Monday, May 27, 2013

Happy Memorial Day

An eternal thank you to veterans who selflessly served our country.

Insider's California

Road trip from San Diego to McCloud via LA, Sacramento, Dunsmeir and everything in between.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Insider's California

Burrata and tomatoes app at Davanti Enoteca in Del Mar Highlands. How many ways can you say delicious?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Crystal Cruises + Travel+Leisure + Best Service

Travel + Leisure magazine readers have voted Crystal Cruises as having the “World’s Best Service” of all large size cruise ships for 2013. I concur, the staff is so exceptional that I told Crystal Serenity's Captain that if servers Ross or Benji were missing, he might want to check my luggage. Those guys were great!
Benji, Kent Dial, Ross
Photo by Cynthia Dial

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Travel Trend: Save Money on Hotels by Sharing with a Stranger

Fellow travelers, I'm so curious about your thoughts on this new travel concept:

"The idea behind Easynest is simple: hotels and resorts charge for a room per night; you pay the same price if you are 1 or 2 people. Easynest proposes to solo travelers to share their rooms with other travelers, so they end up paying only 50% (or less) of the best price, allowing them access to better hotels, better locations – and make new friends."

What do you think??

Travia: Extreme Ironing

There is a sport called “extreme ironing” where people travel to remote locations and iron their clothes.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Insider's California: Sheraton Fairplex Pomona

Insider's California: Sheraton Fairplex Pomona. Great environ, great service, great gourmet food. A hidden jewel in an unexpected locale.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Travel Quote: Beverly Hills

“Beverly Hills’ churches are so posh that at communion they offer a wine list.”
Tom Poston
Photo by Cynthia Dial

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Travel Quote of the Day: Paris

“Paris is not a city, it’s a world.” King Francois I
Photo by Cynthia Dial

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mexico's Newest Tourist Destination is Riviera Nayarit

Meet Riviera Nayarit, a place where there are no rigid rules to follow, no rush hour, no worries.  You’re in Mexico and time slows down when you land in Puerto Vallarta and becomes even slower as you head 10 miles north into Mexico’s newest tourist destination—the region known as Riviera Nayarit.

Photo by Cynthia Dial
Launched in 2007 with the long term vision of positioning the area into one of the world’s finest destinations, Riviera Nayarit has gained this recognition in six short years: it’s the perfect setting to do absolutely nothing or positively everything.   

Sporting 192 miles of beach, a year-around average temperature of 80 degrees and bordered by Banderas Bay, the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra Madre Mountains, Riviera Nayarit has illuminated this low voltage atmosphere.

Let’s start at the beginning. 
Upon arrival you’re greeted by those bright, vivid colors that say “Mexico,” fuchsia bougainvillea scrambling over white stucco ledges and visions of wildly creative murals decorating roadways.  As you navigate northbound, you’ll uncover town after town—all different, all delightful, all pieces of the Riviera Nayarit puzzle.  Here is a small selection.

Nuevo Vallarta – “New” Vallarta is the region’s largest resort area, an area encompassing all-inclusive resorts (including Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit), long stretches of beach, distinctive shopping, a dolphinarium, water park, marina, scores of international restaurants and outstanding golf (Greg Norman’s 18-hole Litibu Course, Jack Nicklaus’ Nayar Course and Robert von Hagge’s El Tigre course).

Punta Mita – Luxury appeal is apparent on approach to the exclusive gated base of two 18-hole Jack Nicklaus championship golf courses, a posh residential community, the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita and the St. Regis Resort (both AAA Five-Diamond properties). 

Now a celebrity magnet, Punta Mita helped Riviera Nayarit become the home of Mexico’s second largest number of AAA Four- and Five-Diamond resorts.  Additional lures are of the pampering sort: Remède Spa (St. Regis) and the Apuane Spa (Four Seasons).  My forever temptation is an indigenous spa treatment, such as Apuane’s ‘Hakali Signature Massage,’ derived from the Huichol Indians which incorporates the therapeutic benefits of ancient Mexican cacti ingredients.
When I was escorted to my room, the philosophy of this first-class service was articulated:  “There is no problem here.  If you want more towels, there is no problem.  If you want different pillows, there is no problem.  Whatever you desire, there is no problem.”  This simple statement underscores Riviera Nayarit’s commitment to the guest.

Shall we continue? 
Navigating slightly inland, the two-lane road heads into dense, jungle-like terrain—past thatched huts, roadside fruit stands, parrot-selling stalls and signs announcing “cattle crossing.”

It is here that you’ll discover a collection of back-in-the-day villages—villages representing a period of time when life was defined by scenery and siestas, not BlackBerrys and Bluetooths.

