Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hawaii Waikiki Grand Hotel


Located on the east end of Waikiki across from the Honolulu Zoo and less than a five minute walk from Queen Beach, the Waikiki Grand is a no frill, great bargain hotel in Waikiki. If you are looking for all the normal amenities and frills of a typical resort hotel then this may not be the place for you.



SAMNOV10 026However, if you want affordable simple accommodation in Waikiki then the Waikiki Grand may suit your needs.

I stayed three nights on the 9th floor in a basic room with outdated furniture, a bathroom that could be updated with new plumbing and carpeting that could use a good cleaning or be replaced.



Nonetheless, I was not disappointed with my stay. The room had a comfortable bed, small refrigerator, a balcony, air conditioning and free wi-fi.

During my stay the hotel was relatively quiet although there is a bar and nightclub on the second floor. There is also a popular burger restaurant on the lobby level.

In reading previous reviews, mention was made of this being a popular gay/lesbian hangout. The only way I knew that maybe the case is due to a Rainbow Flag flying from the second floor which could just as easily have been there because Hawaii is often known as the “Rainbow State”.

In my opinion any issue with it being a gay/lesbian hangout is a non issue and should not affect anyone's decision to stay here.



2012-11-05 17.43.15Sunset At Kapahulu Pier Less Than 5 Minute Walk



The Waikiki Grand does not offer daily maid service but the front desk is more than accommodating for any special needs. Although if you ask for an ironing board you will just get that without the iron. There is also laundry facilities available on the property.

For about US$100 per night booked through Priceline, I thought I got a great deal and will definitely be staying at Waikiki Grand again and again.

Mahalo, Waikiki Grand!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Georgia, Savannah Suggestions



Georgia, Savannah Suggestions



SAMGHOST 092For a reasonable stay just outside of Savannah off Interstate I-95, the affordable Inn At Mulberry Grove may be just the place.

Clean comfortable rooms with a free hot breakfast and wi-fi it is hard to beat for $39.95. The location is a short drive into Savannah and may save you enough dough to have a nice dinner in town.





SAMGHOST 121With lunch specials from $7.95 and old-school beers from under $3 a bottle, it is hard to go wrong at Crystal Beer Parlor an old “speakeasy”.

Don't leave without having a slice of Savannah Mud Pie.






Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Churchill Polar Bear Tips-N-Things


Most visitors come to Churchill, The Polar Bear Capital of The World, during bear season in organized tours anywhere from one day to multi-day stays costing from $2-7,000.00. However, there are a few independent travelers that might find the following information useful.

The cheapest way to Churchill is by train from Winnipeg about $400 RT in a non-sleeping car. A journey that takes about 44 hours and is only available certain days of the week. An alternate to save time is to drive or fly to Thompson and take the train from there. If you do drive to Thompson, I am told it is better to park at the City Hall lot which is relatively cheap and has 24 hr security.


SAMCA 003Some airfare bargains can be found if you plan to travel early or late in the season. Otherwise, a charter package is probably a better deal.






In Churchill, I recommend the following:



SAMCA 027Polar Inn & Suites. I paid $100 per night including free continental breakfast and Wi-fi.








SAMCA 023Very quite hotel with an at home feeling to it. Has a gift shop and they also operate a tour company.

From what I saw all hotels are basically in the same area and all seem to be the typical small town hotels.









SAMCHILL 014When a restaurant has a “sinful” bakery, is often crowded and comes highly recommended by locals, not much more needs to be said.







SAMCHILL 009Tundra Dining Room & Bar: Across the street from and owned by the Tundra Inn.

This is the place if you want to sample local fare like Elk meatloaf ($23) or a Bison burger, lean and delicious for $15 especially with a $3 Standard Lager (labeling looks like Budweiser but taste much better).










SAMCA 097I chose Great White Bear Tour company for CAD$ 400 per day. I will almost guarantee you that you will not be disappointed if you do the same.






Friendly staff and no doubt better equipment than the competition. Although tundra buggies can hold about 36 passengers, they carry a maximum of 18 plus a tour guide on group tours.


SAMCA 055Although we had only 7 passengers on our tour, we came across other buggies that we could tell were much more crowded. While this might be good for business it might not necessarily be good for the customers.







