Saturday, August 9, 2014

This Blog Has Moved - Sorry!

To all of my blog readers who are still coming to this site - I apologize, but something I thought had happened months ago apparently never did.  Back in June, I joined the blogging team at, a larger travel website dedicated to all things travel.  I had thought this blog would be disabled, with an automatic redirect to the new page, but while cleaning some stuff up this afternoon, realized that was never done.  So, for those of you who have been coming to this blog for the last 2 months and have been bewildered at the lack of new content - my sincere apologies.  Please mosey on over and update your bookmarks to my new site - the Road More Traveled blog at

Happy trails!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Frog and Onion Pub, Royal Naval Dockyard, Bermuda - Restaurant Review

The Royal Naval Dockyard, Bermuda
My wife and I just recently got back from a combination road trip to Boston and cruise to Bermuda.  I decided to kick off my series of posts with a restaurant review, this one of the first restaurant we visited in Bermuda, the Frog and Onion Pub at the Royal Naval Dockyard.  You might be wondering why we're eating in a restaurant when we came to Bermuda on a cruise ship, where your fare includes the right to stuff yourself silly 24/7.  Well, this particular itinerary gave us from 11 A.M. Sunday to 5 P.M. Tuesday on the islands, and to get the most out of your time, it's best to get an early start and not have to keep going back and forth to the ship.  Therefore, we made plans to have lunch off the ship each day.

Lima, Peru

The colorful architecture of downtown Lima
This is part 5 of my series about our cruise to South America in December, 2012.  Today's port-of-call is Lima, Peru's capital city.  This would be my third country in South America, after Colombia and Ecuador. 

For a general overview of the cruise and the trip report index, click here.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Manta, Ecuador

Sunset over Manta, Ecuador
This is part 4 of my series about our cruise to South America in December, 2012.  Today's port-of-call would be Manta, Ecuador, a fairly small city literally straddling the equator, its official latitude being just 0 degrees and 57 minutes south.  This would not actually be my first visit to South America - that milestone was completed when we stepped off the ship in Cartagena, Colombia a few days earlier - but this was my first visit to the Pacific side of South America south of the equator.  One of these days, I'll get around to writing about my actual first visit to the southern hemisphere, a trip to South Africa in April, 2008.

For a general overview of the cruise and the trip report index, click here.

NOTE:  if you're dying for a trip report about Bermuda, just relax, jack.  I'll start putting some up within the next few weeks.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Beaches of Bermuda - A Photo Essay

Not a beach, but waves crashing rocks in Bermuda
Greetings tonight from Columbus, Ohio, at essentially the halfway point back home to Dallas.  I normally don't like to put posts up immediately about places I've just visited - I like to take the extra time to think about what to write and how exactly to organize things - but I really didn't want to be days late with a post again.  Needing something quick to put up, I thought I'd leave all of you with some photos of the great beaches we saw in Bermuda during our short visit there.  Not to worry, I will eventually have a series of posts up about my trip, but in the meantime, enjoy - and start working on finding your beach this summer!  NOTE:  Photos posted in the order we visited them.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

This Summer's Most Valuable Vacation Advice

Downtown Boston from a cruise ship balcony
Greetings from sunny Bermuda.  First off, apologies to regular readers of this blog for the late posting.  I had fully intended to schedule this post to publish before leaving on vacation, but well, let's just say that things have an amazing way of getting in the way when you're getting ready to get away.  Anyway, with Memorial Day, and thus, the traditional beginning of American summer vacation season soon to be upon us, I thought this would be an appropriate time to relay some travel advice for those planning a summer getaway.  While the title of this post may be a bit over-hyped, I do hope it proves to be useful for some of you.  To that end, I offer two simple yet effective pieces of advice...

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Transiting the Panama Canal

Cruising through Gatun Lake on a sunny day
This is part 3 of my series on our cruise to South America in December, 2012.  Today was the thing I was looking forward to second most on this cruise - making the shortest transcontinental journey in the world on our cruise ship via the Panama Canal!  This was actually my second visit to the canal.  The first was in December, 2005, but the ship we were on didn't actually go through the canal.  It just went through the first set of locks on the Caribbean side (the Gatun Locks) and turned around, and then we took a small boat through the rest of the canal. 

