Los Angeles Travel and Adventure Show

I spent most of Saturday at the Long Beach Convention Center visiting the Los Angeles Travel and Adventure Show there this weekend. Billed as, “The First Stop on Your Next Trip,” the show will visit San Francisco on March 5 -6, and Philadelphia on March 19 – 20.

If you want travel inspiration and to discover new places to visit, I encourage you to attend. There are travel destinations near (in California), somewhat near (the United States) and far at the show with brochures, information, and show specials and discounts for new and more seasoned travelers alike.

Entering the show, attendees were greeted by large booths from Fiji, Indonesia, Taiwan and China.

I met some friendly faces from Korea in the Visit Korea booth.


Some dancers from Thailand entertained the crowd.


In a large area focused on Japan, there was a model of the Shinkansen “bullet train” with the Central Japan Railway Company, and a cooking display in the Japan National Tourism Organization booth.


New Orleans Bill and his team were sharing samples of his New Orleans potato salad  and Sweet Potato Cookies in the Cuisine Noir Magazine booth. They were having fun sharing a bit of New Orleans with us!


New Orleans Bill and his crew. His potato salad is available in the deli counters of Walmart and Albertson’s locally in Los Angeles.

There were several stages throughout the convention hall with noted travel experts sharing their travel experiences and insight – pictured below (left to right) are Rick Steves, Samantha Brown and Angel Castellanos.

Many exhibits offered interactive features – attendees could ride Segways from Long Beach Segway Tours, climb a rock climbing wall in the Yosemite Experience Pavilion, and take an Olympic ski jump by virtual reality in the Korea booth (Pyeong Chang, Korea, is hosting the Winter Olympics in 2018).

While I enjoyed learning about new destinations to discover – Iran and the Cook Islands were two of my favorites – there were also travel resources at the show. Los Angeles World Airports had information about the long overdue modernization and transformation of LAX – LAX is happening! In addition to learning about updated food and shopping options and the new Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), I was interested to learn about a coming central car rental facility, people mover, and links to Metro. You could learn about acquiring a U.S. passport or joining the Global Entry program from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. I was impressed by the new website www.HeadingHomeHealthy.org that compiles information on travel outside the United States from the Centers for Disease Control in a more user-friendly format.

There were many travel products at the show too. The Lazar’s Luggage booth was popular and offered discounts on travel packing items. Lazar’s Luggage is a luggage superstore in Sherman Oaks. I really liked this small wheelie bag decorated with graphic flowers.


I love this flower wheelie-bag that was at the Lazar’s Luggage booth.

The ScottEvest offers men’s and women’s tech-oriented travel vests, jackets and sweaters. There are many pockets in each design to stow your phone, e-book reader, iPad, credit cards, earphones and more. I particularly liked the sweater which offers deep pockets (and zippers to stow some cash or a credit card).

Tep Wireless offers a private wireless hotspot while you travel – you can either rent their device for one-off trips, or purchase one to keep (and then pay for wireless whenever you use it).

Tep Wireless's private hotspot device.

Tep Wireless’s private hotspot device.

A new undergarment option for women, the Travel Bra, seems like a promising new product. Built within the bra are pockets for a passport, credit cards and a USB device – a great way to keep your most important travel items safe while exploring the world. The Makeup Eraser, is a polyester cloth that when wet with only water, removes all types of makeup. The cloth is machine washable, so it seems like a great alternative to make-up removers (and easy to take on the road).

I was really excited by the vests offered by Stuffa – puff vests with internal pockets that fit several days worth of clothes. I tried the vests on – and even though all the items on the table were stored in the vest, it was easy to wear and felt light. I spoke with the founder of the company, Sandro Cafasso, and he said he designed the vests so that he could get away for the weekend without needing to bring a bag. I thought it would be a great way to bring some extra clothes on a flight if your wheelie bag is full.


The Stuffa booth

All of these items fit in the Stuffa vest!

All of these items fit in the Stuffa vest!


The Stuffa vest for women

Go Sleep is a combination of a memory foam pillow and an eye mask with straps that you attach to a seat back or head rest, enabling you to sleep upright while traveling. I can’t wait to try this on my next long-haul flight.


My favorite find of the show was from Otto Trading – they were showcasing a mini personal message device. It’s the size of a small ipod with medical pads that you can place anywhere on your body that needs a massage. There are different modes of massage to choose, and you can select the strength of the massage. It felt a bit weird at first, but then it started feeling really good. I asked my fellow blogging friend Kat to try it too – and we both ended up buying one. I have already tried it at home, and it gave my sore shoulder a nice massage while I was watching the Oscars last night. I think this would be a perfect fit for traveling – you can massage sore muscles after a long-haul flight or after a day of walking and sightseeing.


