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Other Trip Tips

Going to the Caribbean with Children

We decided on St. Thomas for our first trip because of our son who was 13 months old at the time. We wanted a Kid Friendly Time Zone so we would not spend half our trip adapting, and then 3 days shifting his internal clock once we got home. We also wanted a place that was easy to get to with several flight options. Finally, we wanted a US territory so there would be no paperwork issues.

I hit the timetable first at  to see the options. Since almost every US carrier has flights into and out of St. Thomas, it filled the biggest issue. Even if we could not use our airline, there was a ticket counter to get an ID 90. Next I went looking for a hotel at  we found out we could use our points for a free stay at… It was located right in the middle of town.

Once we landed, we had to take a bus that cost around $10-15. They tried to charge us for our son because we were using our car seat. My wife held my son in her lap and the car seat went in the back. We tried to use the Safari Taxi as much as we could because it was the only $1. The Safari Taxi is basically a truck with benches in the back. I enjoyed them more than the vans that charge ten times as much.

As for baby food or other products, we would take the Safari Taxi right to the front of the major grocery store. Since this is where the locals go to shop, the prices are much more reasonable and if you have a child, this is where you can get those things you need like baby food or diapers.

The Island revolves around Cruise ships. So when the ships are in, between 8AM and 6PM, everything is open. Make sure you verify the place you are going is open before you head out. We went to Mountain Top around 4PM only to find out it was closed because there were no cruise ships that day.

The beaches are great. We really enjoyed Megan’s Bay. It is one of the top 10 beaches in the US. . There is no pressure from people trying to sell chair, towel, drinks, etc. There is 1 bar with a barmaid, one place to rent equipment, and one restaurant. It is Kid friendly, and the water is very calm so our son really enjoyed it too. The entrance fee is 4$.

Coki Beach, which is right next to Coral World, is another great beach with great view. Many people trying to help you get what you want so don't get overwhelmed. It is very kid friendly. Little is also a little cheaper than other beaches. Many people trying to sell you stuff.

Sapphire Bay has spectacular views but very snooty. Public Beach is part of a Hotel property. It is difficult to get stuff unless you are a hotel guest. People trying to sell high price rentals like jet skies, rafts, etc. Don't forget anything or else you will pay through the nose. Go there just to take picture the leave.

Coral World is a great place to take kids, but I also thought it was great. Besides feeding Sting Rays and Sharks, you get to interact with Sea lions, Turtles, and other sea creatures. There is also an area submerged in the ocean so you can see all sorts of creatures in the open without getting wet. The only other way to get this view would be in diving equipment.   

For those of you that want to find great deals on duty free items, this is your place. We were looking for jewelry and we found several places that had everything we were looking for. The problem was that it took a long time to go through all the stores.

The best strategy is to know exactly what you want and  don't window shop unless you have a great deal of time. We found one shop that had a great deals and liked airline crews. It was The House of Raja. Go there last and don't forget to bargain...hard.

One of the places we found for jewelry was House of Rajah. I had been there several years earlier, but it the first time for my wife. She was impressed with the selection as well as the prices. This is a place to go even if it is to just to check the prices.

On whole, it was a great place to go for families because of all the options available. If you decide to go here, you will not be disappointed. So enjoy the sun, shops and beaches, you can't go wrong.

In and Out of Africa for Half The Price

As with all of our trips, it started with a substantial amount of planning. We used Fodor’s South Africa to get an overview, and then contacted the interesting places. We found out that pre-arranged tour packages go for $1000 per person per day without airfare. If you plan it yourself like us, you can do it for less than a quarter of that.

The flights on South African Airways where very crowded, it was very difficult to get on the flights. South African has a lot of issues when it comes to non-revs. Do as much as you can in the states before you go to Africa. If you want to travel within Africa, instead of non-rev'ing, you may want to pay for the tickets to guarantee you get where you want to go.  Once Delta gets it flights to Johannesburg operating, it should be much easier.  For flights within South Africa, there are discount airlines which charge $100 for a one way ticket

To make our trip run smoother, I purchased an international phone card to use with my cell phone. We could not make our first flight so I informed our ride in Africa from the airport in the United States. This will reduce a great deal of frustration and confusion. Once I got to Africa, I purchased a chip for my phone and several minutes all for $10. This was a great investment and I would advise others to do the same.   

Once we landed in Johannesburg, we caught our ride to the Kruger National Park area which takes about 5 hours. We used Wilderness Encounter and were met by Brendan Schmikl who drove us to the lodge where we were going to take our first safari. The ride also included a lunch which made the ride after the flight more tolerable. Some Lodges have transportation, but most do not. We had to arrange ours separately.

We arrived at Kuname River Lodge in the late afternoon, which gave us time to do an afternoon and night ride. It was a great way to unwind from all the travel.  We chose Kuname from a reference of a flight attendant (remember to ask for the Airline Employee Discount). The park as well as the accommodations were incredible. It turns out besides being a great place to see animals, it gives an airline discount. This is one of the hidden  treasures of our journey.

While at Kuname, we were lucky enough to see some of the big 5 animals,  Lions, Buffalo, Elephants, Leopards, and Hippopotamus. This was a once in a life time experience and I recommend you do this before you die. This encounter with animals in their natural environment will make you appreciate the unspoiled environment. There is also the impeccable service which not only is apparent in the gourmet  meals and 5 star accommodations, but also the sunset wine tasting out in the african bush.

The next morning started at sunrise ,before the heat becomes so hot that the parks stars, its wildlife, take a nap. We tracked animals all morning until we stopped for breakfast at the watering hole. While they served us coffee and biscuits, the resident crocodile joined our party. The hippopotamus were too busy with their mud baths to partake in our meal. After three wonderful days and nights, we had to get up at 5 AM to catch our ride back to town.

After the 5 hour trip back to Johannesburg Airport, we tried to non-rev on South African Airways to Cape Town. Unfortunately, the personnel were not helpful, to say the least. I checked the flights before we left and they were open. When we got to the airport, ALL the flights were full. I suggest getting back ups on other airlines and be ready to use them. Better yet, there are discount airlines like which charge $100 from Johannesburg to Cape Town.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Cape Town Waterfront for the next three days. Cape Town is a wonderful place and was named one of the top ten cities in the world.  The city is very compact and easily accessible by foot. Even so, be careful at night and exercise good judgment.

The waterfront is a great place to visit for souvenirs or to eat. By the Clock Tower, you can purchase tickets and catch a ferry  to go to Robbin Island. If you want to go to the island, it may be worth your while to go and get your tickets the day before. Table Mountain is a great place to go but its hours of operation are very dependent on the weather. You have to check with Table Mountain to see if the winds are cooperating, allowing you to take the cable car ride up. Strong winds along with cloud cover can close them for the day.

We decided to go to the Cape of Good Hope through a tour company to save time and effort. It did allow us to look around and enjoy the scenery, but did not allow us to stop and enjoy some of the most beautiful scenic drives in the world. We met some other non-revers who decided to rent a car. It seemed like they made a better choice.

