Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rosh Hashanah - Happy New Year

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins Monday night at sundown. It is the start of a 10 day holy period that ends with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

I was going to write a detailed post on the holy day. But, as I was doing some research, I found a post that already does a pretty good job: Rosh Hashanah .

Tomorrow night we will sit down with friends and family for what I can only describe as a feast. And on the night of October 9th, we'll again join friends and family as we break, together, the Yom Kippur fast.

My Apologies To My Subscribers

Did you just get dumped with three posts...empty with only a title?? Sorry about that...way too fast on the Enter key.

Memorex Mini Travel Drive 2.0 Review

(Note: This post goes along with my The Holidays Are Coming post.)


"I had seen these travel drives for sale but never tried one. It seemed like a very good way to store and transfer my digital photos to share with my friend who lives out of state who has a computer, so I bought one to give it a try. I was amazed at how much a 512 mb holds! It was really easy to use too. Just plug into the usb port and copy what you want over to the drive. I jam packed it full of photos I've been meaning to share and enclosed it in a bubble wrap mailer and sent it to my friends address. Plus the great thing is she can burn them to cd and she has a nice travel drive as a gift that she can keep and use, or mail me her photos she wants to share. Either way, it's a good compact way to share and store not only photos, but music and files and more. "

Review Link

The Holidays Are Coming

Yes, I know it's only the end of September. And Halloween stuff, which has been on display since August, still hasn't been replaced with Christmas items. But the fact is a lot of us go through this year after year....all of a sudden the holidays are around the corner and panic sets in.

So I'm going to try and make it easier this year...at least for those people that have a frequent traveler in their life. I'm going to set out to find reviews on travel related items and will post the reviews here.

Please keep in mind that these are not like the other Reviews I've written on this site which are from personal experience. These reviews will have been written by other people. I will post the review in quotations and will include a link to the original post.

All will have the Gift Ideas label so that if you'd like to read all the posts, just click on the Gift Ideas label below.

To get started, I'm including a link here to a review that I did write....1000 Places To See Before You Die in the USA and Canada . Have fun shopping!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

More 'little ways' tips

If you are going to the United Kingdom, most British post offices will change foreign currency without any commission charge. This is great for exchanging into pounds sterling and, if you need, back to your local currency if it is available.

Stay healthy by carefully checking the caps on the bottled water that you buy. Particularly when you are buying from street vendors. It is not uncommon for empty water bottles to be refilled from the tap and then sold to unsuspecting tourists.

For those that get seasick and use Bonine, check the availability at your local pharmacy for the generic version. The main ingredient is meclizine. Ask at the pharmacy counter to make sure you are getting the right tablets with the right dosage. The generic version is significantly cheaper than the name-branded Bonine.

If the hotel you are staying at only offers valet parking, check the area around the hotel for alternatives. You might find a less expensive garage or lot right around the corner.

If you use public transportation when traveling, and find yourself constantly staring at itineraries on train station walls or bus kiosks, take a picture of it with your digital camera. That way you can take the itinerary with you and refer to it when needed by using the zoom feature on your camera.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Alaska Airlines And Prayer

The major U.S. airlines are looking for at all possible sources for revenue. One of the sources is advertising ON the plane. The plane I last flew had an ad on the tray table. Some of the airlines are looking at putting ads on the outside of the storage bins.


Alaska Airlines has been doing a type of 'advertising' for years. Did you know that Alaska Airlines includes a prayer card on every tray table?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Autumnal Equinox Means Grape Pie

Today, Monday, September 22, 2008, is the last day of summer in the northern hemisphere. Summer officially ends and autumn begins at 11:44 am EDT. Today, the sun is above the equator and there will be approximately 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night.

So far, in Western New York, we really haven’t had the type of days that signal the approach of Fall. Yes, the nights have been quite cool but no killing frost and daytime temps are still rising into the 70’s.

We live near the Finger Lakes wine growing region. There are many festivals this time of year, celebrating the grape harvests. We can buy Concord grapes at farmers’ markets and a Fall road trip in the Finger Lakes region will provide an opportunity for sampling grape pie.

