California’s Bounty Blooms in John Steinbeck’s Salinas Valley

The National Steinbeck Center in downtown Salinas uses John Steinbeck’s books to tell the Salinas Valley story

We live in a disconnected age where colors define politics and words like “rural” and “urban” are used to describe who we are. For children of big city parents the estrangement can be particularly acute. Just ask a 10-year old where food comes from. Chances are he’ll look perplexed, then slowly recover with a smile and yell, ‘the grocery store.” If this has happened to you perhaps it’s time to bypass the summer cruise or theme park visit and make this year’s vacation a learning experience. I have the perfect place: California’s Salinas Valley, a region rich in soil and history where MBA farmers grow food in an area made famous by Nobel and Pulitzer prize winning author John Steinbeck.

Steinbeck was in his mid 20s when he began writing about the people of small town and rural California. Set in nearby Monterey, Tortilla Flat (1935) and Cannery Row (1945) focused on eccentrics who scramble to make a living during hard times. Be sure your child reads at least a synopsis of the latter before visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium located on Cannery Row. Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (1939) conveys the pain of the Great Depression’s Dust Bowl migration as no history book can and explains the ancestral ties still linking Southern California to the American Midwest. But Steinbeck always considered his greatest book to be East of Eden (1952) since it is both a profile and paean to his hometown of Salinas and the struggles of its farmers to get perishable crops to distant markets. More


Kurdistan’s Rough Road to Freedom

More than 90% of Northern Iraq’s Kurds voted for independence, but Iraq, Iran and Turkey are determined to frustrate that ambition for reasons ranging from potential unrest from the Kurdish diaspora to the possession of Kirkuk’s oil.

Independence referendums aren’t that unusual. A 1999 plebiscite sponsored by the U.N. enabled East Timor to leave Indonesia. In 2014, Scotland voted to remain in the U.K., which two years later decided to exit the European Union. The dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993 that created the independent nations of Slovakia and the Czech Republic did not prompt turmoil in Europe. But when more than 90% of the six million people in the Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq recently voted for independence Erbil’s neighbors threatened to crush the prospective country. More


Baden-Baden’s Spas, Wine and Food Evoke Germany’s Romantic History

Immaculate streets and horse-drawn carriages augment the charm of Baden-Baden’s neo-baroque Theater. Composer Hector Berlioz debuted his operas here because he regarded the city as “a garden, an oasis, a paradise.”

Baden-Baden, the idyllic spa town at the foot of Germany’s Black Forest, draws spa-goers to its thermal waters and wine enthusiasts to its nearby wineries. But this place is also brimming with history. The Romans discovered the thermal waters 2,000 years ago, and you can visit the remnants of their baths in an open-air museum. But the time that still resonates is the 1800s, when the town was the summer residence of French, German and Russian aristocrats and artists. Clara Schumann, the noted Romantic pianist who was wife to composer Robert Schumann, had a house here. Hector Berlioz composed and debuted an opera in the Theatre, modeled on the Paris Opera. Dosteyevsky and Turgenev spent time in this green and walkable town, with its impeccable 19th century neo-classic buildings, flowering trees, museums, shops and public gardens.  More


Buyers Beware
Buzz Phrases & Fake Photos
Mar Internet Hotel Advertising

Pictures don’t always say a thousand words. Have you ever booked a hotel that looks great online, only to show up and find out you were completely misled? There are all kinds of phony marketing tactics designed to get you to click. When looking online for a hotel, it’s common to see photos of spacious rooms and intimate pools. In fact, hotels are known for “photo fake outs.” These are photos that show a hotel room looking more spacious than it really is, or they make a crowded beach at a mega resort look like a deserted oasis. More

Los Angeles
LA’s New Landlords

There are more than 225,000 Koreans living in and around Los Angeles and this week they have a new symbol of accomplishment, a glass-sheathed hotel, office and retail tower topped by an enormous, sail-shaped LED screen that nightly beams the Korean Airlines logo across hundreds of neighborhoods sprawling 336-meters below. The $1.35 billion Wilshire Grand Center is the creation of Cho Yang-ho, 68, the CEO of Korean Airlines and the airline’s corporate parent Hanjin International. More