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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Soca in Moka 2012 … so you’re looking for tickets?

I’ve compiled a couple years of photos on Soca in Moka below. I assume that you’re here because you’re looking for tickets for the fete. I’m not here to tell you the fete is overpriced and that it has been overrated for years, because if you’re looking for tickets, then you don’t care about the price of these all inclusives. I could rant about the old times, where the food was just as good but the price was not 15% of average Trini’s monthly paycheck. (And even that percentage is according to 2012 OECD stats, so you know the average person isn’t even making that much in Trinidad)

Here are two pictures from Moka Sunday fete in 2005

Here are two pictures from Moka Sunday fete in 2006

Here are two pictures from Moka Sunday fete in 2008

I wont even bother posting pictures from 2009 or 2010 … the pictures were exactly the same. So how about this?

I don’t have tickets to Moka, but I will have a picture of a ticket to show you and the price. Is that ok? If not, see previous rant about Soca in Moka 2008 or  Soca in Moka 2006

Waterfalling in love in Iceland … My top 5 lazy Icelandic waterfalls

There are a couple things I really happen to like in this world …

If you love waterfalls as much as I happen to … then the next place on your bucket list should be Iceland. The land of fire and ice has a couple great things about it

  • Extreme landscapes with raging glacial rivers
  • Vast sand deserts
  • Simmering hot springs
  • The cleanest air and tap water in the world (Probably some of the coldest tap water also)

however, you can’t really pass up looking at waterfalls in Iceland.

As you navigate the country on the Ring Road in your rental (and you really must rent a car in Iceland, even though it can be horrifically expensive … it is one place in the world, where it is completely worth it), you can see most waterfalls with a simple detour off the Ring Road.

As you drive from Reyjavik, your first waterfall stop will probably be :

1. Gullfoss.

I don’t know why it’s called the Golden Falls, but it is the most famous waterfall in Iceland because of its size, volume and accessibility – it is also by definition a major tourist spot.  The Hvita River, coming off the Langjökull Glacier, falls 32 meters into a deep canyon that is hidden by a wall of mist.

A safe walk way has been built for people to walk rightup to the falls, while at the top of the falls is another viewing deck where a different vantage point is available – I do love the fact that there aren’t a gazillion safety rails blocking you from the falls

2. Seljalandsfoss

Your next stop from the road will probably be Seljalandsfoss. Seljalandsfoss is another famous waterfalls – due to the fact that you can walk behind the falls with no issues whatsoever. Also it’s right by the ring road and you can see the falls from the road – how much more convenient, would you like your attractions and waterfalls?

Now you have two options for viewing this waterfall.

  1. You can take the safe route and go see it in the day … this is understandable and you’ll enjoy yourself.
  2. Or you can go the waterfalls in the darkest night at 2am with wind and freezing rain slapping you in the face and then traverse the trail that goes behind the waterfalls

Guess which option, I prefer? Obviously, excuse my pronunciation of the Seljalandsfoss – but I did manage to figure out how to say Kirkjubæjarklaustur (pronounced [ˈcʰɪrcjʏˌpaɪjarˌkʰlœɪstʏr]

 3. Skógafoss

Your next stop about 15 minutes down the road from Seljalandsfoss is Skógafoss. Again, super convenient and awesome … how much better can you get for a lazy Trinidadian. I want all my highlights quick and easy to get to – to hell with all this damn nature hiking and fresh air and clean water! The cliffs are a former coastline, much like Seljalandsfoss. Those cliffs, among other mountains, mark the borderline between the coastal lowlands and the highlands of Iceland – that’s a nice fact isn’t it?

Want another awesome fact : Skógarfoss is astonishingly white, just like everyone in Iceland!

Along the way, if you manage to get some sunshine (the weather can be notoriously fickle in Iceland), you run into random waterfalls just to grant you awesome pictures. Foss a Sidu (or more accurately Foss á Siðu, which literally means “waterfall at Siðu”) was a conspicuous waterfall as we drove along Southern Iceland along the Ring Road … and thankfully the sun made for a great picture.

4. Svartifoss

The first waterfall that we actually had to get out and do a bit of hiking was Svartifoss. You can see the people walking on the rock bridge in the distance.

