Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fun Local Sidewalk Cafes

Where am I?  

Somewhere in Europe? San Francisco? San Jose?

I  found some fun, new sidewalk cafes this past week that I want to return to. 

Grab a cup of coffee, delicious pastry or pretzel, sandwich, quiche, or salad and take it outside, relax and write.  I am a people-watcher - this is a unusual path in this downtown area close to a university to do just this.  A laid back area to have short meetings - getting out of the office. 

Hint, the owners of this first pastry sidewalk cafe, La Lune Suerte, are European.  And, you see the gate post of our local university in the background.

Sidewalk Cafes Scenes
Where am I?

Something fun this week ~ enjoying the summer sun! ~ The Fun Tour Guru

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Update: San Jose Convention Center Construction

Our San Jose Convention Center is open and operating, even under construction. 

Is this sign too large?

I really do commend our city leaders with their extra efforts to communicate temporary directions during the construction of our Convention Center - I did have an attendee ask this question.



I was asked this question, "is the sign too large," by a conference attendee last week when I was at a conference in downtown San Jose.  

I do admit, it was early in the morning, before the attendee had their coffee as they were walking across San Carlos street directly in front of the Convention Center. 


 

What do you think?  Do the signs blend and become a part of the painting on the building? Are you able to follow what this sign says on the front of the building? 

Good News for our San Jose Convention Center Construction Status

It is really great news that the first steel package arrived on July 2 which includes over 1951 tons, with the high roof trusses the longest at 150' spans.


And yes! The majority of the steel is from within USA:  Nucor Yamato's Blytheville, Arkansas mill with structural fabrication from San Bernardino Steel, New Millennium Building Systems and Star Seismic.

I found this website to follow the updates of the construction of our San Jose Convention Center and it has a picture preview of the new addition which is being added to the center.

Insider Information

Even with this nice large sign, rather than navigate through the center entrance, I always park my car in the parking lot adjacent to the Convention Center on Almaden St and use the entrance on the west side of the convention center. The Center does have a parking garage.  If you are walking to the Center, you may use either side entrance on Almaden or Market Streets. 


I have mentioned this before, we are fortunate Silicon Valley (south bay) actually has two convention centers to meet the needs of conferences and meetings in town – located in San Jose and Santa Clara.  

I have had guests get confused and arrive at the wrong convention center. Be sure to verify this!  

Both convention centers are connected by our Light Rail system – which runs through the cities of Mountain View, Santa Clara, Campbell, and South San Jose. You may switch from the Light Rail to Cal Train in Mountain View and go to San Francisco. And, don't forget if you are coming from Sacramento, to take the Capitol Corridor Intercity Rail Service train to San Jose. 

With latest updates from Silicon Valley ~ The Fun Tour Guru 




Friday, July 13, 2012

Argentina Travel: Local Bueno Aires Tips

Many questions are piling up from my readers about how to get around and what to do in international regions, I am honored to reach out to select Writer colleagues to assist with answers from their journeys.  Yes, I would enjoy traveling to each place; it is unfortunate I can only be in one place at a time.

I am very actively-excited to present this week’s guest writer, Melissa Ruttanai, who offers insider tips and information for you of the local neighborhoods in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Melissa has been active trekking and touring through Latin America in depth this past year. Thank you very much, Melissa!

Where to Stay in Buenos Aires, By Melissa Ruttanai

Buenos Aires seems like a cluster of neighborhoods, one running into the next in a shapeless mélange of activities and sites.  But like any travel destination, location can make or break your trip.  While the city is growing and new neighborhoods garner reputations as prime locales, here is an overview of some of the core barrios to explore.

Recoleta

Tree-lined and well maintained, Recoleta boasts high end shopping, fancy cafes, and enough boutiques to empty out your bank account.  Apartments and hotels lean toward the upper echelons of service with price tags to match.  But this doesn’t mean it is all starched collars and pin-striped suites.  Recoleta is a major stop on the tourist route.

The Recoleta Cemetery houses remains of Eva Perron and many of the city’s socialites from centuries past.  A half-day is warranted here so that you can wander around the marble statues and black stone mausoleums.  Outside the cemetery, a green field holds weekend markets and a public space for picnicking and sipping mate. 

While nightlife starts late in the city, Buller Brewery offers lunch and microbrews for patrons looking to kill time before visiting disco clubs and tango halls.  It is true that many visitors will enjoy the cobblestone charms of this neighborhood, please know that this comes with a price.  There are no subway stations here.  Moving around the neighborhood involves buses and taxis though it is located on the Hop On-Hop Off Bus route.

San Telmo

A case-in-point of “never judge a book by its cover”, San Telmo has some uneven sidewalks, colorful graffiti, and long bus lines.  But San Telmo is at the heart of contemporary culture and music.  Street graffiti are works of art and self-expression as local painters purposefully maintain multi-hued designs on walls and buildings. Meanwhile sidewalks are lined with world class cafes.

