James Bond in London

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I have mentioned in at least one earlier blog entry that I used to travel quite frequently for work. When I did that, I learned to join all the rewards clubs, such as Hilton, Marriott, Hertz, etc.  One of the best of all of the programs is Starwood (Starwood Preferred Guest.) That is the mother company that owns the hotel chains Four Points, Sheraton, W, Aloft, Westin, and a small collection of really fancy properties that they call The Luxury Collection. Note that airline mileage programs are similar, though in my experience it can be easy to earn airline miles but tricky to actually “spend” them due to a labyrinth of special rules and restrictions. Starwood points in contrast, are very easy to use. read more

Kismet Villa, St. John, USVI

Firstly, let me be clear that this entry is about an island rental villa that is NOT somewhere that The Working Stiff or most of his circle of friends and family would be able to stay!

St John 2009 M 284

It so happens that we were renting a house down the hill from this place a few years ago. A vastly less ritzy place to be sure, though quite nice and adequate to our needs. One morning I took a walk up the hill from our rental to take some photos of the beautiful trees and flowers all over the neighborhood. I came upon a gate with a driveway beyond leading to what was clearly some sort of gorgeous and exclusive estate but was mostly hidden from my street view. I was taking a few pictures of the landscaping outside the gate when a man yelled down and invited me up the driveway to check the place out. read more

A Mid-summer Night’s Morning

Not long after dawn on a mid-summer day the morning sun began to burn off the cooling curtain of mist that the Atlantic night had left behind. The dune grass bent to a light breeze and soft waves lapped at the powdery sand as a pod of dolphins played in the ocean just beyond the end of the jetty. A few early strollers on the promenade shared the fragile quiet with a group of piping plovers that danced at the water’s edge, teasing the waves whose watery fingers reached gently up the beach.

Block Island 2010 221

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Blue Lizard

Another shameless plug for a travel accessory that we have really used on numerous trips and has proven itself to be worthy of our high esteem.

Mrs. Working Stiff is of Irish descent and has a very fair complexion that she goes to great lengths to protect from potential sun damage. She is always researching the latest technologies to help her enjoy being outside in tropical climes (or Pennsylvania and the Jersey shore in the summer for that matter!) Through her I have learned over the years about special clothing with SPF protection, and a laundry additive that adds some level of SPF protection to otherwise ordinary clothing. I have learned about such things as rash guards and have learned that some beach umbrellas offer SPF protection and some don’t. (I just thought a beach umbrella gave you some shade.) read more

The Lizards of Oz

The wife and I were watching an episode of Penny Dreadful on HBO the other night and there was a scene with one of our favorite characters, Mr. Lyle. My wife referred to his appearance as “The Wizard of Oz,” and I initially heard it wrong as “The Lizard of Oz.” Which reminded me of a wonderful lizard experience we had a few years back on St. John, USVI. In truth I haven’t had many lizard experiences at all, which I think is pretty much OK, but this one was something to remember!

St John 2009 B 128

We were sharing a rental villa with our regular vacation partners, my brother and his wife. It was a compact but very comfortable masonry house that was beautifully embellished with local stone in a style common to many homes on the island. Perhaps the greatest feature of the house was a long covered stone and tile porch that ran along one side and allowed lots of room for outdoor dining, relaxing with the morning coffee, or just admiring the view. Sort of a long sheltered gallery with several archways from which you could look out onto the small yard or the scenery beyond. There was in fact quite a view because the house sat near the edge of a craggy bluff with crashing surf below in a small bay formed by the spit of land that accommodated our neighborhood and a substantial peninsula across the water to the east. read more