Teri B.

Teri B.

Snippets from the RoadU.S. Travel

AMERICAN AIRLINES IS QUITE FINE

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I want to give a shout-out to American Airlines.  They have upped their game in terms of cross-country routes (LAX to Philly, NY, etc).  We flew to Philadelphia on a Friday in August (i.e., the height of summer tourism season) and the flight got to our destination early.  Our exit row seats were two on the side and very spacious.  The business class configuration is terrific but I would only do that if my upgrade request came through.  I don’t like to use miles for domestic flights, preferring to save them for the long international flights.  For the LAX return, we left Cincinnati for Chicago with a plane change at ORD.  Again, on-time departure and early arrival plus our gate was clear.

 

I read all the horror stories about cancelled flights and other nightmares. No doubt, that could be my tale at any time. Did you hear the one about the flight leaving Peru that had multiple delays over the course of THREE DAYS?   That was indeed the perfect storm of ineptness and things beyond one’s control.  But fortunately that is a very rare occurrence.

The takeaway is this:  When the news or experience is good, let it be known!

 

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Snippets from the RoadU.S. Travel

WE MUST NEVER FORGET …

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One might think that incorporating a visit to a somber site while on a fun road trip might be counter-intuitive, but I think it’s of utmost importance.

SHANKSVILLE, PA

On our recent baseball trip to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, we took a side trip somewhat out of our way in order to visit the Flight 93 Memorial site in Shanksville, PA.  To say that this site is literally “in the middle of nowhere” is not an exaggeration.  It is a beautiful place of rolling green hills in the Allegheny Mountains off the main interstate between Philly and Pittsburgh.

The weather was somber — dark clouds with some rain and plenty of lightning —  as we walked the vast space.  The memorial is under the auspices of the U.S. National Park Service.  The design of the site allows visitors to view the crash site from a flat ridge above the area.  One can also drive to the site and walk the length of the debris field, some quarter of a mile long.   There is one long wall displaying the names of each victim.  Their stories are also available elsewhere at the site.

Of the four hijacked flights, Flight 93 will forever be the most personal.  It is widely thought the flight was on a path to either the Capitol building or White House.  The hubby and I had entered the U.S. Capitol that morning just after 9am, and were hastily evacuated not long after Flight 77 hit the Pentagon.  So in my heart of hearts,  I will forever owe the heroes of that downed Flight 93 for saving countless lives while sacrificing their own.

 

“A common field one day. A field of honor forever.”

SQUIRREL HILL

The next day while in Pittsburgh, we went to Tree of Life Synagogue.  We attempted to meet with the Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, but regrettably the timing did not work out.  We were at least able to see the synagogue, which is closed, and that somehow provided a connection to the community.  Evidence of the “Stronger Together” message was seen all around the area.

 

 

My “Snippet from the Road” is this:  take some time out of your travels and pay tribute to the fallen.  Pearl Harbor, Oklahoma City Memorial, Valley Forge, 9/11 Memorial and sadly many more.  My sense of gratitude has only increased after these visits.

Things I LoveU.S. Travel

ROAD TRIP COMBINES AMERICA’S FAVORITE PASTIME

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Want to know an outstanding way to combine seeing the USA and enjoying America’s favorite pastime?  Get out on the road and visit ballparks! (Click HERE for last year’s trip) It’s relatively inexpensive, easy to plan and navigate and you’ll see and do things you wouldn’t normally do without investing a bit of time.

A three-stadium baseball trip was great fun notwithstanding the typical hot and humid weather.  The trip began in Philadelphia and continued on to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and a visit with a great friend from LA now living in Louisville, KY (post to follow).  One needs to allow two days in each city in case a game is rained out.  This being August in the east/midwest, there’s a high probability of that.  About two hours prior to game time in Cincinnati, we were driving to our hotel in a blinding deluge.  The rain stopped, the skies cleared for the most part and the game started on time.

Son Sam was also in Philly for a wedding

I grew up as a devoted LA sports fan, just not of baseball.  It was the original LA Rams, Lakers and, of course, UCLA basketball where my dad played.  Baseball is probably my favorite now which is why I enjoy visiting so many stadiums.  And it’s a shared family pastime, which is a big bonus.  I hardly have the encyclopedic memory of particular games and plays possessed by both the hubby and son, but I can hold my own.  Below is the list of the stadiums I’ve been to so far.  Some are older and/or have been renamed (i.e., US Cellular is now Guaranteed Rate Field).  Two big ones are missing:  Cleveland’s Progressive Field and Detroit’s Comerica Park (e.t.a. Summer 2020).  Cleveland was a near miss in 2012 due to a rain-out but at least I got to see the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame instead.

PHILLY:

Citizens Bank Park is located in what’s called the South Philadelphia Sports Complex.  We walked out of our hotel in downtown and took the Broad Street Line to the last stop.  From there it is a haven for sports lovers — Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, 76’ers and even the Lacrosse team — all in view.  Easy access, ride-share vehicles and taxis just waiting to be hailed if the train isn’t for you.  Vendors sell water, pretzels and peanuts on the way to the stadium.  All that is needed is more Phillies fans to fill the seats.  Oh, and the choice of concessions?  Don’t get me started on how our beloved  Dodger Stadium pales in comparison.

