International TravelThings You Should Know



Stop number four was quite a big change from the prior destination (Bali – read HERE).  Not only was there a considerable distance, but a time change of four hours and cool, rainy weather.

For this return visit to New Zealand, the focus was the south island – specifically Queenstown.  This was a deliberate choice as a quick visit to the area in 2010 was the catalyst to return for a longer stay.  The main goal above all was seeing iconic Milford Sound (the whole story in the next post).  Below, Lake Wakatipu waterfront near the town center.

Upon arrival, we got our rental car.  It’s right-hand driving in NZ, which I have done before.  It requires a lot more attention! The biggest adjustment by far is the turn indicator, which I would go to use and the windshield wipers would come on (opposite side again).  And for someone who takes great pride in her parallel parking skills, the photo below was an epic fail!  For the record, I did re-park.

One is immediately reminded of the stunning beauty in the area upon arrival.  The fact that it is late fall with lots of leaves turning is a big part of it.  The air is clean and crisp, and every direction is prettier than the next.  Our accommodations at the Sofitel in town proved the right choice as we could walk for meals and shopping.

Where did we go from our base in Queenstown? First was Glenorchy, a truly small town along the banks of the Dart River made famous by Lord of the Rings.  As we continued to drive, the scenery with low clouds, leaves changing, and animals made for a visually stunning day.

The next day we headed in the opposite direction to their wine country.  A wine shop proprietor in the quaint village of Arrowtown recommended four places.  Luck of the draw, we picked Mt. Rosa and loved it. The winery is a small producer of 5,000 cases. We sat and chatted with the general manager for quite some time as well as other staff.  With reasonable shipping costs, a number of bottles are en route as we speak.

Above, outside the winery.  Below, is there a better combination (with wine)?  I think not.

Above, Arrowtown’s main “drag”; below, our car after the prior day’s muddy drive!

Below, the magnificent property of Millbrook  offering “Luxury Golf & Lifestyle Resort.” If this isn’t the down-under version of Napa Valley’s Silverado, there simply isn’t one! Golf course, private properties, rental properties, restaurants, etc., in the wine area.  And the scenery is spectacular.

I suppose one could go to Queenstown and not eat something from Ferg’s, but I’m not sure one would want to.  There’s Fergburger with lines out the door pretty much all day; Ferg Baker, Mrs. Ferg Gelato and then Ferg’s Bar.  Each one of the Ferg shops were busy as well depending upon the time of the day.  Everything is baked/made on the premises, with ovens (hamburger buns and baked goods) going nearly around the clock.  The verdict: LOVED the gelato (pretty much daily); I liked the burger better than the hubby did. Bottom line, well worth a stop.  I never did find out who exactly Ferg is or was.  Someone took over the business roughly 10 years ago with social media savvy and boom! Crazy busy.

Below, Ferg owns the block:  (right to left) Bar, Burgers, Bakery, Gelato.

Stay tuned for the dramatic story regarding Millford Sound.  Until then, I’ll close with this: There’s a reason every person I’ve spoken to who has been to New Zealand agrees: it is a gorgeous and exceptional place to visit again and again.

International TravelThings You Should KnowWining/Dining



Did you know that Singapore has four seasons?  They are hot, hotter, extremely hot, and monsoon rain (resulting in just mildly hot weather).  Frankly, I don’t know how people manage.

After the brief stay in Tokyo (in case you missed it, click HERE), we made a return visit to this center of remarkable capitalism.  Since declaring independence from Malaysia in 1965, Singapore has enjoyed incredible development.  It is:

A highly developed country, it has the second-highest GDP per capita (PPP) in the world. Identified as a tax haven, Singapore is the only country in Asia with a AAA sovereign credit rating from all major rating agencies. It is a major aviationfinancial, and maritime shipping hub, and has consistently been ranked as one of the most expensive cities to live in for expatriates and foreign workers. Singapore ranks highly in key social indicators: educationhealthcarequality of lifepersonal safetyinfrastructure, and housing, with a home-ownership rate of 88 percent. Singaporeans enjoy one of the longest life expectanciesfastest Internet connection speedslowest infant mortality rates, and lowest levels of corruption in the world. (Source: Wikipedia)

Now, if they could just do something about the weather.

I managed to score a highly-coveted booking at Burnt Ends in the Dempsey Hill area for our first night.  We sat at the bar and enjoyed a selection of small plates, one better than the next.  The real show was the bar itself, with truly artisan cocktails being mixed non-stop.  And the bartenders or “mixologists” are quite the showmen.  We were enthralled.

First, the food seen below (“slider”; wings; salad & taco bites; dessert)

Next; borrowed this one to show the bar area where we sat (photo courtesy Burnt Ends)

In answer to the question:  “How do you get to the bottles up top?”  

