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A gastronomic tour of San Diego… where should I eat?

image provided by User Eteru of Polish Wikipedia

image provided by User Eteru of Polish Wikipedia

I have a trip to San Diego coming up in the fall and have been doing some research on what to do and where to eat while I’m there.  As the main purpose of this trip is work related I have a finite amount of down time to explore the area so I’m trying to make the most of it.  I’ve scoured the pages of the local guide books tourism sites as well as Tripadvisor, Urbanspoon and Open Table for ideas.  I have managed to add a few items to my wish list like Stone Brewing, Donut Bar, and C level , but I thought I would tap the collective wisdom of the masses to help me discover a truly authentic San Diego dining experience.   I’m not necessarily looking for the fanciest or most expensive places or the bucket list touristy dining destinations, although I’m not averse to those places if they fit my criteria which are as follows.

  1. It must not be a chain restaurant. (If it’s part of a local restaurant group like Clyde’s in the DC area, that’s acceptable)
  2. The restaurant or its signature cuisine should be unique to San Diego.
  3. It should be a place where I’m likely to find more locals than tourists.

I’ll pick a suggestion I find most interesting and work it into my itinerary and write a feature post about it when I return.  I’ll also take the winner out for dinner here in DC (Restaurant TBD, but something reasonable, IE: less than $50 pp) If I get the same suggestion from more than one person the first person to comment wins.

Coincidentally I also have a trip to Albuquerque coming up around the same time so I’m interested in any thought you have on that as well.

$99 buys you a flight on a private jet!

320px-N75LJ_(6136296027)Unfortunately this is a flight you really don’t want to take!  I recently saw advertising for Medjet Assist that offered air medical transport coverage with rates starting at $99. Essentially this company provides a flying ICU to transport you back to whatever hospital you designate as your preferred point of care back in the states. The service works like a membership organization rather than an insurance policy so there is no quibbling with insurance companies about payouts and no out-of-pocket expenses for the transport other than the membership fee. This sounded like a pretty good deal given the cost of emergency medical transport so I was curious about the product and how it differed from other coverage on the market. A review of Flyer Talk and Cruise Critic was very informative and provided some good firsthand information on the service and what it covers. (As well as what it doesn’t) Wendy Perrin also had some insight on the service including a tip for travelers that may need the service but haven’t bought a membership.  Apparently the company will arrange transport for you at a wholesale price even if you aren’t a member so while it would still cost exponentially more than a membership you would at least be getting a discount.

Generally the folks on the online forums thought the service was well worth the money and sang its praises but there were some caveats that should be taken into consideration when thinking about buying a membership.

  1. Consider how often you will be traveling and where you are traveling to. If you travel domestically for the most part or to first world countries where good medical care is available this might not be an expense you want to incur.
  2. This is not a replacement for travel insurance so you will still want to make sure your primary insurance covers you when you are travelling or buy a specific travel insurance policy.
  3. The coverage only takes you from hospital to hospital so if you are traveling and need an ambulance or airlift to get to the nearest hospital that is not included.
  4. MedJet does offer translation services and referrals to medical providers abroad, but any costs incurred for medical care prior to their transport are also your responsibility.

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Deals & Discounts & other such Whatnot

Time for my weekly roundup of things that caught my eye in travel news this week… deals, discounts, and other such whatnot that might be of interest.

Rosetta Stone is running a sale on their language learning software so this could be a good time to work on that second language you’ve been thinking about before your next trip… or if their price tag is still a little steep give Duolingo a shot. With IOS and Android apps the program is pretty good for freeware.

Amtrak is offering a 25% discount on travel in the Northeast when you book at least 14 days in advance.  The fares aren’t too bad, although they are limited to coach fares only and blackout dates apply. These fares start to make the train competitive to bus service between major cities in the Northeast.

 

Beautifully reclaiming abandoned metro stations in Paris! I found this posting about a plan to reclaim 8 abandoned metro stations in Paris over at Points and Pixie Dust.  Sadly it sounds like this isn’t going to happen but the renderings look pretty cool…

New(ish) airline People Express to launch at the end of the month. This is a reboot of the budget carrier that originally launched in the 80’s before being acquired by Continental.  The new(ish) airline will be a bare bones budget carrier offering a la carte upgrades.

