Nightmare Flights

Have you ever experienced a flight or airline/airport crew gone wrong? And it went wrong not because of your own doing. Well, a while back on my NOLA post, I mentioned the nightmare of a flight we had on our way to New Orleans. I didn’t elaborate then…so this is my follow up post on what I’ve learned and what I would recommend in the future.

  • For starters, I recommend flying direct to your destination. (Flying back home on a connecting flight is not so bad…after all, I’d rather start a vacation quickly and end it slowly.) There’s nothing worse than starting your trip on the wrong foot. That flight we booked to New Orleans had a connecting flight in Salt Lake City, Utah. However, because the grounds crew or the airline crew didn’t want to shut the airplane door, we waited on the tarmac for more than an hour. Then, the door was finally shut, we pulled back a little, but as unusual as this was…we pulled back to the gate and stayed there for another 45 minutes! At this point, I was already getting anxious and upset simultaneously. I had a feeling we were going to miss our connecting flight and NOT make it to our dinner reservation that evening. Thankfully, our story had a semi sweet ending…We did miss our connecting flight, however, I was able to push back the dinner reservation and  we made it to GW Fins.
  • Check the reviews on flights and airlines. Do their planes typically have mechanical problems? Are they known for always being delayed? What’s their reputation as an airline as a whole? Certain airlines have received a great deal of bad press lately, however, some rightfully so.
  • Choose the lesser of the two evils. How much money do you want to save by booking a connecting flight? Are you using mileage and don’t have much options in choosing which airline to fly with? Is it really a big deal if you miss your dinner reservation? These are things to consider.
  • Lastly, file a complaint. I am one to say that I dislike complainers (especially petty complainers), however, when NONE of the events that transpired were due to your inexperience and/or ignorance on your part AND you paid a fare (pun intended) price, then you ought to speak up. Some airlines are generous in compensating their clients for their mistakes, others are not. You win some, you lose some. But, you can’t win any if you don’t speak a plenty.

How about you? What did you learn from your nightmare flights and what can you recommend to me?

 

Viva Las Vegas

Las Vegas, a place where you can travel the world, yet remain on a strip. This past September (which was perfect weather), I accompanied my parents, and their friends, for a four day getaway.

We did NOT rent a car, but we did take advantage of the shuttle services, monorails, lyft or uber (whichever wasn’t surging at the moment…,) and the occasional taxi cabs.

We stayed at the Rio, which wasn’t as I remembered it to be, but it did OK. Every morning, we took advantage of the overpriced coffee at the Starbucks downstairs because there was no free coffee in the room (also, they charge you $0.75 for iced tap water!) The Rio isn’t on the strip…but isn’t too far away either. At that time, Rio provided a free shuttle every 30 minutes that drops you off to the strip. However, we didn’t have the time or the patience to wait each time…so we would either grab a cab or a lyft.

What parts of the world can you reach from the strip? Well, lets start at the U.S. You can go to NYC, and see the Brooklyn Bridge, have a bite of their famous burgers in Shake Shack, ride their roller coaster, and then head over to Europe. You can get a piece of these European cities: Paris, Venice, and Rome. Then head to Africa by going to the Luxor and feeling like you’re in Egypt. By the time you’ve ventured through at least three of these countries, you’ll feel exhausted and would want to retire to the comfort and coolness of your hotel room.

If you desire to venture off the strip, there is the Hoover Dam, that is about 50 minutes away. Hoover Dam has been featured in many movies such as San Andreas, Transformers, and Fools Rush In with Salma Hayek and Matthew Perry. Definitely worth checking if you’re tired of the same scene.

Another advantage to Vegas is, it’s also not too far off from the West Rim portion of the Grand Canyon. The West Rim belongs to the Hualapai (WALL-uh-pie) tribe, and isn’t part of the national park. That being said, the West Rim is still a beautiful and unique experience. We were able to see Eagle Rock and get on the Skywalk. It was truly a Magnificent experience! (I can share more about the details of the West Rim on a separate blog post.)

Overall, Vegas is a great thrill! You don’t have to be into gambling or casinos to enjoy the place…because no matter what you like, you’ll find something for yourself in Vegas!

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A weekend in a Yurt

A few weeks ago, we enjoyed a short trip to Napa Valley and stayed in one of the large yurts in Bothe Napa Valley State Park.

