Monday, March 13, 2017

HOW MUCH TIME IS TOO MUCH TIME?




Most every Friday morning, I try to catch (radio talk show host) Dennis Prager's Happiness Hour.  No, even though I am honored to call Dennis a friend, I am not here to pitch anything. Dennis is a renown traveler, including having annual "listeners" cruises.  He just returned from one such trip to Asia.  As he typically shares, he had a fantastic time. But when asked prior to departure if he was looking forward to the trip, he said "no." Not no, he was dreading it or he thought it wouldn't be great; rather no, he hadn't really thought about it.  
 
This led me to think a couple of things:

1)  What if one thinks too much about an upcoming trip, and one's expectations don't work out?
2)   If one is spending too much time on something happening in the future, is one missing out on the day-to-day?
3)   How much time is too much time spent on planning travel?

Here are a few of thoughts from someone (yours truly) who spends a huge amount of time on the subject.
 
I really, really, REALLY try not to have expectations.  Not knowing what we will do at a particular destination is a great part of the exploration. Many a surprise has been realized, like arriving in New Zealand one year in late April, only to be surrounded by magnificent foliage changing colors.  Hey, it's Fall in April there!  I never thought about it and was beyond thrilled.  The hubby always reminds me I love the leaves because I never had to rake them (as he did in Cleveland). 

Regarding expectations, one way I draw a line in the sand is expecting 5-star accommodations and service if I agree to pay 5-star rates. That is something I think about in advance and most definitely question if not received.
 
There are some practicalities to advance planning, like award seats, theater tickets and special restaurants.  But I totally agree that looking forward to something at the expense of whatever is happening right now can play a part in not appreciating what's in front of us.

I rather doubt I'll spend less time planning travel than I do now. You know why? Because I love it.  There's something about discovering a new hotel or making a new contact or knowing that you finally get to go somewhere you've always dreamed about that is just too rewarding.  

So what's the moral of this story?  If you happen to find something you love, savor it ... just not only it.   There's just too much wonderful stuff that might be missed!
  

Sunday, February 26, 2017

PRIVATE TOUR OF DTLA

As a longtime member and past president of a most amazing group of LA-area business women -- Organization of Women Executives --  I agreed to co-chair our special events for this year. Looking for new and different things that our members might find of interest can be challenging.  But upon reading how LA's own downtown arts district (DTLA) had literally exploded to nearly 50 blocks, I thought how fun it would be for our members to explore.

Key to the event was the expert guidance of Lara Dildy, editor of Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk, a monthly event supporting, exposing and bringing people to the area.  Click on the link to read all about this amazing evening and the organization. 

Our extremely knowledgeable and expressive
tour guide Lara Dildy
Lara met our group of 20+ members and their guests at noon just outside the iconic Grand Central Market where many of us had arrived earlier to grab a bite.  Off we went down Broadway to 4th Street.  Our first stop was at the corner of Spring and 4th, at the conjoined galleries of Miguel Osuna and Robert Reynolds.  We had the opportunity to meet both of the artists and hear about their works.  The benefit of our relatively small group provided a very personal feel to our tour.



Above are some of our members/guests. Upper right is artist Robert Reynolds describing his amazing work made out of used cardboard boxes; lower left is a work in progress by Miguel Osuna.

 
From there we proceeded to the Howard Griffin Gallery, with a large display of Thierry Noir works.  Mr. Noir is most notable as being the first artist credited with painting the Berlin Wall in 1984.  His work is prominently displayed in the alleyway separating Spring and Main Streets in an enormous mural seen below. 

Just two of Mr. Noir's works on display in the gallery.



I for one was not even aware of The Last Book Store prior to Lara's and my test run a few months ago.  I am always surprised as a native Angeleno to make new discoveries.  This remarkable spot at the corner of 5th and Spring comprises not just countless "real" (hardcover!) books for sale but many small galleries in the upstairs area as well.  And, natch, a place that sells coffee. It was a challenge gathering up the troops to proceed to our last stop.  
From the second floor looking down on the enormous space.


Above is a tunnel of books that guests can walk through; the section at right is called "decorative books" -- only red in this section!
Gloria Delson Contemporary Arts on Spring Street was the official conclusion to our two hours, but many members went on from there.  A few of us couldn't resist the chance to indulge at nearby Gelateria Uli, with the sincere hope they open other locations.  It was then back to our cars after a terrific afternoon.  I know I will certainly look forward to a return visit! 
 

Monday, February 20, 2017

FINDING JOY IN PLANNING TRAVEL

When a "bestie" recently moved back to her hometown (Louisville), I told the hubby I wanted to plan a trip there for this year. Lest he think that what he likes to do wasn't part of the equation, I suggested we go to Cincinnati and possibly even Cleveland for baseball (I have not been to either of their current parks). While that itinerary may still occur, he insisted we go first to two other ballparks not yet visited -- Atlanta (inaugural season) and Miami (opened 2012).


