Travel Weekly MEXICO CITY Fam Trip - 08/02/2015

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! Last day of the whirlwind tour. Again up at 7 and in the bus. This time to the St Regis Mexico City. One word: Oh My Gawd! What a beautiful hotel. What an awesome location. It happened that Team Ferrari was having a little demonstration, leading up to the Formula One coming to Mexico City in November. The hotel is right on the Paseo de la Reforma, at the start/finish line. So, you know...TRAFFIC. Fortunately, our guides from Tourism Mexico had some pull, so they moved roadblocks for us to get right to the hotel. Did I mention the St Regis is beautiful? The suites overlooking Reforma will be the most awesome place to watch the race. And only $650-$950/night! A great gym/spa, a kids club, several restaurants, very large, very well appointed suites, etc. I am saving my SPG points for a return there. By far the nicest hotel we checked out. And the others were all excellent. After the site inspection we had a quick breakfast. I had some Huevos Rancheros. Excellent. And then back on the bus, around some roadblocks and off to the Palacio de Bellas Artes for a performance of the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. This is the Amalia Hernandez-formed troupe. She pretty much invented the modern form. Which was truly outstanding. For those of you not familiar, the Ballet Folklorico is a collection of folk dances and/or folk tales set to dance, representing different periods of Mexican history, and the various regions of the country. Many are fairly familiar, like the Veracruzano wedding dance, set to La Bamba, or the Mexican Hat Dance. I have seen more than a couple folklorico troupes in my time. This one was the most comprehensive, ever. The show was nearly two hours, and exciting every minute. Oh, and the building itself, the Palacio, was stunningly beautiful. Built in the 1930's, the exterior is Neo Classical, and the interior pure Art Deco. Murals by, among others, Diego Rivera. Giant skylights. Marble everything. So, that was a great way to end the trip. And we did. From the Ballet Folklorico we headed to the airport and home. Thus ends my story. I would like to thank everyone who helped make this trip possible. I would do names, but I'd forget someone and hurt their feelings. So, suffice it to say - the wonderful people at Travel Weekly and TOWMAR, the publisher of Travel Weekly in Mexico, the good folks from the Mexican Tourism Board, and last but not least, our bus driver. What a job, because TRAFFIC. THANK YOU ALL! and, again, if you're ready to pack your bags and head to Mexico City, give us a call at 760.265.3687. We got the connections and the recent experience to put together a great trip for you!


Travel Weekly MEXICO CITY Fam Trip - 08/01/2015

And on Saturday, they let us sleep in. Til 7am! WootWoot! Seriously, rolled out, ran across the street to Starbucks, came back and headed over to the JW by Marriott for breakfast and another hotel inspection. Very nice property, very nice breakfast. We then headed across town to some big marketplace deal in Distrito San Angel. Because, you know...SHOPPING! MEXICO! Okay, for realsies, I did have a bit of fun walking around the square and thru the plazas. There was some nice artwork on display, but nothing I could bring home with me. I did pick up a few souvenirs, though. And I did have a great time with some of the other agents. One lady (actually 1000, but only one we fell for) was selling these cool toothpick thingies. Three of us bought some. Later, as we sat down in a little bistro for a drink and to wait for lunch, she was standing in front of us. So, we started telling all the other agents they had to buy some too. I think probably 10 or 12 did, finally (including a couple who had to borrow pesos from me, as they were spent out by then). So that was fun. We then went in to Fonda San Angel for lunch. I honestly don't know if it just suffered by comparison, but the lunch there seemed uninspired. Nothing BAD, but nothing to write home about, either. As I said...maybe just because everywhere else we ate was so good. After lunch we started back across town to Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo's house and museum. We were supposed to go to the Anahuacalli Museum as well, but TRAFFIC. We actually didn't have enough time at Casa Azul, by the time we finally got there...but we did go in and take a look around. Cool place. I got in trouble for taking pictures. Because I'm obnoxious that way. No, really. One of the other agents did too. I didn't see the sign. When I did, I stopped. Well, I went to the other areas where it was ok. So, yeah...got to cross that off the list. And then head back to the hotel for a minute and a half before heading to dinner. Dinner was at Azul Historico, a restaurant in the lobby of the Downtown Hotel. A really cool property near the Zocalo. An old palace, across the street from the Casino Espana. Both 18th Century buildings. The Front doors are about 20' tall and 6" thick of wood and iron. As the bus was dropping us off, across the street at the Casino Espana (no longer a casino, but THE place for receptions, quinceanaras and the like) was a line of men in evening dress and ladies in formal attire. Quite glam. But, to dinner! We started with a cheese soup that was incredible. Tomato based, and filled with chunks of Oaxaca cheese (kind of mozzarella-y in it's stringy melted state), seasoned with primarily oregano. Almost a pizza in a bowl. But gluten-free. And then the nicest piece of ribeye steak I've had in some time, over a chipotle sauce that was FABOLOSO! I am usually a purist on steak, forgoing sauces, but this one I was wiping the plate to get every drop. After dinner we took a tour of the hotel. Very large rooms. And a great location. However, there is a night club there too, and I am not sure the non-party animals would deal well with the noise. For the younger crowd that's not going to bed until 2am anyway, it would be great. Just as we finished that, we looked outside to the street and saw a drag parade coming down. Apparently something they do on the 1st of every month. Maybe 150 people, at least half men in drag. At the end of the block, they all crowded around and some were putting on various shows, including a fire dancer. Quite the mob scene. And quite a contrast from the crowd going in to the Casino a couple hours earlier. But, an interesting end to an interesting day! Back to the hotel 11ish. In bed 11:15ish. and HASTA LUEGO. tomorrow i'll tell you all about the Ballet Folklorico..the 2nd best part of the trip, after the hot air balloon.


