Booking Rooms

31 01 2007

Quickbook buys blocks of rooms in 49 US cities and sells them at discount. Its deals are good but not as great as (which also shows you the neighborhood). It is good if you need to book a specific hotel. If you find a better deal in 48 hours, the site matches it. So there is a good guarantee program. sometimes has rooms that are officially sold out. Also more than3 dozen overseas properties. The site is slow to load. If you want to check a hotel’s location, googlemap it. Expedia is generally better.

I start searching at Expedia as it is descriptive and its prices are competitive. It’s special rates are highlighted with yellow banners like Travelocity’s Good Buy icons.

For low weekend rates, Travelweb offers deep discounts. SmarterLiving aggregates hotel special offers as does OneTravel. Don’t forget to check out direct sites like the Hilton and Hyatt


Healdsburg Winery

30 01 2007
Arista Winery
5 Fitch Street
(707) 473-2606
  Kendall-Jackson Tasting Room
337 Healdsburg Avenue
(707) 433-7102
Rosenblum Cellars
250 Center Street
(707) 431-1169
  Sapphire Hill Vineyards & Winery
51 Front Street
(707) 431-1888
Seghesio Family Vineyards
14730 Grove Street
(707) 433-3579
  Selby Winery
215 Center Street
(707) 431-1703
Simi Winery
16275 Healdsburg Avenue
(707) 433-6981
  Toad Hollow Vineyards Tasting Room
409A Healdsburg Avenue
(707) 431-8667
Windsor Vineyards
308-B Center Street
(707) 433-2822
  Grove Street Wines
1451 Grove Street
(707) 433-0290
Gallo of Sonoma Tasting Room
320 Center Street
(707) 433-2458
  The Wine Shop
331 Healdsburg Avenue
(707) 433-0433
Russian River Wine Co.
132 Plaza Street
(707) 433-0490

Air Unfare

29 01 2007
  • Be flexible with your flying dates – it is the best tip. This works well with both Travelocity and Orbitz. If you’re ultraflexible, then try a fare watcher like MyYahoo! to monitor prices daily or sign up to get the airline’s weekly email of unsold flights
  • Book at least three weeks ahead of your flight. Ring the airline at 0001 PDT on Wednesday for the best new fares released.
  • Staying over Saturday nights is no longer necessary
  • Fly midweek if you can but not on Thursdays; consultants fly out on Monday and back on Thursday but they bill you for the whole week.
  • Use neighboring airports for cheaper fares. I always fly out of OAK instead of SFO. assumes you could fly out of SJC as well.
  • Always check the RTF even if you fly one-way (this is always cheaper)
  • Avoid busy holiday dates – most people leave te day before Thanksgiving and return the Sunday after.
  • Book multicity trips using the special search in both Travelocity and Orbitz instead of three difficult one way fares.
  • For US to Europe, always fly to London first.This is true no matter where in Europe you want to go.
  • Use a good router. First, check travelocity. See if Orbitz can beat it. See if SWA or JetBlue can beat either. Then go to the airline webstie and see if they will beat the travelocity or Orbitz price. Buy immediately. If you need specific dates, use Sidestep.

Travel Secrets

28 01 2007
  • Actionable tickets: new airfares must be releaed to a central clearinghouse (airline tarriff publiching compant) at certain hours – on weekdays  after 1400, 1630 and 0000. Tickets that were “held” usually appear shortly after migniht. Weekend fares are updated only once daily at around 1700.
  • Bank overseas with fewer fees. as Bankamerica has partnerships with banks all around the world so you can withdraw cash without paying extra fees.
  • Cruise solo but beware that the cruise line can charge from 10 to 100% more than the per person for a double occupancy cabin but the older cabins, like the QE2 has some single cabins. Check with your travel agent to get these. The least expensive single supplements are on Crystal Cruises, Seven Seas, Sebourn and Silversea.
  • Drive fee-free. Hire cars charge $3- $33 for a second person behind the wheel but the fine print says spouses and domestic partners are exempt. Avis, Budget and Enterprise waive the fee for a significant other if you have the same address on ID
  • Earn higher status from scratch using the gold and platinum challenge from If you buy a prepaid card from united (eg $5000 for instant premier status), you have one year to use the cards before they expire.
  • Get bumped at usually $300 vouchers (not for restricted flights) – this also give syou miles, voucher flights have no credit
  • is quick advice on reaching a real person instead of being stuck in the phone tree.
  • Jump amusement parkl ticket lines by checking
  • Maximize your miles by checking out your options at
  • Met tickets are sold out in advance but if you head to the box office in NY 2 hours before curtain time you can get one of 200 orchestratickets at $20 each (an 80% discount) for each Monday through Thursday performance
  • Passports must be valid for the next six (60 months beyond the date you enter the country. Full stop.
  • Save at the on-board spa as many cruise lines offer port day specials. While everyone else is cavorting on land, you can get treatments for up to 20% off
  • Do not wait in line at the gate when your flight is canceled. As per rule no. 240, if itthe airline’s fault, they need to put you on another carrier. Pick up the phone and ring thetoll free number
  • Use airline codeshared to find better fares. Each carrier is free to set its own price. A code share between USAir and United to get to Glasgow from SFO is cheaper if you fly USAir all the way.
  • Value at sea – if a cruise’s price is your main concern, make a category-guarantee rservation rather than one in a specific cabin. This will get the best available cabin in that cartegory after all other rooms have been assigned at the lowest possible cost but is a risk as you won’t know which cabin until you check in.
  • Warm up to wave season. If you want to get a cruise suite for less (, look after New Year’s and through March for value added extras like free airfare.
  • Locate speed traps in Europe on If you are driving in Londontown, just give up.
  • A Y-up fare is a special kind of seat category that puts you in the front of the plane for half the price of a first class ticket. It is equivalent to a discounted first class with an automatic upgrade.
  • Always carry a copy of your driver’s license and passport, and also email yourself compact versions in a secure form so you might be able to retrieve them from anywhere in the world.

