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    It's almost Halloween, so we made a special webpage for you! It's called Haunted Hotels, and besides haunted hotels it lists bed & breakfasts and castles around the world. Do you dare spend a night in them? Boo!

    'Twas the day after Halloween and all through the pad, not a creature was stirring except sneaky old dad; my fingers moved swiftly, my mouth had a leer, for I knew that the candies would soon disappear; Good old Babe Ruth, Hershey kisses and corn, Tootsie Rolls, Taffy, Mints, Jelly Beans and pop corn; Just then a door slammed, something gone wrong, my four year old daughter and her pal Susie Wong; " Daddio, where's my loot?", she says with a smile, I craves it all now, then she split for a while; As they went out the door, I overheard her say, "Man, dad's are sure square, stealing candy that way!"
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I am happy that the baseball season is finally over, because it took over my life for the past three weeks (when the playoffs started). The first two rounds really messed me up, because I am a diehard Yankee fan and most of their games aired at 1 p.m. out here in California. Could there be a worse time for a big game to be played? I would rather have gotten up at 4 a.m. than have it smack in the middle of a weekday. How could any Yankee fan get any work done? 

I am sure all you Yankee haters are laughing at me, but don't laugh too hard. Even though the Yankees lost the World Series, I am not too upset. In fact, I wouldn't have been depressed at all if the Cubs beat the Yankees instead of the dang Marlins. All I can say is that I am so thankful the Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox. I grew up in southern Connecticut, which is pretty much the border between Yankee and Red Sox fans. I argued my whole life with many friends and relatives who are Sox fans. You don't know how much smack I would've heard (for the rest of my life) if the Sox had won. Thank you God! 

Now to more important news: As you know, this week has been hotter than heck out here in L.A. I feel so bad for all those people who have lost their homes, even their lives, because of the wildfires. I live about 40 miles from the fires, and feel so helpless. The smell of smoke and the ashes falling from the sky are a scary reminder of what is taking place only short distance away, and what the heroic firefighters and helpless victims are dealing with. Let's hope they are able to contain them ASAP. There are not many times I pray for rain, but this week I am. Come on, Mother Nature!  If you are flying in or out of southern California, be sure to check with your airline. Many flights were delayed or cancelled.

Last week I left off on a twenty-four mile taxi ride from Okaloosa airport to Sandestin. If you are wondering, "Where's that?", then you missed last week's newsletter.  Sandestin is located in northwest Florida between Pensacola and Panama City, eight miles east of Destin. I learned that, like many U.S. destinations, the best month to visit Sandestin is October.  The weather was perfect: 78 degrees during the day, around 58 at night (perfect sleeping weather) -- and no crowds.

As I mentioned last week, I was on my first press trip.  They (the folks at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort ) hosted eighteen journalists from around the country to see what they offer. I quickly learned that the resort offers plenty, because it occupies 2,400 acres. It's massive! The best part is that they are located on 7.5 miles of beach on one side, and a bay on the other. Like any good resort they have a wide variety of complimentary amenities: daily use of the health club (adults only), bicycles, canoes, kayaks, boogie boards and tennis courts.

The resort has been around for 30 years, but received a huge facelift when the Intrawest Corporation bought it in 1998. You may have heard of Intrawest; they’re a popular operator of resorts across North America. Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia for example.

The marketing department brought us there because they just completed their new village and premier hotel called the Grand Sandestin. It has 168 units, ranging from standard hotel rooms to one-, two- and three-bedroom suites. I was fortunate to score a one- bedroom suite, and it was sweet.  Check this place out: It has 2 bathrooms, a kitchen, even a washing machine.   My favorite part was the TV room (that's where I watched the Yankees beat the Red Sox), and the patio overlooking Choctawhatchee Bay.  

The reason why we stayed in this hotel and not one of their beachfront properties was not only because it's brand new and within walking distance to the Village, but because it is connected to an equally new conference center. They hope the Baytowne Conference Center will attract the convention market (it caters to 1800 people). After touring the place, the only thing I found wrong was it lacked WiFi (wireless internet connection). However, I think after the staff heard all of us complain how important Wifi is that they will get it soon. That would make it perfect. Otherwise, how could meeting planners not like this place? The resort is located on a beautiful  beach, there is a brand spanking new village with all kinds of shops and restaurants, plus 10 tennis courts with all three surface types (grass, clay, and hard court) and three championship golf courses.  The latter goes a long way with CEO's, don't you think?