Citizens Bank Park

PITTSBURGH:

PNC Park is widely favored by baseball lovers as America’s best stadium.  It is walkable from the downtown area, has spectacular views from most every seat, is right at the junction where three rivers meet and provides an outstanding fan experience.  Can’t beat that.  It would be hard to find anything about which to critique the venue, therefore it deserves two photos!

View from our seats
PNC PARK

CINCINNATI

Great American Ball Park is also located in the heart of the city.  Again, few fans.  We walked up to the box office at game time and had seats behind home plate at a very reasonable price.  The stadium even has underground parking!  We left the game and walked across the street where there were lots of restaurants to choose from.

GREAT AMERICAN BALL PARK — the Great American Insurance Co. building is in the background.

The concession stands were a bit lacking — no mustard anywhere.  Fortunately a kind person brought me a side order ..

Other trip highlights will be posted in Snippets from the Road.  Here’s a few fun photos from the road trip including Philly foods.  Can we just talk about how outstanding ice cream is in this part of the country?  Died and gone to Bassetts heaven lower left; pies at the Rittenhouse Square Farmers Market (genius idea to sell half pies!); a Philly cheese steak of course.

Below:  Philly, standing in the shadow of two giants; with Columbus friends Todd Applebaum and Larry Levine for impromptu lunch at Giuseppe’s as we drove through the area; WE WANT A RING TOO …  but with blue sapphires!  This one belongs to a scout for the Cubs attending a game.

I would be remiss in not thanking son Sam for selecting my new phone (OnePlus), which was used to take all of the photos contained here ..

Snippets from the Road

TOP 10 TRAVEL RULES

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A wonderful friend recently sent me “10 Commandments for Travel” that she had come across, with the suggestion that I provide my own.  Well, here goes:

  1. Go with the flow!
  2. Bring copies (yes, paper) of your reservations.
  3. Keep copies of cancelled reservations including the cancellation number until after your trip — or until your credit card posts.
  4. Work with hotel concierges.  They are your best friends.
  5. Hire local guides and drivers through the hotel.  They work with and know the best and it’s not just a matter of cost.   You might also get a referral for a guide from someone you know and trust.
  6. If you’re of a certain age, make sure you are covered if you get sick or have an accident.  We recently enrolled in GeoBlue — covers all international travel for 12 months at a reasonable cost. It’s unlikely your health insurance covers foreign travel.
  7. Try for morning flights.  If it’s a “short” hop, you can still get to your destination and perhaps have an afternoon tour.  Try not to blow an entire day with a midday flight.
  8. Even if you can obtain a visa upon arrival, I recommend paying perhaps a bit more and arriving with it in hand.  Why waste travel time searching for the kiosk and perhaps waiting in line.
  9. Splurge on a greeter at the airport if you’re arriving somewhere foreign for the first time.  It’s so calming to have someone show you through the maze upon arrival.  You can cut your costs on the airport return.
  10. Talk to locals!  You can talk to your fellow countrymen when you get back home.  Smile and engage — you’ll get it back tenfold in return.

International TravelThings I LoveThings You Should Know

PUERTO VALLARTA FOR WEEKEND WEDDING

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There’s no question attending a destination wedding is a commitment.  For the hubby and me, even though attending meant leaving the country again a mere four days after returning from three weeks in Southeast Asia, the decision required little thought.  When very dear friends invite you to share a joyful occasion in their lives, you go.  Barring an Act of God, there isn’t much else to discuss.  Were the timing different, we would have stayed an additional day.  But declining the invitation was never part of the equation.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and venture that most of us have been to weddings where the invitation and/or attendance has been “obligatory.”  By that I mean there’s not a deep relationship with perhaps the wedding party, or it’s a business relationship.  This is a friendship that goes back more than 25 years.  We have witnessed the bride essentially grow up and mature — with a bit of typical parental angst as part of the journey.  So to share the ultimate happy moment was something really special.

The destination was the Grand Velas Resort — one of many in Puerto Vallarta offering all-inclusive packages.  There are spacious rooms, multiple pools, food and drinks galore and easy beach access.  We arrived on a Friday afternoon and departed Sunday afternoon, never walking more than 10 minutes anywhere.  That included the the pool, restaurant and wedding festivities.  It was perfect.

But here’s the thing about traveling to Mexico.  Beginning with entering the terminal, there can be a lot of confusion as to which personnel at the various counters are actually in charge.  “We’re from the government” was a familiar way to grab our attention (they weren’t).  The central contact for this wedding had provided us with directions for where to go for our pre-arranged transportation.  If one made the leap to ask where to find this, that led to “that’s us!  We can take you!” They weren’t of course. With some language barriers, it can become quite a frustrating situation when one just wants to get to the destination and not be pitched on a timeshare property.  Give credit to the Mexicans, they can be very creative in handling tourists.