Svartifoss was one of those memorable waterfalls thanks to hanging hexagonal basalt columns underlying it. While basalt columns aren’t anything new around waterfalls nor is this waterfall very big (it’s only 20m tall), it seems that the basalt columns on this waterfall are very pronounced.

Unlike Gullfoss, which I couldn’t figure the Golden Falls nickname … The name of the falls is translated into something like “black falls,” … it’s pretty easy to figure out the name. With the basalt columns, it looks like something from Star Trek …  but it is definitely another tourist haven. I really liked these falls …

Driving along the Ring Road, you’ll continue to see more waterfall at the side of the road, again with very little hiking or walking. Litlanesfoss is shown below.

5. Barnafoss

Another one of my favorites is the little hike to see the children’s falls …

We did a little bit of a walk to reach this rapids flanked by lava walls and rocks. The walk probably takes around 20-30 minutes round trip.

I am missing two obvious waterfalls in Dettifoss and Goðafoss – the days we passed by those waterfalls, we had extremely bad weather … and it was pretty unfortunate, since those are also great lazy waterfalls.

Guest Post : Stay somewhere different with AirBnB

Travelling the world is one of those things we all want to do, and its something that many of us take time to plan, plan and plan even more.  Half of the planning goes into “Where to go” and the other half is “Where to stay”.

As a travel addict (like Rishi), we’ve travelled all over India and a number of countries in Asia.  Walking around on at a train station in a random city with a backpack, and eating food from a random cart is not out of the ordinary.

In planning our latest trip – we had decided on the cities to visit (after having a few drinks, and a veggie dinner with Rishi and D), and staying in 5-star hotels was an attractive option for us – but in our opinion, Hotels are a constant anywhere in the world round … Same ol’ bed, same ol’ ugly bed cover, same ol’ drawers, you get the drift…

So my wife and I explored other options and found an alternative that really fit into our vision :  http://www.airbnb.com  (Rishi’s Note : It looks like paid Couchsurfing – and you get your own place, if you want … so I like it)

Most of us travel to get the “full experience”, why ruin it by staying in a regular hotel? This was our chance to make our regular trip into a storybook trip that we wanted!

On our recent trip to Bali – My wife and I found an incredible villa – Villa Jondin – owned by an Australian couple, who have locals who clean and maintain the house.  Our choices were hotels that cost $100/night, or an entire villa with a private pool for a few dollars more…

Before arriving, we thought the pictures were taken by some professional, and there is no way it would look like that…  We were wrong – the house looked EXACTLY like the pictures.  The Villa even had its own house cat, that meow’ed and wanted us to feed her…  The place felt like a home, rather than a “sterile” hotel… for us, travelling should be an experience, rather than “the same ol’ thing”…

Currently, we’re in dream mode for the next trip…  Need to start coming up with ideas on places to visit…  Currently on our list is San Francisco, and Kenya.

Popped onto the website, and found a tree house in San Francisco that really looked cool … where else would you be able to stay in a tree house … unless you’re at some eco-tourist hotel that would charge an arm and leg for the privilege … and this included Includes TV, Wi-Fi, DVD Collection, heaters, and a cooked meal…

Here’s an example of a boat house in Amsterdam,  its cheaper and definitely has a lot more personality and charm than some of hotels that we’ve stayed at.


Jumped over to Nairobi, Kenya (I think this will be our next major trip), and found this place. A giraffe hotel.  How cool is it to stay in the Giraffe Lodge – where long necked monsters pop join you for breakfast…  We pay to go to a Zoo, and take pictures, but to stay at a place where you can feed a Giraffe by hand, falls into bucket list territory.

Finally, We’ve been to Amsterdam.  Its a nice city to visit.  Seen the history, and seen the rest of it all as well (it comes with the territory).  Lets say you’re interested in trying something totally new.  Something ‘out of the box’ – a Boat on the Amstel River.  Its romantic, quirky, and totally different.  (Note – you’re renting a room on the boat – not the whole thing to yourself)

Now that you’ve seen whats possible, now you’ve got to make it happen. Some things that we learned when dealing with the owners on AirBnB.com based on our first experience …

