Starwood Hotels: Great Value, Amenities & Modern Luxury!

I am a certified STARWOOD PRO!  Starwood Hotels Worldwide (W Hotels, Sheraton, Westin, St Regis, LeMeridian, Luxury Collection, Element, Aloft, and Four Points)

Westin Bonaventure Hotel - Los Angeles, California (copyright 2010 Joshua Weisel)

Westin Bonaventure Hotel – Los Angeles, California (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Are you or your family traveling to Los Angeles?  Please contact me at joshuawwilletttravel@gmail.com to plan your next hotel stay for business or pleasure!

Starwood Hotels has 9 brands worldwide! Contact me to find out about special rates! 

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28-FEB-13: Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

Waikiki Beach - Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii - CLICK TO ENLARGE!

Waikiki Beach – Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Waikiki Beach!  The view from above.

Who wants to go to Hawaii?

Accomplished: Certified a Hawaiian Destination Specialist by the Hawaii Visitor and Convention Bureau!

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27-FEB-13: Mount Haleakala

Who wants to go to Hawaii?

Mount Haleakala Crater - Hawaii Island, Hawaii - CLICK TO ENLARGE!

Mount Haleakala Crater – Maui, Hawaii ~10,000 ft. – CLICK TO ENLARGE! (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)

Sunrise on Mount Haleakala “The House of the Sun” high above the clouds.  This picture can’t do the unbelievable true beauty of Mother Nature and Madame Pele justice, but it’s still a great picture.

Plan your next tropical vacation to the islands of Hawaii.

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26-FEB-13: El Capitan – Yosemite Valley, California

El Capitan - Yosemite, California (copyright 2011 Joshua Weisel)

El Capitan – Yosemite, California (copyright 2011 JoshWillTravel)

This picture was taken on a three-day weekend road trip to Yosemite with my step-brother, CA in September, 2011.  We stayed two nights in Tuolumne Meadows and one night in the valley.*  

Read the first part of the three part Blog>

https://joshwilltravel.wordpress.com/2013/03/03/yosemite-2011-part-1-road-trip-to-tuolumne-meadows/  

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Plan a trip to Yosemite or any of our wonderful U.S. National Parks!

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My January Trip to Ashland, Oregon

Ashland, Oregon Visitor's Map

Ashland, Oregon Visitor’s Map

Ashland, Oregon is the home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (osfashland.org) and the theater season runs February to November.  I’ve visited Ashland regularly over the years during the OSF season and have seen many great theatrical productions (I’ll blog about those experiences in the future).  Without the tourists, the town is very quiet in December and January,  The purpose of my trip this time was to visit my father and stepmother.  He has health problems, I haven’t seen them in a long time, and my presence would enable her to take a little break from some daily “caregiver” duties.  So given the circumstances and the time of year, it was a very different type of trip this time.

RIGHT CLICK AND OPEN IN NEW WINDOW TO SEE AN ENLARGED PICTURE!

LAX  - Alaska Airlines/ Horizon Air - Los Angeles to Medford

LAX – Alaska Airlines/ Horizon Air – Los Angeles to Medford

I flew roundtrip Los Angeles, CA to Medford, OR.  The NON-STOP two-hour Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air commuter flight flies out of LAX and arrives in Medford, Oregon.  It’s the best way to get to Ashland from Los Angeles short of a private flight.  I’ve done the thirteen hour drive and it’s a LONG haul even stopping overnight along the way (and then there’s still the return trip) or you can fly and stop over in San Francisco, but that’s definitely NO FUN (and you never know about the weather in SF).  Depart 8:15pm on Saturday night, so there’s no line at Check-in, paid the CHECKED BAG FEE and got through Security relatively fast for LAX. I got stuck behind an Asian couple with too much stuff and had to laugh out loud as they tried to maneuver at least 10 plastic bins along with their carry-on bags and coats while trying to remove their shoes, belts, and personal electronics.  I had my bag and 3 bins (one for my personal electronics, one for my laptop and one for my shoes and coat) ready and quickly cleared through x-ray.  After passing the oppressive full body scan, I secured a seat and an electrical outlet at the “computer counter” in the waiting area at the gate until the flight boarded on-time.

IMG01751-20130126-1956

Alaska-Horizon Airlines LAX-MFR (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

 

The Theme from "Jaws" is playing in my head as I take my seat.

The Theme from “Jaws” is playing in my head as I take my seat.

