Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ping Pong, Bingo and a Jittery Day at the Zoo

So I met my friends at their hotel for a day of fun. After relaxing poolside for a few hours, we decided to head to the zoo. It’s walking distance from their hotel and seemed like a truly interesting thing to do. What would a Mexican zoo be like?

Before heading out on our adventure though, we had to play a few rounds of Bingo! The tension was running high as the numbers were called out. Was he ever going to call a number on my card? It certainly didn’t seem like it.

Now Bingo is a little different here in Mexico, at least at the Barcelo Resort it was played differently. The first game, you had to get four corners to win. The Traveling Hillbilly got one corner, before my friend Mike shouted Bingo! Well actually, he shouted Viva Le Mexico! That was the rule. He won a wonderful Mexican calendar/plaque. We think he plans on wearing it as a necklace. The next round, we just had to get one line of numbers. It got more difficult as the rounds continued. The final game, we had to get two rows of numbers to win! After a few more exciting rounds, Bingo was over and it was time to head to the zoo.

Now as many of you know, when you go to the zoo one of the main rules is “Don’t Feed the Animals.” Well that’s not the case here. They will actually sell you a back of food so you can feed the animals. Given my friends had heard a woman from their hotel got bit trying to feed a bear; we decided to pass on the food.

The first thing we see as we walk in is a monkey handing out on top of a red tent. We stop to watch the monkey and then realize that inside the tent are baby tigers and someone is actually petting them. We stand and watch this amazing spectacle until little Dylan, calls out, “look it’s a snake!” At first I didn’t see it, and then suddenly I realized where he was pointing. There in a tree, just above us, perched a snake coiled around a tree branch! Ok, most of you may not know this, but the Traveling Hillbilly, HATES snakes. They really freak me out. So this is how our visit to the Puerto Vallarta Zoo starts off, with a snake hanging out in the tree above us, not in cage, not in glassed in case, just lounging in the tree. So my day of jitters begins! Needless to say, I spent the rest of our walk through the zoo, looking up, checking for snakes constantly!

But I was not surprised to discover the snake was not the only scary thing in the zoo. A lot of the animals are not really in a cage and there isn’t much, if any, barrier between you and a lot of what I would consider dangerous animals. Now the bears, the jaguars, lions, tigers and some mean monkeys were behind fencing but you could actually reach out and touch a lot of the animals. I have never been so close to a camel, a giraffe and zebras! I was even a little too close for comfort to a few alligators! Just avoid looking them in the eye. I hear they can move and jump very quickly. We moved past the alligators in their low concrete wall, quickly. But we stopped to for a while to hang with the pink flamingos. They truly are beautiful creatures. We also had fun with the Zebras. Oh, and the baby pigs were so cute! My friends even got to pet a baby tiger! All in all it was a very fun and exciting adventure. Once we were outside the zoo, safe and sound, my jitters subsided and I had to admit, it was a cool experience! One you would never get to have in the states, or most countries for that matter!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Things I Learned on a Southwest Flight

Given I had a few hours to kill on the flight to Kansas City; I decided to pick up Southwest Spirit, the in-flight magazine. I figured I’d kill a half hour or so of the trip. Let me tell you, the Traveling Hillbilly was amazed by what a wealth of information the magazine was.


Things the Traveling Hillbilly learned on the way to Kansas City

• A great Bourbon Slush recipe – can’t wait to try it out at the next cocktail party
• Cows that get personal attention produce more milk. This one seems like common sense to me, given we all just want a little love and attention
• Barry Manilow has a show in Vegas
• The eggplant and bell peppers I eat frequently could be aggravating my sore knees
• Chili on cucumbers? Hhhhhmmm sounds worth trying
• I need to be more adventurous when making my own sandwiches, although a simple grilled cheese will always be a great thing
• The future is here, and it looks scary, and it’s called CENEGENICS (Dr. Rosenstein, creepy)
• The Traveling Hillbilly needs to go to Beantown
• How to make a chair out of a dollar bill (although honestly it didn’t look quite as good as the one in the magazine)
• Maybe the Traveling Hillbilly should travel the globe in search of the best pizza

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Big Chill - 21st Century

Some of my friends decided they wanted to spend their birthday with good friends by renting a house in Sonoma for a long weekend. So here we are, eight of us, renting this beautiful house in wine country. We all arrived late yesterday and we have a private wine tour scheduled for today. After introductions, a few cocktails and a very late dinner it was time to call it a night.

Ahhhh, a full night’s sleep. I can’t remember the last time I actually slept several hours in a row without waking up! The Traveling Hillbilly must admit it was nice to wake up in such a calm and peaceful place. It was time to put on the running shoes, grab the ipod and go exploring. There’s nothing like being on the road in the early morning hours when all is still quiet. A few good tunes, make it even better. It truly is one of the best ways to clear your head.

