Monday, March 16, 2020

Traveling and Covid-19

Currently, this photo is a sign of the times. Our traveling schedule for the year is slowly being cancelled around us. Tomorrow is Sonoma/Napa and then back to South Carolina.
The Sonoma trip started well as we patronized our favorite haunts. Slowly we started hearing more news of Covid-19 and implications. We decided to hit three wineries and our favorite restaurant on Sunday. We would have made our 20-something selves proud.
The evening ended at Valette in Healdsburg. In my opinion, it's still one of the best restaurants in the area.
As we all know, things have not gone well for travelers since Sunday night. We had a flight this Thursday but decided to head to SFO and move flight to tonight (Monday). We were successful getting a new flight but it took off at 10PM. We used the app dayuse.com and rented a room for six hours by the airport. Actually, it worked out well. We cancelled our Spain trip in May and I suspect our London trip in June will soon be cancelled.

We will travel again when restrictions are lifted. Stay safe.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Baseball in Arizona and Southwest Cuisine

It's Spring, which means baseball in Arizona. We finally checked this off our bucket list.  Today's game was Cleveland Indians and San Francisco Giants. I'm really enjoying the atmosphere at these exhibition games. Everybody is friendly, we all talk baseball and drink a few beers. Photo is Paulette, Tim (brother) and myself. We are staying in an AirBnB all week. Link Here  It looks just like the photos.
Cleveland Indians mascot, Ace, with Paulette. Did I say we left 29 degree weather for 79 degrees?
Tonight's dinner was at Josephines in downtown Phoenix. I liked it but a little pricy based on portions.
Today we ventured to Scottsdale stadium, home of SF Giants spring training camp.The secret is out on baseball spring training. You will drop some money attending these games. Today's game is between the Giants and the Cubs, sold out. I was told that many Cub fans come to Phoenix for baseball and weather.
The rain has started for a few days so we are executing plan B. Wine in photo is a Bridlewood reserve Syrah from Santa Barbra county. We only bought one, big mistake.
We decided on a high end Mexican restaurant for lunch, Barrio Cafe. This is high end southwest cuisine. We were very surprised and are going back for dinner Friday night. Check out the food photos on their website. You can even order a Belgium beer.

Final Thoughts:
We've decided to make spring training an annual trip now, the people and the atmosphere is great. Conversations with people all over the county and you don't have to be a hard core baseball fan.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Cherokee Nation and French Restaurant in Seattle

I'm in Seattle visiting a relative and enjoying some old haunts. My morning tea is at Caffe Umbria in the Pioneer square area. This was one of my hangouts when I worked for a Seattle based company.
Paulette is in Oklahoma getting her membership for the Cherokee Nation, the Dawes Rolls. Paulette's 4th great grandmother, Jane Killermore was on the Trail of Tears. Jane's husband was Killer Nu-Te-Hi-Ta Moore. Would love to know how he got his first name. In case you're wondering, no, Paulette will not receive money.
A little chilly but I'm loving the visit here. Staying at the Artic Club in downtown which is very centrally located. Very old school with a comfortable feel but I think I will walk down the hill to the Courtyard Marriott next time.
Had breakfast at the London Plane, can't recommend this enough. I included menu photo because of Julia Child's quote.
Back in Oklahoma, Paulette toured the baseball exhibit highlighting American Indians in the major leagues. A notable display of Charles "Chief" Bender who is in Baseball's Hall of fame. He is sometimes credited with the invention of the "slider". The claim is debated but good trivia anyway.
Dining at the Le Pichet with a friend tonight. Closest I can get to Paris without jumping on a plane.
After gracefully consuming a cabernet my friend, Dave, suggested we go to the LA Dive in the capital hill district. With Alice Cooper playing loudly through the car speakers, off we went. I behaved myself and kept alcohol to a minimum.
My cousin flew up to Seattle this evening so we dined at MKT. If you follow my blog, this is one of my goto restaurants. Maybe I should try something new.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Traveling Tips

It's the end of 2019 and I thought I would post some traveling tips that have helped us. All links included are products I use. There are competing products just as good. All comments and suggestions welcomed. Last update 1/12/2020

