Thursday, December 29, 2016

What's In Your Carry-On?

Check out this list of must-haves for their carry-on bag, compiled from some traveling friends. What do you carry in your bag?

1. Universal (All-in-One) Plug Adapter
An absolute must have with me...

2. Noise-Canceling Headphones
"Noise-canceling headphones were probably the best travel investment I have made," says pro photographer Erik Dresser, who logs tens of thousands of air miles each year for his work. Dresser notes that the headphones let him shut out the general din of the aircraft so he can relax more easily, permit him to sleep in flight without getting woken up by chatting passengers and crying babies, and signal to others that he is not up for socializing.

3. Portable Phone Charger
This is a must.

4. Car Charger
If you will be renting a car, bring a car charger/adapter. Recharging your stuff while driving helps combat the "not enough accessible outlets in the hotel" factor and allows you to use your device to map your route, play a podcast or distract your kids in the back seat without running down the battery.

5. Weatherproof Phone Case
In my informal gadget survey of friends who travel frequently, the one thing that few of them owned but many were thinking of getting was a weatherproof phone case. At home such cases often seem overly bulky, but when traveling they've found it more common to get caught out in bad weather.
"Ziploc bags work to protect the phone, but actually using the phone through a wet plastic bag is a mess," one noted.

6. Tablet
Bringing a tablet as well as a phone had always seemed like just too much stuff to me -- until newspaper and magazine apps started getting good. I used to leave home with more than five pounds of paper reading material, which I left behind for other potential readers in airplane seatback pockets, gate areas or hotel lobbies; now I download magazines and books to a tablet.

7. Kindle
For heavy vacation/travel reading, many hardcore readers swear by the Kindle because it's so easy to read outside in strong light. If you read a ton while traveling, and in all kinds of places, a branded Kindle e-reader is probably the way to go.
Admittedly, bringing a Kindle just for reading and a tablet for apps isn't ideal for light packers, but it helps that the Kindle is smaller and lighter than most tablets.

8. Solar Charger
For hardcore travelers who might spend long periods of time away from plugs of any kind -- such as backcountry hikers, climbers and campers -- solar chargers are a useful addition to a packing list. Sure, part of the point of heading into the backcountry is getting away from connectivity, but that doesn't mean that GPS devices, cameras or even smartphones are completely verboten.

9. Portable Hard Drive/Wireless Router
Okay, this puts us into the gadget weeds a bit, but for some folks a device like this can really help, allowing them to convert a wired connection into a secure wireless network to which they can connect multiple devices, as well as providing backup storage.
If the hotel has a wired internet access point, this can make a big difference when the Wi-Fi isn't cutting it and your whole traveling party is trying to get online, or if you really need to post that magazine article.

10. Sun/Insect Repellent Shirt
This isn't exactly a gadget, but clothing has become quite technical in nature and can provide more than just routine cover. Many companies make pants, socks and shirts that provide specific protection from both sun and insects, including measurable UV protection as well as EPA-certified insect repellent properties. Many are lightweight and breathable as well, making this a "tech" purchase perfectly suited to travel.

11. Smart Suitcase
We're in the early days of smart suitcases, but the idea is extremely compelling -- being able to check on your smartphone where your bag is, how heavy it is and whether it has been opened. Some smart suitcases even provide the ability to charge devices through a USB connection.

There are also simple tracking devices you can put into your luggage, so that might be another way to tap into this type of tech without going all in on an expensive bag. As this tech comes into its own, soon enough tracking our own bags might seem almost routine.

What's in yours?

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

MERRY CHRISTMAS to Everyone...

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Will Your ID Work at Security?

According to Travel Weekly, TSA is already alerting travelers to upcoming ID requirements which will take effect in 2018.

These changes are part of The Real ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005. There will be Minimum security-related requirements for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. The law establishes what data a state must require before issuing a license or card and what data they must subsequently store electronically. It also says what technology must be encoded in the IDs and what data must be printed on the IDs.

