Archive for the ‘Travel Essays’ Category

MERCURYNEWS.COM: April 10, 2014

On the list of luxury hotel amenities, charcuterie never makes the cut. But then, Fodor’s never tasted cured meats like this. La Valencia Hotel’s house-cured bacon is so popular — it comes with its own dipping sauces.


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One of the Bay Area’s best bargain destinations is San Jose. Dionne Warwick’s smash single put this town on the map in 1968, but these days it’s the tech industry that’s fueling the renaissance.


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My job in the sled was to stop my big head from knocking into the driver. Kind of an odd Olympic memory, but true.

The Sochi Olympics remind me of my visit to Salt Lake City just after the 2002 winter games. Like the athletes, themselves, I experienced the thrill of victory and the agony of the feet. Mine were killing me after five days of snowboarding, skiing, bobsledding and Biathlon. Anyone can have these Olympic experiences. You need to have guts and be a bit nuts, but you can do it.

The bobsled at Utah’s Olympic Park is a slick four-man ride called the Comet. It flies down the track at some 80 miles an hour with double the g-forces of a roller coaster. I was right behind the driver and had to keep my helmet-clad head still around 15 bone-jarring curves on a track that dropped 40 stories in less than a minute. It was terrifying and intensely rewarding. It may or may not have led to my hip surgery a few years later.

Then there’s freestyle ski jumping, a sport only a human pretzel can love. You can learn this here too, with instructors who teach on terrain parks in winter and special ramps in summer that have you jumping into an aerated pool. The bubbles cushion the blow when you land with your skis in a tangle and arms all akimbo. But with just a few lessons, you may even learn to stick your landing.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Is there anything in the area that’s a little more — tame? The answer is yes, with two world-class facilities for skating and cross country skiing.

Framed by the rugged Wasatch Mountains, Soldier Hollow was the site of the 2002 Cross Country and Biathlon events. Today, you’ll find youngsters to seniors swooshing about on trails and terrain for all skill levels.

The coolest thing here is the biathlon. Imagine speed skiing around the track and up to the air rifle range, where you drop to your belly and take aim. With your legs in a V- shape behind you, the trick is to hit the target.

The final jewel in Utah’s Olympic crown is the Oval Ice Skating Rink. Called the fastest ice on earth, you can lace up and skate the same 400 meter track on which American Sarah Hughes won the gold medal for figure skating. Not up to snuff on your triple lux? You can always try curling under black lights and neon. It’s one event where you can hold your head up high and not worry about it knocking out the guy in front of you.

FYI: Utah Olympic Park

Soldier Hollow

Utah Olympic Oval



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With two weeks until Valentines Day, it’s time to scout out some sea salt and chocolate. The sea salt is the fun part.

Twenty minutes south of San Francisco is the fishing village of Princeton by the Sea. You may know it as the home of the Mavericks Invitational — one of the most extreme big wave surf contests in the world. (more…)

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Fortune Cookie Factory

Fortune Cookie Factory

MERCURYNEWS.COM: November 22, 2013

It’s Saturday afternoon and I’ve got a bird’s-eye view of one of the largest Chinatowns outside of Asia. Laundry flutters on the roof near a jade-colored pagoda. Four iron crosses stretch toward the heavens from Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral, built by Chinese laborers in 1854. In the distance, a smattering of sailboats punctuates the Bay. (more…)

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When it comes to tourism, Oakland is in good hands. Just look at the buzz we’ve been getting — including nods for top destination, most exciting city and coolest city. These honors don’t come by accident. The nine marketing and PR pros at Visit Oakland work hard to get on the radar at media outlets around the world. (more…)

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View of the capitol from Graze - one of Madison's popular farm to fork restaurants.

View of the capitol from Graze – one of Madison’s popular farm to fork restaurants.

OAKLANDTRIBUNE.COM: November 7, 2013

The quintessential college town — it’s not just for kids anymore. Mature adults are looking for good food and culture, not to mention the tax base a college brings in.

Madison and Berkeley are two towns that top the list. Both are progressive, with politics that often make the news. But I’ve been to Madison, and it’s not Berkeley. (more…)

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MERCURYNEWS.COM: October 25, 2013

After a pleasant day of wine tasting, I like to kill a few zombies. What red-blooded woman wouldn’t? Still, pairing these odd but enjoyable outings seems strange — until you’re struck with the fever. The Delta fever, that is. (more…)

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MERCURYNEWS.COM: October 9, 2013

The Grand Canyon. Bora Bora. Ipanema and Greece. On the list of the world’s top sunsets, Ojai rarely makes the cut. Yet, when I saw the sky on my birthday, it was a Monet masterpiece.

Locals call it the “pink moment” — this phenomenon where the sky takes on a soft, amaranthine glow at dusk. Unlike most sunsets, this one comes from the east, where the Topatopa Mountains act like a mirror to reflect and diffuse the orb’s light over Ojai Valley in Ventura County. As if touched by the brush of God, the colors combine to stir the soul. (more…)

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Mercurynews.com: September 13, 2013

Buffalo, eagles and wolves. You expect to see these in our national parks. Garibaldis — not so much. Yet, the waters were teaming with the curious creatures my son likened to clown fish in “Finding Nemo.” Like a giant aquarium, fish were darting through the kelp as we bobbed on the surface above. (more…)

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