Jumping right on the planning bandwagon is such a delicious treat that I almost can't do anything else until mission accomplished!  The thrill of planning travel -- scoring a room at the Ritz Carlton (with Amex Platinum benefits) for $199?  It is a high for me. I guess that officially makes me a travel junkie.  And if I were to compare the benefits derived from this fun compared to say online shopping of a different kind -- clothing, as an example -- well, that's a tough one. I suppose the lasting memories of travel make this particular endeavor more meaningful (and I don't have to explain the credit card charge -- an added bonus for sure).  
 
Looking at the calendar in terms of when to go involves:  1) tax filing deadlines; 2) Atlanta and Miami home stands; and, 3) avoiding summer's most oppressive temperatures.  Oh, and our own Dodger games, Hollywood Bowl tickets, etc., etc.  In other words, the window isn't always expansive.  Late June fit the above criteria and it was on to the execution.

If money were no object, I'd simply book American Airlines first class (business and first are typically combined domestically). Alas, that's not the case.  So coach it is, paying a bit extra for maximum legroom, and putting in requests for upgrades.  Since going east is the shorter flight, these parameters seem fine.  We earn AA miles, and the tickets were quite reasonable.  For the other two legs, instead of flying into nutty Miami, I booked Fort Lauderdale -- a much more civilized airport with lots of flights and just 30 miles north of Miami.  We'll have a car so off we go.  Atlanta-Ft. L is less than two hours and Delta is the best bet: one way for about $100.  Done.

The splurge is the flight back to LA.  Non-stop flights via Jet Blue and Virgin leave either early morning or evening.  I don't love a 7:15 a.m. departure time (but I do like being back in LA by 10 a.m.), so I splurged on Jet Blue Mint -- their equivalence of first class -- which I have wanted to try.  It is considerably less $$ than American's seats and who doesn't love Jet Blue? I'll let you know my thoughts afterward.  

Besides the aforementioned Ritz Carlton in Atlanta, I booked a Westin in FtL (close to the airport):  a generously-sized suite, including wi-fi and breakfast, for $189 per night via AAA rate.  I like the Westin brand plus I earn SPG points.  With rental cars booked (via Amex), this whole process took just a couple of hours.  And it was so much fun!  

 

What's the moral of the story?  Practice, practice, practice.  Look at travel planning as something fun to do, not as a chore.  Because a job well done equates to time well spent.  Better yet, call me to map out your trip and go do something else with your time! 

Monday, February 6, 2017

CABO IDEAL FOR QUICK GETAWAY

It's no secret that Cabo San Lucas, just a two-hour flight southeast of LA, makes for an ideal getaway. What's astonishing is the massive growth that continues to occur unabated.
The iconic Cabo arch 
The hubby surprised me for a major birthday back in 2004 with the first trip to Cabo. The locals were thrilled that the first Costco had just opened up, and they could purchase essentials like bread and milk for significantly less than the area markets.  We stayed at Las Ventanas which was a splurge to say the least. Infinity pools were unique back then so entering that gorgeous resort seemed staggering as the pool "fell" into the ocean beyond.

The next trip was for our daughter's graduation in 2009.  At the time, the area was just desolate due to fears of kidnapping and the like.  We had a great time and never felt the least bit unsafe.

Flash forward to 2017.  Unlike the first trip where five-star properties were just three -- Las Ventanas (Rosewood), Esperanza (Auberge) and One & Only Palmilla -- there's now La Pedregal, The Montage, The Cape and a Ritz Carlton still under construction. And that's just the high end.  The growth is at least 10% annually, and up to 20% at times.  Three thousand rooms will be added in 2017.  During the high season (November through May), there are sometimes 40 commercial flights on Saturdays and Sundays.

It's not just the high end experiencing growth (multi-million-dollar vacation homes), but the huge amount of "all-inclusive" resorts that are very affordable and abundant.  This trip was the result of purchasing a three-night stay (at a charity auction) at Fiesta Grand Americana.  Personally I am not a fan of all-inclusive -- typical of cruise ships and the like -- where one almost feels obligated to indulge because "it's free." I'd rather think twice about consumption while paying as I go. To each his own.

So what to do in a short time span?  Visit the spa!  An 80-minute deep tissue for $90 works for me (after some sort of discount plus gratuity).  But the big outing was whale watching via Cabo Adventures ..

We were given the choice of either a small but very fast boat (which was like a life raft) holding 26 plus 3 crew, or a very large double-decker.  We opted for the small one, which adventure was called "Whale Safari."  Having experienced an African safari last year, I get the connection:  both vehicles go very fast and communicate with other vehicles when game (in this case whales) are spotted. This thing flew over the water! No wonder we were asked if we had any back issues beforehand; I was indeed reminded of the safari jeeps.
Sea lions sunning themselves
It was worth it to catch multiple glimpses of these beautiful creatures, both full size and young-in's.  Taking photos is challenging, as the action is swift and the boat rocky.  But you get the idea .. happy I got just one!

Absolutely worth mentioning are the following restaurants: Los Tres Gallos was a last-minute decision that was amazing. Delicious food, with some unexpected twists, in an indoor/outdoor setting.  We also loved Mi Casa, with traditional fare in a lively atmosphere.  Both spots are in downtown Cabo, close to the marina. 
Mi Casa had fabulous margaritas (mango in particular) plus carnitas 
and mole (ole!).

