Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Factoid

The strength of a hurricane is obviously unimaginable.  But this factoid helped me put it in perspective:  A hurricane releases as much energy as a 10-megaton nuclear bomb exploding every 20 minutes.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Insider's South Australia

Fact: Best perk of Kingsford Homestead, a charming hotel on 225 acres, is an al fresco “bush bath” (complete with bath salts and binoculars) in an over-sized, free-standing bath tub overlooking the river and historic sheep shearing sheds.

Insider's South Australia

Fact:  Can you say exclusive?  Luxury tents (three only) offered in the outback's Camp Kangaluna by Gawler Ranges Wilderness Safari.

Insider's South Australia

Fact: A leisurely way to enjoy South Australia is aboard Captain Cook Cruises' Murray Princess, a traditional paddlewheeler, along the Murray River.

Insider's South Australia

The luncheon revealed a delicious regional treat, Dukkah (a mixture of ground seeds, fresh nuts and spices).  The way to enjoy Dukkah is to dip bread into olive oil, then into the mixture.  Yummmm!

Insider's South Australia

Fact:  Barossa, Australia's wine capital, is home to the world's oldest Shiraz vines (1843).

Insider's South Australia

Fact: Kangaroo Island is Australia's Galapagos.

Insider's South Australia

Fact:  Adelaide is the world's only city surrounded by parkland.

Insider's South Australia

Great and informative South Australia luncheon in San Diego.   First decision: Barossa Valley Shiraz or Vermantino?

Travia . . . By State

Alabama was the first state to have 9-1-1; started in 1968.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Insider's San Diego

Fav fall Saturday activity: watching University of Texas football at Tilted Kilt. Go Horns!

Friday, October 26, 2012


In 1961 TWA became the world's first airline to show movies on jets.  The first movie selected?  Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Did you know that tipping at a restaurant in Iceland is considered an insult?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Shout out to Courtyard Marriott Airport Austin

Last week we celebrated our daughter Erin's wedding to Ryan Peters in Austin, TX.  We scheduled it around University of Texas' football--to coordinate our plans with out-of-town games, not home games to eliminate the competition for rooms with football enthusiasts.  But we didn't coordinate with ACL (Austin City Limits) music festival. 

Initially we were concerned about the quality of the accommodations for about 110 of our family and friends who were coming from as far a Dubai.  But the selection of Courtyard Marriott Airport Austin did not disappoint.  The comfy lobby bar was each evening's gathering spot, the food was superb and the staff even better.  

So here's a big shout-out to many but not all of those who were particularly helpful:
     Dharmesh Bhakta, General Manager
     Kelcey Fraser, Front Desk
     Tanisha Hall, Front Desk
     Jennifer, Bartender
     Gabi & Maritza (sister servers in the restaurant)
     Brittani Dunlap, Sales Manager (we loved Brittani so much that she was one of our wedding guests)

Insider's Palm Springs

Must stop: store called Estate Sale, filled with back-in-the-day "finds" like Olivia Newton John's guitar autographed "Let's get physical."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Where, oh where, in the world is this?

Insider's Airline Travel

Thank You TSA! (no, this is not a typo)

Players: My daughter (and new bride) Erin; checked baggage; TSA agents
Where: Austin Bergstrom Airport
When: October 15, the day after her wedding day

Photo by Cynthia Dial
In route from Austin (through Denver) to San Diego to overnight before she and groom, Ryan, would leave for their Hawaii honeymoon, they realized before arrival that several items were missing from her checked luggage.  Because of the timing I became involved in the endless process: contacting United Airlines, being transferred to baggage claim (trying to figure out how to trick the prompter to speak to a “live” person), completing a lost item report, contacting TSA Austin, calling Austin’s transportation and security manager, then speaking to the Austin Police Department to file a police report, re-contacting United Airlines (trying to figure out how to trick the prompter to speak to a “live” person), then being transferred to its department for baggage resolution—the MVPs of this scenario may surprise you.  Because they were so helpful I’ll name names:  Jamie, Austin Airport TSA lost and found; Nakia, United Airlines representative for baggage resolution and a big shout-out to Ignacio Reyes, Austin Airport transportation and security manager, who went beyond the call of duty by checking the TSA video to determine that though the items were removed from the bag for inspection, they were immediately replaced.  Now, United Airlines, the ball’s in your court.    