Travel Weekly MEXICO CITY Fam Trip - 07/31/2015

And my wake up call came at 5am, just as I was pouring my first cup of coffee. It was nice of them to leave a wake up for me, though. Headed downstairs, got on the bus and hit the highway for Teotihuacan. When we got to the ballooning center they were just starting to inflate about a dozen balloons. Apparently, this is a real popular thing. I soon found out why. We loaded up 8 of us and took to the sky. You could see the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon in the distance. Our pilot took us pretty low over the town leading to the ruins. Then way up! I'm going to say 2000' or so. Sadly it was a little foggy, so the view was maybe not as spectacular as it would be on a clearer morning, but still. Fabulous. As we got to the pyramids, we dropped back down to a hundred feet or so above the Pyramid of the Sun, and then floated serenely over the whole site. Besides the Pyramids, there are ruins of the houses/temples/marketplaces/whatever. And a great view of how they controlled water flowing through with a series of diked terraces with gates to allow draining and filling. I thought it might be for agricultural purposes, but they assured me it was to bring in fresh water and let out waste water. Very cool. All in all, it was one of the neatest hours I've spent in a long time. After landing, we headed to the Hotel Villas Arqueológicas Teotihuacán for breakfast. Which was served al fresco in the courtyard overlooking the pool. By far the most serene setting of the trip (Mexico City is a lot of things, but quiet is not one of them). We did a quick tour of the hotel, which is definitely on my list of places to return, and then to the Teotihuacan site. There we were led by a very knowledgeable guide, who explained what was what. And I climbed the first half built pyramid. In my defense, it was quite hot and humid, so I took a pass on climbing the Pyramid of the Sun. I think only 6 or 7 of the 23 agents with me did that. But we did stroll the whole length of the site and then headed to lunch at La Gruta (the Grotto). Which is just that. A restaurant inside a cave. Very cool. The cave is mostly in to a hillside, so it's not far down below ground level. Maybe 30 feet. And there are a couple of natural skylights to illuminate the place (as well as a couple dozen candles on the wall at one end. Lunch there was AWESOME. No other word for it. A great tortilla soup, and then a combo plate with a taco, mole poblano, carne Tampiquena and a tamalito. All very tasty. And finished with a corn cake desert. yum. Oh, yeah...between the ruins and lunch we stopped at a silver factory/gift store. To be quite honest, not my favorite. Our host spend way too much time explaining the proper way to drink tequila, which is fine unless you don't drink tequila. And the prices in the store were borderline outrageous. But, yeah...the good with the bad. Anyway, so, after lunch we hit the road and got back to the City about 5:30. Took a bit of a break before heading to Villa Maria for dinner. Villa Maria's claim to fame is daiquiris and margaritas served in glasses the size of a Buick. I had them whip me up a virgin daiquiri and proceeded to give myself about 26 freeze heads in the course of the evening. One of our hosts from Travel Weekly Mexico, Cesar, was having his wedding anniversary, and instead of taking the night off, decided to bring his wife to the restaurant. Which was good of him, and her. Dinner at Villa Maria started with an appetizer of sope and quesadilla, and then a carne de res (steak) in a green chile/cilantro sauce. That was way tasty. Desert was some sweet, bready concoction that I am finding hard to describe. But it was good. And so back to the hotel and some much needed sleep. Again, some people made a half-hearted attempt to explore the nightlife, but most of us decided a 17 hour day was enough. I'll be back tomorrow with the scoop on Saturday's events. In the meantime, there is lots of video and still pics of the balloon ride, and all the good food on my page at wwfacebook.com/daveholmantravel. Feel free to check them out. And friend me, if you wish. Also, if you are already dying to go to Mexico City, drop me a line at daveholman@verizon.net or call 760.265.3687 Hasta Manana! http://youtu.be/jCT5Rip08pA