  1. Created a profile on the website – show that you’re a professional, and that you’re not the type of person who’s going to trash someone’s house.  Make sure you include a picture – it will help with the negotiation.
  2. Look for places with a review – so you get a true perspective on the place.  Its kinda like tripadvisor – but not on tripadvisor.
  3. Apply to the owner to stay at their place – let them know that you are interested, and asked for a quote.
  4. Negotiate! – This isnt a hotel website…  Negotiation is allowed.  We saved $55/night in Bali (there were no reviews at the property that we stayed at – it was a risk for me, and an opportunity for the owner)
  5. Respect the home when you get there…  Otherwise, you will get a negative review – and future people might not rent to you.
  6. Leave feedback on the place

As you can tell – there are a couple more steps involved in booking a room with people renting out their own space – but its well worth it.  You’re applying for the place, proving that you would be a good renter.  Its not just “Here’s my Platinum/Gold/Black Visa card – swipe it”, but a personal connection with the person renting their home.  Kinda Bed’n’Breakfast style, but with a lot more space availableMake travelling an experience, rather than “the same ol’ thing”…

Our next trip is to Quebec City – I’m now looking for the 100 year old – exposed brick wall property to stay in…  It might cost me a few dollars more than a hotel, but its all about the experience.

Until the next guest blog

Vishal – aka Rishi’s Guju Friend.

Trinis like salt!! And I’m number 6 in the world … woot!!

In Trinidad, we have a cliche… “Trinis like salt … cause they in eeeeeverything!” …

Sometimes I wonder what the hell I’m doing in some places myself. I’ve lived in Montreal for a couple years and I survived the great Montreal Icestorm (which really wasn’t that great … but losing electricity across the city makes you understand how pathetic and soft, normal humans are to the elements) … I thought it was pretty cool that it looked like Mr. Freeze walked through Verdun and hit us with his freeze ray.

So here in Calgary it’s cold … although not as cold as in Edmonton (where I heard it was -47C with the Wind Chill)

To give you an idea of how cold -47C is … you can do cool things like this …

This being said … what is not cool,

  • Walking three blocks from your hotel to work and experience shooting, radiating pains in your fingers in 20 seconds of exposure
  • Feeling your face freezing in mid breath
  • Deliberately jaywalking and facing oncoming traffic because walking to the corner of the street is 20  feet too far to experience
  • … oh yes, not being able to breathe – that is definitely not cool.

By the way, when I mention the walk from the hotel … this is what I mean, in terms of distance … according to Google … it’s basically 400m from door to door

So this leads to boredom and basically being stuck in front the computer … so lo and behold … searching my name leads me to find that today … I’m still the #6 Rishi out of 17.2 million search results on Google. I think this is pretty funky, when “Rishi” is like the “John” of Indian names. Although searching “The best Rishi in the world” … gets me nothing in top 500 … so I think I need to fix that.

By the way, this post has nothing to do with travel, food or anything useful except as a stream of unconsciousness … and to pat myself on the back!

I am a food douche … fuh real … and I make no apologies

I started watching a movie this weekend …  this insipid Woody Allen movie called “Midnight in Paris” … it was so fucking stupid … I couldn’t even get through the first 20 minutes before getting annoyed … and the reviews talk about the charm and other nonsense … but the awesome part was the character Micheal Sheen played (this douche bag know it all professor) …check out the trailer from 0:23

I hate these type of people with a passion and I always swore I would never become THAT guy. Think about the following scenarios with that guy ..

  • You just had the best Gelato in Toronto and you tell him and he replies “Welllllllll … the best Gelato I had was just outside Santa Maria Maggoire , from a tiny little truck with 6231 flavours” … and you think …”Italy can go fuck itself with Gelato”
  • You just had some awesome all you can eat sushi somewhere in Canada … and you claim that it’s awesome and you tell him and he replies “It’s alright, but the itamae-san who prepared my sashimi at 6:45am in Tsukiji Market was awesome“… and you think “Your eeta-mami-san can go fuck himself and the fish he was slicing … matter of fact … he should slit your throat open and stuff sashimi down it”
  • You had some good Pad Thai … and you tell that guy … and his response was something like … “Pfft, if you think that was even Pad Thai, then you might as well have eaten shit and died … OK … hopefully you won’t die!”

