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    Since we're coming to you from San Diego, we'll bring you (virtually) one of the area's most popular attractions: the San Diego Zoo. Perhaps the most popular animal there is the Panda, and there is now a live Panda Cam to check out Panda Central. On the subject of animals, we also have a Llama cam, based in Martinsville, IN.
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  • LastMinute.com

  • Every savvy American traveler knows the U.K. is usually the cheapest European point of entry. Now, after touring your favorite city (or pub), why not explore other parts of Europe, or even the world? A great UK-based website that any foreigner can use, LastMinute.com offers all kinds of package deals for weekend getaways or halfway-round-the-globe jaunts.

  • Viator.com

  • Looking for "weird and wonderful" things to do? Check out Viator.com's recommendations for major U.S. cities. One example: Los Angeles' Movie Stars' Homes and Celebrity Grave Site Tour. What's especially great about Viator is that you can book your tour in advance, and be guaranteed a spot.

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Check Out Johnny Jet's New Blog!
Greetings! We left off last week after my last full day in Italy. What an incredible trip it was. I learned so much about that wonderful country -- especially the food. I left the next morning at 6 a.m. for the 90-minute drive to Milan’s Malpensa International Airport. On the way there I spotted license plates from all over Europe. That made me want to stay and explore, instead of going home. It was frustrating being so close to incredible cities by car or train -- Nice was only two hours away, Venice three and Rome six -- and not visit them. I realized 4 days is way too short to come to this part of the world. Next time I’ll stay longer!

At Malpensa I felt sad about leaving all over again, when I saw all the cities listed on the monitor. But I was excited to go home, because my niece and nephew were coming to visit me for the Easter holiday. I was lucky to be flying up front on Continental. Not only could I enjoy a comfortable flight, but I had access to their club lounge. The President’s Club in Milan ( called Sala Pergolesi) is shared with 25 different airlines. It’s only okay in terms of design and snack/drink selection but I didn't really care since I had only 10 minutes. My main reason for being there was to check my email using their internet ports. I was bummed when I couldn’t log on using the free internet cords and my only other option was to use the wireless. But that service had a fee, and it didn’t make sense to buy the minimum of one hour. Instead, I packed up and took off to Duty Free, to spend some left over euros.

My 8-hour, 18-minute flight to Newark was smooth. It never got dark, since we left at 10:05 a.m. and arrived at 1:25 p.m. We flew directly over Geneva and Paris, which was way cool. I waved and daydreamed. The food wasn’t too good this time around -- except the Irish chocolates served with my meal. They were incredible!

Newark was as unfriendly as it always is for international arrivals. I don’t know what’s up there, but it starts with the airport not giving international passengers a free luggage cart. Nearly every other airport in the world does (including the U.S.). In addition, the attitude of TSA agents at the security recheck point for reconnecting flights is obnoxious. They are rude, overpowering and have no patience with visitors who don’t speak a lot of English. It’s amazing people even want to stay in America after that “welcome.”

It also really irks me that the Transportation Security Administration seems to have different rules at every airport (even though TSA denies it). If the rule says “You are not required to remove your shoes before you enter the walk-through metal detector” why did the agent punish me when I kindly declined her request to take off my shoes and belt? I fly all the time, wearing the same belt and sneakers, so I know they don’t trigger alarms. I didn’t give any attitude and I didn’t beep going through, but still the agent rudely took me aside – leaving my belongings wide open to thieves -- and made me take my shoes off so she could put them through the machine. Then I had to wait for an agent to wand me. You can’t reason with these people -- or better yet smack (unless you want to go to jail). Fortunately Continental’s President’s Club put me at ease. I found a nice desk and finally checked email (using high-speed wireless for free).

My flight to LAX took 5 hours and 20 minutes. I had no checked bags, and I had parked my car at Park One which is the closest off site parking facility, so I was home before most people even got off the plane.

A couple of days later my sister Carol, brother-in-law Tom, niece Amanda and nephew John came out from Florida to visit. They spent two days with me in L.A., before we drove down the coast to San Diego. We first stopped off in Palos Verdes to see one of our cousins, then checked out one of the most picturesque ocean trails in the country. It’s perfect for a picnic, but we hadn’t packed a lunch so we stopped down the road at the old Ocean Trails Golf course (now Trump International). It’s a great place for lunch. Although the Italian-design dining room looks very formal, most customers are dressed casually. The food was good and the service average, but the views of the course were excellent. If you want to play a round of golf, it will be ready in August, and open to the public. The cost for a round of 18 is $195 during the week, $300 on weekends. Trump National Golf Club, One Ocean Trails Drive, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA; tel.: (310) 265-5000.