We’ll make a drive once the leaves start to change. With the steep hillsides above the Finger Lakes, the colors can be stunning. We’ll take some pictures, sample some wine, and check out this season’s grape pies.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Brewfest

I never was much of a beer drinker. Still aren't. But after going to a brewpub with my son one night, I got a new appreciation for beer. I had never realized how knowledgeable he was about the stuff. He could talk about where beers are made, what makes one different than the other, etc., etc. and he wasn't talking about major beers but stuff made by microbreweries around the U.S.

So by making me, a non-beer drinker, more appreciative of the stuff, I can certainly understand why brewfests are a huge draw. And there are loads of then going on around the U.S. over the next couple of months.

The WOW Brewfest is going on now. (I am not knowledgeable about World of Warcraft so I admit the details in this site are beyond me.)

However, for the rest of us, if you are going to be in Denver, CO around Oct 9-11, don't miss what is advertised as the 'Nation's Largest Beer Festival: The Great American Beer Festival

Wonder if you should bring your own bottle opener?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hertz: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

A bunch of years ago, my husband and I flew into LAX and rented a car from Budget. It was cheap. The experience was awful. We said never again...we got what we paid for.

Fortunately we don't have to rent a car too often but this year has been different. I've been to Florida twice to visit my Dad (who now no longer drives), we went to a wedding in LA that called for a rental car, and then our stop in Denver on the way back from LA meant another one.

My first Florida experience was fine. Ditto for the rental experience at LAX. Actually that turned out to be great as the agent asked me if we'd like to have a free upgrade to a Prius. That was The Good.

Then it started to get Bad and Ugly. When I got to the counter in Denver I learned that I had been 'upgraded' from a sedan to an SUV. Not a problem until I took a look at the car and saw that it had no 'window shade' to cover whatever was in the trunk. All of our luggage, etc would be exposed to anyone who might walk by. Not good. Back I go to the rental counter. I had to wait while they cleaned one but I can get a sedan.

The Denver car is fine except I didn't notice until we were well on our way that all of the extra keys I was given were all together on a keyring that wouldn't open. So much for a spare key that my husband could carry. Not to mention the weight of all those keys that I was now carrying around.

Fast forward to Florida. This time I used the check in kiosk at the Hertz airport counter. Mistake. I didn't notice until I got onto the shuttle bus that I had been 'upgraded' to a Trailblazer. I took one look at the vehicle, with a running board to climb to get into the car, and decided this was not going to work for my 88 year old Dad or my 86 year old step-Mom.

Back I go to the rental counter and nicely explain why I need a sedan. A very understanding agent immediately got on the telephone to get a newly washed sedan for me.

I want to know why Hertz (or any other car rental company?) automatically upgrades a customer. Perhaps, as in my case, there is very good reason why I reserve a specific type of car.

Oh...and this sedan that I got ... with only 2400 miles on the odometer....the remote doesn't work......

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Alitalia Flying Into The Sunset?

The Italian airline Alitalia has been in trouble for a long time. Things seem to be getting worse.

The Alitalia unions, in an effort to protect all of the employees, won't agree to any kind of restructuring that would cut into wages and cause some job losses. So instead they chance losing all of the jobs? Makes no sense to me.

But it makes sense to Lufthansa who might step in and buy Alitalia.

In the meantime, if you'll be flying to Italy, there is a very real chance Alitalia could go the way of Eastern and TWA. Play it safe and book a different airline.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Today's USAirways Experience

I flew USAirways today. I'm in Florida, making a visit to my 88 year old Dad.

This was the first time I've flown USAirways since the new charge-for-a-drink rule went into effect. Soda, juice and water is $2.00. Coffee or tea is $1.

I didn't see much money being made on beverages. Admittedly USAirways saved a lot of money by not handing out free drinks. But the coffee, at $1, was ‘advertised’ as ‘fresh brewed’. So if one person wants coffee, do they make only one cup? Or do they have to make a full pot?

Some people joked about how the airline would carry fewer beverages and, therefore, save fuel by carrying less weight. If there is anything to that, I didn’t see any indication of it, as the beverage cart looked full to me.

