Saturday, February 28, 2009

Water Tips

What to these two lazy cats have to do with the travel tip for today? Absolutely nothing. They are just hanging around under some blankets watching me work.

We all know to buy bottled water when traveling, especially if you're concerned about drinking the local water. Save a few sips to use when brushing your teeth. That way you won't need to be concerned about the water coming from the tap in the bathroom.

If you've been on a long flight and want to brush your teeth before you land...use some of the bottled water you've been served. You won't need to use the water in the plane's lavatory.

The lazy cats approved this message.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Is it Spring yet?

Driving through the vineyards in Napa Valley one would think Spring has arrived.

Check out the blossoms.

Speaking of Spring...if you are getting ready to go on a Spring cruise, pack your swimsuit in your carry-on. This works for any warm weather destination. Why? Because as others are waiting for their checked luggage to be delivered to their rooms, you have your swimsuit handy. You can hit the pool before others even get their luggage.
Start working on that tan...or that margarita.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Restaurant in Yountville

Sometimes the best restaurants are not the most popular. Bottega in Yountville is an exception. This popular place has it all. Food, wine and service were excellent during lunch on Saturday. Reservations are a must as this new spot will soon be the place to be.

Ask for a table outdoors amid the fireplaces, awnings, and comfy sofas.

Even the tops of their awnings are decorated with the Bottega symbols.
Try it next time you are in the area. I don't think you will be disappointed. If you're not in a hurry, I'd suggest you tell your waiter. Otherwise, your food will arrive quickly.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Handy Websites

Do you really know what you can take in and out of Algeria, or Spain, or Argentina? Visit the all nations guide at

Want to make or receive calls while traveling internationally? Check out This works for mobile phones, landlines, and Skype.

Need to know how to get a passport or visa in a hurry? These people have been in the business for over 20 years.

Looking for information about world airports and terminals? Check out

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

why do YOU travel?

These bottles are ready for tasting at a winery in Napa. Just below the large bottles are small plates of food, really delicious food, ready for pairing with excellent wines.

Wine humor.

Now back to the question...Why do YOU travel? I am writing an ebook on different reasons people travel, what their mindset is concerning travel, what expectations they have or don't have about a trip or about travel, how much planning they do, different psychologies of travel (I'm not asking you to lie down on the couch and then charge you by the session)...

You get the picture. If you have any insights, email me at with your ideas, reasons, or ramblings about why YOU travel. You will get credit in the ebook and a free copy. Ya can't beat that...

Monday, February 23, 2009

February in the Valley

Tulip trees are in full bloom in Napa Valley...and it's only February. How nice.

Flowers are everywhere at the wineries. Hard to believe it's only February.

Somebody is still looking for his Valentine.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Wineries, Gardens and ??

rain drops on ornamental kale

fountains and lily pads

And these are what?

Wineries aren't just for swirling, sipping, and tasting. Many have outdoor flower gardens or sculpture gardens. Keep your eyes open and your camera ready to capture anything and everything from flowers and birds to lily pads and toadstools. At least I think these are supposed to be toadstools. What do you think?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Time Zones

Decorative cabbage at Sterling Winery in Napa

Along the walkways at Sterling Winery in Napa

Girard Winery tasting room in Yountville

Ever wonder how to calculate a time zone? Is Pacific time ahead or behind East Coast time? How about Singapore? Is it day or night there? Take a look at You can pick an area of the US or check the world. It's pretty handy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wine Can Stain

Spill wine on your carpet and you try...really get it out.
On the other hand some people use wine to stain things on purpose. Take Ryan Hill of the Hill Family Estate, for example. Located in Yountville, California, this winery is one of over 400 wineries in the Napa Valley.
How do you make your winery different...march to a different drum...or guitar? You team up with Fender Guitars and stain some wood for them. And you use wine. Red wine. In fact Ryan and winemaker Doran used a special blend of red grapes to stain the wood samples. Fender produced 100 "Hill Harvest Red" stained limited edition 60th Anniversary Stratocasater Guitars.
This is one of them. And it is beautiful.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Exquisite Glassware

Over the weekend we had an opportunity to view some amazing Champagne flutes. Delicate wisps of glass so intricate they look as if they could break if you set them down too hard.
These flutes were found in a warehouse in East Germany, near the West German border in the 1980's. What makes the find even more remarkable is that the warehouse was in operation only from 1890 to 1920. This means they survived two world wars and the Communist takeover of East Germany...all in a box.
European antique glass experts have verified their authenticity, confirming they were stone cut. To accomplish this type of special glass fabrication you would need two highly skilled people working simultaneously on each one.
Think of the stories they could tell.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Napa Valley Mustard Festival

Sixteen years ago some brilliant, or possibly bored, wine makers were sitting around and
decided Napa Valley needed some livening up during the "slow" season. From the end of January through the month of March vines almost look dead, it is usually the rainy season, and tourists aren't here in bunches. But the ground is carpeted with enough greens and golds of the mustard plant to make every painter and photographer drool.
"Let's have a Mustard Festival"...
And what festival would be complete without bottles, lots of them, of, bring in the great culinary artists, glorious food...entertainment, jazz and more jazz...contests and culture? Your palette will be full.
Take a weekend or a week and visit Napa during this "slow" season. While you're at it...thank the mustard plant for bringing on the Festival.

