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120x60 - Hotels JOHNNY JET'S
November 24, 2004
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Greetings! Last week we left off in Toronto as we were just about to take a tour of the SkyDome.

The hour tour was interesting. A dozen of us took the tour, but I was the only American. The others were from England, Eastern Europe and Sri Lanka (there are lots of Sri Lankans in Toronto). Our tour guide had a photographic memory, and was kind of annoying. I still can’t get his voice out of my head. He told us every scrap of information possible, including the dates and seats of the games he went to. Now do you see why he was annoying?

The dome was built in 1989, and featured the world’s first fully retractable roof. It consists of four panels. Three of them contract or roll out of the way, so it takes only 20 minutes for the roof to open or close. I was a little disappointed by the tour, because I hoped to walk on the field or go into the dressing rooms. They were off limits, though, because a football game was taking place later that day. However, we did get to check out different sections of the field, a private sky box, and the announcer’s booth.

Here are some more interesting facts about the SkyDome: It takes 16 hours to convert the field from baseball to football (the Blue Jays share the stadium with the Toronto Argonauts Canadian Football League team, established in 1873). The turf is Astroturf 8. It’s a synthetic nylon, ¼-inch thick with a ¾- inch rubber under-pad. The field is held together by two separate turf systems. Baseball turf is held together with Velcro, while football turf uses zippers. The next time I go to the Dome, I hope the Yankees and Blue Jays are playing. SkyDome Tours: 1 Blue Jays Way, Toronto; tel.: 416-341-2770. Adults $12.50 CD; seniors $8.50; youth (12-17) $8.50; Children (5-11 years) $7.00. Blue Jays tickets can be purchased in person at the box office (Gate 9); by calling 416-341-1234 (local) or 1-888-OK-GO-JAY (toll-free), or online at www.bluejays.ca.

What’s also interesting is that there is a Renaissance Hotel located right in the Skydome. Some rooms overlook the field, so guests can watch the game without moving -- pretty cool! But don’t get excited about watching your favorite band perform. During concerts, huge tarps are hung from the windows so guests can’t see (or film) them. Bummer. For Renaissance reservations, use our JohnnyJet.com hotel search engine, or call Renaissance Central Reservations at 800-237-1512, or the hotel direct at 416-341-7100.

There is also a Hard Rock Café in the Dome. After the tour I was famished, and decided to eat at there. I got a nice table by the window, and had a cool waitress. My food was mediocre, but it was cool just to hang out and watch the players warm up for that night’s game. There is a cover charge, and a minimum amount of dollars must be spent on food or during baseball games. Hard Rock Café: 1 Blue Jays Way, Suite 3500, Toronto; tel.: 416-341-2388.

The next day I got up bright and early to tape "Call For Help 2.0" on Tech TV Canada. I used to do "Call For Help" in San Francisco, but the company was sold and they relocated the show to Toronto. The host is the same. Leo Laporte is one of the coolest guys around, and this time he had two really nice co-hosts: Andy Walker, and a beautiful woman named Amber MacArthur. We had a lot of fun during the taping, and the crew was awesome.

After the show I took a taxi back to my hotel to change, grab my bags and catch the airport bus. The bus was so packed, 10 passengers and I had to stand. That was fine with me. I was just happy the driver didn’t make us wait for the next bus, because passengers traveling to the U.S. need to allow 2 hours. The Toronto airport is clean, airy and easy to navigate. What’s interesting about going to the U.S. from there is that passengers clear U.S. Customs in the Toronto airport, rather than at their American destination. That makes arriving at U.S. airports much easier, especially if you need to make a connection. On the other hand, it makes departing Toronto time-consuming.

After the customs agent stamped my passport, I asked her whether I was now on U.S. soil. She said she didn’t think so, because if I dd something wrong the Canadian cops would drag me out of the airport and into one of their jails. I smiled and said, "Oh. I better behave, then."

Some quick facts about Canada: The country has two official languages, English and French. However, English is the dominant language -- except in Québec. U.S. residents need a passport to enter. Tap water in Canada is very safe to drink.

I flew on a small, packed Delta regional jet. Just my luck: I got a window seat (I wanted aisle) next to the biggest guy on the plane. He was so huge we had to keep the arm rest up so he could fit in his seat (he took part of my space as well). It was an hour and 42 minutes of torture. I couldn’t do anything but stare out at the sky, because I was pinned between the man’s belly and the window. On top of that, he fell asleep right away so I couldn’t even move, let alone walk around. The good news is that when I landed in Atlanta, my flight to Fort Lauderdale was delayed 20 minutes. That gave me the perfect amount of time to have my favorite Southern meal in the ATL airport. Paschals, "A Southern Tradition in Concourse A," is mmm-mmm good. I let a captain go ahead of me. Then I ordered what he did, because they know the best stuff to eat in airports. We had meat loaf, string beans, yams and collard greens. And the staff was very friendly! I love southern hospitality -- even in the airport.

