Enriching your lifestyle through wine, culinary and jazz travel.

The Grapevine

We bring you the best in travel, wine and food with these blog posts.

Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

USAirways Says “So Long”

Posted on: |

USAirways Merger Completed

USAirways & American Merger Completed

USAirways & American Merger Completed

The merger between USAirways and American Airlines has been completed. On Oct. 16, 2015 USAirways will cease to exist.

To recognize the soon-to-be-defunct company’s founding year, historic flight US1939, will depart from Philadelphia at 10:05 a.m., making stops in Charlotte, Phoenix and San Francisco. Then, it will depart SFO at 9:55 p.m., marking the last flight to operate under the brand USAirways.

 Travel Tips

If you are flying out the weekend of Oct 16th, your flight will be under American Airlines.  Things will probably be a little shaky during the next few weeks. Here’s some advice to help you during this transitional period.

  • Arrive at the airport early.
  • Have patience – Many employees will be using a new, unfamiliar system.
  • Verify your terminal. It may have changed if USAirways and AA had been using terminals in different locations.
  • Check, then re-check your gate. Access to certain gates may have changed as a result of the merger.
  • Check in on line whenever possible to minimize waiting in long lines.
  • If checking your bags, pay your fee on line to reduce long waits at the kiosk or counter.

To USAirways, so long and thanks for the memories!

Tags: , , ,

Top 10 Reasons to Use a Travel Agent

Posted on: |

Reason #10 – Why Use a Travel Agent?

A Travel Agent Adds Value to Your Experience

A Travel Agent Adds Value to Your Experience

Have you ever heard someone say, “Oh, so-and-so has a new movie.” and your response is, “I thought he was dead.”  Well the same has been about the travel agent. The talk regarding the death of the travel agent is just a vicious rumor. Travel agents add so much value to a person’s travel planning and ultimate experience.

Learn why you should use a travel agent to plan and book your vacation, honeymoon or special milestone trip. In this series on the top 10 reasons to use a travel agent, you will read truth not rumor.

Here’s the first of the Top 10 Reasons to Use a Travel Agent, presented in David Letterman style.

10. Got a Life? If you do have a life then you are busy, too busy to spend your time planning and booking a vacation. Let a professional do it for you. Do you pay someone to wash your car, manicure your nails, walk your dog, clean your house, babysit your children, mow your lawn? So why shouldn’t you use a professional (that you don’t have to pay-but more on that later) for a decision this important to you? Not only is this one of the largest investments you will make year in and year out, it’s also one of the most important.

It’s not like you get a vacation every month, right? You don’t get that much vacation time away from work and your other responsibilities.  Allowing a travel professional to handle the important details of your vacation, dream honeymoon, anniversary or milestone trip gives your special getaway the best chance of being the best vacation you’ve ever taken.

And just in case you didn’t know . . . to use a song title from the great Motown songwriting team of Ashford and Simpson, “(It) Don’t Cost you Nothing”, which leads me to reason #9, so check back next month.

Tags: , ,

Traveler News

Posted on: |

Travel Updates and Alerts

For the week of July 28, here’s the latest traveler news and hot topics for the leisure and business traveler, ranging from cruises to airlines to destinations to resorts and hotels. Enjoy!

Cruise News
UNESCO World Heritage  Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Vietnamese officials have issued a temporary ban on overnight, as well as day cruises on Halong Bay due to flooding.  The region was hit with the worst flooding in 40 years.  According to the press, at least 14 people have died and another three are missing due to the floods.

Many tourists in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay have been stranded on more remote islands.



WindStar Cruises has introduced a new, all-inclusive vacation for Panama and Costa Rica itineraries. With WindStar, you sail on the extraordinary in a country club environment. This special offer includes:

  • FREE Shore Excursions
  • FREE Beverage Package
  • FREE Gratuities
  • FREE Private Events

You’ll also get FREE, unlimited Wi-Fi so you can share all of your exciting travels as they happen with family and friends.



At long last, Americans can travel direct to Cuba. Through the revised, people-to-people program, we can send you to our frozen-in-time Caribbean neighbor. We sell several land and sea-based itineraries including:

  • Culture of the Afro-Cuban, 7-days
  • Charming Colonial Cities, 9 days
  • Cultural Exploration, varies
  • Hidden Gems, 9 days
  • Land & Sea, 10 days
  • Grand Coast to Coast Tour, 17 days

If you would like to be one of lucky few Americans during the past 50 years to visit Cuba, Call Us Today. We have a bucket list, Cuban vacation designed with your interests in mind.