San Francisco – Also known as San Pancho, this tiny town is where Mexico’s second largest polo club, La Patrona Polo Club, resides.  It is this exciting sporting event that annually awakens the sleepy city during the November to May season. 

Sayulita – Described as hippy chic, the happening village is known for superb surfing, experienced expats and celeb clientele and is sprinkled with fine art galleries, custom clothing boutiques (look for Yemaya bikinis) and found-only-in-Mexico shopping.  It is in the town square each Sunday where you’ll find the distinctive beaded and embroidery craft work of the Huichol Indians (one of four ethnic groups dating back to the Aztec civilization, which remains a part of Riviera Nayarit).

There’s more.
A rich cultural heritage, authentic Mexican towns and luxury lures would seem enough to drive tourists to a region.  But here, there’s more—and it’s nature.

Birds – A bird lovers’ paradise, the area surrounding the Port of San Blas boasts of having 60% of the Pacific migratory shore bird population—equating to more than 500 species.

Sea turtles – As the official mascot of Riviera Nayarit, four protected species of sea turtles use the coast as nesting sites.  During the summer and fall months, travelers can visit Grupo Ecológico de la Costa Verde’s marine turtle nursery, located in San Francisco, where up to 1,000 hatchlings are released each night during September and October.

Whale watching – The annual migration of the humpback whales from Alaska to Mexico brings as many as 600 whales to the protected waters of its coast from Tecuala to Banderas Bay between November and April, making whale watching an effortless experience.

Dolphins – Friendly wild dolphins inhabit the waters of Riviera Nayarit’s Banderas Bay and the Sea of Cortez coastline year-round.  

Marina Riviera Nayarit – Located in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle and quickly becoming a recognized nautical destination this yacht marina is Mexico’s largest, with 341 slips for yachts up to 400 feet in length and its annual “Nautical Extravaganza,” a series of international regattas and deep seas fishing tournaments.  Expected catch includes sailfish, marlin, tuna, red snapper, dorado and bonita.

It’s deliciously memorable.
Yesteryear’s Mexico was a culinary contrast to today’s Riviera Nayarit.  Before, all that was expected was for the tacos to be hot and the beer to be cold.  The current setting showcases choices from the finest of international dining to open-air, on-the-beach haunts. 

Among my top picks:

~ Nicksan (Nuevo Vallarta) – A restaurant embracing the perfect fusion of Japanese and Mexican foods and creativity.  Don’t miss the tuna tostadas and shrimp gorgonzola. 

~ Mercado Del Mar (Marina Riviera Nayarit) – A fresh fish market, this is where you come to select your fresh-off-the-boat catch, then request your fish choice be sent to your hotel for the chef in preparation of your evening meal. 

~ Don Pedro’s Restaurant (Sayulita) – Beneath an oversized palapa and overlooking the beach, complete with surfers and sunbathers, it’s the see-and-be-scene equivalent of the most popular place in town.  Don’t miss the signature Sayulita fish taco, fresh fish ceviche and a house margarita.

My two pesos: 
Uno, dos, tres, now go.  Don’t hesitate, don’t delay. 
Just head to Riviera Nayarit.  Mexico.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Join Me in the South of France for a Writing/Walking Tour

Germany's Top 100 Tourist Sites Picked by Foreign Visitors

The National German Tourist Board conducted a poll to determine which of all of the country's sites and attractions were the 100 most popular with its foreign guests.  Here are the top 10.
Brandenburg Gate
Photo by Cynthia Dial
Top 10 attractions at a glance
1. Neuschwanstein Castle, Schwangau/Füssen, Bavaria
2. Europa-Park, Rust, Baden-Württemberg
3. Cologne Cathedral (UNESCO World Heritage), North Rhine-Westphalia
4. Brandenburg Gate, Berlin
5. The Berlin Wall (East Side Gallery, Berlin Wall Park, Berlin Wall Trail, etc.)
6. Loreley rock in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley (UNESCO World Heritage), Rhineland-Palatinate
7. Nature reserves in the Black Forest, Baden-Württemberg
8. Heidelberg Castle, Baden-Württemberg,
9. Lake Constance with Mainau Island, Monastic Island of Reichenau (UNESCO World Heritage), Lindau, prehistoric pile dwellings, Meersburg Castle, Lake Constance, Baden-Württemberg
10. Museum Island (UNESCO World Heritage), Berlin

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

This Day in History: May 7 is National Tourism Day

This Day in History: May 7 is National Tourism Day

British Tourists Charged 64 Euros for Gelato in Rome

No visit to Rome is complete without a gelato but a group of British tourists got a nasty shock when they were charged 64 euros (£54) for four ice creams.

