Wednesday, December 30, 2009

All About Airports: Dallas (DFW) and New Orleans (MSY)

Flying American through Dallas is always a challenge. They operate out of four terminals there and it never fails I land in the terminal farthest from where I need to be - with 15 minutes to get from one to the other. I have my own beef with American for other reasons (see blog on THAT topic) but DFW just annoys me.

However, on a recent trip we had a very long layover. And really, if you are not rushing, this isn't such a bad airport. Terminal D is where it is at, in general. Near gate D33 there is a dining area with more than just take and go food. Upstairs is Reata Grill and Cantina Laredo. Neither one is "fine dining" but if you need to get out of the chaos and have some drinks and snacks, go here. The guacamole at the Reata was good, the food was just average though. The margaritas use the cheap sweet and sour mix so I went with some cherry vodka on the rocks. Perfect.

Terminals A and B have spa services, though I didn't try them, I love seeing spas in airports! Terminal D gates also had plenty of electrical sockets for plugging in all those yummy electronic devices we cannot live without! And finally, DFW is pet-friendly, meaning your carry-on puppy can be walked in the terminal, on leash and they have pet relief areas outside all terminals. However, these are outside of security so be ready to go back through TSA.

New Orleans is another story all together. Sheesh. Terminal C  felt more like a Greyhound station - hard plastic (teal!! ick!) chairs, dumpy dirty walls, electrical outlets that either didn't work and/or were falling out of the wall (not kidding here) and everything smelled like fried food. The bathrooms had the fancy automatic toilet seat protector-thingies, but really, if that is the highlight of your airport you'd better be doing some work on things.

** Opinions of Greyhound stations are based on walking by the horrid one in San Francisco that smells like pee. Maybe not all GH stations are crappy, but I have my suspicions.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Drinks and Snacks in C-Bus Ohio!

In my mind, Columbus has had a fairly strong reputation for great nightclubs, bars and places to chow down for a good 15+ years. The challenge has been places can come and go  quickly. My hubby and I joke that a big nightclub or flashy new restaurant usually has about a two year run before the fickle people in Columbus move on to something else - and this often ends up being less of a joke and more of a truism. Some places last longer, only to still meet a sad ending: Gottliebs would be one I am still lamenting. And you can see this in whole AREAS dying off: City Center, Northland Mall, Eastland Mall, Brice Rd @ I-70. Like I said - Columbus folks are fickle.

That all being said, on our recent trip to the Cowtown (not so much anymore, huh?) we found some kickass places. Overall, the center of town is the place to be. Starting in Clintonville, Surly Girl Saloon majorly won my heart. Chicken pot pie, red velvet cupcakes, strong drinks, friendly staff and parking! We went in for lunch and were there early - thank goodness - otherwise we'd have been waiting for a table.

Moving on down High Street into the "cap" area by Goodale Park, we went to Eleven, part of the Hyde Park restaurant chain, on the recommendation of a friend. Happy Hour at Eleven is truly, truly a happy thing. The Elderflower Martini is amazing (and cheap at $3 for HH) and the sliders were terrific (and also a happy $4). Loved the decor and ambiance. We tried to get back for another happy hour and just didn't get the opportunity. Sad.

Heading south into the Arena District, you'll find Ted's Montana Grill. Before you get all snarky on me about supporting chain restaurants, I did not expect to like this place. I went in with a perfectly cynical, sarcastic attitude and was pleasantly surprised. The bison short ribs were awesome and the bison pot roast was stunning. Drinks were big and were mixed. The straws (which I did NOT use on my martini, though some people might think I would) were paper and all eco-wannabe-friendly. I'm open-minded: a chain restaurant can be good and Ted's was indeed good!

We also headed over to the Grandview and Upper Arlington areas, and found two new (to us) places and visited an old favorite. Aladdin's Eatery in Grandview was a big surprise! Again, I sorta had low expectations when I saw it was in a sorta strip mall, but everything was good with the exception of the pita bread - it was trending toward the stale side of things. The desserts are huge and delicious! Third and Hollywood gets kudos for having plenty of parking, a big area inside and being open late on a Monday. For the love of all that is good in life, do not order the Prosecco unless you like being tortured. Do order the pimento cheese dip. Yum. Finally, a trip to Columbus isn't complete without a visit to El Vaquero for us. I swear this place probably gets horrible health ratings - the interior has been the same for like 20 years or something and it is always so packed and so busy you gotta wonder if corners are being cut. But - the salsa is still good, the margaritas are still cheap and the whole bill comes in at something affordable.