Lush Hawaii

Lush Hawaii

With perfect year-round weather, Hawaii is always a great vacation choice. But now the stakes just got hotter. The luxurious, oceanfront Wailea Marriott Resort and Spa has a new special starting at only $996 per person.

When you book before August 15, 2015 and travel between August 22 – December 21, 2015, you’ll receive:

  • 5-night Garden View Room
  • 5-days Midsize Car Rental
  • All Applicable Taxes

We’d be happy to book this romantic getaway or honeymoon for you and your sweetheart.  Give us a call for full details.


Lot Polish Airlines announced plans to expand its presence in America.  They are adding flights from New York and Chicago, headed to Warsaw. This will be welcome news for many travelers heading to the region to disembark on  river cruises.In addition, the airline will start flying to Tokyo in January.


Thinking about heading “Down Under”?  Well it just got easier.  American Airlines will begin non-stop service between Los Angeles and Sydney, Australia on the Boeing 777-300-ER. The “Triple 7″ has in-seat entertainment, international Wi-Fi, AC power outlets, USB ports and most importantly, added legroom.  This arrangement came about as a result of a partnership with Quantas.  The first flight from LAX will depart on Dec. 17, 2015.



Tags: , ,

Travel Updates

Posted on: |
Travel Updates for July 15th

The following information is shared to help you with making travel plans, as well as steps you should take if you have already booked your vacation or business trip.  Here are the latest travel updates:


Riots in Greece
Rioting in the Streets of Greece

Rioting in the Streets of Greece

Police and Greece protestors clash as the parliament meets to determine if the European Union (EU) deal is acceptable to keep Greece in the Euro system.  The citizens voted “no” two weeks ago that they were okay to leave the EU and return to their homeland currency, the drachma.


Travel Warning for Kenya

The Global Entrepreneurship Summit scheduled for July 24-26 has caused concerns that terrorist may use this opportunity wage violent acts. The US Dept. of State has issued a warning this meeting could offer terrorists a venue to engage in kidnappings, car bombings or attacks at airports and ports. There are no known threats, but travelers should use heightened caution and be aware.


Delta Changes SkyMiles Program

Here are some the changes:

  1. A dynamic-award system that changes based on destination, demand and any other factor it deems.
  2. Domestic flights could earn an award with a few as 10,000, a reduction from the previous 12,500 level.
  3. Travel within California would cost 5,000 each way.
  4. Travelers will have a harder time ascertaining how many miles are needed to a particular flight segment.


Frontier Airlines

No-frills carrier Frontier is installing middle seats that have a full-inch wider that aisle and window seats. Frontier is also jamming more seats into each plane, giving each of its customers even less room. Its Airbus A320s and A319s will each add another 12 seats. This brings the total number of seats in an A320 up to 180, a full 30 seats more than United puts on the same aircraft. for more updates on changes, please See the full Frontier article.

Source: USA Today


Cuba Travel

The year 2015 is shaping up to be a record-breaker for Cuba in terms of tourism numbers and is expected to top the 3-million mark reached in 2014, which set a record. According to a release from the Ministry of Tourism, two million tourists visited Cuba between Jan. 1 and July 10 this year.

If you want to visit Cuba, we have tour operators who offer travel based on the US People-to-People program. Call us or check out our Cuba tour.

Source: Travel Weekly

Tags: , ,

Travel Alerts

Posted on: |
Latest Travel Alerts

Latest Travel Alerts

Advisory Travel Alerts

The United States Department of State has issued several travel alerts and warning for US citizens. Please be aware if you have plans to travel abroad. Here are the latest travel alerts:

The Philippines

US Dept. of State has issued a travel warning for the Philippines.  It is not stating you should avoid travel to the country. However, you should avoid travel to certain islands and regions.

They are as follows:

  • Sulu Archipelago
  • Southern Sulu Sea
  • Mindanao Island

You should take general precautions for any travel to the country and use your common sense.


Center for Disease Control

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued travel alerts for Japan. There has been an increase in the number of incidents of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD).  For the calendar year 2015, there have been 28,758 cases of the disease, according to the World Health Organization.


The Level 1 Advisory means travelers should “Practice usual precautions” for hygiene and cleanliness.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently or
  • Use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • Cover your mouth when you cough by using a tissue
  • Do Not touch your mouth, nose or eyes
  • Do not kiss or hug anyone that is sick
  • Do not share eating utensils

The virus that cause HFMD is more common in the summer and fall.  Currently, there is no vaccine.