I flew a 767 to Florida. It was like being in a stretch limo compared to the previous flight, even though I was in coach again. I spent the weekend at my sister’s, then flew home to Los Angeles via Memphis on Northwest. It was my first time in the Memphis airport, and I hope it’s not the last. If I thought the Southern food at Pachals was good, wait until I tell you about Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Que near gate B15. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! I had the best BBQ smoked turkey sandwich ever, with a side of baked beans and a sweet potato pie to clean the palate. Oh lord, that was delicious!

On my flight to LA, a flight attendant wore ear plugs while serving drinks. I think he was just trying to pay back all those passengers who listen to audio, and don’t take off their headphones while the attendants are serving. This was the first time I ever heard a flight attendant repeat "What?" over and over. I honestly thought we were being filmed for a reality TV show. Ah, the adventures of traveling. You gotta love it!

Happy Travels,

Johnny Jet
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  • Has anyone ever told you that you resemble Billy Corrigan from the Smashing Pumpkins?? Keep up the fun! A travel nurse who lived in Marina del Rey, CA for 9 months this year, but now back in Chicago...for now. P.S. I read your fathers poems and thought they were really excellent. -Shannon T - Chicago
  • I am going to YYZ (Toronto) later next month and am loving your latest write up. I can already think of cheaper ways to get around and pinpoint what I can do with just a few hours of down time available to me. Cheers, Ken P - San Diego, CA
  • I love reading your stories-----I am a travel agent who does not travel too much so I learn a lot. Chris "Charlie" S. @ aaatravel in St. Louis
  • I was just catching up on your newsletter. (I've been taking care of my Mother who was hospitalized for the past couple of months.) Great info as always. You make me wish that we had some of the low fare airlines out here in the Pacific Northwest. Do you realize how hungry you make us readers when you describe all of the wonderful food you have all over the world? And then top it off with pictures. Demer - Eugene, OR
  • Really liked this week’s newsletter. Reminded me how much I LOVE CHICAGO and got me excited to visit after the first of the year. April K - Dallas, TX
  • You were right about Ted. We just did ORD-LAS-ORD on Ted. Despite what SeatGuru.com says about the A320 that Ted uses we found that the seats in the back are fine and are much more comfortable than those on AA's 757 service especially now that "More Room in Coach" is history on the AA 757. Never flew on an Airbus before and found the lavs to be much bigger than those on AA and comparable almost to those in Business Class on AA's trans-Atlantic 767. AA 757 coach seats are the most uncomfortable seats on any plane. Even with UA/Ted's financial problems we found that the UA/Ted flight personnel are a much happier crew than AA cabin staff. Richard M, Chaimpaign, Illinois
  • I read your newsletters, and the one where you met Pearce (from the show "Travelers") raises a question for me. I was a BIG fan of that show ("Travelers") on the Discovery channel. I used to tape it when I was at work so I could watch it when I got home. All of a sudden, it just disappeared. Did he say why the show ended? I thought it was really good, and it was a little different than the average travel show. -Jim W - (Love your newsletters, by the way. Keep up the good work!) REPLY: I not exactly sure why but I think it was lack of money.
  • If you are interested in going to Cuba from Canada, aircanadavacations.com help & also conquestvacations.com. Conquest is really cheap but limited to 7 nights stay. Sharrie - Toronto
  • Just FYI - We at JAL retired our last MD-11 in October - DC-10s are out of the fleet by March. Don - NYC

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I checked flights to and from Bangkok and the cheapest I found was about $740. If possible on flights to Asia I like to fly the national airline of the country I'm flying in and out of. And I love Thai Air. So when I called Thai Air for the best fare it was about $820 including taxes (I'm rounding out numbers here) and when I pressed for any lower fare they told me that there is a wholesaler to call for the same tickets for less $. I called and got the exact same seat for $735 and that includes the taxes. The company is called USA Gateway Travel Wholesale Tickets Center and the phone # is 213-383-6360. They sell wholesale tix I think for all of Asia. Richard R - LA

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Island vacations provide time for reflection—time to listen to the sounds of the surf as your stress level subsides. And for more energetic moments, islands offer everything from diving to rock-climbing. To help you decide where to go, we’ve listed some of our favorites. We’ve also outlined ways that you can keep your finances watertight while you enjoy your time on the beach. Click Here To Read Article

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