Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ready To Go?

Next time you pack for a trip of any length, throw in some zip-loc bags of different sizes. They take up almost no room and have endless uses...
-toiletries that are prone to oozing
-cell phones at the beach or on amusement park water rides
-umbrellas that are too wet for your purse or back pack
-emergency laundry kit
-sea shells
-souvenir collection of post cards, brochures or menus
-nuts or snacks
-wet swimsuits
-keeping your book dry at the beach or pool
-wash cloth
-napkins for a picnic
the list goes on and on...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Flying MInts

A flight attendant once told me to carry some strong peppermints with me when I fly. That way if the flight gets bumpy or my stomach gets upset, I can use them.

Another flight attendant told me to order Ginger Ale instead of water, juice or soda.

Both have natural ingredients that help with upset stomachs.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


What says romantic Valentine's Day getaway spots more than Italy?

Albergo California hotel in Positano, on the Amalfi Coast of Italy, houses 15 guest rooms. Six of these are in the original 1777 Palazzo Bruno. Each spacious room provides guests access to the terrace where you can sip wine, plan the next day and watch the sun sink down.

Head to Sicily for the best combination of style and value at Hotel Gutkowski in Siracusa. All 25 rooms in this hotel overlook the Mediterranean, with the best views on the second floor. Breakfast is an experience not to be missed.

Last but not least, Castello di Gargonza in Monte San Savino, Tuscany sits like a fairy tale castle, complete with a crenellated tower. Gargonza, the hilltop village, fought over for centuries by Florentines and Sienese has even been a host to an exiled Dante in the early 1300's. Their 35 houses serve as apartments with 17th century style furnishings, working fireplaces and a pool surrounded by fragrant rosemary and olive trees.

Pick one and enjoy.

Monday, January 26, 2009

More Valentine Get Away Options

Looking for Caribbean destinations? Try Villa Beach Cottages on St. Lucia. Most rentals have a private patio with ocean views (on a clear day you can spot Martinique). Or just relax in a hammock along the water's edge and drift off to the sounds of crashing waves.

If it's seclusion you are after...the Santa Teresa Hotel Milarepa in Costa Rica offers just that. Only four rooms in this hotel so your privacy is almost guaranteed. Warm breezes soothe your room all night while howler monkeys in the trees provide your wake-up call. Don't forget to enjoy the's open to the sky.

Head to the Bahamas and explore the third largest barrier reef in the world. Seascape Inn on Andros Island is just minutes from Mangrove Cay where you can spend your day exploring the reef by kayak. Or practice up on your bonefishing skills from the flats in front of your bungalow (catch and release, however).

Friday, January 23, 2009

Valentine's Day

It's never too early to start planning a Valentine's Day getaway. Budget Travel has suggested some of the most romantic hotels around the world for a perfect secluded experience.

Today I will list a few and follow up with the rest tomorrow.

Wander around Sonoma Valley Beltane Ranch's 105 acres of fruit trees, vegetable and flower gardens, olive orchard, and of course a vineyard. This gingerbread trimmed lodge and surroundings have been featured in L.L. Bean and Victoria's Secret catalogs. Book your stay today at

Also in Northern California, check out Hideaway Cottages in Calistoga. Natural hot springs and mineral rich waters soothe almost any care right out of your body. Need exercise after soaking? Go for a swim, get a mineral mud bath, a lavender mineral whirlpool bath, a 30 minute almond oil massage or take a walk to view the oldest cork oak tree in the Napa Valley. Check out the cottages at

Heading to Mexico? Tulum's Amansala'a Casa Magna was actually two 14,000 square foot concrete houses once owned by a Columbian drug kingpin. Now transformed into 22 enormous guest rooms many people come here to relax by the Caribbean turquoise waters. Others prefer to participate in Bikini Boot Camp, a combination of exercise, yoga, and massage. Either way you won't want to leave. to check this one out.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Traveling Smart

Porta Nigra in Trier, Germany

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

Bernkastel, Germany

Before heading out for a whirlwind tour of eight countries in six days, make sure that is what you and your travel buddies want. It might not be the best experience if all you do is "run, run run". On the other hand if you want that type of trip...go for it.

