Uncategorized – The Roving Texan http://rovingtexan.com Peregrino Ergo Sum Sun, 21 Aug 2016 22:38:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.3 http://rovingtexan.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/cropped-RovingTexan-Logo-32x32.png Uncategorized – The Roving Texan http://rovingtexan.com 32 32 If You Could Marry a Hotel Chain, I Would Be Guilty of Polyandry Right Now http://rovingtexan.com/if-you-could-marry-a-hotel-chain-i-would-be-guilty-of-polyandry-right-now/ http://rovingtexan.com/if-you-could-marry-a-hotel-chain-i-would-be-guilty-of-polyandry-right-now/#respond Sat, 09 Nov 2013 23:48:19 +0000 http://rovingtexan.com/?p=179 And I don’t think my husband would mind. We love the Kimpton hotel brand…to a ridiculous degree.

No, they don’t pay me anything to say this. I just can’t help myself. There are those rare businesses that just get it right, and when you find one, you fall hard for them. You develop a loyalty that borders on religious fervor.

G and I first encountered Kimpton through the Hotel Palomar in Dallas, at Christmas time. I’d been sent there as an independent evaluator for a hospitality QC company (no I won’t tell you which one). The décor and ambiance were gorgeous–enormous red and silver tree, a blanket of cranberries floating in the fountain, down tempo holiday music. There was  coffee/tea service in the morning, and a wine hour in the evening. All of that was great. But really, any up market hotel can do those things if they try (and should be bitch slapped if they don’t. Really, people.) What won us over was the property’s determination to get to know us and make us comfortable as PEOPLE. The staff learned our names on check in. The doorman made recommendations for places we could go, and asked how we enjoyed it when we got back. They remembered us the next morning, and made a point of giving us more information based on personal interests we’d shared. They made us feel special, and appreciated, and spoiled. Who wouldn’t fall in love with that? As a consequence, we kept coming back long after I’d moved on to other work.

I travel a lot. That initial experience was enough to make me want to seek out Kimpton properties any place I know I’m going to visit. I stay often enough that I’ve become an Inner Circle member (that’s their loyalty club’s highest membership level). And I value the relationship so much that I work damned hard to stay Inner Circle, because they make it worth my while (ARE YOU LISTENING, UNITED?) In addition to the regular perks they give members, each hotel makes a point of doing something special for Inner Circle members. They make a list of your preferences and there is usually a small treat or surprise waiting in the room when you arrive. For me it’s typically a bit of dark chocolate and some sparkling wine. That alone would be enough to keep me coming back. Smart marketing really…in the end it doesn’t cost them much (probably less than $10 per visit total), and I’ll pick their hotel over any other just about every time (I hardly bother with Priceline anymore). But what really seals the deal for me is when they go all out. On one occasion, their concierge read my profile and found out I like puppets. When my sister and I got there, I found this in my room:

IMG_0009She’d gone out and bought me a cowgirl puppet. So, I went downstairs and did a little performance to say thanks, and then we took our new friend on our boat tour of the city. As you can see, she had a fabulous time. And I won’t ever forget the gesture.

I’m in Portland, OR right now, where Kimpton has two properties. And when they brought up a little plate of snacks and my bottle of bubbly–I love that they know I love sparkling wine–they included a personalized thank you note that featured the logo of my blog. “Look,” I said to my roommate, giddily,” They read my blog! I thought only my Mom did that!”

IMG_0051

I’m a writer and editor, and I trained as an academic, but the people I work with are mostly entrepreneurs and business owners. So a big part of my job is to help people craft a message that draws their potential clients in, makes them feel understood, special, and valued. When that’s done, it’s up to them to keep the customers they find with their marketing (and that’s why I try to be really choosy about who I help). When I want to point them to a company that I think is firing on all cylinders, I point them to this hotel chain. Because Kimpton has made ME love them by treating me well, providing consistently good service, and taking time to form a real relationship with me. They don’t just go out of their way to please me, they have fun with me. And clearly it works, because they are very, very good at creating raving fans. I have no problem admitting I’m one of them.

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Who Has Seen the Wind? http://rovingtexan.com/who-has-seen-the-wind/ http://rovingtexan.com/who-has-seen-the-wind/#respond Wed, 29 Aug 2012 21:23:38 +0000 http://rovingtexan.com/WordPress/?p=72 Wind 2Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
 
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.
~ Christina Rossetti
 
 
Turns out, we can see the wind, thanks to hint.fm. The U.S. looks like a great, shaggy beastie today, thanks to Isaac. It’s wondrous, but not in a delightful sort of way. More in the awestruck-and-unnerved way.