Travel Weekly MEXICO CITY Fam Trip - 07/30/2015

Hit the road at 2am to get to LAX.  Amazingly, there was no traffic, so I was there early.  Sat around for an hour waiting for the AeroMexico check in to open.  They showed up promptly at 4:25, mas o menos.

Got all checked in, and headed to the concourse to get some coffee, but Starbucks wasn't open yet.  Standing on line, the 3 flight attendants were right behind me, so I chatted them up for a few minutes.  When they opened, I got my coffee and handed the barrista a twenty and told her to get the next 3, on me (the flight attendants).  Boarding the plane about 20 minutes later, a flight attendant asked me if I wanted to move up to the premium coach seats at the bulkhead.  So that was a good move.  Leg room for yards and yards.

I deliberately picked this flight because it was on one of AM's new 737's with the Sky Interior (basically it's all the good stuff from a 787 Dreamliner, like indirect lighting and better carryon storage and what not, as well as 9inch monitors at every seat).  Beautiful plane.  Doesn't even feel like a narrow body.  And with the extra legroom, I was pretty comfy.  Dozed off before takeoff.   Then we got in the air, and had a turkey croissant and some fresh fruit and yogurt for breakfast.  Something you don't see much on domestic airlines these days.  Certainly not an a 4 hour flight.  So, the flight was uneventful, and promptly at 12:15 we landed in Mexico City.  The airport was not too zoo-like, but yeah...Immigration, then Customs, then finally out the door to be greeted by the shuttle rep.  He told me we were waiting for some 1:30 flights, and to meet him back there, then.  Which was perfect.  Gave me time to wander the airport, get a bit of lunch and make some calls.  When I went back we hopped in a van and headed over to Terminal 1 to pick up the others, and had an interesting drive from MEX to our hotel, El Presidente Intercontinental.  First off, traffic is horrendous, everywhere at all times.  Rather like Los Angeles.  Possibly worse.  Secondly, the driver made no attempt to route us through the nicer areas.  We plowed through quite a variety, from the pretty sketchy slums near the airport, on to our Polanco district, with its Bentley and Rolls Royce dealerships. 

Got checked in to the Presidente, and it was very very nice.  Rooms were decent size and had a huge window overlooking the Auditorio Nacional and Chapultepec Park, the biggest greenway in the city.  Akin to a Central Park view in NYC.

Chilled out for a bit, got unpacked, and it was time for a reception and dinner.  There were some tasty tapas at the reception.  Little tostadas with pulpo (octopus), quesadillas, sopes that were quite good.  And then on the first of several outstanding meals.  Dinner began with Ensalada de Texturas.  Greens with mango, almond, tomato, cucumber and some sort of queso fresco.  So you had sweet, salty and acid, as well as crunchy, crispy and creamy.  Really, a diverse little party in your mouth.  The entrée was a tilapia filet, smothered in a creamy adobo and topped with sauted spinach.  Again, quite tasty.  Oh, and it was at this point someone finally asked about the salt.  They had a marble tray with plain salt, a reddish colored salt, and salt with some sort of black flaky things in it.  I thought they were some sort of flower bud or hip or something.  Turns out that was Sal con Hormigas (ants).  Yeah, dried ants.  The other was salt with chiles arboles.  The ant thing threw a couple people, but, frankly, I couldn't really taste any difference.  I kept using it.  And for desert was a Bunuelo covered in what they called meringue, but I would say was crème fraiche, almonds and a sweet crumble.  A tad cloying for those of us who don't really dig sugar.  But nicely presented.