Alaska/Horizon Air flies a small prop-jet plane and the flight is usually full.  There are two seats on each side of the aisle and they don’t recline.  There’s not a lot of space and there’s a lot of engine noise, so it’s a good idea to bring noise reducing headphones.  Definitely “no frills”, but there is snack and beverage service with complimentary Oregon wine and microbrew beer on the menu.  Just watch your elbows if you have an aisle seat!  My flight was full and as I took my seat I saw the two small children flying with their mother in the two seats in front of me.  The little girl was standing on the seat giving me the “eye” and the theme from “Jaws” started playing in my head.  I met and joked with the mother as I took these pictures.  Luckily, both children were quiet and slept the entire flight until we landed. The little boy didn’t want to wake up and threw a screaming tantrum as the plane taxied to the gate.  I’ll just say they got the door opened just in time…. .

A little angel?  Or an airplane nightmare waiting to happen?

A little angel? Or an airplane nightmare waiting to happen?

Medford Airport, Medford, Oregon

Rogue Valley International – Medford Airport (MFR) – Medford, Oregon

Arrived on-time at about 10:30pm at Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport (MFR), a small and very modern airport twenty minutes north of Ashland on the 5 freeway.  No problems at baggage claim and was picked up at the curb.  We drove to The Ranch with a side trip through the Burger King drive-thru on the way home.  The dogs were so glad to see me.  After eating, talking and getting settled in at the house it was time for bed.

RIGHT CLICK AND OPEN IN NEW WINDOW TO SEE AN ENLARGED PICTURE!

Rogue Valley Winter Sunrise 1 - Ashland, Oregon

Rogue Valley Winter Sunrise 1 – Ashland, Oregon (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

The Rogue Valley is a beautiful farming and timber-producing region in southwestern Oregon. Located along the Rogue River and its tributaries in Josephine and Jackson counties, the valley forms the cultural and economic heart of Southern Oregon near the California border along the 5 freeway. The largest communities in the Rogue Valley are Medford, Ashland and Grants Pass.

Rogue Valley Winter Sunrise 2 - Ashland, Oregon

Rogue Valley Winter Sunrise 2 – Ashland, Oregon (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Rogue Valley Winter Sunrise 3 - Ashland, Oregon

Rogue Valley Winter Sunrise 3 – Ashland, Oregon (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Woke up early and watched a beautiful Rogue Valley sunrise while getting a light dusting of snow.  The view from house is spectacular and the fog was nestled in the valley as the sun broke through the clouds.

Rogue Valley - Ashland, Oregon

Rogue Valley – view from the house – Ashland, Oregon (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Spent most of the time during the week with my father, driving him around, chilling at The Ranch and eating out.  When he had an appointment, I would find somewhere to go and something to enjoy.   We went for nice Sunday brunch at the Jacksonville Inn (www.jacksonvilleinn.com) and then a great steak dinner at Amuse Restaurant in downtown Ashland, with fresh beignets and a banana cream pie tart for desert.

Banana cream pie!

Delicious banana cream pie tart!  Amuse Restaurant – Ashland, Oregon

Lots of other good eating during the trip!  I would recommend any of these restaurants. Lunch: Tacos at La Tapatia Market in Phoenix (REAL Mexican food), Pizza and pasta at Pasta Piatti in downtown Ashland, and you definitely must try the $20 Cheeseburger at New Sammy’s Cowboy Bistro in Talent (reservations recommended and pre-order the burger because sometimes they run out).  Dinner: In addition to Amuse (excellent every time I’ve eaten there), BonsaiTeriyaki sushi in Ashland (good, but it can’t compare to fresh L.A. sushi), and an amazing dinner of chowder, steak, chicken, prawns with incredible bread pudding for dessert at Beasy’s in downtown Ashland.  They stayed open late to take our party of four and the food and wine was five star!

Sushi dinner at BonsaiTeriyaki - Ashland. Oregon

Sushi dinner at BonsaiTeriyaki – Ashland. Oregon

Dad and I saw “Parker” at the local cinema.  We went “antiquing” in Ashland, Jacksonville, Talent, Phoenix and Medford.  Lots of fun stuff for sale, but being mindful of both money and suitcase space, I was mostly browsing.  I did find a great deal on a nice cut crystal vase and bought it as a gift for my mother. I also found a great “out of print” cookbook for my stepmother.

Cut Crystal Vase - "Such a Deal!" - Ashland, Oregon

Cut Crystal Vase – “Such a Deal!” – Ashland, Oregon (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

We took a drive north to Center Point and visited Lillebelle’s Chocolates (located near the Rogue Valley Creamery and Rogue Valley Winery tasting room).  Definitely worth the trip if you appreciate amazing handmade chocolate ($$$).

