Barbecue Heaven ~ Part 2

Vintage BBQ Grill Party








Welcome Back for our second round of great barbecue in Orange County, California.

For this trip we are heading to Orange, this is a little town I love and if you haven’t been, you really need to check it out.  Old Towne Orange is filled with little Mom and Pop cafe’s, antique stores and little shops.

Not only is Old Towne fun to explore, you will find some great BBQ.

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Barbecue Heaven








The South has their own style of Barbecue.  Memphis and the Carolina’s have their own styles and sauces.  Then you have good ol’ Kansas Barbecue, but California??

California is not the spot you think of having killer barbecue, but you might be surprised.  For the past month and a half I have sacrificed myself to eat my way around Orange County, California trying some melt in your mouth, smokey barbecue goodness.  Sometimes when you can’t get away to travel, you need to travel close to home and find new places to eat and a new way to see your hometown.

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Marconi Automotive Museum, Orange County California







Happy New Year!  I hope you all had a fun holiday season!

During the holidays, we set out to discover a few treasures in our own backyard which is always fun.  What we discovered is the Marconi Automotive Museum tucked into a commercial, industrial area in Tustin, California.

If you love cars or know someone who does, this museum is a must do.

Dick Marconi moved to California in the mid 1990’s with a young family and very few dollars to his name.  He built a company and over the years collected over 75 cars.  He also raced cars and participated in several racing circuits.  He has raced in the Long Beach Grand Prix and Marconi Racing was well known in the vintage car racing circles.

The cars you will discover in the museum range from American muscle cars, high performance cars such as Lamborghini’s, Porsche and a nice collection of Ferrari’s.  You will get up close to the 1989 Oscar De La Hoya custom Chevy in the museum along with a few other treasures, I will keep quiet and let you find them when you visit.

Along a few walls they showcase a Ducati motorcycle collection, the smell of cars fills the building and it is such a cool place to wander, photograph and explore.

The parking is easy with plenty of spots in a private lot for the museum.  Check the website for the hours as they do host private events in the museum and will close it for the event.

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Have fun and enjoy,


VACA Restaurant ~ Costa Mesa

Vaca Restaurant

Chef Amar Santana has done it again, along with his partner Ahmed Labbate.

Vaca is amazing!!  In December I wrote about our dining experience at his Laguna Beach restaurant, Broadway by Amar Santana which we loved.

We experienced Vaca a week after its soft opening and wow, we were extremely impressed.  I had hoped to get this post out early last week, don’t know where this first week of 2016 went.  All I know is that kicking the New Year off with dinner at Vaca was the best way to start.  I haven’t stopped thinking about our fun, amazing food and drinks all week and am ready to go again.  In fact we will be there in February before a show at Performing Arts, and again in April for girls night out.

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Safe Holiday Travels






Just a short note to say Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays whichever you prefer.  May you have a beautiful holiday season.

If you are traveling, may you have safe travels and enjoy time with friends and family.

I look forward to seeing you back here in 2016 with fun restaurants, unusual activities and the hot destinations for 2016.

Warm wishes,



Passport Changes and Renewals





Is your passport coming up for renewal next year?  If so, I hope you find the following information helpful.  Even if it isn’t up for renewal for a few years, please read on you may still find part of it helpful.

Do you remember the rush to get a passport back in 2007?  If so, those passports are all going to be renewing next year.  The National Passport office has predicted that 20 million people will be renewing their passports next year.  Their estimations have been spot on the last few years, so what does that mean for you?  You will experience a delay in getting your new passport processed.  If you are planning a trip abroad next year, think about renewing it now.  The time between Thanksgiving and a week before Christmas is a bit slower and right now they are estimating 9 to 10 days to process renewals.

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Broadway by Amar Santana and Top Chef


Broadway by Amar Santana is a neighborhood gem in downtown Laguna Beach, California.

This restaurant has been on my list for a long time; when I read that Amar Santana is going to be on the upcoming season of Top Chef, we headed down for dinner before the show starts to experience his restaurant and food.  I am a Top Chef fanatic and try to eat at Top Chef restaurants whenever I can.

Let me just say that the next time you find yourself in Laguna Beach, make a dinner reservation and go.  I hope you will love the food and restaurant as much as we did. See if you can spot him in the small, cool open kitchen.

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Windstar Cruises ~ Calling all Foodies






Are you the type of cruiser who loves the big ships, or do you prefer the smaller more intimate cruise experience?

