Johnny Jet's Travel Blog

Travel blog featuring best travel sites, travel deals, travel guides, effective travel tips, daily stories with up-to-date travel information, travel pictures, travel webcams. For more, visit my travel portal, www.johnnyjet.com.

Friday, September 29, 2006


NEW YORK CITY TO ERIE, PA
After last week's fantastic trip to Nantucket I traveled back to New York City, so I could catch my flight home to California the following day. But at the last minute my sister Carol talked me into changing my plans once again. So instead of being on a plane to L.A., I was pricing out tickets to Carol's summer house in Erie, PA (yee haw!). I love spending time with Carol and her family, but my real reason for going to the border of the Midwest was to see my dad. I felt bad because he had only a few hours to spend with us when he was in Connecticut the week before (he couldn't travel to Nantucket with us because he had to go move into his new house in Erie, with his new wife Nancy. My sister Carol hooked him up with Nancy (she was my sister's neighbor) after my mom passed away.

ALTERNATE AIRPORTS
Airfares to Erie can be ridiculously expensive: $286 to/from LaGuardia for a last-minute one way ticket. That's more than a ticket to California, and Erie is five times closer. Is that ridiculous or what? That's what happens when there is no low-fare carrier serving a city. Fortunately, Erie does have a good selection of alternate airports that are serviced by low-fare carriers (here's a helpful page I made to find Alternate Airports). Erie's alternate airports are Pittsburgh (134 miles away), Cleveland (112 miles) and Buffalo (105 miles). We flew JetBlue into Buffalo, then drove 90 minutes to Erie. Purchasing tickets far in advance with a low-fare carrier like jetBlue is the way to go � seats can be as cheap as $59 one way. They usually go up closer to departure. I bought mine a few hours before takeoff, and paid top dollar ($150). But that was not nearly as bad as what the legacy carriers (American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, USAir and United) would've reamed me for.

JETBLUE TO BUFFALO
We flew out of New York's JFK (JetBlue also has a small percentage of flights out of LaGuardia and Newark). If you're unfamiliar with JetBlue (where have you been hiding?), they don't offer food -- only chips, cookies and drinks. But they do have fine food options to bring on the plane in their JFK terminal. Also in JFK's Terminal 6, JetBlue offers free wireless internet. That's key for a computer junkie like me. Why can't other airlines do the same? I normally feel lucky if I get a hot spot that costs $6 an hour, but JetBlue does a lot of the little things right. I haven't even mentioned that they have one of the friendliest staffs around. And best of all: They offer 36 channels of live TV on individual monitors in the seatbacks. That makes any flight go by real quick � especially when traveling with kids, or on a short 55-minute flight like ours. JetBlue; tel.: 800-538-2583. For more click HEREPosted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


TELL A FRIEND
Before we get started, an announcement: A friend recommended I create a MySpace page in hopes of driving more traffic to JohnnyJet.com. I made one a while back, but never publicized. So here it goes: If any readers have a MySpace profile (or a LinkedIn Profile), please sign up to be one of my friends. (It's kind of embarrassing, but right now I have "no friends"). Also, if you own a travel website please put a link to JohnnyJet.com and/or AirlineNumbers.com on a high-PR-ranked page. As you can see, I'm putting on a full- court press to drive traffic. We just hired a new advertising salesperson too, so if you want to advertise send us an email (advertising@JohnnyJet.com). Most importantly, please tell all of your friends and colleagues to sign up for our free weekly newsletter at www.JohnnyJet.com. If you haven't been to our homepage lately, check it out � it's been redesigned, and is updated constantly to help you find the best travel deals and tips. FYI: Did you know JohnnyJet is read in over 127 countries? Most are from North America, but I was blown away when I learned about our website traffic.  Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 25, 2006


GHOST WALK
Nantucket offers a couple of different Ghost Walks each night. My sisters went on the one the locals said is the best (The Nantucket Haunted Hike). The tour (which operates between May 26 and September 10) is two hours long, with two shows a night at 5 and 8pm. It costs $20 adults, $10 for kids 8-13, free for 7 and under. They said the tour was fun, but the stories weren't scary � just disturbing. However, when they returned home around 10:30 I could tell they were freaked out. My brother, niece and nephew fell fast asleep. I was checking email. Shortly after, the wind kicked up and the outside shower door began to clank. My sister Georgette, who was sharing the king-size bed with my sister and kids, said she couldn't sleep with that noise, and asked if I would go out and lock it. I said, "No way! Not after the stories you just told me -- and besides it's pitch black!" I wasn't scared, but I knew darn well that Georgette would eventually drag Carol out of bed with her, and I could get them back for all the times they scared the bejeezus out of me when I was a kid. (I'm the youngest, which meant I got tortured growing up -- but that's a whole other story, most likely for a Dr. Phil episode). When Georgette and Carol both agreed to go out with a flashlight low on batteries, I made my move. They went out the front door, and I quietly slipped out the back. On my way I grabbed one of the wet beach towels drying on the deck railing. I started to walk fast at them, like Jason from "Friday the 13th."I had the towel over my head, making loud Frankenstein-esque noises for special effects. Those noises quickly turned into crazy wild screams when I tripped on the kids' damn bicycles lying in the grass. Although I was in serious pain from the pedal jabbing into my side, it made the whole scene scarier for them. They later said they had no idea it was me on the ground as they yelped for help. Carol said she was so scared, she almost wet her new pajamas. It was so funny. We seriously laughed ourselves to sleep. Ghost walk; tel.: 508-292-0164.

