Category Archives: Trip Reports

Tired of Wine? Check Out Jelly Belly & Budweiser Factory Tours Near San Francisco

Good morning everyone, happy (Cyber) Monday!  I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving Weekend and ate way more than you should have (just like me).  So… Jelly Belly Jelly Beans and Budweiser Beer, have those 2 companies ever been mentioned in the same sentence before?  Well today they have.  Over the weekend, my parents and brother were in town, so we decided to do some not-so-common things outside of San Francisco.  Our first stop was the Jelly Belly Jelly Bean factory tour in Fairfield, CA.  Once inside, you can go on a free self-guided tour of the facility to see how the Jelly Belly Jelly Beans are made and packaged.  The tour has 18 videos that range from 30 seconds to 3 minutes and described the steps of the jelly bean making process.  We went on Saturday morning and unfortunately, the machines were not running, but the tour was still very informative and fun.  I had no idea how popular Jelly Belly Jelly Bean art was and there were many statues and portraits made out of thousands of jelly beans.

I took a picture of this poster so I could remember which Jelly Belly Jelly Bean looked and tasted like.  At the end of the tour, they gave everyone a free small bag of jelly beans.  During the production process, if a jelly bean is too small, too big, or misshapen, the jelly bean is rejected.  All those rejected jelly beans wind up in big 2 pound bags called Belly Flops.  Each bag costs $10 or you can get 5 bags for $30.  It is fun to see the interesting shapes of the jelly bean Belly Flops.  Along with making jelly beans, the factory makes other tyoes of candy treats.  The whole tour took us about an hour from start to finish.

Just down the street from the Jelly Belly Jelly Bean factory is a Budweiser Beer Brewery Tour in Fairfield, CA.  The tours cost $5 and include two 10 once samples of various beers brewed here (not just Budweiser and Bud Light).  On the day we were there, the beer making process was not running and the plant was being cleaned, but we did learn how the beer is made, stored, packaged, and served.  Our tour guide (Armando) was terrific, he knew everything and was very passionate about the beers made here.  I didn’t take any pictures inside, but the Clydesdale statue outside was cool.  The real Clydesdale horses visit this plant during spring time and it is a big celebration.  The entire tour lasted about an hour with a final stop at the bar for your second 10 once beer.  I was surprised to learn how many beer brands were made at this plant.

After finishing both tours, we were pretty hungry, so we went to a local Mexican restaurant called El Pitayo.  My mom and I split a Super Burrito and it was awesome.  After filling our bellies, we drove around wine country and stopped at the Miner Family Winery.  My parents had a wine tasting and I just enjoyed the view from the winery.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.  Have a great day everyone!

Airport Shuttles are the Bane of my Existence (Warning: Rant Ahead)

Good evening everyone, please prepare yourself for a mega rant here.  They don’t call me G-rant for nothing (ok, no one calls me that). All nonexistent nicknames aside, let’s talk about airport shuttles (or are they called hotel shuttles?).  Like the title says, airport shuttles are the bane of my existence.  But what does “bane” even mean?  According to the always reliable, never duplicatable, bane means:

The noun bane refers to anything that is a cause of harm, ruin, or death. But we often use it for things that aren’t that bad, just feel like it. You might say mosquitoes are the bane of your existence.

The source of this word is Middle and Old English bana, meaning “destroyer, murderer.” The now obsolete meaning of “deadly poison” is seen in the names of poisonous plants such as wolfsbane and henbane. Although “bane of my existence” is a commonly heard phrase, there’s something deliciously archaic about the word bane. It conjures up villages preyed upon by dragons, or witches adding one bane or another to a steaming kettle.

If an airport shuttle ran over you (like the holiday classic, “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”), you could literally say “airport shuttles are the bane of my existence” because the airport shuttle caused bodily “harm”, “ruin”-ed your day, and was your cause of “death.”  Normally, that is not the case with airport shuttles.  And before I get too deep into my rant, let me clarify that I don’t have a problem with all airport shuttles, just the specific airport shuttle I am waiting for.  For whatever reason, my airport shuttle is the only airport shuttle that takes the longest time to arrive, or forgets where the airport is located, or some other lame excuse.  I’m not sure why my airport shuttle can’t be like all the other airport shuttles I see – arriving at the airport on time, with plenty of open seats, and with a safety-minded shuttle driver behind the wheel.

