REAL ID ACT…It’s Real

If you’re planning to fly after Jan. 22, you may not be able to use your driver’s license as a form of identification to get through security. That’s because of the REAL ID Act of 2005, which I have written about previously.

What it is: The law, a counterterrorism measure that followed 9/11, calls for states to issue driver’s licenses with more security features, such as scannable bar codes and digital photos. They will be required for people to board any commercial flight and enter federal facilities and military bases.

Passports or other approved forms of federal identification, such as a border-crossing card, U.S. military ID, TSA Pre-Check, or Global Entry card, can be used as an alternative. You will need this alternative ID if you live in one of 24 states that have yet to add the security measures to the driver’s licenses they issue. And you may need to get a new, updated license if you live in one of the states that already offers them.

Enforcement begins on Jan. 22. You can check your state’s status on the website of Department of Homeland Security. In addition, some states have been granted extensions to make their licenses compliant.

The bottom line: You don’t want to find yourself barred from flying just because you didn’t realize your old driver’s license is no longer an acceptable form of identification. If your state doesn’t have the new IDs, there is still time to get a passport or apply for another ID, says Tom Spagnola, senior vice president of supplier relations at the online travel agency CheapOair.

Spagnola says airlines, not to mention airport security agents, don’t want to face a slew of angry and confused travelers when enforcement begins. Many in the travel industry are working overtime to inform the public, so he’s hopeful the message will get through: “We still have three more months to work on passenger awareness.”

Still…it’s worth checking on before you get ready for your next trip.

 

New Fees?

 

Recently I read about a new fee charged by some airlines.

It’s called a gate service fee. What does the mean?

If you get to the gate with a bag you’re not able to stow in the overhead bin or beneath the seat in front of you, United and American have created a new fee of $25 to check that bag at the gate. This used to be free…

United calls it a “gate handling charge.” American calls it a “gate service fee.”

Does this mean it’s a penalty on top of a fee?

 

One Time in Monterey

One time in Monterey

Regardless of whether you stay at the Asilomar Conference Center facility or not, you need to take some time to explore Asilomar State Beach.

Asilomar State Beach is a narrow, one-mile strip of sandy beach and rocky coves, with a coastal walking trail. Meander along 24 acres of restored sand dune ecosystem and discover over 450,000 plants, representing 25 species. Located within Asilomar Marine Reserve, all marine resources, animals, rocks, and shells are protected. No collecting or fishing is allowed.

Monterey cypress, Monterey pine, and coast live oak trees make up the surrounding forest. Living here are 90 species of birds…so get out your birding list and find some new ones.

Asilomar’s rich history dates back to its origins as a YWCA Leadership Camp built in 1913. Known as Monterey Peninsula’s “Refuge by the Sea,” the state park is located on 107 acres of state beach and conference grounds, within the quaint and scenic town of Pacific Grove. Asilomar is celebrated for its restored dune ecosystem and architectural significance, with cozy, historic structures designed by renowned architect Julia Morgan between 1913 and 1928.

After exploring the dunes, dust the sand off your feet and hit the road.Thirteen of Morgan’s original structures remain today and constitute her largest collection of Arts & Crafts style architecture in one location. Thirty years later, John Carl Warnecke (best known for John F. Kennedy’s gravesite memorial), created seven more complexes that make up the conference grounds. In 1987, the original Morgan buildings were listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Warnecke buildings will likely follow. While updates have been made throughout the decades, the tranquility and harmony found at Asilomar have been preserved.

It’s worth the time to take the 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach. One of the most famous scenic drives in the world winds you through the impressive Del Monte Forest and along the mesmerizing coastline. Homes, mansions, golf courses, horses, and again that fantastic Pacific Ocean coast…it doesn’t get much better.

Back toward Monterey, stop at the Fishwife Seafood Restaurant in Pacific Grove for dinner. Local seafood served with a Caribbean accent…it’s all good.

Then, back to the beach to watch the sun set…the perfect way to end One Time in Monterey.

 

Is the Eiffel Tower on Your Bucket List?

Is the Eiffel Tower on your Paris Bucket List? If so, do you have a plan for visiting it?

Security at the Eiffel Tower

We were there three years ago and again this year. One thing we noticed is the tightened security measures that now exist at the Eiffel Tower. Until the terrorist attacks in recent years, the area around and underneath the Eiffel Tower was completely open to the public. We could wander under the structure from one side to another, take photos as we looked up at the wonderful late 19th-century architectural masterpiece, get across the wide expanse…all without buying tickets.

Not so anymore. The whole area around the tower is fenced off and you can’t get past security to get underneath the tower unless you have tickets.