We were headed to San Diego to spend Easter weekend with my Uncle Joe’s immediate family. Since neither Uncle Joe nor any of his children (Dennis, Clement, A.J. and Sasha) live in San Diego, they decided to meet at the Four Seasons Resort Aviara. It's perfect for both golf and little kids. The hotel is in Carlsbad, which is in northern San Diego County about 30 minutes from downtown. There are 329 rooms (including 44 suites), and each guest room has a balcony or terrace. The place is nicely designed, with Spanish Colonial architecture and beautifully manicured landscapes.

My brother-in-law Tom was disappointed it wasn’t right on the ocean. There were ocean views, but the beach was a solid 10-minute drive. After checking in we were shown to our rooms. When the bellman opened the door to the room Tom looked at him with surprise, then said, “This costs $520 a night?” The bellman was speechless. Tom then asked if Aviara (a Native American word) translated to “big rip-off.” We were all speechless. I can’t blame him, though, because the room was nothing special. The only good thing I saw was the nice, oversized marble bathroom. It had a tub and separate shower, with L’Occitane bath products all around.

After Tom complained that the room did not cut it, the hotel allowed Tom to upgrade at a discounted rate (though by his expression it didn’t seem like he got a great deal). The bellman moved their bags to a much nicer and larger suite, with a separate bedroom and two bathrooms. This is what the $520 room should've looked like. Unfortunately, the hotel did not live up to the Four Seasons brand name. Although the service was good, we never expected to have so many problems. We made two repair calls in the first 5 minutes alone: there was no pressure in the shower, and the TV was fuzzy. Beyond that, it seemed as if the hotel was nickel-and-diming us -- not good when you charge top dollar. Wouldn’t you think high- speed internet would be free? Heck, I’ve stayed at $49-a-night hotels where internet is free -- why can’t this Four Seasons include it like their property in Chicago?

Also, the hotel really pushed its residence club (time-share ownership) on guests, which seemed totally inappropriate. Every time I walked by the residence club sales office (conveniently located between the restaurants and guest rooms), the two salespeople put on their fake-friendly used-salesman smiles. After the first few times I realized there was no way they could always smile like that, so I tiptoed up and spied. They weren’t smiling, but as soon as they saw me, they smiled. Busted!

Although the hotel didn’t live up to its name, it is a great place for families (provided they have money to burn). Kids love it, starting with their special rooms for kids. They brought in kids’ robes, stuffed frogs, rubber duckies, and spelled the kids’ names with little sponges. They also bring them bedtime milk and cookies (I wouldn’t have minded one of those bad boys myself). For infants they childproof the guest room, and bring in cribs at no extra charge. The hotel also provides high chairs and strollers, a complete set of baby bath products, and a children's DVD library. Parents love this kind of stuff and the fact that they have a professionally organized children's program and 24/7 babysitters (reservations are recommended). For more info click here .

To say the least the kids were happy -- and that was before they saw the ultimate amenity: the oversize pool! (Don’t worry, adults – there is also a quiet pool for folks who want to get away from shrieking kids.) There is also a fun game room -- but no arcade games. I think that’s a good thing. Instead there are board games, billiards, ping pong, puzzles, and shuffle board. This forces kids to interact with other children. Another attraction are separate kids’ buffets in each restaurant, filled with food kids like. Nice job!

For golf lovers, this top-ranked Arnold Palmer course is a favorite. The carts even include on-board computers that tell you exactly how far your ball is from the hole. Too cool! The cost is $185 for a round Monday through Thursday before 3 p.m., $115 after 3. On weekends it costs $205 before 3 p.m., $120 after. Golfers should inquire about golf packages, which offer better deals. The Aviara also features six tennis courts, a large fitness center, yoga and a slew of spa services (spa packages are also available).