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Insider's Guam

Photo by Cynthia Dial
Guam received 2012's 1,000,000th visitor with grand flair. 
For details, go here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

San Diego Airport

Photo by Cynthia Dial
"Interesting" landing from the west in last night's fog at San Diego's Lindbergh Field.  Though only 8:30 pm, I think we were one of the last airplane's allowed to arrive due to the lack of visibility.

Bottom line: Car Rental

Here's the final scoop on renting a car for our daughter's wedding in Austin, TX through www.carrentals.co.uk (a worldwide car rental company).  My initial report is that the site is user friendly and the prices are great.  The rental process was quick and easy.  The pick-up flawless (warning: don't get caught up in Hertz's up-sale attempts; for me it's a flaw all rental car companies exhaustingly practice, certainly nothing to do with the initial reservation process). And the return was even quicker, easier and pain-free.  Bottom line: www.carrentals.co.uk received a thumb's up from me; it's now my go-to around-the-world car rental web site.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Travel Tip

Tip: when traveling from San Diego on United, don't assume you're flying out of terminal 1 like I did. Got there in plenty of time (4:50am), checked in at terminal 1, told our gate (35) was in terminal 2, went to security check for gate 35 which was crazy crowded so told to go back to the security gate we had passed (5 min ago). Long story a bit shorter: we arrived at the gate as boarding began. Moral to this story. Find out what gate you're traveling from. Or better yet, read. My boarding pass gave this info (it was in the upper right corner).

Where, oh where, in the world is this?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Travel Tip - Car Rental

Being a travel junkie, I like to pass along "finds" to like-minded wayfarers so here's my latest discovery, www.carrentals.co.uk. Though it's out of the UK, they rent cars worldwide (my rental is for Austin, TX) and the site is user friendly, the prices are great and I'll report on the final result.  My fingers are crossed that the entire experience is one I want to repeat as my plans are to use this car rental operation wherever I go.  More later . . . To go to the site, click here. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Insider's Italy

Photo by Cynthia Dial
If you're headed to Italy, you might want to make note of new fines . . . no eating, littering near monuments, including enjoying a sandwich or gelato on the Spanish Steps.
For details, go here.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Insider's British Colombia

Photos by Cynthia Dial
Our Eco Tour at Sonora Resort in BC was like a visit to SeaWorld. Check out the action.

Antarctic Cruise

Photo by Cynthia Dial
Off all of my cruise experiences, Antarctica was the most adventureous.  For personal details, go here.

Trip Tip

Is an upcoming airline trip on your calendar?  If so, you may want to get tips on how to recover.  My addition to the suggestions: upon boarding the plane set your watch to the time of your destination.  Any more suggestions?  Go here for more tips.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Richest and Poorest U.S. Cities

San Jose, Calif., has the highest median household income among the country’s 25 most populous cities, with the city’s level approaching $77,000 last year, about 50% higher than the national median of $51,000, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The city boasts that it’s “home to the largest concentration of technology expertise in the world — more than 6,600 technology companies employing more than 254,000 people.” Taking a broader view, California is home to several top cities for household income. However, the state is one of only five where inequality is higher than the U.S. level. Median household income in California is higher than for the U.S. as a whole, but the state’s poverty rate is also above the national average.

Following close on San Jose’s heels is San Francisco, where median household income hit almost $70,000 last year. The city is filled with computer and technical workers, many making north of $90,000 a year. People are highly educated, with 52% of those at least 25-years old having at least a college degree, compared with 29% across the U.S. Even San Francisco’s youngest residents are into education: about 70% of the preschool-age tots are enrolled in school, compared with 47% across the U.S. Also of note: more than one-third San Francisco’s population is foreign-born, compared with 13% of the U.S.

Photo by Cynthia Dial
To keep reading, go here.


Riviera Nayarit area of Mexico near Sayulita.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Today's Travia

Photo by Cynthia Dial
London's Underground is the world's longest subway system.  However, Moscow has the world's largest subway system by ridership.