Booking tickets for the Eiffel Tower

Did you know…the most famous cultural symbol of France, the Eiffel Tower, is the most visited paid monument in the world and receives around seven million visitors a year.

Knowing that, this probably is the most important reason to book your tickets in advance! The best and easiest way to do this is online. Ahead of time…in some cases, a long way ahead of time.

But it might help to explain the different options for going up the tower first.

The stairs or the elevators?

First, let’s talk about the layout of the tower.

There are three levels to the tower. On the first level, there are some restaurants, a short film about the evolution of the Eiffel Tower and the new glass floor area that almost makes you feel like you’re walking on air.

On the second level, there is another restaurant and some souvenir stores. The third level is the summit of the tower, with a viewing deck, a champagne bar and a display of photos from the 19th century of the Eiffel Tower and its architect Gustave Eiffel. Views of Paris and beyond are spectacular. Take your camera.

There are two elevators within the tower; one serves the first and second levels and the other goes from the second to the third level. Some people choose to take the stairs to the second level as the queues are shorter and the ticket is cheaper. Fine, if you don’t mind over 600 steps!

Like most people, we took the two elevators to the top. Note that you can’t take stairs to the third level.

On the Eiffel Tower’s website, http://www.toureiffel.paris/en, you can book your tickets up to the second or third level.

TIP:

  • The third level tickets often sell out a long time ahead. If you know when you will be in Paris…book those tickets now. You can always buy tickets on line to the second level, then buy the third level ticket when you get there. But, who wants to stand in line if you don’t have to? Lines can be long…really long.

Whatever option you choose for ascending the tower, you are allowed to take the elevators down to the bottom after you are finished.

TIPS:

  • You will need to pick a time-slot for visiting the Eiffel Tower when buying your tickets online. This is just the time that you need to arrive – you can spend as much time in the tower as you like! Try to pick a slot for first thing in the morning, at lunch-time or towards the end of the day when there are fewer people.
  • Make sure you arrive on time, or several minutes ahead of your scheduled time. If you are late, you may not be allowed in.
  • It can get very windy and cold on the second and third levels of the Eiffel Tower, and you will most likely have to line up outside for the elevator from the second to the third level; so even if the weather seems perfect on the ground, bring a warm jacket or sweater.
  • If you plan to have lunch or dinner at one of the Eiffel Tower’s restaurants, make sure you book in advance, on the Eiffel Tower’s website, as there are often long queues for the restaurants.

 

Flying Alone?

Let’s say your grandchild wants to come visit you. Maybe you want to send your child to visit their grandparents.

Do you know what to do if your child or grandchild needs to fly somewhere alone?

You can get a Gate Pass. But, there are things you need to know.

Each airline has requirements for “unaccompanied minors.” Airlines may require you to use their special services for children flying solo. This depends on your child’s age and the additional fees may vary.

Another thing to keep in mind…not all flights are available for children traveling alone.

Many American carriers offer services for children designated solo fliers like select seats and airline escorts on and off the plane, and to connecting gates. Most airlines consider solo fliers from the ages of 5 to 15 as unaccompanied minors, though Southwest Airlines puts the upper limit at 11 and JetBlue Airways at 13. American Airlines and Delta Air Lines make the designation optional for children 15 to 17.

Additional fees for unaccompanied minors vary as well. It costs $25 each way for direct flights on Alaska and $50 for one-way itineraries involving connections. Southwest charges $50 a flight. On JetBlue, the service costs $100 one way, and American, Delta and United Airlines all charge $150 each way.

Different fees may apply to multiple children traveling together. For example, American Airlines only charges one unaccompanied minor fee for parties of two or more, and Delta charges one fee for up to four children traveling together.

For those fees, children are usually promised a seat close to the front of the plane. Airline agents will escort minors to their seats, again when they deplane, and to connecting gates.

Not all flights are available to children traveling alone. Many carriers limit younger children to nonstop or direct flights. Delta allows 8- to 14-year-olds to make connections, assisted by an employee. American Airlines allows connecting services, with an escort between flights, at several of its busier airports, including its hubs in Chicago, Dallas and New York.

For parents or grandparents, think about the child. Are they okay with flying? Are they okay with flying alone? Will they need any special attention? Flight attendants are not babysitters.

Parental Considerations

At the airport check-in desk, parents with government-issued identification can obtain a pass that allows them to escort the minor to the gate. Some airlines require them to stay at the airport until the plane has taken off, and most experts advise doing so in case the plane experiences a mechanical problem or delay and must return to the terminal.

At the arrival airport, most airlines will similarly issue a gate pass to the person designated to pick up the minor, allowing the person to meet the child at the arrival gate.