BTW:    We had a golf lesson and demo hosted by their pros. The pro shop is run by the Hank Johnson School of Golf (Hank has been chosen as one of Golf Digest Magazine's Top 50 Teachers in America). It was a good morning, and Hank must know what he's doing because I didn't break any windows with my slice.

After taking a  tour of the property and the bay, I was anxious to check out the beach.  The resort is so big that you need to use the tram or ride a bicycle. I took the free tram for an eight-minute ride to the beach. (FYI: The tram takes 5-15 minutes to arrive). The beach is on the Gulf of Mexico, and after seeing the color of the water I now know why they call this area "the emerald coast." The water was beautiful and warm, 75 degrees. The white sandy beach is the nicest I have seen in the United States, period. The reason is because the sand is so soft and white that it looks like sugar.  The only nicer sand I have ever seen in this world was earlier this year, at Whitehaven beach in Queensland, Australia.  

If you don't want to swim in the gulf, then you can choose a pool from any of the 18 hotels on the property. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to pool hop because I was busy interviewing hotel guests like these nice married  ladies from Georgia. I met them by the Grand pool and they had the same responses as the other people I spoke with: They said they really enjoyed being there, and had mostly positive things to say.  From talkiing to people I learned that this area is popular with folks from nearby Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, because it is within driving distance.  

Of course I took advantage of some of their amenities.  The best thing I did was get an hour-long  massage at the health club. Maybe they will invite Amber Airplane down next year when they open their brand new facility, that way she can cover of all the girly stuff for  (Amber is still working on her website but you can check out her homepage and sign up for her newsletter now!).

Now let's talk about what I love to do: eat. Especially dessert! All of the restaurants we visited were down in the new village, which is the gathering place for everyone visiting, living (there are over 4,000 homeowners on property) or working there. If Amber Airplane was with me she would have spent all her time down there, because that is where all the shops are located. Getting to the village from the Grand Hotel is easy. No shuttle bus is needed; just follow the shell-filled  sidewalk for two city blocks, and you’re smack in the heart of it. You've gotta love the Southern architecture.

I wasn't expecting this area of Florida to have great restaurants, but I was wrong. Wherever we ate, the food was delicious. The first night we had dinner at Bistro Bijoux (tel.: 850-622-0760). My favorites were their bread and unbelievably tasty dessert.  The following day we had lunch at Jim N’ Nick’s (tel: 850.351.1991 ) a Southern barbeque joint. This place was the bomb! Slow hickory-cooked beef, ribs, pork, chicken and burgers -- mmmm mmmm!

That night we started off by going to an event called the " Best of the Emerald Coast".  It was sponsored by Emerald Coast magazine, and had booths from a bunch of places that won the best food, drinks, and music awards of the region. It was funny, because that singer you just saw a picture of kept floating around the crowd. Everywhere I went, he was there too. I’m sure we were both trying to get away, but we kept bumping into each other.  Afterwards, I was so stuffed from all the sampling that I didn't even want to meet the group at the Marlin Grill (tel: 850-351-1990) for a late dinner. But I felt obligated, and now I’m glad I went. I don't know where I found room for more food, but I did. The Marlin Grill is casual, upscale fine dining. They specialize in seafood and grilled steak, and since I don't eat a lot of seafood,  I had a petite filet. Not to mention three sides: grits, creamed of spinach and mashed potatoes. I waddled back to my room  (which, by the way, had a homemade chocolate bar on my turned-down bed waiting for me every night). Like I really needed that?  
Our last day was another action-packed eating frenzy. (I skipped breakfast -- do you blame me?)   We started off with lunch at Gerard's Cajun Cookery & Market (tel: 850.351.1999).  This place offers regular classes teaching Cajun-style cooking. I didn't eat the crab cakes, but the salad with the homemade blueberry vinaigrette was sooo good! Of course, they made us dessert too. I thought I was in the clear when I heard what they were serving. I don't like key lime pie, but I didn't want to be rude so I took a bite. It had a Macadamia nut graham cracker crust, and 30 seconds later that sucker was gone. What a piglet! Just writing about this makes me think I better go for a long run... maybe to Mexico and back.
Three hours later we were having  tea.  That's what I thought too -- tea?! I don't usually drink tea, but I’m glad I showed up for the Magnolia & Ivy Tea Experience . This place was not only a lot of fun; it was really good too. Don't worry, it's not like having formal tea at the Ritz in London. Jackets are not required; you can even wear shorts. Also, when you walk in they have all kinds of hats, gloves, shawls and jewelry so people can play dress up and have fun. Some of the gay guys seemed to have a lot more fun with it than others did. How I wished Amber Airplane was with me in more ways than one! There were so many teas to choose from, I had the waitress pick one out for me. She poured me caramel-flavored tea, which was the best tea I’ve ever had. What's especially great about having a spot of tea is they serve a three-tier treat tray. I devoured:  scones, finger sandwiches, fruit and cookies.