So, after dinner a few people made half-hearted attempts to organize some night lifing, but frankly, we were all tired from flying and looking forward to a 5am wake up call so we could head out to Teotihuacan for a sunrise balloon flight.  Which was AMAZING!  And which I will tell you all about in the next installment!

Adios mi amigos!


MEXICO CITY FAM Trip, 7/30-8/2/2015 pt II

Well...still waiting on airplane arrangements.  While I do, I thought I might share some of the planned itinerary with y'all.

So, Day One, I'm flying in.  No idea when I will get there.  But when I do, I'll be met and transferred to the El Presidente Intercontinental.  By all accounts a solid 4.5* hotel in the Polanco district, just off the Paseo de la Reforma.  Polanco is kind of the 90210 of Mexico City.  Dinner that night will probably be in one of the 6 or 7 restaurants onsite, though that is TBD.

On Day Two, I might have mentioned earlier, we're getting up at 5am to fly in a balloon and all that.  And be to breakfast by 8:30 at the Gran Teocalli restaurant.  Looks nice.  Well reviewed.  After breakfast is the tour of Teotihuacan, which goes til 1:30, then lunch at La Gruta.  I have actually heard of this place before.  It is located in a cave, specializes in pre-Hispanic food, has live entertainment, and serves not just grasshoppers and rabbit cooked in a hole in the ground, but both red AND white worms! 

If you've ever had Mezcal (like tequila, but from the maguey plant instead of the agave), you've seen the worm at the bottom of the bottle.  You may even have finished a bottle and downed the worm.  It's even possible you did this on the beach in Ensenada, before you were old enough to drink back home, in order to impress a girl, and shortly thereafter hurled it back up in to said girls lap, ruining the impression and your chance of knocking off a little on the beach in Ensenada. 

But I digress - so, yeah...La Gruta serves some very interesting cuisine, including piles of those worms, and in a pretty unique locale.  Looking forward to that, for sure.

After that, we return to the El Presidente for that blessed 90 minutes of free time, before heading out to another restaurant, TBD, until 10:30 or so.

Day Three begins at 7:45 when we head over to the JW Marriott Mexico City for some breakfast and a site inspection.  It is also in the Polanco area, and I assume we're walking.  JW is Marriotts luxury brand, maybe a half-step below their Ritz Carlton properties.  I am anxious to have a look at it.

After that we're hopping on the Turibus to check out the San Angel and Coyoacan areas of the city.  Lot's of history both places.  And in Coyoacan, we'll be touring both the Frida Kahlo Museum, and the Anahuacalli Museum.  The Anahuacalli has over 60,000 items on display representing pretty much every indigenous Mexican civilization.  And it was built (or at least, started) by Frida Kahlo's on-again/off-again husband, Diego Rivera. 

Which will take us right to our 2pm lunch at the Corazon de Maguey, a restaurant/mezcaleria.  Apparently a range of Mexican cuisines, from Oaxaca to Veracruz - and mescal, so, you know...more worms.  Oh, and I see grasshoppers are on the menu. 

Then it's back to the Presidente for another short break before dinner at some other upscale restaurant.  Til 10:30.

Finally, on Day Four, we'll be sleeping in until 7:45 (it is Sunday, after all), before heading to the St Regis Mexico City.  St Regis being Starwoods main luxury brand, in the same space JW occupies for Marriott.  I have stayed at the St Regis in San Francisco, and it's fabulous.  If the Mexico City property is similar, it would be my go to for a luxe vacation.  So, I am REALLY looking forward to this site inspection. 

After breakfast it's off to the Palacio Bellas Artes  for a performance of the Amalia Hernandez Ballet Folklorico de Mexico.  I am sure you've all seen some sort of ballet folklorico somewhere.  Amalia Hernandes pretty much invented the modern form.  The word "iconic" is not too strong here.  I have to say, it's an inspired choice, as far as ways to end a trip to Mexico!  Because, after that, it's grab the bags and get to the airport.

So, there you have it.  About 72 hours on the ground, and damn few of them wasted. 

Of course, I'll be reporting live...and I really hope all these activities and restaurants and hotels meet or exceed expectations.  Either way, you'll be the first to know

Hasta Luego, mi amigos!


