Thursday, August 28, 2014

Did My Cab Driver Just Rip Me Off?

You've finally arrived at your destination, and you just paid your cab driver, plus extra for his tip.   Then you walk away from the cab, and something in your head is spinning its wheels. Something's not quite right.  You stop in your tracks, and it dawns on you that you might've just been ripped off by that cab driver!  Grrr............

(Photo property of The Washington Post)

Here's how to avoid being taken for an expensive ride:

DO know the estimated cost of your trip - and confirm it with the driver before you get in the cab.  Ask someone you know who's taken the taxi using the same route as yours.

Tip:  Download a taxi meter app for Android or iOS.  There are several to choose from.  The app can calculate the fare of your trip before entering a cab.  A real money-saver!

(Photo from Google Images gallery)

DO negotiate the cost of the fare when you call the taxi cab company.

DO tell your driver that you do not want to take the scenic route.

DO call your hotel or restaurant, and ask someone to speak to your driver in his or her native language if it seems like you're being taken advantage of.

(Photo from Google Images gallery)

DON'T forget to note the medallion or license number, and report the driver to the authorities if you suspect fraud.
(Photo from Google Images gallery)

DON'T pay with large bills, which invites the "I don't have change" scam.  It's better to use small bills and coins in local currency.

In defense of all the hard-working taxi drivers out there, there has to be reasons why an employee would want to charge a customer more than what is customary.  I found an excellent Forbes article, contributed by Marc Weber Tobias.  You can read about it here.

Are there other ways to prevent a rip-off?  Please leave a recommendation in the Comments section below.  It needs to be shared with all of our readers.  And please feel free to share via my social media buttons in the right column of my blog page.  Sharing is caring, right?

Post update!  One of my readers recommended the following:  " Bring a map.....understand where you are in relation to where you want to go so you can better follow where the can driver is taking you. You don't want so be driven around in circles to increase your fee!"  Great suggestion, Anonymous!

Friday, August 22, 2014

So Your Flight is Going Nowhere

Scenes of sad or infuriated people unfold before me every trip I make to the airport.  I can only watch and shake my head.  I know the feeling.  You know you did everything right in booking your flight, you check-in for your flight 24 hours prior, you show up to the airport on time, and so on and so on.

"I have to be there.  My sister's getting married tomorrow!!"  Uh-oh.

"But our group begins touring tomorrow in London.  We can't miss it!!"  Oh, man..............

How about this?  Your flight departs on time, but sits on the tarmac longer than what is considered normal. Minutes later, the captain's voice comes over the P.A. and announces that the plane is going back to the gate, and the flight will be rerouted to another airport due to the plane being too heavy, and a closer airport for refueling is necessary before we get to our destination.  WHAT???

This recently happened to me.  It meant that my flight would no longer reach Knoxville, Tennessee at 5pm, but closer to midnight instead.  Although my family had plans to sight-see the next day, I wasn't too concerned.  There was plenty of room in our three-day itinerary in Knoxville to move activities around.  If our flight moved out one day later, it wouldn't have been enough to really mess things up.  What did I do right? I booked an early flight out of San Diego, and made sure it was my travel day, and not a day that I had to be somewhere important.

How do you avoid these unfortunate situations?

You have to make room in your schedule for flight delays or cancellations.

Pay attention to local & national news.  Are events (union strikes, weather, natural disasters, etc.) here and there likely to upset your plans?

If so, consider other forms of transportation, or a combination of two or three modes to get to your destination (train, plane and automobile).

Add a couple of days to your planned itinerary.  If the meeting/special event is on a Friday, arrive 2 - days prior and do a little sightseeing.  Take in the local sights, become familiar with the surroundings, do a test drive to that meeting/special event location. Doing this lessens the stress of trying to get to your destination, and allows you to breathe and feel very relaxed.

Again, allow yourself enough time to secure other flight arrangements or land transportation, or until someone can beam you up for transport to your destination.