The last food stop we made was at a fun place called  Poppy's.   We ate outside on the deck and listened to a live band as the owner (from New Orleans) had the waitress bring out all kinds of dishes. I ate calamari with peppers and jerk chicken. Of course, I also had the Death By Chocolate cake.  Somebody please call Jenny Craig for me!

For entertainment we went out almost every night after dinner. However, we didn’t go far – we just stayed in the village. The first night we hit  Rum Runners Dueling Piano Bar (tel: 850-351-1817). The piano players were great -- they got the crowd involved, and they not only played good music, but were very entertaining.   

The last night  we went to a Bourbon Street original, John Wehner’s Famous Door.  The only place that I saw a sign for and didn't go to was a festival near the airport.  Now I know you want to go there.

Overall, I had a great time -- much better than I thought I would. I just wish Amber Airplane had been there with me. To reserve a package at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, call the reservations department at 800-470-7389, or book online at Prices range from $85-$3,200 a night.

Happy travels,

Johnny Jet

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  • I have been using your web site for the last 6 months and what can I say, but, it's a one stop shopping travel site. I am the host of a weekly radio travel from New Orleans on WGSO 990 AM, Sunday at 9 AM - 10 AM (central time).  Would love to have you on the show to expose you (Well your web site) to my listeners.  Stu - New Orleans
  • Nice writing.  Keep up the great work.  Frank - Connecticut
  • While doing the search I happen to come across the link for your web page, and saw your picture and was like I know that guy!! I just wanted to say "hi" and congratulate you on your website it's great.  Greg M. - Avon, Connecticut
  • Hey, I went to and it's got the makings (or at least the front page) of a cool site!  Scott - Alaska
  • I LOVED your description of arriving at VPS (the FWB airport).  I went to high school there and my parents still live in the area so I visit regularly.  Don’t let them fool you—they have used the roll-up stairs for years and they have already replaced the “tents” on the maze at least once.  I don’t believe they are really temporary.  Still, the airport is a vast improvement over the trailer-like structure with its plastic bus station chairs that was in use for years (I spent a lot of time there in the 70s commuting back and forth to college in Virginia).  Sorry if you arrived too late for the good beach weather—second best beaches I have found in the world (Turks & Caicos are a little better).  You’ll just have to return.   - Linda D - Richmond, VA
  • I have spent some time on your fascinating website and I don't know how you do it with all the info. It's terrific, and the reviews are amazing!  The tribute to your mom was so very touching, and I loved getting to "meet" your sweet family. It sounds like your fiancé is getting quite a nice family and a special husband who is very caring. Bonnie - Paris, Texas
  • Hey Johnny.  Thanks for sending me this Southwest thing - reaction to the negative press re:  box cutter episode? Congrats on the engagement thing!!  Hope you have that "it's a new day and I'm incrementally happy all of a sudden" going on.  I think you should issue an invitation to all your web friends to the wedding.  Most of us won't come but maybe you'll get some random gifts out of it. Dodson - Houston. 
  • I really enjoy your website.    Thanks -- Bill
  • I enjoyed perusing today’s edition of  Although, I am unable to read every edition (you pack a wealth of information in each one), I do try to keep up with your whereabouts as best I can.  Your October 22nd edition included a picture of Kevin (and Leslie) and it reminded me of how quickly the years have passed by since we all worked together at the College.  I especially appreciate the link to the Marymount College website that you provided.  Thanks for the ‘plug’.  Nina - Rancho Palos Verdes