The next day we took a tour which eventually ended with Whale Watching. We started out going up Sir Lowry's mountain pass to stop at False Bay. Again, the views were spectacular and are worth the cost of the tour. Next we drove to the Harold Porter botanical garden which had some of the most extensive collection of South African flora.  Then we drove to the highlight of this tour, Hermanus Bay, to take a Boat Tour to spot whales. After that we went to a wine tasting at Whalehaven winery to relax and soak up the moment. Finally we went to a traditional Country Store which is like our general stores with amenities like dried Kudu which is like elk jerky.

Our final day was spent walking around the city square bargaining in the local market. We purchased some great art and fabrics, but held off obtaining soap stone or wooden crafts for when we went to Zambia and Botswana where they are actually made.

After Cape Town, we traveled to Livingstone in Zambia to tour Victoria Falls. We stayed in a more rustic but not at all uncomfortable resort called Stanley Safaris. This resort includes food so it is fairly reasonable compared to others. The service is very attentive and warm. It overlooks a large open area and the Zambezi River which feeds Victoria Falls.

The first thing we did was visit the falls. It was breathtaking. We happened to go during the dry season which means there was a great view of the rock formations. This tour, like all the others, are separate from accommodation costs but can be arranged and paid through the resort and placed on you credit card. This allows you to save your cash for when you need it, like bartering for crafts.

The next day we took a day tour of Botswana. It was an amazing trip to a park which touts 74,000 elephants as well as rhino, hippo, zebra, and other exotic animals. A description could be the world’s best zoo without any fences. The one caution is to bring your passport and be prepared to use a full page.

The following morning, we took a tour to visit a traditional zambian village, the mukuni village.   the employees that worked at our lodge were all from this village.  we were able to spend time observing the typical daily life of this very poor village, and we walked around all morning touring the homes, schools, chief's palace, and craft market.  all of the buildings in this village were huts made mostly of mud and straw, and woodworking is the main source of income.  this was an amazing and humbling experience.

One the final day we experienced the pinnacle of our trip, tea on the edge of Victoria Falls. The little patch of green right at the abyss offers tea, sandwiches, and cocktails to make a memorable trip to one of the Seven Wonders of the World unforgettable. If you are lucky enough to go during the end of the dry season, you can swim at the edge of the tide pools. Let me describe that for you, you're in the water, there is a 12 inch wall of rock which is the end of the tide pool, then there is a 400 foot drop to the water below.

To say that the trip to Africa as a Safari to remember would be an understatement. It gave us the chance to explore a part of the world not many have experienced and it made all those movies filmed here seem tame. The problems we had on South African Airways paled in comparison to the experience. And now with Delta’s new flights to Johannesburg, those bad experiences will be illuminated. Packages here can be expensive, but if you follow my guide you can have the experience of a lifetime for half the price.


Revisiting "Lithuania' Royal Triangle"

By Val Ramonis of

A few years ago, Julie Skurdenis, a world-wide traveler and professional travel writer, wrote an article about "Lithuania's Royal Triangle" for this magazine. In this "Triangle" she included Kernave, Trakai, and Vilnius, regarded as the three most important cultural and historic places in Lithuania. At one time in history, each one has been the country's capital, and the site of significant events.

I visited Lithuania again this spring, as I have been doing for the past twelve years. And every time I am there, I make a point of exploring a different region of the country, one I had not seen before. I can honestly say that there aren't too many places I have not been to. There are some, but not many.

When I returned to Lithuania for the first time in 1993, after being away from it for almost fifty years, I visited most of the larger cities and towns, as well as important cultural, religious, and historic sites like the Hill of Crosses, Trakai, and Kernave. And while I return to Vilnius year after year, I have not been back to the latter two since then. So I thought it was about time.

One cool spring morning, accompanied by some relatives, including one who offered to be our driver, I embarked on the journey of revisiting "Lithuania's Royal Triangle." Our first destination would be the Kernave Historical and Archaeological Museum-Reserve.


Kernave is located some 35 kilometers northwest of Vilnius. While on our way there, we passed a most interesting place, the Dukstai Oak Grove Nature Preserve and Sculpture Park. The entrance to the park can be seen from the road. There is a large sign next to the entrance with a description and map of the park. I read that this park is the largest concentration of oak trees in all of Lithuania, some of them hundreds of years old. It is also a nature preserve where rare and endangered plant species grow and are protected. It has winding trails along which dozens of large carved wooden sculptures depicting all types of figures from Lithuanian mythology, legends, and history stand. There are children's swings carved into folktale figures, resting places with rustic tables and benches of many shapes, and other curiosities. It is certainly a place worth visiting.

The drive to Kernave didn't take long; we arrived there about 10 o'clock in the morning. Since we hadn't had any breakfast in Vilnius, we first decided to find a place where we could get a cup of coffee and perhaps a snack. The only restaurant we saw was still closed, and it wouldn't open until 11. Let me mention here that we had similar experiences in Vilnius. If you wanted breakfast or just a cup of coffee before 11 o'clock in the morning, you were out of luck, unless you were staying in a hotel or with relatives. Most restaurants and coffee shops don't open until about lunch time. So we decided to take a look around Kernave, and perhaps grab a bite later while on our way to Trakai.

Kernave was the site of the first capital of Lithuania many centuries ago, and today it is an archaeological and historic treasure. The place distinguishes from other sites in Lithuania by the five large piliakalniai (mounds or hillforts) clustered together, on top of which fortresses and places of worship stood in early times. During the Middle Ages, a city of considerable size sprawled out across the Pajauta valley between the mounds and the Neris river.

In the 14th century Kernave was destroyed by the Teutonic Knights, and most of its residents abandoned the city. Lithuania's capital was moved to Trakai, and later to Vilnius. Because - unlike Vilnius, Kaunas, and other larger cities - urban development never encroached on Kernave, archaeologists are uncovering layers of habitation going back thousands of years. The cultural area is so extensive that only about 5% of it has been examined and researched so far. Some of the finds have been spectacular: foundations of houses and shops, early tools, weapons, bits of apparel, coins, pottery, and of course burial sites.
The entire region of Kernave was designated a protected historical national reserve, and recently has been inducted into the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.

When I visited Kernave for the first time some twelve years ago, the place looked pretty shabby. The red-brick church was there, the pastor's fancy new house with a large fish pond in the shape of a map of Lithuania was also there, and of course, the five hillforts. But an old pyramid-shaped monument to King Vytautas the Great was covered with grime and leaning to one side. There were also piles of rocks in an area where Kernave's first church built by Vytautas was believed to have once stood. Also a very old and dark wooden structure resembling a small chapel, and a newer one not far from it. I later found out that the wooden structure was hundreds of years old, and was brought to Kernave in the 19th century from somewhere else. It had no practical use, other than at times it was used to store the church's objects of wooden folk art. The newer chapel was built in the 19th century and is the mausoleum of the Roemeris family of nobles and artists who owned much of Kernave in the past. Some of its members are buried in the crypt under the chapel.