SAYING GOODBYE
It's always difficult to leave a fun vacation, and Nantucket ranks up there as one of the best. We stalled as long as we could, and the kids begged my sister to move there because it was their favorite place ever. They said there was so much to do -- and to think they didn't play their normal thousand hours of video games or watch TV. That's what makes Nantucket so great. It's just good traditional family fun. I hope we can all return every summer. Maybe one day people will call me "the man from Nantucket." (You know I had to get that line in there!)

VIDEO
Here's a 2-minute Johnny Jet Video of our trip to Nantucket. If you want to view past videos, here's the link of all JohnnyJet Videos ever made. Remember: With high-speed the video takes about 1 minute to load; with dial-up, it could be three weeks.
For more click HEREPosted by Picasa





GHOST WALK
Nantucket offers a couple of different Ghost Walks each night. My sisters went on the one the locals said is the best (The Nantucket Haunted Hike). The tour (which operates between May 26 and September 10) is two hours long, with two shows a night at 5 and 8pm. It costs $20 adults, $10 for kids 8-13, free for 7 and under. They said the tour was fun, but the stories weren't scary � just disturbing. However, when they returned home around 10:30 I could tell they were freaked out. My brother, niece and nephew fell fast asleep. I was checking email. Shortly after, the wind kicked up and the outside shower door began to clank. My sister Georgette, who was sharing the king-size bed with my sister and kids, said she couldn't sleep with that noise, and asked if I would go out and lock it. I said, "No way! Not after the stories you just told me -- and besides it's pitch black!" I wasn't scared, but I knew darn well that Georgette would eventually drag Carol out of bed with her, and I could get them back for all the times they scared the bejeezus out of me when I was a kid. (I'm the youngest, which meant I got tortured growing up -- but that's a whole other story, most likely for a Dr. Phil episode). When Georgette and Carol both agreed to go out with a flashlight low on batteries, I made my move. They went out the front door, and I quietly slipped out the back. On my way I grabbed one of the wet beach towels drying on the deck railing. I started to walk fast at them, like Jason from "Friday the 13th."I had the towel over my head, making loud Frankenstein-esque noises for special effects. Those noises quickly turned into crazy wild screams when I tripped on the kids' damn bicycles lying in the grass. Although I was in serious pain from the pedal jabbing into my side, it made the whole scene scarier for them. They later said they had no idea it was me on the ground as they yelped for help. Carol said she was so scared, she almost wet her new pajamas. It was so funny. We seriously laughed ourselves to sleep. Ghost walk; tel.: 508-292-0164.

SAYING GOODBYE
It's always difficult to leave a fun vacation, and Nantucket ranks up there as one of the best. We stalled as long as we could, and the kids begged my sister to move there because it was their favorite place ever. They said there was so much to do -- and to think they didn't play their normal thousand hours of video games or watch TV. That's what makes Nantucket so great. It's just good traditional family fun. I hope we can all return every summer. Maybe one day people will call me "the man from Nantucket." (You know I had to get that line in there!)

VIDEO
Here's a 2-minute Johnny Jet Video of our trip to Nantucket. If you want to view past videos, here's the link of all JohnnyJet Videos ever made. Remember: With high-speed the video takes about 1 minute to load; with dial-up, it could be three weeks. For more click HERE.














 Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 24, 2006


TOWN
We went into Town Center a couple of times to have drinks, shop (the best bargains I found were at the Thrift Shop) or get a snack. There are plenty of restaurants, and you won't have a difficult time finding a good one. Below are the places we went to.

SOMETHING NATURAL
The best spot for lunch is a half a mile from Town Center. Something Natural serves the tastiest breads, sandwiches and cookies! When you pull into the driveway, you'll think you're at someone's house. But the long takeout line gives it away. Something Natural is the perfect place to grab food for the beach, or to enjoy at one of the outdoor picnic tables spread all around their yard. Sandwiches cost between $5-$8, and are huge. Be sure to order just half, unless you're starved or sharing. Call ahead if you don't want to wait. Something Natural, 50 Cliff Rd.; tel.: 508-228-0504.

ICE CREAM
Afterwards, stop by the Juice Bar in the center of town. They scoop up fantastic homemade ice cream in fresh-baked waffle cones that my niece, nephew and I couldn't get enough of. The Juice Bar, 12 Broad St.; tel.: 508-228-5799.

SMOOTHIES
If you just want something light, cruise by the Juice Guys Juice Bar. I'm sure you have had (or at least heard of) their popular drink "Nantucket Nectars" (it's kind of like Snapple). The guys who created it are from Nantucket (duh!) and they own this shop. The Nantucket Nectars aren't any cheaper than at your local store (they charge $2), so skip the bottled juice and get one of their delicious and unusual smoothies. I had the PB & J smoothie (blueberries, strawberries, peanut butter, vanilla nonfat frozen yogurt and apple Juice). Sounds nasty, but boy was it good! Mmmm! The Juice Guys Juice Bar, 4 Easy St.; tel.: 1.888-TWO-TOMS. For more click HEREPosted by Picasa

Friday, September 22, 2006


THE BEACH
Nantucket has over 82 miles of pristine beaches, almost all of them open to the public. Madaket Beach is known for its amazing sunsets, but it isn't the beach for kids to swim. We packed up the car and went to Jetties and Children's Beaches. They're right next to each other on the north shore of the island (a 15-minute drive). There you find calm, shallow waters, a popular concession stand, and tons of screaming kids. To get a reprieve from the family atmosphere, the following day we went to different beaches. Surfside Beach was also crowded, so after lunch there we went a bit further down the road to Nobadeer Beach. Nobadeer is near the airport, not overly crowded, and was a perfect escape for an afternoon nap.

