Saturday, June 29, 2013

Insider's Phoenix

Don't miss dining at Vincent Market Bistro and best server ever, Scott Schahn.

Insider's Phoenix

Good news. Phoenix's temperature is only expected to reach 117• today, not the projected record-breaking 119•. Truth: there is a difference between Texas' humidity heat and Arizona's dry heat. Honest.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Monday, June 17, 2013

One the Road - Chicago - ORD - Hot Digs

I'm one of those travelers who makes a sport of eating in airports - beignets in New Orleans, BBQ in DFW and today . . . a hot dog in Chicago. More specifically one at America's Dog, voted #1 in Chicago (so they say).

Travia - World's Largest Hotels - Las Vegas

Travia: 18 of the top 25 largest hotels in the world are located in Las Vegas.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Travia - Egypt - Syria

Between 1958 and 1961 Syria and Egypt were a single country called the United Arab Republic.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Travel Writing on Location in South of France

Travel Recommendation: Italy - Cooking School - Delicious Results

As one who always likes to share exceptional travel experiences, here’s my latest recommendation—Il Campo Cucina, a weeklong cooking vacation with former San Diegan, now-local Marlane Miriello in the medieval Tuscan village of Radicondoli.

Photo by Cynthia Dial 

Here’s the deal.  The weeklong instruction includes four hands-on cooking classes, each taught by a different instructor from the village or surrounding area.  Everyone stays together in a country inn with private or semiprivate rooms or in a farmhouse with apartments.  Each morning there is a shared buffet breakfast in the dining room followed by a cooking class, an excursion or a hike through the countryside and a leisurely lunch.  In the evenings, everyone dines together in a village trattoria or a farmhouse dining room.

An example of one of the edible creations: spinach stuffed eggs with garden greens, marigolds and daisies.  Can you say beautifully delicious?

Del Mar, CA, residents Debbie and Tom Tucker were at Il Campo Cucina in 2011 and are returning this summer.  Full of accolades, Debbie “loved being Italian for the week." Prior to Il Campo, Tom's culinary skills consisted of a killer breakfast sandwich.  Period.  Within days of returning home, he went to Little Italy and purchased a pasta machine and bags of special pasta flour.  Now when the Tuckers invite guests for dinner, Tom throws the guys aprons and teaches them how to make pasta from scratch as the ladies supervise with glasses of wine. 

Another Il Campo Cucina “graduate,” Elie Cole, Portland, OR, provided the perfect summation: “This is so much more than a cooking school!  It’s the key to unlock the door to a Tuscany you’d never find through any guidebook or website.”

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

List of Nation's 101 Best Food Trucks Announced

The Daily Meal’s latest annual report, 101 Best Food Trucks in America 2013, is out.  Here’s a peek of the results.
Red Hook Lobster Truck
Photo by Jane Bruce

  1. Red Hook Lobster Truck                     NYC
  2. Kogi BBQ                                            LA
  3. Fojol Brothers                                      Washington D. C.
  4. Big Gay Ice Cream Truck                     NYC
  5. The Lime Truck                                    Orange County
  6. East Side King                                      Austin
  7. Rickshaw Stop                                     San Antonio
  8. The Cinnamon Snail                              NYC
  9. Where Ya At Matt                               Seattle
  10. Chef Shack                                          Minneapolis
Some quick facts to point out – Los Angeles once again dominates the list, with 16 food trucks to its name. San Francisco and New York follow close behind with 11 and 10 trucks, respectively. Last year’s victor, Kogi BBQ  (Los Angeles), slipped to #2, while Red Hook Lobster Truck (NYC) grabbed this year’s #1 spot.

The Daily Meal shares insider info regarding the ranking . . .
To come up with a comprehensive pool of candidates we canvassed more than 40 cities, seeking out nearly 450 street vendors. To those we added staff favorites, and any trucks not already included that have been singled out for praise by organizations, and national and local publications, both in print and online.

First, a few notes. Only trucks were considered. If it was a trailer, or a cart, if it needed something to pull, drag, push, or carry it, if it wasn’t on at least four wheels and didn’t have the ability to move on its own power from parking ticket to parking spot, it was omitted.