At that time I also met the pastor, who invited us inside his house and showed us the private museum he had set up on the upper floor. I also climbed the narrow wooden stairs to the top of one of the hillforts, from which I admired the beautiful Pajauta valley and the winding Neris river in the distance.

Today, the place looks much better. A newly-paved wide boulevard, lined with trees and fancy lampposts, leads you to the front of the church. The church itself is surrounded by a red brick fence along which Stations of the Cross created with small pieces of mosaics have been installed. Vytautas' monument has been cleaned and straightened out. The foundations of Kernave's very first church have been neatly outlined on the ground. New statues of Vytautas, the Iron Wolf, and even Moses holding the Ten Commandments have been erected near the church and at various other locations. From the observation point you can gaze at the hillforts and the valley below. A new restaurant is there, and a new larger museum, which will display the thousands of artifacts unearthed during archaeological excavations, is nearing completion.
I would like to mention here that Kernave's hillforts have been used as a backdrop for several movies, including the fairly recent "Attila."
From Kernave we headed in a southerly direction towards Trakai, the second destination of my revisit of the "Royal Triangle."


Trakai has always fascinated me. At one time it also was the capital of Lithuania and had three castles. The first castle was built at the end of the 13th century or the beginning of the 14th in what is known as Old Trakai, a short distance from present-day Trakai. Of this first castle, only the foundations remain today.

During the 14th-15th centuries two other castles were built, one on an island in Lake Galve, and the other on a peninsula across the lake from it. Historians believe that the two castles were connected by a long wooden bridge.

Around 1323, King Gediminas transferred his capital from Trakai to Vilnius, but Trakai continued to be the residence of subsequent rulers. Gediminas' son Kestutis resided there, and Kestutis' son Vytautas the Great was born there. Both of these castles deteriorated over the centuries and were eventually abandoned. But some of their structures survived into the 20th century.

The reconstruction of the island castle began during Soviet times (in spite of great opposition from the Soviet authorities), and was finished shortly before independence. It is the best preserved and most scenic castle in Lithuania, and the only one of its type in Eastern Europe. The peninsular castle, which in its heyday was even larger than the insular one, has not yet been restored. Restoration of some of its defensive walls and towers began this year. Every summer, both castles become locations for Medieval fairs, jousts, tournaments, concerts, and even operas. Lately they have also become favorite locations for the filming of historical documentaries and TV miniseries.

Galve is just one of the dozens of beautiful lakes in the area. The entire Trakai district has been designat- ed a historical national park.
I was thrilled to see the castle again, with the wooden bridge across the lake, the drawbridge over the moat (dry now), the turrets, the large courtyard, the museum, and the donjon (the ruler's residence). You can climb wooden stairs to the upper floors, and go through many rooms and halls, including the throne room. But neither on my first visit twelve years ago, nor this time, were visitors allowed to climb to the donjon's tower. I don't know the reason, but I suppose it could have something to do with safety. This is unfortunate because from the top of the tower you would get the most breathtaking view of the entire area.

I once flew from Warsaw to Vilnius over Trakai in a turboprop airplane. We flew fairly low, and the view below was out of this world.
The castle's museum has many exhibit rooms displaying artifacts and objects from various periods of Li-thuania's history. The castle also has an inhouse post office where you can buy a postcard of Trakai and have it stamped with the official Trakai Castle postmark. Unfortunately the day we were there, the post office was sold out of Trakai postage stamps, so I had to settle for one with mushrooms.

Trakai hasn't changed much since my first visit. One difference I noticed this time is the increased num- ber of souvenir vendors, coffee shops, and restaurants along the lake's shore across front of the castle. Also quite a few pleasure craft moored by the shore and next to the castle island. Even though the weather was quite cool that day, there was an abundance of visitors, many more than I had seen before.

Another thing that also fascinates me about Trakai are the brightly painted wooden houses lining both sides of Karaimu gatve (Karaite street). This is one of the main streets in Trakai, running from the castle to the center of town. It is named after the people who have lived on that street for the past 600 years - the Karaites (or Karaimai in Lithuanian.)
The Karaites are a distinct ethnic and religious group and the smallest minority in Lithuania. Vytautas the Great brought some 400 Karaite families from the Crimea on the Black Sea in the 14th century, and settled them in Trakai. They served as the ruler's personal guard and defenders of his castle. At the present time there are some 70 Karaites living in Trakai. Their language belongs to the Turkic group, and their religion - Karaism - is basically a pure tradition of the Old Testament with a strong Islamic influence.

A most peculiar characteristic of the Karaite houses is that they all stand endwise to the street. The end facades of all the houses have three windows facing the street. There are several theories as to why this is. One theory has it that it has something to do with their religion. Another says that one of the windows is for God, the second for the members of the household, and the third for Vytautas the Great, who the Karaites very much admire. But an old Karaite man I met inside the Kenessa, told me it had nothing to do with any of the above. He said the position of the houses had something to do with the collection of taxes during the Czarist occupation in the 19th century. I know that in some Western European cities, Amsterdam for example, people built tall, long, but very narrow houses, with the narrow part of the house facing the street. Taxes were collected depending of the house's frontage. But that still doesn't explain the three windows of the Karaite houses facing the street.
The Kenessa, situated on the same street about a block or so from the castle, is the Karaite house of worship. It is a small cream-colored square building with a tin roof and a little tower on its top. Its three small windows also face the street. It sits in the center of a yard surrounded by a fence with a handsome brick gate. Inside there is an ornate tall but very narrow altar with the Tablets of the Ten Commandments above it. A few steps from the Kenessa, we saw a young Karaite couple dressed in their colorful traditional costumes selling some souvenirs and trinkets.
At a caf‚ on the lake shore across from the castle we sampled kibinai, the traditional Karaite dish. It is a pastry similar to a large Polish pierogi or a South American empanada filled with spiced meat and onions.
From Trakai we headed back to Vilnius, the third and final stop in my journey of revisiting "Lithuania's Royal Triangle."


Vilnius is changing constantly and rapidly, getting more beautiful every year. New construction can be seen everywhere, even in places where it legally shouldn't be, such as in the middle of the Old Town. This is something that worries historic preservationists and others, who say that the city's unique classic skyline, which hadn't changed for centuries, is being changed overnight. Developers, builders, and real estate speculators are putting up apartment building anywhere they can find an empty lot, even in the middle of a children's playground. They keep saying there is a shortage of living space in Vilnius, and raising real estate prices.

There is a joke going around among locals about the shortage of living space in Lithuania:
"Hundreds of thousands of Lithuanians were exiled to Siberia during and after World War II, and tens of thousands emigrated to the West, but we were told there was a shortage of flats.
The majority of Lithuanian Jews were killed by the Nazis during the war, and many others emigrated to Israel afterwards, but we kept hearing there was a shortage of flats.
It is believed that over 300,000 emigrated from Lithuania after independence, and we are still being told there is a shortage of flats. What happened to all the flats? Did all those people take their flats with them?"