Mexico Travel Awareness

Certain areas in Mexico have experienced an increase in chikungunya.  The symptoms include headache, joint swelling, muscle pain or a rash. The disease is transmitted via mosquitoes. However, there is no travel restriction to Mexico.

The following Mexican states have seen transmission of the disease:

  • Chiapas, Coahuila, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Sinaloa and Sonora

According to the CDC, travelers should talk with their physicians prior to going to any of these regions.


Source: Nexion

Tags: ,

Paradise in Languedoc-Roussillon

Posted on: |
UNESCO Sights in the South of France
South of France Countryside

South of France Countryside

With over 300 days of sunshine, abundant gastronomy choices, rich culture, and some of the most beautiful countryside in the world, the Languedoc-Roussillon region is a must-see destination when visiting France. Frequently overlooked for ljaunts into metropolitan attractions, the south of France has much to offer.  In addition, for wine lovers,little-known yet, high-quality affordable wine can be easily found.


The region boasts six UNESCO World Heritage sites.

  1. City of Carcassonn
  2. The Canal du Midi
  3. The Pont du Gard
  4. The Vauban fortresses of Villefranche-de-Conflent and Mont-Louis
  5. The Saint-Jacques-de-Compostella Pilgrimage Routes
  6. The Causses and Cévennes

Although these names may be difficult to pronounce, it would be more difficult for you to miss out on visiting these extraordinary historical sites.   Do not return home from the south of France without enjoying the Languedoc-Roussillon region.

City of Carcassonn

Carcassonne is medieval walled city built between the 12th and 14th centuries. It provided a perfect backdrop for the movie Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves.  With 52 towers and two concentric walls,  it is an impressive fortress.

Your best photographic shots should include the Narbonne Gate, The Lists where the jousts took place and La Vade Tower.


The Canal du Midi

UNESCO labeled it, ” one of the modern era’s most extraordinary achievements and a work of art”. The Canal du Midi  is a series of 328 navigator waterways running through France that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.

Pierre-Paul Riquet is responsible for driving this vision that is comprised of locks, aqueducts, tunnels and bridges, spanning nearly 1,200 miles.  In 1662, at the age of 53 he embarked upon that challenging feat. It became his life work. Unfortunately, Riquet died a year prior to its completion in 1681.  Thomas Jefferson cruised the canal in 1787.


Pont du Gard


Pont du Gard is a Roman aqueduct that was used to transport drinking water to the residents of Nîme. This massive engineering structure is 48 ft across and rises more than 900 ft high. After spending an afternoon here, you’ll understand why it is France’s most visited ancient monument.

It is estimated over 50,000 tons of limestone, from the nearby quarry was used in its construction.  No mortar was used. Instead, blocks were expertly cut to join together perfectly using only friction.

The grounds include an exhibition that discusses the Roman civilization, the building of the bridge and aqueduct.  There’s a museum,  botanical garden and quarry.


Villefranche-de-Conflent and Mont-Louis

In 2008, these two Catalon sites were added to the UNESCO World Heritage Monument list. The Count of Cerdagne founded the medieval town of Villefranche-de-Conflent in 1090. The King of Aragon started a remodel in the 14th century. However, it was Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, a prominent military engineer, who completed the fortress in the 17th century.

The citadel of Mont-Louis is the highest fortress in France. This mid-17th century  fortified town was also created by Vauban.  Surprisingly, many of the ramparts are still in tact.


Pilgrimage Routes

The final resting place of The Apostle St. James was discovered around the 813. Visitors enjoy taking this Pilgrimage walking tour  that is dotted with churches and religious landmarks. There are four routes across Europe that lead to Saint-Jacques-de-Compostella, located in northern Spain.  Two of these routes cross the Languedoc-Roussillon region.


Causses and Cévennes

The agri-pastoral region that has all four types of type of pastoral systems found around the Mediterranean:

  1. Agro-pastoralism
  2. Sedentary pastoralism
  3. Silvi-pastoralism
  4. Transhumance

The aim of the natural park system is to maintain century-old farming activities while addressing the environmental, economic and social issues of today. This cultural tradition, based on distinctive social structures and local breeds of sheep, is reflected in the structure of the landscape, especially the patterns of farms, settlements, fields and water management.


Tags: , , ,

Discover South African Wine

Posted on: |

South African Wine

Cape Dutch Architecture

Unique Cape Dutch Architecture

During the past 10 years, South African wines have gained a bit of shelf space in the wine shop. But, for the majority of American wine drinkers this country remains off the wine-drinking radar screen. That is a huge mistake because South African wine vintners produce some of the most value-driven, yet eminent wines in the world.