Friday, February 13, 2009

What to do with dirty laundry...

Dirty laundry happens.
You can put it in a separate bag so it won't smell up your clean clothes. If you don't have a bag just for dirty laundry, put it in a separate laundry bag inside your suitcase. Then toss in a small unwrapped bar of soap from the hotel (2 if necessary). They won't hurt or stain your clothes and they certainly help with the smell. And you will be able to find them when you get home.

If you aren't staying at hotels, pack a couple of dryer sheets in your laundry bag before you leave home. They will help keep the odor at bay. Just remove before you do your laundry.

Dryer sheets come in handy if you are going to do laundry at a hotel or laundromat. Typically the water is fairly hard. The dryer sheets will help with static and help soften your clothes in the dryer.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

GPS and Rental Cars

Many rental car agencies are upgrading to the latest GPS technology. Budget Travel rated several and this is what they found.

Enterprise rents the Garmin nuvi 265W for $10 a day.

Hertz uses their own brand for $13 a day. This one is fixed below the dashboard so be careful when parking as it cannot be removed and placed out of sight.

Avis/Budget has the Garmin nuvi 780 for $14 a day. Budget Travel really likes this one as it is a newer model and will even give you real time traffic updates.

Dollar/Thrifty rents the Garmin nA1/4vi 660 for $12 a day.

Alamo/National has the Garmin StreetPilot c330 for $12 a day.

Each have pros and cons so do some checking if having a GPS is the reason you are renting from a particular company. Happy navigating.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Chinese New Year in San Francisco

Plan to visit San Francisco next February for the Chinese New Year parade. It is rated one of the world's top 5 parades celebrating Chinese New Year. We spent a glorious sunny day in San Francisco but did not know about the parade until too late.
Next year, we will buy tickets to ensure a seat on the bleachers. For $30 US you get to view this glorious parade up close.
What better way to ring in the Chinese New Year?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Fat City

When looking for a great restaurant in Sacramento, California, look no further than "Fat City". This turn of the century bar and cafe serves some patrons on the Legendary Pioneer Bar from 1876 in use in Leadville, Colorado.

This Famous Purple Lady, from the 1893 Chicago World's Fair took first prize in the stained glass category. Now it graces one wall. Tiffany chandeliers hang over each table, leaded glass windows provide views of the streets and boardwalk, and ornate wood and beveled glass doors beckon you inside.

The Fat City Building was originally built around 1849 as a general merchandise store. Today it has been rebuilt to its original 1849 appearance.

Don't pass up a chance to try their food. It is not your typical bar and cafe food. The chef does an amazing job with everything we have tried. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Want to Take Better Sunset Photos?

My friends at Budget Travel offer some tips for taking better sunset photos. Sometimes I remember to do what they told me...other times I get so into the sunset and snapping photos, that I forget. See if these tips help you.

1. Turn off your flash, allowing the warm natural light to dominate the picture. If you can't turn it off, turn to the "night photo" setting.

2. Fill the camera frame with the sky. Point the center of the frame above the horizon line and fill the frame with as much of the color and light you want captured.

3. Try pressing the shutter button half way down to lock in the exposure and focus. When you're ready, press the shutter all the way to take the picture.

4. Be prepared. Take your camera with you. And pack an extra battery.

5. Set your own film speed. A faster speed like 400 or 800 ASA/ISO is designed to be used at sunset.

6.If using a digital camera, choose the highest resolution your camera will allow.

7. Try composing off center. Use objects to give your picture some depth.

8. Early riser? These tips will work for sunrise as well. Just don't shoot into the sun!!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Don't Speak the Language?

If you don't have time to learn the language when traveling, take a look at this cool piece of equipment. Ecataco iTravl can translate and speak more than 70,000 phrases in eight languages, including Chinese.
It comes with Fodor's travel guide and a language tutor to help you master the basics. Use it during your flight and be ready to say "good morning", "please" and "thank you" when you land.
This handy piece is around $600.00 US. Look for it at

Monday, February 2, 2009

Loyalty Programs

Renting a car on your next trip? Sign up in advance for the rewards or loyalty program of the company you are going to use. Most programs are free. Some offer discounts for your first rental and many offer on-going discounts or frequent user promos. Almost all will offer members-only lines with shorter or no wait times, allowing you to start your vacation quicker!