Snippets from the Road

Snippets from the RoadThings You Should Know

ALILA — EVER HEARD OF IT?

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No?  Neither had I until I got wind of a new property recently opened in Encinitas (north San Diego area).  In the course of looking for a fun getaway befitting a special anniversary, I explored Alila Marea Beach Resort.  This is a separate brand under the Hyatt umbrella where one might expect premium pricing from Park Hyatt or even Hyatt Regency.  I definitely was not expecting a room cost approaching $1,000 per night (includes breakfast!) on a AAA rate.  I will continue to look.

When considering where else where else to go, I decided to look into an old favorite from early in our marriage — Ventana in Big Sur.  Turns out that property is also now an Alila, and only the third one in the US.  All of the other locations are scattered around Asia and the Middle East.  Ventana was always a splurge, but nothing like it is now.   At least the rate is basically “all inclusive” — per the website:

Each Ventana booking now features the following inclusive offerings: Dining in-room (all meals), poolside on your dedicated chaise lounge (lunch), or at The Sur House (breakfast and dinner). Convenient, healthy, and inspiring snacks to take on the day’s adventures, along with complimentary keepsake reusable water bottles. The Ventana Big Sur picnic program. Access to indoor and outdoor fitness studios. Volvo chauffeur service within a three-mile radius. The Excursion Outpost, featuring complimentary items for your use on picnics, hikes, and more.

The cost for the above (lowest rate and you best sit down) :: $1,650 per night, plus tax of course.  Onward I go.

Then there is Napa, site of the newest Alila.  Scratch that for the desired timeframe (end of August). But we can go earlier in August with rooms starting at just under $1000.  I’m feeling rich.

Thus I look forward to sharing all the stories and photos of the settled itinerary :: Cleveland (the hubby’s hometown) for baseball plus seeing friends and family; Detroit (baseball only) and some glorious days in Chicago for eating, shopping, exploring and celebrating.  Sounds pretty ideal to me.

International TravelSnippets from the RoadThings You Should Know

DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!

passports

If you’re like so many others right about now, you have either booked or plan to book international travel.  BUT, have you checked your passport’s expiration date lately?

I cannot stress enough that you do, because the renewal process “ain’t what it used to be.”  Remember all those passport expeditors (even the USPS) who could easily get it done in a day or two for you?

Chalk up that absent service to another Covid casualty.  I just booked a client on an Alaska cruise that embarks in Seattle.  That means the ship encounters “international waters” en route — thus necessitating a passport.  She hadn’t checked hers recently and it expired in February of this year.  And then the fun began.

Expedited services at best still require 15 business days and some hefty fees.   According to a Wall Street Journal column this week, the State Department indicates the process can take up to 18 weeks for renewals including mailing.   In cases of a life-or-death emergency, there are some “very limited in-person appointments” that require either a death certificate or a letter from a hospital.  No one wants to face that in a time of need.

So, what is the takeaway here?  Like with all else in life, make sure your paperwork and required documents are in order and up to date.  People have waited so long for travel to resume that you don’t want to be denied because of an expired passport.

 

 

International TravelSnippets from the Road

BERMUDA BLISS

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Here’s a key piece of advice:  Factor in downtime for your travel, especially if your itinerary includes going non-stop in order to “see it all.”

One of the things the hubby and I truly appreciate is having a few days to do nothing.  That means no plans, alarms, or advance decisions on how to spend the day. Not only is that a true luxury but something one really needs.  Plus there’s the added bonus of returning home just slightly less tired.  It can be a time to reflect on the trip highpoints/lowpoints.  Since time is obviously so precious, it makes sense to evaluate what works best for you in order to mitigate mistakes or unforced errors.

Bermuda has always been on the to-do list, but it’s minimum two flights from the west coast.  With our post-Africa route through Heathrow, getting to Bermuda was just one more flight.

There are some 70,000 residents collectively in the 150+ islands, but most principally reside on the five largest.  I was surprised at the number of native Bermudians we met with families that had been there for generations.  Most other people — especially those working in hospitality — were an international mix.  Not surprisingly, tourism is the main source of revenue along with insurance and Bermuda onions (not kidding).

Below — the Rosewood Bermuda.