Storied History

South Africa is considered a New World wine region. However, European immigrants planted the first wine grapes back in 1652, launching a popular wine culture, especially in England and France. But as luck would have it, war, the opening of the Suez Canal and the presence of phylloxera led to an equally grand fall. Twenty years ago with the dismantling of Apartheid, major investments in the wine industry have spurred a reemergence.

Cape Winelands Surrounded by Mountains

Cape Winelands Surrounded by Mountains

The Cape Winelands region has many favorable conditions present for growing quality vines. With an accommodatingly warm Mediterranean climate, rich top- and sub soils, and adequate winter rainfall, this emerging nation has quickly regained a reputation for producing award-winning wines. It is also strikingly beautiful with Cape-Dutch architecture and picturesque wine estates set against mountainous backgrounds.


Popular Wine Regions

The more esteemed wine regions include the following:

Constantia Valley – Located a short 20-minute drive from Cape Town, this area is the birthplace of South African wine. Constantia, a same-named sweet Muscat wine was extremely popular among the English and French aristocracy. Today, Sauvignon Blanc, a cool-climate grape benefits from nearby ocean breezes off the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Stellenbosch – With more than 150 wine estates and grape producers, this region is the most popular with tourists, as well as locals.The short drive from Cape Town makes it an easy weekend getaway destination. The hilly terrain, compliments of the nearby Simonsberg, Drakenstein and Stellenbosch Mountains provides favorable soil conditions for growing world-class wines.

The University of Stellenbosch is the equivalent of University of California, Davis for viticulture and oenology studies.

Lunch at Moreson Wines in Franschhoek

Lunch at Moreson Wines in Franschhoek

Franschhoek – Famed for its amazing scenery and an outstanding culinary scene, the “French Corner” also produces some world-renown wines. About an hour’s drive from Cape Town, the valley produces international varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, as well as Semillion and Shiraz.

Paarl – If you enjoy fortified wines and spirits, (who doesn’t?), this is your ‘hood. Situated in the Berg River Valley, many of the wine farms also make cheese and grow olives.


Take a Sip

One of my goals for 2015 is to “drink outside the box”. Instead of reaching for my tried-and-true favorites, I have started drinking wines made from lesser-known grapes. The wines of South Africa certainly fit into this category. Also, I plan to drink popular varieties from atypical regions. Instead of pouring a Russian River Pinot Noir, why not give one a try from South Africa?  With a climate similar to parts of Sonoma County and rejuvenated winemakers, expect some pretty tasty juice.

Approximately 55% of wine production in the country is dedicated to white grapes including less-familiar wines such as Colombard, Hanepoot (aka Muscat of Alexandria) and Cape Riesling. Steen, the local name for Chenin Blanc is the most popular white wine. It is one of my favorite styles.

Pinotage South Africa's Indigenous Grape

Pinotage South Africa’s Indigenous Grape

A truly unique red wine grape is the indigenous Pinotage. The grape was invented by a University of Stellenbosch professor as a cross between Cinsaut and Pinot Noir. This is a wine you will either hate or tolerate; but very few people love it. However, you should taste for yourself.

Here are a few Pinotage suggestions to sample:

  • 2011 Fleur du Cap $12
  • 2011 Neil Ellis $18
  • 2011 Fairview Primo $28

Since South Africa is a southern hemisphere country, all vintages are six months older than wines bottled in the United States.

South Africa exports about 50% of its wine production. The United States markets have started to receive a larger allotment of these shipments. You’ll have to talk to your wine shop owner to help you locate most bottles. As yet, demand hasn’t risen to the point where you’ll find bottle after bottle sitting on shelves. However, when you come across a South African import, my advise is you should reach for a bottle because you will not be disappointed.