Wind Map Key

This is  the key to what the lines mean. It looks as if the wind was re-drawing the landscape– shift mountains, changing boundary lines, as though it were no more than rearranging furniture.

 

Blow wind, and crack your cheeks...
The Mad Wind
What hast thou seen, O wind,
Of beauty or of terror,
Surpassing, denied to us,
That with precipitate wings,
Mad and ecstatical,
Thou spurnest the hollows and trees
That offer thee refuge of peace,
And findest within the sky
No safety nor respite
From the memory of thy vision?
~ Clark Ashton Smith
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Find a Sunny Spot and Lie Still http://rovingtexan.com/find-a-sunny-spot-and-lie-still/ http://rovingtexan.com/find-a-sunny-spot-and-lie-still/#respond Tue, 26 Jun 2012 02:06:25 +0000 http://rovingtexan.com/WordPress/?p=37

Coconut Bay

I recommend that to anyone for Christmas vacation, if you possibly can.

Cari lives in Dominica, a small island in the West Indies (near Venezuela). She didn’t much want a crowd at her home for Christmas–tiny island, tiny houses–so it made sense to plan a trip to one of the nearby islands. We wanted someplace family friendly, a local with enough of a tourist focus to have A/C and decent beds, but with a low fromage factor–not one of the adult playgrounds where the I-peaked-in-high-school set go to misbehave. It took two months of obsessive research and way too many phone calls between sisters and mom, but we settled on St. Lucia. White sand. Shocking blue water. Palm trees. Why does everyone romanticize snow at Christmas?

When you’re dealing with family, especially family in numbers, all inclusive resorts are the way to go. If half the number of your relatives are picky eaters and ill-tempered in the morning as mine are, picking a restaurant requires Glasnost-level diplomacy that no one can muster for more than 24 hours. All inclusive resorts give everybody lots of choices for food, at all hours of the day. The beds are good, and someone tidies up the room (which everyone likes even if they won’t admit it). OK…some all inclusives are NOT my speed. I don’t want some chirpy nametag twit picking my dinner companions, I don’t want to be forced to do the hula (or anything), and I have no interest in floor shows. But if you do your research, you can find a place that suits your taste. For our family, it was all about food, free time, and space.

So we ended up at the Coconut Bay. Great views, good rooms. The food’s consistent, and made from scratch. They had a kid’s club, so we got to spend most of the time thinking my nephew is the most adorable 4-1/2 year old on the planet, with very few reminders of what a natural disaster he can be. This was a BIG lure for Cari. The staff’s friendly without being overbearing, and competent.There are activities and excursions if you want them, and they leave you the hell alone if you don’t. Mostly, they just us get on with what we really wanted to do: find a spot in the sun and lie still.

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Families in Paradise http://rovingtexan.com/87/ http://rovingtexan.com/87/#respond Wed, 01 Jun 2011 04:01:49 +0000 http://rovingtexan.com/WordPress/?p=87 DSCN0420

G says that what everyone likes best about Puerto Rico is that you can go to the Caribbean without leaving the U.S.  You get the same soft beaches, the vivid water, and the high-octane rum drinks at tourist class hotels—but if you forget your passport, you can still get on the plane.

 Puerto Rico has to work pretty hard to stay in my good graces, though. The airport always feels like being caught in an amateur production of The Brig. Hotels are overpriced, as a rule. Long swaths of that powdery beach in San Juan are littered with graffiti and broken glass. The stuff I like best of the island is elsewhere.

We stayed in Loiza, a rough and rustic town. I don’t mean tourist rustic: I mean work horses tethered in front of ramshackle houses, tiny bottle shops and egg stalls with oil drum tables. A developer got his hands on some beachfront land in the middle of an otherwise working class settlement. There he built an enclave of shiny condos complete with five pools, playgrounds, mini golf, and private beach access. It’s a stark contrast. The property was right behind the local police station, and had its own private guards for good measure. We joked a little about overkill and bourgeois safety obsessions when we arrived. Then we heard shots fired in the neighborhood around us on a couple of nights.

Poverty exists in every country, I know. And I don’t favor the kind of travel that obscures it completely.  It’s probably a good thing for tourists to be reminded occasionally that vacations are a privilege of financial stability, and not everyone shares the same good fortune. Nobody in my family complained or felt unsafe.

