To Trust or Not to Trust Hotel Staff, that is the question

Be honest!  Do you place the “Do Not Disturb” door hanger on the door just to keep cleaning staff out of your room and your valuables safe?  Do you hide your jewelry when you know the maid is coming?  Do you carry valuable items with you for fear hotel staff may be particularly nosy?  Do you partake of the in room safe some hotels provide?

I go back and forth on this issue.  I try to trust that people are inherently good and remind myself not to be paranoid.  But, with a law enforcement background, I can’t help but be honest and rational about the realities that are out there. Some people are desperate and bad things happen.  I never want to put myself in the position to be victimized so I tend to “hide” items or limit the amount of cleaning or access to my room unless necessary.  Being the victim of theft would put an instant damper on any vacation especially if one brings along expensive camera equipment, computer equipment, money, travel documents, or other sentimental valuables.

I feel more comfortable in some places versus others.  I have always felt very comfortable in B&Bs, VRBOs, and AirBNBs.  But commercial hotels and small hotels especially in bad areas always gets my “spidey sense” up and I tend to be more conservative.  I try to trust my instincts.  They rarely steer me wrong.

What are your thoughts?  Have you had any bad hotel experiences?  Or have you experienced self-inflicted paranoia, like me, where you are probably overly concerned?

Dirty Little Secrets of a Hotel Maid

Does the Hotel Maid Look Through Your Stuff?

Random San Francisco – Part Two – Sixteenth Avenue Mosaic Staircase

As previously mentioned in Random San Francisco – Part One – Seward Mini Park, the weird/unusual/strange/fun/tasty keep me coming back to San Francisco as often as possible.  Its been around 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) in Sacramento.  And when it gets hot like this I start migrating like an animal to the cooler climates.  San Francisco is regularly about 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees) Celsius which in my book is a lot better.

A while back I visited the Sixteenth Avenue Mosaic staircase @ sixteenth avenue/moraga street and was blown away.  I went back for another visit to check it out again.  This time me and half of San Francisco was visiting at the same time!  The area is very hilly and multiple pedestrian staircases exist through the neighborhoods.  It appears some genius decided to make the very long and steep staircase in to a piece of art and well…it is a masterpiece.

The staircase starts with the sun and the moon, the water, the earth, and the streams ultimately meeting up with the sea.  A lovely view of the ocean can be seen from the staircase and leaves you with the feeling that the staircase is actually feeding right in to the ocean.

If you walk to the top and keep going it takes you up to a 360 degree vantage point of the San Francisco skyline that is second to none.  It is a wonderful and free place to visit that encompasses the San Francisco vibe in frankly an unimaginable way.  Kudos to the brains that thought this idea up and executed it.

What’s your favorite random San Francisco location?

For more information on the steps click here!

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Random San Francisco – Part One – Seward Mini Park

Some places you visit so often that you reach out for the random and unusual to keep it interesting.  I have been traveling regularly to SF since I was just out of high school and one of my best friends moved there to go to school.  I am no SF expert but when I visit I am always looking for interesting and different things in the city to explore.

Traveling from Sacramento through Oakland and over the Bay bridge we stopped at Treasure island for what turned out to be a cool and kitschy and crazy place.  More on that location later…

We headed towards the Castro area and parked our car in the area of Seward and Douglas.  It was here we found a charming San Francisco neighborhood and an awesome homemade park boasting a large dual-cement slide for children. The Seward Mini Park was built in 1973 after a young girl proposed it as an alternative to development.

Bring a piece of cardboard or borrow the many that are laying around and race a partner.  The park is traditionally for children and closes at dark.  (They apparently frown upon adults racing in the park without children.)  The park also boasts a neighborhood garden that looks to be in rehab at the moment.

After you take a slide have a nice walk around the neighborhood and look at some beautiful staircases and lovely architecture.  See if you can find the two houses with the false facades.

It’s parks like these that make me love SF and keep me coming back.  What’s your favorite random San Francisco location?

For more information and a more precise location of the park click here!

For more Random San Francisco (16th Avenue Mosaic Staircase) click here!

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Road Trip Music

Did you ever make mixed tapes in the past?  Did you ever try and seduce someone with your idea of the perfect set of love songs?  Did you ever create a mixed tape masterpiece for a family member to bring them back to a time to your past together?  Does a song every bring you back to a particular location while on vacation?

Well, a little while back I posted about Road Trip Food.   It got me thinking about Road Trip music.

