Monday, February 27, 2012

Foreign Travel in Your Local Backyard

Have you ever literally yearned for a trip that required a passport? I mean, just woken up and thought if I could do anything I really wanted to do today it would be to travel, to go somewhere completely foreign. Well, yesterday I did just that, and no passport was required. I admit, living in Southern California offers more opportunities to do this sort of spontaneous exploration than other cities in which I've lived such as Austin or Minneapolis, but not as much as you would think.

True, it was on my agenda to go to a social media/travel writers seminar called Jetset Extra at Union Station in downtown LA with my friend/colleague Gail Strickland, but it became much more than that.

At Gail's suggestion, we traveled by train from San Diego to LA, disembarked at Union Station and walked about two blocks to another world. Olivera Street (known as El Olivera) is a focal place of the Mexican community, with a Mexican marketplace, restaurants and an infectious "Amigo Attitude." But we didn't stop there, we continued 1/2 block to Chinatown, popped into the Mayflower Restaurant and enjoyed a meal and accompanying atmosphere I haven't experienced since I was last in Hong Kong. (Tip for finding the best ethnic restaurants: Look for one that is packed with locals and includes a short wait.) Offerings included pig's feet, salmon head, $9.99 lobster and salt-encrusted shrimp in the shells (don't gag, we selected the shrimp and asparagus with scallops, delish). When Gail asked about some of the menu items, the waitress who spoke very little English took her to other diners' tables to point to the in-question food choices - it was like a cafeteria. Very few Caucasians were there and when a birthday was celebrated, piped birthday music blasted from the speakers. But it was authentic, and it transported us to Asia. Mission accomplished.

And when we returned to Union Station, we passed a Mayan Warrior dancer in full costume walking to his car (his keys fell from his costume, destroying a bit of the illusion that his white horse was just around the corner), who posed with us for a small "donation."

Then to the Jetset Social function, with our journalist colleagues and exhibitors like the Thai Tourist Board, which was as productive as it was informative. The panel included Ashley Colburn, James Densmore, Jeff Greif, Johnny Jet, Lee Abbamonte, Stacy Dreyfus and moderator Amy Swift.

But my main point of this post is that this extraordinarily out-of-the-norm day didn't require an expensive last-minute airline ticket, intrusive airport security, a passport, a visa, three weeks notice or jet lag. It only required a train ticket, a bit of inquistiveness and an unspoken agreement to go with the flow.

Consider this post an assignment (should you choose to accept it) to do a bit of your own research about your backyard and travel it.

Following is Gail's summation of the day. A little background. We worked together as co-hosts of "The Traveling Girls" radio show, which she founded; she's coming from that perspective. "'The Traveling Girls' has always been about the journey not the destination. I was reminded of that journey yesterday when we traveled to downtown Los Angeles. Who would have thought we could travel by rail with the ocean as our backdrop, enjoy amazing Chinese food, network with 150 travel journalists and take a picture with a Mayan Warrior all in an afternoon."

Now go and find your journey!

Photos: Cynthia Dial

Act Now! Go and see "Act of Valor"

I have to share exciting news about our friend, George Galdorisi, a 20-year Navy veteran, tactical aviator and author. His latest book is "Act of Valor," written "after" the movie was produced.

Here's a couple of links he shared with me: The book’s Facebook page has top-level information about the movie and the book and is tied into Relativity Media’s Facebook page about the movie Act of Valor,

Here's another link to Defense Media Network’s website that has the “story within the story” about how the movie came to be made and the book came to be written, Defense Media Network Website:

Enjoy with popcorn and go see the movie!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Quote of the Day

“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.”
G.K. Chesterton

How true, how true.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Today's Travia

What is the only land in the world that has not been walked on by human feet?

A small 200 square-mile section of Antarctica is the only terrain on Earth that not one person has stepped foot on.

Note: When I was there in November, it seemed the most remote place on earth (and I guess in a way, it is).

Friday, February 24, 2012

Oscar Weekend Enhanced by Shopping Tips

Today at Torrey Pines

Torrey Pines. 7:30 a.m. Littered with rocks brought in from the sea, the beach betrays the time of year. They'll be gone by spring. The fun part is searching for shells amongst the rocks.

Photo: Cynthia Dial

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Good Morning, Torrey Pines!