Well folks, I’ve accepted that … THAT GUY is me, and I will join the legions of travellers who are recovering from utter and inane douchebaggery …

However in my defense, here was the thought process that went into the douchebaggery – I’ve invested time, money and energy into food exploration while on my travels. Through my travels, I’ve acquired an educated palate to the extent that when a Chef and Manager at Passage to Asia in Chaguanas, Trinidad tries to explain that the Tom Yum soup tastes a certain way because that’s the way they make it in Thailand – it will incur wrath and destruction and scorn … here is a snippet of the conversation

  • <Rishi> This Tom Yum soup tastes nothing like Tom Yum soup
  • <Manager> Well this is how we make it here
  • <Rishi> That’s fine, but it doesn’t taste like what it should taste like … just offering feedback here. Where is the Galangal or Lemongrass?
  • <Manager> Well this is how they make it in Thailand
  • <Rishi> Ummm … unless you’ve been to Thailand more times than me, then you can’t make that claim. In Thailand, this is how they make the soup … (recites ingredients) … If you’re going to piss on my head … at least don’t call it rain!!
  • <Manager> Well people here don’t know the difference …

This is what I mean … some people simply beg for douche baggery … absolutely beg for it. (Personal note : Any place that has a menu where they serve 4 different regions of cuisine, cannot be authentic … it can be tasty, but it cannot be authentic)

In the beginning, it was quite easy and simple, before douche progress

  • Man like to travel
  • Man has to eat while travelling
  • Man eats lots of things, simply because you cannot find a roti or callaloo in Cambodia
  • Man eats shitloads of other things, because he had to find out why people like Kangaroo in Switzerland
  • Man gets call from ocean informing him they’ve run out of tuna.
  • Man don’t care and becomes douche.

I feel like people and places are just out to fuck with me and my tastebuds … as though I am some type of idiot who likes paying and wasting money for utter dogshit food … and then having no name, no brain idiots on YELP affirm their utter ass fucking of food. If I had tons of money, to fly in my own chef or fly out to Buenos Aires for a phenomenal steak, then I would do so, but I can’t. So because I can’t fly out somewhere, does that consign me to silence about the ass raping of my favorite foods?

In my defense also, over time … I have become less of an ass about shitty food, unless you’re in Passage to Asia or almost anywhere in Trinidad, that will tell me, that the NON TRINI food they’re serving me is the same that they serve in the country of origin. Has anyone has a Shish Taouk or Gyros in Trinidad?

I have and it tastes like BBQ dogmeat laced with Angel Tears and Sadness sprinkled with FAIL salt.

So the next time, you meet a traveller who knows about food and they are an ass to you … regarding food … remember that they’re not trying deliberately to be douchy epic know it alls like Martin Sheen – they’re just sad, that they have eaten Revelations from the Book of Pepper Sauce, verse 3:99.


I want to be the most travelled Trinidadian in the world …

There … I said it!

It’s not some huge achievement … it’s really just a goal. So I’m aiming to hit my 100th country before 40 (6 years from now), which shouldn’t be a difficult goal, but then the most difficult commodity to find in your 30’s is actually time!

All the social pressures are multiplied and the gloves come off in terms of social pressures to conform …

  • Gotta get married
  • Got to have kids before the woman’s eggs are dried up and we end up with special children
  • Got to find money to pay for the ring and wedding
  • Have to start planning for retirement … since the advertising from the banks ensure that you feel like crap now and that you’ll be fearful in 30 -40 years that you’ll be broke and living like a hobo

So try and balance those pressures, along with a goal that is mutually exclusive to those things. Don’t you think it’s a bit difficult? So what happens? I’ll tell … somewhere along the line, you either find a super happy compromise or you give up something.

Travelling along at a good pace … you don’t realize how many places there are to visit, except that there are a couple fantastic websites with a true inventory of places to visit. When you get to those websites, you’re really put in your place as a traveller. I’m not here to debate what is travelling or the style of travelling … whether going to countries for a couple days or even a long weekend constitutes a travelling experience or whether I should take a year off for the “Round the world” trip that is becoming so popular with people my age.

