Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Tex-Mex Christmas

I always enjoy visiting San Antonio because the history fascinates me. I can imagine the Romantic 19th-century heroes like Bowie and Davy Crocket at the Alamo. The spellbinding Fort Building fa├žade in the middle of the city, makes me appreciate those brave founding Texans.

Before I learnt to speak Spanish, I ate chili con carne on the other side of the world. I did not know that Carne, simply means “Meat”. The hot Beef and beans dish is eaten all over the world, but tastes the best in Texas. My favorite food to eat, on the River walk, is Texas-style barbecue brisket or Chili pepper meals, a cuisine originally popularized by Tejanas. They worked as wives or servants and many had their own food stalls. In the late 19th century, San Antonio was a booming railroad town and became famous for its open-air market stalls.


Come see the holiday lights strung across the Alamo grounds. It just brings this amazing structure to a magical elevation! Christmas is the best time to visit the Alamo. Firstly, the weather is cooler in Texas this time of the year to walk around the grounds open until 7 p.m. daily . The lights will be up for the full month of December. We remember the Alamo and the sacrifice the Pioneer defenders made in 1836.

Free events to enjoy with your family are: Alamo Christmas tree Lighting Ceremony | Nov. 30, 6 p.m. - 7 p.m. Enjoy hot chocolate, cookies and live music.

The next event is “A Homemade Christmas at the Alamo” on Dec. 1, 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., explore what the holiday season would have looked like on the Texas frontier! A Homemade Christmas will include period crafts for visitors of all ages, living history demonstrations, Christmas storytelling, music and more.

Fort Sam Houston - The U.S. Army in San Antonio | Dec. 1, free with registration This presentation will cover the history of Fort Sam Houston and the U.S. Army in San Antonio. Beginning with the initial arrival of the army in 1845, the talk will highlight the numerous army activities throughout downtown San Antonio.

Tourists like to take a boat ride down the river to see the city center and eat at one of the superb TexMex restaurants on the river banks. I always toast the city with a Margarita.


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Christmas traditions

I bought my Christmas pudding at Heathrow Airport and wish I could buy my Christmas crackers in England, but will not because they are banned by TSA due to the tiny explosive.


I visit Holland every year for the 5th of December to enjoy the tradition of Sinterklaas with relatives. Then I get to celebrate Christmas on the 25th again in the USA.(I like to “double dip”). It is believed that the tradition of Santa (Father Christmas) originated in 340 A.C, when the Bishop of Myra gave sweets to children. The legend of the kindly Pope’s representative arriving is played out with much pageantry in Holland to this day. Sinterklaas arrives annually on a Saturday at the end of November. This event is broadcast on national Television, each year he arrives at a different city by boat.

Children watch the TV news every day in Holland, to hear about his voyage. One year the Sinterklaas Journal had lots of children in dismay because he almost landed, but his boat had to turn around because they forgot to bring his Staff, and had to turn around to go back for it. Luckily, we know from previous years, that no matter what sort of exploits happen, Sint arrives on time to deliver gifts on the 5th of December.In England, Xmas extends to “Boxing Day”.and in Holland they also have 2 days of Christmas celebrations.
I traveled to Amsterdam with some friends from America and enjoyed their astonishment at seeing Santa’s helpers because he is always accompanied by 2 fake black moors! They are both named “zwarte Piet”( Translated is: “black Peter”). I have to admit, it is the strangest thing to see 2 grown men in tights with black makeup covering their faces! Well worth hopping on a KLM flight to cross the pond to experience a Dutch Christmas, if you can keep a straight face.    

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Discounted KLM rewards to Europe

I fly to Amsterdam often, despite trying to avoid Schiphol airport because it gets so congested and is frightening to stand in confined areas in long lines. The queues are always long at customs and the ceilings low..

KLM and Air France have really good discounted Promo Rewards starting at 3,600 miles from Paris to Rennes. But the big deals are on long-haul flights, like from Seattle. Get a discount of 50% on flights between Seattle and anywhere in Europe.NYC to Europe is also on sale.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, (Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij), is a genuine Royal Airline! The King of Holland has been seen flying their 747s.image

Flying Blue is the combined loyalty program of Air France, KLM and Delta are the major airlines.

Flying Blue members receive more generous perks – and more Miles as they upgrade up to a higher elite status level and can enjoy the benefits on Sky Team airlines:

With 100 XP, you become Silver.
With 180 XP, you become Gold.
With 300 XP, you become Platinum.

The best perk with Platinum status is access to KLM lounges across the globe, with a guest of your choice.+ SkyPriority: priority access at the airport .Only Elite members (Silver, Gold, Platinum) can use reward tickets to book in First.
You get up to 50% off  with this miles Promo. (Promos are monthly offers) This Promo from Flying Blue has to be booked on 14th to 16th Nov 2018 then you have to fly between 1 Jan and 31st March 2019. Travel between anywhere in Europe and NYC in Economy one way costs 14,000 miles (and 28,000 for a round trip) Tax and fees cost $216 and up. So consider that they are advertising flights from New York to Barcelona for $319 and you don't need  to use your miles.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Seafront Festival

I had a wonderful weekend in Northern Ireland, last weekend. The annual Sea Festival was packed with fun activities.

The Captain of a tall ship invited me on board his boat and I was thrilled to be on this fairy tale vessel. In fact he told me that it had been used in the Cinderella movie.

tallship bangor

Tall ships, military vehicles, food, Street Theatre and live music filled the marina.


There was even an amazing display of aircraft:  Aerosuperbatics Wingwalkers Aerial Display - The world's only aerobatic formation wingwalking team. Bangor maritime festival offered a host of activities including live music, food stalls, street theatre.

sea festifal bangor 2

The giant 50ft inflatable whale was a hit with children and the pub was a hit with my group!

sea festifal bangor 1

I will be back next year!

Diminishing hotel benefits

I logged on to my Starwood account to begrudgingly book a Sheraton hotel and received this message, “Shine on. You're Gold for life” Well, Gold Elite for life has been de-valued by Marriott as a result of their Merger with SPG Starwood. I have both Gold Lifetime elite with Marriott and Gold Lifetime with SPG hotels and now I feel defrauded, so I will try to stay at more IHG or Hyatt Hotels.


The Marriott and SPG merger, will be effective from August 2018.This will devalue Gold Elite members because they will lose the most important benefit. Club Lounge access (Executive Lounge) This, most valuable benefit will no longer be available to Gold. More Elite Tiers will be created, so if you thought that you were a top Elite, you are now made aware that you have been moved back down the ladder and duped into accumulating Elite status.. Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and Ritz-Carlton Rewards will merge into one program this August. Sure, you will need fewer points to attain Elite Status, because Starwood had previously required fewer points for Elites. I did prefer the benefits offered by Starwood. Under the current program Marriott Gold Elites achieve Platinum status at 75 nights, now the Platinum Elite tier costs 50 nights, but they are adding more tiers above that.

Presently Marriott Rewards Gold members received complimentary breakfast for 2, the same benefit was not available to SPG Gold members, but SPG offered more suite upgrades than Marriott. The free breakfast and the club Lounge access will be removed for Gold Elites now. negating the contract that they made with members in exchange for their loyalty. They can afford to do this now that they are the largest hotel group in the world, because they have less competition from those pundits that simply want to accumulate points for free nights.

Those pundits will be pleased to hear that there is a new option for Marriott Rewards® members to earn points and Elite nights. Long stay apartments. Next time you visit London for three or more nights, you can stay with Tribute Portfolio Homes and earn points.

There is also a new brand called Design. There are fewer benefits with Design Hotels, but at least it is another brand earning points.