Monday, April 30, 2012

Quote of the Day (one I wish I followed)

"He who would travel happily must travel light."
Antoine de St. Exupery
Photo by Cynthia Dial

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Coffee in San Diego

Best new coffee hangout: Cafe Ipe in Encinitas, where they roast their own beans and serve up musical entertainment as early as 10 am.

Quote of the Day

"Speak in French, but sing in Italian."

Photo by Cynthia Dial

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Safety Tips

Having just returned from a press trip to Puerto Rico with a dozen or so around-the-nation journalists where we talked travel, here are some safety tips I picked up. Two of the travel writers, a married couple, shared the recent incident their son and his family experienced in San Antonio.  While out to dinner, they returned to their room at a top hotel on the Riverwalk to find themselves robbed.  The hotel became involved as did the police.  Here's what they were told:  1) never stay in a room near the elevator (easy getaway); 2) never put a do-not-disturb sign on the door when you go out (it's a sure signal you're away and the coast is clear); never put your valuables in the room safe (most hotel employees have a card to swipe the safe). 

I know, I know, this is likely disturbing because you probably break each of these "rules."  I certainly do and will no longer stay near an elevator or use the DND sign; however, what about my valuables??  I'm certainly not going to walk around Buenos Aires or New York or wherever with my passport, computer, all my camera gear, jewelry, all my cash, every credit card, etc.  One of the fellow journalists puts his valuables in his dirty laundry.  Any other ideas?
Photo by Cynthia Dial

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Woe is Me, San Francisco's Sam Wo Restaurant is Closed

When I moved from Texas to San Francisco yeeeeeeeeears ago, my first day at work translated to lunch (even then) at  a legendary but tiny eatery, Sam Wo's.  Located just off Chinatown's Grant Avenue on Washington, you walked through the kitchen, up to the 2nd and 3rd levels, and had to bring in your own drinks. We usually ran nearby to a small grocery. Then, you sat at old, painted but chipped picnic tables to be served by waiters who were rudely dismissive.  Most apt description I've read: "They made the Soup Nazi seem like the Dalai Lama." Best part: It was very cheap. Worse part: It closed Saturday. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Best Part

Best part of 6 1/2 hr NY/San Diego FLT? NY Cheesecake

Cup of Joe

Final, final Puerto Rico tip: Don't wait till a/p for the island's great brews; purchase a cup before you arrive. You're not going to find anything but US mainland coffee once you get to the terminal when it's adios to cafe con crema.

Inside Puerto Rico

Tip: Found Ron del Barrilito Rum 3* for $19 in Old San Juan. $24 at a/p duty free. Also good deals on good Puerto Rican coffee can be found at grocery or drug stores.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pig Perfect

Spend Sundays like Puerto Rico's locals and travel to the island's mountain regions for roasted pig.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Puerto Rico Perfect

What better way to get a sense of place than through its food, and what better place to get a sense of Puerto Rico's food than at its annual food fest, Saborea. Though only one destination and one food festival, it's the way to best immerse into a city or country (and the most delicious).

Friday, April 20, 2012

Piña Colada

Invented at Caribe Hilton 1953. Joan Crawford, a frequent guest, loved it and said , "That's better than slapping Bette Davis in the face," it became a hit.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Never Seen on the Travel Scene

Massage bath soap. Double-duty cleansing bar found at Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Quote of the Day

"A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it."
John Steinbeck

Monday, April 16, 2012

Where, oh where in the world, is this?

The Thinker is a bronze and marble sculpture by Auguste Rodin, whose first cast, of 1902, is now in the Musée Rodin in Paris

Photo by Cynthia Dial

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Must-see Movie

When I visited Burma (also called Myanmar) last year it was timely as Aung San Suu Kyi had just been released from years of house arrest. Though the locals were forbidden to speak publicly of her, privately they reverently referred to her as "The Lady" and I was even driven by her Rangoon house on the lake (which is also forbidden). The visa process is very strident; I would not have been permitted a visa had I listed my occupation as journalist. But though it is not an easy place to visit, the country and its people are warm, welcoming and wonderful and deserve the freedom Aung San Suu Kyi has tirelessly fought for, though it meant leaving her husband and children in Oxford, England, to do so.

The just-released movie, "The Lady," beautifully depicts the country, its lovely Lady and the struggles of both. Its ending quote by Aung San Suu Kyi is a directive: "Please use your liberty to promote ours."