CRABBING
Every morning the kids woke up with the roosters. They would come into Frank's and my room, and beg us to take them fishing or crabbing. It was so early we couldn't even talk, but persistence pays off. Most mornings we jumped on the bikes and rode down to one of the bridges, with cut-up raw chicken as bait. The first couple of days the only things biting were big ol' dangerous snapping turtles (they loved our chicken). Finally, on the last day we changed locations and hit the jackpot (with the help of the neighbors). For more click HEREPosted by Picasa

Thursday, September 21, 2006


WHERE TO STAY
Nantucket has about 1,200 hotel rooms, in bed-and-breakfasts, inns and guesthouses. You shouldn't have a problem finding a place - if you book in advance. But my advice - because hotel rooms and restaurants aren't cheap -- is to rent a house for your stay. There are all kinds of houses available (not just my brother's, which you will soon learn about!), and you can rent by the weekend, week, month or season. Nantucket real estate agents offering rentals include: Denby Real Estate (tel.: 508-228-2522), Nantucket Real Estate (tel.: 800-228-4070) and Edith Delker Real Estate (tel.: 508-257-9698).

MADAKET
My brother Frank has two houses on Nantucket (lucky guy, huh?). Frank's a smart businessman, and uses these houses mainly as vacation rentals. One house is just a few blocks from the center of town (I wrote about it last year). His other house is in Madaket. Madaket is 5 miles from Town Center. Native Nantucketers actually used to have summer houses there, because it's cooler then the Town Center. Madaket is the perfect place for a family vacation. It's quiet, the unpretentious houses are not right on top of each other, and it's on the beach. Warning: The Madaket surf is rough. There are lifeguards, but you really have to watch out for the little ones.

FRANK'S HOUSE
Frank's house is just a five minute walk from the beach. It has three bedrooms (1,2,3), three baths (including a one bedroom/bath cottage with fancy toiletries), and sleeps six people comfortably. The big difference between his other house and this one is that when you go to sleep with the windows open you can hear (and smell) the ocean waves crashing nearby. The house also has an outdoor shower, wireless high-speed internet, and a washer/dryer. For more information on how to rent Frank's house, log on to this website. If you're more of a "town" person, here's the link to his house on Cliff Road.

YOU DON'T NEED A CAR
Another plus about vacationing in Nantucket is that you really don't need a car. One option is to ride bikes. Nantucket has beautiful flat terrain. There are over 24 miles of bicycle paths, so it's an ideal place to cruise around. Most inns and house rentals (including Frank's) are stocked with bikes. If yours does not have one, there are plenty of bike rental shops (some even deliver). I love riding around. Not only is it relaxing and a good workout, but you can read all the houses names without stopping (almost every house in Nantucket has a name). Some are pretty funny, like "Thar She Blows". Frank calls his house "Frankie Starlight." It's nice, but it sounds better suited to a porno star or mobster. For those who don't ride, the NRTA (Nantucket Regional Transit Authority) Shuttle operates every 30 minutes from 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. There are stops all around the island. The closest to Frank's house is just 100 yards away, in front of the West End Market. From there it's a quick 20-minute ride into town. All NRTA rides cost $2.

GROCERY STORES OR TAKE OUT CLAM BAKE
The best part about renting a house is that you can live like a local by going to the grocery store and cooking at "home." The island has two supermarkets: Grand Union and Stop & Shop. The prices are not much higher than the mainland (here's a comparison chart). Almost every meal we had was at Frank's house. The one night we didn't feel like cooking, we ordered a takeout clambake from Sayless Seafood (no one wanted to personally kill the lobsters). $35 a person gets Nantucket clam chowder, half a pound of steamers, half a pound of mussels, corn on the cob, steamed red potatoes, and a 1-� -pound lobster with butter and broth. Sayless Seafood, 99 Washington St.; tel.: 505-228-4599. For more click HEREPosted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Greetings from Nantucket! Last week (here's the link to the archives) we left off from my hometown in Connecticut. I was there for the second time in a week, visiting friends and family. Instead of flying back to L.A. as I was scheduled, I changed my ticket and traveled to Nantucket on a spur-of-the-moment trip with my brother and sisters. This was very special for us, because it was the first time we were all together without significant others. If you're up to hanging with my siblings -- and my entertaining niece and nephew -- for some good ol'-fashion family fun at my brother Frank's summer house, jump on board! The ferry to Nantucket is departing, and believe me: You don't want to miss this place. If you're in a hurry or have ADD, don't worry; there's a 2-minute Johnny Jet video at the end of this week's story.

BACKGROUND ON NANTUCKET
Nantucket lies 30 miles off the Massachusetts coast. It's an island, a town and a county -- the only place in the U.S. with the same name for all three. It is 14 miles east to west, 3 � miles north to south. That sounds tiny, but driving around it sure doesn't feel that way. The population of Nantucket is 12,000 year-round, but during the summer it swells to over 55,000. It's still not crowded, except in the town center and the popular beaches. The most impressive fact of all is that Nantucket lists more buildings in the National Register of Historic Places as totally preserved than anywhere else in Massachusetts -- including places like Boston, Plymouth and Salem. There are still more than 800 houses that were built before the Civil War!