Right now, there are nine states that are NOT compliant. They are Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Washington. If those states don’t comply by January 22, 2018, travelers from those states will have to provide alternate ID when traveling. Accepted forms include passports, passport cards, trusted-traveler cards, and military IDs.

You can always check for more info on the TSA website.

I reported on this a while ago, but it's getting closer. After all, 2017 is just around the corner and that means 2018 is right behind it

Monday, December 19, 2016

Airport Parking...What Do You Do?

If you fly often or if you only fly occasionally, you still need somewhere to park your car. Right?

Check out what my trusted resource, Jenn at Airport Parking Helper, has to offer.

Christmas is less than two weeks away! If you're flying somewhere to celebrate with family or friends, you're probably getting pretty pumped.
In fact, you're likely so excited you've completely blocked out what awaits you at the airport. I'm talking crowded parking lots, long lines, busy terminals, stressed-out airline workers. ** Sorry if I sound like the Grinch! **
Luckily, Andie and I have put together a roundup of our favorite holiday air travel survival tips that are sure to help ease some of your stress.
Read it now or pin it for later, but don't wait too long. Trust me, you'll be happy you reviewed these jewels of info well before heading to the airport!
Have you made your holiday airport parking reservations yet? If not, be sure to start at our Top Travel Deals page where we've got coupons for:
·  $5 discount at off-site airport parking lots with free shuttle
·  15% off your deposit at a hotel with free parking and shuttle
Happy holidays and happy travels!

P.S. Do you have a friend or relative traveling soon who could benefit from our airport parking expertise and discounts? Please forward this email to them and accept our sincere thanks!
You can always sign up to receive their's worth checking out.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Pack Your Drugs Safely

Many of us take prescription medications. So, what do you do when planning your next trip? Do you know how to pack them? Do you know what to do if you lose them?

First of all, think about packing your meds.

Do you know what restrictions apply in the country where you are going? It’s easy enough to check with the embassy to see if your meds could be on their restricted list.

It’s a good idea to leave your meds in their original containers and carry a copy of your prescription with you. It’s also a good idea to have a digital copy of your script. Back it up in the cloud to be safe.

Take enough with you for the whole trip, including a few extra.

Pack your meds in your carry on luggage.

Look up the generic name of your meds. All drugs are not sold under the same names.  You can check out the International Nonproprietary Name (INN) as this would help a pharmacist in another country.

If you need to purchase meds, do so at a legitimate pharmacy to avoid getting counterfeit drugs. And, if you do purchase some and end up with side effects, be sure to notify your physician about this.

Monday, December 12, 2016

What Should You Do? Travel Smart...

Before your trip: Sign up for TSA's PreCheck (, a trusted traveler program which has spread to more cities across the U.S. and is now available at more than 180 airports. You won’t have to remove your shoes or your laptop from its case.

Sign up for U.S. Customs Department's Global Entry program (see, another shortcut for frequent international travelers, especially as the federal government immigration and customs lines get longer.

Check in online: If you aren’t checking bags, this will save time at the airport. If you do check bags, it isn’t nearly as much help.

Before you leave home for the airport: Check your flight status. Most airlines will text you flight status updates if you sign up on their websites, and sites like and will do the same by text, on the web and through smartphone apps. It never hurts to check.

Pack your personal ID, etc.: Make sure you know exactly where your ID, boarding pass, credit cards, etc. are in your wallet, purse, or carryon bag. If you put them in the same place every time, you’ll know right where to look for them. You won’t be holding up the line when the TSA agent asks for your documents.

Put things away: Anything you won’t need at the airport, make sure it doesn’t get in the way of your important papers.

Check parking: If you know ahead of time where to park, which lots are closest to your gate, and where the shuttle stops, it will save time and worry once you get to the parking lot.
Is your bag heavy? Weigh it at home or at the scales at the airport. You might need to remove something before you check it. If you stuff your carryon bag too full, it may not fit in the overhead bin.