Also, this is a list of food trucks. While a few dessert trucks ranked, they were the exceptions. If you just make cupcakes or serve coffee, you’re not a food truck — you’re a cupcake truck, or a coffee truck. That doesn’t mean you’re bad people. Nobody disputes the challenges of creating innovative desserts for mobile distribution, but with rare exception it didn’t seem fair to include trucks serving shaved ice, slushies, and ice cream with those doing full savory menus.

These factors eliminated quite a few contenders. Even so, it left at least a good 270 food trucks for consideration. These were judged on three criteria: critical review, social score, and originality.

We consulted popular review sites and tallied reviews and critical appraisal. We analyzed trucks’ number of Twitter followers and tallied visibility on Facebook. For originality, we examined menu innovation, concept, concept relative to inception (to wit, Asian tacos have become about as original as truffle oil fries, or a beet and goat cheese salad), and how that all might play into geography.

Although many trucks from our 2012 list are featured here, several of last year’s vendors have either closed or established brick-and-mortar locations. Eliminating them from the competition left significant room for newcomers. In fact, some of this year’s additions ranked highly enough to push out some of last year’s trucks that are still open.

Needless to say, despite everything we knew about the country’s best trucks, we discovered more — an impressive, growing legion of amazing people making some terrific food on trucks across America.

Travel Quote of the Day

"A single journey can change the course of a life."
Cynthia Dial with nuns.
Burma, 2011

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Insider's San Diego

Evening of fun watching the performance, Food for Thought, where actors read delicious short stories about food at Old Town Theatre. It started with - what else - a food and wine reception!
Actors Rachael VanWormer and Jason Heil
reading "The Berry Patch"

Friday, June 7, 2013

Airline Passenger Group Endorses “This Is Your Passenger Speaking” Campaign

Campaign to Put an End to Hidden Fees in Air Travel
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Association for Airline Passenger Rights, (AAPR) today announced its endorsement of the "This Is Your Passenger Speaking" ( campaign, which calls on the U.S. Department of Transportation to put an end to hidden fees in air travel. The campaign is being spearheaded by the Open Allies for Airfare Transparency.

Photo by Cynthia Dial

This Is Your Passenger Speaking is hosting an electronic petition on their website,, as well as other action steps people can take to support the campaign's efforts.

"The Association for Airline Passenger Rights is committed to improving price transparency within the airline industry, and ending the practice of hidden fees for checked baggage, seats, boarding options and other ancillary services," said Brandon M. Macsata, Executive Director of the Association for Airline Passenger Rights. "To that end, we have publically endorsed this campaign because it represents a unique opportunity for individual passengers, business groups, travel agents and all aviation stakeholders to unite behind greater transparency."

For details go here.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

First Time Surfer Learns off the Shore of Oahu's Waikiki Beach in Hawaii

The latest news about rough water at Oahu's Waikiki Beach, which resulted in the rescue of 126 tourists and locals by very busy lifeguards, reminded me of my experience in the very same location.  Though it was a couple of years ago, the selection of this area for my first-ever surfing experience was because it has the reputation as some of the world's warmest and calmest water.  Following is my recount of this day at Waikiki Beach which appeared in United Airline's in-flight magazine, Hemispheres.
Cynthia Dial and surfing instructor Barney

Making Waves

The extended birthday bash for Hawai’i’s acclaimed surfer Duke Kahanamoku makes August an ideal time to visit O’ahu’s Waikiki Beach.  Last year, one never-ever surfer truly took the celebration to heart.