SAMCA 082From airline type seating for ride comfort, to huge slanted windshields and a rear observation area with a see through flooring, I think you cannot go wrong in choosing Great White Bear Tour company.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Canada, Toronto Tips


Hotel: Quality Inn & Suites Toronto Airport East  


SAMYYZ 060This hotel is conveniently just a few miles from the airport. It offers a free airport shuttle and free parking along with free wireless internet access through out the hotel. The front desk staff is very friendly and helpful with local information.





Like all hotels the rates fluctuate but for my stay I paid about US$ 58 per night booked through www.booking.com. This was much cheaper than the rate offered on the hotel website.


SAMYYZ 058From Quality Inn you have easy access to major highways and the local transit system. Using the bus and subway will take you less than an hour to get into downtown Toronto.






Car Rental: Payless

Rental facility is located off airport property and requires you to ride a tram to a pick up point. However, the van service to Payless was quick and the price of the rental was definitely worth it. Through www.orbitz.com I paid US$16 per day plus taxes and fees.

Total for two days, US$62.

At the Payless office they have free Wi-fi and there is a Subway and Pizza restaurant next door. Their location provides easy access to major highways and car rental return is simple.

One draw back, if you drive to Niagara Fall the quickest way is on the 403/QEW. Portions of this route is a toll road that is automatically billed from your rental license plate number. There are no manual toll booths so you will have to wait about a month for your credit card to be billed toll charges.

In Florida, many rental car companies offer you the option to pay a toll surcharge upfront and I do not know if this service is offered with other companies in Toronto.

However, I imagine the price and service from Payless is going to be tough to beat.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Japan, ATM Advice


A part of my travel plans is not as Karl Malden would put it “American Express, Don't Leave Home Without It”, but “Don't Leave Home Without A Few Benjamins, Jacksons And Washingtons”.

The thought behind this is that I avoid or minimize using my credit cards and paying what I consider to be ridiculous “foreign transaction” fees.

When my I run out of my friendly President's, I simply find an ATM and withdraw local currency without any fees except those that may be charged for using the ATM. After all, I am using my own money and this way I do not end up with a big credit card bill when I get home.


HAK 023This plan has worked well for me almost everywhere that I have traveled except in Japan, I run into a bit of dilemma. Apparently, most ATM's here do not accept credit/cash cards issued by foreign banks.





However, the banks here will exchange your “Green Backs” without any transaction fee. This is a process that requires your passport and takes about twenty minutes to complete.



NRT FISH 009Down to my last two “Benjamins”, I may have to return to the airport, the last place I saw an ATM that I know for sure will give me some more of my friends even if they have now turned Japanese.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Thailand, Moonite Boutique Hotel


153For a delightful yet affordable stay in Bangkok, I would highly recommend Moonite Boutique Hotel.

For about US$60 per night including a delicious breakfast that will make you stay at the hotel longer than you should, this property that opened about eight months ago, is an enjoyable place to stay.



A friendly staff and free Wi-Fi makes Moonite Boutique a winner in my book. Located on Wireless Rd near the Swiss Embassy, Moonite is also within walking distance of the Chid Lom Skytrain Station and also provides easy access to the canal boats.



152For a special treat, while no one is looking, steal a piece of the toast from beneath the crispy done right bacon strips. I promise it will be the best toast you will ever taste or I'll eat a bug.





Moonite Boutique Hotel: www.themoonite.com/contact.asp

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Cambodia, Plantation Urban Resort & Spa



107Located near The Royal Palace, Plantation Urban Resort & Spa is a gorgeous, tranquil property that is an exceptional value for a stay in Phom Phen, Cambodia.





From the welcome drinks to the friendly and gracious staff to the beautiful tropical landscape and two refreshing swimming pools this property is an oasis in the middle of a bustling city.



008Plantation Poolside



004I booked a room online (agoda) for US$49 per night including a fantastic breakfast. Although the room view was not the best, the room itself was nicely decorated and came with a small balcony.

With a surprised 30% discount at the on property spa, I get a 60 minute full body relaxing massage for about US$10.





164Without a doubt, I would highly recommend Plantation Urban Resort & Spa even if you just want to see the current free local art exhibition or get your own slice of heaven.