MEXICO CITY FAM Trip, 7/30-8/2/2015

In 2 weeks I'll be in Mexico City, with a little help from my friends at NorthStar Travel Media (Travel Weekly).  Going for a 4 day familiarization trip.

I am really looking forward to it, as I have never, believe it or not, been to Mexico City.  I have probably spent close to a year of my life in Mexico, including Baja, Mexicali, Nogales, Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, Cabo, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta,  Manzanillo, Ixtapa, Acapulco, San Felipe, Cozumel, Cancun, etc.  You'll notice, those are all on the coast...I just never made it inland.  I have had the opportunity to go on FAM trips to some of those places, and I have passed, because, frankly, I know them well enough to represent them.  Mexico City, not so much.

This is going to be interesting.  And educational.  Because the TW folks don't like to see people sitting around doing nothing.  We're actually starting our first full day there at FIVE AM!  Yeah...5.  In the morning. 

That is when we head out to Teotihuacan (The City of the Gods) for a daybreak balloon ride.  Which sounds, like, awesome.  Teotihuacan is just north of Mexico City, and is a city so old, no one really knows who built it.  At it's height it was the biggest city in the Western Hemisphere, except maybe Rome, with a population estimated at 250,000 or more.  The Pyramid of the Sun, the largest structure in the city has about the same size perimeter as the Great Pyramid at Giza, though it's only half as tall.  So...looking forward to the balloon ride and then a ground tour.

Then back to the city for some hotel inspections, and restaurants, and ground tours and a trip to the Frida Kahlo Museum, etc.  Three full days of it.  I think we have, like, 2 hours of free time one evening.  Unless they find something to fill that hole.

Okay, just kidding...it's actually one of the things I love about this organization.  They are aware that some of us don't have a week or two to lollygag around the pool.  Every event I have been to with them is jampacked with information, learning, networking, yet organized properly so it doesn't feel too rushed.  So, if anyone can show a bunch of us everything we need to know to convince you you need to go to Mexico City on your next vacation, it will be these guys.

I will, of course, be posting live, daily, during the trip, and I hope to get some great pictures and video.  Especially from the hot air balloon.  So, stay tuned, and follow along!


Grand Canyon Adventure, Sixth of July, 2015

HA!  Said I'd be early, and I am even later than yesterday.  Oops.  Busy day!