I think it’s going to be a great weekend. As someone said last night, it’s kind of like the movie, The Big Chill. Except we are here for a celebration. We’ll see if that holds true as the weekend progresses.

Friday, July 16, 2010

An Amazing Morning in New York

What better way to play tourist in New York than to stop by the Plaza to watch the Today Show being taped? So despite getting no sleep on the red eye flight out and going all day yesterday, we decided to get up at 6:15am this morning to and take a taxi over to the plaza. Given it's a Friday, there was also a concert on the plaza today. We were treated to a concert by Enrique Iglesias. What energy he brought to the plaza. Women everywhere were screaming and we know of at least one person that passed out! The Traveling Hillbilly has to say he put on a great show. We got to see him, Pit Bull, Meredith, Al, Ann and of course Matt up close. After the show, we headed across the street and went to "The Top of the Rock." While the view is amazing from up there, it was a bit of a hazy day so not as nice as I'm sure it can be. All in all a great start to a Friday morning.

Did I mention it was 85+ Degrees Today?

After an amazing start to the morning, my friend and I decided to head out to Central Park. We started to walk through the park when my friend suggested we rent some bikes. Thinking it was a great idea, I readily agreed. While it wasn't cheap, it was not as expensive as I expected. We hopped on the bikes and began our ride. What a beautiful place Central Park is. Here you are in the middle of all the hustle and bustle of the city, surrounded by skyscrapers but you don't even notice it. It's such a green, calm and beautiful place you feel like you've truly escaped any hassles of the city. There are trees, green lawns, rocks, lakes and baseball fields. It really is an amazing place. People gather to read, relax, nap, play, work out and sunbathe. Every city needs a park like this. After an hour or so, We stopped for a nice ice cream treat. We sat on the Great Lawn and watched a softball while we ate our ice cream. Unfortunately, after just a few bites, my Good Humor Chocolate Eclair treat, split in half and fell off the stick onto the grass. Bummer! All in all a nice ride, except for the heat! Did I mention it was over 85 degrees today? Maybe an evening ride around the park would have been an even better idea!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Night at the Cemetary

We all like to look for fun, new and interesting things to do in our own backyard. So in the spirit of "not letting the summer fly by" my friend and I decided to try some new things over the 4th of July weekend. Well in Los Angeles during the summer they show movies at the cemetery in Hollywood on Saturday nights. I heard about this last summer and really wanted to go, but never made it. So my friend and I decided this was the weekend to go. What a very cool experience. You can bring food and beer/wine to enjoy while you watch the film. They project the screen on to Valentino's crypt and it's basically thousands of people picnicking in the cemetery while watching a movie. Pretty dang cool! This evening's movie was Easy Rider, in tribute to Dennis Hopper. I have to admit, it was not exactly my kind of film. However, I can appreciate seeing greats like Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda. The saddest part is that kind of intolerance still exists today in so many places in this country and around the world! All in all, a great experience. The Traveling Hillbilly highly recommends. Upcoming films this month include, Saturday Night Fever and Airplane! For more details/directions check it out at cinespia.org A few tips, get there early. The movie doesn't start until 9pm, but there was already a huge line to get in before 7:30pm.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Summer of Fun

The Traveling Hillbilly has decided not to let this summer fly by without taking the time to enjoy it! Living in Los Angeles makes it easy to do some great weekend get aways. So last Sunday, a friend and I decided to go on at least one weekend getaway each month now through September. Palm Springs, Las Vegas, Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, San Diego, San Francisco, Yosemite, Vancouver, Portland, Seattle, Phoenix, Taos, Tucson, New York maybe even a long road trip to see great sites like Mt. Rushmore, the Grand Canyon? So many options how does one choose? We're each making a list of places we'd like to visit. Each of our list will include cool fun/nightlife, spa/relaxation, and outdoor/hiking destinations. Then we'll drop them all in a hat and randomly select our destinations!

Any suggestions? Email them ASAP to worldtraverler@travelinghillbilly.com

The summer is already ticking away!!!!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Back to New York

It's that time of year again. The Traveling Hillbilly will be spending the week in New York. The weather forecast doesn't look that great, some websites are predicting rain for the first three days of the week. However, The Traveling Hillbilly arrived today to a beautiful, warm and sunny afternoon. Even the Traveling Hillbilly makes the occasional mistake when booking travel. Somehow, I managed to book myself on a 6:50AM flight to JFK! Do you know what time you have to be at LAX to catch a 6:50 am flight? Too early, way too early for a Sunday!

