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National Geographic Traveler magazine has teamed with the Mexican Tourism Board to bring music and Mexican culture to six cities across North America. Southern California residents will have the pleasure of this event on September 21, 2008 at The Hollywood Bowl.
Danny Kapilian will produce the concert, which features popular artists with Hispanic sounds and roots, including Lila Downs, Ozomatli, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Nortec Collective, and Mariachi.
The Mexico Unexpected event includes cultural activities such as a Mexican Village with food booths, wine and tequila tasting, and Mexican arts and craft demos.
Best of all, this event is free. Yes, readers, free. You can order tickets to the concert here.
Our final day in Hollywood began with a quick breakfast at the Hilton, the a ride on the Metro down to Hollywood and Highland. We picked up some Hollywood CityPass booklets that gave us priority entry and money savings into a bunch of Hollywood attractions.
We began at the Hollywood Wax Museum, where the wax figures of popular Hollywood icons are so lifelike you expect them to jump out and say, "Boo!"
Next in the CityPass ticket booklet is the Red Line Behind-the-Scenes walking tour of Hollywood Blvd. This guided tour explores Hollywood's secrets and goes inside places normally closed to the public.
We walked up and down Hollywood Blvd, pausing at the stars embedded on the sidewalk and took pictures of the performance artists and celebrity look-alikes.
Hollywood is more than just movies. It's theater, theme parks, shopping, and nightlife. Day two of our Hollywood adventure found my son J and I riding the new Simpson's motion simulator ride at Universal Studios. This is the kind of wild roller-coaster gone bonkers that you'd expect associated with anything attached to the Simpsons. The motion simulator gives you the thrills of a coaster, without the risk.
The Universal Studios tour is still out there on the backlot and as popular as ever. The fire last spring took out a few old sets, but most of the legendary sets such as the Psycho House and Bates Motel, the Jaws shark attack, and the earthquake simulation. Desperate Housewives was filming on the Wisteria Lane set while we tootled by in the tour tram and Ghost Whisperer's Jennifer Love Hewitt stuck her head out from her set and waved at us.
Later that day we headed out to the Pantages Theatre to see Wicked. We were more than a bit surprised and delighted to see Carol Kane had assumed the role of Madame Morrible. The music, sets, costumes and cast of this Hollywood production is as fine as anything on Broadway.
If you're going to the Pantages or anywhere on Hollywood Blvd, rather than pay the $20 parking at local lots, try parking at one of the nearby Metro stops and taking the $1.50 ride to the stop at Hollywood and Vine.
My son and I are taking a Hollywood getaway before his new college term begins. We're staying at the Hilton Universal in Universal City, right there near the Universal City Walk.
After a quick lunch at Puccino Pizzaria, we headed over to the live taping of America's Got Talent to see my friend Dan Meyer, aka Captain Cutlass, who was one of the wild card picks. We watched all of the finalists, including our favorite, Jessica Price, but alas, Dan didn't make the pick into the finals.
We went out with Dan and some friends from the show to the Saddleback Chophouse at Universal Citywalk, where the burgers are huge, the fries hot and salty, and you can ride a mechanical bull until it throws you off. And it will. Eventually.
Tomorrow we're going to Universal Studios and then out to see the Broadway production of Wicked at the Pantages Theatre.
Now that the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Bejing are over, eyes are turning to London, host of the 2012 Summer Olympiad. Over the next four years London is going through a polish and shine that even the most finicky of butlers would approve. The Olympic Village construction is ahead of schedule, the transportation infrastructure is in development, and it's all being done with sustainability for future generations to enjoy.
You can read more about London's plans for the 2012 Games here. Go, London!
If you attended the games in Beijing, we'd love to hear about it. Just leave us a comment below.
Hawaii Pack and Paddle has a new-guided tour that offers kayaking and snorkeling. The tour includes free Kona Coffee at a historic mill, paddling, and snorkeling, and dolphin sightings in Kealakekua Bay waters. During lunch guests will hear stories about the area and a view of the Captain Cook Monument.