So, yeah, we got up early-ish on Monday, had a little breakfast, dropped the ice chest at the front desk (the rest of our bags would be picked up directly from the room and taken back to Williams) and jumped on a shuttle to Mather Point.  And proceeded to walk to the South Kaibab trailhead.  About 6 miles or so.  Along the way, besides stunning vistas looking out over the canyon, we saw an elk, about 20 feet away.  Just watching us, watching him.  Until he got bored and turned away.  A little later we were positively accosted by a gang of squirrels.  Let me tell you about the Grand Canyon squirrels.  Clearly, they've lost any fear of humans, and will go about their nut and berry gathering mere feet away, as though you weren't even there.  But these 4 came out of the bushes and absolutely charged us.  So much so it scared my niece.  My nephew happened to be munching some Pringles, and apparently they wanted some, because they got about a foot from him, and raised up on two legs, begging.  With their little squirrel hands clasped together in a little squirrel begging pose.  You could almost hear them saying "Alms?  Alms for the squirrel-poor?".  We managed to avoid unpleasantness by cleverly (and illegally) throwing a few Pringles to the side of the path and walking away, staring straight ahead to avoid eye contact.
About a mile later we spotted 3 or maybe 4 deer walking a ways off the trail.  They clearly haven't lost their fear of humans, and ran when they heard us coming.  So mostly we just saw their rear ends as they scampered away.
Once we got to the South Kaibab Trail, we headed down in to the canyon.  With each step I was reminded how much harder it is to climb up than down, and how there still wasn't any air.  So after a 1/2 hour or so, I called it quits.  The kids were still raring to go, so I told them to go on for another 20 minutes or so, and I'd see them back up top in an hour.  I made it back up, but it was a near thing.  and about 45 minutes later, so did they.  Lotus was complaining that her feet were dead.  I told her all of me was dead so quit whining.
With that we got back on a shuttle to return to Mather Point and the big Visitor Center/Museum there.  Checked out the exhibits and watched a pretty good little film on the history of the Grand Canyon and all that, then got on a shuttle back to the Maswik Lodge to retrieve the ice chest.
I decided I just couldn't take another 2 hour train ride sucking my own knee caps in a Pullman car, so we walked over to the train depot.  Taking the Greenway over there we passed the stables where the mules are kept.  They seemed friendly.  Mostly looking for food is my guess.  But we stopped and talked to them for a few minutes, got some pictures, etc.
Upon arriving at the depot, I found they were more than happy to upgrade us to 1st Class for the ride back to Williams, so we got that done and had an hour and a half to kill before boarding, so we decided on a final lunch at the El Tovar restaurant.  Very fancy.  Formally attired Maitre d' and everything.  I wasn't sure we should go, considering we were dressed for hiking and not elegant dining.  I was ready if they asked to see a credit card or a cash deposit before seating us.  Except everyone else in the place was dressed like we were - shorts, t-shirts, dusty sneakers and back packs.  It was kind of funny, but I guess they're used to it.  No one batted an eye.  And it was worth it.  The food was the best we had on the whole trip.  I had a veal schnitzel sandwich, Lotus got chicken Cordon Bleu, Om had an Avacado and Brie burger and Eth went for the daily special, a grilled trout over corn and quinoa something or other.
After lunch we headed back to the depot and 10 minutes later boarded the train.  The 1st Class car was just OMIGOD better than the Pullman.  About 10 yards between reclining seats, air conditioning, a little buffet of cheese and crackers and fruit, soft drinks and coffee all laid out.  So, we trained home in style.  Again there was entertainment.  This time a lady playing the accordion and doing "Rocky Top" and "Happy Trails to You".  Oh, and of course a train robbery.  The best organized, politest train heist in history.  I am not sure authentic train robbers in the old West stopped and posed for pics with the kids, but these guys did.  So, that was fun.
We got back to the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel about 5, checked in to our room, found our stuff was already there, and decided to take a swim.  Unlike two days previous, when the pool was nearly empty, it was a complete mad house.  At least 30 people in the pool and 6 in the Jacuzzi.  But the kids were determined so I told them to enjoy, and I went and got my laptop and typed up yesterdays post.  After an hour or so they got out and we all got cleaned up for dinner.  Back to the all you can eat buffet.  Pretty much the same menu as on the 4th.  And the same guy at the pasta station, so that was cool.  After dinner we all agreed we were too damn tired to do anything more strenuous than watch TV, so that's what we did.  This time, they all conked before I did - but not by much.

And I'll go ahead and finish out the trip report by saying we got up at 7 this morning, had breakfast, bought some souvenirs and hit the road by 8, made it home at 2, and have been just chillin' since.  But I think we all agreed it was a great little trip.

If you'd like to do a Grand Canyon Adventure of your own, give us a call or email at Holman Travel - we'll be happy to hook you up!  760.265.3687 or daveholman@verizon.net or www.facebook.com/daveholmantravel !


Grand Canyon Adventure, Fifth of July, 2015

Sorry for the late entry, but I decided to leave the laptop in Williams rather than lug it up to Grand Canyon Village.