TYPES OF BUILDINGS
Nantucket has strict laws. Homeowners can paint their houses in only 12 approved colors, and the variety is not wide: white, Main Street yellow, cottage red, Hamilton blue, Nantucket red, Newport blue, Nantucket blue, cobblestone, Quaker gray, Nantucket gray, chrome green and Essex green. Exterior colors aren't the only things needing approval. Don't even think about building a modern house on Nantucket. It ain't happening � in fact, not even skylights are allowed. Even hanging a sign on your door must meet certain standards. Houses on Nantucket are either Colonial style (with clapboard shingles) or Federal style (with brick). There are only a few Victorian structures, and some Greek revival buildings. An interesting fact is that most houses near town have turned stairwells. Instead of going straight out the door, they are turned to the side. This allowed houses to be built closer to the road, giving those homeowners bigger backyards for gardens. I like the stringent regulations (of course, I don't live there), because they preserve the 19th-century character of Nantucket, and there aren't many places in the U.S. where you can find this.

RECYLCING
Nantucket is also strict about recycling. My brother Frank learned this law the hard way. One of his first renters didn't recycle, and the trash collector refused to take his refuse until Frank sorted every bit of it. Frank dumped all the garbage in his yard, and sorted out metal, plastic, paper, cardboard and glass. He said it was the most disgusting thing he ever did. So remember to recycle in Nantucket (or wherever you are).

GETTING TO NANTUCKET
There are a few ways to get to Nantucket. We could have flown on a regional jet from either Newark (on Continental, tel.: 800-525-0280) or Philadelphia (on USAir , tel.: 800-428-4322). But those tickets aren't cheap, and with today's commercial air travel hassles we would not have saved much time -- if any. Another option was to fly on a real small plane with Cape Air (tel.: 800-352-0714; website FlyCapeAir.com) or Nantucket Airlines (tel.: 800-635-8787; website: NantucketAirlines.com ). Both offer hourly flights from Hyannis, Boston, New Bedford and Providence, R.I. In addition, Island Airlines (tel.: 800-248-7779, website) offers frequent flights and charters out of Hyannis. But I am not a big fan of small planes.

CAR FERRY TO NANTUCKET
So the best bet was to drive, then take a ferry. We packed up the cars, braved the I-95 traffic (it's not bad if you travel off-peak) and made it to Hyannis in four hours. Hyannis is a good-size port town on Cape Cod. Frank already has a car on Nantucket (as you will see, you really don't need a car on the island), so we did not have to take the slow car ferry operated by Steamship Authority (508-477-8600; website: SteamshipAuthority.com; summer one-way fares are adults $14, children 5-12 $7.25, children under 5 are free; car $175, bike $6). Not only does the car ferry take over two hours, but bringing an automobile on a summer weekend requires about a month's advance reservation.

OTHER FERRIES TO NANTUCKET
Another slow, economical way to get to Nantucket is Hy-Line Cruises (tel.: 800-492-8082; website: Hy-lineCruises.com). This traditional ferry takes just under two hours. Summertime one-way fares are adults $16.50, children 5-12 $8.25; children 4 and under are free. Both Hy-Line Cruises and Steamship Authority also operate high-speed catamarans, which take only an hour from Hyannis. Steamship Authority's high-speed service is called the Flying Cloud (tel.: 508-495-FAST; one-way tickets: adult $29.50; children 5-12 $22.25). Hy-Line Cruises (website; summer one-way fares are adults $36; children 5-12 $27; bikes $5). We took the Steamship Authority, because their schedule worked best for us. Getting on and off was a breeze -- even with everything we brought -- because they have bellmen who help passengers load and unload cars.

ARRIVING IN NANTUCKET
Unfortunately, my sisters, niece and nephew missed the ferry we were on by just 10 minutes (we drove separate cars -- and I told them not to stop at the Clinton Crossing outlet mall in Connecticut). The ferry ride was smooth. It was warm out, so we sat on the back deck and enjoyed the sunset. When the captain slowed the boat heading into port, contagious excitement filled the air. The views of the island were breathtaking. Stepping off the boat is like going back in time -- in a good way. Everything is so quaint, the locals are friendly, and there are no fast food chains � including Starbucks. Hallelujah! It was old school, but with all the modern conveniences.

HISTORY OF NANTUCKET
To better understand Nantucket, here's a brief history of the island. It was discovered in 1602 by Captain Bartholomew Gosnold. When he arrived, there were 1,500 Native Americans of the Wampanoag Tribe. In 1659 the English settlement began. Back then Nantucket was under the jurisdiction of New York. The "nine original purchasers" from Thomas Mayhew were Tristram Coffin, Thomas Macy, Christopher Hussey, Richard Swayne, Thomas Bernard, Peter Coffin, Stephen Greenleafe, John Swayne and William Pike. You still see those names all around town. From 1800 to 1840 Nantucket was considered the Whaling Capital of the World. At its peak, 88 Nantucket whaling ships sailing around the globe.

WHALING IN NANTUCKET
Whaling made Nantucket famous. Just like in the fictional book Moby-Dick, the Nantucket whalers hunted the sperm whale. It produced valuable spermaceti oil (wax) from the spermaceti organ located in its head. Before electricity, whalers used this oil to make candles. They sailed all over the world, hunting these mammoth mammals down. Ships were gone anywhere from two to five years. Along the way they picked up more manpower. That's why it was not unusual to see people from all parts of the planet -- Portuguese, South Pacific Islanders, Africans -- walking around Nantucket. To learn more about whaling and whales, check out the recently remodeled Whaling Museum at 13 Broad Street (tel.: 508-228-1894). My brother Frank also recommends reading the book In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex.