Windstar cruises gives you, the guest a more personal, intimate and private yachting cruise vacation.

The cruise line has just recently announced a new partnership with the James Beard Foundation.  The cruise line is calling all foodies for this one of a kind experience to cruise with food and wine experts.

The 3 themed James Beard Foundation Culinary Collection cruises for 2016 will give you the tastes of the special regions.  The three sailings will take you to  either Southern Spain and Morocco or Spain and France.

On each sailing you will have one of a kind interactaction with a James Beard featured chef.  The chef will act as your ambassador aboard, offering cooking demonstrations, a nightly dish, one on one time and a trip to a local market or culinary experience like none other.  Each cruise will also offer a wine expert guiding you to the regions wineries and wines.

If you aren’t able to make one of the James Beard Culinary cruises, you still have foodie opportunities with Windstar.  Many of Windstar’s European cruises, give you the opportunity to go into port with the chef to shop a local market, buy ingredients that the chef will feature on the nightly menu.

Windstar is known for their exquisite and beautiful sailing yachts.  They have recently added 3 power yachts that have been completely refurbished to Windstar’s signature elegant decor.  The sailing yachts and power yachts take you where the big ships can’t.

Ready to go?  Windstar cruising; it just doesn’t get any better.

Travel Safe,

Victoria, British Columbia

Beautiful view of Inner Harbour of Victoria, B.C., Canada

Beautiful view of Inner Harbour of Victoria, B.C., Canada








Welcome to Victoria, British Columbia.  Have you been?

Victoria is a beautiful little city, sitting right on the harbor and there is so much to do.

I have been to Victoria twice in the last 6 month’s and find something new with each visit.

sunken gardens, butchart gardens






Victoria is known for Butchart Gardens and honestly everyone needs to visit the gardens at least once.

The gardens are set on what use to be a cement factory and quarry when Jennie Butchart created these stunning gardens over the quarry.  They change with the season and are a must do when in Victoria.

An informative and fun way to get an overview on the city is to take a Hop On, Hop Off bus tour.  I use to not be a fan of these and I can’t tell you why, but now I try to take them in every city.  They are not only informative, but allow you to get on and off at your leisure and you get a great overview and history of the city.  There are two companies that operate in Victoria, Gray Line Tours and the Big Bus Victoria.

There are flightseeing opportunities from the harbor in a float plane if that is on your bucket list.  If you are looking to get out on the water, these adorable little boats cruise the harbor not only as taxi’s, but they offer a harbor tour and a gorge tour.

Floating Home Village Water Taxis Inner Harbor Victoria



Maybe you just want to stroll through town, it is beautiful, you will find great restaurants and cafe’s, along with a few pubs. Chinatown is small but fascinating.

I highly recommend the Royal B.C. Museum.  You could easily spend a day in the museum and want another day.  There is so much history in exquisite galleries and exhibits in this gem.  The museum also offers an IMAX theater, along with a restaurant for your convenience.  Included in the ticket price is a 1 hour tour.  Take it, you will get a very informative tour guide who will walk you around the museum telling you about each gallery, history of Victoria and the First People.  This is a great activity if you are traveling with kids.

The High Tea at the Empress Hotel is another must do.  This has been on my list for the longest time and my last trip I was with a girlfriend, so we decided to make reservations and go since the men in our lives would do it, but wouldn’t love it.  It was such a fun experience and well worth the money.

The tea room and the entire hotel will take you back in time, it is gorgeous and full of history.  Seated at a table near the window with a view of the harbor, the server brings fresh berries, tea and then a tiered tray of tea sandwiches, scones, jam and cream and tiny pastries that leave you longing for more.  Don’t miss it.  Reservations can be made directly online, open table and if you are arriving by cruise line, many will offer this option as an excursion.


Tea Room






















One last fun thing to do is wander through the Waterfront Village, or Fisherman’s Village.  There are floating homes, with little shops mixed in between and eateries.  Don’t miss it!

If you are arriving by cruise ship and aren’t taking an excursion or tour directly from the ship, there are several ways to get yourself into town.  Walk, it is about 2 to 3 miles into town, and the walk will take you through neighborhoods and along the waterfront.

There will be Pedicabs at the ship.  The pedicabs will take you through neighborhoods and along James Bay and in 2015, the rates to get into town from the ship were $18 to $20 per pedicab.  You will find shuttle buses that will also take you and they currently are charging $10 to $12 round trip.

