiting). He also said to avoid Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters, because their helicopters had some seats facing backwards. There are only three outfits at the South Rim.

I could not take a bad photo from the window of our Maverick's Helicopter, they were out of this world. Our family with us bought the DVD made of the ride, set to cool music and including some interior shots of them sitting inside (so try not to grimace when the helicopter suddenly drops into the canyon).

We took the Canyon Spirit tour that 45 minutes (ours was 47 min) includes the Eastern Canyon, Northern Rim and Dragon Corridor It was about $220 each and totally worth it. Considering we were there only a day, this was a perfect first time visit when we added in a nice brunch at the El Tovar Hotel at the rim.

We drove from Las Vegas after a couple of days hanging out there and eating great meals. We had some great steak and definitely will consider Tao next time. I think it was a great trip over all but next time I might consider flying into the Grand Canyon fron Vegas rather than driving....we'll see.

Photo credits to
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