Besides the activities listed above, the resort is right next to the Batiquitos Lagoon nature trail -- perfect for an early morning walk. For guests who don’t want to walk 15 minutes to the entrance, a free shuttle circles the property every 10 to 15 minutes. The lagoon is 610 acres, with a nice 2-mile nature trail. For more info see BatiquitosFoundation.org

The hotel did a great job organizing Easter for both adults and kids. First they delivered baskets to the room -- Guests either have to ship them beforehand or buy a prearranged one from the hotel. (The chocolate I brought back from Italy was a big hit in the adults’ Easter baskets). The hotel also provided guests with directions to local churches, which were standing room only. After church we had a fantastic breakfast buffet, with tons of fresh fruit, eggs to order and all the usual fixins.

Then came the main event: the Easter egg hunt. Kids first colored their Easter bag; then the Easter bunny officially started the hunt, which quickly became a total mad dash. Johnny and Amanda really cleaned up, and had a great time doing so. Later we took family pictures, then went to the clubhouse for a nicely decorated Easter feast ($60 per person). Aviara Four Seasons, 7100 Four Seasons Point, Carlsbad, CA; tel.: (760) 603-6800.

There are plenty of things to do in the immediate area, and a ton more 30 minutes away in San Diego. I can list only a few. One place just down the road from the hotel – and not to be missed -- is the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch. They’re open to the public only this time of year (early March through early May). The ranch boasts nearly 50 acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers, which have transformed the Carlsbad hills for over 60 years. The season ends May 8, so hurry! It’s open to the public from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week. It costs $8 for adults, $7 for seniors 60 and over, $5 for children 3 to 10. The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch, 5704 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, CA; tel: (760) 431-0352.

If you have young kids, make sure to take them to Legoland. It’s an eight-minute drive from the Four Seasons, and kids go wild about -- especially if they’re between 2 and 12 and like Legos. The 128-acre theme park has 5,000 Lego models, which are really impressive. But the rides aren’t made out of Legos, like I thought they would be, and the hairiest ride is a mini-roller coaster that’s not too scary – even for a scaredy-cat like me. It’s best to arrive right at the 10 a.m. opening, to get an hour or two without having to wait in long lines (some can grow to 90 minutes). The place is not cheap, though: $44.95 for ages 3-55, seniors $37.95. Age 2 and younger are free. I showed my AAA card, and we got a 20% discount. Food is a rip-off too: a very small pizza and small bottle of water set me back $13. It’s also a big toy store, so be prepared to shell out some bucks for gifts. Otherwise, you’ll have a crying child on your hands. Legoland, One Legoland Drive; tel.: 760-918-5346

To offset the high cost of Legoland, a great place to take the kids is La Jolla. Everyone loves getting up close to see the harbor seals (thought not too close -- they bite). My nephew counted 98. And it’s free. After seeing the seals we took a walk on the beach (it was too cold to swim), and explored the caves (be careful of the waves). With my sister calling the shots, you know we hit downtown to shop. And with me in town, you know we ate like champs. We had breakfast at my favorite La Jolla eatery: Brockton Villa Restaurant. Another good breakfast place is the La Valencia Hotel (lavalencia.com). Brockton Villa Restaurant, 1235 Coast Blvd., La Jolla, CA; tel.: 858-454-7393.

Here’s a 50-second video from the trip. Just remember: San Diego is a great place for the whole family. It doesn’t matter if you stay at the Four Seasons or Motel 6. It’s all about the experience.

Happy Travels,

Johnny Jet

*Please tell us what you think of this week's newsletter!


  • Malpensa Airport
  • Lily Obrien's Irish chocolates
  • TSA
  • Park One
  • Trump National Golf Club
  • Aviara Four Seasons
  • The Flower Fields
  • Legoland
  • La Valencia Hotel
  • Brockton Villa Restaurant
  • LaJolla Seals
  • *Some photo's taken by Joelle of JustDaisy.com


  • Fun with the Family in Southern California, 4th: Hundreds of Ideas for Day Trips with the Kids
  • Fodor's Around Los Angeles with Kids, 2nd Edition
  • Frommer's San Diego 2005
  • Top 10 San Diego (Eyewitness Travel Guides)
  • Thomas Guide 2005 San Diego County Street Guide: Street Guide (San Diego County Including Portions of Imperial County Street Guide and Directory)
  • Fodor's San Diego, 19th Edition
  • Secret San Diego: The Unique Guidebook to San Diego's Hidden Sites, Sounds, & Tastes (Secret Guide series)
  • Handbook of Wildflowers, Weeds, Wildlife, and Weather of the South Bay and Palos Verdes Peninsula: Including Tidepool and Seashore Life
  • The Palos Verdes Peninsula: A history

