California Road Trip in March & April: Postcards from the Highway

Hilltop above Carmel Valley, California

Wine Country Srping: Hwy 121, Sonoma County


Big rains this spring have greened the entire state of California, from north to south. What’s not green is white: the Sierra remain buried under the deepest snowpack in 20 years.  In a few weeks, once rainy season ends, everywhere but the mountains will turn gold—the color of lion’s fur, the dusty brown of tourist season. Now is the time for a road trip. As a professional travel correspondent, I always schedule California research trips for spring. Here’s why. Continue reading

Debunking Dubai’s Five-star Myth: When Business Class Masquerades as First

Dubai is home to some of the world’s most instantly recognizable hotels, but does the service measure up to the facilities? Some come close, but none I found merits the rarefied ranking of a real five-star. And that includes the iconic sail-shaped Burj al-Arab—which I prefer to call the Bourgeois à l’Arabe.

What distinguishes five-star from four-star service? The primary difference lies in the anticipation of a guest’s needs. A good hotel provides what you want before you know you want it. An example: You’re at a city hotel in, say, London, and step outside just as it begins to rain. Before you have to ask, the doorman offers an umbrella. Sure, any good four-star stocks umbrellas, but only the five-star will thrust one into your hand at the exact moment you need it, without your having to request it. Herein lies the problem. Continue reading