One good thing is that the city government is putting up new apartment buildings to house the tremtiniai, those who were exiled to Siberia by Stalin and are now returning to Lithuania. But the five-story buildings have no elevators and no showers, only bathtubs. Vilnius' Mayor Arturas Zuokas had suggested erecting taller buildings, but the city council voted against it. They argued it would be too expensive to build them taller since they would require elevators. Can you imagine that? Five-story apartment buildings without elevators, especially when many of the returnees are seniors and some are probably handicapped or disabled? How do you get a wheelchair to the fifth floor? During Soviet times no one gave a hoot about the comfort or well-being of individuals, but come on people, this is supposed to be a modern, progressive, independent Lithuania.

Museums in Lithuania, even the larger ones in major cities, don't seem to have much regard for tourists and visitors. At least not when it comes to the days and hours of operation. Each museum sets its own working days and hours for the convenience of its employees rather than the visitors. In Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipeda, and other cities, some museums are closed on Saturdays and Sundays, some on Sundays and Mondays, some on Mondays and Tuesdays, and still others only on Mondays. Who can keep track of it all? Often you will see a busload of foreign tourists arriving at a museum, and finding that the museum's doors are locked. They just happened to arrive there on a Tuesday, the day when this particular museum decided to be closed.

And speaking of museums and their regard (or disregard) for the public, the famous Amber Museum in Palanga was closed to visitors one Saturday (a normal working day) because a politician decided to celebrate his 50th birthday inside the museum. Hired private security guards with black suits not only prevented tourists from entering the museum, they also kept them away from the museum's grounds, which is a public park.

Work on the restoration of the Royal Palace in Vilnius seems to be going on schedule. The palace should be completed in time for the anniversary of Lithuania's millennium in 2009. One wing and half of another are already up. Of course, it will take some time before the palace's interiors are finished. Each floor of the three-story structure will be installed in a different architectural style that was prevalent in Lithuania since the original palace was built over 700 years ago. The first floor will have a Gothic look, the second - Renaissance, and the third - Baroque.

Romualdas Budrys, the director of the Lithuanian Art Museum and the person in charge of the installation of the palace's interiors, gave me a private tour of the already reconstructed sections. We put on our hard hats and walked through the large halls, stairways, nooks and crannies. The place was buzzing with workers. One of the things Budrys pointed out to me is that many pieces of the original palace's windows, cornices, and other architectural details and ornamentation that have been unearthed during excavation of the foundations, are being incorporated into the building being reconstructed.

In order to attract the public's attention to the restoration of the palace and its importance to Lithuania, the Royal Palace Support Fund (Valdovu Rumu Paramos Fondas) has initiated a series of programs in Vilnius' Cathedral Square in front of the palace. The first of such programs, a medieval pageant, premiered on a Sunday afternoon while I was there.

When the Cathedral bells tolled at 2 p.m., a herald of Grand Duke Aleksandras made his grand entrance into the square followed by courtiers and musicians, all dressed in period costumes. Then the herald climbed onto a platform set up in front of the palace and read a proclamation about how everyone should get ready to repel the armies of Russian Czar Ivan the Terrible. The flags of Aleksandras and of the Grand Duchy were raised from the palace's windows and a bugle was sounded calling all citizens of Vilnius to battle. The entire ceremony lasted about 15 minutes after which the herald departed the square followed by his retinue. The ceremony would be repeated every Sunday during summer at the same time and place, but the historical characters and proclamations would change. The originator of these pageants, and author of the proclamations, is former Chicagoan Kazys Almenas, who now resides in Vilnius.

Another gimmick to attract tourists to the city and to entertain them has been started by the Vilnius Tourism Center. It is called "Vilnius' Legends - A Ghostly Trip." The first such excursion was held on the night of June 11, between 10 p.m. and midnight. Visitors were led by ghosts and goblins to various places in the city's Old Town section, where, according to legend, ghosts have appeared or are still appearing. These places included Vilnius University, St. Casimir and St. John churches, the Basilean monastery, and the Gates of Dawn. At each place a spectacle was held involving performers dressed as ghosts, goblins, mad monks, devils, bats, and other creatures from the underworld. Bonfires were lighted and various ghostly dances performed. Since this was the first time such a program was performed, the police, who hadn't been informed about it in advance, were very intrigued. Especially when some performers, and a few guests, wore hoods resembling those worn by the KKK. The Tourism Center planned to repeat these excursions on a regular basis.

Lithuanians are suckers for horoscopes, talismans, fortune telling, and other forms of predicting the future and one's good fortune. While in Vilnius, I read that Vaiva Budraityte, a woman who calls herself a "professional astrologer and predictor of the future," has found her own niche. She opened her classy new "salon" in Vilnius' largest and most prestigious shopping center, the "Acropolis." For a mere 49 litas (about $15), she will photograph your "aura." Then the photograph will be scanned into a computer and you will receive a printout of your "bioenergetic field," which, according to her, can tell you much about yourself, your character, and your health. For 100 litas (about $35) she can create your accurate personal horoscope, but for that she would need the exact date, hour, and minute of your birth. Budraityte's "salon" also carries a variety of talismans for both men and women. She said that the most popular talisman for men is three-legged toad, which is supposed to bring wealth. Single women prefer a pair of ducks. They say it helps them find the perfect mate. And business people prefer dragons.

I also read about an American who for the last three months had been cleaning one of Lithuania's largest national parks. David Lee Mattson from Philadelphia was camped out in the Zemaitija National Park, in western Lithuania, and every day he would walk around the park picking up trash left behind by visitors. During the night Mattson would sleep in his tent next to the Plateliai lake. Several times a week he would drive to Plunge or Klaipeda to buy food and supplies. But he moved to a local farmhouse after his jacket, shoes, and some toiletries were taken from his tent.

According to the 46-year-old American, Lithuanians leave a lot of trash behind when they visit the park. He had cleaned parks in several other countries, and in his opinion, the Swiss are the cleanliest. Mattson is an architect by profession, and kept in touch with his family by e-mail. In conversations with local people, he told them that instead of teaching their kids to pick up trash, they should teach them not drop it everywhere. Next Mattson planned to go to Estonia and do some park cleaning there.

Finally, I would like to mention a few other things I experienced or noticed during this trip:

  • For the first time in my life, I was served saltibarsciai (cold beet soup) accompanied by french fries. Progress?

  • When saying good-bye, more and more Lithuanians are again using the traditional sudiev ("go with God"), instead of viso gero ("all good"), so prevalent in Soviet times. But you still hear viso gero in most places.

  • Stores never seem to have enough change to give back. If, for example, your purchase is 9.55 litas and you give the clerk a 10 litas bill, you can bet your bottom litas that the clerk will ask you if you have the 55 cents. But by some miracle, I always end up with two pounds of change in my pocket. It's no wonder, considering that the 1, 2, and 5 litas are heavy metal coins.