As we all board the plane, we realize it's sweltering, there's no air on the plane. Suddenly a baby starts to cry out. Even worse, it's just two seats back. Boy it's going to be a long flight. The baby cries all the way to JFK, falling asleep once for about 15 minutes but crying the whole rest of the time. The taxi driver turns out to be a lunatic. Drives like a madman, stops for gas, hollers/chats with his buddy in the taxi in the other lane while we're going 55+ miles an hour down the freeway. Please just let me get to the hotel okay.

Now, the Traveling Hillbilly is sitting in the hotel bar, drinking a cocktail and snacking on some baked goat cheese. Suddenly this Sunday is looking up.

The Traveling Hillbilly has a jam packed schedule while in New York, but hopes to squeeze in a little fun. Any recommendations? If so, please share.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Beautiful Saturday Hike


The Traveling Hillbilly was completely exhausted and wanted nothing but sleep. Unfortunately the Traveling Hillbilly's dogs had other ideas. They were up before 6am and were ready to start their day. After spending 30 minutes trying to go back to sleep, the Traveling Hillbilly decided to just get up and get the day started. Turns out a friend was in the same situation and sent a text about going for hike in Palos Verdes. The Traveling Hillbilly reluctantly agreed and is so glad to have done so. It was a beautiful sunny, day in Southern California. We had a crisp blue sky, the ocean was stunningly blue, the wild flowers were blooming, adding a touch of color to the blue green landscape. It was one scenic hike! Check out the photos here.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Do we have to leave?

While the Traveling Hillbilly’s long weekend in Northern California is not over, it is time to leave the Hotel Healdsburg and this lovely wine region. The Traveling Hillbilly is not ready to leave but it is time to head back to San Francisco for a night out with friends. Hopefully we can fit in a stop at Silver Oak before heading out!

Day 2 – A full day of wine tasting!

We decide to join a tour so we can truly enjoy a day of wine tasting without having to worry about driving. Wine tasting is no fun when only one person can truly indulge. We join Platypus tours which usually takes smaller groups and customizes the tour based on the group. Floyd, picks us up at the hotel at 10:30am and then it’s off to pick up two more people. We’ve completely lucked out, there are only going to be four of us on the tour for the day. Another plus of touring on a weekday. Turns out, the other two folks, Andy and Sarah, are a couple celebrating their 4 year anniversary.

The roads are winding, the van ride is bumpy and it turns out the Traveling Hillbilly is the only one on the tour who doesn’t have issues with getting car sick! Things start out pretty rough. For the first 30-40 minutes of the ride, it looked like it might get ugly and messy in the back of the van, but we stopped at our first winery before anyone tossed their cookies! Whew! The first stop, Alderbrook. The Traveling Hillbilly was disappointed in this winery as were the rest of the crew. We were all ready to head on to the next destination. We hopped in the van and headed off to Everett Ridge Winery. We all LOVED Everett Ridge. We got to sit outside with amazing views of the winery, while Ben, who has a true passion for the wines he serves, proceeded to allow us to sample at least 8 different wines! Floyd realizing we were all having a good time and might be staying for a while, stealthily disappeared only to reappear with a nice cheese tray for us to sample with our wines. We all loved Everett Ridge and each bought multiple bottles of wine! All in all it was an amazing place and Ben was key in making it a truly great experience! Thanks Ben!

Next up? We headed to De La Montanya for more tasting and a picnic lunch. While we were engrossed in our tasting, Floyd once again snuck away and started preparing a great little picnic lunch for us. We decided to buy a bottle of wine to enjoy with our lunch and all sat outside on this lovely spring day and indulged!

My friend and I really lucked out. Andy and Sarah were a really terrific couple and Floyd was pretty cool too. We all had a great time.

Next up, a cool little winery with a tasting room inside a cave, Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves. Here, thanks to Sarah’s inquisitive and outspoken nature, we actually got to sample some wine right out of the barrel. While we were checking the cave out, we stumbled upon a man, taking some wine out the barrels to test the taste. Sarah asked him what he was doing and when he told her he was do a taste test, she asked if we could try some too! He politely obliged the request and proceeded to tell us about their wine making process. Little did we know until later, he was actually one of the owners of the winery. Thanks Sarah for making this a little more unique experience for all of us!

The last stop, Raymond Burr Vineyards. Here we got to taste some wine, play with Lucy (a cute and hyper little pup) and have our picture taken holding Raymond’s Emmys. It was a fairly quick stop and the Traveling Hillbilly has to admit, after an afternoon of wine tasting, this last stop is a little fuzzy

Hotel Healdsburg – Day 1

We arrive at the hotel minutes before our spa appointments. We don’t even have time to check in. We pull up to the hotel and tell the valet we’re staying at the hotel, but will have to check in after our spa appointments. He kindly tells us he’ll take our luggage to the room and it will be waiting for us whenever we’re ready. First impression of The Hotel Healdsburg? What great service.