Packing 
This setup is typical for Paulette and me, one roller bag and one carryon backpack. Make sure your backpack has a loop to fit over your roller bag handle. We tried the large backpack method instead of a roller bag on one trip and it didn't work out well. Lots of videos on traveling light on youtube. Rick Steves link here
-Take lightweight clothing that can be washed in the bathtub and dries easily
-Bring lightweight pants. Denim jeans are hard to wash and dry.
-Dress in layers for warmth
-A good lightweight raincoat (spend the extra money)
-I always take a beanie

We always check our roller bags on air flights and have never permanently lost a bag.
-All prescription drugs, electronics, shaver, electric toothbrush in your backpack.
-Pack one change of clothes in your backpack, one pants, socks and underwear. Our luggage was lost for 3 days in Italy, shirts and socks you can buy but finding a pair of pants that fit? Good luck.
-You can always buy your way out of small things you forget.

Plane Travel
I always use a small over the shoulder bag on plane flights. The bag carries snacks, iPad, disposable slippers, Bose headphones, an inflatable seat cushion and drug store glasses. My backpack goes in the overhead and I rarely access it during the flight.
-Bose noise cancelling headphones or earbuds. Don't leave home without them
-Drug store glasses. Good way to never lose your prescription glasses
-Disposable slippers. My feet are comfortable during the flight and I throw away germ ridden slippers
-Carry hand sanitizer and Kleenex. We also wipe down our seating area with Clorox wipes before a flight
-We travel with an inflatable seat cushion. After 6 hours, you will appreciate it.
-Carry NyQuil tablets. Sometimes hard to find when you need them.

Hotels and AirBnB
Small washcloths seem to be in short supply abroad, take one or two. Buy at Walmart, throw away after trip. Bring small soaps.

Apps and devices we use
We have tried SIM cards for our phones which was ok. Verizon or AT&T international plans, not happy with pricing. We rent a hotspot, they are small and we've never had an issue. We use TEP wireless but there are many companies out there.
-WhatsApp. Use this app for messaging. Almost all AirBnB/VRBO hosts use this app.
-Paulette has a Google-Fi phone with no problems for international use. If you are not familiar, Google has made deals all over the world for wireless access to their phones. Paulette uses her same number any where in the world with very low fees that include texting.
-Currency converter app on phone. I also print a currency cheatsheet.

Tours vs DIY
We used to take tours only. We take a Rick Steves tour usually every year and supplement with our own planning. We now enjoy taking riverboat cruises, which seem to suit us well. I think it depends on your health and what you want to do. Paulette writes for a riverboat website, one of her reviews here.

Favorite websites
-Rome2Rio. Great for planning trip from here to there
-Skyscanner. Good for finding flight information
-AirBnB, VRBO and Homeaway. We've used all three in Europe
-If you are flying within Europe, get an account with cheap airlines. i.e. Ryanair.
-Train Tickets for Europe. We usually get all our train tickets here.
-Information about train tickets in Europe, The man in seat 61.

Travel tips in Europe
-Pubic restrooms can be a problem in Europe, especially Italy. We are at the age where we just walk into a upscale hotel, act like we are guests and then use the restroom. McDonalds is usually always available somewhere (the saying in Italy is go when can, not when you have to).
-We usually skip housekeeping services. If we need something, we just ask for it from the staff. Petty theft is the biggest crime in Europe.

I always worry about getting sick abroad. My main concern is that I get sinus infections and need Amoxicillin. You can buy most simple drugs over the counter and they are inexpensive. When I travel to an area, I always look for a medical sign, usually a green cross. We've run into many people who have had broken bones, respiratory infections and one person who miscounted his heart meds. All got treatment or drugs very easily. The broken bone was an ankle and we followed up with them after they got back to the states. Their doctor said the treatment was as good as the states.