  • The easiest, and perhaps the safest way to have spending money in Lithuania is to withdraw it from an ATM machine. Just remember that every time you take money, your bank is going to apply an extra charge. So it is better to withdraw more money fewer times. The drawback to this is that if you withdraw more money at one time, you will get very large bills, and small merchants, particularly souvenir vendors, might not have the change.

  • Credit cards have become quite very popular among locals, and they are accepted almost everywhere. When you ask for your check at a restaurant, the waiter or waitress will most likely ask you, kortele ar grynais? ("card or cash?")

  • Souvenirs and gift items with scenes or logos of Lithuania and Lithuanian cities are more plentiful now. Until fairly recently, you could not find any, although there were plenty of clay bells and clay figurines of cows, goats, cats, dogs and other assorted creatures. T-shirts are also appearing, but they are still quite expensive by our standards.

  • Locals are slowly getting used to the capitalistic practice of tipping in restaurants and coffee shops, something that was unheard of during Soviet times. But their idea of tipping is rounding up to the highest figure rather than leaving a percentage of the tab. For example, if a glass of beer is 3.50 litas, a local might leave 4 litas to the waiter. On the other hand, if a dinner costs 19 litas, he might leave 20 litas. Tipping taxi drivers is not a common practice, same as in many other parts of Eastern Europe. But it doesn't hurt.

  • And speaking of taxi drivers, they are no more honest or dishonest than those in any other country. If a driver thinks you know where you are going, he will get you there in the quickest and cheapest way. But if not, you may get a extended tour of Vilnius whether you wanted one or not. The best way to get a ride is to call a cab company and have one of its drivers meet you at the door. This will insure that you get an honest driver and a more reasonable fare.

  • And here is a sign I saw inside a minibus: "In case of an emergency, brake window with a hammer." Yes, I always carry one in my pocket. No wonder my pockets always feel so heavy. It's not just the coins.

Panama, More Than A Canal

This trip is one of my wife and my favorite adventures. Not only did we get to visit three beautiful and diverse areas, but almost everyone treated us extremely well. In fact it took us a while to lower our guard, although we still didn't do anything stupid.

This trip started out like all the rest, with a great deal of research. We looked at all the travel books we could find. Unfortunately there are not many books in circulation on Panama. The best we could find was by Lonely Planet. It was printed in 2001 which means some of the Restaurants might have changed, so use the web sites to double check before you head out. We were told that a new travel book would be coming out soon, but the exact date is not known. It should be sometime in 2005.

We found 2 great areas besides Panama City to visit. One was Bocas del Toro in the Caribbean Ocean and is touted as on of the last undiscovered gems in Central America. The other, Boquete, was suggested by one of our favorite resorts in Costa Rica.

I was fortunate enough to have a flight to Panama city before our vacation. This allowed me to arrange certain items in person instead of over the phone or internet. The first contact I tried to make was with the station manager. Since our trip was to entail several flights, finding someone with local airport insight was invaluable. That contact added greatly to the ease of our vacation.

The next contact I made was with the hotel my company put the crew up in for the overnight stay. This person not only helped me with the rate, but explained what benefits are available. This face-to-face contact was worth more than my Platinum Priority Club Rating on my Credit Card ever would be.

Finally, I talked to the driver about who I could get for tours of the city. It turned out our driver, Ivan, was very reasonable and eager for the business. Since he had a contract with the company I work for, his quality was guaranteed. All this research paid off to make this one of the most memorable trips ever.

The first day of the trip focused on one all encompassing goal, getting there. Like the movie "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles," my wife and I fought extremely overbooked flights. While we did everything possible to guarantee we would have no problems, non-revving turned out to be very challenging. To assure the successful completion of our connection, we took the 6:00 AM flight out. .We took advantage of our experience and travel when others don't want to, that is when it is inconvenient. The downside of this strategy is the fact is we had 8 hours between flights, but it turned out to be the only way get there.

Having all this spare time allowed us to relax. Also, we introduced ourselves as nonrev employees. Being nice and helpful to those working for the airline makes a huge difference. Since people have not discovered Panama, there were some first class seats available. The gate agent has the power to give those seats to nonrev employees or not. Be friendly and you will be in First Class.

When we arrived in Panama, it was too late to continue on to Bocas del Toro. The crew was nice enough to let us go with them and the driver happened to be the person we talked to about touring Panama city. We arranged for him to take us to the other airport the next morning for about 10.00 which was very reasonable.

The next morning we went to the Alberto airport to catch our flight to Bocas. We traveled on Miaplex which is the only airline to have pressurized aircraft, Jetstream 31's. This allowed them to get above the bumpy weather. When we arrived at Bocas del Toro, a taxi took us from the airport to the dock so we could catch the hotel boat to Punta Caracol. After about 15 to 20 minutes, we arrived at what was ranked one of the world's most romantic hotels.

After settling in, we toured the city of Bocas del Toro. The quaint little village took about 2 hours to walk through. That night we ate at the restaurant at Punta Caracol which not only was delicious but very romantic. It is probably the best restaurant in the area.

The next day, we went on a boat tour of the inland waterways with one of the area's best know tour guides, Gallardo Livingston (See Lonely Planet P.204.). Along with the beautiful scenery, we had the opportunity to see many dolphins at Dolphin Bay. We then went to snorkel on a couple of reefs. The last reef, Cayo Crawl, had some of the best coral I had ever seen. It looked like a dense jungle underwater.

For lunch, we went to Alfonso, a group of thatched roof huts with good food and lots of character. Then we weaved our way through the mangroves to a place called Red Frog Island. It is named after the small red which inhabits the area. To get from the dock to the beach, a two dollar fee is required per person. This allows you to go across private property and a tour to find the very small Red Frog.

After our stay on the beach, we took a water tour of Bocos del Toro. This water tour was well worth going on and I highly recommend it. Livingston also gives a tour of the islands further out in the Atlantic which we heard was just as good.

The next day we left for Boquete, a 45    minute plane ride or 3.5 hour drive. If you have the time, we were told the drive is well worth in. For our transportation from the David Airport to Boquete, we took a taxi for around 30 Dollars. This is reasonable, but we discovered it would have been more economical to have the hotel arrange for transportation. We arrived at the city at lunch time and grabbed something to eat while we waited to check in. We ate at a great place called Bistro Restaurant. Once we were full, we went to our hotel, The Coffee Estate Inn (See Lonely Planet P. 231). This place was recommended to us by other resort owners who go here for their vacations. Basically we had a house on the side of a mountain for about 90 Dollars a night. This also includes fresh fruit and coffee to brew while you are there. The grounds are well maintained and worth exploring. They also prepare some very good dishes and serve it in your room.