Balcony Window in San Telmo (Buenos Aires)


This neighborhood boasts two of the oldest tango halls in the city-- as well as the grandfather of all cafes, El Federal.  For lunch, sit in the dark wood ambiance of the confiteria as waiters bring out trays of freshly sliced sandwiches and espressos.  Live music spills from hundreds of bars at night and it is conveniently located for subway and bus travel. 

Large apartments in the neighborhood were originally built for the wealthy until a strain of yellow fever in the last century cleared out all the hobnobbers.  Eager artists and blue collar workers have taken their place.  As such, culture is key in San Telmo and accommodation offers high quality with reasonable price tags.  Within walking distance, travelers can visit one of the oldest markets in town and cut into juicy steaks at La Rosalia

Palermo Viejo

Popular for beautiful buildings and chic cafes, Palermo is a top destination for accommodations.  Within the district, sub-neighborhoods sidle up next to each other with Palermo Viejo being a general preference for travelers.  Trees line the street offering shade and reprieve from the sun during the summer. 

At night, clubs and bars welcome a mixed crowd of ages and nationalities.  Within walking distance, Parque Tres de Febrero is the largest green space in Buenos Aires.  From the hotels and cafes, travelers can visit the Botanical Gardens, the Planetarium, and polo fields at the Palermo Gardens

On the weekends, many locals and tourists head to Plaza Serrano for handicrafts, street musicians, and a people-watching afternoon under the Argentine sun.  For more affordable accommodations close to Palermo, consider hotels in Villa Crespo just north of Palermo.  The Hop On-Hop Off Bus route runs close to the neighborhood as well as the park.  One metro line services the neighborhood’s edge but in general, buses and taxis will bring you into the heart of this barrio.

Buenos Aires Local Inside Information

When visiting Buenos Aires, consider the core sights that you’d like to see and how willing you are to walk to them.  If you prefer subways and trains, it is best to situate yourself in San Telmo, closer to the Microcenter.  If wider boulevards and street cafes comprise your travel dreams, then start hunting in Recoleta and Palermo.


Alternatively, consider booking an Argentina tour package with a specialist such as Tucan Travel, and ask your travel advisor for their recommendations for your budget and travel preferences.

Sharing local insider information globally ~ The Fun Tour Guru

San Telmo Image, Courtesy of Matthew Barker

Monday, July 9, 2012

Guide to Kansas City MO, after the All-Star Baseball Game

A Quick Guide for Kansas City, MO, the other city of fountains

I have been diligently watching all of the buzz in the news around the All Star Baseball Game in Kansas City, MO.  Win or lose, this is definitely a city with baseball spirit always following those guys wearing royal blue outfits.
 
JC Nichols Fountain, Courtesy of Kansas City CVB

  When I ask people if they have been to Kansas City, I receive the frequent answer that they remember driving through the city on a trip across USA.  This may be the best kept secret and I am not sure I should really tell people about what they may find here.

The Ewing M. Kauffman Stadium (Royal Stadium) is still one of my favorite baseball stadiums. One of the most beautiful stadiums, and includes the Water Spectacular fountain centered in the outfield which lights up with a fantastic water display for a one-of-a-kind appearance you may watch after each home run.


Perhaps you can’t get to Rome this year?  This is the other city of fountains that should be added to your list.  You will get a very good value for your trip to the heart of USA with plenty of activities to keep busy with in this city.

Although I am able to keep you active with a very long list of things to do in future posts, if you are in town for a day or two, my favorite hang outs are:
  • Country Club Plaza - The oldest outdoor and upscale shopping districts which you feel as if you were shopping in an old European town.
  • Steamboat Arabia Museum – Unusual and interesting story is uncovered with steamboat ship from the Missouri River.
  • Harry S Truman Library and Museum – The first presidential library to be created under the 1955 Presidential Libraries Act. 
  • Kansas City Starlight Theatre – The cultural heart of the city fits nicely in this outdoor theater to watch the latest musicals and concerts during the summer.
Restaurants? There are too many to list here. My own personal favorites are the many tastes of barbecue, fried chicken, and apple daiquiri's.  Hint > Try asking a local person for their favorite restaurant recommendations.

As I have frequented many Missouri cities and towns quite a bit, I know they offer a genuine small home town environment – do you know this is where Walt Disney received his first glance of a small town as a young boy? His family lived in Marceline, MO, before moving to Kansas City. A fun day trip is a visit to the Walt Disney Hometown Museum, family farm and you may even see where Walt daydreamed under a huge tree.



Getting Acquainted with Missouri

You will find friendly people and a different lifestyle in this area. A passport is not necessary to have to visit.  This is where the rolling hills of the Ozarks Mountains begin and of course the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers dissect each other on the eastern side of the state.  Please don’t mistake Missouri as one of the flat plains states like Kansas.  And Kansas City actually lies in both states of Missouri and Kansas.

It is true, I actually try to avoid going to Missouri during the summer months because of the hot weather and humidity.  However, with the All Star Baseball game, it should be fun. If you do go, you will quickly learn to adapt your schedules to avoid the hottest part of the days by staying inside their air conditioned buildings and cars. 