Photo by Cynthia Dial
Their complaints about the exorbitant price have rekindled a debate over the rip-offs perpetrated by many shops, businesses and tourist operators in the city.

Roger Bannister, his brother Steven and their wives Wendy and Joyce were astounded to be charged 16 euros (£13.50) each on Sunday after ordering four ice creams at the Antica Roma bar and gelateria close to the Spanish Steps.

"And when we paid up, they didn't even say thank you," Mr Bannister, of Birmingham, told Corriere della Sera newspaper on Monday, holding up the receipt to prove the amount he had been charged.

Cafes and bars in Italy double or triple their prices for customers who choose to sit down at a table, but the British group did not even do that – they bought the ice creams to take away.

They were on a six day holiday to Italy and could not believe they had been charged so much. "It's incredible. It can't be normal, can it?" Mr Bannister said.

The managers of the bar in Via della Vite confirmed that the British tourists had been charged 64 euros but insisted the ice creams were worth the money because they were large.

"We're not talking about one or two scoops, they are really big," a manager, who declined to give her name, said.

"No one forced them to order big ice creams. We also serve small ones which only cost 2.50 euros. But if you want a lot of ice cream then it is worth the price. And the prices are displayed everywhere." The British visitors could have been stung for even more money – the largest gelato offered by the bar costs 25 euros, with whipped cream on top costing an extra 3.50 euros.

Officials in Rome said it was shameful that the tourists had been charged so much and that such practises harmed the image of Italy.

"It's a scandal and it should be treated as such," said Matteo Costantini, a city councillor. "It's not the first time that things like this have happened." In 2009 a restaurant near Piazza Navona, one of the city's most popular with tourists, massively overcharged a Japanese couple for dinner, handing them a bill for 695 euros.

The mayor of Rome called for the closure of the top-end Passetto restaurant, which counts among its former customers Grace Kelly, Ava Gardner and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Tourist touts dressed as Roman centurions and legionaries frequently charge tourists exorbitant prices for the privilege of a photograph in front of the Colosseum and are subjected to regular but largely ineffective crackdowns by the authorities.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Travia: LAX, World's Busiest Airports

Although it ranks as the world's 5th busiest a/p, more people begin trips at LAX than at any other airport.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Norwegian Job Opening for Polar Bear Spotter

Looking for a summer job?  Maybe in Europe?  Ideally an adventurous job?  Perhaps involving polar bears?  Well, look no further.  Details follow . . .

A good set of lungs is exactly what the government of Norway’s Svalbard Islands is looking for this summer.  Researchers on these remote Norwegian islands are on the hunt for a talented polar bear spotter who can stand guard while scientists are doing projects in the region.

Successful candidates for the gig need to have good intruder-spotting skills, experiences working in the great outdoors, and an excellent ability to handle firearms.  But don’t worry: The governor’s office says the polar bear spotter won’t need to use the gun “as long as they have a loud voice” that can scare off any bears.

The job starts on July 8 and will last three weeks.

The downside: That might not be enough time to adjust to the Arctic wilderness.  The Svalbard Islands are halfway between Norway and the North Pole.  Relatively little precipitation falls on the islands, but it does get foggy.  The weather can shift very quickly.  In the summer, the average temperature is around 43 degrees.

New York Daily News

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

This Day in History: May 1 is Lei Day

May 1 is Lei Day.  It became official on the Hawaiian Islands in 1929, when May 1 was designated as a day to celebrate the history and tradition of the floral garland that has become synonymous with the Hawaiian retreat.
Photo by Cynthia Dial

Airline Nightmare: Boarding Process. Solutions.

Question: "The boarding process has become a nightmare. What could airlines--and passengers--do to make it better?"
Answer:  From the book "Cockpit Confidential," written by airline pilot Patrick Smth.
Photo by Cynthia Dial

If you want to make things slightly easier on your fellow travelers, here's a simple recommendation: when boarding, please do not place your carry-on bags in the first empty bin that you come to.  Use a bin as close to your seat as possible.  It drives me crazy when I see a guy shoving his 26-inch Tumi into a bin above row 5, then continuing on to his assigned seat in row 52.  I know it's tempting, but this causes the forward bins to fill up quickly.  Those seated in the front must now travel backward to stow their belongings, then return upstream, against the flow of traffic, slowing everybody down.  Then, after landing, these same people have to fight their way rearward again while everybody else is trying to exit.  Am I wrong to suggest that assigned bins might be a good idea?

Another recommedation:  families with kids in strollers should be boarded first, and upon arrival they should be asked to stay in their seats until everybody else has exited.   

Cockpit Confidential
Patrick Smith