For a general overview of the cruise and the trip report index, click here.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Stuffed in St. Louis - Restaurant Reviews

Whenever we travel somewhere, I always try to identify at least one well-regarded local restaurant ahead of time to sample the local cuisine.  During our short weekend trip to St. Louis, my wife and I each chose one place - I picked a BBQ joint to experience some of that famous St. Louis barbeque, and my wife picked an Italian place to experience the distinctive cuisine of The Hill, St. Louis' version of Little Italy. 

Hilton St. Louis Frontenac - Hotel Review

Route 66 shield on the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge
For our recent trip to St. Louis, we went back and forth on location.  Do we choose a hotel downtown that's walking distance to the Arch, museums, and mass transit, or someplace a little bit outside of town where we won't have to pay extra for parking?  When visiting a large city, I usually greatly prefer to stay someplace centrally located to what we want to see with good access to rail so I don't have to mess with driving.  But in this case, while sketching out our itinerary, we wanted to hit a couple of things well outside of the city, which meant we'd have no choice but to have a car.  That made the decision easy, since downtown hotels would mean an extra $20 a day for parking at least.  We ended up settling on the Hilton St. Louis Frontenac, as they had a special for an executive level room at essentially the same price as a regular room for AAA members.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

46 Hours in St. Louis - The Last 22

The Old Courthouse Museum
This is a continuation post of this post, which covered our first day of a short weekend trip to St. Louis.  Here, we pick up where we left off on Sunday morning, to take in as much of the area as we could before we had to head back to the airport for our 8 P.M. flight.

Reminder of our itinerary for Day 2:

The Old Courthouse Museum
Missouri History Museum
Forest Park
The Great River Road from Alton to Nutwood, Illinois

You can read about Day 1 of our trip here.

46 Hours in St. Louis - The First 24

Gateway to the West
In honor of the end of tax season (I am a tax accountant by trade), my wife and I made a trip to St. Louis last weekend.  Why St. Louis?  My wife had never been and wanted to see the Arch and a couple of museums, and the Gateway to the West is usually a most pleasant place to be in late April.  This would be a short trip (10 P.M. Friday to 8 P.M. Sunday), but having been to the city several times over the past few years thanks to an ex-client located here, I know my way around and figured this would be enough time for what we wanted to see.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Mr. Branson Goes to Love Field - Maybe?

I don't normally post on Fridays, but we here in Dallas received an announcement today that was important enough to pass on today.  Virgin America announced at a press conference this morning that they have reached an agreement with American on obtaining their two gates at Love Field and, therefore, will be starting nonstop flights from Love to San Francisco, L.A. (LAX), New York LaGuardia, and Washington National effective October 13.  Sort of (which I'll get to in a minute).

This all started when the U.S. Department of Justice approved the merger of American with U.S. Airways, but on the condition that the combined carrier divest gates and slots at certain airports, including the two gates that American currently leases from the City of Dallas at Love Field.  Delta, Southwest, and Virgin America all subsequently told the city and the DOJ that they wanted the gates, a battle that Virgin appears to have won, at least on the surface.

It appears we have a pretty interesting soap opera in the making.  Terry Maxon at the Dallas Morning News reports that AA was apparently told by the DOJ that only one airline was an acceptable recipient of the gates, and that airline was Virgin.  But hold on a minute - Virgin apparently decided to make their announcement and start selling tickets before the city actually approved the gate swap.  According to the same article, American presented the city with a plan to assign its leases to Virgin, a request that the city denied.  It has since resubmitted its proposal as a sublease of its gates, which the city council is supposedly going to discuss on Monday.  In fact, Maxon reported late last night that the city has made no decision on who will get the gates.  (As a side note, Delta has also been selling tickets from Love Field to several destinations outlined in this proposal.  Never mind that the DOJ announced in March that Delta was not an acceptable bidder for the gates.)

So what do I think will happen?  The Dallas City Council has a well-deserved reputation around these parts for the occasional bout of dysfunction, so it wouldn't surprise me if this drags on for a little while.  At the end of the day, though, if the federales tell Dallas that Virgin will get the gates, then Virgin will get the gates.  Personally, I think this is the best solution anyway.  Southwest already controls 16 out of the 20 gates at Love Field, and Delta's proposed service would have relied primarily on regional jets.  I don't know about you, but I hate regional jets.  Delta tries to spruce this up by noting that their RJs come with first class, and in some cases premium economy, but if you ask me, that's just putting lipstick on a pig.  Virgin will use real planes, and they have a reputation for low fares and excellent service.

