International TravelThings I LoveThings You Should Know



Suffice it to say, a week in London offers virtually endless possibilities. That is the amount of time allocated for the trip where attending Wimbledon was the centerpoint (see last post). But that was just one day’s activity!

I’ll start with how we flew to London. I’ve often talked about booking mileage seats for international flights. The number of miles to fly into Heathrow is officially crazy, not to mention the taxes. Arguably the worst route is LAX-Heathrow. But if you begin heading east from LA, the number of miles is less. Often by a lot. That means, find other cities with non-stop flights to LHR:  Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver, and (bingo!) Houston. Why get excited about Houston (in the summer especially)? A chance to visit with longtime dear friends as a bonus for this trip. Even with the addition of round-trip air from LAX to Houston on United, the spend was less than originating in LA. Below, with various members of the Zeidman family in Houston (who tried their best to get us to divulge the nature of the trip – to no avail!)

After a fun overnight catching up, we had a uneventful flight into London. “Uneventful” is a word that cannot be assumed these days. Both our LA and Houston drivers shared with us the turmoil their schedules have been subject to recently. It is very difficult to plan with so much air travel disruption.

It’s always a big and time-consuming endeavor deciding on a hotel (for me, anyway). Consideration includes location, cost, amenities, hotel size, etc. Staying a full week in one hotel is highly unusual for our travels. We tend to move every 3 days or so. Accordingly, even more thought went into this one.

I chose the Baglioni London for a few reasons. It was one of the most “affordable” among the Amex Platinum offerings; it has just 60 rooms (definitely prefer smaller hotels); and I like the location for walking (near Kensington Palace). It’s also a member of Leading Hotels of the World, through which I often book. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the hotel along with their top-notch team. In particular, the concierges were extremely helpful and very knowledgeable.

Like the recent trip to Singapore, I booked an international outpost of a beloved LA restaurant – Pizzeria Mozza. We managed to keep awake long enough our first evening to thoroughly enjoy the meal while adjusting to the time change. The delicious food below:

The following day took us back to Heathrow but for an excellent reason!  Getting our rental car (for the day) and driving on from there to Wales. Why Wales? Why not? We’ve been to all the other UK countries. But it wasn’t just to have a “look about”in the area. The route provided us an opportunity for another first: visiting Stonehenge.

Back to the Wales visit, the country has an entirely different language.  I mean, it is barely understandable. And it’s full of consonants with few vowels. Try deciphering the one below while driving!

After lunch in Cardiff, Wales – chatting with a local

I mapped our return route to see the historic site Stonehenge. It is quite amazing — a monument made of stone assembled thousands of years ago that attracts more than a million visitors annually. It is well worth the trip.

And then a trip highpoint (for me at least):  Highclere Castle — the filming site for Downton Abbey. Getting there is fairly easy via train from Paddington Station, then a short cab ride.  I pre-booked our tickets and we arrived with time to walk around the immense grounds and visit the gift shop (no purchases!).  The first glimpse below.  Don’t you half expect to see Carson walking up the path??

Photography is prohibited inside (wink, wink), but a very nice person took the photo below at the entry.  (The entry doors seemed larger on the show!) Once inside, the path is pre-ordained to include the main “great” room, reception rooms, upstairs bedrooms and the well-known and familiar grand staircase. The downstairs kitchen was filmed off premises.

Several iconic areas below that are easily recognizable from the show:

A few people asked me if tourists are allowed inside. Many grand estates in the UK are only able to exist with the funds raised by people who are curious enough to pay for a visit. Highclere has been in the same family for 8 generations and encompasses 5,000 acres. That requires a lot of “pounds” to maintain!

The rest of our London (and beyond) adventure in the next post.

U.S. Travel



It’s such a simple pleasure and it was so taken for granted until March, 2020.  So when the very first “dine-in” meal was enjoyed on the first day of this 2020 Road Trip, all the joys of going somewhere to sit and enjoy food and company were appreciated that much more.  The thought of dining at a restaurant wasn’t even considered when we made the quick decision to visit national parks — but no question a welcome bonus.  As for accommodations, it was Marriott brands except for Jackson Hole.  Easy bookings, inexpensive, pristine.  But those hot breakfasts included?  No more.  Coffee and cereal, etc., were available.  By the way, when you ask for a refill at a restaurant, it’s a fresh glass — no more passed pitchers of water or ice tea.  New realities.

First stop was Henderson, NV, to visit LA transplants (about a year ago) and see their new home.  Lovely neighborhood, gorgeous home, and under four hours door to door which is great time considering it was the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend.  The group was positively giddy sitting together (outside) at their nearby club with an expansive view of Las Vegas below.  Overall, a great start to the trip.

Lunch with the Sherman family, and that view ..

From there it was a lengthy haul to Salt Lake City for the first overnight.  I’m always surprised when a random search yields a terrific restaurant find, as was the case with Osteria Amore near the campus of the University of Utah “Utes.”  How a family from Palermo, Sicily, ends up in this region cooking delicious and authentic food is fascinating.  Between the language barrier and face masks, we never got the whole story but were happy finding the place.


RIP to the beloved coach of the Jazz, Jerry Sloan.

After a brief drive through downtown SLC, it was off to the next stop, Jackson Hole, WY, for night two.  We drove north to Idaho and then headed east/north up along the gorgeous Snake River.  I hadn’t driven in snow for some time so that was “fun.”  Credit the hubby for providing great entertainment along with the aid of modern technology:  His FiiO music device has 19,000 songs and was hooked up to my car’s Bluetooth.  Amazing.

Jackson Hole is a beautiful town year-round.  Dinner at Local Restaurant & Bar was simply delicious!  A walk around the town square and chatting up other travelers (from the proper distance) made for a splendid evening.

Beneath an arch of antlers with the ski slope in the background.


Cheers at Local Restaurant!

Day three was simply a marvel.  We enjoyed driving through both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, which are basically next to each other.  Most park facilities remain closed for now — no camping, dining, etc., but that didn’t affect us.  We came to see the gorgeous scenery, Old Faithful, and some of the wildlife which had just begun emerging after the long winter months.  Check, check, and check.  More to follow from our next stop in Sheridan, WY.

Catching a glimpse of a moose


Lots of bison grazing near the Yellowstone east entrance


A brown bear foraging near Old Faithful

To-Do ListU.S. Travel



When news that our great National Parks are reopening May 18 — at least the outdoor parts if not all the Visitor Centers — it took about a nanosecond for us to decide to go.  We’ve had this road trip on our radar for a while.  Given that the baseball trip in late July is not likely (Dallas, Cleveland, Detroit & Chicago), then why not get the hell out of dodge?!

As for any COVID-19 concerns, the states where we are traveling have had among the fewest reported cases.  In fact, the combined total for Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, the Dakotas and Montana is less than what we’ve had in Los Angeles.  So, off we go ..

Below is our proposed map.  We’re really doing this “on the fly,” meaning arrival dates uncertain save for the first night in Salt Lake City.  That’s roughly 10 hours of driving, a compromise for the hubby wanting to “push it,” and me less so.  But it is certainly do-able.  Next we go to Yellowstone, then Sheridan, WY, to see a lifelong friend (with her Trader Joe’s wish list in the trunk), then on to Mt. Rushmore.  Bismarck is added because the hubby said practically no one goes to North Dakota and since we’ll be so close, why not?  The route home is to be determined pending seeing another friend in Montana.  That’s the basic outline, subject to adding more.

This trip contains many firsts — at least four states, parks and monuments, plus whatever unexpected experiences happen along the way.  Seeing the USA is always a gift.  We’ll be back with lots of stories and photos soon.