I vividly remember driving my German friend through California and Arizona choosing appropriate “Road Trip Music” all along the way.  We listened to the Gypsy Kings as we drove through Central California.  We listened to the Beach Boys while traveling through LA.  We listened to U2’s Joshua Tree Album while traveling through Joshua Tree National park in Southern California near Palm Springs.  We listened to Elvis in Las Vegas.  We listened to American Indian mystical music in Sedona.

On subsequent trips to Europe with her we listened to country specific music when traveling through France and Italy.  We also paid special attention to whatever was popular in the country at the time.  I vividly remember a song called “The ketchup song” which to this day I still do not understand.  Europe had to have a flaw and that song was it.  We listened to the Proclaimers in Scotland and Ah-Ha in Germany.  (I was actually fortunate enough to see them in concert while there!)

Traveling through Ireland with my brother I brought Irish CDs with me only to find out the car we rented didn’t have a CD player.  Nonetheless we listened in hotels to Van Morrison, U2, Sinead O’Conner, Thin Lizzy, The Chieftains, Clannad, The Corrs, and Christy Moore.

I was introduced to Ronan Keating who sang, among other songs, “Nothing at all.”  I was familiar with the song from when Alison Krauss sang it and remembered Keith Whitley sang it first.  I pointed this out to a bartender who was singing along to it and he nearly threw me out of the bar for lying to him.  I never did convince him that someone else could have sang it first.

On a road trip with my husband to Utah we knew we would be stuck in the car for two full day’s worth of driving just to get to our main destination.  We ended up getting Farenheit 52 as a book on tape.  It was terrible!  Don’t hate me.  Everyone else in the world seems to love that book…  We had better luck listening to the Serial Podcast about a journalists journey to find the truth behind a murder!  That was an absolutely wonderful way to spend a road trip up and back to visit in-laws in Oregon!

Now-a-days we have Pandora and iTunes and a billion other music options.  It seems mixed tapes are no longer necessary making room for digital “playlists.”  I can tell you I will never bring a physical CD on a flight ever again!  But, I do miss the days where I put a lot of thought in to what music would be played to enhance my trip no matter whether I was driving or flying.

What kind of music do you listen to on the airplane when traveling?  Or what kind of music do you listen to in the car on a road trip?  What songs transport you back in time to a vacation moment you had long ago?

My Lake Tahoe is Your Lake Tahoe

I am so fortunate to live near Lake Tahoe.  Growing up in Sacramento I have long appreciated the fact that I live approximately an hour from some of the most epic destinations in the world.  I live close to San Francisco, the wild California coast, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, the Sierra Mountains, big trees, Napa, etc, etc, etc.

Growing up I spent a lot of time in Lake Tahoe.  I have never lived there but I have always felt like it was my go to place to escape the heat and lay on the beach even when the water is generally too cold to swim in for very long!  (Remember it is filled up primarily of snow pack run off. Brrr.)

So, people ask me all the time, “What would you recommend to do in Lake Tahoe?”  Well, how much time do you have?  The answer depends on what you are in to because Lake Tahoe has it all and then some.  Gambling, hiking, watersports, world class skiing, great food, bicycling, tubing on the Truckee river, shopping, antiquing, and more.

So, by popular demand below are some of my favorite things to do in Tahoe starting with the 72 mile drive around the lake allowing visitors the luxury of stopping wherever strikes their fancy.

1. Whether you take highway 50 or highway 80 from Sacramento to Truckee and then highway 89 to Tahoe City one must embark upon the 72 mile drive around the Lake. If you do nothing else other than drive around the lake you will be rewarded with some of the most epic views anywhere this side of Switzerland.  If driving around the windy roads isn’t your bag hop on the Tahoe Trolley and help Keep Tahoe Blue with multiple stops around the lake.

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2.  From highway 89 Stop by Squaw Valley, home to the 1960 Winter Olympics, and hopeful home of upcoming Olympics. Ski, mountain bike, take the tram to the top and ice skate, shop at the lovely boutiques, or simply sit and eat in any of the wonderful cafes.  My favorite thing to do in Squaw Valley is to walk the trail in the valley and take in the gorgeous views.  You will quickly forget you are in California and immediately start singing like you are in the Sound of Music.

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3.  Take in some sun at Kiva Beach. I have been going to this beach since I was a girl.  It is quiet and easy to park.  And there is a wonderful walking path towards the beach that takes you through original pioneer buildings at Talloc Historic Site.  The buildings have been updated since I was a tot but they are wonderful in the summer and in the winter if you want to snow shoe in.  You will be rewarded with a lovely beach, great mountain views, pine tree shade canopy, and the sound of the lapping lake.  Just try and not relax in this place!  I dare you.

