Thursday, September 29, 2016

Eurail Pass

If you have never traveled by train in Europe, it's something you should try. 
It can be an affordable way to see some of Europe’s most beautiful scenery. It's also a convenient and comfortable way to get from one place to the next.
If you will be traveling from country to country or doing a bunch of traveling, try out the Eurail Pass. Here are some tips which may help you when using the Eurail Pass.
Use your pass on days where you will be traveling on longer train journeys. If you will be on the train for more than three hours, the Eurail Pass is cost effective. If the ride is shorter, it's not such a savings.
Use your pass if you will be on an overnight train. If you start at 7 pm or later, you will have until midnight the next day to use only one day of your pass. 
Most high speed trains in Europe require seat reservations. If you are using your Eurail Pass, you need to pre-book those early. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Going to Japan?

Recently I had a wonderful visit with Singapore based Mobile Applications developer, LCO-Creation, who developed TravelDoor, the leading travel app for Japanese travelers.

What they do...they offer curated Travel Guides, Detailed Travel Content with over 65 destinations, offline Maps, Navigation.

Why is this app's 100% Offline, which means no roaming charges.

Travelers can use this app to plan their upcoming trip. Get all the best restaurants, hotels, flights, latest events calendar, car rental, and more.

LCO-Creation recently released TravelDoor Japan to allow travelers to Japan to have the latest travel information at their fingertips.

Features include:

Navigate with simple to use offline maps
Bookmark places of interest
Articles about Japanese food, culture, nature, hotspring and more
Find the perfect activity to explore Japan
Travel confidently with essential tips such as city highlights and details on where to visit

TravelDoor Japan includes 275 extensive city travel guides across Japan and includes information on over 2,600 tourist attractions across all 47 Japanese prefectures.

This is definitely worth checking out. 

Currently, the application is only available for download from Google Play Stores and will be available for iOS devices later this year. 

Let me know what you think.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Passport Awareness

Every September, the State Department conducts a national public awareness campaign to capture the attention of an increasingly mobile U.S. population. This year, the Department’s office of Passport Services will launch the #PicturePerfectPassport campaign on Twitterand Facebook. Our goal is to improve the quality of passport photos that applicants submit so that more travelers receive their passports in time for important travel.

Poor quality photos are the number one reason passport applications are delayed. In 2015, more than 200,000 passport applications were delayed for inadequate photos. When Passport Services receives a poor quality photo on a passport application, we must notify applicants and require a new photo be submitted by mail. Passport applications submitted with photos that do not meet photo requirements often delay an application and can interfere with travel plans. 

How do you avoid these delays? Here are the top five reasons passport photos are rejected and suggestions on how they can easily be prevented:
1.       A glare appears on eyeglasses – Glasses should be removed for a photo. Beginning on November 1, 2016 eye glasses will no longer be allowed in passport photos. Keep this in mind if you are getting your passport renewed or getting your first one between now and then. Good idea to remove your glasses. 
2.       The photo is either too light or too dark – The tone of your photo must be clear to reflect true skin tone.

3.       An old photo is submitted – Your photo must have been taken within six months of submitting a passport application.

4.       The head size is unsuitable – Photos taken too close or too far away will be rejected.

5.       The quality of the image or paper is poor – Photos are often blurry, grainy, pixelated, or printed on the wrong paper. Your photos should always be clear and as high resolution as possible.

If you are thinking about applying for a passport in the near future, you should know the Department of State expects record high passport demand in 2016-2018. In order to avoid a delay in the processing of your passport application, it is important that the photo you include meets all requirements.
This Passport Awareness Month, we hope to remind Americans who are planning international travel, whether for work or leisure, of the importance of having the travel documents they need. Starting early and including all the needed requirements for your passport, including an approved passport photo, will bring you one step closer to your ultimate travel destination.
About of Author: Brenda Sprague serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Passport Services in the Bureau of Consular Affairs.
For More Information:
·         Visit Travel.State.Gov/Pictureperfect for more about the campaign and our top photo problems.
·         Call the National Passport Information Center toll-free at 1-877-487-2778/1-888-874-7793 or visit Travel.State.Gov for information on passport forms and fees.
·         Follow @TravelGov and visit TravelGov Facebook page for specific updates from the Bureau of Consular Affairs.
·         Read other DipNote blogs related to consular affairs at the State Department.

F   From the State Department website:

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Love the Wine You're With...Hendry Wines

This month we travel to Napa to visit what was once a ranch, having some of the earliest vineyards in Napa. This land has seen it all…from the planting boom of the late 1800s to the huge bust due to phylloxera, and then the effects of Prohibition.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s there was a huge change in Napa’s wine industry, with the price of grapes rising, wineries focusing on quality instead of just quantity, and vineyard plantings were again booming. George Hendry, son of the original owners and an engineer, built a reservoir on the ranch property and replanted most of the ranch once again to vineyards.

At first, only Zinfandel and Pinot Noir were grafted, but he realized the potential of the property and planted 20 acres to Cabernet Sauvignon. In the 1970s Robert Mondavi started buying grapes from George and by the late 1980s he bought all of the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes from him. Kent Rosenblum was buying the remaining nine acres of Zin and bottling a “George Hendry Reserve.”
After 50 years of growing, the Hendry Ranch was developing a reputation for its grapes.