Most importantly - Virgin has a major fare sale going on right now, with prices as low as $79 one way and half off of Main Cabin Select (premium economy) and First Class fares for flights between October 13 and November 20.  If you need to fly between Dallas and L.A., New York, San Fran, or D.C. during that time period, act fast and grab one of these fares.  You have about 28 hours left as of the time of this posting.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Panama Canal Railway and Panama City

Panama City skyline
Welcome to Part 2 of my report on our cruise to South America in December of 2012.  Our second port, on the 5th day of our cruise, was Colon, Panama, and today's report will cover our tour of the historic Panama Canal Railway and Panama City.  Incidentally, this is the second time I've been to Limon.  We took a Panama Canal cruise in December, 2005 that also stopped here, but the ship didn't go all the way through the canal.  We took a smaller boat through the canal to Panama City instead.

For a general overview of our trip and the trip report index, click here.

NOTE:  If you're looking for a report on the canal itself, you'll have to wait until the next installment, which will include a photo essay of our crossing of the canal on the Celebrity Infinity.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cartagena, Colombia

View of Cartagena from La Popa Monastery
After writing my post about my day in the Chilean Andes, I thought this would be a good time to finally blog about my first trip to South America (albeit now out of order, since Santiago was our last stop before flying home).  My parents, my wife, and I took a 15-night cruise on the Celebrity Infinity from Fort Lauderdale to Santiago via the Panama Canal.  There were three main reasons I wanted to do this cruise:  1) it was a lifelong dream of both me and my dad to go to South America; 2) this cruise included a full transit of the Panama Canal in the cruise ship itself, which promised to be an incredible experience, and 3) I had a bunch of United Airlines frequent flier miles that I wanted to burn, and a Christmastime flight from Chile back home seemed like a good use of them, especially since I had enough miles for 2 business class tickets.

This will be a multi-part trip report series.  Below is a full listing of the series, which I will complete over the next several weeks as time permits.  Unfortunately, I hadn't thought about starting a travel blog when I took this cruise, so this won't be a detailed review of the cruise ship itself (I didn't take enough notes or photos of the ship), and you plane geeks will be disappointed that I didn't take enough notes for a flight report. 

Cartagena, Colombia (today's post)
The Panama Canal Railway and Panama City
Transiting the Panama Canal
Manta, Ecuador
Lima, Peru
Arica, Chile
La Serena, Chile
Valparaiso and Santiago, Chile
A Day in the Chilean Andes

Saturday, April 5, 2014

What Is a Travel Rewards Credit Card, and Should I Get One?

Waipi'o Valley, Big Island, Hawai'i
If you read this travel blog, then chances are you've either seen advertisements and/or other travel-related blogs talking about "travel rewards" or "affinity" credit cards, all with some kind of enticing offer like "50,000 Bonus Miles!".  If you read this blog, you probably also have points in at least one frequent flier/frequent hotel guest rewards program, and more importantly, yearn to use those points some day on a trip to a place like the one in the cover photo.  But do they really work, and should you go out and apply for one?  After the jump, I'll offer my take on these credit cards, and where I think it makes sense to get one.

Disclaimer Notice:  I do not receive a bonus or other compensation from any of the cards mentioned in this post. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Day in the Chilean Andes

Winding road in the Chilean Andes, west of Valle Nevado ski resort
I'm not sure what it was exactly, but something today had me reflecting on a cruise we took to South America back in December, 2012, so for this installment on the blog, I decided to reach back in the record books and write about something from that trip.  At the very end of our cruise, from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to Santiago, Chile via the Panama Canal (I will add more installments from that cruise over time), we spent two days in Valparaiso and Santiago to recuperate a bit before the long flight back home.  We had initially planned a shore excursion to the Andes on the cruise itself, but due to the incompetence of the cruise line, that tour got canceled.  Some quick sleuthing on the internet turned up a company called Tours by Locals that 1) offered day tours of the Andes from Santiago, 2) had availability on the day we'd be in Santiago, and 3) wasn't that expensive, at about $110 per person.  And so with that, my wife, my uncle, and I decided to give it a try.