Once through security: Check the flight status boards again for departure updates and gate information.

Going abroad? Do you know the difference between Customs and Immigration? Customs agents are mostly concerned with what you have with you, whether you have fruit or vegetables from another country, contraband items, anything subject to tariffs, large amounts of cash and the like. Immigration officers, meanwhile, are concerned with your citizen status, the intended duration of your stay and what you will be doing during your visit. In short, customs officers are interested in your stuff; immigration officers are interested in you.

Do you know what happens to your luggage during connections? Check to see if your luggage will be booked through to your final destination. Ask if you need to collect it if you’re going through customs and immigration. You’ll need to know this if you need to have enough time to get it and check back in.

Make sure you have a pen handy. You will need to fill out your customs forms and it’s much easier and quicker to do this on the plane before you land.

Make sure you write down your purchases, especially large dollar ones. You can lump t-shirts and gifts together. But, that $400 purse needs to be listed separately.  Declare any alcohol or tobacco products over your duty-free allowance.

Customs and immigration can be a confusing process if you’re not familiar with it. Keep this in mind:
…Get off plane
…Go through immigration or passport control
…Go to baggage claim and get your bags
…Go through customs
…Check back in for your next flight if you are connecting

Remember…don’t joke around. Agents take their jobs seriously and this isn’t the time to act goofy.
You will see signs to avoid cell phone use. They mean it. So, if you need to contact the person picking you up…do it before you are in line. Then, silence your phone and put it away.

Remember...don’t pack any fruits, vegetables, produce, meat, cheese, plants, etc.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Few International Travel Tips for Beginners

While many readers are experienced in international travel, you may have friends who are traveling abroad for the first time. Here are a few important things to know before you or your friends take their first journey somewhere other than the US.

It’s a good idea to learn some basics about the country you’re traveling to. For instance, check out the currency rate before you go. Keep in mind, it can change over the months or year before your trip. If you understand what the rate is and how much the US Dollar is worth, it will save you from overspending. Figure out a quick conversion in your head. Don’t worry if it’s not exact. Just getting close will help.

Lean the basic numbers. Can you count to 10? If you use your fingers, be sure you know what the count is in other countries. Holding up your index finger may indicate you want one. At least, that’s what you meant. In some countries, it means two. Your thumb would indicate one.

Do you know how to say yes and no? Can you say please and thank you? You don’t need to be fluent in the language, but learning some basic words and phrases will help you out.

Is your passport up to date? Make sure it doesn’t expire too close to your trip, as there are countries where you need at least six months before it expires in order to travel there.

Do you know if you need a visa? Check out the State Department’s website,

If you have a connecting flight, do you know about that airport? Many large airports can seem confusing, especially if you are intimidated by the language. Check out where the gates are, what terminals you need, and where customs is located.

There are many more, but this is a start. I’ll cover different tips later.

Have fun…

Monday, December 5, 2016

Security Checks

Security at airports is a way of life for those of us who travel. If you don't travel often, security rules and regs may have changed since the last time you traveled. Security may also differ when leaving or when entering a country.

If you leave a certain area in an airport, you will most likely have to go through security again.

Be prepared. Keep your passport or travel documents handy. Know where they are so you don't have to fumble for them when you get in line.

Be ready to take off your jacket and shoes. Wearing easy-to-remove shoes makes your trip through security a whole lot quicker. People in line behind you will thank you.

If the metal detector beeped at your bracelet one will probably beep the next time. Maybe you should put it in your carry on bag until you are finished going through security.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Have You Done This?

Recently I read about some packing mistakes on several different blogs and websites. Travel expert Johnny Jet of listed many of these. I've complied a list from other readers and from other's experiences. Take a look...

Have you ever made any of these mistakes when packing?

Packing anything that you absolutely need in your checked luggage? How about valuables? Did you know the airlines lose a whopping 24 million bags each year? You'd be out of luck if your bag was lost and you need your prescription medication.