Lillebelle's Chocolates

Lillebelle’s Chocolates – Center Point, Oregon (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Lillebelle's Chocolates

Lillebelle’s Chocolates –  Center Point, Oregon (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

I walked around downtown Ashland and the railroad district in the afternoons, window shopping and browsing at the boutiques, bookstores, outdoor gear stores and gift shops.  The town was empty, everything was on sale and it seemed that I was the only tourist in Ashland,  One thing about shopping in Ashland is that each shop has it’s own “laid back character”, and sometimes that also describes the owner or the person providing the customer service.

Downtown Ashland - Ashland, Oregon

Downtown Ashland – Ashland, Oregon (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Ashland Library - Ashland, Oregon

Ashland Library – Ashland, Oregon (copyright 2103 JoshWillTravel)

Ashland Springs Hotel - Ashland, Oregon

The Historic Ashland Springs Hotel (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

Ashland is a pretty little town, with lots of historic buildings, lots of shops, great restaurants, the OSF and Lithia Park all in the heart of downtown.  There are lots of housing options for travellers: the historic Ashland Springs Hotel, the Lithia Springs Resort, and many hotels, motels and B&Bs that cater to the tourists.*

Lithia Park is beautiful anytime of the year, but winter is exceptionally beautiful in Oregon.  The weather was pretty good for January.  It snowed a little the first day.  Then it drizzled a little and it was cold and grey most of the time, but the sun did come out a couple of times during the week.

RIGHT CLICK AND OPEN IN NEW WINDOW TO SEE AN ENLARGED PICTURE!

Lithia Park - Ashland Creek - Ashland, Oregon

Lithia Park – Ashland Creek – Ashland, Oregon

I went for a solo walk in Lithia Park and took some pretty pictures.  Ashland Creek was flowing fast because of the melting snow and for almost the entire time I was alone on the walking path. And it was wonderful!  Here’s a picture tour, CLICK TO ENLARGE!

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Elizabethan Theater - Ashland, Oregon

Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Elizabethan Theater – Ashland, Oregon

Lithia Park is the largest and most central park in Ashland, Oregon. It consists of 93 acres of forested canyonland around Ashland Creek, stretching from the downtown plaza up toward its headwaters near Mount Ashland. Its name originates from the lithium oxide found in the stream water.  The park has two large green area, a bandshell for public musical performances, two duck ponds, a large playground, tennis courts, community buildings and, in winter, an ice skating rink. It also offers picnic areas and miles of hiking trails.  The park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Lithia Park - Ashland Creek - Ashland, Oregon

Lithia Park – Ashland Creek – Ashland, Oregon

Lithia Park - Ashland, Oregon

Lithia Park – Ashland, Oregon

Lithia Park - Ashland, Oregon

Lithia Park – Ashland, Oregon

Lithia Park - Ashland Creek - Ashland, Oregon

Lithia Park – Ashland Creek – Ashland, Oregon

Lithia Park - Duck Pond - Ashland, Oregon

Lithia Park – Duck Pond – Ashland, Oregon

Lithia Park - Ashland Creek - Ashland, Oregon

Lithia Park – Ashland Creek – Ashland, Oregon

Lithia Park - Ashland Creek - Ashland, Oregon

Lithia Park – Ashland Creek – Ashland, Oregon

Had to get up very early to catch the return flight to LAX.  Cruised through Check-In, paid the CHECKED BAG FEE again and breezed through Security (no body scan or bad attitude in Medford) and waited for departure.

Medford Airport - Early AM

Wait, what?  TWINS?

Wait, what? TWINS?

Imagine my suprise when I was seated behind a nice lesbian couple with infant TWINS!  Again, a travel nightmare waiting to happen at 06:30 in the morning, but they both slept through the entire flight and didn’t cry at all!

Dawn out the airplane window

Sunrise, dawn breaks from the airplane window

The flight was only about half full and the seat next to me was empty, so I had extra room to try to stretch out a little bit.  I watched the sunrise out the window of the plane and landed on-time in Los Angeles at about 08:30am.

It’s a long hike from the plane to baggage claim at LAX, but I didn’t have to wait very long for my checked bag once I got there.  (TRAVEL TIP: get to baggage claim before your bag comes down the ramp at LAX!)  Didn’t have anyone pick me up because of the time of day and construction traffic on the 405 freeway.  Instead I had to wait 35 minutes for a “red shuttle van” in the carbon monoxide tank LAX calls passenger pickup.  Then I spent $40 and another 20 minutes circling the airport in the “red shuttle van” before heading out, and then another long 45 minutes on the freeway getting home.  I only tipped the driver $5 because of the time and because he was texting while driving.