Photo by Cynthia Dial

Friday, April 13, 2012

An Extraordinary Opportunity

For the first time, a minute-by-minute account of the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan
On March 30, 1981, President Reagan walked out of a hotel in Washington, D.C., and was shot by a would-be assassin. For years, few people knew the truth about how close the president came to dying, and no one has ever written a detailed narrative of that harrowing day. Now, drawing on exclusive new interviews, Del Quentin Wilber tells the electrifying story of a moment when the nation faced a terrifying crisis.

Text from Rawhide Down, a book by Del Wilber.

Interesting stuff, isn't it?

Well, yesterday I had the rare opportunity to hear first-hand the inside scoop concerning a day in the life of our country for which the implications of its outcome were so significant that it will forever occupy top billing in history books. The day: when Reagan was shot.

I traveled about 2 hours north of San Diego to the Nixon Library to hear a panel moderated by talk show host Hugh Hewitt hich featured Del Wilber, author of Rawhide Down; Dr. Benjamin Aaron, the surgeon who operated on the president; Richard Allen, National Security Advisor to President Reagan and Ken Khachigian, presidential advisor to Reagan, who were on the inside of the internal turmoil within the White House on this fateful day.

No holes were barred. They shared anything and everything, including Secretary of State Alexander Haig's curious statement to the nation when he proclaimed, "I am in charge."

My opportunity was an extraordinary one and I urge all who live near a Presidential Library to take advantage of the tremendous programs they offer to the public (typically free of charge).

Photo by Cynthia Dial

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Today's Travia

Travia of Texas-size proportions: The world's largest cattle station is the Anna Creek Station in Australia. It is larger than Belgium.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I Left My Heart . . .

Once upon a time there was an adventurous Texan who had never been to San Francisco, but who was so convinced that she would love it, she packed her Pontiac LeMans with all her possessions and drove out West to call it home. The adventurous Texan's intuition was correct. She indeed loved San Francisco, loved her city apartment on the corner of Clay and Levenworth atop Nob Hill (she was told by those taller that her third-floor apartment's bay window showcased a view of the Golden Gate Bridge) and loved city life. However, after a year of idyllic life in the "City by the Bay," she was whisked back to Texas by her future husband (he was transferred by his job).

Though she followed her heart, she left a part of it in San Francisco (that's not quite how the lyrics read, but you get the idea). Since her departure, she's returned many, many times but never with a ho-hum attitude. Thus, last week's visit to The City included a few of the Texan/now San Diegan's favorite things.

Here are my/aka adventurous Texan's stops:

Buena Vista - Stationed at the Fairmont, I stood on the corner of California and Powell for a cablecar (preferably the Hyde Street car) to head to the end of the line and the Buena Vista, a restaurant/bar known as much for it surly bartenders as it is Irish Coffee. With the cablecars full, I headed by foot like a mountain goat over one hill and then another to my every-time-I'm-in-San Francisco destination. My order: Gaelic Irish Coffee (translation: Irish Coffee, light on the whiskey) and sourdough toast, $10, (tip: the food's not great but the atmosphere is not to be missed).

Street vendors - Across from the Buena Vista is an assortment of street vendors. My purchase: a script initial "E" for my daughter Erin to display on a gold chain ($5).

Ghirardelli - A new obsession of mine is chocolate and sea salt, so I couldn't resist a bar of Ghirardelli chocolate with sea salt ($5).

Union Street - I continued my walk from the Buena Vista west and then south to Union Street where I headed west, walking in and out of jewelry boutiques, clothing boutiques, coffee shops, cupcake shops and just people watched (free).

Polk Street - Time for lunch so I head to Polk Street, found a cute spot with outdoor tables geared to enjoy the sunshine and dined on a cup of corn chowder and a fish taco ($10).

Coit Tower - Next day: An cityscape icon, I headed through North Beach to locate the street to take me to the top of the hill and its tower which overlooks the bay and the city. It opens at 10am and tourists, as well as locals, were on site at 10am (free).

North Beach - Ready for a snack, I made my way to Columbus to stop in at Stella's Bakery for a couple of the Italian-style cookies and a cup of cappuccino (complete with a heart of foam on top), $4.

Chinatown - What better place for a colorful assortment of $5 pashminas than Chinatown and when ready for lunch, I was told by a journalist who writes for the Chinese market (aka reliable Chinese foodie source) that the best restaurant is R&G Lounge (corner of Kearney and Commercial). Tip: Order the R&G Special Meat dish ("recipe is a secret" says the menu) $7.

Union Square - No visit is complete without a visit to Union Square, wandering in and out of its surrounding stores and hopping aboard a cablecar for the steep return to the Fairmont on Nob Hill ($5 cablecar ride, window-shopping free).