Packing liquids in your checked luggage, without them being in a plastic bag or well protected? Thinking that bottle of wine or rum will be good to travel wrapped in your dirty laundry isn't quite good enough. Neither is placing your big bottle of special shampoo among your underwear.

Forgetting to pack something you really need for the trip before you leave home? If you made a list, and paid attention to it, you wouldn't leave your passport or your glasses or your extra pair of contact lenses sitting at home.

Monday, November 28, 2016

I'm Lost...In an Airport

You've flown before. You've been in lots of airports.

How come you feel lost in this one?

The world's biggest international hubs like Dubai International, London Heathrow, Hong Kong International, and Paris Charles de Gaulle take being busy to a whole other level.

Hallways that appear to stem out of nowhere, custom checkpoints, re-check-ins, maps that don't seem to make sense, signs in languages you're not familiar with, and multi layers of terminals can be confusing if you don't know what you're looking for or where you're going. What if you land in an international terminal but need to leave out of a smaller domestic one?

You may need to pick up your bags and then recheck them before you leave, going through security again.

International airports in Europe often serve as routine connection points or layover airports for travelers from all over the world.

If you know you will be at a busy hub, plan accordingly. Allow two or three hours if you need to change terminals. Find out in advance if there is a train or bus between the two. Keep your passport and documents handy. Check out the airport's website for a map before you leave home.

Good luck...

Monday, November 21, 2016

Bonjour, Montreal

Notre Dame, Montreal
A Montreal house takes a lot of care. So you've got to worry about pipes freezing and roofs leaking so sometimes I think I'm not here long enough to justify the care it takes, but that feeling evaporates very quickly, as soon as I come into the place.
- Leonard Cohen, writer/poet/singer/artist

Given the proximity to US major cities, one might think Montreal wouldn’t be that much different than others in the Northeast. They would be wrong.

Everything from the architecture, language, cuisine, and culture, Montreal certainly distinguishes itself as a bustling French influenced city. On first glance, high rise buildings might fill the sky but look closer to see the Victorian brownstones at their feet or the stately neo-gothic churches that sit quietly next door.

Speaking of churches, take some time to experience The Notre-Dame Basilica located at 110 rue Notre Dame Ouest. The Gothic Revival style of this massive stone church is as a result of additions and reconstructions.

Once inside, the dazzling combination of blue and gold is almost overwhelming. The effect is to make you feel like you’re sitting outside under an amazing sky. Representing Calvary, beneath the altar, is a magnificent wood sculpture of the Last Supper. Or, if you’re lucky enough to be there to hear music from the great Casavant organ, you’re in for a real treat. Not everyone can play this instrument with its 7,000 pipes ranging in size from 32 feet to a quarter of an inch, 92 stops, four keyboards, and a pedal board.

The stained glass windows, depicting the history of Montreal, were brought to life at Francis Chigot’s workshop in Limoges, France. In fact, the architecture, the blue and gold colors, and the gilded leaves on the columns are all based on the symbolism of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

You really do need to take some time to sit and reflect. Once you see it, you will never forget it.

If you’re looking for another impressive church, take a walking tour of The Cathedral-Basilica Mary Queen of the World and St. James the Greater. Yes, that’s the name. Dominated by its green copper dome and spires, thirteen statues circle the roof representing the thirteen patron saints of the parishes of Montreal. Inside, the great organ is almost as grand as the one in Notre-Dame. The magnificent interior was built to closely resemble St. Peter’s in Rome.

But, there is more to Montreal than fabulously grand churches. Take some time to explore Mount Royal Park, Montreal’s highest point and a grand lookout where you can see forever. At least it seems that way. Check out Olympic Park with its famous Olympic Tower, home of the 1976 Olympics.
Montreal’s Botanical Gardens, a wonderful 185 acres, includes over 22,000 varieties of plants. The Chinese Garden is a joint venture between Montreal and Shanghai. Visit the Insectuarium if bugs are your thing.