No trip to Singapore is complete without seeing the iconic Marina Bay Sands complex (casino, hotel, high-end shops galore and endless dining options).  While the 57th floor infinity pool is only available to hotel guests, there is an observation deck atop another tower.  I steeled myself with a libation at lunch (a White Cosmo with orchid petals in the ice cube) which took the edge off being up so high (and outside).  It is quite something to see the entirety of Singapore from that vantage point. Lunch (below) at Daniel Boulud’s bistro.

In the quest for some delicious Chinese food, we opted for Jian-Nan Chun at the Four Seasons Hotel. And what an auspicious decision that turned out to be.  While looking for the restaurant in the lobby, a gentleman offered to help us find the spot.  And then asked, “Have we met before?  Were you at the Four Seasons in the Maldives (Kudaa Hura)?”  Yes, in 2017.  He was the general manager there at the time.  How did he remember us?  Because he reads this blog!  How cool is that?  If ever I question why I continue to do this, it is stories like these that connect and inspire.  We’re still in touch with the executive chef from the Maldives who we visited in Kuala Lumpur in 2019 (who loved this reunion story when I shared it with him!).

A most delicious dinner below with gorgeous centerpiece:

After learning there are giant pandas at the Singapore Zoo complex, it was an easy decision to see them along with assorted other species.  But you had me at the pandas.  While the shy mom was in the den, we watched in awe of the father and the 2-year old Le Le consume copious amounts of bamboo.  That’s a lot of what they do besides exude cuteness overload!

Below, a more rare Red Panda

Patriarch of the family 

And the youngin’ Le Le

From our Orchard Road-adjacent hotel (the St. Regis), it was an short drive for our last dinner. That was at the Singapore outpost of Osteria Mozza. Nancy Silverton (who revolutionized bread via La Brea Bakery) has excellent personnel on hand making sure the food is identical to the flagship in Los Angeles.  Given that every ingredient must be imported, that is not easy. Among the comments shared with us from the Australian-born executive chef, we found out a young lady makes all the pasta from scratch.  It was delicious. By the way, that it is atypical for someone young to be so adept at this particular skill. Especially since there are none of the Italian “nonnas” teaching her how!

With a morning departure, we said our goodbyes and boarded Singapore Air for the 2+ hour flight to our next stop — Bali.


Snippets from the RoadThings You Should Know



I promised a follow-up and I do try to keep my word! My last post covered a WSJ column on the bane of most if not all travelers: resort fees. The post concluded with a promise to write about how the hotels view the subject.

Forthwith, a direct quote from the American Hotel and Lodging Association, where this subject is a “Policy Issue.” Here you go:

The hotel industry prides itself on offering an array of amenities and services to ensure guests have what they want and need from their travel experience. Transparency and guest satisfaction are at the core of the industry’s business model. Making sure guests have all the necessary information prior to booking their reservations is paramount.

The hotel industry provides guests full disclosure for resort and amenities fees charged up front. In fact, they were created in an effort to provide consumers with the best value by grouping amenity fees into one cost. If consumers were charged individual fees for all amenities, the cost would likely be prohibitive. This practice aligns with guidance introduced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2012.

Indeed, these fees are not common practice in the hotel industry. Declining over the past decade, approximately only six percent of hotels currently charge resort fees – and these are the properties that have far more available amenities than other lodging facilities.

So, does your expierence align with the above? If “only six percent of hotels currently charge resorts fees”  then I must be staying ONLY at those! Seems pretty universal to have that darn charge on my bill.  Thoughts?

Did anyone happen to see the recent Washington Post column illustrating different types of travelers? It was sent to me and I think much of it is spot on. A few favorites (but not necessarily favorite types) included here, with illustrations reprinted from the Washington Post:

You know these types — it’s all about posing for social media posts.  How about taking in some exquisite scenery by looking away from your phone? Or not risking your life for that one photo?!

As tempting as it might be to help yourself to goodies from the housekeeping cart, don’t. Staff is accountable for the content! It’s not a “free for all” .. 

The self-appointed expert on the hotel, local restaurants, sights to see, etc. He’s probably been there two days.  Heed his advice with caution. 

The one holding up the line in an attempt to get all things for free — upgrade, view, later than usual check-out, etc.  We’ve all encountered these folks! 

Finally, my personal favorite!  Those folks who worked damn hard and are now reaping the rewards.  God bless — enjoy every minute!

Snippets from the Road


hotel fees

It’s everyone’s favorite subject; right? I’ve written about it before. But it’s a topic that never seems to go away.

As recently covered in the Wall Street Journal, people dispute those charges either on their own or even via advocacy groups. My contention has always been just bundle all costs into the nightly rate. No one likes to be “nickel and dimed” to death, so just show me the total I will be charged in advance. That would enable people to make a fair comparison to other hotel rates up front.