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160 years of history at the Parker House Boston

Boston is one of a handful of cities in the US that I keep finding myself going back to over and over.  Sometimes I find my way there for work other times for fun, and later this summer just by random chance.  (A friend is getting hitched in Amherst so we’re flying in and out of Boston) The last time I traveled to Boston I had the pleasure of staying at the historic Omni Parker House hotel located in the heart of downtown Boston. The hotel is in a great location since it places you squarely between the Common and Faneuil Hall, while also having the North End easily accessible. I love historic hotels and the Parker house has an impressive pedigree in that respect so I was really excited to check it out.  The hotel originally opened in 1855 by Harvey Parker was mostly demolished in 1927 when the current incarnation was erected.  Over the years the hotel has hosted the likes of Dickens, Longfellow, Emerson, JFK, Ho Chi Minh, and Malcom X.  In addition, ghost stories about the property abound which only added to my enthusiasm for the visit.

Our guest room was a little on the small side and didn’t offer much of a view, but as I’ve mentioned before small rooms are not uncommon in older hotels. I also noticed that sound carried easily and the walls seemed to be a little thin, but since we were tucked away on the back of the top floor that didn’t bother us too much. I also can’t really complain since I was piggybacking on my better half’s work trip so the room didn’t cost us anything. In contrast to the small guest room, the fitness center was fairly large given that it was obviously not part of the original plan. The center is located on the basement level in space that formerly held the hotel bar, and is well equipped as hotel gyms go. The real shining stars of this hotel though are its lobby and other public spaces. The elevator bank in the lobby has beautifully crafted brass doors with intricate gilding and the old school floor indicator that looks like a clock face.  The walls are covered in wood paneling with marble and brass accents throughout the dimly lit space giving it certain elegance.  The Parker House restaurant, made famous by their dinner rolls and Boston cream pie, also looked to be noteworthy, although I did not get the chance to dine there myself. (I did however sample their Boston cream pie which I found to be a bit of a letdown.)  Predictably, my favorite place in the hotel was the Last Hurrah bar just off the lobby.  It had comfy leather chairs, friendly bar tenders, and large windows looking out onto School Street.  It was also picked by Whiskey magazine as one of the Great Whiskey Bars of the World, which was my big selling point because it means they had a great selection of single malts.

While the facilities were impressive, it was the staff at the hotel that really made the stay memorable.  The first person we talked to after checking in was the Guest Services Manager Seamus Murphy who, judging by Tripadvisor and YouTube, is a well-known figure at the Parker House.  (Given that he’s been there 38 years) He came up and introduced himself and shook our hands, and then looked at me and said “you can always trust a man in a Scala cap” referring to the news boy cap I was wearing.  I found a great interview with him on YouTube talking about the hotel that I’ve included here for your viewing pleasure.

After hearing the story about Seamus and the Scala cap (and my affinity for Baseball) one of the hotel’s event managers brought my wife a red, white, and blue Red Sox newsy cap…  I imagine that was not an entirely altruistic gesture, it certainly added a personal touch to the service and went above and beyond anything I would have expected.

20140602_224042_Connecticut Ave NW

 

I would definitely stay here again and would recommend it to anyone traveling through the Boston area, especially if you are in town to be a tourist. As I said at the beginning of this post I will be making a quick trip back to Boston in August where we have booked an overnight at The Liberty hotel which has some historical claims to fame as well. I’ll write about that and other parts of my Boston visits in a future posts.

 

Happy Travels Turtle Herd…

Deals & Discounts & other such Whatnot

Uber has unveiled a value priced SUV service for the DC market called Uber XL.

The service is positioned at a price point in between their Uber X and their black car service.

 

Kayak.com has an awesome tool called “Explore” that I just discovered. You select your home airport and it displays air fares to different locations on a map.

Explore

Starwood running a big Hawaii Summer Resort Sale rates start at $149 a night.

$489 — Dominican Republic 5-Night All-Inclusive Trip w/Air from CheapCaribbean.com.

$999 — Spain: 5-Night Costa del Sol Trip w/Air.

7 day Mediterranean cruise; Venice to Rome on the Queen Elizabeth from $764

NYC Midtown Suites from $220.00

8 Night Tuscany Trip w/Air, 2-Br Villa & Car starting at $1399.

7 Night Caribbean Cruise in Ocean view plus shipboard credit.

Las Vegas: 1-Br Suite at the Cosmopolitan starting at $152.