Today, the vineyard is divided into 49 different blocks, with each representing a unique combination of soils, vine vigor, microclimates, rootstocks, clones, and varietals. They produce 11 different varietals and more than a dozen wines.

Visiting Hendry Winery today is more than just tasting wines. It’s a total experience. There are several different levels of tours and tastings available. If you are looking for an in-depth educational tour and tasting, you’ll find one available that will meet your expectations. Or, if you want a brief overview of the property and its history, a tour of the vineyard, and an opportunity to get to know the varietals…you’ll find one available for this as well.

Whatever your pleasure…spending an afternoon at Hendry Winery is a wonderful way to increase your wine knowledge.

For me, I love the entire experience and always learn something new when I come here. Plus…well-made wines are always high on my list, and Hendry fits the bill.

If You Go: Hendry Winery is located at 3104 Redwood Road in Napa, CA. Check the website at to learn more or to book your visit.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Go When?

Let’s say you’ve just started thinking about a trip to Europe and you’re not sure when to go. You’ve read about traveling during peak season and off season, but what does that really mean?

In travel industry info, the year is divided into three seasons. Peak season is about mid-June through August. Shoulder season is April through mid-June. Off-season is November through March. Each -season has pros and cons. Still not sure when to go? 

Here are a few things to think about.
·         Peak Season: If summer is when you can get away, you’ll find plenty of sunny weather, more daylight, and often larger crowds in Europe. Attractions are open longer hours, museums are closed fewer days, and festivals abound in many cities and villages. Some things you might want to take into consideration when planning your trip during this season include, higher airfare, higher lodging costs, more crowded public transportation, and plenty of things to do and see.
  Shoulder Season: You’ll probably still find decent weather, possibly lower airfare, and less crowds. Some facilities or attractions may be closed until the start of summer, so check. Typically, lodging costs are less and public transportation is less crowded. Keep in mind for your airfare that if you fly over peak season in only one leg of your round trip, you may still pay the peak season rates.
  Off Season: You’ll most likely pay less for everything during this time, including airfare, lodging, food, and transportation. You’ll still see all the sites, but with less people around. You may have to adjust your schedule as some museums or attractions shorten their hours. It’s always a good idea to check the hours online before you go. The weather will play a part during this time of year, so pack accordingly. Check the weather before you go and dress in layers. Chances are, you’ll have more opportunities to visit with the locals during off-season

Whenever you go, plan accordingly and Have Fun!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Health Care Abroad

No one wants to imagine being sick or injured on vacation, but it could happen. Be prepared with a few simple precautions.

Learn About Your Destination
If you aren't familiar with the country you're visiting, check with the U.S. State Department's website before you go. You can find what type of medical services will be available to you once you're at your destination. Select your country and look for "Medical Facilities and Health Information." There should be a list of doctors and hospitals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has destination specific health info as well. 

You may be able to ask the concierge at a hotel for English speaking physicians. 

Check Your Own Insurance
Before you travel, check out your health insurance provider to see what coverage, if any, you will have in the destinations you're visiting. Some insurance companies will not cover injuries or illness outside your home country, while others require that you pay for any treatment up front and then apply for reimbursement after you get home. You may need to purchase travel insurance.

Keep the Following Information With You 
Create a sheet with this info on it. Put a copy in your wallet, your carryon bag, and with your travel companion.
1. Your regular doctor's office, home and/or cell phone numbers in case you need a consultation while traveling
2. Any insurance company contact information in case you need to get approval for treatment (don't forget your insurance card)
3. Travel insurance company contact information, if applicable
4. Embassy contact info for countries in which you are traveling

Know Your Medications Names
Brand names may differ in different countries. Bring a list of your meds, including the scientific names. Knowing the generic/medical names of common medications is also helpful when you're hunting for over-the-counter remedies in a foreign country. Remember to bring enough of your prescription meds with you. 

These are some common brand names with their more common names.

 Advil/Motrin = ibuprofen
 Aleve = naproxen
 Tylenol/Excedrin = acetaminophen
 Bayer, others = aspirin
 Benadryl = diphenhydramine
 Dramamine = dimenhydrinate
 Bonine = meclizine
 Pepto-Bismol = bismuth subsalicylate
 Antacids = calcium carbonate, aluminum hydroxide or magnesium hydroxide
 Imodium = loperamide
Know Your Allergies
If you have serious allergies or a medical condition such as diabetes, be sure to ask your doctor about medical emergency bracelets.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Keep Your Nose to the Grindstone