           Open kitchen at Los Tres Gallos plus some
           delicious courses we enjoyed. 


 It's the thought that counts from housekeeping --
 the letters were formed from rice.  Buenas noches! 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

THE LONG ROAD TO A GRAND OPENING!


You know all those parables recited when thinking about starting a new business?  Here are a few good ones:

"Make every detail perfect and limit the number of details to perfect." -Jack Dorsey, Twitter co-founder
"The last 10% it takes to launch something takes as much energy as the first 90%." -Rob Kalin, Etsy founder
"Find an unmet need and meet it." - Ross Perot

Every last word recited above was truly experienced during the concept, build-out and opening of The Cellar Beverly Hills (est. Jan 2017).

 
And what is this miraculous achievement? Not just "a premier fine wine concierge and storage service," but: 

"From on-demand bottle delivery and decanting to James Bond-esque security, our flagship facility introduces a multitude of innovative wine-centric services designed to optimize the collection experience."

This is a sample of pre-opening social media (works for me!)
So why is The Cellar Beverly Hills relevant here?  Because it is the brainchild of my son Sam.  And the endeavor would in all probability have been stalled (to say the least) without the guidance and financial acumen of the one and only hubby (and Sam's business partner).  They deserve enormous credit for not only surviving the process but for a job well done.  I even played a part with all the branding, incorporating my "day job" skills.  

Beautiful wine openers (top) embellished with Swarovski crystals are presented in the leather case above.



Sam's first foray into wine: Figuring out what to do with our wine at home. Not only did he design the cellar shown at left -- formerly a hallway closet (glass doors are open for the photo but it remains a cool 55 degrees in there), but he created an online inventory for us, including when the bottles are best to drink.  We knew he was on to something ...

It is with great pride and excitement that I share photographs of the space and from the Grand Opening on 1.17.17.   Next time you're in Beverly Hills, stop in for the grand tour.   Cheers! 


Every locker has a beautiful brass plate (top).  The reception desk was conceived and executed by master woodworker Bill Schwalm to replicate a wine barrel and wine press.
      
At the helm ... 

Upper left: bite-size delicious tastes from Divino Restaurant
Above:  Some of the guests.
Left:  It was "all Bialosky hands on deck" leading up to the opening event. Photos: Marvin Stendler
Let's get this party started!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

NAVIGATING ALL THOSE LISTS!


We're barely a nanosecond into 2017, and I can't even count how many "where to go" and "best places" and "should not be missed" lists of destinations I have received.  I began to think:  How in the world does one take all of that in, and what to do with all that information!   Following is my plan of attack, plus which sources I value/trust the most.

Image result for images for travel -- where to go

I try to make an effort to read what comes my way. But I also do a lot of unsubscribing as I'm sure most of you do as well.  Given that I don't always remember what I signed up for (sound familiar?), I better at least check out the content before deciding to continue subscribing or end it there.  

The hubby receives a huge amount of columns vis-a-vis his political writing; his method is to print them out on the back of used copy paper, then read them later -- at a ball game, or while watching something at home (he has reinvented the concept of multitasking). He never goes anywhere without reading. It might seem like a chore, but it's a very efficient system and a stress reducer when he has those inconvenient pauses in life.  


I previously shared my filing system (shown below), separated by travel regions, airline info and the like.  When I have a free moment (ha!), I'll go through and purge old stuff. Believe me it helps to have a place to go for reference.


As for the lists received, here are three that I like al                              ot.  Interesting that nearly every writer includes a specific number in the header -- most seem random -- but clearly it's a way to grab a reader's attention. 

1.  New York Times: 52 Places to Go in 2017 -- where else could you find locations as disparate as Botswana and Minneapolis on the same list?? (Two of mine included: Agra and The Maldives!)

2.  Travel & Leisure: 50 Best Places to Travel in 2017 -- I like that it's in alphabetical order for some reason -- if I need to revisit, I can scroll faster! (One of mine:  Perth; but lots of others I would go back to in a heartbeat: Queenstown, Jerusalem, Cape Town ..)

3.  New York Times:  Eight Ways to Save on Travel -- because who doesn't want to know how??? I like #4 -- pick an airline and stick with it.  Don't drive yourself crazy.  

Whatever you do, remember that travel is good for the soul ... at least it is for my soul! Happy trails in 2017. 
Image result for images for travel -- where to go

Monday, December 26, 2016

BYE, BYE 2016 ...


Once again, it's time to look back on where we went in 2016 ...

New York City
South Africa (Capetown, Kruger, Sabi Sand, Johannesburg)
Zambia & Zimbabwe
Mauritius
CA Road Trip
Turks & Caicos
New Orleans



And look forward to where we're going in 2017 ...
Cabo San Lucas
India (New Delhi, Agra, Rathambore, Jaipur, Udaipur)
Maldives
Australia (Perth)
Hong Kong
Rhode Island
Somewhere in the Caribbean (where should we go?)

May all your travels be memorable for the right reasons!  Thank you for taking this journey with me ...