To better track unaccompanied minors, Delta has instituted a system that relies on bar-coded wristbands that are scanned at way points in the journey. The airline has said that it intends to make that data available to parents and custodians.

Experts recommend parents prepare children for flight as they would themselves, including sending them off with identification such as a birth certificate or a passport. Pack a water bottle to fill after passing through security; some form of entertainment, like books or a tablet computer with an extra battery booster; a fleece or sweater for chilly flights; and food.

Even consider sending equivalent of a school lunch.

Wine Walk Through the Village…What’s Not to Love?

 

When staying in the Languedoc Roussillon area of France, and our host suggested we might like a ‘wine walk through a village’, we readily agreed. What foodie and wine lover wouldn’t like to have the opportunity to taste some of the 30 or 40 local wines, sample gourmet food prepared by an excellent chef, visit with wine makers and growers throughout the day, and experience a beautiful natural park near the village?

Sign us up…

Nestled between scrubland, ponds, and hills, the village of Peyriac de Mer sits on a diversity of soils, including limestone, chalk, and gravel. Combine those soils with the variety of microclimates found here and you have the perfect combination for enhancing the character of different grapes. Hence, producing exceptional wines.

So far, sounds amazing…

Ready for our wine tasting and gastronomic walk, we bundled up and headed off to meet our host. Since a pesky cold front was hanging around, we wore layers. I do mean layers. As we headed out onto a dock along the edge of the lake, the wind whipped up white caps and threatened to knock us into the choppy, gray water.

Quickly, we realized we were not walking through the delightful village, but up and around the lake, past an old, working salt flat, across a high ridge where the views of the Mediterranean were fantastic, and through the Nature Park. Walking shoes would have been appropriate for the six plus kilometer journey that took us up over 300 meters from where we started. The village…that’s where we ended.

What did we get into?

Another reason the wines here are special, is the wind. It contributes to soil ventilation, thus improving the quality of the wines. All well and good, unless you’re trying to walk along the top of the ridge as the wind is determined to blow you into one of the lakes below. I’m quite sure it could have blown me off the top and into the Mediterranean had I not been hanging on to my husband.

So, what did we think once we finished our ‘walk’ and headed into the village for coffee and sunshine?

Wines…they were fantastic. All of them. What’s not to like about a glass of Montfin Blanc from Chateau Montfin, a glass of Grenache Blanc from Chateau Fabre-Cordon, or a glass of Rose from Abbaye Sainte Eugenie? Visiting with the wine makers and growers, often the same person, made those glasses even more special. I almost hated to leave one wine stop and hike to the next one. Until I tasted the next group of wines, that is.

Food…also fantastic. Who wouldn’t want a piece of fresh, crusty bread with perfectly sliced beef carpaccio, copeaux or shavings of semi-soft goat cheese, and rosemary sprigs to pair with your glass of Carignena? Next stop, salmon gravelax, sprinkled with petit peas, and a dollop of lemon cream, and our choice of Grenache Blanc or Vent Marin Blanc. Of course the epaule or shoulder of lamb with sprigs of thyme, olive oil, and petardon peas was perfect with my glass of Mire la Mer. When we made it to the dessert stop, we were ready to be on flat ground again as we ate our crème caramel with candied oranges, beurre sale, and almonds. Paired with either a sweeter Musc’ito or a Banyuls Ame de pierre, a blend of Grenache, Grenache Blanc, and Grenache Gris made us smile as we headed to the village. We were in Heaven…and full.

The walk…incredible views, friendly people, knowledgeable wine growers, and even some hunters who offered homemade salami and saucisse. Yummy, beautiful, and nothing like we had ever done before.

Asked by our host if we would do this again…even with the weather, terrain, and wind as challenges. Absolutely. Why would we complain about being in the wonderful French countryside, eating delicious food, and drinking amazing wines?

After all, this was not any ordinary ‘wine walk’…it was so much better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Do This?

Recently I read where Honolulu will become the first major city in the US to pass legislation making distracted walking a crime. In October anyone who is caught looking at their phone or tablets while crossing a street will be fined.

Apparently, those who do this are thought of as ‘smartphone zombies’ and are viewed as dangerous as they walk and text.

Fines may range from $15 to $99.

Thoughts?

Valpolicella Wines…Do You Like Them?

THE HARVEST 2017 WILL BRING THE FRUITS OF AN EXCEPTIONAL YEAR. THE 6th OF SEPTEMBER THE PRE-HARVEST CONFERENCE ORGANIZED BY THE CONSORTIUM FOR THE TUTELAGE OF VALPOLICELLA WINES

The Consortium clarifies the members of the crucial points about the new telematic fulfillment for the traceability of wines. With this aim, it will discuss the wine-growing campaign, whose harvest this year promises very well, controls and registrations during the September 6 pre-harvest meeting at Park Hotel Villa Quaranta.

