Whale Watching…or not

Whale watching along the California coast in March is popular. This past week-end found us traveling along California Highway 1 by Bodega Bay. Our goal was to watch whales as they migrate north, some with calves in tow.

The whales perhaps did not know we were there as they didn’t cooperate. Or at least they didn’t let us know they were there. So, we amused ourselves with other spectacular scenery as only the California coast can provide.

Nothing like a sweeping view of coastline, waves, and sand on a March day.

Water forms interesting passageways through the rocky cliffs. The surf on this one almost got me.

High Tide coming up.

After a tough day at the beach looking for whales, refreshments were in order. This magnificent Pinot Noir from Gary Farrell soothed our souls.

Customer Service Sites and Numbers

Spring is definitely here.

How do you get someone, a real person, on the phone when you’re calling to find your lost luggage, help with frequent flyer miles, or return that piece of luggage which looked so good on your computer? Better yet, how do you find the phone number you need without going through pages and pages of computer text? Budget Travel has given out these sites previously. I think they bear repeating.
Go to www.contacthelp.com and type the company’s name you are looking for in the search box. This will give you the correct number to call.
If a company isn’t in their database or you need extra help, go to http://gethuman.com. You not only get the phone numbers, but which button to press to reach a live customer service agent. This one is especially good for travel related issues.
Happy traveling.

Tide Loads of Hope

Today’s blog is a little unusual but for a great cause. Read about a program P&G has started called Tide Loads of Hope.

P&G has asked us to help get the word out about their efforts to raise money via T-Shirt sales to support families that are affected by disaster in this one-of-a-kind program. The shirts are vintage-looking and support a great cause. Shirts can be purchased through this link: http://tidetshirts.pgvillage.com/c-9-show-all.aspx?_vsc=tide4

This is directly from their site:

Tide Loads of Hope helps in the aftermath of a natural disaster by providing clean clothes and a sense of comfort to families in need. Partnering with Feeding America, we travel to disaster affected neighborhoods with the Tide Loads of Hope truck or vans, our free mobile laundry service.

Tide Loads of Hope truck:32 high-effiency washers and dryers stationed on the truckCan do 300 wash and dry cycles a day – equal to one year’s worth of laundry for a single family.
Will wash about 9,000 loads of laundry over a four-week periodLeveraged during massive disasters where electricity is unavailable in the region.

Tide Loads of Hope vans:In partnership with a local laundromat, the Tide Loads of Hope vans provide free laundry service at the same load rate as the trucks.
Leveraged during disasters where neighboring communities still have a source of electricity.
To date, Tide Loads of Hope has washed more than 35,000 loads of laundry for over 20,000 families.
Most importantly, the Tide Loads of Hope program means we’re equipped to take action whenever and wherever there is a need in our country.
Tide Loads of Hope Vintage Tees:Tide Loads of Hope can also be supported through the purchase of a Tide Vintage Tee.

All profits go to support families affected by disaster.Where it all started In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the need for clean clothing became critical, and Tide found a way to help. So in November 2005, the Tide Loads of Hope truck headed to Camp Hope in the Metairie, LA area and cleaned over 10,000 loads of laundry.
The spirit of this first venture informs and inspires everything Tide Loads of Hope program does.

San Francisco Chinatown

The first Chinese immigrants landed in San Francisco in 1848; two men and one woman.

The Chinese were the first immigrants to rebuild after the 1906 earthquake and fire.

In 1908 the Chinese Chamber of Commerce was established.

Chinatown in San Francisco is now home to over 1.5 Million people of Chinese descent.

Saturday is when the locals shop. Chickens and ducks are a common site. Spend some time wandering along the streets where you will find produce, animals, and oddities you didn’t know existed in any other market.

Or head over to 56 Ross Alley and pick up some fortune cookies at the Fortune Cookie Factory. Yes, there really is such a factory.

A Day in San Francisco

Start the day off right…stop at the Victoria Pastry Shop in Little Italy.

Pastries were wonderful…cappuccino was Divine.

Now walk off the pastry calories with a trek through Chinatown.

Walk over to Pier 39 to catch the California Sea Lions sunning themselves. They don’t worry about a few extra calories!

End your walk at Ghiradelli Square with a hot fudge sundae.

Time to watch the big ships as they head out to sea.

Hotel Stays

Wisteria buds

At The Terraces Winery

View from Paraduxx

Looking for cheaper stays when you travel? Sign up for hotel rewards or loyalty programs. They all have them. And it doesn’t cost a thing to sign up. If you don’t mind more emails and you travel frequently, sign up for their email promotions also. Some give amazing deals only through emails.

If your travels take you overnight, try to stay in the same “chain” for as many nights as you can. Keep in mind that chains like Hilton and Marriott have many different hotels and different branches of hotels attached to them. Remember to use your membership number when making your reservation.

As your points add up, these can equate to free stays in that hotel chain. It used to be harder to redeem points at some hotels but with the economy, those hotels are wanting their beds filled. That’s good news for you.

Some hotels have options that let travelers use money to make up the difference if they don’t have quite enough points for the free stay.

Check out www.insideflyer.com, a website that tracks loyalty clubs.

Cork Trees

These cork trees are from the Napa Valley area of California.

Cork trees are a renewable resource in that they live anywhere from 150 to 250 years. Their bark or cork can be harvested every 10 to 12 years. Over 50% of the world’s cork for the wine industry comes from Portugal, with the rest from Spain, Italy, France and some from Africa.

From a distance the bark looks like bark, but up close it looks almost spongy. Interesting tree.


Ever wonder how balsamic vinegar gets made? The “good stuff” is from Modena, Italy, and is aged in barrels 25 years.
These barrels are graduated from a larger one at the top of the photo to smaller ones. As the vinegar ages and gets “thicker” it goes into the smaller barrels. Each barrel is a different type of wood. And the vinegar in each barrel tastes entirely different.

If you thought barrel tasting was only for wine…think again. This stuff is heavenly…right from the barrel.

Traveling with Jewelry

When traveling, where do you put your jewelry at night in a hotel? You could put it in your suitcase if you intend to store it there or in the in-room safe. But if you want it handy for wearing the next day, where can you put it? It might roll off the night stand or into the sink. Pieces may get separated and take precious time to locate.

Use one of the glasses in the room. It keeps all pieces together and is easy to see. If you use the in-room safe, set the glass in the safe. If not, place it on the dresser or night stand.