Decide in advance and your trip will be much better for all travelers. It seems like such a simple step. But it will make for a much better experience and more delightful memories.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bringing Wine Home

Look like an old dead tree trunk to you? You're close.
These amazing looking trunks are actually old grapevines. Some of the finest "old vine" zinfandel wines get produced from these vines. A common sight throughout Sonoma and Napa Valley in California, in January they almost look useless. Come back in a couple of months and you'll see them transformed.
For now, they're silently working away.

When traveling to wine country undoubtedly you will want to bring home some wine. If you are flying, check your airline's regulations for bringing wine. You won't be able to carry it on as it is more than 3 ounces. Some airlines will let you ship as "checked luggage". Others don't allow that. Sometimes it's best to ship it directly to your home via FedEx.
Plan ahead so you aren't surprised at the check in counter at the airport!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Weekend in January

Weekends don't need to be boring when you live in Northern California. Head north of Sonoma, past Healdsburg, through the rolling hills of Dry Creek wine country and pick a place to stop. Any place...there are so many. You will soon find favorites
This weekend found us at one of our favorites...Peterson Winery. Complex dark Zinfandel, smooth garnet hued Sangiovese, and a new wine blend he named Shinbone graced our wine glasses.
When you need a break from wine tasting, head a few feet away to the Dry Creek Olive Company.

Their locally grown olives date back over 120 years. Combined with their "soil to oil" capabilities you get some of the highest quality extra virgin olive oils available.
You may even purchase plants and start your own production. Or just buy theirs and enjoy without all the harvesting and crushing!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

ABC's of Myron

I know this is supposed to be a travel blog. But every now and then Myron just can't seem to help himself and he inserts helpful wisdom. Here are his ABC's of living...

Arch your back when you makes you look thinner
Bask in every sunbeam
Catch at least 10 naps every day
Dig those claws into whatever is available
Envy no one
Fur is meant to share
Greet each day with a yawn
Hairballs are just part of living
Indulge often
Jump into a lap
Kittens are such pains
Love your staff...a.k.a. Family
Make an entrance
Nine lives are barely enough
Only the best...after all I am a cat
Purrrr loudly
Quiet please, I'm trying to nap here
Real cats rule
Scratch behind my ears, please
Thunder through the house at night chasing imaginary friends
Unleash your inner lion
Vary your hiding places
Wander nightly...even if it's just down the hall must be kidding
Yes I do need treats
Zebras might be fun to chase

Friday, January 16, 2009

Helpful Info

Want to be prepared for your next trip? Here are just a few helpful hints.

1. Make a copy of your passport. Digital cameras work great for this.
2. Make a copy of your health insurance card. Again, taking a picture is a great way to record. this.
3. Speaking of health insurance, call your carrier to find out what is covered. If you are going abroad, find out what they cover and where you can seek both routine and emergency care.
4. Take a picture of your itinerary. That way you have your departure and arrival times and your confirmation number handy.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Grounded Flights?

When your flight is grounded or delayed you need to act fast to get a seat on the next available flight. Get in line with other passengers...but boost your chances of grabbing a seat on the next flight by also calling the airline's 800 number. You may have better access to that airline's agents and therefore a set.
You could program your airline's 800 number into your cell phone so you don't waste time looking it up. Don't know the 800 number? Go to to find those numbers.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Waiting in Line

Worried about the wait for security screening? Did you know you can find estimated wait times on the TSA's website,, which includes information for most US airports. The site doesn't offer actual wait times, but it does show the average and maximum wait times for the past month.
Many airports offer the same service. Theirs are usually current or fairly current wait times. Check out your airport's website for information. It just may save you some time or grief.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Leaves of California

Doesn't look like an evil tree now does it? But as it sheds its gazillion tiny leaves and they drop into the front yard, on to and across the roof, and blow into the thoughts about it are not real pleasant. I know...I know...I could be shoveling mountains of snow back in Iowa. So I'll stop complaining, suck it up, and rake those gazillion leaves. Then I'll skim the pool so it doesn't look like it has a rug laying on top of it...a rug of leaves.

Ahhhh, the results of my efforts. A clean pool.

Mr. Scoop, the Pelican, guards the front walk. But he doesn't guard for leaves.