Wraparound Terrace Suite-King Bedded at the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas for $260

SPG Hot Escapes

Sheraton Suites Galleria-Atlanta $68

W Retreat & Spa – Vieques Island $214

The Westin Las Vegas Hotel, Casino & Spa $83

Sheraton Hanoi $76

Sheraton New Orleans $90

 

 

Mimslyn Inn a charming escape in the Shenandoah.

After my wife and I got married we decided that we had plenty of “stuff” (perhaps too much!) filling up our apartment so we decided that instead of buying each other anniversary gifts we would travel instead.  The memories made through the shared experience of traveling are far more durable and infinitely more valuable than any other gift we might give one another.  This year the timing for our trip is a little off as we’re also trying to buy a condo so we opted for a weekend trip instead of our more adventurous getaways.  For this trip we opted to do a Virginia wine country excursion with an overnight at the Mimsyn inn at Luray.

The inn was originally opened in 1931 with much fanfare by the Mims family, as it was the biggest and fanciest hotel in the area. Mimslyn sits on 14 acres that previously served as a union encampment during the civil war.  Prior to constructing the Inn a previous residence, known as Aventine Hall, was removed from the property and reassembled in a few blocks away. As an interesting side note Aventine Hall was the former home of confederate politician, served as a civil war field hospital, and part of the short-lived Luray College.

In 2005 the Mimslyn was purchased by its current owners and renovated to restore its former glory while also adding new amenities. The hotel was most certainly the grande dame of Luray, but you could tell it wasn’t exactly the Greenbrier. The guest rooms were a bit on the small side but that is to be expected in older hotels and the bathroom was tiny but adequate.  While the rooms did not have minibars, (which are an overrated amenity I think) they did have a bottle of wine from one of the local vineyards and proper stemware which was a nice touch.IMGP1056

The restaurant, Circa ’31, was very elegant and the food was of a quality well above what you might expect for rural Virginia.  We had a great four course dinner that featured
fantastic braised short ribs and each course was paired with local wines.  The breakfast was also quite good and featured all the standards you would expect plus a few local twists like Eggs Chesapeake. Judging from the crowd it appeared they did a pretty good brunch business with the locals. In contrast though, the Speakeasy bar seemed to have been renovated on the cheap and was far from what I would have expected from the marketing.

The hotel staff were all very friendly and brought a certain small town charm to our stay that you wouldn’t find at a larger hotel or resort.  One great example of this was when I left my credit card in the hotel restaurant and later found that the house manager just put it in an envelope and slipped it under our door. Even the staff and clientele in the Speakeasy were welcoming despite being somewhat rough around the edges.  Overall I would say the Mimslyn is worth a visit if you’re heading out to the Shenandoah.  While not being the most luxurious hotel in the Virginia Blue Ridge, it is a good value compared to the average room price at one of its bigger cousins. You can also tell the staff tries very hard to make your stay the best it can be and that counts for a lot in itself.

 

Happy Travels Turtle Herd…

Deals & Discounts & other such Whatnot

I haven’t been able to post as regularly this past week as I would have liked, in large part because work and other engagements have interrupted my normal posting routine.  I have a few things in the works to report on for next week when I return to a more normal posting schedule, but here are a few tidbits of travel news from the last week I wanted to share.

Great new website for booking Suites!

There is a cool new hotel booking site on the scene called the Suitest! The site is great because it works like an aggregator for other booking sites (such as Travelocity, hotels.com, Expedia, etc…) to find the best price. The site also shows a deal grade to determine if this is a good value in general, a suite score to see how the suite compares to others in the same category, and a timeline projection that uses previous booking data and prices to determine if you should book now or wait.

Easy way to get 2000 miles free on American and U.S. Airways.

American and U.S. Airways are both offering 2000 miles for joining their dining rewards programs.  All you have to do is sign up and register one or more credit or debit cards. Then spend $30 or more on a single dine (including tax and tip) at a participating restaurant, bar or club within 30 days of joining. Log back on and complete a review and voilà 200 miles! I sign up for as many of these programs as possible since you don’t have to make a reservation through their sites.  (HT to View from the Wing for sharing)

Wendy Perrin has a new Website.

Wendy recently left Condé Nast Traveler to start her own website and was also recently named Tripadvisor’s first ever Travel Advocate. The site is definitely worth a visit and has some great advice from a giant in the travel world.