Island Hoppers and Kapohokine Adventures have a new expedition called, "Ultimate Volcano Explorer." Guests will board an aircraft to Kona and fly over the active volcano, Kilauea. The aircraft will land in Hilo where guests are met by KaphoKine Adventures and served dinner. Guests are then guided to Puna to observe the lava flow at night.
Now THAT sounds hot.
New York is a city of wonders. As many times as I've visited, I never seem to see enough. I've just attended the annual Backspace Writer's Conference, where I spoke in a non-fiction writing panel called, "Real Places, Real Faces, Real Stories."
I stayed at the Radisson Martinique Hotel on 32nd and Broadway, in an area called Korea Town and not far from Times Square. My daughter, E, came along to check out grad programs at Columbia and NYU while I was conferencing.
When you're in town for a conference, you don't ususally get out and about the city. Wednesday night we stopped in for pre-conference cocktails at the Algonquin Hotel, the legendary watering hole of NY luminaries of theater and literature.
Friday night we did the town with some author friends, beginning at a book launch party for FALLING UNDER author Danielle Younge-Ullman at the V-bar in the West Village. We walked over to the Peculiar Pub with a few other friends, where we ate french fries and drank Stellas. The walls of the of Peculiar Pub were lined with lined with brewing paraphenalia, bottle tops and all kinds of kitchy stuff.
We crunched seven into a taxi for a ride over to Hudson Bar & Books, a classy cigar and wine bar lined with bookshelves and full of literature and encyclopedias. James Bond films played soundlessly on video screens, while the waitresses served up cocktails and wine in red-satin dresses. Our friend Ron Hogan enjoyed a cigar and the rest of us sipped a lovely Pinot Noir.
Saturday morning found us West Coasters finally adjusting to the three-hour time difference. E and I slept in, then rushed off for a NY deli breakfast with Jackie Kessler and Heather Brewer. Jackie, a native NYer, called my bagel of scrambled egg, bacon and cheddar cheese a "heart attack bagel." Glad I don't eat like that all the time.
E and I took the subway to Central Park for an afternoon walk before hitting the train for our ride down to Harrisburg, Penn., the next stop in our summer vacation. I could spend days and days exploring Central Park and some day I hope to. There is a lovely bridge that holds a special memory for me there. Not romantic, just motherly. The first time D and I took our kids to NYC, our son J, was about seven. The only thing he wanted to see in the park was the bridge where "A Troll in Central Park" was set. I revisited the bridge and remembered the seven-year-old boy, but not the film.
There is something magic about big city nightlife. Last night E and I ventured down to Sacramento's Grid, along with our good friends Candy and Howie. We began at the free concert at Cesar Chavez park.
No one under the age of 12 is allowed to enter the fenced-in beer garden where the beer and wine booths are bustling with lines 10 or 15 people deep. The age limit didn't keep families with young children from attending and sitting outside the beer garden. The band was a fun blend of hip-hop with some bluesy rock influences. Young and old were dancing together near the stage, while hundreds of others looked on over the heads of the dancers.
Our next stop was a bit more subdued and conducive to conversation. We walked down to Crepeville and drank a bottle of wine in the cool summer breeze on the outdoor patio. A man with a couple of gorgeous Irish wolfhounds sat behind us, his gigantic companions laying blissfully at his feet. I fell in love with the huge canines, thinking what fun they would have in the way back of our yard.
One bottle doesn't last long between four people, and we called it quits because of our early departure toward home the next morning. Goodbyes said, hugs and kisses exchanged, Candy and Howie left for their suburban home, while E and I returned to our beautiful room at the Amber House B&B only blocks away.
Milk and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies were waiting in our room at Amber House, along with turn down service on the grand bed. Short statured that I am--I am not exaggerating here--I had to hurdle myself onto the bed. E and I got some laughs reading the in-room guestbook, where former guests left comments about their stay in the room. Some of the comments were PG-13 rated, with many of them raving about the room and the celebrations that were enjoyed on the bed.