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    • I live in Jupiter, FL. You did a wonderful job of pointing out the highlights. I am sorry you didn't visit our beaches. But that's okay, too many people might start coming to them after they read this column! Cindy Vonk
    • A great story, especially the meal at Combal.zero. I noticed Johnny (as Usual) sits next to the babes! Dave Citron - Danville, CA.
    • Your article in Frommer's of northern Italy was magnificent. I think Georgio looks like a young Sylvester Stallone! I enjoy your articles and want to know if you have similar articles covering southern Italy and Sicily. For my 65th birthday, my husband and I are taking a trip in September to Italy with 5 days in Sicily to see family in Marineo; then a 12 day cruise on the Grand Princess that cruised to Monaco, Livorno, Naples, Santorino, Mykonos, Athens, Kusadasi, Kotolon, Corfu and ending in Venice where we will spend two additional days. I am looking for a guide in Venice to see the surrounding areas and possibly visit the jewelry factories in Verona dn Vicenze. I am new to Frommer's and am also wondering if you have put your experiences into a BOOK. If not, you should. I loved the photos, what a great enhancement to your descriptins of the various cities you visited. I absolutely love northern Italian food and the dolce of Sicily! Keep the articles coming. I'm a fan! Jo Witte (nee Palazzo)
    • Ok...I'm actually laughing out loud...just finished reading the softball "play by play"...I'm on a conference call right now...I didn't think I needed to put myself on mute to read your Cabo Blog...you should have warned me...last week's financials were not funny...but apparently now everyone thinks I thought they were... good stuff!!! Mary - Irvine, CA
    • Ciao GianniJet, I enjoyed the newsletter tremendously, especially the pictures. I’m not sure that a description only in words could have conveyed the peculiarity of Combat.Zero. The newsletter reminded me that Italy is a wonderfully diverse country, offering great food in plastic boxes as well as on steaming family-sized platters. I have not spent much time in Piemonte, generally finding myself in Rome or on the Island of Sicily, but I’ll think again before I take my next trip. Thanks! Gail Chase - Unity, Maine (right next to Freedom, not far from Liberty- think something’s going on?)
    • Always a spell binding adventure! Pete - Irvine, CA
    • That is a long-ass article - excellent though! Why wouldn't a newspaper like the NY Times want something like that - it is so much better than the sh*t they have in the travel section. Kevin O - New Jersey
    • As an annual visitor to Alba (for white truffles), I particularly enjoyed your report on Piemonte! And web resources useful. Keep up the good work! Michael Palmer - London, UK
    • Thank you for this information. I am a travel agent, and my former employer and friend wants to go back to his roots in Turin next year. I emailed your page to him. This was so helpful!!! Again, Thank you! Shirley Bernhagen - Schofield, WI
    • Thank you, for a terrific look at Italy . I'm planning on going there in the next year or two, and am always interested in tips and not the usual tourist places. I love seeing the country side of these smaller cities. And as for the out/indoor markets. I've been to some in Mexico while I was there for a few months, and I did get use to them. But like some countries there is not refrigerators in every home, so you learn to shop daily. Keep the travels coming I learn something from ever letter I get.. Sincerely, RuthAnn Lloyd - Wasilla, Alaska
    • Well done! The section heads make for speedier reading through all the festive stops on your grand tour de Torino. Richard Lee F - Oregon
    • I’ve enjoyed your last several newsletters – especially your trip to Italy. Italy and the Italian people were very kind to us when we were there about 7 years ago. Your group seemed to have a wonderful time. Keep up the great stories and wonderful pictures! Geof O’Connor - San Diego and San Francisco
    • I like this one a lot……….One of your best! John D - Huntington Beach, CA
    • Your newsletter has been so helpful in preparing me for my upcoming trip to the region - feel like I know exactly what to expect! Emily M. New York, NY 10018