Mention Napa Valley and most people think of world class wines, rows and rows of manicured vines, and hot air balloon rides in the mist of the early morning.
Not many think of heading to Napa to have their corn and wheat ground into flour or of the Bear Flag Revolt. In fact, most people probably don’t even know about either one of those.
While the rest of the state was knee deep in gold mining, prospectors in Napa Country mined for silver and quicksilver. Farmers raised cattle, wheat, and corn. Not a grape vine in site.
Mexico owned the state we know as California. An early settler, Edward Turner Bale, became a citizen of Mexico at the time and was granted Rancho Carne Humana in the northern end of the valley.  Bale, came here from England as a physician and surgeon to start a new life, and was one of the few survivors of the wreck of the Harriett off the coast of Monterey. Moving from San Francisco, Bale saw a need for and built the Bale Grist Mill a few miles north of St. Helena in 1846. Settlers from the valley gathered to have their wheat and corn ground into flour or meal.
Wheat and corn farmers brought grain to the mill where it was placed into the boot of an elevator to be mechanically transported upstairs where it was cleaned. The slow turning of the old grind stones and the dampness of the mill’s site gave the meal a special quality for making cornbread, yellowbread, shortening bread, and spoonbread.
Using local materials, Douglas fir and coast redwoods for the mill, and native stone for the foundation, the mill was powered by a waterwheel. Water was diverted from Mill Creek nearby. However, during the dry summers there was not enough water to power the mill. It needed to be replaced by a much larger one, similar to the one that works and stands today.
With a 36 feet high waterwheel and wooden flume system, this one appears much like the original would have looked.

According to history, the Bale Grist Mill was quite the center of attention in the upper Napa Valley in the mid-1800s. To begin with, it was spectacular in size. Then there was the noise it made. More importantly, the valley was an increasing source of wheat production. Flour milling would have been significant here during that time period. And, it was a site of social activity set amidst wheat and corn fields. Hard to imagine this valley without grape vines.
Instrumental in another piece of California state history , the Bale Grist Mill may have been the meeting place prior to the capture of Sonoma from the Mexican government in 1846. This Bear Flag Revolt, lasting 31 days, happened when Sonoma and what we know as California were taken from the Mexican government. California became a state in 1850, without going back to Mexican rule.
Today, the park is the site of a working water-powered grist mill built in 1846. Small amounts of corn and wheat are turned into flour and cornmeal and sold. Tours explain the whole process, with millers showing how it would have worked in the 1800s.
Hiking trails surround the mill and provide for a change of pace from the rest of the valley. Most hikes are not strenuous, although the one connecting Boothe State Park with the Bale Grist Mill and the historic Pioneer Cemetery can give you a nice workout.

If you go: The Bale Grist Mill is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with milling done on those days.
Call for appointments for larger groups at 707-942-4575.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

What To Do With Your Meds When Traveling

Do you have medications you regularly take? What do you do with these when you travel?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some recommendations for travelers and their medications.

First, check to see if your medications are available at your planned destination. This goes for non-prescription as well as prescription meds. You may need to get an extra prescription filled before you leave, especially if you're planning on being away from home for an extended period of time. 

Next, keep a sheet of contact information for your doctor and pharmacy, along with your list of medications. This should be kept in the folder or place where you keep your important documents. 

Also, get an official prescription from your physician. If you are flying, keep these with your carry-on luggage, not in your checked luggage.

If you're flying, be sure to show medicines to a TSA agent before going through security check.

If travel plans involve time zone changes, consult a doctor or pharmacist to create a specific travel schedule for this circumstance. As much as possible, stay on track when taking medicines.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Cheers...Tasting Wine at Round Pond Estate Winery

Round Pond Estate Winery

Tasting wine in Napa Valley is easy to do. Finding a place that fits your style, showcases the wines you like, and offers a memorable experience might take a little more work. 

Round Pond Estate is a family owned farm and winery that specializes in the creation of pure, expressive wines, artisan foods, and unforgettable experiences. So, what does that mean for you as a visitor?

First, the setting is breathtaking and yet comfortable at the same time. Drive up the palm tree lined lane, take in the views of the Mayacamas Mountains to your right, and notice the perfectly aligned rows of vines all around you. Don’t let the size of the tasting room fool you. Once inside the second story, you feel more like you’re in a friend’s living room, complete with comfy sofas and chairs which invite you to sit, relax, and watch the world go by.

Or, head out to the covered patio…complete with a fireplace and those amazing views. Even if it’s a little cool outside, take advantage of the soft blankets and heaters. It doesn’t get any better than this…especially with a great glass of wine in your hand.

Settle in and enjoy the complete wine tasting experience. Take the time to plan your visit and enjoy the food and wine pairings. This is one place where you won’t want to hurry. The chef prepares small bites to accommodate each wine perfectly. Many local ingredients from the property’s garden are used in the winery kitchen for these delightful mouth pleasing treats. For those of you who are a little more knowledgeable about wine and food, you will notice how each taste compliments and enhances the wine…and vice versa. If you are just starting to learn about wine, you will appreciate how the food can make a wine taste differently. Whatever your level of experience in wine tasting, this is definitely one place to put on your list.

Have more time? Check out the olive oil tasting, which includes red wine vinegars and artisan syrups. That’s a whole other visit….and article.

For me…I like well-made wines and enjoy them with tasty food. That’s why Round Pond Estate is high on my list to visit and taste.

Plus…there’s that view.

If you go: Round Pond Estate Winery is located at 877 Rutherford Road, Rutherford, CA.
For more information, their website is