Airport shuttle = bane of my existence. Image source:

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Shelli’s World Coffee Tour – Coffee Houses in Vancouver, Canada

I guess it’s time for a true confession. I’m a coffee snob. And when I travel, I have a passion for supporting local roasters and coffee houses. Let’s just say I’ve BEAN Around the World and I’m feeling like now is the time to start sharing the love… and caffeine, one city at a time. Recently, I had a fantastic week in Vancouver, Canada. And while I did touch on a few coffee places when I wrote See, Eat & Drink: The Perfect Long Weekend in Vancouver, Canada, I knew I needed to dig much deeper into the Vancouver coffee scene to really give you the full SCOOP! So during my recent trip to Vancouver, I drank plenty of coffee, talked with baristas, and I’ve got lots to share with you. Let’s open the TWG cafe society doors and talk coffee, Vancouver style.

When I travel, I only review and like to support coffee houses that roast their own beans or use locally roasted beans. This leads me to an interesting story about Vancouver. When I asked locals in Vancouver about the coffee scene and told them that I would be writing about it, the very first suggestion I received was, “You should try 49th Parallel.” I replied that I don’t care for 49th Parallel coffee. Surprisingly, they then tell me they don’t really like 49th Parallel coffee either! It’s odd and seems like people feel the need to tell me to try it because it’s local but it’s not really their first choice either. However, 49th Parallel coffee is carried by MANY cafes in Vancouver, so that eliminated many places that I didn’t need to review. I’m telling you this because you may want to try it for yourself and see what you think, and also so you’ll know none of the places I’m reviewing use 49th Parallel beans.

Another important point is that although many of the small roasters I’m reviewing do have more than one location, these days the hub for coffee is the Gastown area, with a few outliers in Chinatown and some just over the east side border of Vancouver.

I started by talking with Mark Neuman from Timbertrain Coffee. We talked and drank coffee for a long time. In general, I have somewhat of an idea of the places I want to check out, but often I’ll let the conversations I have with one manager or barista set the tone and flow to the next cafe, and that’s what happened in Vancouver.

Timbertrain Coffee Roasters sign in Vancouver, Canada

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Come Say Hi to Grant this Weekend at FTU Travel Expo / Signature in Chicago

Good morning everyone, happy Friday. I hope you all have excited weekend plans. If your weekend plans involve going to Frequent Traveler University (FTU) Travel Expo or Signature in Chicago, come say hi to me. I will be walking around the FTU Travel Expo for a few hours on Saturday (11/18) and attending the FTU Signature presentations on Saturday and Sunday (11/18-11/19).

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Wednesday Wakeup: How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep in Hotels

Do you sleep well in hotels? Maybe that’s even too broad a question to be asking, or maybe you have a simple yes or no answer. Friends, knowing I spend a lot of nights each year in hotels, often ask if I sleep well in hotels and if I have any tips for them. It turns out, when I started talking with other travelers about this, many people don’t sleep well in hotels! That being the case, I thought I’d offer up some ideas and tips. As we all know, sleeping well, and especially when we travel, really is essential to functioning well and enjoying our travels. Hotels are unfamiliar territory and often offer us obstacles to sleeping well, so we have to be strategic and creative in order to get a good night’s sleep.

Tip #1

Many of us are hotel loyalists. And with each hotel chain, comes a certain bed type and mattress brand. Chances are you’re nodding your head and thinking about how you sleep better at a Westin on their bed versus at a Hyatt on their bed. It does take our bodies time to get accustomed to mattresses, so take this into account when looking at and booking your hotel options. You can also ask the hotel what their mattresses are made of. If you’ve ever slept on foam, for instance, you’ll know that these mattresses don’t breathe well. No matter how high you turn up your air conditioning, it’s likely you’ll still sweat and heat up. Cotton mattresses do tend to keep you cooler and this often leads to a better night’s sleep.

Image source:

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