I have mixed feelings about the trip.  It was great to see my father, stepmother and the dogs.  Ashland in January was beautiful!  Even good pictures don’t do it justice.  I had a great time and ate a lot fantastic food!  The difficult part was dealing with my father’s health.  I was glad to be home again and my dogs were so glad to see me!

Okay, if you’ve read all the way through, please let me know what you think!  I welcome you feedback and comments.  If you liked it, please LIKE, SHARE and FOLLOW.

The Big Boy keeping watch

The Big Boy keeping watch at The Ranch (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

(All photos copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel – taken with my Blackberry camera)

“Trade Day” at the LA Times Travel Show 2013

On Friday, February 22, 2013, I got up very early and traveled the 101 freeway to the L.A. Convention Center downtown for “Trade Day” at the Los Angeles Times Travel Show.  Registration was $35 and parking $15.  And for my $50 ticket, I spent the day at the industry conference participating in seminar sessions, networking with other travel professionals, touring the exhibition hall and meeting the vendors.  Included in the registration fee was a buffet lunch and two drink tickets for the post show reception.IMG02116-20130222-0831

8:30am – Check-in at Registration

NOTE TO EVENT PRODUCERS: There really should have been a morning reception with COFFEE (and maybe bagels, baked goods, fruit, water and juice) before the sessions started!  There’s a Starbuck’s in the lobby of the West Hall of the Convention Center, but it was closed.  The closest place for coffee was the Starbuck’s in the South Hall a long way away and with a very long line.

9am – Using Social Media to Build Your Brand

Lillian Africano, the president of the Society of American Travel Writers moderated the session with Johnny Jet (johnnyjet.com) and Jessica Marati (gadling.com) as the featured speakers.

Jessica, Johnny and Lillian on Social Media

Jessica Marati, Johnny Jet and Lillian Africano on the Social Media morning panel

10:15am – General Session: What Are the Opportunities and Issues in Social Media?

A panel of experts moderated by James Shillinglaw, editor in chief of travAlliancemedia.  Stacy Small, Lark Gould and David Anderson as the featured speakers.IMG02121-20130222-1022

11:30am – General Session: Bridging the Gap to Profitability

Another panel of experts with Susan Tanzman, James Berkeley, Andi McClure-Mysza and Mark Murphy as the featured speakers.IMG02122-20130222-1222

12:45pm – Luncheon with Featured Speaker: Trends, Threats and Tips…2013 NOT Business as Usual with John Severini, President and CEO, California Travel Association

A buffet lunch (chicken, mashed potato, salad, bread and butter, chocolate cake and iced tea) and a very nice presentation by John Severini.  Sorry NO COFFEE at lunch!

John Severini onstage at lunch

John Severini onstage at lunch

2pm – Cruising 2013 and Beyond

Moderated by Michelle Fee, this panel featured the sales directors from six cruise companies: Norwegian, Princess, Azamara, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival (insert Carnival Cruise joke here, although NOBODY was joking in this session).IMG02124-20130222-1412

3pm – Exclusive Access to the Exhibition Floor

Special exhibitor access, met some of the travel vendors and collected lots of information, some free SWAG and assorted candy.

Music from Ecuador on the exhibition floor

Music from Ecuador on the exhibition floor

Best SWAG: Sunset Plaza Hotel’s box of chocolate covered almonds and pistachios.

In less than three hours: brochures, magazines, maps, SWAG and candy...I'm a Trade Show Professional

In less than three hours: business cards, brochures, magazines, maps, SWAG and candy…I’m a Trade Show Professional

4pm – Hosted Reception in the Exhibition Hall Lounge

I used my two drink tickets (absolut & pineapple juice), grabbed a free bottle of water and talked with a few people before heading back to the exhibition floor.  And at 4pm they finally had coffee available in the exhibition floor lounge…way too late.

6pm – Friday STOP AND GO TRAFFIC on the 101 Freeway all the way home.  No Fun!

Los Angeles Times Travel Show 2013 at the L.A. Convention Center

Los Angeles Times Travel Show 2013 at the Los Angeles Convention Center 22-FEB-13   (copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel)

(all photos copyright 2013 JoshWillTravel – taken with my Blackberry camera)

WELCOME TO JOSHWILLTRAVEL!

Hello! Hola! Wilkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome to my travel blog JoshWillTravel!

I’ve named it JoshWillTravel because Josh (that’s me) will travel and blog about it here. Also, as a Travel Professional, it is my hope that by sharing my journeys and experiences you will be inspired to embark on your own travel adventures. This blog is interactive, so please join in the conversation. I welcome your questions, feedback, comments and emails.

Malibu Sunset - Pacific Palisades, California

Malibu Sunset – Pacific Palisades, California (copyright 2010 JoshWillTravel)