The next morning we had a guided tour of the mountains around the town. It included several stops to take photos of the waterfalls and valleys. We ended the tour at Mi Jardin es Su Jardin, a wonderful garden to explore ( See Lonely Planet P. 224). We then had coffee at Café Ruiz which also gives tours. Next we had lunch at Hotel Panamonte, an old world Spanish restaurant. The afternoon we spent exploring the city.

Our last day we went with a guide climb up The Rock. The climb is very strenuous but scenery is well worth going. Once finished, we had lunch in a great little Mexican restaurant called La Casona Mexicana ( See Lonely Planet P. 224). Then the coffee estate gave us a tour of its coffee plantation which ended with the roasting and packaging of our purchased coffee. They also arranged for our trip back to the airport at David for the most reasonable price===.

We were finally on our way back to Panama City on Miaplex which was arranged by our Station Manager. It was only pressurized aircraft back, which allowed us to get above the bad weather. We were then met by Ivan who took us back to the Hotel Intercontinental.

The next day, we boarded a ferry to the island of Taboga. The ferry cost 11 dollars and lasts about an hour. We were dropped off at Hotel Taboga and had breakfast at the resort which charged 7 dollars for the use of its facilities including pool and changing area. They also give 5 dollars credit to be used for food and drink. The ground also has exotic birds like cockatoos and peacocks roaming the grounds.

 Our tour book, Lonely Planet, had a great self tour on page 166 called 'Casco Viejo Walking Tour.' It gives a great description of the town if you want to do some light walking. For those more adventurous, take the hike to the old WWII bunker. It has the best view but is advised; it is tough and takes about 1.5 hours from the edge of town to the top.

After our trip back to Panama city, we left for dinner. We were driven to the causeway, a manmade landmass created by the sediment from the creation of the canal. Restaurants on the causeway have the best view of the skyline.

The next morning we had the hotel's breakfast buffet which was very good. Ivan then picked us up for a tour of the canal. Within the last year, the government put in new viewing facilities including a new museum. Watching the boats come in the canal from the grandstand was worth the entrance fee, but the museum with its freighter simulator makes it something you don't want to pass up.

The afternoon we spent touring old Panama City starting with the area around the French Embassy. We then parked at the square and walked to the President's Offices.

The afternoon we spent looking for emeralds. We ended up at Alessi Joyeros in Downtown Panama city. This store made us feel like we were royalty. In other words my wife was extremely happy and that made me extremely happy.

All in all it was a great vacation and any one of the three places would be a great vacation. Not many people know about this place yet. Better go there before everyone finds out how great Panama is.


Cheapest Food In Las Vegas

I just got back from Las Vegas where I had one mission, find cheap food. Remember those meals for $1.95? Think there gone? Check out the deals below!

  • Steak Dinner - Ellis Island  $ 4.95           Map

  • Shrimp Cocktail - Golden Gate $ .99     Map

  • Hamburger - Key Largo $1.99                Map

  • Hot Dog - Gold Coast $ .75                    Map

  • Prime Rib - California $6.99                   Map

  • Coffee - Westward Ho $ .05                   Map

Share the wealth. Tell us your cheap meal Deals. Send it to

Belize, or Know Your Backup Travel Plan

Going to Belize turned out to be an adventure almost as great as the country itself. Being a popular and small region, having several options to get there and back is a must.

After we decided where to go, we worked on getting there. We checked out airlines to see our options. Our airline has a code share agreement with a major airline that goes to Belize. The code share airline didn't allow us to use our free passes, but did have an ID 95 agreement. We then checked out the travel guides. We narrowed it down to two books, Fodor’s and Moon Handbook’s Belize. We chose Moon Handbook’s Belize.

We constantly checked the loads which were slightly oversold, but according to ticket agents not bad. This gave us a false sense of security. Instead of just relying on travel guides to see which airlines go to Belize, we should have looked at the electronic timetable to see there were several other options available, some at the same airport.

We went on earlier flights to guarantee we wouldn't miss our connection. Our first leg was flawless. The second leg to Belize was extremely oversold due to spring break. My wife made the flight but l did not. This is where good guides and ticket agents come in.

The people at the gate did all they could to get me on the next flight, but they just couldn’t. They sent me to the Information Center. Remember, if you can't get the help you need from the person who is helping, find someone else.

I finally found a person helped me get a Telex to my wife, a discounted ticket with positive space, and phone contact with my wife in the Belize airport.

Next I contacted Pine Ridge Lodge, the first stop on the trip. Gary Seewald, the owner, bent over backward to get me back on track to salvage my vacation. He gave me options I would have never thought of.

His first suggestion was to take Maya Island Air for $90 US and a Cab for $45 US for one person , instead of by car for $150 US. The flight was in a Cessna 182 and only took 25 minutes. The view was spectacular and well worth the money.

After a 45 minute cab ride, I was at Pine Ridge Lodge. There I found a homemade meal waiting for me. Vicki Seewald and the other owner Richard, took very good care of us. This is not the type of place for those looking for accommodation like the Ritz, in Vicki's words, ' we're the Budget Inn of the area'.

Caracol Archeological Ruins were our first stop. This is an ancient city as large as San Francisco, with the tallest structure in Belize. Although a small fraction is uncovered, it still takes 3 hours to go through with a good guide. Next we went to Rio Frio Cave, a huge cavern with impressive natural formations. Finally we went to Rio on Pools, a group of beautiful water falls.

At the end of the day, we went to San Ignacio and walked around town. We ended up at Eva's Restaurant & Cyber Cafe. Our guide, Everald, took good care of us and his knowledge of the area is incredible.

On our last day on the mainland, we went to the ruins of Xunantunich. This is another great site, although not as large as Caracol. Still, at least one hour on a self directed tour is needed to see the whole ruin. The Belize Zoo was our next stop. The zoo was very good; expect to spend 2 hours there. Finally it was time to go to Belize City and go out into the Caribbean Sea.

Water Taxis were available at 9, 10:30, 12:00, 1:30, & 3:00 for travel to Ambergris Caye. The price is 28.00 Belize dollars one way or 50.00 round trip. Once on Ambergris Caye, we checked into Steve & Becky's which is part of Ramon's which is on the water. Ramon's is one of the best hotels we have ever been to and staying at Steve & Becky's allows you all of Ramon's privileges. Ramon personally talked to us and charmed us with his warm personality. In my opinion, THIS IS THE PLACE TO STAY. After we checked in, we stopped at  Mango's  on the shore for one of their great drinks.

Next day at Ambergris Caye, we went out on Hustler's Tours. The crew of El Gato did an excellent job of showing us to Shark Ray Alley, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, with a stop at Caulker Caye. On Caulker, we had lunch at Rasta Pasta. As a side note, one of our airline family has a bed & breakfast on Caulker called the Lazy Iguana. If you want to stay on a very quiet island, you might want to check it out.

At the end of the day, we went to Caramba for dinner. Their service was very efficient, not laid back like you get at most small Caribbean towns. The Tour Guide Fish was excellent.