What is your back-up plan?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Old Town Historic San Diego State Park, Part 1

Fiesta de Reyes  is one of my favorite places to dine and shop.  It's lively, it's colorful, and the mariachi music makes me want to drink a lot of margaritas!  Ole'!

Seriously, walking through this gateway brings me to another place and time. Fiesta de Reyes is a grand courtyard surrounded on three sides with boutiques specializing in splendid textiles, pottery, tiles, arts & crafts, exquisite jewelry and ladies clothing that cannot be found anywhere else.  I love their clothes and accessories, and I usually buy an item or two every time I visit Fiesta de Reyes.

There's also an art gallery that you must walk through, and make a purchase!  In the courtyard, you will get to taste varietal wines and olive oils, warm buttered tortillas, street tacos, and roasted nuts.  The restaurant in the center of the courtyard is the showpiece.  It's outdoor dining is at its finest, in a casual way.  Next to the restaurant is the stage and seating area where tourists and locals can sit on split logs and beautiful, colorful hand-carved benches to watch entertainment that has south-of-the border flavor.  It's muy fantastico!

My favorite specialty shops are the Temecula Olive Oil Company, the Urban Seed and Geppetto's.  It's fun to take the time to use your senses in these places.

Don't forget to buy some novelty candy to take home as souvenirs!
I hope you enjoyed reading about this little gem in my town.  Please visit soon!

When you come to San Diego, what's the first place you want to visit?

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Marine Room, Elegant Dining on the Surf

Several months ago, my husband retired from the corporate world, and he and I made a list of special things we would do to celebrate retirement.  You see, I retired, also.  Yay!  Our list includes day trips outside of San Diego, checking off visits to american presidential sites (to be featured in a future blog), a river cruise in China and other faraway destinations, and dining at awesome places in my town like the Marine Room.

The Marine Room is known for its calm or dramatic landscape, depending on when you choose to dine. Opened in 1941, this place quickly became famous for its pounding surf crashing against its panoramic windows for diners to enjoy, and for its award-winning cuisine.  It kind of takes your breath away as you descend the stairs from the restaurant lobby, and see that this place is actually on the beautiful La Jolla Shores.

At the Marine Room, every meal is a special occasion.  Diners will enjoy this rare blend of culinary excellence, uncompromising service and beachfront setting.  Simply stated, this is fine dining at its finest.

With every tide comes a new experience.  The view only gets better during High Tide Dinners, when the tide brings the surf to the picture windows.  Always check the restaurant website at for high tide information.

Experience elegant relaxation at the bar and lounge before or after your meal.  You can select hor d'oeuvres, creative small plates, specialty drinks, classic favorites and spectacular high tide views.  Be entertained by the beachgoers as they paddleboard, kayak, swim, surf ...............

.............or watch them just simply relax on the beach.
The Marine Room is located next to its sister property, the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club.  Diners are invited to spend a night or two at this treasured beachfront resort.  Combined, these two properties are one of California's gems along its sparkling coastline.

When you dine here, you're not reserving a table.  You're joining a 70-year tradition.

The Marine Room has won numerous awards and recognition over the years.  They recently received the 2013 AAA Four Diamond Award.  This recognition is given to less than 3% of AAA's reviewed restaurants.

The Marine Room
2000 Spindrift Drive
La Jolla, CA  92037

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Marvelous Marriott in Memphis!

Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Memphis

My family and I had the pleasure of staying at this fabulous hotel for two nights.  We chose this hotel mainly for its location.  It's centrally located downtown, close to the trolley (literally right outside the hotel), and within walking distance to the famous and lively Beale Street.  It's also within walking distance to the sites we wanted to visit downtown -- B.B. King Blues ClubRendezvous Alley (aka Charles Vergo's Rendezvous), and the Peabody Hotel to see the darling ducks.  They're something to see, and they're part of an old tradition.  You can read more about the Peabody Ducks here:

I'm a Marriott Specialist and promote the brand and its properties to my clients, so I might seem biased but this is a really great hotel!

