I attended last year’s event and I am fairly certain that this year had a larger turn out. With the heavy crowds and the wide variety of destinations, it was a little overwhelming at first. That said, I was on a mission. I am taking a Princess Cruise this summer that will end in Barcelona, Spain. I plan to stay in Barcelona for a few days and the travel show was the perfect opportunity to talk to an expert. I also wanted to see the VIP Food and Wine Experience later in the day. In my preview article, I noted that I briefly spoke with Wine Broker, James King, and Chef, Jason Collis. I was eager to see them in action and taste their offerings. Aside from those to-do’s, I wanted to wander around and see what new locales jumped out at me. You never know what might inspire you.
My Spanish mission brought me to speaker, Supinder Singh. Supinder is the President of Palace Tours and following his presentation on Spain: A Perfect Blend of History, Culture, Food and Modern Comfort, he was available at the Palace Tours booth. He was not only friendly, but he was eager to show me the great spots I need to check out around Barcelona. His first suggestion was to visit the island of Ibiza. Ibiza is known for its nightlife and he even insisted that their nightlife is like no other. Also, he indicated that I need to check out San Sebastian and Girona. He noted that wine country was only a two-hour drive outside of Barcelona. Of course, Barcelona itself is an amazing area and one could easily spend a week checking out the local food and sights. With a map – and his contact information – in hand, I felt pretty confident on my upcoming adventures.
I briefly stopped by Peter Greenburg’s presentation on The Best Places for Everything and How to Get the Best Experience. Peter is an Emmy Award Winning Investigative Travel Journalist for CBS News. One recommendation he made: check the online deals, but call before booking. There are sometimes even better deals to be had when you speak with a representative directly. In some cases, the best offer is already posted, but at least you know that there is no unknown special before you punch in your credit card number.
I swung by Anthony Saba’s talk about Austraila / South Pacific, The Lands Downunder: Experiences for Everyone. My close friend, Michelle, will be in Australia this summer and she came to the travel show for tips on her upcoming adventure. Anthony is with Goway Travel and I heard the portion of his presentation regarding the animals of Australia. Something I didn’t realize is that there is a large camel population in Australia. In fact, they have the largest population of camels in the world. Autralian Outback is mostly desert, making this the right climate for these large creatures. And those cute koalas? They not only smell bad, but are not generally friendly.
The VIP Food and Wine Experience was great. At least, it looked great from the back of the room. Even though I put my name in early for tickets, the cards did not fall in my favor. It is my understanding that the event was overbooked. Grumbling aside, James King gave a great presentation about wine. Even though he is the wine expert, all you really need to know about wine is what tastes good to you and fits within your budget. Plus, the more you drink, the more you know. It’s that simple. James has a no-stress approach to tasting and enjoying great wine. He reminded us not to be intimidated by the waiter or the wine list in a fancy restaurant. Many restaurants, especially in California, allow you to bring your own wine to the table. Be sure to check the menu in advance – it is considered extremely poor taste to bring in a bottle that is already on the list. Also, check on the corkage fee. It might not worth it to bring your own blend. He also shared some basic tips for tasting. You should check the color of the wine, swirl the wine, smell the wine, and finally sip the wine. Folks who frequently get headaches from red wines should note that white wine actually has more tannins. So that might not be the culprit. Also, James reminded us that wine is to be savored. Not gulped. Take your time.
Following the presentation, James invited his VIP guests to taste a variety of wines while Chef, Jason Collis, provided small bites. There were also high-end chocolates on hand for dessert. Michael Jenkins-Brown of South Bay Foodies (www.southbayfoodies.com) noted that Jason’s onion appetizer was amazing. Tom Holmberg of Tom’s Foodie Blog (www.tomsfoodieblog.com) said James’ Malbec from Argentina was by far the best wine he tasted that day. Not all was lost for this redheaded travel writer, though. James invited me on stage to assist him with his demonstration and after the tasting, I still got to try a couple of the wines. Next year, though, I will definitely sign up early to experience the whole event.
I noted earlier that the VIP event was overbooked and it really showed when the crowd hit the tasting table. It was pandemonium. The tasting area was too small for the number of tickets sold. Not only that, James had some very expensive wines on stage and I heard that they were swiped when he transitioned to the tasting space. I hope they have this event again, but with some details smoothed out. Nothing like watching adults shove each other for an ounce of wine.
Overall, the LA Travel & Adventure Show was a blast! I really enjoyed meandering between the booths, talking with the knowledgeable representatives, and listening to the various presentations. I picked up information on Yosemite, San Diego, and am now considering booking a flight with Air Berlin. There were even some cool dance demonstrations thanks to the booth representing Malaysia. Whenever visiting this type of expo, I suggest picking a couple of must-see destinations and presentations. This will help keep you focused while the crowds whirl by. Plus, since I spent the preview day trying out the activities (rock climbing!), the next day could be focused on the destinations. I had a really well-rounded experience and I am already looking forward to the 2014 show. I should note that I did not attend on Sunday. After a day and a half of fun, I was toast. Besides, now that I know I like zip lining, I think it’s time to my travels to new heights. I need to gear up and get going!