The next day, we went to Lily's Restaurant on the beach for breakfast. The food was good, the price was right, and the view is excellent. That evening, we went to Capricorn's which is praised as the best dining experience on the island. Its only drawback, as with all the spots north of the town, is the unreliable water taxi which is an open boat. If you don’t mind a very windy and noisy ride in an small boat which fills up quickly leaving you stranded until the next one comes, you will really enjoy, and I do mean enjoy, Capricorn.

On our last day, learning from the night before, we showed up for the water taxi an hour early reserving our spot back to Belize City. While we waited, we had one last drink at Cannibal’s, a great little bar with a great central location.

For those of you who like an adventurous vacation in the jungle with some of the best ruins you will ever discover, or a relaxing vacation with some of the best snorkeling and diving you could explore, go to Belize. One more thing, check out or for more discounts.


Indiana Jones in Peru

  • My wife and I recently went to Machu Pichu Peru in October 2003. It was at the beginning of the rainy season which goes through February, Because of the time, it was not as crowded although it was still busy. Machu Pichu is in the mountains at an altitude of 9000 feet. This meant that we had to get acclimated to avoid altitude sickness. For all the traveling I have done, this trip required the most planning of any of my adventures.


  • The first step, getting to Peru, was accomplished by using the Electronic Timetable. We found Lima was the city to enter the country. Tuesday is the best time to leave because the loads are so low. Flights leave in the afternoon and arrive late in the evening. Our first day was spent taking a short rest at the Holiday Inn for our next leg. The selection and purchase of the hotel room was carried out at the Non-Rev Website.


  • Machu Pichu is part of an area of Peru  called the Sacred Valley which includes several cities and ruins. One of the cities, Cusco, has the only airport in the area and the best place to get acclimated to the altitude. Flights leave early in the morning and end around noon due to the high temperature, altitude, and winds. These factors sometimes create the possibility that the later flights may be cancelled. Therefore, getting the earliest flight guarantees arrival in Cusco, but it makes for a short night in Lima.

  • The flight we took was on Lan Peru, which is a branch of Lan Chile. It has the newest aircraft, brand new Airbus 320’s, and offers ID 90’s for airline employees for about $35 round trip. Just go up to your airline’s ticket counter and ask for it.


  • The first day there we arrived in Cusco, we were tired and having problems with the altitude since the city is at an altitude on 10,000 feet. We went to our hotel the Hotel Libertador, which we purchased on the web, in a car they supplied. We took an hours rest and then went to visit the city of Cusco with help from our Travel Books , our favorite was Frommers . The Plaza De Armas was near by and had many sites, like cathedrals and stores, as well as many good restaurants. Throughout our stay in Cusco, we eat at the Inka Grill, Baghdad Café, and  other great spots. The only nuisance you encounter are the child hawkers selling postcards and bringing you to the restaurants they are promoting. One other thing about the Sacred Valley, the local people dress up in their native dress. They allow you to take pictures with them and their Lamas for a small fee, under a dollar, but you can also give the children small toys, pens, and candy. They are considered models, which justifies this practice.


  • The next day, still feeling tired, we decided to take a bus tour of the Sacred Valley. This allowed us to use our time efficiently by resting and touring at the same time. The all day tour cost us $35 a piece and included a tour guide, lunch at a great restaurant, and a museum pass. The lunch was worth at least $25. The Museum pass was used on this tour in only one site, but there are 9 other places around Cusco this pass is good for that is what we used the next two days. We visited Pisac, Chinchero, and Ollantaytambo.  The tour is through a group called Dasataria,

  • The next day, feeling much better, we walked up to the ruins of  Sacsayhuaman, or as the locals say to the tourist say ‘sexy woman,’ which we got into on the Museum pass from the last day’s tour. We also walk around the city, enjoying stone architecture  like the 12 angled stone and the Puma in the stone wall. The last day in Cusco, fully adapted to the altitude, we toured the Templo Del Sol, which is another museum, and shopped for great deals. On the way to the market along Avenue El Sol, we also went to the train station to get our train tickets to Machu Pichu. It was much more cheaper getting the train tickets than going through travel agents. The only suggestion I would make is go for the tickets the first day you are there to guarantee you can get on the train.


  • The next day we took a car to the train station and were off on our 4 hour journey to Machu Pichu. Some take 4 days to hike the trail, other spend over $600 to travel on a fancy train car. We took the train for $100 round trip which was like an airline seat complete with a meal and a show and duty free. When we got to the end of the tracks, we went right to our Hotel, The Machu Pichu Pueblo. It is a eco-friendly hotel with the nicest rooms and grounds in the city.

  • After we dropped off our bags, we got our tickets for the bus up to Machu Pichu. We spent rest of the day around the main ruins. That night we went to Toto’s House to have the local food, wood oven cooked Pizza. The meal comes with entertainment, local music and dance, which is normal in any restaurant in the Sacred Valley. Even though they play for free, they do come around to sell their CD’s or ask for a tip.

  • The next day we had breakfast at our hotel and went back to the Machu Pichu ruins at 9:00 AM. We timed our arrival to get there between the people who get there to see the sunrise, who leave around 9:00AM, and those who come in by train, who get there by 11:00 AM. The Ruins where dead and it made a great opportunity to take pictures of the normally crowded site. We also walked up to the Sun Temple which is not for the faint of heart but give some of the best views. That night we ate at the hotel which was a great end to a wonderful trip.

  • The next day we headed back to Cusco before we caught our flight back to Lima the day after. We arrived in Lima in the morning, toured Lima, and caught the Midnight Flight back to the States. This was one of our most exotic vacations we have been on. To anyone who likes “Indiana Jones” movies, this trip is for you!


ID 90s and the Caribbean

  • On this trip I tried to use an ID 90 and it almost ruined my entire trip when... going to Trinidad. The lack of knowledge in the airline industry of ID 90s and code shares rivals that of airport security, but how the government is allowing High School drop outs to be Federal Airport Security Guards is another story.


  • This trip really started 2 Months prior when I started looking for Books on travel options. I started looking for flights on the Web Timetable. Since our trip was to Trinidad and my airline doesn't go there, I knew I would have to use an ID 90. The only airline timetable that brought up any flights was American's Saber. There were several three leg choices, but only one out of my city that had two legs, British West Indies Airways (BWIA). Unknown to me it was a code share flight on United. Since it is difficult to tell on American Airlines website if it is a code share, check all the timetables on the web to be sure. It was also the first strike.



  • Armed with this information, I then went to my base's office to check policy. The secretaries in the office informed me of my benefits without looking at the policy manual. My second strike.


  • At the ticket counter, I started to put my travel plan together. I timed my work for my tickets to coincide with their low time. They were very personable, but were quite new and not as save on how to book ID 90s. I literally had to bring up my web site timetable to show them the flights . It showed that BWIA WOULD GO to Mia to Port of Spain (POS) . The return trip would go Tobago (TAB) to POS to MIA then home on BWIA and American. That was strike three. I was out of going on my trip a month before I showed up at the airport and didn't even know it.