Bermuda is colonial in feel and sometimes in attire where men don pastel Bermuda shorts with loafers and button-down shirts.  Golf is huge; at least eight courses on the main island.  Many hotel guests send their clubs in advance via Ship Sticks.  I used them to send resort clothes ahead as African flights were limited for luggage, but the recommended timeframe to send the bag seemed ridiculously early (shipped from LA on April 16 for our May 4 arrival).

It wasn’t early at all.  The bag in fact made it to the island around April 26 but only delivered to our room on May 5.  With major custom delays (Covid strikes again), copious emails resulted between the shipper, the resort and me.  In the end, in our room there was a sight for sore eyes and a source of clean clothes.

So we took our own advice and did pretty much nothing.

At the main pool
At the beach pool
At the beach
Simple and perfect nightly dessert. Homemade.

The one big adventure consisted of a “car” from Rugged Rentals and driving to the other side of the island.  Seen below is a golf cart disguised as a Hummer with no power steering, brakes or shock absorbers.  Factor in driving on the “wrong” side in Bermuda, and my arms got a workout.

And, as with all good things, this trip came to an end … after 24 days, 3 countries, 15 flights, 6 covid tests and endless memories.  What a blessing to be on these adventures together.

Bye, Bermuda .. Until we meet again.

 

Snippets from the Road

PLEASE, NO MORE CHANGES!

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It’s a very good thing that I love trip planning because the time spent finalizing this itinerary has been rather inordinate.   And that’s a proverbial understatement.

Not long ago, I posted a blog (click HERE) about just how complicated it is to plan an international trip at this particular time due to Covid uncertainties.  Or maybe it’s just because of this destination.  Regardless, that itinerary became moot a week ago and a new one was suggested, agreed upon, and flights were changed.  Again.

We’re now at zero minus 2 days until departure.  Vaccinated to the hilt, results in hand, Covid tested (the first of many for this trip), we are packed and good to go.  We hope.  Maybe just a bit of praying involved.  Our new map is below.  It does look like a lot of moving about, but the flights are mostly short within Tanzania and Uganda. And it is fascinating to see the landscape between destinations.   As for Kenya, we have a brief layover  through Nairobi as they have new restrictions in place prohibiting seeing more of that country.   Trip highlights, starting from the lower right:

Tanzania:  Dar es Salaam (plane change only) to Arusha (near Mt. Kilimanjaro) to Serengeti East to Ngorongoro Crater.

Uganda:  Entebbe, Bwindi Forest, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kibale Forest (all in the western part).

Back to Entebbe to Nairobi to exit the continent.

 

Fingers crossed, the next post will be from on the ground in Tanzania.  Stay tuned ..

Snippets from the RoadThings You Should Know

TRAVEL RULES — THEY ARE A CHANGIN’

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First the encouraging news :: travel agents, cruise lines and tour companies are all reporting record bookings for 2021.  If you’re like so many of us who love to travel, you’re itching to get back out there!  But the how, when, where and all the rest have unique protocols in place.  Nearly as fast as we read something, there is a new rule.

 

RESOURCES

Following are some great sites help you plan.  One of the absolute best I’ve come across is Sherpa via American Airlines.  It is so simple and so full of great information regarding entry Visas and in particular COVID restrictions for any country in the world.  Amazing, up to date, and beyond helpful.

Next is the CDC website.  These links are very comprehensive (if a bit complicated).  I just want the bullet points!  Regardless, check out the following:

Domestic Travel   https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-during-covid19.html

International Travel  (this is a biggie with re-entry requirements just published for all US citizens) https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/testing-international-air-travelers.html

PLANS (which could be cha-cha-changin’)

I’ve written about our upcoming trip in April to Kenya and Tanzania.  American Airlines main partner is British Airways.  The vast majority of flights heading east have a stop at Heathrow along with exorbitant taxes.  If I can get somewhere and avoid Heathrow, I’m thrilled.  That is the case for this trip.  Our mileage tickets via American partner Qatar Airlines fly to Doha, then on to Nairobi.   Except Qatar now requires a 5-day quarantine. That does not work for our trip schedule.