We went up to Delaware for some vintage shopping (see other post) and dropped into the Mean Bean Caffeine Lounge. Meh. The coffees were OK and they had some pastries there, but just not a good vibe and I was seriously not trusting the couch to be bug-free. The Old Bag of Nails Pub further up the street was exactly what you would expect from a pub - good ales and micro-brews and lots of yummy, fattening, fried food.  

And now our dirty little secret: fast food. Donatos, BW3's (can anyone tell me what the third "w" stands for? I know - do you?) and Skyline Chili. You can bet we visit all three while in Ohio since NONE of these exist in California. BW3 and Skyline continue to live up to memory, but Donatos - not so much.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Vintage and Antique shopping in Columbus, OH

Things change, I know, but so many great stores have disappeared from the C-bus landscape. For me, the most lamented is Avalon shoes. We stalked up and down High Street in the freezing cold thinking we missed something - but it is gone.

Rag-o-Rama on High Street still exists and reminds me a bit of Buffalo Exchange here in San Francisco. Great for used clothes but you won't really find much in the way of vintage here.

Mad 4 Mod - despite the name - has vintage from many decades. The store is clean and well organized, though I was a bit frustrated by the rack system. They had eye-level racks and above THOSE were another level of racks, which for short people, presented a problem. The staff were happy to help get things down for you with a hook and ladder, but still a bit odd. I was able to find some really terrific stuff here and our salesperson was able to negotiate with us on the prices. Everything I found was in good condition and without odd odors, stains or needing repair work.

Across the street is the Eclectiques Antique Mall. This place seemed endless, but in the basement I found racks of vintage clothes - though not in as good of condition as I had hoped (still bitter over the chiffon dress with the stains on the front). Tons of knick-knacks, kitchen tools, furniture, brownie cameras, old photos and tons of jewelry. What books I could find were not in good condition. It was fun to browse and poke around, but in the end we didn't buy anything here.

Down in the southend of C-bus we found the Greater Columbus Antique Mall. Much like Eclectiques, this place needs time and the energy to really be on a treasure hunt. The vendors here seem to focus more on furniture and "stuff", not clothing.

Finally - the mother lode: Captain Betty's in Delaware. She keeps odd hours: Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 5pm. However, this small store is packed with good, quality vintage. Feel free to snoop in the boxes and drawers and baskets for more clothes and jewelry. Betty herself is a unique lady - approaching 70 years of age, she knows her business and if she likes you, she will bring styles to you to try on and play dress-up on you. I have heard if she isn't in a good mood or doesn't like you, she can be rude - but we didn't experience this. She worked with us on prices and I walked away VERY happy. For the guys: she has a great collection of mens' suits and clothing.

All about Airlines: Part II - Hell Freezes Over: I can't complain (much) about Continental Airlines!

I haven't flown Continental in many years, and even then it was one of those "must I??" situations. However, they provide direct flights from SFO to Cleveland and on a recent trip to Columbus, this was much better than flying American with a 3-hour layover in Dallas. Even driving from Cleveland to C-bus, our travel time was shorter.

Check-in online was straight forward. No upgrades were available and the flight was packed, but overall no real issues. Baggage drop-off in SFO was fast (as in hardly any line - yeah!) but here comes my one major complaint: $18-20 a bag. No free checked bags. It seems it is $18 online if you pay before you get to the airport, $20 at the airport. This of course leads to all those people trying to stuff their wheelies into the overhead bins on the airplane so be warned - you'd better be able to get your stuff under the seat in front of you, be part of the elite first boarding groups or able to take down other people who are trying to steal your overhead space.

Flight attendants were pleasant and the staff we encountered were overall NOT surly. Shocking, isn't it? The planes were pretty clean (unlike SOME airlines - I'm talking about you United!) and one of our planes had DirectTV at each seat. Seats are average - nothing special there.

Here is the kicker: food. On our 4-5 hour flights, we were given real food. For free. I'm not making this stuff up, I swear. Breakfast was cereal and raisins and a muffin, lunch was a turkey hotdog in a croissant (gobble-gobble in a blanket?) with some salad and a Kit-Kat (which I ate first). I know this sounds lame, but I forgot food and was starving and that turkey hotdog was totally awesome at that moment.

Congrats to Continental Airlines for exceeding my (low) expectations for an airline!!