The first few days, most of the units were dark. I actually like that—quiet, plenty of open deck chairs.  The weekend got lively, though, and most of the crowd looked like islanders from the urban areas.  While the complex was empty, we stayed quiet and close to home, cooking our meals in and sunning. My nephew, who has one volume (LOUD), ensured that everyone was up early to get the most out of each day.

 The unit where we stayed had a rooftop patio, and it looked out over the local soccer fields. I watched the young men playing in the evening, their families and friends at the sidelines. It was hard to guess what they might think about the block of vivid blue and yellow buildings in the midst of their neighborhood.  Maybe some of them were glad for the increased business; maybe others wondered if their homes were next. I do know they didn’t let it intrude on the business of their own lives. A local church held a big revival on two evenings; the testimonials and songs went late into the night, and were loud enough to drown out the coqui. In rural Puerto Rico, that takes some doing.

I think we were more preoccupied with the discord in my sister’s family than anything else, honestly. I think a bit of tension accompanies every family vacation—it’s part of the package, along with the tours. This was acute, an early warning sign. It was the beginning of the end for them, I think. We don’t always leave behind the small disintegrations of our personal lives. Sometimes, they travel with you.

Benny Sailboat

Our best day involved a sailing trip on a yacht called the Erin Go Bragh, from the port at Fajardo. We snorkeled and swam with the boat anchored near two tiny islands, watched the drunks on the party barges roaring by. We ate chicken cooked on a tiny grill mounted off the stern, drank bad local beer, listened to the captain and the boat’s owner (a leathery brown woman whose deceased husband started the company) snipe at one another over how close they could afford to bring the boat to the sandbar. By the end of the voyage, the cabin had gotten a bit ripe…those older boats just don’t have the plumbing to mask when eight people have been using the head for several hours. I guess there’s often a slight septic scent to the memory of a fine day. The water was blue beyond blue and the wind was high.

 Fort 3

 

 

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Oh Continental, I Love When You Talk French…. http://rovingtexan.com/oh-continental-i-love-when-you-talk-french/ http://rovingtexan.com/oh-continental-i-love-when-you-talk-french/#respond Thu, 11 Nov 2010 03:04:41 +0000 http://rovingtexan.com/WordPress/?p=34 Or Techno, or Psychobabble, or whatever this is. Because, God knows no one in the OnePass Program can understand it:
Effective Jan. 1, 2011

* System–wide Upgrades: Elite members earning 100,000 Elite Qualification Miles (EQMs) or 120 Elite Qualification Points (EQPs), will earn six one–way, System–wide Upgrades. Two additional System–wide Upgrades will be issued every 50,000 EQMs or 60 EQPs earned thereafter. These upgrades are eligible for all fares except S, T, K, L and G in all BusinessFirst markets.
* Regional Upgrades: As a new benefit, Elite members will earn two Regional Upgrades after completing 75,000 EQMs or 90 EQPs . Two additional Regional Upgrades will be issued for every additional 25,000 EQMs or 30 EQPs. Regional Upgrades, valid for upgrades to First Class, can be confirmed as early as the time of booking.
* The OnePass Elite program year will now be valid for thirteen months, beginning Jan. 1 and continue through Jan. 31 of the following year (instead of continuing through Feb.).

Effective 2012

* Elite members earning 100,000 EQMs or 120 Elite Qualification Points (EQPs) or more during 2011 will have upgrade priority over lower–earning members.

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An Open Letter to Continental Airlines http://rovingtexan.com/an-open-letter-to-continental-airlines/ http://rovingtexan.com/an-open-letter-to-continental-airlines/#respond Sat, 02 Oct 2010 02:03:18 +0000 http://rovingtexan.com/WordPress/?p=31 Dear Mr. Smisek and Continental Staff:
I’ll begin by acknowledging that flying has changed a great deal for all of us since 2001. I have been traveling with Continental since the early 1990s, and I recall that it used to be easier for all of us on both sides of the experience. Am I correct in assuming that your recollections are like mine, and that the relationship between travelers and airline staff has not always been this adversarial? Because I travel often, and we see a lot of each other, I think we need to talk.

You all have tough jobs: you shepherd thousands of people every day. Lots of them are tired and cranky. Some of them have a sense of entitlement to perks that no one can really promise them. And the ones that put their luggage in the front overhead bins before going to their seats at the back of the plane? They make me crazy, too. I am sure all of you have been tempted to pull the escape hatch and run down the tarmac at one time or another; so have I. So I understand if many of you feel as frustrated and put upon as some of us passengers. On occasion, I remind my seatmates that you are on your feet all day (and that you have to eat the same airport food we do).