   It’s my first morning in Hawai’i after arriving on the last flight of the previous night.  I’ve yet to taste my inaugural Mai Tai and I’m rushing at a ridiculously early hour from the palatial perch of our oceanfront suite to the beach below.  I’m sprinting to a surf lesson—my virgin attempt at Hawai’i’s classic sport. 
   “Good luck and remember to have fun,” my husband mumbles as his heavy eyelids slide shut again. 
   Thus, my Waikiki Beach adventure begins.
   The trip is celebratory—to mark my birthday.  It is by happenstance that our travel dates coincide with the August festivities in honor of the late surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku’s own birthday (his 116th on August 24).
   I’m a regular exerciser but not even a decent swimmer.  Back home, my closet is filled with stiletto heels, not flip-flops.  As a veteran vacationer, my travel experiences are numerous: shopping in Hong Kong, cruising the Galapagos Islands and hopscotching through Scotland, distillery to distillery. But these selections are of the safe sort, with no legitimate opportunity to experience failure.

   All of that changed when I turned 39 (again).  So, despite my predisposition to pampering, the birthday present to myself was adventure.   When I learned that the birthday of Hawai’i’s revered Father of Surfing was also being celebrated, the surf diva in me chose to make her debut.  And because morning is said to be the best time for surfing, an indecently early wake-up call was last night’s final request.

   “Hi, I’m Barney,” the buff, bronzed instructor introduces himself.  A homegrown beach boy, Barney is among Waikiki’s official water sport instructors whose offices are on the sand and whose job descriptions involve the sea.  They share Hawai’i’s ocean activities with tourists like me.  
   This is not a job you apply for, I’m told.  You just hang out on the beach, get recognized by working beach boys and are asked to join their ranks.  It’s an apprenticeship of sorts.
   Waikiki’s original beach boys began the tradition in the 1920s along the shorefront of the Royal Hawaiian and Moana hotels.  There they taught visiting adventurers how to surf atop boards and catch waves in outrigger canoes and, in the process, began sharing the Islands’ spirit of Aloha.    
   Duke Kahanamoku was among the first beach boys.  And he made his mark big time.  As a five-time Olympic swimming medalist, a 13-term Honolulu sheriff, and the noted “Ambassador of Aloha,” Duke became a legend—Hawai’i’s most famous citizen.  He cast such a warm, welcoming shadow over the Islands that today an oversize statue of him and his longboard greets visitors at the gateway of Waikiki Beach.   
   But back to Barney.  An instructor for the past four years, he teaches 1,000 surfing wannabes a year. 
   “What is your success rate?” I quiz.  
   When he responds, “Ninety percent,” I need no calculator to compute my 10 percent chance of failure.
   I’m called a “schooly” (surfing lesson first-timer), invoking distant memories of disquieting school-related firsts.  But this classroom is different . . . it’s on Waikiki, and the backdrop is Diamond Head. 
   Class is in session. 
   “I believe in making everything easy and efficient,” Barney says.
   Straddled atop the sand-anchored surfboard, I listen to his five basic and (he says) “easy” steps.
  1. Lie straight and toward the back of the board.
  2. Place your hands flat on the board parallel to its edge and close to your chest.
  3. From a kneeling position, bring your least dominate foot (in my case, the right) between your hands.
  4. Put your opposite foot at a right angle to the board’s nose and rise slowly to a standing position.
  5. Turn your least dominant foot parallel to its mate, face your body straight ahead and— this is the best part— relax.
   Once in the water, my challenges are numerous:  keeping salt water out of my eyes, keeping a watchful eye out for other surfers (especially difficult with salt water in my eyes), and getting the board to turn in the direction desired (and not toward the other surfers, whom I can’t see because of the salt water in my eyes). 
   Über athlete I am not.  So when Barney acknowledges an 83-year-old man and an 11-year-old girl surfing in my so-called turf, the word coming to mind is, well, intimidation.
   “Lie straight, hands on board, right foot forward, stand,” I mentally echo the mantra. 
“I will get up,” I vow.  I wipe the salt water from my eyes and silently repeat the vow with what I am certain is greater frequency than the “I-dos” promised in Las Vegas wedding chapels.
   At one point, Barney straddles my board across his own, giving me greater stability to revisit the five steps while on water.
   “I think I may be in your 10 percent category,” I admit reluctantly.   
   Then I remember the beach chair I’ve rented for later.  There it sits on the beach beneath an umbrella, beckoning to me, and suddenly the possibility of becoming a member of Barney’s minority stat list is far more acceptable than it was just moments ago.
   “Okay, let’s try again,” Barney directs as he simultaneously turns my blue board in the direction of the incoming surf. 
   As I paddle, the repetitive sound of the water slapping against the nose of my board while waves roll beneath me is unexpectedly relaxing.  The smell of salt in the air and the morning sun warming my skin immerses me powerfully into the world of Waikiki.
   I recall a long ago, fact-filled conversation with a primo surfer, until now filed in the attic of my mind.  In summation, I replay the reassuring facts he’d told me.  With its perfectly sized and predictably stable 2-foot winter waves and 3-foot summer swells, Waikiki Beach is earth’s best place to learn the sport.  The smaller surf makes it less strenuous to paddle out and easier to ride back in. 
   Coupled with the shallow sea and warmer water (eliminating the need for wetsuits), it’s unbeatable for a surfing dilettante.  In short, this is simply the surfing world’s ultimate bunny slope.
   I’m pumped, I’m jazzed, and I’m set.
   “Get ready,” Barney advises, spotting a swell before its transformation to a full-blown wave.  “Start paddling,” he instructs.   “Faster, faster!” he shouts.  “Right foot forward,” I hear him say in the distance.
   And I’m up! 
   The reaction is no less than a 10 on my rookie’s Richter scale.
   How long did I remain vertical, you might wonder?  It may have been only single-digit “surfing seconds,” but my internal stopwatch aside, it was an endless, never-to-be-forgotten performance.  And many more followed.
   Toward the end of that memorable day, when I saunter into Duke’s Canoe Club (his namesake eatery on the water), I can’t help but display a little bit of attitude.  My revelry springs in part from suddenly finding myself a member of an exclusive club—one I’d never expected to join. 
   Located on the beach level of the Outrigger Waikiki hotel, Duke’s Canoe Club & Barefoot Bar is the hangout, where beach boys, surfers, watermen, and landlubbers alike congregate. The locale is historic—on the very site of the original Outrigger Canoe Club, overseeing the waters where Duke caught the biggest ride of his life.  And it’s that common affinity for the ocean that bonds every patron in the place.  
   “Did you surf today?” a regular casually inquires of me.  The question is standard conversation found in this tavern. 
   “Actually, I did,” I hesitantly respond.  I boastfully add, “for the first time.” 
   His reaction: a high five.
   The spontaneous gesture makes it official.  Though words such as rip, crash and burn, wipeout, and curl would never be uttered to describe my surf session, I did join the surfing ranks.
   Sounding a bit like Oscar-awed Sally Field, my thoughts regard my newfound status.  “I’m a surfer, I’m really a surfer,” I silently exult as I survey the nearby Pacific and the water park terrain that I traversed only a few hours earlier.
   “Beer?  the bartender inquires.  “To celebrate Duke’s birthday?” 
   Nodding my head affirmatively, I order with specificity. “Make that a Longboard Lager.”  What else would a surfer drink? 