But, and it’s a big but — some countries allow transit passengers meaning you can transit through the country but not leave the airport.  Sounds like a great plan largely depending on the length of said transfer.  Say it’s 12 hours.  What then?  Well, many large international airports (Hamad in Doha included) have hotels inside the terminal.  They are pricey, but you can book for as little as a few hours to rest, shower, change and proceed on.  It’s not nearly as interesting as departing the airport to actually get a glimpse of the destination or go out for a meal.   But it’s certainly beats hanging around a terminal — even if you have lounge access.

The decision for this year’s route is in flux as we speak. That is, until I can confirm transit status through Qatar.  Heathrow allows for transit passengers so it might just be easier to add the extra cost and change the tickets.    Whatever the route is, it will be with full knowledge of requirements for the trip ahead before leaving.  But we are leaving and that’s the best news of all!

Snippets from the RoadU.S. Travel

JUST A COUPLE OF ROADIES, PT 4: 10 DAYS/10 STATES/FIN

Stunning Park City vista

After one week on the recent road trip (click HERE for earlier posts), it was time to begin the long journey back.  From South Dakota, we ventured for a brief time to western Nebraska.  Small town food once again was a delight, as in tapas-style dishes for lunch in Scottsbluff.  The Tangled Tumbleweed is doing some delicious small plates and we were very happy to have found them!  On the to-do list is a longer trip to Nebraska, in particular Omaha.

Nebraska-style Tapas

We had an overnight in Denver on the first day dine-in was allowed in restaurants.  Few places were actually prepared.  The hubby called about six restaurants to find a dinner spot until we landed on one that was open for business, called Gaetano’s.

They were very polite (but firm) in the requirements:  Masks at all times except when seated; temperature taken upon entering; guest book sign-in for contact tracing.  Nevertheless, kudos to these places as it’s harder on the staff than the patrons.  They are running around in masks and gloves, constantly cleaning surfaces while trying to provide service with a hidden smile.  It’s not easy to converse either.  We were happy to support the establishment nonetheless.

From there it was a hike to the next stop, Salt Lake City.  We stopped for lunch in Laramie, WY, after which a warning light about tire pressure caused another stop.  We were directed to downtown Rawlins to a tire store.  Unable to find it, we pulled into a hardware store parking lot to ask directions.  The driver rolled down his window, and we asked if he knew the place.  He began to direct us, paused, and said: “Are you ready to go now?”  “Yes, we are.”  He said, “Follow behind me; I’ll drive to where it is.”

I’ll refer you back to an earlier post entitled “Never Underestimate the Kindness of Strangers.” At any other time, I wouldn’t think to mention this gentleman happened to be black and we’re a couple of white strangers.  But this occurred during the Minneapolis riots.   After following him to the right place, we thanked him for his graciousness as he went on his way.  We have been the beneficiaries of this type of random goodwill and kindness and would do the same in our home city without a moment’s hesitation.  Perhaps the timing of this particular incident is what made me tear up wishing this happens without exception.

On a lark we stopped at the renowned Park City area for dinner (The Eating Establishment) before heading on to Salt Lake City for the night.  Oh, how I miss my skiing days.  Then I remember the creaky, artificial and repaired joints and I snap out of it.  It was a gorgeous and unseasonably warm night and Main Street was lively with people.  Just beautiful.

Yummy burger & fries
Main Street, Park City
Stunning Park City vista

From there, it was an insanely long and boring drive to the last night of our trip, Reno, NV.  There were two unexpected high points:  a “pit stop” at the world famous Bonneville Salt Flats (below) and the discovery of another wonderful cafe called McAdoo’s in Elko, NV.  Absolutely delicious and very fresh food at this very small establishment in what I like to call “the middle of nowhere.”

McAdoo’s
There’s another one??

The hubby had not been back to Reno since living there in the early 80’s.  His two older brothers had a business called Parts World (six locations), and he handled the finances.  See below for what the “world HQ” now looks like.  To say Reno has changed in the 37 years since he was last there is the proverbial understatement.   All hell began to break loose in the evening as we dined with his great Reno friend and political menptor, Patty Cafferata.   Our phones all sounded the curfew alerts so we made a mad dash for our hotel.  We had a view of the protests from our room, but thankfully things calmed down.

I did not know that.
Patty & Bruce

The long drive home took us to Mammoth for a quick lunch, then that familiar drive along HWY 395 and then 14.  A helluva journey.  Ten states in 10 days clocking 4,500 miles with so very many lasting memories.