Greek Speak

27 01 2007

Common phrases

  • how much – poso kani?
  • how are you? – ti kanis?
  • I am fine – ime kala
  • what is your name? – pos se lene?
  • speak slower please – parakalo mila pio siga
  • I don’t know – den xero
  • let’s go – pame
  • the bill please – to logariasmo, parakalo
  • so and so – esti esti
  • how many hours? – poses ores
  • where are you goin? – pou pas
  • the road to – o dromos gia…
  • what is the time? – ti ora ine?
  • a ticket to the… – ena isitiro gia…
  • excuse me, do you speak english? – parakalo mipos milate aglika?
  • I don’t speak Greek – den milao elinika
  • I don’t understand – den katalaveno
  • I am going to … – pigeno gia…
  • Do you have? – Ehete?
  • I am lost – hathika
  • I am ill – ime arostos
  • I will buy this one – tha agoraso afto

Common words:

  • yes – ne (I hate this one so much)
  • no – ohi
  • please – parakalo
  • okay – endaxi
  • thank you – efharisto
  • today – simera
  • tomorrow – avrio
  • yesterday – hthes
  • this one – afto
  • good – kalo
  • now – tora
  • later – argotera
  • open – anihto
  • closed – klisto
  • big – megalo
  • small – mikro
  • cheap – ftino
  • expensive – akrivo
  • mister – kyrios
  • madame – kyria
  • miss – despinis
  • mother – mitera
  • father – pateras
  • friend – filos
  • bakery – fournos
  • pharmacy – farmakio
  • bank – trapeza
  • money – lefta
  • toilet – toualetta
  • police – astynomia
  • doctor – yiatros
  • hospital – nosokomio

Days of the week

  • Monday – Deftera
  • Tuesday – Triti
  • Wednesday – Tetarti
  • Thursday – Pempti
  • Friday – Paraskevi
  • Saturday – Savato
  • Sunday – Kyriaki


Good morning


Good evening


Good night




How are you?

Ti kanete?

Very well thank-you

Poli kala, efharisto

Please/You’re welcome




Excuse Me/Sorry






A table, please

Ena trapezi, parakalo

We have a reservation for…

Ehoume klisa ya…

Can I see the menu, please

Ton katalogho, parakalo

What do you recommend?

Ti sistinete?

I’m vegetarian

Ime hortofaghos

I would like..

Tha ithela…

Wher is the bathroom?

Pou ine i toualetes?

The meal was good, thank you

To fayito, itan poli kalo, efharisto

Do you take credit cards?

Pernete pistotikes kartes?

Fifty Seven

26 01 2007

Perfect Beijing

25 01 2007

If one’s earliest memory is that of the Great Wall, be sure to arrange for a picnic lunch and driver to see it at Mutianyu, a 90-minute drive. Of the three main gate ways near Beijing, Mutianyu has lovely views without the crowds of Badaling or the precipices of Simatai. The 6700 kilometer long stone wall with staggered watch towers was constructed between 220 BCE and 1644 ACE, and can be seen when inflight to resemble a dragon. You are sure to be terribly hungry by the time the driver/guide gets you to the Summer Palace (Yihe Yuan) in the northwest suburb of Hai Dian district. Eat up from the views off Longevity Hill and be sure to check out the Empress Dowager Cixi’s marble boat docked at the north end of Kun Ming Lake with its shaded stone pathways and wide open grassy spaces. Perpetual party park.

As you enter Lama Temple (Yong Hegong), you see ocher and maroon robed monks worshipping with incense in bronzed urns. Frescoes recant tales of Tibetan buddhism and the woodwork integrates Han, Mongolian and Tibetan carpentry styles.

Finally,head to the offbeat Ancient Observatory atop a shard of wall that once surrounded the city. Giant bronze 17th century astronomical instruments are timeless objets d’art, intricately detailed with slithering dragons, cupid arrows pointing skyward and spheres floating on their axes. Dine with lovely sparkling wine off the golden palace roof from the upper cigar divan in the former courtyard home turned art gallery and restaurant at the Court Yard Restaurant. A maple soy leek glaze on a mound of spicy couscous with green tomato sauce. Prolong it with a moonlit stroll across the Forbidden City moat. A quick prayer and coin toss will bring you back here.