I’m going to leave all the qualitative arguments, about what is meant by the word “visit”. Some travellers claim you must spend a night in a place; some argue it is enough to visit a lavatory there; some will say you have to sleep on a park bench or do it for less than $2 USD to make it real … I don’t really care about the qualitative aspects, I’m going to get to more

When I first started travelling, I based my “Top 100 bucket list” on the Hillman Wonders list, then as I got to more and more of that list, I also realized that there tons of places that weren’t on the list and that I wanted to visit. So while doing a search for other well travelled Trinis, I stumbled upon a newspaper article on Charles Veley (who is the world’s most travelled man) … obviously this dude had the fortune of being a millionaire in his 30’s, so he had time to craft and formulate a plan to achieve his goal of being the most travelled person in the world – which is no mean accomplishment!! He even developed a website and created a master catalogue of places … again, the luxury of having money to play with :D

Did you know that there is a phrase to describe uncontrollable wanderlust : Dromomania. It is the addiction to new experiences, the vagabond neurosis. I’m pretty sure that I don’t have that particular mania … since I do like being in my house and I don’t really think I’m an experience junkie … this weekend, I had tons of fun just lying in bed watching movies on TV. Never underestimate the awesomeness of simple pleasures.

Anyway … back to the list … so now having wasted time cataloging and stalking the list to come up with a total of 208 for myself, puts me on the Gold list, I found that Garron Hansen was the #1 Trini with 137 places … so I had to investigate, then in true Trini macco forms … I “googled” him to figure out, he wasn’t even a Trini … well me thinks so … I will add him on facebook and macco then 😀

Anyway, it’s about 24 days before I head out to Trinidad for Carnival 2012 … hopefully there will be more feedback on my Trini World Beating Quest!

Crooked street hunting in San Francisco … Lombard and Vermont Streets

If someone asked you to name the “Crookedest Street in the world”, chances are that your answer would involve Lombard Street in San Francisco. Why wouldn’t you? It’s is a world famous tourist destination, except when you’re trying to find it, since there is no address to type into your GPS. (FYI, the address to type into your GPS : 1018 Lombard Street, San Francisco CA 94109)

Finding the crooked section of Lombard isn’t that hard, once you know where to go, so you can either take the Powell – Hyde Cable car up and just ask the driver to stop at the crooked section (follow the crowd off the cable car)

Or you can drive from your hotel (or take a cab down) to the top of the street and then drive down the 8 switchbacks.

You have no idea how steep the street is, unless you head over to Filbert Street and peer over the slope, which leads to why the street is crooked. The naturally steep grade of the street posed a severe safety hazard, so in 1920’s, property owners in the area started adding the scenic switchbacks to add aesthetic appeal while increasing safety for pedestrians.

Everyone loves this street – even the residents – people peep out from beautiful homes and apartment windows. Magenta-flowered bushes climb up the front of houses for a better view.

How to Get to Lombard Street (I’ve taken this section –  directly from SFTravel.com – no need to reinvent the wheel :)

The crooked famous portion of Lombard Street is located between Jones St. and Hyde St. The most common methods of getting here are:

  1. City bus.
    •  You can take several city buses through North Beach to get here, the most popular of which is the 30, which runs from Union Square. You should get off on Columbus near Lombard. From here you will walk west (uphill) a few blocks to get to Jones, the bottom of the hill where the curvy part of the street begins.
  2. Cable car.
    • The Powell-Mason cable car line stops at Lombard and Columbus, too, so that’s an option for getting to the bottom of the curvy street. Alternatively, the Hyde Street cable car will drop you off at the top of the curvy street.
  3. Car.
    • Note that the curvy portion of the street only runs one way, towards the East. To drive you’ll want to come to this street from Van Ness, turning east on Lombard and taking the road this way.
  4. Tour bus.
    • Many of the city’s tourist buses pass by the crooked street either via Hyde or via Columbus. They aren’t able to go down the crooked street (it’s too crooked for a bus!) Some of them stop to let visitors walk around the area and others pause briefly for a photo-op and some information about the street.

Now here is the surprise …

Most people don’t know that Lombard isn’t truly the “crookedest” street in the world? In fact, it’s not even the crookedest street in San Francisco. That honor belongs to Vermont Street between 20th and 22nd streets in the Portrero Hill neighborhood. Though technically slightly curvier than Lombard, and an interesting sight in its own right, this street doesn’t have the fame or the visual beauty that Lombard Street has, which is why people flock to Lombard Street to take photos during their visit.

Vermont St. (below 20th St.) has 7 turns, and Lombard St. (below Hyde St.) has 8 turns. Vermont is steeper, however, and is less well-trafficked.

Vermont is located right next to a beautiful little park that many locals use for a good time and also in the same little area is a world class brewery.

So yeah, If you really want to take a step above the Rest of the Tourist and Go Down the Real Crookedest Street then please head over to Vermont Street, its beautiful and very exciting!