Are sure you know how to pronounce this state’s name?

There have been long discussions, debates, and even heated arguments among the locals as to how to pronounce this states name. Is it Missour-EE or Missour-AH?  Some people say it depends on what side of the state you live on, east side says with EE and the west side uses AH. Please know this is still an ongoing, fun debate and don’t try to step in and solve it on one trip.

What is new in this state?

Everything is up to date in Missouri.  Did you know 37 out 40 state parks have wireless connections? They listened to their 2010 survey of campers and installed wireless connections throughout the state parks like:
Baker, Babler, Bennett Springs, Johnson Shut-Ins, Long Branch, Meramec, Roaring Camp, and Table Rock.

I know everyone will have a great time at the ol' ballgame in, well, uh, this All-American baseball city, Kansas City. 

Kansas City, here I come! ~ The Fun Tour Guru

Thursday, July 5, 2012

How Do You Use Online Review Travel Websites?

Do you use online review websites when you travel?

This week’s travel tip, I don’t obsess too much over online hotel and supplier reviews.  I know as I say this, I may not be too popular with many review websites.  Please know I will quickly scan reviews looking at the comments so I know what people are saying and if the supplier is still in business. I follow my own strategy now when I travel and I never really have to give a negative review of any supplier.

Sure, I have had a few unusual experiences – like finding a really funky older bed and breakfast hotel in downtown Fairbanks, Alaska or getting a tiny room you could barely move around in with a balcony and the best view ever of the river and downtown Luzern, Switzerland.  

I have learned, even sometimes in the most uncomfortable way, to make sure I understand what I want from each trip first. Three points I follow now are:
  • Create my own goals and expectations of each trip, as I do with my business plans.  Why am I really going? 
  • Plan. Research. Hire and talk to a local person. Don’t obsess too much with reviews by others. Do learn the weaknesses and prepare solutions for yourself. Thin walls?  Turn your radio on to soft music or run the water in the sink. A supplier or hotel may not be perfect in every aspect.  If your goal is to hike, you may only need the convenience of a bed, shower, and breakfast.
  • Do communicate on the trip.  If you are upset about an incident, it is most likely because this one item is important to you and was an integral part of the initial list of reasons why you want to go on this trip.  Tell the leader, supplier manager, or person in charge. And, tell them while you smile. I find people like to help solve problems, let them help you.  Don't be stubborn.
If you are the supplier, be patient with travelers. Don’t rush people. Each person has their own focus and speed – they want to have their own unique experiences.  Remember what may be important to one person may not be at the top of the list of another traveler.  I wouldn’t skip the experiences I found because a friend did not like them.  This is true with everyday life activities too, don’t rush other people.

Fairbanks, Alaska

I remember staying in a fun, funky, friendly, and a really inexpensive hotel in downtown Fairbanks which became one of my favorite memories.  The hotel was located in the center of downtown close to all shops, restaurants, activities, and information center.  And, when I was tired, it was a short walk back to my room to relax and re-energize. 

Would you stay here?
Yet, when the shuttle driver dropped me off at midnight (it is 24 hour daylight) the day I arrived, I was a bit nervous if I should be staying here on my own. I wasn’t used to these Alaskan wilderness characters roaming the halls in this small hotel. I did know there was a modern, updated hotel across the street, I could check into. The next morning I got up, went down to have coffee in the lobby, and chatted with the hotel owner who shared inside tips with me, and met other travelers.  I was set to explore.  

Lobby
My goal, was to experience the Alaskan Summer Solstice festival and go to their midnight baseball game without lights.  (Note: I recently found out, unfortunately, this hotel was torn down because of the recent downtown expansion of Fairbanks. A real shame!)

Luzern, Switzerland

A second memory is in Luzern. After leaving my friends I traveled with, I arrived in Luzern, Switzerland by train, and finding my hotel was a trip in itself.  The hotel was located along the main river in town. I walked across the fun wooden bridge and started my search.  Oh yeah, you need to go down the street behind the hotel to get to the main entrance! 

It was a great European hotel in the middle of downtown in a safe area.  I walked upstairs and into my room. As a single traveler, sometimes these European hotel rooms are unusually small. This room was very small. Although bigger than a ship cabin, it was long and narrow, I could stretch my arms out and almost touch both walls on each side.  Hotels have smaller connecting rooms they used for children or even hired help long ago. 

Yet my memory, is sitting on the balcony gazing at the best view ever of the city of Luzern, watching people below me in the sidewalk cafes, the covered wooden bridges and river activities. I was almost close enough to jump into the river.  My goal, was to see as much as I could while I was in town one day and night. The view was more important to relax and enjoy, not the size of the room. I really wasn’t in the room very much.

I am careful about how I use the information I find with online travel reviews.  Make sure you follow your own goals of what is important to you. Be sure to extract only the information helpful for your own trip.  When in doubt, ask a local person to help.
 
Why do you really want to go on your trip?  The Fun Tour Guru