THE GREAT FIRE
In 1846 a "Great Fire" began in the middle of the night in Gary's Hat Shop. It destroyed the wharves and much of the business district, in part because the buildings were so close together and the streets were so narrow. Remarkably, no one died, yet the only building left standing was William Roache's accounting firm. His brick structure remains in Nantucket today. When the town was rebuilt the streets were wider � and every building on Main Street was constructed of brick. (Most are now covered by wood shingles).

TOURISM
Because of the fire and the steadily declining demand for whale oil after crude oil was discovered, the island underwent a severe depression. This continued until the islanders began promoting tourism. In 1881 a railroad was built from Steamboat Wharf to Surfside, where a new hotel was constructed. In 1917 the railroad was washed out by a major storm. Today only one rail car remains � it's attached to the Club Car Restaurant (website: www.theclubcar.com). In 1918, cars were permitted on Nantucket.

HISTORY TOURS
Nantucket is full of history. There are so many interesting facts and stories. Walking around on the Town Center's cobblestone streets is a treat. I learned a great deal by taking an 80-minute tour, given by the Historical Society last year. Tours depart every day from the Whaling Museum at 11:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. The cost is $10, and groups are limited to 20 people (dogs are welcome!). For more click HEREPosted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


L.A TO JFK ON UNITED
p.s. service began a couple of years ago. It's designed for bicoastal business travelers who are willing to pay more. These flights can sometimes be triple the cost of United's competitors, and frequent miles are rarely available for these routes. The planes are reconfigured 757s (single aisle planes). There are three classes of service, which is very unusual for a 757. A typical United 757 normally holds 182 passengers, but these planes are outfitted for only 110. First class has 12 leather-trimmed, lie-flat seats. Business has 26 spacious leather seats. Both classes come with individual handheld DVD players, with 10 entertainment choices and noise-reduction headsets. Economy's 72 seats all offer United Economy Plus seating (5 inches more legroom than normal economy). The extra legroom is key for me. I really enjoy that all classes of service have electrical outlets, so passengers can power up their laptops or electrical devices the entire flight. Economy does not include a free meal service. It's Buy On Board, with good choices of sandwiches, salads or snack boxes for $5. I had the chicken salad made by Trader Vic's; it was a great value. For more info on Unitedps.com.

FINDING AIRLINE NUMBERS AND WEBSITES
If you're looking for an airline phone number or website, and an internet search gives you too many choices, log on to our recently redesigned AirlineNumbers.com page. You can find any airline website in the world, and the phone number. (If we missed one, please let us know).

CONNECTICUT
Connecticut was great as usual this time of year. The weather was perfect. It was especially nice because all my siblings and my dad were in town. We took my niece and nephew to the beach and they wore me down. But as you will see next week, this was only the beginning of our family adventure. Instead of going back to L.A. as originally planned, I changed my ticket for no additional fee (a perk when using your miles). All of us (except my dad) hopped in the car for a very special trip to Nantucket. For more click HEREPosted by Picasa

Monday, September 18, 2006


LOS ANGELES
I had to go back to L.A. to redo some voiceovers for the pilot TV show I shot back in May. It was my first time home in a while. As much as I love where I live (near the beach), after finishing a morning's worth of work I wanted to head back to the East Coast. I prefer the East Coast in summertime -- maybe because the beach in L.A. is always crowded with tourists this time of year. But the real reasons are because the East Coast is where my roots are, and in the summer there is so much to do -- plus everyone is in a good mood (unless it's terribly hot). I also wanted to go back because my cousins were having a mini -family reunion, and my dad was coming to town. Besides, I just received a copy of the finished TV pilot, and I was excited to show it to my dad and siblings. BTW: It came out great, and they all loved it. I know what you're thinking: Of course they said they liked it; they'd never say anything else. But you don't know my family and friends. They're brutally honest, and if it sucked, I would never hear the end of it. Thank God it didn't. Now we're just waiting to see if a popular channel will pick up the show. Keep your fingers crossed!

UNITED MILES
All the last minute, coast-to-coast fares were pricing out in the low $400s. Instead of paying with cash, I logged into some of my frequent flier accounts. I checked American, Continental, Delta, USAir and United. Surprisingly, United -- which flies the Premium Service (called p.s.) between Los Angeles and San Francisco to JFK -- had a seat available for only 25,000 miles, and a $5 security fee. Unfortunately, on October 16 United will implement a $75 fee for travel ticketed six days or less prior to departure. There will be a $50 fee for travel ticketed 7-13 days prior to departure, but no fee for travel ticketed 14 days or more prior to departure. I think that rule stinks. It should either be eliminated, or switched around. It make no sense. If a seat is not sold within six days, chances are it will go out empty. Why not reward your loyal customers instead of gouging them?