So, we got up about 7am, repacked our essentials for the overnite in the GC, dropped our bags in the lobby, then headed to breakfast.  The pasta bar was replaced by an omelette bar, and there was pretty much what you would expect from a breakfast buffet.  Except that, once again, the staff were just outstanding.  The lady making omelettes and the waitress both just talked and engaged with the kids and seemed to really enjoy their jobs. 
At 9am there was a Wild West Show - pretty hokey, but, you know...live horses and cowboys and enough gunfire and killing to make it fun.
Then it was time to board the train.  I had us booked in the Pullman Car, a restored 1923 coach originally used on commuter trains from San Jose to San Francisco.  It was cool, from a historical train buff perspective, and the seats were reversible, so we could flip one row and the 4 of us could face each other, BUT...no air conditioning (the windows open), and less leg room than Spirit Air...so, yeah...after two hours it wasn't as much fun as you'd think.  But, again, the staff was great, and they had some entertainment in the form of a strolling guitar player who ranged from "Don't Fence Me In" to "People Are Strange" and "Eleanor Rigby".  So that was cool.  And Marshall Tucker came thru telling bad jokes and paying special attention to all the kids onboard.
We got to GCV and strolled along the Rim Trail from the depot to the Maswik Lodge and checked in.  The best part was having our backpacks in the room when we got there.  Maswik is a nice enough hotel, sprawling over several acres, and a little more Spartan than the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel in Williams, but it's just a couple minutes from the rim and the Bright Angel Trailhead.  After a spot of lunch at the Bright Angel restaurant (a pretty good, if overpriced, restaurant right on the Rim) we headed down in to the canyon.  It's an easy enough trail, but for the lack of oxygen here at 7000'.  I never noticed it on my previous trips...must be getting old.  Our goal was the 3 Mile Station (little side note:  all distances are "as the crow flies" so multiply by 3 or 4 to get the actual distance over ground).  We were almost there when the lowering clouds finally burst open.  So we decided to try and get back to an overhang we had passed a mile back.  Those of you who haven't experienced a western summer thunderstorm may not be able to appreciate just how much water we're talking about here.  The plus side is that the ground is so dry it soaks in before getting too muddy.  And it does cool you off and feel good the first couple minutes.  But when visibility drops to 10 feet or so, and you're on a switchback trail with 1000+ foot drops, hurrying is not an option. Not that hurrying was an option for me anyway, seeing as how there's no oxygen and I was mouth breathing like a caught fish already.
So, even though the rain was intermittent, by the time we got back up we were soaked right thru to the socks and underwear.  We managed  to draggle ourselves back to the room for hot showers and a change of clothes, but the rain kind of put a damper on the afternoon.  So we watched TV until dinner time, when, of course, the rain stopped. 
We decided on pizza at the Maswik's food court.  Surprisingly good.  Then a quick stop at the gift shop, and back to the room.  I dropped off about 10pm.  No idea when the kids finally went to sleep.

And that was our day.  I'll have much more to post tomorrow, as we had a much more exciting day today.

Ciao for now, my friends!

p.s. there are a ton of pics on my FB page at www.facebook.com/daveholmantravel


Grand Canyon Weekend, Fourth of July, 2015

We started out at 7am, heading for Williams, AZ.  Around Barstow I decided to add Hoover Dam to the itinerary.  It only adds an hour to the drive, and somehow the idea of combining one of the largest man-made wonders of the world with one of the largest God-made features on Earth seemed fitting.  So we did that.  Got a few pictures of the dam and what not.  We still made it to Kingman by lunch time to snarf down some In 'n Out, and got to the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel about 2pm.  Nice hotel, great staff.  Check in was a bit slow, but, hey...2pm.  Got in to our room.  3*, but there is a Keurig coffeemaker.  And lots of plugs so we could all recharge everything.

The grounds are cool.  Western sculptures, and the depot is right here, along with the gift shop, the buffet, a pub and an indoor pool/jacuzzi and a small gym.    Then we headed over to the depot to pick up our vouchers for the rest of the trip.  This package includes 1 night in Williams, dinner in the all you can eat buffet, breakfast, the train to Grand Canyon Village, a bus tour of the G.C., 1 night at the Maswik Lodge in the Village, then the train ride back to the GCR Hotel for one night, and another dinner and breakfast before check out.  And I snagged a pretty good deal.  Four of us for $1000 total.
Anyway, we got our vouchers, and decided to make use of the pool for a bit before heading to dinner. 

The buffet was pretty good, actually.  Not a huge selection, but all the basics and everything was fresh and hot.  There was live entertainment - a pretty good guitar player/singer doing mostly western classics.  The staff in the restaurant were outstanding.  Everyone is very friendly, but the guy at the pasta station was especially good with the kids, telling them about the train and all.

After dinner we decided to drive up to Flagstaff for some fireworks.  Honestly, I could have passed on that, but the kids were pretty sure they would die if they didn't see a fireworks show on the Fourth of July.  Mostly consisted of sitting in traffic for the parking lot, then mingling with a couple thousand of my closest friends, then sitting on a wet golf course (we had a few gully washers at various points during the day, though it was pretty clear for the show) for an hour, and then another hour of sitting in a parking lot trying to get out.  But I guess the kids liked it, so it's all good.

We didn't get back to the hotel til 11pm, and the kids were all zonked by 11:05.   And now it's 6:30 and I am going to kick their butts out of bed so we can get organized for the trip into the Grand Canyon.  I am sure there will be pictures today!