Kat and I enjoying the UniMed Massager.

I met and talked to so many people at the show, and I barely scratched the surface of all the vendors that were on display. Here is a quick run-down of who I met:

  • Alaska’s Inside Passage – the ladies at this booth told me about reasonably priced flights to Juneau on Alaskan Airlines from LAX via Seattle. Once in Juneau, an alternative to an Alaskan cruise would be to take a ferry to different towns.
  • Avianca Airlines – a Star Alliance partner, I chatted with them about their new Dreamliner service that flies direct from Los Angeles to Bogota, Colombia.
  • Bayou Lafourche, LA – the gateway to Cajun country
  • Best of Croatia – small ship Adriatic Cruises – Croatia is one of my favorite countries, and I would love to cruise the Croatian coast again in a small ship. We also talked about the wonderful lavender from the island of Hvar.
  • Czech Tourism – I saw the director of the Los Angeles office, Vojtěch Kačerovský, again, and said I still hope to travel to the Czech Republic soon.
  • Destination British Columbia – I looked at the map, saw that I’ve only been to Vancouver and Whistler, and realized that there is so much more to explore in this Canadian province.
  • Enjoy the Mountain – Adventure and off-road experiences (think off-road Segways!) in Southern California.
  • G Adventures – they are partnering with National Geographic on tours, and have multiple tour options to travel all over the world.
  • Gilroy Welcome Center – I have stayed in Gilroy when visiting the Monterey Peninsula, but have yet to visit their famous Garlic Festival in the summer.
  • Hande Tour – a luxury tour operator in Vietnam, one of my favorite destinations. They also offer trips throughout Southeast Asia.
  • Infinite Safari Adventures – I met this Studio City-based tour operator a few years ago at the show. Chairman and Founder Alan Feldstein and VP of Marketing Diane Haithman talked to me about the state of conservation efforts for elephants and rhinos in Africa – it was good to hear that things are improving. I like that they offer unique, custom wildlife adventures in Africa – one example is the ability to kayak off the coast of Tanzania.
  • Iran Doostan Tours – as I was standing at this booth, another attendee approached and said, “You’ve got to be kidding, right?” She was fearful of traveling to Iran, so I told her that I would happily travel to Iran. Iran Doostan Tours offers several tour options, including hiking and cave explorations. They also had a wonderful map – I love looking at country maps!
  • Israel Ministry of Tourism – in this booth I met Nir Margalith, the founder of Puzzle Israel, and his US marketing director Deb Lust Zaluda. Nir is a chef and created tours that feature Israeli guides and staff, and more experiential tours in Israel. I was particularly interested in their food tours and their yoga tours. On the back of the Puzzle Israel brochures were photos (and recipes) of delicious looking Israeli dishes.
  • Pishgharavolan – another Iranian tour operator. There was a helpful information sheet with information for US passport holders interested in traveling to Iran (how to obtain a visa, if Iran is safe, etc.). Here I learned that the exchange rate is ideal for Americans wanting to travel to Iran as its cheaper than ever. They also had a map of Iran to share.
  • Romanian Tourist Office – I met Nicolae Aldea of Romania Tours, and he jokingly (I think)  said he could help me meet Dracula when I visit Romania. His company offers tours in Romania but also include visits to other neighboring countries.
  • Rovos Rail – offering luxury train travel through South Africa and neighboring countries in Africa. They too had a beautiful map that displayed their train route options – a great and luxurious way to explore southern Africa.
  • Slovenia Tourism Office – there were beautiful brochures about Slovenia to encourage travelers to discover your #ifeelsLOVEnia. I asked about Ljubljana the European Green Capital and the capital of the country, as I have learned a bit about it from some twitter chats – it looks like a beautiful city, and I hope I can visit there soon.
  • Tourism Malaysia – I hope to visit Malaysia one day, perhaps in conjunction with a visit to the Malaysian Formula 1 Grand Prix.
  • Via Corsa Magazine – billed as, “The Car Traveler Magazine,” this is a new publication that publishes quarterly.
  • Yamnuska Mountain Adventures – hiking, rock climbing and ice climbing in the Canadian Rockies, and there are trips for all experience levels.

This list is a small sample of the tour operators, destinations, travel suppliers and travel products at the Travel and Adventure Show. But with so many exhibitors, there is surely something to meet everyone’s interests.