EMMY'S PARTY
This past Saturday night I attended Entertainment Weekly's 4th annual Pre-Emmy Party at Republic (tel.: 310 -289-6200) in West Hollywood. The indoor/outdoor restaurant/lounge was packed with Emmy nominees, presenters and attendees. There were so many celebs, they even had Lindsay Lohan as a guest DJ. My highlights were running into a bunch of friends and family) from both coasts. The coolest actor I met was Anthony Michael Hall (Sixteen Candles, Breakfast Club �). He was so funny -- just like in his movies. I was sitting on the couch with a bunch of friends when he came up to me and said, "How do you have five beautiful women surrounding you?" I joked, "That's how I roll." He laughed, stuck out his hand, and hung out with us for a while. For more click HEREPosted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


A GREAT MEDITERRANEAN RESTAURANT
Later that evening my brother and our friend David (David's new book came out a few days ago) of ours discovered a great New York City restaurant. Shocker, huh? Just kidding -- it's not too difficult to find good food in New York, but this was something new for me. The place was called Beyoglu, and we chose it because it looked good from across the street. It was packed with patrons, while other nearby restaurants had only a few customers. It was still early -- 6:30 p.m. -- for dinner in NYC, so we got a table without waiting. When I sat down and saw the menu I thought, "Oh no - this place is Greek!" (I'm not a big fan of Greek food -- at least, I think I'm not). The pretty waitress was within earshot. She corrected me: "No, it's Turkish!" I don't know if there is a big difference between the two, but I saw a few interesting and appealing dishes. One, Mercimek Kofte, was made of finely ground lentil and cracked wheat, spiced with hot red peppers. I'm so happy that I kept an open mind, and didn't get up to leave. This restaurant turned out to be a real gem. Everyone's food was so good, including the shepherd's salad, chicken breast, Turkish coffee, orange sorbet, and the best baklava ever! Well, this might have been my first time actually having baklava, but this light fluffy phyllo dough-filled pastry with pistachios and honey won't be my last. Neither will my visit to Beyoglu. Beyoglu, 1431 3rd Ave. (cross street: 81st St.); tel.: 212-650-0850. Click here to see the menu. For more click HEREPosted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Hello from the good ol' U-S-of-A! Before we get started I would like to say our heart and prayers go out to all of those involved in this week's Comair - Delta Airlines Flight 5191 crash in Lexington, KY. It is really disturbing when a plane goes down anywhere, but it really hits home when it's an American carrier on U.S. soil. At times like these the fear of flying pops into our heads, but we have to remind ourselves that air travel is much safer than car. You have a 1 in 11,000,000 chance of being involved in a plane crash. Your chances of being killed in an automobile accident are 1 in 5,000. That's scary! Back to our newsletter: Last week (here's the link to the archives) we left off in Budapest, Hungary; this week we travel back to the States. First stop: New York City. Then Los Angeles for an Emmy party. And the third � you just have to scroll down to find out. If you're down for racking up some serious frequent flier miles, jump on board. We're off to the greatest land on earth: America!

BUDAPEST'S AIRPORT (FERIHEGY)
I kept hearing that Budapest has two airports, and that travelers should make sure to find out which one they're flying out of (or into) to make sure they know the right one. It sounded like they were miles apart, but they're not. Whoever told me must have been on crack, because there is only one Budapest international airport -- with three connecting terminals. The first, Ferihegy 1, is for budget airlines. The second, Ferihegy 2A, is for all Mal�v Hungarian Airlines flights. The last is Ferihegy 2B, for foreign airlines. When I arrived at 2A after a 25-minute, 4,500 HUF = $21 USD) taxi ride from the city, I was almost two hours early. There was no line to check in at either the Mal�v counter or security. NOTE: This was before the U.K. security scare.

BUDAPEST TO NEW YORK'S JFK
I flew Mal�v because they had the cheapest last-minute one-way ticket I could find -- and a non-stop flight. (Delta Airlines has the other nonstop to the U.S.). Mal�v flies a 767 on this route. The coach seats did not have much legroom, but I was able to use my laptop � though it was a tight squeeze. The service wasn't very good, even though the flight attendants were friendly � they just didn't come around too often. They served one hot meal and a cold sandwich on the 4,360-mile, 9 hour and 20 minute flight.

JFK'S TERMINAL 8
We arrived in New York at Terminal 8 -- one of American Airlines' terminals. It was a long, depressing walk to customs. One passenger, rushing like everyone else, said to her husband, "It's a shame foreigners have to be welcomed to the greatest country of all by this dilapidated building." I couldn't have agreed more. Come on, people! Spend a few dollars to put some fresh paint on the wall and get a new carpet, so visitors and returning citizens can feel good. Walking down the long, dark aisle made me feel like I was on death row. Seriously, I have arrived at much nicer terminals in third world countries! It was embarrassing -- and not only that, but baggage claim was the worst I have ever seen. Period! The building had a low ceiling; it was dark, old and filthy, and completely packed with tired, hot, confused travelers. There was no communication; everyone went from one claim to another, and bags took over an hour to come out. Note: This was not Malev's problem. I'm not sure who was to blame, but I'm guessing American.

NEW YORK CITY
I was on the East Coast for two days. I spent the first one in New York City. I had lunch with a friend who lives across the street from Regis and Kelly's studio. As we walked out of his place, a small crowd gathered around. My buddy told me to see which star was signing autographs. Like a monkey, I did. It was Kevin Smith from "Clerks." I never thought much of him, but after watching and talking with him for a few minutes, I realized he's a really nice guy. He made sure to sign autographs and take pictures with everyone. I also visited some friends at PJ, Inc., a PR firm in lower Manhattan. For more click HEREPosted by Picasa

Sunday, September 10, 2006


ST. STEPHEN'S CHURCH (BAZILIKA)
Mike and Henrietta's ceremony the following day was at St. Stephen's Church (Hungarians call it the Basilica; in Hungarian, "Bazilika"). The largest church in Hungary, it took 54 years to build � it was completed in 1905. Walking through the oversized doors the first time, I almost wanted to cry. I could not believe how beautiful this place was. I also couldn't believe my best friend was getting married -- putting serious pressure on me, since he was the last of my high school friends to tie the knot. Even if you are not Catholic, this church is a must visit. St. Stephen's Church, V. Szent Istvan t�r 33; tel.: 36-1-317-2859.