After driving five hours from Nashville, and touring the National Civil Rights Museum all afternoon, we couldn't wait to check into our room.  You can imagine the calm and serenity we felt when we walked through the door.  It was bliss.

We had free WiFi, a daily newspaper and all the amenities you would expect from a Courtyard Marriott.  I had lots of space to work and blog.

I can't stress enough the importance of a high-end mattress and fluffy pillows.  The beds were so comfy.  We slept very well, and we were ready for a full day of touring the city.

The lobby was inviting and drew us into the great public area, all of it with free WiFi.  New to the Courtyard is the Bistro offering onsite dining options including Starbucks and a full bar.  

I ordered oatmeal for breakfast, expecting something like the small bowl size I serve myself at home.  What I received was a large bowl, about three times more than I'm used to,
 with sides of dried cranberries, pecans, brown sugar and cream.  So yummy!

 Memphis Area Transit Authority.  MATA's vintage trolley rail system has become a part of downtown Memphis culture and is a tourist attraction all on its own.

The staff greeted us hello and bid us goodbye every time we passed through the hotel lobby.  The employees looked very professional and were friendly beyond belief.  It was southern hospitality personified.

75 Jefferson Avenue
Memphis, TN  38103

Thank you so much, Marriott Downtown Memphis, for your hospitality.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Every year on this day (August 6), my family and I are reminded of one of the most painful days in our lives.   While this tragedy happened years ago, I still, to this day, cannot go through the events of that awful day without tightness in my head and chest.  To remember this special young man, I want to share a post my daughter, Lindsay, shared on her blog a few years ago.  RIP, Matt.


This is what I've been reflecting on this week.  I started this post days ago but had to step away a few times, because I wondered if I should share it.  Is it too heavy?  Do I really want to get so personal?  Will I be able to put it into words?  Obviously, I decided to finish the post.  I think my future self will be happy I recorded these thoughts about one of the most important milestones of my life.

* * * * *

August 6, 2000.

I was seven weeks shy of my 16th birthday.  I had been awake for hours, anxious to go to a surf lesson at La Jolla Shores beach.  I had been wearing my bathing suit since 7:00 AM, as if it was going to get me to the beach sooner.  Music floated on radio waves from my bedroom to the bathroom across the hall where I was French braiding my hair.

* * * * *

Matt's mom had called the house at 3:00 AM looking for Matt, because he didn't come home the night before.  I spoke with her later in the morning with nothing helpful to offer.  If something was wrong, I knew he would have told me.  I figured he was at a friend's house and decided to spend the night, so I expected to see him that afternoon.  He visited our house so often that the creak of the front gate always painted a smile across my face and was soon followed by a knock on the door and his beautiful face.  Never had a squeaky gate brought such joy!

I was silently growing more and more concerned that he wasn't responding to any of my voicemails or pages.  (For all you youngens, people used to have pagers instead of cell phones.  Archaic, I know.)  Minutes morphed into hours, and I still hadn't heard from him.

There may have been some small part of of my soul that knew why.  There was a pulling at my heart, but I assumed it was my young, limitless love for my all-around great guy of a boyfriend.  The phone rang, and the receiver was in my hand before I consciously intended it to be.

"Hello?"  I knew it wasn't Matt, though I hoped it would be.

"Lindsay, I need to talk to your mom."

"Did you find him?"

"I really need to talk to your parents.  Can you please give the phone to your mom?"

I felt myself leaving my body.  Everything happened so quickly and in such a blur that every time I think back to the moments that followed, I picture it as an outsider, hovering above the scene.  I ran to the bottom of the staircase and called up to my mom.  My voice was already trembling, and the words came out with urgent force.

"Mom!  Matt's mom is on the phone, but she won't tell me anything.  She asked for you.  I don't know why she's not telling me anything!"