Another bonus of attending the show was catching up with friends in the travel industry. As I was leaving the show floor, I bumped into Mike Siegel of Travel Tales Podcast, and we chatted about the show and Formula E car racing. Once outside the Long Beach Convention Center, I saw Russell Edmond, Kat Von B and Sarah Good taking a break. After sitting for a few minutes to refresh and grabbing some iced coffee, we headed back inside to listen to Rick Steves talk and do one last run through the show. Sarah, Kat and I then met up with Nick Kontis and headed across the street to the Auld Dubliner for a drink. While there Michael Bennett of Muddy Shoe Adventures and Annie Neukomm from Interlaken Tourism joined us. It was nice to share some laughs and travel stories with people that love to travel as much as I do.

The Travel and Adventure Show will return to Los Angeles (and other cities) in 2017, but there is still an opportunity for people in San Francisco to attend the show there this coming weekend, or in Philadelphia March 19-20. Check the Travel Show website for more details.




Travel Treasures: Portugal, Singapore, Italy and Vietnam

It was a typical “June Gloom” morning here in Southern California yesterday, and I decided to bake some muffins for breakfast to help brighten my day.

I served the muffins on a small plate I recently purchased when I was in Portugal, and I used a placemat that I brought back from Singapore.

IMG_7608I love using items from my travels at home – it reminds me of my trip to a different part of the world, the people I met, the food I ate, and then shop or market where I purchased the item.

The plate I purchased in a gift shop in Fatima, Portugal, outside of the town center. We stopped there before visiting Fatima and the site of the apparitions of three local children in 1917. I love the blue and white colors of this small plate. It is the perfect size for small snacks, a sandwich, or in this case, muffins.

The placemats I purchased along with other printed fabrics in the Little India section of Singapore. I do not remember much other than I bought different sets of placemats and napkins for friends and family.

This morning, the sun was shining, and I used a bowl from Sorrento, Italy, and a ceramic juice glass from Vietnam for my breakfast.

IMG_7616The bowl I found in a ceramic shop run by the artist, on one of the streets in Sorrento. His work had a pale blue color to it, and most of the items had an ocean theme. You can see some of the fish swimming at the top of the bowl.

The ceramic juice cup I purchased in Can Tho, Vietnam, at the Victoria Can Tho resort. When our group arrived to check-in, we were greeted with hand towels and fruit juice in these ceramic cups. I have bowls at home in a similar style – a matte brown glaze on the outside, and the inside muted colors. The cups are the perfect size for a small juice, and they are dishwasher safe. When I have juice for breakfast, I fondly remember my time at this lovely colonial hotel.

What are your favorite treasures from your travels? Do you bring back dishware to use at home?


Taking Flight for #FriFotos

Last week, the theme for #FriFotos was FLIGHT. Finally I was able to share some of the photos I took from an airplane! I used to always want to sit in an aisle seat when flying, for easy access to the bathroom and to be able to stretch my legs. But, once I was seated at the window after a long-time of aisle-only seats, I saw that being by the window was fun – looking at landmarks, seeing the airport during take-off or landing, and spotting other planes in the sky.

Here are some of my photos from last Friday (May 30th). This week’s theme is colorful, so get your photos ready to post on Friday, June 5, 2015!

Aer Lingus planes in Dublin.

Aer Lingus planes in Dublin.

This bird is taking a break from flying and resting on the Manhattan Beach Pier.

Resting on the Manhattan Beach Pier, January 2015.

Resting on the Manhattan Beach Pier, January 2015.

Here is a view from my seat flying from San Diego up to San Francisco. Whenever I fly up the California coast, I try to sit in a window seat on the right side of the plane.


Flying San Diego to San Francisco in October, 2013.

Leaving Los Angeles (LAX) and going east across the country, most planes bank to the south and then fly over the Palos Verdes peninsula. It was a beautifully clear day in December when I took this photo (en route to Newark).


Beautiful view of the Palos Verdes peninsula. Torrance, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach – the “South Bay” are just up the coast.

Arriving into Los Angeles, the approach is from the east. Here, as the sun sets, you can see downtown LA in the distance and the beautiful mountains.

Approaching LAX, December 2014.

Approaching LAX, December 2014.

One of my happiest views from an airplane is when we fly to Hawaii, especially when we visit Kauai, our favorite island. Even though it was overcast and rainy the day we landed, we were excited to return for a relaxing stay.

Arriving into Kauai, December 2013.

Arriving into Kauai, December 2013.

Do you have any fun photos from your flights?