Don’t forget to relax at one of the many sidewalk cafes. People watching, shopping, museum hopping, strolling through one of the city’s wonderful outdoor markets, or bike the city…there is such a variety of things to do.

Check out these facts when thinking where you should take your next trip.
Montreal, surrounded by the St. Lawrence, Ottawa, and Prairie Rivers, is actually an island. It’s one of over 400 islands in the St. Lawrence.

Mount Royal Park was designed by the same man who designed New York’s Central Park.

Montreal has the second highest number of restaurants per capita in North America, right behind New York City. It lies on the same latitude as Venice, Italy. Montreal is the second largest French speaking city in the world, following Paris.

Montreal’s Underground City, covering 18 miles, is a maze of tunnels, shops, and metro stops, connecting apartments, office complexes, banks, museums, and universities.

Exploring Montreal could take days or weeks. Yet, it’s also a city you can go back to again and again…and always find something new to visit.

If you go, here’s a starter kit to the local language…
Hello............................. Bonjour
Goodbye........................ Au revoir
Please........................... S’il vous plait
Thank you..................... Merci
See you soon!............... À la prochaine!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Enchanted Hill

Thompson: Mr. Kane was a man who got everything he wanted, and then lost it. Maybe Rosebud was something he couldn't get, or something he lost. Anyway, I don't think it would have explained everything. I don't think any word can explain a man's life. No, I guess Rosebud is just a piece in a jigsaw puzzle...a missing piece.

Citizen Kane, the movie, and the hilltop structure known as The Enchanted Hill in San Simeon, California have much in common. The first is supposedly based on the life of American newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst and has been labeled the greatest film ever made. However, Hearst prohibited mention of the film in any of his newspapers.

The Enchanted Hill is what Hearst called his home with its magnificent gardens and exotic zoo. Sitting high above the Pacific Ocean, this Mediterranean style country house features guest cottages each named for its view, endless gardens, over-sized swimming pools, and countless terraces. The zoo is long gone but zebras and other critters still roam around the property mixed in with the cattle.
Check out the Neptune Pool, supposedly rebuilt three times before Hearst was completely satisfied with it. Looking at it today…it was worth all that tinkering. Marble statues of nymphs and swans around the pool were carved by French sculptor Charles Cassou. Holding 345,000 gallons of water, this pool was heated year round until the 1970’s. Crystal clear it is still filtered using a sand filtering system.

Slightly smaller at only 205,000 gallons the Roman Pool, apparently styled after the Roman Baths, is decorated from floor to ceiling with one inch mosaic tiles. Blue and orange glass tiles alternate with clear ones having fused gold inside. Looking up at the roof and dome, you see more mosaics…this time midnight blue ones interspersed with stars. Eight marble statues complete the setting. ‘Wow’ is the only word you will be able to utter when you round the corner. 

Back outside, saunter along the Esplanade walkway connecting gardens with the rest of the buildings. Every direction you look provides visual pleasures. Roses, flowering annuals, boxwood hedges, citrus trees, and palms mix with 19th and 20th century statues, ancient sarcophagi, fountains, and the Sekhmet sculptures, four Egyptian pieces over three thousand years old. Stop for a minute on the Main Terrace and look around. Endless views of the Pacific Ocean are to your south and the Santa Lucia Mountains are to the north. In the background you will hear the sound of water, an important effect in Mediterranean gardens.

Hearst inherited the 250,000 acre working cattle ranch from his mother and called it “Camp Hill”, a wilderness place for family members and friends to rough it on camping trips. Keep in mind roughing it meant accommodations included elaborate arrangements, separate sleeping quarters, and dining tents. At one point Hearst decided camping out in the open was not what he wanted. Enter famed San Francisco architect Julia Morgan who worked with Hearst to build his dream home…and it ended up as one of the world’s greatest showplaces.

By 1947 La Cuesta Encantada was completed. Blending the architectural styles of a Spanish cathedral and Mediterranean Revival style houses and utilizing the surrounding California land, this was a creation to behold. After all, who would expect to see this grand structure rising high on the hills complete with grazing cattle and a zoo with zebra to polar bears?