MIKE AND HENRIETTA'S WEDDING
Mike and Henrietta's ceremony was amazing. I love going to destination weddings. Not only do I get to see a far-off land, but I can spend quality time with the bride and groom's friends and family. It's not a 4-hour event where I talk only to the person sitting next to me at dinner. This wedding definitely surpassed everyone's expectations � even his Italian family, who are the toughest critics out there because they didn't think a wedding outside Italy could be pulled off to their high standards. Boy, were they wrong! They knew it the moment they walked through St. Stephen's Church, then again when they walked into the Four Seasons Hotel (called Gresham Palace) for the reception. As you can see in the video below, Mike and Henrietta began their new life together in style. And the Four Seasons' hospitality was the best I've ever seen at a wedding. It was incredible -- just like my trip to Budapest. For more click HEREPosted by Picasa

Friday, September 08, 2006


SZENTENDRE
Szentendre, which translates to Saint Andrew, is a historic town 21 kilometers (13 miles) north of Budapest. There are a few different ways to get here, but your best in the summer is by boat. It's an hour-long popular river cruise up the Danube to this touristy historic town, but it's definitely worth a day visit. Mike and Henrietta chartered a boat; regular cruises cost around 1.785 HUF = $8.25. The charming town has a Mediterranean feel, thanks to Serbians settlers who came here in the 17th century. Szentendre is filled with cobblestone streets, beautiful buildings and many Serbian churches. Today it's an artists colony, and in between all the souvenir shops you can find lots of museums and galleries.

DINNER IN SZENTENDRE
The rehearsal dinner was at the Promenade restaurant. It's owned by a Austrian man who takes pride in making his guests happy � that's the feeling that I got. I know Mike had that feeling too, after dining there a few times. The soup, chicken, fish and dessert were delicious, and the service was excellent. Just watch out for the hot peppers growing in the pots on the table -- and bring bug spray if you're there after dark. Promenade Restaurant, H-2000 Szentendre, Futo utca 4 � Dunakorzo; tel.: 36-2-631-2626. For more click HEREPosted by Picasa

Thursday, September 07, 2006


PLACES TO SEE
There are so many attractions to see in Budapest, and each could have a book written about them � but I can't do that. I'll just briefly list and describe the ones I visited -- and I highly recommend a good guidebook. I used Frommer's Budapest & the Best of Hungary, but there are plenty others to choose from.

CASTLE HILL
Don't miss Castle Hill, the city's most noticeable landmark. The easiest way to get there is to walk across the Chain Bridge and take the funicular (650 HUF = $3). Castle Hill is in a cool medieval neighborhood. It comprises the royal palace and numerous museums, including the Hungarian National Gallery (free) and Budapest History Museum (800 HUF = $3.70). There's also the Gothic Matthias Church (600 HUF = $2.75), which operates as a museum during the day and has walls painted like Turkish carpets. TIP: If you plan to visit a lot of sights, save some money with a Budapest Card. An adult and one child up to 14 years of age get unlimited travel on public transportation, free or discounted entry to 60 museums and several sights, a sightseeing tour for half price, and more. They are valid for either 48 hours (5.200 HUF =$24 ) or 72 hours (6.500 = $30).

CENTRAL MARKET HALL
The city's largest indoor market is Central Market Hall (Nagy Vasarcsarnok). It was built in 1873, and the place is huge. You can find all kinds of fresh produce, meat and flowers there. We bought 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) of raspberries for $3! Go early in the morning when everything is fresh. On the second floor you can buy typical souvenirs, and hot food at a cafe. Central Market Hall (Nagy Vasarcsarnok): Monday: 6 a.m.- 5 p.m.; Tuesday-Friday: 6 a.m.- 6 p.m.; Saturday: 6 a.m.- 2 p.m.; closed Sunday. Central Market Hall, 1093 Budapest, Vamhaz k�r�t 1-3;tel.: 36-1-366-3300.

THERMAL BATHS
Budapest is known throughout the world for its incredible thermal baths. The two most popular are Gellert Baths and Szechenyi Baths.

GELLERT BATH
The Gellert's opened in 1918. It's located inside the Danubius Hotel Gellert, and boasts two effervescent baths, three outdoor pools and eight thermal baths. The indoor pool is famous for its marble columns, tiles and stone lion-head fountains. Its image is reproduced often, including the cover of the Frommer's guidebook. Admission: 2200 HUF ($10). Danubius Hotel Gellert, 1111 Budapest, Szent Gellert ter 1; tel.: 36-1-889-5500.

SZECHENYI BATH
Szechenyi spa is the largest medicinal bath complex in Europe. Built in 1913, it recently had a makeover. The bright yellow building looks very nice and the Szechenyi Baths are supposedly the hottest and deepest baths in Budapest. The water is filled with rich minerals, and the spa's special healing capabilities are recommended for treating rheumatism and disorders of the nervous system, joints and muscles. Admission: 1700 HUF ($8). Szechenyi spa, allatkerti k�r�t 11; tel.: 36-1-363-3210.