From Wikipedia … A section of the street between 20th and 22nd Street, near McKinley Square, features a series of seven sharp turns. This has led the street to be dubbed the crookedest in the world in competition with the better-known Lombard Street (Vermont, while steeper than Lombard, has fewer turns). In an episode of Fact or Fiction on the Travel Channel, Jayms Ramirez measured the sinuosity of both Lombard and Vermont streets, and proved that Vermont is indeed more crooked (with a sinuosity of 1.56 versus 1.2 for Lombard Street).

My date with Gigi … all that Golden Gate Bridge love

Whenever I get to San Francisco, I always wish for three things

  1. It will be sunny and clear.
  2. The Cioppino will be good
  3. I can find something different that makes my trip

I can always get Numbers 2 and 3, but the weather can be so fickle in San Fran, and it really is the number #1 barometer of how much you will enjoy the city, if it is your first time in town. I always want clear skies to ensure that my Golden Gate Bridge date will be awesome – I always make a date with “Gigi” whenever I get here …

She is a sexy bridge with her curves in that International Orange …(yes the Golden Gate Bridge is not painted in a gold colour, but rather the colour is called International Orange) and it’s a date that no one will ever question you on! I guarantee that no one will ever ask you why you’re going to the Golden Gate Bridge … it’s like saying “I’m going to see the Great Wall or Niagara Falls or Dubai” … anyone you tell, will surely say something good. So on my list of things to see … always check the Universal Cool Things to see list …

That being said … in the evenings, with the fire red sunset, it would be difficult to deny her allure in the distance.

On a clear day, it is really difficult to take a crappy picture of Gigi, no matter what type of Camera you have. She is as iconic and symbolic of San Francisco as the CN Tower is to Toronto or Angkor Wat is to Cambodia.

Once you get to walk along, there is a of signage you’re going to encounter … I always wonder how the non English speaking visitors manage to deal with them. Do you think there’s enough icons on this sign?

With all the traffic that the bridge see, from those walking and cycling on the bridge to the regular commuter traffic, I always wonder if I will ever see people in top hats walking with children, as the signage on the ground leads me to believe.

There are even intersections for blind people to cross paths *lol*

Black and white, sepia or in colour … she always cuts a great silhouette

From the bridge you get awesome angles and views of everything San Francisco has to offer … like Alcatraz through the fence

and the bay with San Francisco in the distance

And at the end of a great date … there always the after 😛

Monday Morning Consultant – Westin Verasa Napa review

After a long day of Jelly Beans, Wine and Napa touring, it is definitely a perk to be a decent hotel. Our choice, this time was the Westin Verasa Napa (Gotta use some of those 200K SPG points I have).

Once again, my loyalty has been rewarded with yet another Cash and Points stay at a decent Category 5 hotel. This is definitely not a bad deal right now.

The check in process was painless and they recognized my “Plat” status immediately and upgraded me to the 3rd floor suite (Room 3021), however there was an issue where the front desk clerk didn’t inform me of the amenities that I had a Plat. Additionally, car valet is included in $20 daily resort fee – of course, which the front desk staff didn’t mention.

Room 3021 was a one-bedroom suite, and it was very comfortable, equipped with everything that a couple or a young family would want

  • X-Box,
  • TV’s in the living area and bedroom, safe
  • Balcony with couch that converts into a pull out bed
  • Two Bathrooms and full kitchen equipped with dishes.

Definitely compared to the crap you have to deal with in Fisherman’s Wharf, this is a definite upgrade. Typical facilities like the Gym was open 24/7, with all the basic stuff like treadmills, bicycles, free weights, etc.

Hotel hosted wine tasting and appetizer every night 5-7pm in lobby. One night there was a person from Domain Chandon offering sparkling wines.

As for the Jr. Suite – this was more in line with the Westin expectations. (Room 1511)

The bathrooms were stocked with traditional Westin White Tea amenities … Double toiletries in both the bathrooms; shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, shower gel, mouthwash, shoe shine cloth, and shower cap.

I really do love those double shower heads that they offered at the better Westins and we were able to control our room temperature at will.