Still, I have to tell you something: I have been stunned and discouraged by several instances of incivility and outright rudeness that I have seen on Continental flights of late. Below, I list a cross section of actual remarks I have heard over the last year, all of which were said quite audibly and in hard or sarcastic tones:

• “You want to go to the counter and buy a ticket? That’s how you get to be up there.” (to a passenger asking to use the forward restroom)

• “Nice try, buddy.” (to a passenger wishing to use a first class overhead bin)

• “Oh, don’t feel like you have to hurry.” (to passengers arriving late and approaching on the jet way)

• “C’mon people, this isn’t brain surgery!” (to people putting bags in the overhead bins)

Add to that the increase in angry body language that I have observed: audible sighs, eye rolling, head shaking. How did the passenger/crew relationship deteriorate so badly? How did we get to this point?

I won’t tell you that you have it easy; I have seen the people in the seats get surly, I’ve seen them refuse help when it was offered. A badly behaved passenger can make a flight hard for everyone, can put a flight off schedule, or wreak all kinds of havoc. I know it. And I don’t envy you having to deal with it. But I do think that Continental’s employees have the responsibility to model civility and understanding. Yes, it feels good to repay rudeness with rudeness, at least for a moment. When you lose your temper, you make things harder for all of us. It’s like the teacher losing control in class, or being insulted by the cop who pulls you over. It only makes things that much worse.

I am asking Continental to step up and deal with this before things get out of hand. I am not saying you should start punishing flight attendants for getting snippy in a moment of weakness. I am saying: give your people tools to help them cope with the pressures of today’s airport culture. Teach them techniques for redirecting bad behavior. Get an efficiency expert to help you find a better solution for the overhead bin problem.

Continental has a big merger on the horizon, so your company has a lot at stake. The Star Alliance partnership has brought you into contact with a whole new community of travelers, and you are about to introduce yourself to a lot more. But if you ignore this growing problem of conflict between your crew and your customers, I fear that incivility will be come a part of Continental’s culture. If that happens, I certainly won’t want to be a part of it anymore.

After I send this letter to you, I am going to post it to Facebook, LinkedIn, and on my blog. I’m asking all of my fellow passengers to think about this issue, too. Remember that your flight attendants and pilots work long hours. They want you to be comfortable, and they want things to go smoothly, because when we are happy they are much more likely to have a pleasant flight. They hate travel delays, just like you (and maybe because of you). Swallow the spiteful comments. Remember to say thank you. Don’t be a space hog with your luggage.

And Continental…we need you to lead by example. Diffuse tension rather than aggravate it. Keep in mind that people need understanding when they are tired, and cramped, and sore. You don’t have any idea why they are on that plane, if they won a trip to Tahiti, or if they are going to their brother’s funeral. If you go out of your way to be kind (or to be hateful), that’s the thing that I’m most likely to remember when I get home.

So, can we start again? I really don’t want to have to fly American.

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In the Footsteps of Isabella Bird http://rovingtexan.com/hello-world/ http://rovingtexan.com/hello-world/#comments Sun, 09 May 2010 17:28:30 +0000 http://rovingtexan.com/WordPress/?p=1 An intrepid explorer, a writer, a woman who never could settle or settle down. The Victorians called her a “lady traveler.” Isabella Bird was allergic to staying in one place for too long. She wrote long, meticulously descriptive letters. She rode astride, but objected when the press reported on her manly dress and unconventional habits. She fell in love with rogues, but the guy she married was the one with enough fortitude to stick around and wear her down with kindness. And when she died, it was off on an adventure.
I find her irresistible. So I’ve adopted her as a sort of patron saint, here. Welcome to the home of the Roving Texan. I live in Waco, which is a make-your-own-fun kind of town. Fortunately, I’m good at that. Nevertheless, I like to get out in the world whenever I can. Life is short; our world is a grand place. Might as well make a point of seeing it while I can.Mostly, this is a record of my own wandering. But, I like to share information with other avid travelers when I can. So, I’ll be cataloging things that might serve you in good stead: things worth seeing, notable divergences from the beaten path, restaurant reviews, any advice that serves me in good stead. Whatever I pick up, I’ll share. My next few entries will focus on my current trip to Croatia. (I’m in the airport lounge, typing this inaugural entry). After that, we’ll see where the wind blows me. And what I can find that’s interesting close to home.

By the way, I’ve adopted the tagline “Peregrino ergo Sum.” I travel therefore I am. I’m pretty sure the Latin here is faulty, based on my best (only indifferently educated) guess. The first Bird Award to the person who can offer me the best correct translation!

Bird

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