Credit Cards and Money
-Call credit card companies to tell them where you will be. If not, card will be declined.
-Only use bank ATMs and only use during business hours in case your card gets eaten. Yes, this did happen to us and we quickly retrieved our card. When entering pin number, cover your typing, thieves are watching.
-Typically we use ATMs for getting local currency, rarely do we use money exchanges. Always get some currency at US airport so you have walking around money upon arrival.
- Money belt is mandatory. If it's hard for you to access, it's even harder for a pickpocket.

Misc Ideas
-Travel Insurance. We bought it once for an expensive trip to Vietnam. We've never heard of a person successfully getting reimbursed. With that said we are still looking for travel insurance and will update blog when we decide. If you are looking for travel insurance, go to this link
-Tiny notebook and pen. You will be surprised how handy this is.
-We put small locks on our backpacks. Pickpockets typically just unzip your bag and steal something.
-Global Entry. Make sure you have TSA and Global Entry. Trust me, just do it.


Thursday, December 26, 2019

Planes, Trains and an Uber Santa in PA

We are headed to Pennsylvania for Christmas to visit family. Who knew our Uber driver was going to be Santa.
Made it to Pennsylvania to see family and grandchildren. We had our annual family dinner at Bolete restaurant in Bethelham. Bolete is the best restaurant we've gone to in the area.
Model trains have always interested me so a trip to the Lehigh and Keystone Model Railroad Museum was planned. Even if you are not an enthusiast, it's time well spent.
Where do you go after model train viewing, a brewery of course. This is one of my son's favorites so I had to try it. Great beers and fun atmosphere. For those wondering, yes, we took my grandson in (he liked the band).

2019 Trips complete
2020 Scheduled trips:  Baseball spring training in Arizona; Missoula; London; Scotland; Budapest; Lisbon; Bucharest; and Southern Spain.

Keep Traveling

Friday, December 13, 2019

Yosemite in December

Our friends invited us to their cabin in Yosemite, why not? Even though it's a bit cold I hope everybody notices that is a coke can in my hand. It is beautiful here and more importantly, no crowds.
We did bring supplies in case we get stranded. We built a fire, turned on Christmas music and prepared for the evening.
This morning we headed to the Yosemite Valley, which is about an hour from where we are staying. I will confess, my friend Michele took the photo with her high end camera. The mountain on the left is  the famous El Capitan.
There are many deer in the area but I enjoy the turkeys the most. Lots of them, they're well fed and not intimated by people. Tonight's dinner was at The Grill in Groveland. It's the only game in town but surprisingly very good.

Our last night in the east bay and dinner was at the Blackhawk Grill with my brother. Overall, I was a little disappointed in the restaurant.

Next up: Christmas in Pennsylvania

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Family and wine

We traveled back to Northern California for a family get together. Our sister shows up tomorrow so my brother and I went to a Spanish restaurant, Teleferic Barcelona, in Walnut Creek. Great tapas and paella which was paired with some great wines from my brother.

We are staying at the Holiday Inn Express in Walnut Creek. Hotels are getting expensive in the Bay Area so we have been staying on the east side. We went back to the same area for dinner the next night. We started with Va De Vi Bistro, small plates were good, wine selection less than adequate. We then went next door to the Bounty Hunter. Small plates were good but then I was introduced to their large wine closet. I was a kid in a candy store, we liked this place.
We started out wine tasting today at Gary Farrell Vineyards, we are members there. Afterwards we tasted at Benovia. We are members there also. Drinking wine with your new family doesn't get much better than that. We are all staying at the Hampton Inn in Windsor. Very nice hotel and halfway between Healdsburg and Santa Rosa. We dined at Tisza Bistro. This is a Hungarian restaurant recommended by the wineries. It was close to the hotel and the food was excellent but it lacked in ambiance. Probably wouldn't go back again.
Final day started at PapaPietro-Perry Winery and ended at Ferrari-Carano. PapaPietro-Perry makes our Pinot of choice and Ferrari-Carano has those deep reds, great for dinners. Final dinner was at Valette in Healdsburg. This is now our favorite restaurant, no contest. If you go to the PapaPietro-Perry website, Paulette and I are in the video starting at 1:41 (our 15 seconds of fame...).