Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Pops' Travel Guide, Tokyo Flight Tip

I just booked a flight to Tokyo from San Francisco for my son and I and wanted to share a tip.

This will be the first trip to Japan for both my son and I. Also, my son has never been to mainland China.

In booking the trip, I found a flight with a 23 hour layover in Beijing on the way there and a 21 hour layover in Beijing on the way home. Both flights arrive in Beijing around 6 pm. Because of the long layover the airline will provide a hotel for both nights. Also, because of the long layover we can get a free 24 hour transit visa in China.

What this does for us is we get a free nights stay in Beijing on both flights, We get a free visa for China. The flights will be broken up with the stay in Beijing. It will also give us a day to get acclimated to the time zone and it gives my son an opportunity to explore China which he may not have again.

Arriving at 6 pm we plan to have dinner and get a good nights sleep. We have most of the day to see Beijing (Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, etc) and get back to the airport for our short flight to Tokyo. On the way home we will do the same except we will go to the Great Wall which is about an hour outside of Beijing.

We could have booked a direct flight but now we get to see a little extra.

So, when traveling a long layover can be a good thing. Take advantage of it and see something you may never have a chance to see in the future.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Great Ski Season in the Sierras

Bear Valley in Feb

I'm a little late writing this but wanted to recap an incredible season of skiing this year.

El Nino came through this year with a long and great ski season. My last day of skiing was at Squaw Valley in early May. Squaw and Alpine were the last ski areas open in the area with Squaw planning to stay open until Memorial Day.

Granddaughter's 1st day of skiing

I live in Sacramento and there are about 13 ski areas within a two hour drive. Under three hours and you have a few more. It is real easy to get in a day trip of skiing. I live a little over an hour from Sierra at Tahoe and can leave the house at 7am and be home before 6pm, skiing from open to close of the lifts.

Last day of skiing in May

This year was a great year as I was able to average about 1 trip a week after the first of the year. Ski areas I hit were Sierra at Tahoe, Heavenly Valley, Squaw Valley, Bear Valley and Northstar. All days were mid-week and most days were just after a fresh dumping of snow. Even in May the conditions were good. One highlight was at Squaw in May. We skied over to a run that was closed for the USA Ski team which was practicing. After watching for about 10 minutes they opened it up and the conditions were perfect.

The Sierra in Northern California has a lot to offer from large resorts to small operations and everything in between. Everyone has their favorites and I do too.

Bear Valley is a longer drive, about 3 hours, but worth it, The terrain is rough with cornices and cliff areas but also has runs for the beginner. I skied there a lot in the 70's and remember seeing a lot of celebrities as it is off by itself and was more self sufficient.

Heavenly Valley is where I learned to ski. and will always be one of my favorites. It is a huge area where you can either start in California or Nevada and ski between the two sides.

Sierra at Tahoe is the closest to my house and has a good variation in terrain. It is smaller and there are no lift lines mid-week. I can get in a full day of skiing without waiting in lines.

Whatever your ski level the Tahoe area offers plenty of options. If you want a resort atmosphere then go to Squaw Valley or Northstar. For exciting nightlife try the ski areas on the south shore of Tahoe. For more of a mom and pop atmosphere try the smaller areas.

Next year I plan on going to Mammoth Mountain. It is a larger ski area and a longer drive, about 4 hours. This will have to be a weekend trip.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Crawdad's Sacramento on the River

This week I had an appointment in West Sacramento and had an hour to kill before the meeting. I decided to go to the Sacramento River and relax at Crawdad's. On a nice June day how could you not relax while sitting on the river watching the boats and people go by,

Crawdad's literally floats on the river with a dock for boats to tie up when they are at the restaurant. They have a great selection of food and a nice open air bar where you sit, watch the river and relax.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Pops' Travel Guide, California Grappa

I know there are not a lot of you out there that like Grappa. I happen to be one that does so indulge me. My son and I made the trek up to the Amador Wineries in Northern California to pick up our wine club selections. The Amador Wineries are about a 45 minute drive from our house. We usually drive up, go to the 4 wineries I am a club member of, have lunch and then drive home. It's a nice relaxing day in a beautiful part of California with the rolling hills full of vineyards. The best part is it's hardly ever crowded and the scenery and wine quality matches that of the more familiar areas in California. It's like going back in time to Napa when you didn't have to pay to taste and there were no crowds. Spring is coming soon and you might want to consider this option.

Now to the main point of this post. While I was driving from winery to winery I remembered that I was out of Grappa. For those of you that don't know what Grappa is, it's made by taking the leftover mash from the wine process and distilling it. My cousin Roberto in Italy makes his own and that's where I fell in love with it. There is one winery in Amador, that I know of, that makes and sells Grappa. If you know and love Grappa you will know that Grappa can have different tastes depending on what grapes the mash came from. We went to the Vino Nocheto Winery to buy the Grappa. There they had a Barbera and Sangiovese and I bought both. You can also get Moscato and Zinfandel.

Now Grappa is not for everyone and most of my friends think I'm crazy for drinking it but if you are like me and love Grappa then Vino Nocheto is a great option. If you live in the area and want to buy some, California law won't let you taste at the winery, then make the trip to Amador County and spend a day in the area. If you live too far away you can find locations that sell it online.

The address is 11011 Shenandoah Road, Plymouth, CA 95669 and they are open most days 11am to 4pm.   Amador County is just southeast of Sacramento off of Highway 49 in the gold country.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Travel with Pops, Napa and Sonoma Wine Country

For those of you looking to travel to the California Coast, October is the perfect time to go. The weather is perfect as it is before the rainy season and the temperature is mild. It is also my favorite time to visit the wine country in Napa and Sonoma.

Usually October is also when the harvest is going strong but this year with our drought and hot summer the harvest was a little earlier. Don't let that stop you, this is still a good time of year to visit the wineries. If you can I would go mid-week. The crowds are a lot less and you will find it easier to get to the tasting bar and to find a table at a restaurant.

For a day trip I like to make my way up through the Sonoma county wineries, cut across when you hit Santa Rosa and then work my way down Napa Valley. The wineries are up to you but some of my favorites are Kenwood and Chateau St. Jean in Sonoma County; and Grgich  Hills and for sparkling wine Chandon in Napa Valley. Look at a wine map and pick your own.

You still have time. The weather should be great into early November.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Travel with Pops, Marina Bay Sands

View from our seats at the race

On our recent trip to Singapore we went to the Marina Bay Sands. This is a complex of 3 highrise buildings with a park, pool and observation deck that spans all 3 buildings on top. The top spanning the 3 buildings is in the shape of a ship. The complex also has a hotel, casino, and shopping mall in the 3 buildings. For access to the park and pool you need to be a hotel guest but for a small fee you can go to the top observation deck and enjoy the beautiful view of Singapore. This is something I would highly recommend.

Enjoy some of the pictures we took.

View of our seats from the top of Marina Bay Sands

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Travel with Pops, Macau

St. Marks

Today was our last day in Asia. We were in Hong Kong and decided to take the ferry to Macau for a little siteseeing and gambling. What made the trip better was hiring a guide that took us around the city. We saw the second oldest church in Macau, the ruins of St. Pauls, a Buddhist temple, the fortress,  and the many casinos. One of the casinos had 55 gold bars inlaid in the floor entrance. We got out at the Venetian and spent a good 3 hours gambling. Between Kevin and I we came out a little ahead. That means I lost some and Kevin won more. Kevin was also able to capture a video of someone bungi jumping off the Macau Tower. I'll add that later.

When I get home I'll add more detail and more pictures. This has been an awesome trip.

Gold bars

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