My Picks
Quality, Value-packed South African Wine

Quality, Value-packed South African Wine

Here are some other fine, reasonably price South African wines I think you may enjoy:


  • 2012 Graham Beck “Bowed Head’ Chenin Blanc $12 – Dried apricots, tree-ripened peaches, lovely long finish
  • 2013 De Wetshof “Bon Vallon”Chardonnay – Floral notes followed by stone fruit and Bosch pear flavors


  • 2012 Rust en Vrede Merlot $18 – Chocolate nose,  raspberry and black cherry flavors with a rich, raisin-like finish
  • 2010 Painted Wolf Guillermo Pinotage $19 – Soft blueberry and blackberry flavors
  • 2011 Starke-Conde Cabernet Sauvignon $24 – Dark cherry, blackberry with a lengthy finish
  • 2008 Meerlust Rudicon $27 – Earthy followed by berry flavors and Thanksgiving spices
  • 2012 Boekenhoutskloof Chocolate Block $32 – You may confuse it with with a like a northern Rhône Syrah with a chef’s heavy-hand of black pepper, coriander, nutmeg and juicy red fruits
  • 2011 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir $40 – Hibiscus tea floral notes, typical strawberry & strawberry flavors along with surprising savory spice notes


Let me know your take on any of these picks.



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Top 5 Travel Apps

Posted on: |
Phone Travel Apps

Travel Apps

I’m not much of a techie, however I do like gadgets that improve the quality of my life. I really enjoy using travel apps. So with fall pretty much in full swing, people without school-age children are hitting the road and the air. I thought I should share some of the travel apps I’ve used that helped me navigate airports and TSA, as well as to get around a city. These are my top five travel apps:


Fine Dining at the Airport

Fine Dining at the Airport

1. Gate Guru – I’ve used this app a few times and it’s worked beautifully. Most recently, I’ve used it at Miami international Airport to locate a restaurant that had been recommended to me. I also used it in the Houston airport to find a restaurant that served good Texas barbecue. In addition, it helps you navigate unfamiliar airports and gives you information on dreaded checkpoint lines.




Few English-speakers outside Paris

2. Google Translate: I should’ve used this more on our trip to France. Contrary to rumor, the French were very nice. After addressing them in French, they would begin speaking to us in English. I think they appreciated the effort; and I suspect they couldn’t bear to hear me slaughter their language anymore. I should’ve used it on our visit to Epernay, but another French patron came to our rescue and translated our lunch order to our non-English speaking waitress. On the occasions I used it, the translation feature worked fine.

It’s supposed to translate up to 70 languages, so I know that is going to cover the majority of the countries of my top 50 destinations list, so hopefully it will do the same for you.


3. My TSA – This app is perfect for those who do not have TSA pre-check status. It’ll help you keep your stress levels down by allowing you to check airport status and wait times at security checkpoints. And for those who do not travel frequently, there is a quick-reference list of items you may bring in your carry-on luggage.


4. Wi-Fi Finder: This app is critical when traveling internationally. Unless you are traveling on business, data roaming charges are outrageous, which makes staying in contact with those back home expensive. This app helps you locate Wi-Fi hotspots near your location, which avoids data roaming charges.


5. Text+: I first heard about this app from a couple of friends who were traveling abroad. It allows you to send and receive texts for free. Provided you have a Wi-Fi connection, you can text family and friends back in the States at no charge, thereby avoiding your plan’s data roaming charges. Also, it’s a good way to check in with your children, grandchildren or other family members or stay in contact with your pet sitter.


These apps are available for IPhone and Android phones and tablets. I hope my top 5 travel apps work as well for you as they did for me.

So tell me. What are some of your favorite travel apps?



Tags: ,

The 10 Hottest Destinations

Posted on: |

Where are Travelers Headed in 2015?

Marlborough Sound, New Zealand

Marlborough Sound, New Zealand

What countries are experiencing the largest increase in tourists?  The list runs the gamut but New Zealand garnered the top spot with a 196% increase in booking for the upcoming year.  Its “Down Under” neighbor, Australia also landed a spot on the trendy list. According to a new study by Virtuoso, the 10 hottest destinations are as follows:



  1.  New Zealand
  2.  Chile
  3.  Indonesia
  4.  Hungary
  5.  Hong Kong
  6.  Croatia
  7.  Australia
  8.  Ecuador
  9.  Greece
  10.  Norway


Remarkable Croatian Falls

Remarkable Croatian Falls

As Demand Increases so Do Prices

Demand for travel is also expected to increase for 2015. This translates into higher prices. A report issued by the Global Business Travel Association expects to see an increase of at least 2.6% for hotel rates throughout Latin America. Hotel prices in North America and in Asia will see moderate gains. Not surprisingly, airfare is also expected to increase.

Visit Greece

Visit Greece

Consumer confidence is continuing to rise, which helps to drive demand for luxury items such as travel.  If you anticipate taking a vacation next year, then you should begin making travel arrangements now. You have a better chance of securing the best hotels by booking early, as well as saving on airfare.

Are any of these top choices on your travel wish list?  What are your travel plans for the 2015?

Tags: , ,