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Spring Evening in Downtown Dallas

My wife's birthday is on Tuesday, but we decided to go out for dinner Friday night, since trying to do something during the week can be tough.  With a little extra time to kill thanks to my office closing a little early on Fridays, we decided to take a walk around downtown Dallas to work up an appetite before heading to dinner on the edge of Uptown.  Downtown used to be a place best avoided unless you had business there, especially after 5:00, but the city has done a good job of cleaning the area up and making downtown a place people actually want to visit.  Learn more about our pleasant stroll on a beautiful Friday evening after the jump.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Foghorn Harbor Inn, Los Angeles (Marina del Rey), CA - Hotel Review

Usually when I travel to La La Land, or anywhere else in Southern California for that matter, I don't have to bother with a hotel, because my in-laws live in the area and are more than happy to provide free food and accommodations while we're there.  Back in January, though, we were headed to LA for a very special reason - my brother was invited to appear on the Jeopardy Battle of the Decades tournament, and the taping had been set for January 21st.  Contestants aren't given specific times until the day of taping, so if you're a family member, you just have to show up in the morning and wait for your favorite contestant to come on.  We needed to be at the Sony Studios in Culver City by 10 A.M., which is a really long drive from my in-laws' place out by San Bernardino, especially factoring in that we'd be fighting rush hour traffic in LA.  Plus, my sister and her two kids would be flying in and had a terribly early flight out of LAX early the morning after the taping, so we decided to just get a hotel.  The choice:  the Foghorn Harbor Inn in Marina del Rey.

Friday, March 14, 2014

New and Improved! Follow This Crappy Blog on Twitter @MeanMeosh!

A frequent follower of this blog suggested I join the 21st century and set up a Twitter account.  I had long resisted doing Twitter, but this person did raise a very valid point - that Twitter makes it easier to update frequent readers about new posts as they go up.  So I indeed did decide to quit being a luddite, and created a Twitter account.  Follow me and this blog at @MeanMeosh today!

P.S. Don't worry, I won't waste valuable bytes of your data plan by tweeting about the bathroom at the Statute of Liberty, though I may occasionally tweet a travel-related photo if I think it's too good to wait for a blog post.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Ellen's Southern Kitchen, Downtown Dallas - Restaurant Review

I met a friend for a Stars game on Thursday, and not wanting to pay $20 for two hot dogs and a Coke, decided to grab some food in the West End before going to the game.  We had no idea where we wanted to go, so my friend pulled out a restaurant finder app he had on his phone.  Ellen's Southern Kitchen came up within short walking distance of DART's West End Station, and having read good things about this place in both the Dallas Morning News and other Dallas-area restaurant review sites, this sounded like a good place to give a try.  Read about the deliciousness after the jump!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Day Trips from Dallas - Talimena National Scenic Byway, Oklahoma/Arkansas

Scenic overlook with winding highway in background

It's been a while since I've done anything new with the "Day Trips from Dallas" series, and with my series about my recent trip to India complete, now seemed as good a time as any to pick it up again.  On this past Christmas Day, we didn't have much going on since we'd be leaving for India in less than a week, so we decided to enjoy a scenic trip across the Red River to spend an otherwise lazy day.  Our destination would be the Talimena National Scenic Byway, a beautiful, winding mountain drive in the Ouachita Mountains, just a few hours from home.  In case the photo above has piqued your interest, read much more after the jump!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Weather Chaos - Travel Tips for Bad Weather

Heavy snow at home on March 21, 2010
This winter's wacky weather has caused its fair share of problems for travelers over the past few months.  Impassable roads and paralyzed Southern cities have certainly been problematic, but air travelers have been whacked just as badly, with more than 25,000 flights canceled so far this winter according to some tallies.  Winter weather can do much to disrupt a vacation or business trip, but much to the chagrin of storm-weary travelers, severe weather season is just around the corner, which can mean even more problems.  After the jump, read five of my tips for planning around and dealing with weather-related chaos on your next trip.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Coming Home from India - Flight Review

As I wrote about a few weeks ago, we flew to India via Qatar Airways.  On the way home, though, for a number of reasons, we flew via British Airways.  One of the primary factors was that we were flying home on Thursday, and I really needed to try and get to work for a little while on Friday, so I needed something with more space than regular coach class to rest.  BA offers a premium economy class with more space that I thought might do the trick.  Ultimately, we ended up with a little surprise that gave me all the rest I needed.  Find out more after the jump.