What about those spa appointments? All the Traveling Hillbilly can say is aaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Second impression of the Hotel Healdsburg? What great service.

After a relaxing couple of hours at the spa, it’s time to officially check in to the hotel and get ready for dinner. The room is really large for a hotel room. The bathroom is the biggest the Traveling Hillbilly has ever seen in a hotel. The bathroom is probably the size of the Traveling Hillbilly’s guestroom!

We have reservations at the hotel restaurant, The Dry Creek Kitchen, a Charlie Palmer restaurant. The dinner was fabulous. The food was delicious, the wine was top notch (cheers to the Sommelier for a great reco) and the service was great. Third impression of the Hotel Healdsburg? What great service. Are y’all starting to see a pattern here? The Traveling Hillbilly highly recommends the Hotel Healdsburg.

P.S. You must try the Guiness Ice Cream. Yum! Yum! Yum!

Getting Arrested in Sonoma?

Turns out my friend is looking for a rental for the summer in the area, so next stop is a house on the potential list. We stop at this amazing house in the heart of Sonoma. We go inside and quickly try to disarm the alarm. Suddenly the alarm goes off and we panic assuming we’re sure to be arrested any moment. Luckily we get a hold of the owner and are able to disarm the alarm. Whhhheeeeewwwwwww! Close call. Time to get back on the road.

The second house was actually located on a vineyard and the Traveling Hillbilly considered it to be more of an estate than a house! It had absolutely stunning grounds with a little brook running through it. As you enter the main gait, there’s a “geese crossing” sign. The landscape was truly stunning.

My friend is going to have a tough decision choosing. Both houses were amazing.

Wine Tasting in Northern California

So the Traveling Hillbilly decides to meet up with a friend in San Francisco for a weekend of wine tasting up north. First on the list is a stop at Domain Caneros, a recommendation from a co-worker that has wonderful sparkling wines. It turns out to be a great recommendation. We sit outside on a fabulous sunny day and have a flight of delicious sparkling wines. The Traveling Hillbilly ponders if life can get any better!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Burlesque Show

As promised, here are the details on the Burlesque/Variety show we saw on New Year’s Eve. First, it was amazing; very entertaining and so funny. One of our favorite acts was “the hula hoop girl.” She came out acting stumbling drunk and then proceeded to hula hoop like we’d never seen. She was incredible! Next up, we saw an act that did the ultimate mash ups. They managed to squeeze in Justin Timberlake, Paula Abdul, Madonna, Wham and even Barry Manilow, without skipping a beat! It was truly incredible. We also saw a marvelous and laugh out loud funny ventriloquist! Now keep in mind this was all early in the evening, when we were still on our first cocktail. Plus the food was really good as well. I’m not sure this type of show is a regular event, but the Traveling Hillbilly highly recommends this as a totally unique experience on your next visit to London. Just go for dinner and stay and dance at the nightclub after. Check it out @ www.cafedeparis.com

New Year's Eve in London!

What a fabulous New Year’s Eve we had in London! How cool is it that the Traveling Hillbilly got to spend New Year’s Eve in London with friends from LA and San Fran, plus some new friends from London?! We spent it at a cool club/restaurant called Café de Paris. We had dinner, got to see a burlesque/variety show and then it turned into a night club after dinner and the show were over. We were worried about being able to stay up to ring in the New Year since we had to be there by 6:30pm. However, we had no problem partying until 3am! A truly great time was had by all.

However, some of my friends seem to be getting a rather late start today.

More details on the dinner and show later.

Theater Reviews

First up, Sherlock Holmes – Robert Downey Jr. is great! Jude Law isn’t too bad. He would not have been the Traveling Hillbilly’s first choice for the role, but you can actually forget that it’s Jude Law at times. Rachel McAdams was not right for her role. She can be great, but she didn’t seem to be the appropriate choice for this role. However, all in all the film was fun and entertaining. The Traveling Hillbilly recommends.

Next up, Grease – Rizzo steals the show! The actress that plays Rizzo is an amazing performer and was by far the best thing about the whole show. The guy who played Danny was good, but the girl that played Sandy, not so good (she was the understudy). She was a terrific singer but she could not act or dance. However all in all, the show is fun and energetic. The music is great and makes you want to sing along. The Traveling Hillbilly recommends if you really want to see a musical and you’ve already seen the other popular musicals like Wicked, Mama Mia and Jersey Boys. If not, I’d recommend seeing one of those first.