On the positive side, I saw pillows and blankets available free.

On the negative side, I wonder if a new fuel saving strategy is not heating the air inside the plane. I don’t get cold easily and yet I was freezing on both of the flights I was on today.

Big kudos to my ROC to CLT pilots. Weather into Charlotte was very turbulent and the pilots definitely had their work cut out for them. Obviously we came through it safely.

Monday, September 15, 2008

International Travel News

International Travel News is the name of a monthly travel 'magazine' I subscribe to.

I put the word 'magazine' in quotes because it really isn't. It's the size and shape of one but more like a newspaper. It is writen mostly by fellow travelers with a few regular columnists.

There is nothing fancy about this newsletter. Printed on newsprint in black and white, comments and articles by travelers tell it like it is.

If you travel internationally and are looking for something worthwhile to read, then check out International Travel News at http://www.intltravelnews.com/. You can even request a complimentary sample copy.

Be prepared to want to pack your suitcase after reading your first issue!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

It's A Small World

As we travel, we discover that the world keeps getting smaller and smaller. How many 'small world' experiences have you had?

Many, many, many years ago, when I was in college, I traveled to Europe. On a boat from Naples to Capri I struck up a conversation with another woman. She turned out to be very good friends with my next door neighbor.

On a trip to San Francisco over February school break, while our daughter was still in high school, we were strolling along Fisherman's Wharf and came face to face with her current year gym teacher.

We took a cruise out of Aruba a bunch of years ago. As is typical on the first day, lunch is served buffet style and the dining room has open seating. As passengers walk in the door, they are seated, filling up one table after another. Shortly after we sat down, another couple was seated across from us. We struck up a conversation. They were from California. We were from upstate New York. That type of thing. The gentleman said he was familiar with our area as he had a brother in a nearby town. Long story short: my husband fished with our fellow passenger's brother

We just recently attended a wedding in California. While we knew most of the guests at our table, one couple was new to us. As we chatted we discovered that not only had the husband and I grown up in the Bronx, but we had also attended the same junior high school (that was grades 7-9).

Have you had a 'small world' experience? Please leave a Comment and tell us about it.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

It Used To Be Glamorous To Be A Flight Attendent

But not anymore. I was just reading an article in the Sunday New York Times travel section.

Michelle Higgens, who writes the Practical Traveler column for the Travel section, had an opportunity for a behind-the-scenes look at what it means to be a flight attendent today.

It's a fascinating article about a difficult job and the men and women who work it. The article is entitled Flying the Unfriendly Skies.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Pikes Peak, Colorado

A visit to Pikes Peak was part of our itinerary during out July 2008 visit to Colorado. At 14,110 feet above sea level, Pikes Peak is the most visited mountain in North America. There are two options we considered for reaching the top. One is to drive and the other is to take the cog railway.

We opted for the cog railway and I’m glad we did. It would have been tough driving the road and enjoying the vistas at the same time. Plus, with the 14K altitude, we wondered if we would be OK driving. The cog railway was the obvious choice.

Even though it was mid-season, we did not make reservations. Our plan was to take the first train coming up if it left within 30 minutes of our arrival. If no room, then we’d buy tickets for a departure 2 hours later. And that’s what we did. Why? During those two hours we visited Garden of the Gods which is, literally, right across the highway from the town of Manitou Springs. (A report, and pictures, on that later.)

The seats on the cog railway are reserved, literally. We lucked out and got the first row, right behind the huge picture window. The first part of the trip was so-so, as we went through low forests. Then we started going through beautiful aspen groves, and finally, we were above the tree line and we could see for miles and miles.

Once we reached the top, we wandered around, looking in all directions. It is just amazing. And the 14K+ altitude? Yes, we both felt it. We had been at 13K+ in Cusco, Peru and felt a bit tired but nothing like this. This time we both felt lightheaded and, at times, dizzy.

With no bathrooms on the train, a stop at visitors’ center at the peak was on the agenda. It is also possible to buy food there. They had a stand selling fresh fried cakes and I succumbed and bought two. They were great.