We toured the captial building later that morning, stopping by the main hall to shoot photos of statuary, the interior of the dome, and the Governator's office. The capital building is open for free tours of the public areas, but on this Saturday the place was zipped up tighter than the lips of an honest politician.
So passed our awesome mother/daughter road trip, campus visits, wining and dining experience, and Northern California press tour. We arrived home still talking and laughing; both of us commented on how blessed we are to have the kind of relationship that doesn't turn into a mom/dauty cat fight after a week together on the road and sharing hotel roomss.
Watch for more about all of these NorCal destinations in upcoming Sunday features in the Press-Enterprise.
If you're coming to Napa Valley to explore the wine route and stop for tastings at all of the wineries, you'll need several days. After a day of dining and tasting, a day of spa and shopping, E and I headed up the Highway 29, also known as the St. Helena Highway and referred to as the wine route.
We passed the enormous operations of Beringer, Sutter Home, Mondavi, household names found in wine shelves and cellars of homes and restaurants around the world. Side by side with the mega-producers are smaller wineries such as Domain Chandon, Flora Springs, Merryvale, and other names not as commonly known, but equally fine.
Even if you don't stop for tastings, the drive along the St. Helena Highway is lovely. Vineyards stretch across the valley flats, creep up the hillsides, their leafy green arms reaching toward the summer sun. Grape clusters dangle from the vines, green and firm, still a couple of months from harvest.
We said goodbye to Napa Valley and headed out the back roads toward Sacramento. My longtime friends Candy and Howie live here and we stopped at their home for refreshments before checking into our hotel. We have a beautiful burgandy-themed suite at the Marriott Residence Inn, a downtown hotel situated right across the street from the Capital Park. The roominess of the suite with its kitchen, separate bedroom and sleeper sofa makes it perfect for traveling with children.
Candy and her daughter met us back at the hotel, then led us on a walking tour through the park, down the mall, into the plaza, under I-5, through old town and to the river. We watched the sun set behind the Sacramento River, while we dined on salads and ravioli at Rio City Café.
Today we're taking a walking tour through historic Sacramento and possibly visiting a couple of the many museums in this capital city. A tour through the capital itself just might be on the junket as well.
Have you ever visited the capital city and toured our state's center of government?
Yesterday we began with the champagne breakfast that is complimentary to all guests at the Vintage Inn. This isn't just a tray of dried out sausage, limp bacon and reconstituted powdered eggs, but a fully realized breakfast buffet as fine as any I've enjoyed for $$$ at other hotels. In fact, I'm sitting here in the dining room writing while I'm enjoying my quiche, nibbling my croissant and sipping my mimosa. Wish you were here.
After my Napa style huevos rancheros and fresh fruit yesterday, I checked in to the Villagio Spa at the Vintage Inn's sister property. Here is a place that understands serenity and elegance. I began with a wellness massage in one of the private spa suites, then moved on to the salon for a facial and paraffin wax hand treatment. My face was glowing when the therapist was finished scrubbing, rubbing, smoothing and soothing my skin.
E and I took lunch in the private patio just outside the spa suite, then basked in the warmth until it was time to go on our wine tasting.
Dinner at 25° Brix found us treated to a tasting menu with wine pairings by sommelier Bruce Conklin. We began dining during magic hour on the patio, where the sun slanting on the gardens and vinyards touched everything with a golden patina.
By the time we finished dining, we'd gone through ten tasting courses (small, individual portions) of the restaurant's top signature dishes and ten small flights of wines selected to compliment each dish. E and I fell madly in crush with the tuna tartare on tempura fried nori, while I swooned over the tomato salad with pecan pesto. Just when we thought we couldn't take anything else, they brought us full portions of grilled Alaskan halibut and rack of lamb. We didn't get back to the hotel until 11 pm. Great memories, excellent food, superb wine. The good life.