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Deals & Discounts, & other such whatnot

Weekly Deals, Discounts, and other such whatnot from around the web…. Enjoy

American Express offering $200 statement credit for spending $2000 on Cathay Pacific. Just log in to your Amex account and sign-up under the “Amex offers for you” section, or sign up via twitter using the Amex Sync website.

Amex

Aer Lingus offering round trip flights from NY to Ireland for $709!

Round trip from LAX to New Zealand for $1069

6% off Paris Pass Use PPASS6 code at checkout. (This is more than worth the cost if you’re going to Paris for a week or more)

10% off Hertz Weekly/Weekend rental.

Best Western offering a free night after 3 separate stays.

Uber staring a Loyalty program (or at least testing the waters).

500 Bonus miles on United for joining their MileagePlus Dining rewards program.

 

Happy Travels Turtle Herd…

Chateau O’Brien is the best kept secret in Virginia.

297952_10150331979671593_2139351471_nFor those of you who know me, you’ve probably heard me rave about Chateau O’Brien and their wine. We originally discovered O’Brien completely by chance as they didn’t do a lot of advertising, and seldom took part in any of the regional wine festivals. Despite this lack of advertising the winery has had a dramatic increase in visitors through word of mouth since we first found them, and it they have garnered some media coverage along the way. In addition to some of the best wine I have ever tasted, the winery also has beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Every wine they produce is good, but the true standouts are the reds! My personal favorite is the limited Reserve Tannat that is a little on the pricey side at $80 a bottle, but well worth every penny! Part of the secret to their quality is that they produce all their own grapes and do not by any from bulk suppliers which allows them to control the process from beginning to end.

On our most recent visit we treated ourselves to private cellar tasting poured by the proprietor himself Howard O’Brien. We started with their white wines which included a very crisp Chardonnay and a refreshing Pinot Grigio.  Afterwards we headed down to the reserve tasting room in the cellar where we were greeted by the owner. This is the inner sanctum of the winery where the walls are lined with racks of their best wines and tastings are made by appointment only. The room was cool and dry with a white gravel floor and dim lighting that lent the space a cozy ambiance. In the center of the room was a pair of love seats and a table set with charcuterie plate that included a selection of Irish cheeses imported specifically for the winery.  We sampled four of their best reds, a Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and their signature Northpoint Red.

If you are thinking about a trip out to the Virginia wine country this is a great stop around lunch time as they have plentiful seating and do not mind you bringing a picnic lunch to enjoy so long as you don’t bring any outside alcoholic beverages with you. Another of my favorite things about Chateau O’Brien is that they hold fundraisers each year for local charities like the animal shelter and habitat for humanity.

This winery makes a great addition for any weekend trip you’re planning for Virginia wine country and it pairs well with an overnight at one of the regions plentiful B&B’s. I recommend visiting in the early fall when the leaves are changing colors which makes for beautiful drive out I-66!

Happy Travels Turtle Herd…

DUI rates decline when Uber comes to town (maybe)

In a follow-up post to the one I made earlier today, the Uber blog is touting a study that cites decreased incidents of DUI arrests in Seattle and San Screenshot_2014-05-10-18-51-49Francisco. The folks at Uber obviously put some time and effort into crunching the numbers for this analysis, and overall its a nice first pass.  The study cites publicly available information, from the municipalities, and does In my opinion a somewhat cursory analysis of the numbers to support their claim. In general this is good news for drivers, law enforcement, and bars when Uber comes to town!

So Why did I say DUI rate may decline when Uber rolls into town? Well, first we have only be given two cohorts of data to support this claim so we don’t know if this trend holds true in other cites as well. (the n is too small) It also doesn’t give time frame  for the study (that I can tell) so we don’t know if the decline holds true over time or if it might be a seasonal blip, nor does it show year over year rates for the same time period. More importantly there appears to be no control for the typical Uber user demographic and how that may contrast to the typical demographics for those arrested for DUI  offenses in each city. I would also like to see some comparison numbers for services like Hailo and Taxi Magic as they offer a similar service. (albeit I prefer Uber)

Despite my poking holes in the initial analysis published on their blog, I am a great fan of the company and would love to see them grow and expand. I do think they offer a great service that provides a reasonable value for the price, but the jury is still out on their claims of reducing DUI rates.

HT to View from the Wing for the initial share.

Happy Travels Turtle Herd…

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