New to #FriFotos? Here’s a quick guide on the rules by Jeffrey Epstein.

#FriFotos was started on 15 October 2010 by Jonathan Epstein (@EpsteinTravels). Jonathan is the President and Owner of Celebrated Experiences, a company focusing on travel to the UK and Ireland. He is passionate about photography, his favorite hobby. Each week Jonathan cohosts #FriFotos with Stephanie Diehl (@TravelDesigned), Charles Yap (@CharlesYap), and Spencer Spellman (@SpencerSpellman). Jeffrey Epstein (@jeffreyinmotion), CEO of HBIM was a key advisor in the creation of #FriFotos and continues to assist in the Forum’s growth and success.

Morning Walk: Salamanca

It is hard to believe that a month ago today, my Insights Vacations tour of Amazing Spain and Portugal was coming to an end. Our group arrived in the late afternoon to Salamanca and checked in to the beautiful Hotel Alameda Palace. We all went on a treasure-hunt type walk of the city, looking for figures on some of the city’s buildings and were then on our own for dinner.

Hotel Alameda Palace in Salamanca.

Hotel Alameda Palace in Salamanca seen in the early morning.

When I woke the next day, I could see the early morning light casting a beautiful glow on some of the buildings from my hotel room window. I decided to quickly pack my bags and head out for a walk through the city before breakfast and our departure shortly thereafter.

The pedestrian streets were empty – it seemed that no one except for the street cleaners and trash collectors were out, so I was able to walk quickly through the streets trying to capture some golden light on the buildings and churches.

Golden morning light makes the top of this Salamanca church glow.

Golden morning light makes the top of this Salamanca church glow.

I probably needed to be outside the old city boundary in order to see the sun encasing the buildings in light, as walking within the old town, only the very tops of the structures were lit. It was still fun to walk around on my own and see the buildings with no crowds in front of them, unlike our walk the day before when it seemed like everyone was out enjoying the beautiful night.

The Church of San Juan de Sahagun was just down Calle Toro and could be seen from my hotel, with its spire brilliantly lit by the morning sun.

Salamanca church full

Church of San Juan de Sahagun in Salamanca, Spain.

After walking through the empty Plaza Mayor, I came to this street with two prominent buildings that made you look up to the sky to see their detail – the Iglesia de la Clerecia and the Casa de las Conchas, both had a beautiful orange glow thanks to the morning sun.

Salamanca churches red

On the left is Iglesia de la Clerecia and on the right you see the Casa de las Conchas.

The new cathedral in Salamanca is a massive late Gothic and Baroque structure completed between the 16th and 18th centuries. It took forever to walk around the perimeter of the building to see if it was open this early in the morning. Sadly, it was closed until 10:00 am, well after our bus would be departing. The previous night, we arrived shortly after it closed but we saw people walking along the top of the building – it must be a beautiful vantage point to see the entire city.

Salamanca cathedralI saw some beautiful street art on some of the walls covering work being done on the buildings. I am not sure of the style but I saw it repeated in several places.

Salamanca street artSalamanca street art closeLooking up, I thought I saw some nests up above.

I think these storks have the best "condo" in the city!

I think these storks have the best “condo” in the city!

Using my camera, I zoomed to catch a glimpse of this stork couple with one of the best views in the city.

Salamanca storks close upI thought the shadows on this building created by the iron balconies was pretty.

Salamanca shadowsWalking back towards the hotel, I looked back on San Juan de Sahagun, and it was still bathed in sunlight, but it lost the earlier golden glow I saw.Salamanca bright lightI enjoyed walking around the city, and would have liked to learn more about the University of Salamanca and other sights, but we had only a few hours the night before, and then the early morning when I took this walk to explore. I heard the Art-Deco museum, Casa Lis, is interesting too. Hopefully I can return to wander the streets of Salamanca again.

Have you visited Salamanca? Please share your thoughts below!

Zoom, Zoom and Vroom, Vroom for CARS on #FriFotos

The theme for #FriFotos a few weeks ago was cars. It was hard choosing which pictures to share from the myriad car shows and races I have attended, in addition to the photos of cars spotted while traveling around the world.

(The #FriFotos theme for tomorrow, February 20, 2015, is CHOCOLATE)

Every August, we head to the Monterey peninsula in northern California for a weekend full of car shows, auctions, viewing and races. We attend the annual Concorso Italiano celebration of Italian-made cars, watch the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, marvel at the cars up for auction at the many car auctions taking place throughout the weekend, and walk the greens at Pebble Beach for the highlight of the weekend, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

No matter where you are that weekend, you’ll see exotic cars, vintage cars, and expensive cars driving the local roads or parked in Pebble Beach, Carmel, Monterey and all the neighboring towns.