    • You asked for feedback. My reaction is that you might have told a bit more about Torino. That was the subject of the piece, no? Maybe a little about the Piazza Castello, a couple blocks North (?) of the Principe de Piemonte Hotel. (There was(?) a private palace restaurant/club about half-way up on the right side.) I can't remember the name, but it's special! I'd expect to read a little about the romantic arcaded sidewalks** in the town. Perhaps a little about some great restaurants in the town -- particularly, one of my world favorites - a hard-to-find, but worth it - called "El Gato Nero"! on via Corso Emmanuele, up aside of the RR Station (still there?) Perhaps about some of El Gato Nero's amazing dishes that would make Emeril envious, like "Fillet a la Bonne Femme" (Fr.), as well as my yardstick for Italian restaurants everywhere, "Linguini alla Vongole" (bianco, certo!) - il piatto which raises the bar for tutti gli altri ristoranti nel mondo!! Thanks for listening, Dave Sullivan P.S. I used to visit there frequently - MANY years ago - calling on Olivetti, (in Ivrea) Dave Sullivan - Bonita Springs, FL
    • Great video of the Museum of Cinema!! Emily - NYC
    • This johnnyjetblog.blogspot.com is cute and the Museum of Cinema video was so wonderful to watch. I’m really glad you think it’s the coolest
    • museum you’ve ever been to. It’s among my favorites too. Pam - New Jersey
    • Buona Sera Gianni! My husband and I moved back to the States last May after living just outside of Torino for nine years. A friend of mine sent me your site today and thought I would enjoy what you will have to say about Torino and the Piemonte region. I will tell you that I miss living there very, very much. Mi manca Torino moltissimo. I wasn't ready to return to the States! We lived in a villaggio called Dega Nord in the town of Vinovo, south of the city center. We actually were outside of the town center of Vinovo, just a five minute drive from the beautiful Palazzina di Caccia di Stupinigi ( the hunting palace of the Savoia family ). I used to go to the really small post office there at Stupinigi to send mail and pay the bills! The front door of the Palazzina is in a direct line to the front door of the Palazzo di Reale ( the Royal Palace in the center of Torino ). I've seen wild boar a few times around in the fields and in parts of the park that surround Stupinigi! The food of this region and city is wonderful. The Torinese have "una passione per il caffé e la cioccolata". You must try a piece of Gianduiotto, the creamy chocolate and hazelnut concoction of every chocoholics dream in the form of a small triangular bar wrapped up in gold foil. I prefer the brand " Streglio ". This small chocolate and candy manufacturer is in None, not far from Vinovo. I took some guests on a tour through the factory one time. What fun!! Also try a bicerin, a local caffé ( espresso, chocolate and milk ). You can find it at the Caffé Torino on the Piazza San Carlo or at Al Bicerin on the Piazza Consolota. I was instructed to have this caffé no later than 2 pm! Pick up a bottle of Bicerin di Gianduiotto, a liquore, to take home and put on top of your ice cream. MMMMM, the gelato.... the pastries.....the wine... well, you can see what I liked! And believe it or not, I lost weight living over there! I can go on and on about so many things. I always loved looking at the Alps! One thing that Torino has that I don't think many people know about is the Egyptian museum. I've heard that it's 2nd in the world to the one in Cairo. The museum is on the smallish side for the amount of artifacts that it has, but it's still very interesting, if you like Egyptian antiquities. I think Torino and the surrounding areas are beautiful and have so much to offer and the Torinese are very proud of their city. I also love the Baroque architecture. Go have a look at the facade of Palazzo Carignano on the Piazza Carignano, the brick work done in flowing lines is absolutely beautiful. It is by far my most favorite piece of architecture in Torino. I will be returning in mid May to stay with my friends for two weeks. No English for me during my stay! I was also there for a visit last Oct. It's hard to stay away!! Well, I'll finish here. Have fun during your stay and I hope you have many happy, beautiful and delicious discoveries!! Ciao, ciao, Diane Ritter - Milford, Ohio
    • I just spent about an hour navigating through your web-site...and I must say...I'm blown away! What an incredible business you've grown. I was fascinated, and could have spent hours more pouring through your stories. I was particularly touched by the tributes to your Mom. What an amazing lady she was and what a wonderful way for you and your family to honor her. Mary O - Los Angeles, CA
    • RE Sideways article: Wow! what a great story and all those cool links... I have an online location library here at the SB county film commission... I would love to use some of your photos (with a credit to you naturellement). You have a GREAT SITE! Martine W - Santa Barbara, CA

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