Per Wikipedia: a yurt is a portable, round tent covered with skins or felt and used as a dwelling by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia. The structure comprises an angled assembly or latticework of pieces of wood or bamboo for walls, a door frame, ribs (poles, rafters), and a wheel (crown, compression ring) possibly steam-bent. 

I don’t believe our yurt was covered in skins or felt, but rather in canvas. The lattice work was indeed a part of it, however, I don’t recall seeing a wheel.

The Yurt was large enough to fit six people with one full size bed and four cots. At night, it would get really chilly and dark (no electricity!) in the yurt, and during the day it’ll feel hot like a sauna. The sun will hit directly on your face around 6am forcing you to wake from your slumber; it was nature’s nice way of providing you an alarm clock.

We came to love our lil home for the past two days we were there. The only down side to it is that there are no keys given for each yurt. You can lock your door from inside the room before you sleep, but we couldn’t lock it from the outside to protect our personal belongings. So, I suggest not bringing anything of high value and leaving only minimal things in your yurt while everyone goes hiking, swimming,  or wine tasting.

If I happen to be in the Napa area in the future, I would definitely like to stay in a yurt again.

 

Sweet Treats from NYC

Part II of my list of food places to try in New York are sweet treats. Whether it be doughnuts, cookies, or rice pudding…here are my faves:

  • Momofuku Milk Bar. Who thought someone can be so happy with cereal and soft serve? Its like comfort food on another level. And, don’t even get me started on their crack pie…
  • Doughnut Plant. I’ve always been a fan of tres leches and theirs is a must try! A few others to add to your box: Peanut butter and banana cream, vanilla bean, red velvet, crème brûlé, Peanut butter and blackberry jam…heck, just try everything!
  • Rice to Riches. If you grew up with a Filipino mom, you know what chocolate rice is. Rice to Riches is just that… but better! There are other things added to the rice other than chocolate. They have rum raisin, french toast, mascarpone, banana coconut, and the list goes on and on… Sample a few to taste what you like because it is filling and not so cheap. Then reward your belly with some yummy goodness!

I hope you get to try at least one of these three places, and let me know what you think. I have other places I want to try that I have not ticked off…such as, Levain Bakery, Cookie Dō, and others. Always gotta have a reason to come back to NYC.

New York Food List

Prior to the trip, I had this list of food places I wanted to try. I got through most of it…and wanted to share it with you:

  • Russ & Daughter’s – A great New York bagel experience. I had a Plain bagel with Lox and Scallion Cream Cheese. Yum!
  • Julianna’s Pizza – Granted, I was pretty full already from my burger at Shake Shack…I just had to try a slice of their Buffalo Mozzarella pizza. It was delicious!
  • Shake Shack – To be completely honest, I had reservations about this place. I mean, California has some pretty legit burger joints that I’ve already tried…But, disappoint it did not! I truly enjoyed every bite of my Smokeshack burger.
  • Sabbia, formerly Baita, in Eataly’s rooftop. A little overrated for the food, but the experience was wonderful. Beautiful rooftop and great drinks!
  • Katz Deli – one and done! Meaning, one visit for me is sufficient enough…the food was meh! And the lines are crazy! To top that off, you must keep your eyes peeled for a table to be vacated, and once you find one, hope no one else grabs it before you.
  • Smorgasburg – A great place to try a variety of different foods. Eat your heart out…literally!
  • Yuji Ramen- A new take on ramen. Its all seafood base. Unique yet surprisingly good. Also, a tiny hole in the wall place, so be prepared to be in close proximity with strangers.
  • Chelsea’s Market – A wonderful place to people watch, listen to live music, shop, and eat great tacos! Yup, I had tacos and quesadillas at Los Taco’s #1 and boy were they delicious! I had the carne asada taco and the adobada especial…I highly recommend trying them!
  • Pies & Thighs – A good option for some southern food. A nice plate of chicken and waffles to make you feel that nice southern comfort; and don’t forget that smoked pork collards.

After going through this food list, I want to do an 8 mile hike or longer. Happy Noshing!