  • Club Lounge

Although there was no club lounge, there was the typical “Unwind” in the evening with complimentary wine tastings, which was definitely a plus, although we did have a lot of wine during the day at the Berenger Vineyards

  • Other services
High Speed Wired/Wireless Internet Access Paid Wi-Fi access, but complimentary Wi-Fi for Plats.
We didn’t use them but there is a concierge on staff located in the lobby, to your left as your enter.
Parking/Valet Free parking in front of the hotel! Absolute WIN!
Dining Restaurants are onsite and we had a great breakfast at “The Bank”, there were also complimentary wine tastings from 5-7pm as well as free tapas for Platinum guests. Definitely Plats will feel the love here.
Pool There are one outdoor pool and jacuzzi and they are heated
Gym Mid tier gym – has enough equipment for a good workout.
Business Center Not applicable at this hotel
  • Overall thoughts

This is a great getaway hotel and but personally rates a strong 8 for me, which is definitely what I expect from the Westin.

Staff attitude, conduct and support Initial greeting was poor by the Bellman/Doorman and the checkin experience was poor, with the front desk staff at the time failing to offer/inform me of all the Platinum amenities available at this hotel.
That being said, upon providing feedback later in the evening, the night manager Aisha Risinger was excellent in her problem resolution, provided a $45 breakfast voucher, and excellent handwritten apology from the entire team. There was an opportunity for excellence, there and she definitely did it.
Hotel Cleanliness Met with the Westin expectations.
Location As with Napa, there isn’t a central location like large cities, but it is convenient in terms of getting to the Napa wineries.
Would I return? I would definitely return to the hotel.
Family friendly?
This is a getaway hotel, but I did see families here with older kids. I don’t know if younger kids would appreciate wine country as much.
Good for business travellers?
Definitely a good business hotel and is geared to those travellers with higher end expectations from the Westin.
Value for price paid?
Hotels in Napa are comparatively expensive. However you’re paying for proxmity to the vineyards, which is really why you’re here. I assume that one can find cheaper accomodations than the Cash and Points rate we paid, but it was definitely worth the value point we paid for the hotel. Even if I had to pay a higher rate, it would be worth it at this hotel

Who needs wine in Napa, when you can visit the heart of Jelly Belly land? [Jelly Belly Factory Tour review]

One of the mandatory side trips from San Francisco, is a tour of wine country : specifically Napa Valley and Sonoma County. If you’re spending a day going to Napa, you’re going to pass through a town called Fairfield. You can stop off at the following address …

Claim to fame??

The attraction to the Jelly Belly Factory is five fold

  1. You get to see the production line for Jelly Bellies, along with cheesy videos and samples
  2. You get to buy a bunch of Belly Flops … BTW kids go bonkers in this place. True Story!
  3. You get to eat Jelly Bean shaped burgers and pizza!
  4. You get to see your loved one in a stupid hat (They’re mandatory for the tour)
  5. It’s FREE to do the tour … everything else you’re going to pay for 😛

Once you walk into the factory, you’re hit with the Factory Store and the first image of Ronald Reagan (made out of Jelly Belly beans)

The owners loved Ronald Reagan. He has a couple Jelly Belly portraits, a stop on the video tour and a little display honoring him … so if you’re a Reagan fan … this is definitely a highlight for you.

As for the tour …

  • I thought it was cool, nothing spectacular but kids would love this stuff.
  • The no video/pics thing sucked but it’s free, so what can you complain about?
  • The Jelly Belly art work is cool to look at, but not enough information given on it (either by pamphlet or website)
  • Watching the production line and mechanization of the factory is definitely a good thing on the tour.

After the tour it was back to sampling, buying and eating …

After you sample, then you’re hooked and you’re gonna buy gifts …

Then after that, you’re going to have some lunch … or late breakfast …

With your bean shaped meal

And you get to buy Belly Flops

How to get a better experience :

  • Get there early.
    • The place opens at 9am.
    • We got there are 9:45am on a regular Thursday morning and we sailed through with no problems, when we came out the tour, there was a huge line up of cranky kids and people waiting to get in. I don’t envy the staff over there at all.
  • Check out the overstock sale by the restaurant
    • The temptation is to run amok in the regular store. We did … but if you’re more price point sensitive, and want the best value for your buck, then the overstock sale is your best bet.
  • Call ahead and ensure that the production line is running
    • It would suck to drive out and stop there, if the line wasn’t running
    • They don’t run the line on Fridays
  • Know that all cameras and video are not allowed on the production line tour. (It sets the right expectation)