Good morning from San Diego. You know, in quest of travel articles I’ve hiked in some exceptional spots . . . from Maui’s Seven Sacred Pools to British Columbia’s Canadian Rockies to Wilder Kaiser in the Austrian Alps. But once home I always head to the coast for my daily fix – a morning walk at Torrey Pines State Reserve, which I do religiously Monday through Friday, hot or cold (usually perfect temp), rain or shine (albeit mostly shine). So, here's my plan. I'm going to share with you a bit of my beloved Torrey Pines and from time to time, take you there on this blog. The most recent highlight of these walks is that my daughter Erin has been able to join me on some of the mornings, like today. This morning's hike began in the fog, reflective of the photo taken at 7:45 a.m.

To learn more about Torrey Pines, keep reading. Here's an excerpt from an article I wrote for

Torrey Pines - Here I’ve been in the company of hikers, bikers, rollerbladers and practitioners of tai chi, and I’ve observed flocks of sea gulls, schools of dolphins and a sole beached sea lion. Every day is different, every day is special.

The reserve is named for its indigenous five-needle pine, the Torrey Pine – America’s rarest native pine tree found only in the State Reserve area and on the island of Santa Rosa off the Santa Barbara coast.

But regardless of where I’ve traveled, I return with the same evaluation: Our nearby reserve is a local treasure, one that offers eight miles of hiking trails. Among my favorites:

Razor Point Trail (2/3 mile to the point) – Sprinkled with wildflowers in spring and dramatic views of the gorge, there are several overlooks into Canyon of the Swifts and a not-to-be-missed overlook at the tip of Razor Point.

Beach Trail (3/4 mile to Flat Rock and the beach) – It may be the least scenic but the trail’s beach access is popular, with final beach entry along steep, narrow steps. Tip: If you plan to hike down and walk north along the beach, remember to check the tides.

Guy Fleming Trail (2/3 mile loop) – It’s not a difficult trail – relatively level and not lengthy, but its beauty is unparalleled. With ocean vistas, sandstone formations, twisted, wind-shapen trees, seasonal flowers and two primetime overlooks – it’s my favorite.

The view of the coast from Del Mar to Carlsbad and beyond can be enjoyed from a wooden bench at the North Lookout. It also provides a birds-eye view of the Peñasquitos Lagoon, one of Southern California’s few remaining brackish water wetlands, which is home to three rare birds: the Light-footed Clapper Rail, Belding's Savanna Sparrow and the California Least Tern.

The South Overlook is a popular romantic spot and sometimes host to small weddings. Its view: La Jolla (to the south), San Clemente and Santa Catalina Islands (on a clear day), dolphins (almost any day) and gray whales (in season).

Photo: Cynthia Dial

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Just a little background. The photo on my blog is one taken from a bus in Tuscany (approximately one hour from Florence), heading with my daughter Kathryn to one of the best meals in my memory - in the cellar of Castello di Verrazzano Winery, feasting on wild boar and bottles of their best wine. Consequently, every time I pull up my blog, the photo transports me back to Italy and to one of those "wish you were here" travel events (the first of many that I will share with you). Until next time, ciao.
Welcome to Traveling Cynthia. As the first post on the first day of my blog let me share my latest foray into the travel world -Live Fit Magazine and Live Fit Films. Being part of this monthly show is great fun. So join us as we explore the Oscars from all aspects. And while watching the show and the Academy Awards, you might want to sample one of these cocktails touted by The Avalon Hotel. Cheers y'all!

Beverly Hills hotspot The Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills is mixing up delicious concoctions in their signature restaurant, Oliverio, in honor of the Best Picture nominees. The libations will be available from now until Oscar Night, when you can also stop by to watch the show while sipping on your favorite film!

The Descendents: MaiTini
Light and dark rums, pineapple juice, grenadine float (martini style)

The Help: Southern Comfort Hurricane
Southern Comfort, sweet and sour, orange juice, pineapple juice (over ice)

Midnight in Paris: Sidecar
Remy Martin, Cointreau, sweet and sour (martini style)

The Artist: Black and White
Vanilla Schnapps, layer of Kraken rum (martini style)

Hugo: Julio Blue Margarita
Don Julio, blue curacao, sweet and sour, prosecco float (over ice)

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: The Incredibly Strong
Long Island Iced Tea with vodka, gin, rum, tequila, triple sec, blue curacao, Chambord, sweet and sour (over ice)

War Horse: The Horse Tail
Makers Mark with muddled blueberries, lemon, pomegranate juice (martini style)

Moneyball: Crackerjack Martini
Vanilla vodka, butterscotch schnapps, white godiva (martini style)

Get Glamorous With Live Fit Magazine: Oscar Picks, Hair & Beauty Makeove...