  • Please mention in your next newsletter that   SideStep is not available for those of us who use Macintosh computers. Thanks. -Ned Griffin  REPLY:  Oops!  We forgot to mention that, thanks for the reminder!
  • Just saw that you named us Website of the week. I love it! Seriously, thank you so much. Everybody here really appreciates the acknowledgment.  Take care,  SideStep.
  • I WANT MONKEY BREAD!!!  I am going to lock myself in my office and scour the internet for the recipe or until Amber Airplane posts it, whichever comes first  Doc
  • I love your newsletter.  I'd really like to have the recipe for Monkey Bread.  Peter
  • If you send me Amber's recipe for the Monkey Bread -- and it does look very yummy -- I'll make if for you for your next visit to Florida. Hopefully the next time you're south, you'll come a little farther south and visit Travelpro. We'd love to meet you and show you what's new in luggage for 2004. We're introducing three new lines in 2004.   Best regards,  Marcy 
  • REPLY FROM JOHNNY:  Amber said she will post the recipe on her website next week
  • Hi Johnny, Have become a regular reader of your newsletter and find it very interesting and informative.  I like your stories and tips best.   I would like to comment on your brother's story on Jordan.  So far, it's very interesting.  BUT, please have someone edit it more carefully.  It was difficult to understand some parts of the story when some of these errors appeared: a wrong word usage, misplaced or omitted words(s).  Example:  "waived" which should be "waved."   Please continue your writing, but please make sure to edit?  Thank you!  Kay from Detroit.  REPLY:  Frank and I had a little mix up on who was going to edit it, thanks for the reminder, it won't happen again.  

    Yahbooks Publishing has created a small pocket day planner that has a new interesting and informative Web site in it each day of the year.  There is no other item just like this, it's a 4" x 6" is a great little item where you can put your name, company logo, or slogan on the cover.  You can also put any turn key marketing tactic on the front cover such as "enter this code" to give your customers a discount.  It's a great item to give out to your customers, business associates, friends, and family to show your appreciation.  Please contact Eric at for more information on these great pocket book planners and to get yours just in time for the New Year!  Mention JohnnyJet's newsletter sent you and you'll get a discount!

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Many best wishes on your engagement and may you always be sharing the love of one another. Sorry I'm a tad late with the congratulations but my wife and I have been out of the country for a little while. We were in Rio and while there are many great things there as the beaches, sights (particularly Corvacodo/Christ statue, tropical islands, & Sugar Loaf), restaurants (Porcaos and Maurius are great and all the beachfront outdoor dining venues), and most of the people. No matter what you hear or folks tell you it's not as safe as they would like you to feel. My wife and I were mugged at the entrance to Ipanema beach at noon time and didn't get much help from the police, and special tourist police at that. There were quite a few folks at the police station filing reports and folks we talked to in the hotel and at the airport were also victimized. I won't say that it happens to everyone but be extremely careful, wear no jewelry, leave whatever you can in the hotel safe, try to be inconspicuous (very difficult), be defensive in your efforts (like driving) and always be aware of what's going on around you. We did meet some nice folks, no they're not all stereotypically bad - only a few, and I have to give a plug to Freddy of Freddy's jewelers and Alexander. These folks were marvelous to us in our time of need and I would trust them implicitly in any sort of transactions. Also to consider are the very long flights. We had a reward upgrade to BusinessFirst on CO on the outbound and that was terrific, but they sandbagged us on the return flight for three months. The BusinessFirst cabin was almost empty when we first requested upgrades and we were always "first" on the list but it was nada. I'm sure you hear this continual plight of frequent fliers of hardly ever being able to get rewards - another gripe with the airlines. They want you to accrue them with a picture of great things in the future, but trying to get them and you might as well be from Mars. Sorry for rambling but I felt that folks should be aware if they're traveling to Brazil. Burt - New Jersey

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Navigate the murky waters of airline partnerships

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