Friday, February 14, 2014

An Indian Road Trip, Part 2 - Pondicherry

By now, you've probably about our recent visit to Kumbakonam, and our short visit to Mahabalipuram a few days later.  There was one more spot on our to-do list, though:  my mom and aunt wanted to show us the city of Pondicherry.  My late father went to medical school there, and it was the first place my mom and dad lived together after they were married in 1965.  I'd wanted to go there since my first visit to India in 1987, so despite the less than ideal circumstances, I was looking forward to going.  Read more about our short day trip after the jump.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Mahabalipuram, India

Last week, I documented our road trip from Chennai to Kumbakonam and back.  However, that wasn't the only road trip we ended up doing during our short trip to India.  My mom and aunt wanted to show me and my brother the medical school my dad attended in Pondicherry (about 160 km south of Chennai), which meant another trip by car.  On the way, we made a stop at Mahabalipuram, a heritage site featuring "sea temples" carved from sandstone more than 1,500 years ago.  And of course, this meant enjoying my favorite hobby, the road trip.  The photo above is pretty awesome, but see a whole lot more after the jump!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

An Indian Road Trip

During our recent trip to India, we had two places (besides our uncle's house in Chennai) that we needed to get to.  The most important, and the reason for our trip, was our dad's village outside of Kumbakonam, the town that was the subject of last week's post.  The second, which wasn't actually on the agenda until after we got to Chennai, was the city of Pondicherry (I hope to have a post of that trip up next week).  My dad went to medical school there, and my mom and aunt wanted to show us the town and where he went to school.  Given the distances from Chennai - 270 km and 160 km respectively - and our limited time in India, hiring a car and driver was our only real option, which meant time for a road trip.  When you think of driving in India, you probably think of the photo above, a scene of traffic and controlled chaos in a land of 1.2 billion people.  Once you get out of the city, though, you'll find a surprising amount of open space and farmland, along with glimpses of the country's culture that make it at once fascinating and somewhat frustrating.  After the jump, enjoy a photo essay of our road trip to Kumbakonam and back (details of our trip to Pondicherry next week, hopefully).

Cityscapes From the Air

We recently flew out to Los Angeles to visit friends and family, and due to a ridiculous fare sale on Southwest, decided to fly with them even though that would mean a couple of extra stops en-route.  Due to the beautiful weather both en route and back, I was able to get some really nice photos of several city skylines on the way.  I've gotten many photos of skylines over the years, but mainly from the ground or the top of a hill; it's a much different perspective when you do a close fly-by from a plane, which also provides views of the surrounding landscape.  Enjoy views of Dallas, El Paso, Phoenix, Ontario (California), and San Antonio after the jump.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, India - The City of Temples

My wife and I, along with my mother and brother, recently made a trip to India to take care of some final rituals related to my dad's passing last fall.  His home village is close to the larger town of Kumbakonam, a city with a rich history dating back at least 2,000 years.  We had a couple of hours to spare before heading back to Chennai, so we took a quick tour of the town, not knowing when we'd be back.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Flying to India - Qatar Airways Houston to Chennai

I'm a little short on time for a post this week, and I was also in the mood to try a little something new, so I decided to debut a new type of post - the well worn (on other travel websites, anyway) flight review.  My wife and I, along with my mom and brother, had to make a brief run to India right after the first of the year to finish off the last of our duties related to my dad's passing last fall.  My mom and brother booked tickets on Emirates, and since I had a poor experience with them last summer, I decided we would try Qatar Airways on the way over instead (I had never flown Qatar, but figured it couldn't be worse than anyone else, and you can get American Airlines frequent flyer miles).  Read more about our experience, along with my first visit to Doha, after the jump

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Choosing the Right Coach Class Airplane Seat

It's been awhile since I've done a travel advice article, so now seemed the right time after my recent experience going to India and back.  I had the (mis)fortune of having to do this trip in coach, as without the benefit of an expense account, dropping 10 grand on a pair of airplane tickets isn't exactly practical.  As you can see from the photo above, flying in steerage, as many frequent fliers derisively refer to the back of the plane, isn't the most comfortable experience.  However, you can make the experience a little more tolerable with some advance planning.  Check out my tips after the jump.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Sightseeing at 35,000 Feet - DFW to LAX

My wife and I took a trip out to SoCal in early November to visit her parents; you might recall my restaurant review of The Proud Bird at LAX airport that I posted previously.  That flight happened to coincide with the removal of the restrictions on electronics use onboard airplanes, including digital cameras, just a few days prior, and so this was the first trip that I could (legally) take photos from start to finish.  The weather was perfect from Dallas all the way out to the west coast on that fine Saturday, which made for a great day of picture taking!  Enjoy the virtual cross-country tour after the break.