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Las Vegas Calendar – July 2009

House of Blues

Some things to do in Las Vegas, NV:

Grossology (Through September 7)

Where: Lied Discovery Children’s Museum (downtown Las Vegas)

Highlights: Barf, boogers and farts are all incorporated into the fun and educational exhibit subtitled “The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body.”

Info: www.ldcm.org

Blink-182 (July 23-24)

Where: The Joint at Hard Rock

Highlights: Punk rock fans rejoiced earlier this year when the band announced it had reunited. This is the band’s first tour in five years.

Beyoncé (July 30-August 2)

Where: Encore Theater

Highlights: With less than 1,500 seats, the theater provides an intimate setting as Knowles debuts songs from her new album.

The Krug Room (ongoing)

Where: Restaurant Guy Savoy

Highlights: Separated from the main dining area by a wood-paneled corridor, the Krug Room offers guests fine Champagne and the chef’s creations in an intimate setting.

This is just a small sampling of things to do in Vegas; naturally, what’s the use of going there if you don’t have somewhere to lay your weary head after a full day of activities on the Strip, right?  Thanks to the sluggish economy, there are lots of deals to be had.  For more information on deals in Las Vegas, click here.

If It’s Sunday, It Must Be Belgium

Most travellers – at least the ones I know, anyways – seem to prefer European destinations such as London, Paris, Rome and other common municipalities.  But in light of the slumping economy, one European destination gets little buzz – Brussels, Belgium.

Brussels is home of many of the European Union institutions; as such, this city is typically an expensive place to visit.  As of right now?  Not so much.  And you can be creative insofar as having a good time there, as well.  And don’t discount the Belgian eats; one can get a plate of mussels (a local specialty for the uninitiated) for around 30 Euros (about $20 USD).  Not to mention that there’s always the free chocolate samples (Belgian chocolate is to be tasted to be believed!) along with their legendary waffles.

Lots of landmarks and other places of interest to visit, as well.  Places such as The Grand-Place (the top destination there), Manneken Pis (this is the famed statue of a little boy urinating into a fountain) seems to be quite popular, along with lots of parks around the city.  As one who has been there, you can rest assured that Brussels is one of the “greener” cities in Europe.

Transportation is relatively inexpensive; public transportation will set you back 4.50 Euros ($6.30 USD) for a one-day pass while a three-day pass will run you about 9.50 Euros ($13.20 USD).  Of course, if you choose to illegally travel on their public transport, be prepared to pay a 50 Euro ($70) fine.

Naturally, you want to lay your head somewhere after a busy day in Brussels; surprisingly, there’s some decent bargains within their city limits.  Some hotels are charging as low as 57.50 Euros (around $81 USD) per night.  So if European culture, green parks, the prospect of going to Europe on the cheap and the Belgium lifestyle intrigue you, then I highly suggest Brussels as a possible European destination.  For current travel deals for Brussels, please click here.

Post-Swine Flu Bargains Abound In Mexico

I never thought that in my lifetime and in my career as a travel agency owner, I would see bargains that were caused by a health crisis.  But here we are with the swine flu scare.  People, for whatever reason, are avoiding the resorts in Mexico, despite the swine flu being by and large neutralized.  But what this does is provide some major travel package bargains for you, the traveller.  And I am here to tell you – other than precautions that you would take going to Mexico, nothing has really changed all that much.

A good example of this is that the Cancun visitors bureau has been filming testimonials from visitors already in Mexico, including Americans, Europeans and Canadians – so the health scare is by and large unfounded. 

While the swine flu situation is nothing to sneeze at – no pun intended – the chances of you catching this virus are minimal.  Pioneer Travel, the official travel agency of Quality Vacations, has a plethora of travel packages – including all-inclusive packages –  that are available to you.  For more information, go to: indysteve1563@yahoo.com.  Under the subject line, type: Mexican vacation packages.

Like Cheese? Restaurants Have You Covered

For those travellers who like variety in their restaurant menus – and are cheese lovers like myself – there’s lot of options out there for you.  Also keep on your check list the cheese rooms that these “cheese-themed” restaurants listed below have.  These rooms allow you to learn the entire process of making cheese and have tasting menus.  A wonderful experience is to be had as the “fromelliers” (a cheese waiter, so to speak) make this all possible.

But if you want to have the ultimate cheese experience like I just described, you’ll have to go internationally.  But just know – it is well worth it.  And there’s 5 restaurants that I highly recommend where you can get that cheese fix; they are:

  • Le Bouchon Breton.  Located in Spitalfields, London, England, htis high-end brasserie has a very impressive Gallic cheese trolley, including more than varieies of cheese.  Varieities such as: Le Testard, Corsican Fleur de Maquis and many more.  Frommelier Jean-Claude Ali Cherif also offers a series of regional-cheese master classes, coupled with wine pairings.  And just know that Ali cherif has been doing this for over 20 years, so he obviously knows what he is doing.  More information can be found by clicking here.
  • Duhau Resturant & Vinoteca, Park Hyatt, Buenos Aires, Argentina.  While they do have a restaurant, it is all about the cheese here.  Within the confines of the Park Hyatt stands a red-walled cheese room – the first of its kind in this country.  They tend to highlight the relatively unknown Argentine artisinal cheeses based on Eurpean stylings.   The tasting plates are served on a marble communal counter table which include such cheeses as: a Cordoba brie, Cordon – a goat’s cheese from Mendoza aged 15 months and Morbier, Manchego and Parmesan-inspired cheese served with fresh-fruit marmalades and excellent Argentine malbecs and cabernet sauvignons.  Remember – the room is minimalist in appearance, but the cheese is definitely not.  For more information, click here.
  • GPO Cheese & Wine Room, Sydney, Australia.  The name of this establishment is fairly simple, but I can assure you of this – the cheese is not.  Located within a vaulted sandstone cellar in the historic GPO building, you will enjoy an extensive cheese selection from their “cheese board”, which changes seasonally and is divided into fresh, white-mold, washed-rind, semi-hard, hard and blue cheeses from Australia (naturally) and Europe.  Some of the accoutrements include truffled honey, muscatel raisins and hibiscus chutney.  A nice touch is the excellent wine-and-cheese menus with tasting notes; they even have a single-malt-and-cheese menu along with monthly master classes.  Diners are even encouraged to create their own cheese board.  Very innovative place to visit.  for more information, click here.
  • Flow, Millenium Hilton Bangkok, Bangkok, Thailand.  Very state-of-the-art and climate-controlled, you’ll definitely know you’ve arrived at Flow by the aromas that will meet your nostrils.  One of the very few cheese speciality places in the Asian corridor.  Lots of varieities to be had here, including Colston Bassett Stilton, Brie Royale with black truffle and an aromatic Pecorino di Fossa from Italy.  Knowledgeable cheese-and-wine butlers will assist you on pairings while they also have a dedicated cheese table for guests to sit at and share their cheese-and-wine knowledge.  A bit communal, so to speak – but worth the visit, nonetheless.  For more information on Flow, click here.
  • Classified Cheese Room, Hong Kong.  An unusual name for a cheese establishment, but with plenty of variety of cheeses – 40 artisinal varieties, to be exact.  You get some options as to where you can enjoy your cheese findings – directly in the Classified Cheese Room, the Press Room restaurant (next door) or in situ – meaning you can also have your finds served from casual deli tables or from the Press Room’s wine cellar, which can seat up to 20 as it is also a private dining room.  The only cheese place of its kind in Hong Kong; for more information on Classified Cheese Room, click here.

Pioneer Travel, the official travel agency of Quality Vacations, has many travel packages to the above destinations.  To book or for more information, contact Stephen Rhodes at: indysteve1563@yahoo.com.  Under the subject line, type in Cheese Travel Packages.

Travelling To Mexico And Canada Just Took A Change

Well folks, travel to Mexico and Canada has taken a new twist because as of June 1, new rules requiring passports or new high-tech documents to cross the northern and southern borders will soon take effect.

The new rules are being implemented nearly eight years after the 9/11 attacks and long after the 9/11 Commission recommended the changes; travelers who do not comply with the new rules will get a warning and be allowed to enter the U.S. after an extensive background check.  By the way, this rule also affects sea crossings, so it is not just a land/air-based initiative here.

Keep this in mind as well:

  • Under the new rule, travellers can also use a passport card issued by the U.S. State Department to cross land borders; for first-timers, the cost of these cards is $45 –  a cheaper alternative to the regular passport.
  • I.D. documents available under the “Trusted Traveller” programs are also accepted; these documents are available for a fee, ranging from $50 to over $100.  these programs are designed to allow travellers faster access to the border.
  • Enhanced driver’s licenses, which use a microchip to store a person’s information, are accepted at select locations; currently, Washington state, New York, Vermont and Michigan are the only states that offer them.

There are some exceptions to these rules.  Children 16 and younger travelling with their families, people under the age of 19 travelling in youth groups, Native Americans and members of the military will be able to use different forms of identification.  In addition, travellers on cruises that depart a U.S. port, sail within the Western Hemisphere and return to the same port are exempt from these new rules.  My suggestion to all of you?  Get your passports updated or simply apply for the new forms of ID which will be required effective on Monday, June 1.

Events – Southern California

Looking to cruise around Southern California?  Looking for something to do?  There’s lots out there, with something for just about everyone’s tastes.  Below is a sampling of what’s happening in Southern California; please keep in mind that these events take place between April 6-19, 2009:

ESCONDIDO, CA

Downtown Escondido Fashion Week

When, where: April 6 to 11, various locations in downtown Escondido, including the California Center for the Arts.

Highlights: Nightly fashion shows, product exhibits, cocktail parties, charity functions, in-store events, spa day and a red-carpet grand finale.

Cost: Tickets for individual events range from $22 to $60. A regular ticket to all events is $99; a similar VIP ticket costs $185.

LOMPOC, CA

Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Festival

When, where: April 18, River Park.

Highlights: The more than 100 members of the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Assn. present wine tastings, food from local chefs, live music, wine-related exhibitions, a silent auction and open houses at wineries.

Cost: Tickets range from $25 to $100.

SANTA BARBARA

Founding Day

When, where: April 18, El Presidio State Historic Park.

Highlights: A celebration of Santa Barbara’s 227th birthday with food, music, dance, Native American storytelling and family-friendly crafts and activities.

Cost: Free

UNIVERSAL CITY

Eco-Fair

When, where: April 19, outside the main gates of Universal Studios Hollywood.

Highlights: Educational exhibits, displays and demonstrations, rides on electric bicycles and autograph signings by teen stars Kyle and Christopher Massey.

Cost: Free.

For information on these and other events in Southern California, click the CONTACT US link at the top of this page.