4 Nights in NOLA

New Orleans, Louisiana…I have loved you from the start! From the many other places I wanted to visit in the States, New Orleans ranked high on the list. So as not to use up much vacation time, I opted to visit during Thanksgiving Weekend. Thankfully, I was able to find a moderately priced package deal that had airline tickets and hotel for two.

On this blog post, I wanted to share our itinerary and possibly give you some ideas for when you visit NOLA.

We flew in on Tuesday evening after a nightmare of a flight (saving that story for another time…) In time, to catch a dinner reservation at GW Fins. Definitely, had a great experience from start to finish. Food was delectable and service was stellar. Also, our hotel was nearby, so we just walked to and fro. Great way to also catch some action on Bourbon St.

The next day we took the Riverfront Line Streetcar (red one) to the Riverwalk Outlet. The reason for me to even pay this place a visit was to catch sight of the cruise ship and to sit and admire the Mississippi River. There is a Cafè Du Monde there, however, we opted to go to the stand alone 24 hour operation on 800 Decatur St. And yes, I will go there at 12 midnight to indulge in a warm beignet and a cafè au lait. Another noteworthy thing to do is to take the St. Charles Line Streetcar (green one) from Carondelet to the very end of the line. It’ll take you through mansions, the Loyola and Tulane Universities, and Audubon Gardens. On the way back, we hopped off near Magazine St and did some shopping.

On our third day, we did a Swamp Tour with Cajun Encounters that we booked through our concierge. A small bus picked us up at our hotel lobby and drove us to Slidell where we began our adventure. We saw alligators, wild boar, raccoons, snakes, owls, egrets, and more. Definitely a great way to experience the Louisiana bayou!

New Orleans is home to Louis Armstrong and Fats Domino so my visit wouldn’t be complete if I did not devote any time to listening to some good live jazz and soulful music on Frenchmen St. And, I can attest to it that Jazz music is so much better live! I might add too, if you’re anything like me, you’d spend more time on Frenchmen St than on Bourbon St. Just sayin…

I’ll be back NOLA…for your poboys, beignets, and live music! This isn’t the last of me.

 

 

 

 

Planning the Perfect Ladies’ Getaway

Over the past year or so, I have been on two successful all female trips. Both were for girlfriends of mine that were about to get married! Although, I can’t take all the credit for the success, I definitely took down notes to share with you all.

  • Gather the Ladies (Usually 3-4 months before the scheduled trip). Jot down who’s going and see what everyone can contribute towards the trip. And by contribution, this can mean monetary, housing (we took advantage of our friend’s timeshare), vehicle, food, etc.
  • Have everyone share their ideas. During this time, you will see who the natural leaders are, the contributors, and who the followers will be. Also, at this point, you can either relinquish your role as leader and become a contributor, or remain a leader. The main thing is to have a collaborative group of ladies that are equally excited and happy to be on this upcoming trip.
  • Establish a forum where everyone can offer ideas, suggestions, what services they want, pricing, photos, etc. We certainly put google+ to good use. We had google hangouts, shared documents, and also had a spreadsheet of expenses on google docs. For daily communication, we utilized group texts or Voxer.
  • Set up an itinerary. A daily itinerary is good, but if you can have an hourly itinerary that is even better. For example:  7am depart San Jose for L.A./ 12noon lunch / 2pm Check In at Hotel / 7pm Dinner Reservations at the Restaurant. Having an hourly itinerary will give everyone an idea of when to get ready and what to pack and/or wear. However, when you have an hourly itinerary, make room for adjustments and don’t be overly restrictive with time. Unnecessary stress is not needed.
  • On that note, its time to make reservations (Usually 3-4 weeks ahead, or even a few months before, if the place gets really busy) at spas, salons, restaurants, hotels, etc. Any place you plan to visit with your group of girlfriends. Also, this is where credit cards will be used, so be prepared to give that info out. (This is also where that spreadsheet comes in handy for the breakdown of expenses.)

Some ideas for things to do are:

Spa Day (I highly recommend Glen Ivy in SoCal)

Mani/Pedis

Tea Parties (I highly recommend Muir Tea in Sebastopol, CA)

Wineries

  • Closer to departure date, remind every one of their responsibilities, to bring cash, and whatever they think will make the trip an enjoyable one. Also, make arrangements of where to meet and depart accordingly.
  • Bring thank you cards, if you have hosts, and enjoy your trip! Sans drama…