A glimpse of the pool; the hubby with matron of honor Leslie; Shabbat blessing at the rehearsal dinner

Here’s my take on all-inclusive resorts:  I think they are ideal for families with children.  Trying to please fussy eaters on random schedules can take away from the parents actually enjoying themselves.  Were guests to actually pay for all that food and drink, their bill would no doubt be higher.  But — much like cruises — this type of property is not something I would opt for given the choice.  I will reiterate — it was perfect for this wedding.  And US News & World Report ranked the resort #1 for best all-inclusive resorts in Puerta Vallarta.  Click on this link to see the entire list.

About our Houston friends, this completes the wedding cycle for their four offspring, which events have allowed us to get to know their other friends and family.  Kudos to the them for planning yet another beautiful and heartfelt event.

Below:  Fred & Kay Zeidman walk beautiful bride Nancy down the aisle, having been preceded by the nephews; the bride’s brothers and groom’s mom under the Chuppah.

Below after the ceremony, us with the happy parents.  The morning after, it’s possible one of us could have used a bit more sleep … and Advil.

Wishing every joy to Mr. & Mrs. Cory Accardo!

As the sun set over the horizon, we were filled with gratitude for the friendships in our lives.  There is much to be thankful for …

International TravelThings I LoveThings You Should KnowWining/Dining

HONG KONG; PLUS WINNERS & LOSERS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

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If you want to know why I’m so big on brand loyalty, how we were graciously treated for all of a few hours in Hong Kong says it all.  “A few hours” in this case means landing around 2pm and departing at midnight.  It’s roughly 30-40 minutes via taxi from the airport to most of the city.  Our bags were checked through to Los Angeles, so there was no waiting for luggage.  We each had a carry-on.

Once we got to the airport’s very fast and efficient taxi line after clearing customs, it was not much after 3pm when we made it to the Central part of Hong Kong (the other main part is Kowloon, separated by the bay).  The driver waited briefly while the hubby acquired some local currency, just enough for to pay for our cabs and some tips.  Where were we?

At the Four Seasons Hong Kong, courtesy of a call from our friends at their sister hotel in Kuala Lumpur where we had just stayed.  We were familiar with the hotel from a previous visit to Hong Kong in 2017.  So instead of watching the clock at the airport, we had the most lovely afternoon — first in the hotel’s Executive Club, followed by a quick clean up and clothes change in the spa.  We then walked to the Landmark complex (a shopper’s dream come true and location of a newer Mandarin Oriental hotel) for our spectacular “last supper” at  L’Atelier Joel Robuchon.  By 9pm, we were back at the hotel to gather our belongings and were then transported swiftly to the airport for the flight home.  We have great appreciation for their lovely hospitality and plan on returning the next time we are in Asia.

A colossus of cuisine was lost in August last year when Chef Robuchon died at age 73, having been awarded 32 stars total in his lifetime — a record.  His imprimatur lives on in his signature style and exquisite cuisine.  I believe his teams are committed to carry on his traditions and high standards.  If there’s one of his restaurants where this big spring trip takes us, we’ll be there — this was our fourth visit (previously in Hong Kong, plus last year in Paris and before that London).  In the U.S., there are locations in New York’s Meatpacking District and in Las Vegas at the MGM.

Below:  One actually can live on bread and wine .. and spectacular butter.  Fourteen varieties of bread, all made daily on the premises, and all incredible.

Below, top row:  bird’s eye view into the kitchen, aka “L’atelier” (workshop); artistic burrata and tomatoes; bottom row: the best baby lamb chops; make that one can live on bread, wine AND chocolate.  The establishment is well deserving of their three Michelin stars.

Below: 26 seconds of Hong Kong on a remarkably bright, clear day — from the hotel’s 46th floor balcony:

 

Hong Kong was the end of our three weeks for Spring 2019.  Here are my “winners & losers” from this trip:

WINNERS:

Vietnam.  There’s a reason virtually everyone comes away having enjoyed their time in this country.  Great people, food, culture.

Vietnam Airlines:  Five flights, all on time, great service.  I would fly EVA again as well (Taiwan’s airline).  Cathay Airlines is always great — I am happy they are an American/One World partner.

Four Seasons Hotels:  I don’t get compensated for my recommendations (why is that?); I simply think they do a great job. Rosewood Hotels is right up there as well.  Whatever your brand is, be consistent and let management know when they do something right, not just when you have a complaint.

Advance planning:  It pays off in spades.  Visas.  Airport greeters.  Tours.  Pre-arranged and nothing missed.

Malaysia:  Very enjoyable and our 70th country, therefore a winner!

Asia travel in general:  The tendency for so many Americans is to head east (i.e., Europe).  I say go west! For U.S travelers living west of the Mississippi, traveling to numerous gateways is easy.   So much to do and see in so many countries.  And it can be done very economically.  And a whole lot easier to get award seats.

LOSER:

Humidity.  Enough said.

And that’s a wrap.