All of the words formed a single sentence on one labored breath.  Once I heard my mom pick up the phone, I ran to my bedroom.  For a fraction of a second, I considered listening in on the conversation, but I knew what I was going to hear.  I just knew.  I hung up the phone and began pacing.  Not in the linear and deliberate way it happens in movies.  I feared standing still, and I broke out in a panicked scramble.  And then I heard it.

"What?!"  My mom's voice dripped with desperation.

"Oh, my god."  My dad started crying.

I started a silent plea.  No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.  I couldn't understand their conversation upstairs, so I ran to the bottom of the stairs.  My sister, who was home from college for the summer, looked down to me from the rail.  With one heavy look and the utterance of "I'm so sorry," I knew what Matt's mom couldn't tell me on the phone.  How do you tell your son's girlfriend that she kissed him, hugged him, and talked to him for the last time?

My silent plea poured out of me as I melted into my own hands.  I wanted to escape my life, but escaping the house was the best I could do, so I ran to my room to grab a sweatshirt before walking out the front door.  With no destination, I walked.  I wanted to cry and hide and scream, but I kept walking.  In mere minutes, I had played in my mind my favorite moments with Matt: the first time we met at an audition, the first time he came over to our house, being on stage with him, BBQs with our friends, holding hands the entire drive from my house to his, our first kiss, the time I got called out of AP English... because he had flowers delivered to me at the main office, and seeing my little brother get the big brother he never had.

It wasn't long before my sister pulled up next to me and begged me to get in the car.  I kept walking, and the car followed.  We were both sobbing, and eventually, I conceded.

"Take me to Sara's house."  My cousin Sara was my best friend, and even though she didn't know Matt well,  I just wanted to be with her.  I didn't want to go home.  Halfway to her house, I asked,

"What happened?"

"They found him, but they don't know."  I wasn't prepared to ask what that meant, but I don't think she knew anyway.  We were just two sisters in a car with not a clue about what to do.  My heart was shattered, and she was heartbroken for me.

* * * * *

I escaped for a few hours but had to go home, eventually.  I had never heard the house echo before that night.  Every wall and window was tinted with silence.  I exchanged my beach attire for jeans and a T-shirt before we drove to Matt's house.  His mom wanted to see me, and my anxiety-ridden self wanted to see her.  My parents and I got in our tan Ford AeroStar van in which Matt and I had shared the middle bench and spoken in whispers countless times before.  For a moment, I let myself forget that he was gone, and I rested my left hand on the seat to hold his hand.  I swore I truly felt his hand take mine, so I let it be.  His spirit and mine were still connected, though one was without a body, and I savored that car ride knowing the feeling would fade.  Maybe the next day, maybe the next month, maybe the next year.  But I knew it wouldn't last forever.  That night was peppered with sobs and tears but also flooded with comfort and connectedness.  So much more turmoil lay ahead, but for that night, we embraced, shared stories, and let emotions wash over us.

* * * * *

 Matt's case was closed unsolved.  It's hard to seek peace when there aren't any answers.  I would have loved to seek justice, but there was no one to question.  For years, I wished that I knew what happened, but it has become clear to me that there must be a reason why I don't know. 

I continue to learn from this experience 12 years later.  Each year and stage of life has brought new perspective.  With turning 28 next month, I feel like I am nearing motherhood.  This year I feel the hurt through a parental heart.  I am in awe of a parent who finds strength to move forward after losing her son who just started his senior year.  I ache for my parents who never expected that they would need to rescue their daughter from years of self-medicating.  But I know it's possible to survive it, because I witnessed the resilience of our parents!

Life has been really confusing to me at times for various reasons, but I've gained so much as an individual and feel like I have so much more to offer to others as a result.  No matter where I am in the world, I will always celebrate Matt on August 6.

To the kid whose friendship transcended titles and social groups in high school...
To the kid whose heart accepted everyone...
To the kid who was equal parts crazy and cautious...
To the kid who endlessly encouraged others...
To the kid my teenaged heart beat for...

... thank you.  I will love you forever.

This year my Matt mantra is: Choose joy, even when your heart is hurting.