And Myron has adjusted quite well...again. Seems to make himself at home all over the house.
Since this is supposed to be a travel blog, I will now get back to writing about travel, travel tips, and places to go. I promise.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Jelly Belly Fun

Just up the road about 15 minutes is a Jelly Belly Factory. For those of you that think Jelly Bellys are just another jelly bean...not so my uneducated sweets. This is the original gourmet jelly bean made famous by then President Ronald Reagan. Did you know they were staples in the White House at that time?
Did you also know that it takes up to 21 days to make a Jelly Belly bean? And there are 50 official flavors. They even have recipes so you can make your own specialties. How about a root beer float or lemon meringue pie?
And guess what they call the ones that don't shape up to perfection?
Belly Flops

Friday, January 9, 2009

Good News

Everything is here (almost). We are only missing a couple of things. And we do have one box of stuff that doesn't belong to us. Since everything was loaded and reloaded three times, that's pretty amazing.
Looking west from our front door are the "mountains". Those of you from Colorado are (a.) silently laughing or (b.) thinking I've lost it or (c.) wondering just where are the mountains, because all you see are some hills. These mountains don't see snow, have very few rocks, and you need to imagine any jagged peaks. But for this terrain...these are the mountains. So quit laughing and take a look at the orange tree in our neighbor's yard.
Oh, by the way, on the other side of those mountains is wine country. Now who's laughing?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Now if the Furniture Would Just Arrive...

Winter weather in the Midwest and the fact that our furniture was put on 2 different trucks instead on of one held up delivery to us. Being the resourceful people we are, we didn't let lack of furniture hold us hostage. After all...we had wine glasses.

Time to mow our front yard. This can be done with a reel mower (no gas) in about 10 minutes. Takes longer to rake leaves from the huge Chinese Elm tree than that.

But it does tire one out.

Myron adjusted well. He even found out how to get on the counters. Obviously he was booted off right after I took his picture.

Mable was fine as long as she had her basket. Life is good...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Trip To California

What was between us and our destination was ONLY Donner Pass. Now one would not think a pass of less than 8,000 feet would cause so much trouble. But...remember the Donner Party and all that? Well we didn't have to resort to any unacceptable eating habits, but it was still a challenge. It's a fairly long climb to the top. It seems even longer when it's dark, it's snowing, it's blowing, it's slippery, semis are crawling to your right side, and snow plows on your left and in front of you are flinging snow and rocks into your path.
Arriving at the summit we were greeted by two signs. One said trucks must use their lowest gears for the 40 mile descent. That's right...40 miles of winding roads going down. Did I mention it was snowing and blowing and slippery? The other sign said "chains will be required in 30 minutes".
Since the road appeared to be drivable, we kept on going. Yes, we also used low gear. I think we saw or passed two vehicles and one or two passed us. The semis had all stopped to put on chains.
Oh dear...
As we hit the valley, snow disappeared and darkness was a welcoming site. No snow or blowing here.
We made the drive from Denver through windy Wyoming and over snow covered Donner Pass in 21 hours. Were we ever glad to see the hotel in Vacaville.
Myron and Mable slept through the whole ordeal. Oh to be a cat...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Across Wyoming, Through Utah...

Iowa and Colorado are behind us. Wyoming was a pain, with I-80 full of semis and wind gusts of over 40 mph. When we hit Utah the snow almost looked good on the red rocks at dusk.
We zipped right through Utah and on to Nevada. Casino towns hover along I-80 in Nevada so that was about our only choice to eat. However, Jim left Winnemucca with $26.00 more than when he arrived so guess the stop was worth it. Next up California.
Little did we know what was ahead of us...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Leaving Iowa in December

After over 50 years in the state of Iowa, we made a move to Northern California. The good news and the bad news...we moved in December. Boxes filled the house, a semi moving van filled the driveway, and snow filled the yard. It was sad to leave good friends but exciting to look at new possibilities. The cats, Myron and Mable, took it all in stride.
The day I left we had over 12 inches of snow and Brendan had to help me get out of their driveway. With a van full (and I do mean full) of stuff off I headed to Denver to pick up Jim. Snowy roads just slowed me down a little.
More to come on the drive from Denver to Vacaville...