Cynthia Dial is a San Diego travel writer whose book is Get Your Travel Writing Published.  She describes herself as a better sport than athlete.

Reprinted from United Airlines' in-flight magazine, Hemispheres.

Waikiki Lifeguards Rescue 126 People from High Surf

HONOLULU, Oahu, Hawaii - Yesterday (June 5) was not a fun day for Oahu beachgoers, both tourists and locals. And a very busy one for Honolulu lifeguards.

Photo by Cynthia Dial

126 people had to be rescued from the high surf at popular Ala Moana and Waikiki beaches. According to an Ocean Safety Division spokeswoman, lifeguards also issued warnings to over 700 swimmers.

With National Weather Service forecasting waves between 8 and 12 feet, high surf advisory for Oahu's south shore beaches is currently in effect and is expected to last until Thursday.

A 10 Foot Shari was roaming shallow waters at Maili beach and lifeguards closed the beach for swimmers.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Hotwire's 10 Hottest Cities for Travel Deals

They’ve done the research.  They’ve analyzed the data.  So, here’s the annual list of the Top 10 cities offering the hottest travel deals.

  1. Orlando
  2. Atlanta
  3. Tampa
  4. Dallas-Fort Worth
  5. Phoenix
  6. Raleigh
  7. Charlotte
  8. Houston
  9. St. Louis
  10. Sacramento
  11. Orlando


Orlando hits the top spot again in 2013 by offering vacationers almost everything they could want. With its low prices (Low Price Rating: 89) and amazing entertainment options (Entertainment Rating: 85), it’s easy to see why this city is so popular with tourists. Orlando is the theme-park capital of the world, home to Disney World and more.  Take a look:
Enter the incredible Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. ($88 - $123)
Saturday nights in Old Town, featuring rock concerts and classic-car cruising. (Free)
Guided tours of the Daytona Speedway, home of the Daytona 500. ($15 - $20, children 5 and under free)
Take a day trip to Daytona Beach, known as the World's Most Famous Beach. (Free)
Georgia on your mind? Well it should be because it's consistently rated highly in the Travel Value Index. Atlanta is not only home to some of the best travel discounts (Discount Rating: 91), but also some of the country's largest cultural institutions. Enjoy these great bargains:
The World of Coca-Cola Tour. (Free - $16)
CNN Studio Tour, a behind-the-scenes look at the 24-hour news service. ($11 - $15)
Centennial Olympic Park, an open-air park where the 1996 Olympic Games were held. (Free)
From its vibrant waterfront and brilliant sunsets to the rollercoaster thrill rides of Busch Gardens, Tampa is a red-hot destination, especially for those seeking great travel deals (Low Price Rating: 85). With its unique blend of urban excitement and beautiful natural surroundings, Tampa's ranked as the 5th best outdoor city by Forbes. Popular attractions and theme parks include: Adventure Island, Lowry Park Zoo and the Florida Aquarium.
Lowry Park Zoo is recognized as the number one zoo in the U.S. by both Parents and Child magazines. (Free - $24.95)
Tee time anyone? Have your pick from dozens of pristine golf courses overlooking the beautiful blue waters.
Tampa is home to the best light tackle sport fishing in the world. (Free)
The Florida Aquarium. (Free - $21.95)
Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center. (Free)
Dallas-Fort Worth
Say howdy to Dallas-Fort Worth... as it again gets high marks on this year's Travel Value Index. Dallas-Fort Worth consistently makes this list because of its amazing discounts (Discount Rating: 100) on a wide variety of quality hotels and affordable entertainment (Entertainment Rating: 65). The city known for big barbecuing and shopping also has plenty more to offer, like these great destinations:
Hiking and biking trails connecting White Rock Lake and White Rock Creek Park. (Free)
Texas Wild exhibit at the Fort Worth Zoo. (Free - $12)
Visit Fair Park's Hall of State and African American museums. (Free)
Scoring high marks on our list again is the desert oasis of Phoenix. With low prices on world-class hotels and resorts (Low Price Rating: 73), Phoenix also offers outdoor adventures, golf courses, a wide selection of shopping, and nearly perfect year-round weather. Take a look:
Mosey around Old Town Scottsdale, "The West's Most Western Town". (Free)
Tour the beautiful Desert Botanical Garden. (Free - $18)
Tour Taliesin West, the winter residence of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. (Tours range from $17 - $32)
One of the reasons that Raleigh, the "City of Oaks", makes our list is because of its many world-class museums, and their free admission. It’s got great travel deals (Low Price Rating: 100) that make this laid back metropolis a hit with visitors. With its great shopping, dinning, parks and historical sites, the Raleigh experience has something for everybody.
The Museum Of Natural Science is not only a great place to learn, you can actually have the opportunity to watch scientists work, too. (Free)
Take in the beauty of master artists, such as Rodin, at the North Carolina Museum of Art. (Free)
The North Carolina State capitol building is a great place to learn about our government in action and is a great example Greek Revival Style architecture. (Free)
Southern charm and cosmopolitan character are just part of what helped put Charlotte on this list. This growing financial center is also a hit for travelers looking for bargains (Low Price Rating: 78). Close to both the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic Coast, the “Queen City” is rich in history and full of fun attractions like:
Race on down to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and learn about the history and heritage of NASCAR. ($12.95 - $19.95)
Strike it rich at the Reed Gold Mine where you can tour an underground mine tunnel. (Free)
Take a nature stroll through the beautiful Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens and visit their Orchid Conservatory. ($6 - $12)
The nation's fourth-largest city offers something for everyone. With its impressive array of skyscrapers, parks, museums and shops, downtown Houston exudes both cosmopolitan vivacity and old-school Southern charm. This town ranks high on our list for offering big discounts on travel (Discount Rating: 94) and sunny year-round weather. Enjoy these activities:
The Museum District, including the Museum of Fine Arts, the Children's Museum, the Museum of Natural Sciences, and Hermann Park - home of Houston's zoo. (Free - $14)
Take a stroll near downtown Houston, where the main drag of Montrose runs along Westheimer Boulevard; it's full of antique stores and coffee shops and ethnic restaurants. (Free)
Don't forget the Space Center Houston. Young space cadets will especially love Kids Space Place. (Buy online and save, $13.95 - $17.95)
Saint Louis
Located on the banks of the Mississippi, this town, known for its barbeque ribs and soulful music scene, is a great destination for travel values (Discount Rating: 86). St. Louis also scores high marks for having more major free attractions than anyplace other than our nation’s capitol. You won’t get the "blues" with all the fun the "Gateway City" has to offer. Check it out:
The St. Louis Zoo is considered one of the best zoological parks in the country. (Free)
No trip to St. Louis would be complete without a visit to the iconic Gateway Arch. For the full experience you need to ride 630 feet to the top and check out the one-of-a-kind views. ($5 - $10 for tram ride)
St. Louis Science Center will enlighten and entertain children and adults alike. (Free, $10 Parking)
Eureka, we’ve found a little nugget of a travel value in the heart of California’s gold country. Sacramento, the capitol of California, has great deals on travel (Discount Rating: 94) and plenty of culture, history and entertainment, at reasonable prices (Entertainment Rating: 70), to keep vacationers happy. Whether it’s checking out a museum or strolling through Old Town Sacramento visitors will think they hit the mother lode.
Modeled after the U.S. Capitol, the California State Capitol Building and Museum are a great place to visit to learn about the state’s government and history. (Free)
What better place to learn about California’s car culture than the California Automobile Museum? ($8- $14)
You can rent a bike or just take walk along the American River Bike Trail, to get out and enjoy some beautiful natural sites. (Free)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Queen Elizabeth's 60th Anniversary Celebration of Coronation in United Kingdom