  • Two weeks prior I called BWIA to check loads It turned out to be a code share with United. (safety) They assured me there was 2 seats in first class and 10 in coach. 1day prior I checked loads, still wide open 2 and 10 with no standbys. They didn't tell the whole truth.


  • I showed up at 6:45AM for an 8:30 flight. The United ticket counter was taken aback by our tickets . I explained it was a code share flight but they needed a United ticket for there record. Back to my airline's ticket counter to reissue our tickets with plenty time to spare. Even if we missed this flight, I had backup on American. Back to United only to find the Aircraft is oversold. When asked about BWIA code share, they had no idea what I was talking about. Back to my airline's ticket counter to exchange my United ID90 for an American ID 90 when problems really started to happen. The ticket person informed me that I couldn't use the tickets I was given because I was not eligible. I quickly called the secretary who said I was eligible who insisted that I was. I then got out of line to call the personnel office and get the final word. It turned out that I wasn't eligible and had to go into damage control mode.


  • Rule number one, the 10% rule. 90% of the people want to help you. If you find the 10% who don't help you, walk away like I did. I found an agent who was an expert with the reservation system and pass privileges. He actually saved me money.


  • Rule number two. Travel as long as you can on your own airline, no mater how many legs it takes. I thought that using an ID90 would reduce the amount of legs and make it easier to get to my destination. At least I thought that by having an ID 90, my seniority would have some weight, but it didn't. Try to fly on your own airline for as far as you can and use the ID 90 on the last portion. Then only use the ID 90 as a backup if you cannot jumpseat.


  • If you must use an ID 90 make sure it is not a code share. Make sure you are on the airline who is actually flying the leg on you ticket. When you get your tickets, put them together in separate bunches for each airline. This keeps the ticket agent from getting confused on what your flight itinerary is.


  • Finally, don't rely on someone else's interpretation of company policy for travel. Get a copy of the rules to show the 10 % of the agents who don't want to help what your benefits are.


  • We picked up are ID 90, American Eagle, in San Juan. We could in 4 hours before the flight which is the earliest time I could. It was also the earliest time we could get the jumpseat. Had enough time to get the Cornish Hen Cuban style near the airport called the Metropal, great recommendation by the gate agents at American Eagle. After a 2.5 hour hop on an ATR42, we were in t e new Port of Spain airport which is very modern and efficient.


  • Our stay was on the north side of the island which is known for it's picturesque secluded beaches. The area did not disappoint. Along the winding road, the first quaint village worth taking advantage of is Maracas. Not only does it encompass great ocean views framed by high cliffs, but many stands are available to sell souvenirs as well as the local delicacy, shark and bake. Even though souvenirs can be obtained here, this location is for those who want to get away from the tourist traps.


  • We traveled past Maracas deeper into the lush vegetation to a remote fishing village named Blanchisseuse. This place is only for those who want to get away from it all.


  • Coco's Hut and Laguna Mar Beach resort owned by Fred is probably the most luxurious inn at the end of the more improved road . Fred, a Marine who was with VMCJ-3 stationed in 1958 in Japan, is very personable and will take good care of you.


  • We also took a walking tour to Paria. This is were you get to see mot of the flora and fauna of Trinidad. Get a guide to walk the 7 mile trek but it is for the very experienced even with a guide.


  • Better to walk toward Paria until the rode is impassable by car. These are the best coastal views.


  • Take the boat to get to see the waterfall and great beach views.


  • We then took the ferry from Port of Spain Trinidad to Scarborough Tobago. Another adventure which was to last 5 to 6 hours. in reality it was 6.5 there ( leaves at 2:00pm) and 6 hours back (leaves at 11:00PM). The cost for this return trip was 60tt coach, 80tt first, and 160tt for a cabin which can sleep 4. We took the cabin and used it as a hotel on the way back to Port of Spain Trinidad to catch the early morning flight home. Be sure to get there at least 2 hours early, which is the soonest to board, and remember this is roughing it. For those how don't mind turbo props, for 300tt return you can take a 1/2 hour flight .


  • Once on Tobago, there are many beautiful beaches to visit. This island is defiantly more for the tourist, but is by no means a tourist trap. People here are friendly and helpful. Crown Point has most of the action and entertainment like the great steel band, Our Boys, Golden Star. It also good locations to see sunsets like the bar at the Crown Point Hotel, which also has great rooms.



  • Now is the time to go to Trinidad and Tobago. It is Carnival time so the party is finally warming up. Hurry up and enjoy!


Get To Europe and Back on Code Shares

Being Considerate Could Get You The Upgrade

  • I was trying to get to Paris on a flight this summer that was overbooked. I went to the Ticket Counter as soon as it opened at the international terminal.

  • My airline's seats on that aircraft were taken, but the codeshare partner looked to see if they had seats.

  • When I checked in, they told me there was a chance I could get on but they were not sure at that time. They processed may paper ticket, ( ALWAYS CARRY EXTRA TICKET STOCK ) and told me to come back one hour before departure.

  • I had time to get onto the internet and check code share flights on the electronic Timetable that is on the sidebar or at . Here I could also look up ID 90s in case I got stuck.

  • When I went back to the Ticket counter, they did have a coach seat for me. I asked for the upgrade but they told me it was not possible. Since I was told the flight was full, I politely went to my seat, making sure I was courteous to the crew. But I did get to ride first class. Here is how I did it.

  • After we were airborne, the Head Flight Attendant called me up to the First Class Galley. He told me they received a telex that had been very considerate when asking for an Upgrade and they did not have time to move me up on the ground.

  • After taking my First Class seat, I went up to the Captain to thank him for giving the telex to the cabin members. He asked why I did not tell the crew who I was. If they knew, they could have done it sooner.

  • Once in Paris, I turned to my travel guide, Eyewitness Paris. You can find it at on the side bar.

  • Their maps they have actually have all the streets and subways. This is rare on Paris maps.

  • They show the best way to get to were you want to go. They give actual tours.


When the Computers Show Full

  • I almost gave up on trying to attempt this feat, The System showed full. THE COMPUTERS WERE WRONG. There were plenty of seats
  • First, go to the code share WEB SITE and find the flights you want.
  • By NOT calling the airline you get BAD INFORMATION.
  • I tried getting code share loads through my airline, they only give availability for the Seats they reserve.
  • Over a quarter of a 747 was empty even though my airline said less then 18 seats available
  • Then you show up at the airport on the day of the flight at the CODE SHARE TICKET COUNTER
  • They will help you get of the flight, just tell them you are a code share employee, show identification, and most importantly – SMILE
  • You need to fill out a paper ticket to get of the flight. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE EXTRA TICKET STOCK
  • Finally, go to the gate and check in, then sit back and RELAX, you have done all the work, and now it will pay off!
  • Always dress business professional and you should get just about anywhere you want to fly.


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