053014 -44.  Visit Taylor Creek and take in the Rainbow trail. Gorgeous views of the lake can be had at this park.  But most importantly visitors can see the wetlands systems that help keep Tahoe so blue.  They also keep local beavers, salmon, and other fish thriving in their local habitats.  Children can take a small trail teaching them about Smoky Bear and hiking/camping wildfire safety.  Visitors can also enjoy an underground glass fish viewing area particularly interesting when salmon are spawning.

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5.  Rent a bike. The lake has a great trail system and there is no better way to see, smell, and enjoy the lake than on a bike.  It allows you easy access and no parking fees along with the quick ability to stop anywhere.  Keep in mind the elevation changes quickly on the lake so monitor this depending on your skill level and desire to sweat.

6. Visit the Camp Richardson Valhalla Renaissance Fair. Don’t forget to dress up and bring a mug for beer.  This event is wonderful for children with multiple activities to keep their interest occupied from meeting the Queen to learning how to shoot a bow and arrow to learning Renaissance games.  You can even see a real life Parrot show.

7.  Eat at the newly remodeled Burger Lounge if not for the food but for the enormous and amusing sign. Stop by Camp Richardson for an ice cream cone if your calorie count isn’t high enough after your burger and fries.

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8.  Rent a kayak, paddleboard, or canoe. Take them out early in the morning before the waves and current get too strong.  (Trust me, I learned the hard way.)  Carnelian Bay, Pope Beach, Crystal Bay, and Kings Beach all are wonderful places to get out on the water.  But, the important part is that you get out on the water anywhere you can.

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9.  Take in an outdoor concert at Harveys outdoor venue. While there is sadly no lake view it is a wonderful place to take in top musical acts outdoors in the cool summer weather.  Afterwards take in a club or some gambling at any one of the great Casinos.

10.  Spend your gambling winnings by eating at the fantastic and comfortable little organic café Sprouts in South Shore.

11.  Take in the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare festival. While there is no lake view at Harvey’s the Shakespeare festival encourages theatre goers to bring a chair and a blanket and some wine and enjoy the show on the beach.  I doubt Shakespeare ever had this venue in mind when he was writing his plays but it makes perfect sense to me!  Et tu Brute?

12.  Stroll along Truckee’s trendy main street. If you would have asked me years ago if I thought Truckee would be a go too destination I would have laughed.  But, consider staying in Truckee or spending a nice afternoon walking along and enjoying the shops of Truckee.  Multiple interesting and trendy restaurants have popped up as well at breweries to enjoy a pint.  Pay special attention to parking restrictions or the meter maid will give you a ticket!  (I also learned this the hard way.)

13.  Learn about California history at Donner Lake and Donner summit visiting the Donner Party memorial. You can better understand what it really meant for pioneers to travel cross country for the thought of a better life.  And most importantly, you will have a glorious lake view surrounded by more glorious mountain views.  Sit back, close your eyes, smell the pine, hear the birds, and feel the sand in between your toes.

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14.  Visit Cal Neva Tahoe Biltmore & Casino for an Old Tahoe Casino charm and nearby Crystal Bay to admire beautiful architecture and pricey wooden boats.

15.  Visit the Concours d’Elegance where tons of vintage wooden boats are on display.  Visitor’s are even allowed to step on board many of the boats to admire the craftsmanship.

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16.  Take the Heavenly gondola up to the top of the Sierras to get a 360 degree view of the lake and the Carson valley on the other side. You will feel like you are in Switzerland.  When you descend back down to earth visit any one of the fun and youthful outdoor sport clothing shops to buy a new bathing suit or pair of sunglasses.

17.  Lastly, No stop to Lake Tahoe is complete without visiting Emerald Bay. The Bay gets its color from the lake soil and the reflection from the sky.  This spot on Tahoe is one of the most spectacular sites on the lake and arguably in anywhere in California.  Hike down to Vikingsholm to see a wealthy pioneer home built in the style of the Vikings.  See the tea room built on a small island dotting the middle of the Bay.  If you still have energy go the other direction and walk up to Eagle Falls to cool off in the brisk mountain water.

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There is something in Tahoe for everyone.  I have been going here all my life and Tahoe always seems like the place I want to go to relax, to think, to have fun, to go swimming, to hike, to enjoy by myself, with the bulldog, or with a group of friends.  Everyone loves something different about Lake Tahoe, but I dare you to find someone who doesn’t fall in love with it in their own way over and over again every time they visit.

Have you ever visited Lake Tahoe?  Did you visit in the summer or the winter?  Tell me your favorite part of Lake Tahoe!