Jun 02, 2013

LONDON, England - Today the cities around the UK celebrated the 60th anniversary of the British monarch's coronation. Queen Elizabeth II marked the occasion in private after spending a day at the races.

The Queen took the throne on February 6, 1952 upon the death of her father king George VI, but to allow for a period of national mourning, she was only crowned 16 months later in London's Westminster Abbey.
The Queen will be joined by the royal family and 2000 guests at the abbey on Tuesday for a service celebrating the anniversary.

The Queen's coronation was the first to be televised and more than 20 million people in Britain watched it live while another 11 million listened on the radio. The event sparked the popular growth of television in Britain.

On Sunday the BBC broadcast for the first time a digitally remastered version of its original black-and-white footage from 1953.

It was broadcast 60 years on to the very minute: from 10.15am to 17.20 pm local time.

Recounting the events of June 2, 1953, Lady Moyra Campbell, one of Queen Elizabeth's maids of honour at the coronation, told Sky News television it was an "unforgettable day".

"There was that amazing sincerity with which she made those incredibly solemn promises and I, for one, thank God that I have been blessed with a life long enough to see those promises fulfilled in a way that I would challenge anyone else to do," she said.

The Mail on Sunday newspaper said in its editorial: "We couldn't have known it at the time but 60 years ago today we crowned one of the greatest monarchs in our history."