Engineering and architectural features are everywhere.  A gravity-based water delivery system, private cinema with rare books lining the shelves, 56 bedrooms, ceilings imported from all over the world, an indoor pool to delight even the non-swimmers, hidden terraces, doors to secret hallways, an amazing wine cellar, and a kitchen with some pretty fascinating appliances are only a few surprises.

This is no longer just a place for celebrities and famous guests to come and enjoy. It is a palace in every sense of the imagination.

If you go: Hearst Castle is located in the hills at San Simeon, on California Highway 1, about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Advanced reservations are highly recommended, especially during the summer months. Check out or call 800-444-4445.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Palm Springs Art Museum

Chihuly Glass

Think back to 1938. Or, at least, think about 1938. What do know about art at that time?
In 1938 the Palm Springs Desert Museum, specializing in Native American artifacts, the natural sciences, and the environment of the surrounding Coachella Valley was founded. What started as a museum about the desert has evolved into the primer cultural center of the desert.
Since 1938, the Museum has moved several times within the downtown area. In 1958, the first 10,000 square foot permanent structure was built, but by the end of the 60s, there was a need for a much larger building. Since then, the current building designed by architect E. Stewart Williams, was built. Additional growth resulted in adding and administration building, an additional wing, an education center, two sculpture gardens, four classrooms, a 90-seat lecture hall, and a 433-seat theater.
The Museum’s permanent collection of more than 55,000 objects features art of the Americas and 20th Century California art. Collections include modernist and contemporary painting and sculpture, Western American art Native American and Mesoamerican art and artifacts, contemporary studio glass art, photography, modern architecture and design, and graphics/works on paper.
By the area’s many affluent residents loaning or donating individual pieces as well as entire collections, this museum now rivals much more well-known urban metropolitan museums. You will see works from Marc Chagall, Picasso, Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Donald Judd, Louise Bourgeois, Ansel Adams…just to name a few.

Situated 123 miles east of Los Angeles, the Palm Springs Art Museum serves the greater Inland Empire, which covers Riverside and San Bernardino counties with a population of approximately 2.4 million residents. Located in the Coachella Valley, Palm Springs is one of the nine cities in the valley.
Keeping with the vibrant nature of the Palm Springs area and the microcosm where diversity and unique cultures blend, it’s easy to see why the Palm Springs Art Museum membership continues to grow.
If You Go: The museum is open every day except Mondays and major holidays. Thursday evenings from 4 to 8 and every second Sunday the admission is free. With the inside temperature at an even 75 degrees, it’s an excellent place to escape the summer heat while perusing the latest collections. The café and museum store both offer something for everyone. More information may be found at

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Johnny Jet and His Travel Site

Looking for a wonderful resource before you plan your next trip? Want to read what other travelers have to say about a destination?

Check out this website...

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be featured on his site. You can see what I had to say here:

I love finding new sites, learning from other travelers, and planning for my next trip. How about you?

Monday, November 7, 2016

Oasis in the Desert

The Indian Canyons are the ancestral home of the Ague Caliente Band of of Cahuilla Indians.

In the midst of Indian Canyons and the desert is this cool, palm-filled oasis. With a variety of walks and hikes, everyone has a chance to explore some part of this unique landscape.

Minutes from downtown Palm Springs, the green palms and soothing water of this oasis contrasts vividly with the surrounding stark desert landscape.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

8,516 Feet Up

Mountain Station, at the top of the Palm Springs Arial Tramway, is at elevation 8,516.

No matter which way you look, views are amazing.

If you visit Palm Springs, this is definitely worth the ride.

Stay tuned for more information...

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Excuse Me...How High?

Last week in Palm Springs I had the opportunity to ride the Palm Springs Arial Tramway.

First, some facts about the tram car.

The tram car is the largest in the world.

It is the only one of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.

