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.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Great hotel pool and golf

The Hilton Belfast Templepatrick Golf & Country Club is set in the beautiful Northern Irish countryside. It’s a wonderful backdrop to play golf or to have a wedding. It’s close to the Belfast International airport, but does not have a shuttle bus from the airport, (as many airport hotels do) It’s about a £15 taxi ride.

As I approached the nice long, wooded hotel driveway, I saw a man walking his dog and he lifted his dog to let the dog see the sheep over the old stone wall. Such a lovely location in the beautiful green countryside, where people are delightful.


I have a routine when I stay at a hotel with a spa. I phone the spa as soon as I check in to make an appointment. Unfortunately, the spa/health Club, did not answer their phone, so I phoned the front desk and a very nice man said that he would get them to phone me. He said that they are open till 9pm but when I looked at the Hotel info book in the room and saw that it is open Thurs and Friday till 8pm and the Spa pamphlet states that they are open every day of the week till 9 pm. Anyway, at 2p.m. Grace, from the Spa, called and I asked her if I could have an appointment for Thursday or Friday. She abruptly told me that there were no time slots available and they would not even be able to accommodate me for a half hour appointment. This made me think that they did not have staff on the premises and my suspicion was confirmed when I went to the health club and saw that the treatment rooms were empty, all afternoon and evening. I decided to swim and looked in the room for the slippers and robe, but it was not there, so I had to wear my winter boots to the pool and Yuk, walk bare foot to the pool, where I discovered that I would have to wait an hour to swim because there was an exercise class in the pool. I wish that they had left one lane open for swimmers. I can’t help thinking that this is a fake hotel Spa, that it is only interested in catering to the locals and not to the hotel guests. The health club may as well be located in the village. Many hotels that have similar treatment rooms, call a local spa therapist, to come to the hotel when guests request it. It usually works well when the front desk of the hotel organizes this. I had the same problem last time I stayed at this hotel. There were no appointments available unless you book 2 weeks in advance. Occasionally, this is the case with Sheraton hotels, but they warn you on their website at the time of making a reservation, that the Spa or restaurant needs to be reserved early.

I was a hotel guest, so I did not know that I should bring a £1 coin to use a locker. I was in a bad mood, nothing seemed to go my way, that day. I was at this hotel for much needed R&R. The pool was a nice warm temperature and this alleviated my mood.


I saw that another guest was wearing hotel slippers and she confirmed that they were in the room, so I asked the housekeeping lady in the hall if they do or don’t have slippers in the room. She was very nice and explained that the rooms on the one side of the corridor do and the other rooms don’t. Apparently, I was a lowly elite HHonors member, (I’m top with SPG Marriott and Hyatt), so I did not get a Delux Hilton room. Now that I know they do have them, I will ask for slippers next time, so I don’t have to walk to the pool looking as if I was walking on broken ice, and I will bring a £1 coin to use the locker. Luckily, most Spas in the USA have the code system… When you travel to different hotels all the time, it’s not easy to predict what each hotel is like, that is why I like to remain loyal to a brand like Starwood, Marriott and Hyatt, where you know what to expect, within the brand conformity. It is nice that they have a business center with 2 computers, but the printer did not work to print a boarding pass. I was glad that they had Bloomberg channel on the TV and had a nice evening relaxing.

There was no mini bar /fridge in my room but I put my milk for tea out on the window ledge to stay cold. The room is nice, a bit dated shape of the bathroom vanity, but it is a functional, good sized bathroom and no reason to modernize it because it is comfortable. I like that the window can be opened, because the heating worked too well and I like fresh air. Many hotels near airports, don’t have windows that open.

On the whole, I really like staying at this hotel and will return.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Hilton is ending “Double Dip” on Points & Miles

I enjoy beach areas in the winter. Galveston in Texas is one of my favorite places to walk in the winter and now Brighton, U.K. is also on this list. Something so peaceful about looking out at the lonely, ocean from the tea room, with the wind blowing invigoratingly.

I've stayed at a few Hilton hotels lately, to take advantage of the Double Dip on Points before it ends in March. Hilton Honors hotel loyalty program, will stop their Double Dip® Points & Air Miles earning program. My stay at the Hilton Brighton, was pleasant as beach hotels always are.


The Yellowave beach club is on the beach at Madeira Drive, open from 10am in the morning where the Yellowave and Barefoot cafe offers snacks coffee and beer. I had a delicious Samosa and a salad. In the summer it is more active with people playing volleyball, soccer and children fill the sandpit. The Clubhouse has uninterrupted sea views of Brighton beach

The Hilton Brighton Metropole in one of the grand, old buildings along the seaside. This landmark is in walking distance of Brighton's famous attractions - The Royal Pavilion, Brighton Wheel and British Airway's i36. I like walking along this promenade with the seagulls, peacefully landing on the beach.

it is a 125 year old Victorian elegant building, with modernized, stylish dining venues and a health club facilities. Parking is expensive, at is £25.00 over night, but I suppose to be expected, considering the location in this premium location in Brighton. It's a lovely seaside hotel offering stunning sea views. The accommodation has average U.K. style rooms, we did not make use of the other facilities because we were exploring Brighton from morning till noon.  The central location on the seafront made a great base for exploring the city. I'm afraid of heights so did not take to the skies to see Brighton from above on the British Airway's i36. We drove along the beautiful South Coast Downs and The "Seven Sisters", England's newest national park, which contains some of the most iconic views of the white chalk cliffs, similar to the more famous cliffs of Dover.


Friday, January 19, 2018


When it comes to booking hotels, it is best to go directly to the hotel brand website for the lowest reservation, but with car hire, the opposite is true. The best deal is a website that checks all the prices of the car rental companies. The main reason that I don’t go directly to the car rental websites is that they always end up costing more than the  quoted price, whereas, with AUTOEUROPE, you do get the best price. So, if you have no preference, which car rental company, you use, it is smart to find the best price. They are the experts and, trust me, you will have the best possible rental car experience. Fortunately, you have the option to cancel for FREE,UP TO 48 HRS BEFORE PICKUP. They get the best rates at FIREFLY CAR Rental, the discounted HERTZ subsidiary.

I always check with several websites directly before booking a rental car in Europe, but always end up reserving with A because AUTOEUROPE they are the cheapest.

click here to go to AutoEurope


Book and pay by 1/31/2018, for 5-21 day rentals with pickups through 03/22/18, blackout dates may apply. Discount is dependent upon rental location, pick-up date, and rental duration. Additional restrictions may apply depending upon pick-up and drop-off country. This offer may not be combined with any other offer, promotion or discount. Discounts apply to the mandatory rental costs, excluding taxes, fees, and surcharges. Offer is valid at participating locations but may vary by country, location, or availability. One way fees, local fees, and optional extras such as child seats, additional drivers, and fuel are charged at normal rates.


I rented in Belfast, Northern IRELAND and enjoyed driving along the spectacular coast. The only extra charge was a “Location service charge of about $20”