We were lucky in that we had a pretty clear day. From the top we could see all the way to Kansas.



And the bumper stop at the end of the line caught my attention. This is supposed to stop the train from heading off into nowhere??? Maybe being a cog railway it would but I'm glad it wasn't something we had to worry about on our trip.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Continental Airlines Adds First Bag Fee

Continental has become the latest airline to start charging a fee ($15) for the first piece of checked luggage.

That makes Delta the only holdout. Delta CEO feels that one free bag is reasonable and is committed to keeping it that way. (Of course they charge $50 for a second bag, more than any of the other U.S. domestic carriers.)

Not only has Continental started charging for checked luggage, but it has also devalued its frequent flyer program by reducing the number of bonus miles earned for by their elite customers.

None of this makes sense for an airline that wants to rise above all the others.

To read more about this...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Hannah Causes New York Area Airport Delays

If you plan on doing some flying into or out of JFK, EWR, LGA or PHL today or tomorrow, better check with your airline first.

Arrivals into PHL have been delayed and there are reported delays of up to 4 hours, on departures, at JFK.

As Tropical Storm Hannah makes her way up the coast, with a tropical storm warning covering much of the East Coast from Cape Hatteras to Merrimack River, Massachusetts, there will probably be additional flight delays, if not outright cancellations.

Friday, September 5, 2008

I've Been Awarded.....

the Prestigious Weblog Award by Shawn of Health to Home.




I am thrilled. It is SO wonderful to receive this kind of positive feedback on my site. Shawn, Thank you!!

Now, I'd like to pass this award along. I subscribe to a bunch of blogs but I find very special the ones I've listed below. Be sure to check them out.

Stepfamily Sanctuary
My GPT Money Blog
Nature's Nook

(To the bloggers of the above sites: Who will you give this award to?)




Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Review: Swiftcurrent Lodge, Estes Park, CO

As part of our July, 2008 visit to Colorado, the Swiftcurrent Lodge was our home for 5 nights as we toured and fished Rocky Mountain National Park.

The Swiftcurrent Lodge is located on the western side of Estes Park. For those visitors to the area, like us, who are more interested in what the park had to offer, vs the town of Estes Park, this was a great location. There is one road through the town of Estes Park and it is consistently clogged with traffic. For accomodations on the east side of town, visitors will have to deal with this traffic in both directions.

For us, getting from the lodge to the park was easy. Not only could we drive into the park without hitting any traffic, but it was actually possible to walk, from the lodge, into the Beaver Meadows part of the park.

Nearby was a gas station, grocery store, tackle shop and restaurants. The only day we drove through town was a rainy afternoon that was a good opportunity to just explore.

The lodge is right on the Thompson River and while the web site gives the impression it is fishable, it really isn't until later into the Fall. In mid July, when we were there, it still had spring runoff and was running pretty fast.

The grounds and accomodations at the lodge were comfortable and mostly clean. The only 'problem' I had was the futon/couch in the living room was pretty stained and looked very uninviting. That said, there were clean linens for it so I just put a sheet over it. Problem solved.

We picked the Swiftcurrent Lodge based upon location and price. It was significantly less expensive than comparable accomodations. Considering how little time we actually spent in our rooms, it was a good choice. We had a full kitchen, clean bathroom and comfortable bed. We expected nothing fancy and got nothing fancy. It suited us just fine.

Google Chrome Web Browser

Are you looking for a new internet browser? Personally I'm not. I'm happy with what I use.

But obviously Google feels strong enough about wanting to provide an alternative to Yahoo and Firefox to release Google Chrome.

Of course there are a lot of opinions as to why Google went ahead with this development. One opinion has to do with concern by Google that Microsoft would find ways to use its Internet Explorer to favour its own Internet applications.

Others feel it is simply a move by Google to counter the dominance of Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer.

Any way one looks at it, I'm pretty conservative when it comes to something like this. I think I'll hold off downloading it until I start seeing reports, reviews and comments, of which I am sure there will be plenty.

In the meantime, I'm going to get back to posting about travel!