Travel Weekly and TravelAge West choose top travel professionals to participate in Global Travel Marketplace West 2015 event

HESPERIA, CA - Travel Weekly and TravelAge West are proud to announce that David Holman was selected from among hundreds of applicants to attend the second annual Global Travel Marketplace West (GTM West), which took place at the Westin La Paloma Resort and Spa in Tucson, Arizona, May 1-3, 2015. GTM West is a three-day appointment-only event for top-producing travel agents in North America and leading cruise, hotel, tour and destination suppliers seeking to conduct business face-to-face.

Out of the nearly 700 applications received, 77 North American travel agents were selected to participate. Eighty suppliers engaged with travel agents though a variety of one-on-one pre-scheduled meetings, exclusive boardrooms and networking events.

GTM West agents are uniquely connected to new and existing products, destinations and services, providing them unparalleled support in the marketplace and distinct pricing advantages—both of which help them to best serve their valuable clients.

The agents who attended this event are the cream of the crop. The expertise and experience they offer their clients is second to none, and is undoubtedly enhanced as a result of attending the event,” said Alicia Evanko-Lewis, Senior Vice President of Events, Travel Group, Northstar Travel Media. “GTM West provided the platform for these key travel industry professionals to network with and be part of a collaborative and like-minded community of agents and global suppliers who all have the same goal: To build and grow their business.”

At Travel Weekly and TravelAge West, we support the travel agent community 100% and we understand the value that a travel agent provides,” said Bob Sullivan, President, Travel Group, Northstar Travel Media. “To show our commitment we provide a variety of different programs and events throughout the year like GTM West which allow agents to enhance their careers and businesses.”


Travel Weekly, the national newspaper of the travel industry, is the most influential provider of news, research, opinion and analysis to the North American travel trade marketplace. In addition to a weekly print publication, TravelWeekly.com, updated several times daily, is the most-visited industry website. Travel Weekly is a division of Secaucus, New Jersey-based Northstar Travel Media, the largest travel business-to-business travel publisher in the world.


For 45 years, TravelAge West has been the trusted voice of the travel industry in the Western U.S. With award winning writing and design, the publication brings the best of travel to life for 45,000 audience members. The magazine's first-hand, on-site reports and fresh destination coverage is a valued resource for travel agents, providing them with the specialized information they need to better serve their unique clientele. www.travelagewest.com



GTM West 2015 - Tucson, Az - 5/1 to 5/3

Just under a week to go.  I'll be heading to Tucson for the Global Travel Marketplace West.  A rather unique trade event.  Suppliers outnumber agents, who are screened quite selectively.  Only 75 of us from the Western U.S. and Canada.  Truly, it's an honor and an achievement, just to be invited.

And about 80 travel suppliers representing tour operators, cruise lines, hotel chains, all-inclusive resorts, insurance companies, shore excursion suppliers, etc. 

Put on by NorthStar Media (the publisher of Travel Weekly and Travel Agent West, among other magazines), it's a little different than the usual trade show in that it's small, tightly run and very much "agent-centered".  And the best part is it's held at the Westin La Paloma, a fabulous hotel in the Catalina Foothills on the north side of Tucson.  There is a golf course, hiking trails, tennis complex, Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa, several restaurants and a bunch of pools.  I really enjoyed my time there last year, and am looking forward to going back.
I'll be grabbing a train at about 11pm next Wednesday for the 8.5 hour journey.  Then a glorious DAY OFF! Thursday (I haven't had one of those since 2014).  Friday the fun begins promptly at 8am and goes til 10pm or later.  And that will be the sleeping in day.  Not that they don't schedule in breaks and a leisurely lunch, but, yeah...14 hour day on Saturday and 11 more on Sunday.  During that time will be a dozen small room meetings with suppliers (8 or 10 agents/one supplier for a 1/2 hour or so), and about 60 short one-on-one appointments.  This is what we do, to make sure we know what we need to know, to give you the best, most up-to-date and personalized advice on your travel.  And by "we" I mean, travel agents who care ;-).

 Then back on the train for the ride home.

I'll be posting daily here, and probably a lot on FB (www.facebook.com/DaveHolmanTravel). 

And if you need any help booking your next vacation (or even a weekend at La Paloma to check out the best of Tucson, give us a call at 760.265.3687, or email daveholman@verizon.net, or find me on FB or Twitter!