My favorite takeaway from Dawn Gilbertson‘s aforementioned column is about John Morris, a triple amputee who cannot use the bulk of amenities included in typical resort fees. Why would any desk clerk not be astute enough to recognize that fact immediately upon his arrival? Logic suggests the charges be deleted. To his immense credit, he turned his misfortune into a good thing with his website, Wheelchair Travel.

Have you ever noticed how many places in Europe are very challenging to navigate — even for us ambulatory folks? Santorini in the photo below comes to mind (those steps nearly killed the hubby and me). It strikes me that wheelchair-bound individuals are particularly disadvantaged there. I’ve seen many a person in a chair lifted by fellow travelers in order to achieve the same experiences we have. So I highly recommend Mr. Morris’s site not only for astute travel tips but for incredible inspiration.

How do the hotels and other types of lodging view this subject?  Stay tuned for my next post.

Snippets from the RoadThings You Should Know



It only took me 10 years, but I am happy to report that my agency Travel with Teri B and I are now fully recognized by IATA.  What is that exactly?  Well, it the official trade association for air travel. It is also the professional designation for travel agencies and their agents.  So why now?

I liken it to getting a degree.  While many people have successful careers without one (present company is a good example), I simply analyzed that it was time to boost my travel knowledge by having access to more information. “Knowledge is power” as it is said.  And few things are more complex than navigating air travel these days.  So the more information at my disposal, the better to benefit clients!

This was no walk in the park — a ton of paperwork, forms, E&O insurance; fees (lots), etc.  But when that “Congratulations” notice arrived, it really was thrilling.

I look forward to sharing my travel stories, planning and booking travel itineraries for others, and drilling deeper into this great passion.  So, how may I be of assistance?

Reprinted from the Wall Street Journal Jan 24, 2023






Things You Should KnowU.S. Travel



After 14 years of near-consecutive Thanksgiving travel, I’m happy to report we finally have the key ingredient.  But more about that later …

This year’s trip took the hubby, son Sam and daughter Hannah to Vermont and Maine with flights in and out of Boston.  Add in New York and New Hampshire to the mix as these states have very peculiar boundaries (mostly crooked).  And, yes, we knew it would be cold in answer to many queries posed to four Southern Californians as to why there and at this time of year.

No, we didn’t see fall foliage, but we did experience some snow with mostly clear and quite cool weather the rest of the time. I’ll have to do one of those fall foliage trips when baseball no longer co-ops every October (i.e., a long time from now).  The good news is one stop on the next “big spring trip” is in New Zealand, where it is the fall season in May along with spectacular foliage there.  I look forward to that!

Hannah departed a few days ahead of us to spend extra time in Boston with a dear friend. We followed suit on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  For our Boston overnight, it is clear the “North End” is absolutely thriving.  Every restaurant on Hanover Street was packed, including Bricco where we dined.  To their credit, they seated us promptly for our 9pm reservation.  People were still piling in when we left around 10:30.  Now, if we could have been spared the $30(!) valet charge.  And that’s paid upfront.  Below, perfect eggplant parm followed by seared ahi.

With Hannah rejoining us, we left Boston on Sunday for our first stop in Manchester, Vermont. The spectacular Green Mountains are a year-around destination.  The area is host to many outdoor activities, along with charming inns and restaurants, outlet stores and excellent roads.

Our snow encounter happened just prior to arriving in Manchester. Fortunately, the Nissan Rogue rental car came properly equipped and made the driving relatively easy. Our accommodations at The Kimpton Taconic Inn in Manchester were already booked when I saw it is ranked #3 of the 30 Best New England Hotels by Conde Nast Traveler.

 Above, the sitting room at the Taconic Inn

Dinner at Ye Olde Tavern in Manchester is as classic a New England spot if ever there was one .. below baked brie with apples; pumpkin soup; duck flamed tableside.

We ventured up to Burlington – Vermont’s largest city – along Lake Champlain. That was clearly the coldest day, maybe low 30’s.  Note the parking rates at the garage!  In Los Angeles, it seems like $1 per minute ..  Below, bundled up after lunch at Henry’s Diner (est. 1925).  Ever wonder what food pix look like AFTER?  We had classic diner food of course.

The photo of Lake Champlain below was taken as the sun was setting — about 4:30 pm!

Dinner at The Dorset Inn, just 10 minutes from Manchester, was a big hit. Mind you, many of the buildings date back to the 1700’s which add a great deal to their charm.  The food was delicious (as seen below):  Fennel salad with crispy shallots; Faroe Island salmon (Perhaps we were the only diners who have actually have been to the Faroes — read here); delicious carrot cake.

Stay tuned for Part 2 — there is much more to cover with lots of photos.  And, of course, the “key ingredient” will be revealed!