plane.jpgLast week I endured the two most dreaded days of my life each year for the past 20 years. FAA mandated 'stewardess training,' formally known as "CQ." Stands for 'Continuing Qualification.' Ladies and Gentlemen, this has nothing to do with serving you drinks and meals, listening to all of your problems, helping you stow your 100 pound compact suitcases, with an everlasting smile on my face.

"Grab ankles, bend over, stay down. Release seat belts, leave everything, come this way, jump and slide two at a time" Repeat 1,000 times in two days but wait....if you're on a 747, upper deck, remember to say 'sit and slide'  as it is a long way down. If you're on a MD88, remember to grab the flashlight as it is dark in the tailcone. But wait, that's if we crash on land; it's all different if we land in the Hudson River. We bought another airline last year so now we have 20 different airplanes instead of 10 and it's different on each plane. 

We are paired into small groups and my group had our plane hijacked. It's no different than a screenplay in how it is meticulously choreographed. I can't divulge the information but I did come home knowing that I am prepared.
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hyatt-regency-churchill.jpgWhat do you look for when booking a hotel in one of the most tourist attractions of the world, namely London. Perhaps it is good service, perhaps the ambiance, perhaps the restaurant and bars, perhaps the location, and for lovers of comfort, the bedrooms and their amenities. Whatever it is would it not be quite wonderful to find all of these things in one place!

And you The Hyatt Regency London, better known as The Churchill.

A little pricey perhaps but as the old saying goes, “You get what you pay for.”

Just stepping into the foyer transports you to a world of glamour, a world of fascinating artwork and enviable service. I say enviable because many other hotels vie for staff as well trained and service oriented as the Churchill staff are. They truly do make a difference to your stay.

Michael Grey, the General Manager, has made his mark in many hotels including the Hyatt Regency Singapore, the Carlton Towers in Knightsbridge and now after a recently completed multi-million pound renovation program, squires his way around this quite stunning property.

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lisasunset.jpg Every other year for the past 10 years my husband and I make the long and arduous trip from Los Angeles to Bangor, Maine for a week’s vacation at his family’s camp on Lake Pushaw. There’s nothing like relaxing on the dock with a nice glass of wine and listening to the Red Sox games on the radio. Usually we have to stop in New Hampshire or Massachusetts to get anything remotely drinkable because, in past years, the wines found in the grocery store were for emergency use only.

Always on the lookout for wine shops with a wide selection and affordable prices – it’s my  not-so-secret obsession – I noticed a listing for the Bangor Wine & Cheese Co. on the Bangor city website and was intrigued. I still stocked up in MA before we left, because we couldn’t be left high and dry. A week is a long time without good wine.

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2 ponte vecchio.jpgThe first time I ate at Coco Lezzone in Florence, it was at the invitation of film producer Dino De Laurentiis, who knows a thing or two about Italian cooking:

(1) He created the gourmet Italian DDL Foodshow Emporiums in New York and Beverly Hills about 20 years ahead of their time,

(2) His lovely granddaughter Giada, with many of her family’s recipes and great charm and skill, has become a best-selling cookbook author and very popular Food Network chef, and,

(3) He is Italian and always has been.  

We were in Florence because that’s where Hannibal was being filmed, and Dino asked my wife Elizabeth and me and some others working on the film to join him at Coco Lezzone for dinner.

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img 5921Going to the Olympics will be a huge amount of fun, especially if you know where to eat. Before I left on the trip, I used Facebook and Twitter to ask for restaurant recommendations.

My wife's cousin who lives in Switzerland insisted that when we were in London, we had to go to Yotam Ottolenghi's food shops selling ready-made or, as the English call it, "take-away" salads, mains and desserts.

I visited the Belgravia Ottolenghi at 13 Motcomb Street (there are others in Notting Hill, Islington and Kensington and a small sit down restaurant called Nopi near Oxford Circus).

Ottolenghi is a showman who puts his flashiest products in the front window. The tarts, cup cakes, muffins and cookies are drop dead gorgeous.

Just inside the shop, farmers market fresh salads are displayed in large oval bowls on elevated platforms, the better to grab your attention. Almost as an afterthought, the few mains like cold chicken and baked salmon are tucked out of sight in a refrigerated section.

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