Plantation Urban Resort & Spa: www.theplantation.asia





Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Local Music And Brew In Belfast, Northern Ireland U.K


IMG_5972If you are looking for a place to quench your thirst and experience a true local Irish pub while in Belfast then a visit to The Glory Hole Bar may be a treat for you.







IMG_5966Located in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter, The Glory Hole is a fun place to have a pint or two, enjoy lively conversations, make new friends and listen to entertaining live Irish music.








Northern Ireland, Driving The Coastal Causeway Route




IMG_5989The howling wind makes for great scenery and white capped crashing waves as I begin my early morning drive from Port Stuart to Belfast along The Coastal Causeway Route.







IMG_6005Dunluce Castle



With stops at Dunluce Castle, The Giants Causeway along with a fun bouncing adventure at Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, this is a drive everyone should get the opportunity to make.



IMG_6018The Giants Causeway









IMG_6059Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge





IMG_6066Northern Ireland's coastline is beautiful and a visit there is one trip you won't soon forget.







Monday, January 23, 2012

South Africa, Pretoria Nice B&B


If you are looking for a nice place to wind down and relax with a local flavor while you are visiting Pretoria then I would highly recommend Friends B&B.



SAM_0514Located in a quiet neighborhood that is easily accessible, Friends B&B has a nice charm that will make you feel right at home in South Africa.

For R$460, about US$60 a night, the owner Yolanda will treat you like a king.





Although you will probably need a travel adapter for your electrical equipment, the rooms have hot showers, are nicely decorated and come with a set up for you to enjoy a good cup of tea.



SAM_0504Let Yolanda know what time you will be waking up and you just might be greeted with the sweet smell of bacon, sausage or eggs being cooked in the nearby open kitchen which has a tree growing thru the middle of it.






SAM_0512Yolanda offers a wide selection of items for breakfast including breads, fruits, pastries, juices and my favorite Rooibos Tea.






If you able to stay awhile you can also enjoy some time lounging around the pool that is tucked away in the corner of a nicely landscaped yard.




SAM_0500Friends B&B Back Yard Pool



Friends B&B 124 Lange Str Nieuw Muckleneuk Pretoria 0181

Tel: 012 460-4576

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Great Restaurant In Cape Town Wine Country


With just a few hours left in Cape Town, I plan one more brief visit to the nearby Stellenbosch wine region. A cellar tour and lunch would be nice before flying back to Johannesburg.



JNB Trip 542My first stop is at Zandberg Winery home of the award winning The Winelands Restaurant. This becomes my only stop.







JNB Trip 535With a private cellar dining room available, the ambiance and menu here is impressive.






For starters, The Trio Of Puglia's Mozzarella Pin Wheels is ordered. Traditional mozzarella, grilled vegetables, basil pesto, Italian anchovy, olive tapenade, Parma ham and sun dried tomatoes make taking these wheels for a spin tons of culinary fun.




JNB Trip 525Trio of Puglia Mozzarella Pin Wheels



While waiting for my starters to arrive, slices of a fresh warm sweet bread is served. If this bread is available in the prisons here then I am ready to start serving a life sentence. It is so, so delicious.



JNB Trip 526Next it is a bowl of Roasted Red Pepper soup that is so flavorful I am already scheming a way to steal the recipe.

Who knew a soup and red peppers could be so palette pleasing.




Even before my main course arrives this is turning into a 5-Star dining experience. The Winelands not only offers great food but Zandberg is also where was the first white Merlot was produced in South Africa. This wine makes a nice compliment to my meal and I can already tell one glass of it is not going to be enough.



JNB Trip 534Angels are singing when my main course, Lamb, Rosemary and Garlic Kofta is presented. Organic pasture lamb, homemade linguine with an olive, anchovy tomato sauce and I am in culinary heaven.

Sing Angels, Sing!





JNB Trip 536With such excellent starters and main courses, I have no doubt that a desert selection would not be just as spectacular.

Three different servings of Italian ice cream topped with a peppermint leaf finishes off a perfect lunch time meal.




Just above my table is an autographed wine crate to the owners of The Winelands that states “To the best little restaurant in the world!”. The signer, Martin Meinert is unknown to me but I would have a hard time disagreeing with his sentiment.

If you dine at The Winelands Restaurant (www.96wineryroad.co.za) you just might too.