The year 2017 will certainly be remembered among the best millésimes of Valpolicella. An optimal grape quality, both from the health point of view and analytical parameters. Distressed problems related to meteoric events, unlike many other Italian territories, which have been not so fortunate, with the only element of difficulty found in water shortage, caused by the low rainfall affected by non-irrigated vitrified soils.

Following the greeting of President Andrea Sartori, Renzo Caobelli, the Consortium agronomist, will analyze the climate and the course of the pathologies and highlight how the vine withstanded the warm and dry course of the season and at the same time hampered the spread of “moisture lover” diseases and insects.

The grapes ripening status, found in the vineyard stations that are monitored each year, will be illustrated, measuring the main chemical and phenological parameters.

“This year’s results show an early grape ripening, compared to last year, with optimum values ​​for both sugar content and total acidity. This is a vintage that leaves a great hope in the export, “says Olga Bussinello, the Director of the Consortium.

Moreover, Luca Sartori from Siquria, will discuss about vineyard and fruit control in relation to the harvest in progress and to conclude Roman Popa from the company Validus, will give operational indications on the keeping of telematic registers, now mandatory after the actual conclusion of the “accompanying period” and the official entering into force of the DM 293/2015. In particular, he will analyze the traceability of products that will be trademark with the RRR logo (the Sustainability Certificate created by the Consortium), starting from the 2017 harvest.

Lake County…Just One More Wine Destination

Fall and travel just seem to go together. Whether it’s far or near…traveling is a good way to see new places or to see familiar places in a different light. Memories are just part of traveling.

In my case, I review places for different blogs and publications and I showcase some of those reviews here.

Recently, we spent a weekend in Lake County, California. It’s about a two-hour drive from San Francisco or from where we live. Parts of the area we visited were ravaged by major wildfires in 2015 and we wondered what we would see.

Some of that destruction is still obvious as shells of cars and partially burned homes remained in a few of the smaller towns. Hillsides with blackened sticks of burned trees, brilliant green grass abundant around them, sat right next to vibrant trees which weren’t touched by the flames. Forest fire is an odd creature.

Closer to Clear Lake, green hills, dormant volcanos, and brilliant blue skies were the sites we noticed. It’s easy to see why the American Lung Association has proclaimed the air here some of the cleanest in the nation. All we had to do was breathe to figure that out. With all the clear air and not a lot of light pollution, the Taylor Observatory offers some amazing star gazing.

If you’ve never heard of or spent time at Clear Lake…you should. With over 100 miles of shoreline, it is the largest natural freshwater lake wholly within California. And…for you fishermen, it’s supposedly the land of bass fishing.

Those old volcanos…their soil rich in ash is great for producing impressive Cabernets and Suavignon Blancs. We tried several…and have to agree.

Stay tuned for more reviews of this amazing area.

What’s the Most Photographed Chateau in the Loire Valley?

Chateau de Chenonceau

Quite the distinction to say Chateau de Chenonceau is the most visited and the most photographed chateau in the Loire Valley in France. It’s also been called the ladies chateau, as ladies have been the most influential in its design…from early on to the stunning structure we see today. Wives, mistresses, widows…all had their hand in the way Chateau de Chenonceau looks.

In the 16th century, Thomas Bohier and his wife Katherine Briconnet demolished an old castle and mill, which were standing on the site. Supposedly wanting to control the River Cher, the chateau sits all the way across it. Soon after completion, the chateau was seized by King Francois I, because Bohier couldn’t pay his debts. His successor, Henry II, gave the chateau to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, who spent time and money redesigning the expansive gardens.

When Henry II died, his wife Catherine de Medici removed Diane and redid the gardens to her liking. More ladies and more renovations. When walking through the chateau, around every turn, in every room, on every staircase…there is a trace of one of the queens and mistresses who lived here.

Renaissance furniture, massive tapestries, paintings, and a small chapel are in fantastic condition. You can almost see how kings, their queens, and their mistresses lived here. The kitchen is its own special place. Or, should I say kitchens? There is one for baking breads, one for cutting meat, one for pastry work, one for bringing in the vegetables….and more. The copperware collection alone is worth looking at, and be sure to check out the 16th Century chimney in the pantry.

Chenonceau played an important part in more modern history as well. During WWI, the owner allowed the chateau to be used as a hospital, and during WWII one end of the castle was in the Occupied Zone and the other end in French Free Territory.

Definitely one of the prettiest chateau in the Loire Valley…in my opinion. Worth the visit.

For a special treat, have lunch at L’Orangerie, located on the grounds. Take your time…it’s worth it.