STATUE PARK (SZOBORPARK MUSEUM)
A bunch of people who actually never visited Statue Park told me it wasn't worth the 20-minute drive. But I wanted to see for myself. I'm glad I went, because as a history major I found the museum park quite interesting. You don't need a lot of time to look around the place, which was nearly empty of tourists. I saw only two or three, checking out the old Communist-era huge statues that used to be located in the city. They were moved here in 1989, and the park opened three years later. The statues are memorials to figures of Hungarian and international communism, including Vladimir Lenin, Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, the Red Army and a bunch more. None of these guys need to be idolized, but it's important to some people to keep the historical objects on display. If you don't have a private car I'm not sure it's worth the visit, because it's out of the way in the southern part of Buda. Admission: 600 HUF ($2.75). The park is open every day, from 10 a.m. to sunset. Szoborpark Museum, 1223 Budapest, Balatoni Road - Szabadkai Street; tel.: 36-1-424-7500. HEREPosted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


DINING
we had too many meals (including delicious goulash dishes) to list. You won't have a difficult problem finding good local food. My two favorite restaurants were converted boats that no longer cruise, but are still located on the Danube River with great views.

SPOON CAFE
Spoon Cafe & Lounge is just a few blocks from the Marriott, directly across from the Inter Continental. My favorite dish was definitely the cold Strawberry soup. It sounds nasty, and I was never a fan of cold soup, but I tried it. It was so ridiculously good I went back a second time. You have to love the Hungarians for mastering cold fruit soups. On a hot day they hit the spot. I don't think anyone makes them better than the Hungarians. The menu is in both Hungarian and English. Spoon Cafe & Lounge, H-1052 Budapest, Vigad� ter, Pier 3; tel.: 36-1-411-0933.

THE A38 SHIP RESTAURANT
The other place was the A38 Ship restaurant. Once a Ukrainian stone-carrier ship, this has been turned into a popular club and restaurant. For lunch I had another tasty cold soup. This time it was plum, and boy was it tasty! Don't get me started - I'm starting to get hungry again! The menu was unique, and the service was good. The A38 Ship restaurant, tel.: 36-1-464-39- 46; email restaurant@a38.hu.

GERBEAUD CAFE
You can't miss the legendary Gerbeaud cafe. Built in 1858 and remodeled in 1997, it's just a few blocks from the hotel and a block in from the Danube. This cafe serves delicious coffee, pastries, appetizers and ice cream. They boast they are the largest, most traditional and most famous cafe-confectioners in Europe. Gerbeaud House, 1051 Budapest, V�r�smarty ter 7.; tel.: 36-1- 429-9020. For more click HEREPosted by Picasa

Saturday, September 02, 2006


BUDAPEST MARRIOTT HOTEL
The Marriott hotel is listed as 5 stars. Although it was very nice and comfortable, it wasn�t quite worthy of that listing � particularly when compared to the 5-star Four Seasons a few blocks down the street. That might change, however, because the Marriott hotel just began a total refurbishment, to be completed by the end of 2007. What I liked about the hotel is that all 362 guest rooms overlook the Danube in the heart of Budapest (on the Pest side). The service was good, the elevators were fast, the lobby was plush and the hotel had high-speed internet (6500 HUF = $30 a day, or 1.900 HUF = $9 an hour). Off-season rack room rates start at $190 a night, but you can find cheaper prices on the internet (ahem� JohnnyJet.com). The HUF 5900 ($27) American breakfast buffet is not included. Budapest Marriott Hotel, Apaczai Csere Janos u. 4., Budapest, 1052 Hungary; tel.: 36-1-266-7000. For more click HEREPosted by Picasa

Friday, September 01, 2006


OVERVIEW OF BUDAPEST
Budapest is made up of three cities: Buda, Pest and �buda. In 1873 they officially merged into Budapest. The city's main attractions and most expensive hotels lie on the banks of the Danube River. Most of the hotels are in Pest (the flat side of the city, also known as the Right Bank). On the other side of the river is Buda, the Left Bank and the hilly side with Castle Hill (regarded as the most beautiful part of the city). �buda is located outside the city center north of Buda, and is not as interesting as the other two. Eight bridges link Buda and Pest -- five of them in the city center. The most famous is Sz�chenyi Chain Bridge. It's called the Chain Bridge because the roadway is suspended from what looks like a huge bicycle chain. It was built in 1849, and rebuilt exactly a hundred years later (after the Nazis blew it up). The Chain Bridge is not even close to as beautiful as the Charles Bridge in Praha, but on summer weekends it shares some of the same excitement when it is closed to automobile traffic. That's the best time to walk across, see beautiful views and sample local music and inexpensive food, in what looks like a small fair on both sides. To better understand Budapest, including its 22 districts (called ker�lets, abbreviated as ker.), check out this link to Frommers.com Budapest review.

FOR THE BEST VIEWS
The ride from the train station (and the airport) made it seem like the city really isn't that nice. However, once we got closer to our hotel, which lay on the banks of the Danube River, the entire feel of the city changed drastically. The view from my room was breathtaking � especially because the sun was setting. A few minutes later, when the sky got dark, lights lit up the city's main attractions and the view became magical. For the best views, head to Gell�rt Hill. Go up once during the day and again at night, to see both perspectives. Don't miss the Citadella (tel. 1-365-6076, also on Gell�rt Hill. It was built by the Habsburgs in the mid-19th century. I didn't go inside to see its museum, budget hotel or restaurant because I was so mesmerized by its exterior. A short walk away is the statue of St. Gell�rt and the Liberation Monument. Both also offer views of the city. For more info visit Citadella.hu. For more click HEREPosted by Picasa