Until next time, travel safe.


NCL Cruise ~ Dining

NCL Dining aboard the Jewel…

Having shared with you last week a bit about the NCL cruise I recently took, there was just too much to fill you in on, so this week I want to give you an idea of what they offer in the way of dining.  Isn’t one of the reasons we all cruise is for the food?

This post is a bit tough for me to write to you, while they offer a lot of dining options on board, the food was a huge disappointment.  If you are a foodie and are looking for amazing food, interesting food, and service with a smile, based on my experience with NCL, this is not the cruise line for you.  So let’s get started.

The NCL Jewel is one of the older and smaller ships,  there are many more dining options on their newer and larger ships, but for today, I will share with you the experience on the Jewel.

There are 2 main dining rooms that are complimentary, Tsar’s Palace and Azura.  With NCL’s move to Freestyle cruising, there are no set dining times, you go when you want during the times the dining rooms are open.  I found the service to be lacking and the food very disappointing.  The soup at lunch was barely lukewarm and the garnish on the dessert was just sad, and should have never been put on the dish.

Lime Garnish

Lime Garnish










The ship has several specialty restaurants which will cost you an additional fee. I had the opportunity to dine at Le Bistro, the french inspired restaurant.  The service was good, food was good, but not exceptional.  I was going to order the Chocolate Fondue for dessert to give their desserts a try, when a woman at the next table leaned over and said, “don’t order it, the chocolate tastes burned.”

La Cucina, the homestyle Italian eatery, also an additional fee, was very disappointing.  Our server was fun, friendly and bubbly, but the food was lacking any seasoning and they overcooked the pasta.

Moderno, is their take on a Brazilian Churascarria, and we didn’t make it for dinner.  There is an additional fee for this restaurant also.

Cagney’s Steakhouse was another that I didn’t have a chance to eat at, but in talking to other’s, it wasn’t fantastic.

The Teppanayaki Room is a small room off to the side near the Asian Fusion restaurant.  The chefs are engaging, the food was basic, nothing special.  Again, you will pay a fee for this restaurant as well.

Sushi and Sake Bar, this eatery sells the Sushi by piece and I felt it to be a bit costly.

NCL also has 2 other restaurants that are complimentary, O’Sheehan’s, the Irish Pub and Chin Chin, an Asian Fusion restaurant.

Dining at O’Sheehan’s, you will find they are open breakfast, lunch and dinner.  There is no charge and the food was okay.  My Reuben sandwich was dry, had pastrami and that was it, no sauerkraut, or coleslaw, which is not a true Reuben.  Breakfast too was a disappointment with over cooked scrambled eggs and under cooked bacon.

The night I dined at Chin Chin was the frosting on the cake, oh that is to come.  This restaurant is also complimentary.  I started with an egg roll appetizer and as soon as the server set the plate down, I knew this wasn’t going to be a great experience.

20151002_172014Three somewhat underdone eggrolls and one completely burned.  Why they put that on the plate, I will never understand.







The buffet, while laid out well to allow good traffic flow, the food was typical buffet.

Now for the frosting on the cake.  NCL has partnered with Buddy Valastro of the Cake Boss, and most ships now have Carlos’s Bakery on board. I was ready for a sweet afternoon pick me up on the way to a meeting, so stopped to pick up a Chocolate/Peanut Butter cupcake.  I took one bite and honestly the bite didn’t make it to my grumbling stomach.  The cake was dry and the chocolate tasted rancid.  The frosting had a wax like texture and no flavor at all.  I was so disappointed as it went in the trash can.  The bakery items are an additional fee with an 18% gratuity added to them. If you are a Celebrity chef and you lend your name, you better make sure the quality meets your expectations.  In this case, I won’t try his land based bakery after this experience.

Lastly, room service.  Be advised NCL is now charging a $7.95 fee for room service.  The only exception to the rule is if you order continental breakfast with no hot food items, coffee and or tea between the hours of 6:30 am and 10:00 am.  There is not a delivery fee for the continental breakfast between those hours.  Food was forgettable.

I guess you might say it was the diet cruise for me.  While others in the buffet lines were heaping it on and I wonder if they tasted it as it went down.

I understand these are my opinions and based on my tastes and expectations, but I won’t be putting any of my clients on board after my experience, they wouldn’t be happy.

Next week, I will share a few must do’s in Victoria, BC and how to get to town from the port.

Until then,

Travel Safe,