Here’s one car that we happened to pass by while taking a bike ride on 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach – the Bugatti Veyron. It seemed to be a professional shoot for this Hermes edition of the car, but as you can see, everyone stopped to take some photos of their own.

CARS Veyron alone

The Bugatti Veyron was posed for a professional photo shoot.


CARS Veyron interior

Beautiful interior of the Bugatti Veyron Hermes edition.

CARS Veyron cameras

The paparazzi were out in full force to photograph the Bugatti Veyron.

For more views from the professional shoot, click here.

A few years ago, we traveled to France in June in order to watch the 24 Hours of Le Mans (24 Heures du Mans), the most-famous and most-respected endurance car race in the world.

A few days before the race, there is a driver’s parade through the streets of Le Mans. The drivers for each race car (three drivers share driving duties during the 24 hours of the race) sit on the back of an open-air vehicle to parade through the town for the gathered crowd of car racing fans.

We were lucky to see Audi Team Joest drivers Tom Kristensen (aka “Mr. Le Mans”), Rinaldo Capello and Allan McNish in the driver’s parade. During the race, I managed to capture one picture of McNish driving – the cars are so fast, it’s hard to capture them without blurring the photo!


Audi drivers Tom Kristensen, Rinaldo Capello and Allan McNish in the driver’s parade for Le Mans, 2010.

CARS Audi LeMans

Allan McNish driving the Audie Team Joest car at Le Mans, 2010.

In 2007, we traveled to Italy for a group trip to Lake Como. Luckily, the weekend before the trip began was the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Italy at Monza.

I think this Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is beautiful, and during the race, it is the slowest car on the track as it serves as the official safety car.

F1 Safety Car at Monza.

F1 Safety Car at Monza.

As you might imagine, the Italian GP is the home race for Ferrari, and Ferrari fans, the tifosi, are always in attendance.

When I traveled to Cuba in 2011, it was fascinating to see the many 1950’s era cars driving around on the roads. It made it seem like I was in a time warp to another era.

The lavender shade of this car was perfect for the hot sunny days.

The lavender shade of this car was perfect for the hot sunny days.

CARS Havanna

Cars in Havanna – not all of them were old.

About #FriFotos on Twitter

Here’s a quick guide of the rules by Jeffrey Epstein.

#FriFotos was started on 15 October 2010 by Jonathan Epstein (@EpsteinTravels). Jonathan is the President and Owner of Celebrated Experiences, a company focusing on travel to the UK and Ireland. He is passionate about photography, his favorite hobby. Each week Jonathan cohosts #FriFotos with Stephanie Diehl (@TravelDesigned), Charles Yap (@CharlesYap), and two guest co-hosts that change each week. Jeffrey Epstein (@jeffreyinmotion), CEO of HBIM was a key advisor in the creation of #FriFotos and continues to assist in the Forum’s growth and success.

Wood for #FriFotos

Last week’s #FriFotos theme was wood, and here are the few pictures I shared via Twitter.

This Friday, the theme is RED, no doubt because Valentine’s Day is Saturday, February 14th. I can’t wait to see the beautiful photos that everyone will share.

The parliament building in Budapest has beautiful wood carvings.

The parliament building in Budapest has beautiful wood carvings.

At one of the Christmas markets in Budapest, I saw all these Santa faces painted on a slice of wood.

At one of the Christmas markets in Budapest, I saw all these Santa faces painted on a slice of wood.

I loved the beautiful wood on these trees I saw while hiking above Park City in October.

I loved the beautiful wood on these trees I saw while hiking above Park City in October.

This Lipizzaner horse peaks out of his wood stall in Vienna.

This Lipizzaner horse peaks out of his wood stall in Vienna.

About #FriFotos

Here’s a quick guide of the rules by Jeffrey Epstein.

#FriFotos was started on 15 October 2010 by Jonathan Epstein (@EpsteinTravels). Jonathan is the President and Owner of Celebrated Experiences, a company focusing on travel to the UK and Ireland. He is passionate about photography, his favorite hobby. Each week Jonathan cohosts #FriFotos with Stephanie Diehl (@TravelDesigned), Charles Yap (@CharlesYap), and two guest co-hosts that change each week. Jeffrey Epstein (@jeffreyinmotion), CEO of HBIM was a key advisor in the creation of #FriFotos and continues to assist in the Forum’s growth and success.