The manufacturer is Von Roll Tramways, Leg. from Olten, Switzerland.

It is 18 feet in diameter.

It is 8 feet high.

The capacity is up to 80 passengers with 35,600 pounds in the cabin.

The floor slowly rotates twice per trip on ascent and twice on descent.

I will be posting more about this amazing ride and amazing engineering feat...stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Book Your Parking Now

Airport Parking Helper posted this in their latest blog. It's worth reading and worth checking out before your holiday travels.
When anyone asks us what our number one tip is for finding cheap airport parking, the answer is easy.
Book early!
It’s not unusual for lots to fill up, especially during the busy holiday travel season, which (ackkkk!) is right around the corner. It’s also not uncommon for prices to rise the further we move into November and December.
Our parking partners offer FREE CANCELLATIONS so there’s really no reason not to book now. You’ll have a guaranteed parking spot and keep a little more of that holiday cash in your pocket!
So, head on over to our Top Travel Deals Page, grab a money-saving coupon and knock airport parking off your holiday travel to-do list.
Happy travels!
Jenn & Andie
P.S. We’re already seeing off-site lots selling out for holiday dates at airports in San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, so don’t delay. Snag a coupon and make your reservation now!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Il Fiorello...

In Italian, Il Fiorello means little flower. Look closely at an olive tree in bloom and you’ll see those little flowers. They turn into olives just waiting to be milled into delicious olive oil at the place named for them…Il Fiorello in Fairfield.

Family owned, Il Fiorello has come a long way since their first harvest of six pounds from 170 trees. Now, there are over 2,000 trees producing 13 varieties of olives. All hand-picked, if you can imagine that. Did you know those trees can live to be 1,000 years old?

And, that’s not all they do here. The entire operation is one of a few which include a visitor center, a milling operation, and a comprehensive growing operation. Add in their cooking classes, olive oil and balsamic tastings, wine tastings, tour of the facility where you will learn what the term extra virgin means as well as how different varieties taste different when made into oil, and you have an experience you won’t soon forget.

This past year they became certified organic…something that takes sustainability to a whole new level. Wandering around the grounds, it’s easy to see the attention to detail, countless raised beds of herbs and vegetables, rows and rows of olive trees, and owl boxes for predator control. Go inside and taste the difference in oils. Ask questions. Do you know how many olives it takes to produce that bottle you have sitting in your kitchen? Not only will they tell you, they’ll show you.

If you go at milling time…no longer called pressing and no longer done with donkeys…you’ll have an entirely new perspective on how you get your olive oil. Milling three tons per hour, with about 100 pounds at a time, those machines are impressive. This milling operation is one of about 50 in the United States and we’re fortunate to have it here in our backyard. And, if you grow olive and want to turn them into oil, they do custom milling for about 200 growers.

If you like to cook and learn about cooking, you’ve come to the right place. You’ve probably heard of the farm-to-table movement. The chef and cooking classes here at Il Fiorello take that a step further and actually show you how to use what you grow. There are demonstrations and hands-on classes.

Check out their schedule for their cooking classes and tours and make your reservation. Stop in to taste olive oils and vinegars. Whatever you do here, you’ll come away having learned something new. I did.

If You Go: Il Fiorello is located at 2625 Mankas Corner Road, Fairfield, CA. Their website is and phone number is 707.864.1529. For tours and cooking classes, you need to make a reservation.

Monday, October 17, 2016

First Time in Europe?

Many people are experience international travelers. But, we've all been somewhere for the first time.

What should you know about traveling internationally? Should you learn the language? Do you know what the exchange rate is?

First, it's a good idea to learn a few phrases in the language wherever you're going. Words like yes, no, please, thank you, good morning are a few you should master. Knowing the difference between Departures and Arrivals is another good thing to be able to read.

Check out the exchange rate before you go and figure out how to calculate it once you get to your destination. Is that $1 US or 1 Euro?

There are so many more which I will talk about in upcoming posts.