San Francisco Duck Tour

Experience San Francisco sightseeing from a duck’s eye view on the best San Francisco duck tour. Travel on land and water in an amphibious vehicle crafted from the WW II DUKW. RIDE through San Francisco’s historic streets and neighborhoods. SPLASH down into the bay and cruise McCovey Cove. QUACK along with the Captain as he en-tour-tains you with stories of past and present. Drive the duck if you want! The only duck tour in San Francisco with the famous Wacky Quackers™.

Amelia Island Plantation sells 51%

Redquartz Developments, an Ireland Corporation operating from Atlanta, has agreed to purchase 51 percent of the newly issued total ownership equity units in the Amelia Island Plantation. This Green Lodging resort accounts for 1,350 acres of Amelia Island, Florida.

The Cooper family has owned the company since 1978 and will retain the remaining 49 percent of the total ownership, according to information released by Amelia Island Company. Jack Healan, the President of the Amelia Island resort will retain his position and said, “We have been looking for an equity partner to help us re-establish a resort business plan to take us forward. Redquartz Atlanta is the exact partner for which we were searching, particularly as it relates to their ability and willingness to work with us financially on our plans at Amelia Island Plantation.”

The capital infusion to the Amelia Island Company could be as much as $60 million over the next 12 to 18 months which will be used by the company to fund capital projects. Amelia Island Plantation offers three and a half miles of beach, four golf courses, 23 tennis courts, a luxury spa, shopping center, restaurants, a full time Nature Center. There is 49,000 square feet of meeting space and wireless access in its all oceanfront Inn, villas and conference center.

Dial 5-1-1 for Road Conditions

My Florida 511 is a free service of the Florida Department of Transportation which offers you travel information along personalized profiles you choose. Create up to 10 different routes (profiles) you regularly drive and get travel information along those routes when you dial 511 from a cellular or landline phone.

If you want to access your custom profiles from two different phones, you will need to provide a primary and secondary phone number. You will not be able to access your My Florida 511 from a phone not listed on your account. When you call 5-1-1, the system will recognize your phone number using simple Caller ID technology and let you hear about your profiles first by giving you access to 511’s full range of services in Central Florida allowing you to transfer to the statewide system.

Jax – Our Neighbor to the South

I like to share with you a very humorous and insightful post from Southside Girl on Craigslist for Jacksonville. It kind of reflects the Rules of Engagement I try to observe every time I drive down Heckscher Driver into Jax. Enjoy

1. You must learn to say the city name correctly. It is usually referred to as “Jax”.

2. You must be a Jaguars fan. It is a requirement for citizenship. Also, you are either a Gator or a Nole. You have no choice. If you abstain, you will be assigned a team. There are no other schools. It’s better to learn that sooner than later.

3. Forget the traffic rules you learned elsewhere. No one pays attention to them here. Merging, turning, and right-of-way are completely foreign terms. ‚Ä®[No turn signals in cars, either]

4. To find anything in Jax it is required that you know where Regency Square is. It is the Alpha and the Omega: the beginning and the end.

5. Directions to anywhere may, and usually do, make a reference to “the old Pic and Save”.

6. The morning rush hour is from 6am to 10am. The evening rush hour is from 3pm to 7pm. Friday’s rush hour starts Thursday morning.

7. If you actually stop at a yellow light, you will be rear-ended, cussed out, and possibly shot.

8. East Rd. meets West Rd. on Beach Blvd, but they both run North and South.

9. Normandy Boulevard, State Road 228, Cecil Field Road, Maxville Road, and Post Street are all the same road.

10. On the southeast side of town, Hartley Road, Shad Road, and Hood Road are all the same road. Hartley Road is the western part of the road, and Shad Road is the eastern part of the road. Now don’t be confused about this Hood Road. This is the West-East part that is in between Hartley and Shad, not the North-South part that starts out as Old Kings Road South, changes into Hood Road South, and ends at Losco Road. Got it? [Guess this explains how I always end up on Hood Road when I turned off Phillips Hwy (South) onto Old St. Augustine Road, heading East to San Jose? I can never tell because it’s always dark by the time I get to Mandarin.

11. Construction is a permanent fixture in Jax. The barrels are moved around in the middle of the night to make the next day’s driving a bit more exciting.

12. Watch very carefully for road hazards such as deer, skunks, dogs, barrels, cones, cows, horses, pot holes, cats, pieces of other cars, single shoes, opossums, truck tires, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, crows or vultures feeding on any of these items.

13. The minimum acceptable speed on J Turner Butler Blvd is 75 mph. Anything less is considered downright sissy. This is Jacksonville’s version of NASCAR.

14. Never honk at anyone. Ever. Seriously.

15. If you are in the left lane, and only going 70 in a 55 zone, you are considered a road hazard and will be “flipped off” accordingly.

16. Ground clearance of at least 12 inches is recommended for city driving.

17. If it’s 100 degrees, Thanksgiving must be next weekend.

18. There are really only two seasons here: Summer and January.

19. There is actually a Westside high school that has a confederate battle flag as its school flag, an image of a slave plantation owner as its mascot, and Dixie as its school song. Just accept it. Please don’t make a fuss about it, for your own safety.

20. Ponte Vedra and Amelia Island are to Middleburg as oceanfront is to double-wide.

21. If you choose to live in Orange Park, or, God forbid, Middleburg, plan to leave for work at 4am and return home around 11pm. Otherwise you may get caught in what can only be described as “the world’s longest left-turn lane”.

22. Don’t get here late and expect something to eat. After 9pm, your choices are Famous Amos, Village Inn and Krystals.

23. You can buy a million-dollar condo downtown on the river, but you have to drive 10 miles for a loaf of bread, and never after dark.

24. The Landing is an interesting place. Every time you visit, there will be a whole new set of restaurants, fewer stores, and less parking. Hooters, however, is a permanent fixture.

25. All city council decisions must be signed off on by First Baptist Church.

26. You can’t drink alcohol and see topless girls at the same time. But, if you agree to drink Diet Coke, you can see them fully nude.

27. North Phillips highway. Don’t go there. Ever. Unless, of course, you are looking for motels that charge by the hour.

28. Learn all of the lyrics to every Lynyrd Skynyrd song. Trust me on this one.

29. If you like southern-style barbecue, you’ve come to the right place. There’s a restaurant on every corner. But, they all close at 9pm.

30. Convenience stores are literally EVERYWHERE, unless you live in a million-dollar condo downtown.

31. No matter where you want to go, you can’t get there from where you are…in other words, you can’t get there from here.

Editor’s Note: Southside Girl you can write for me anytime

Winter Wonderland

Most of the Midwest and Northeast have had horrible weather today. This photo was sent to us from Louisville, Kentucky, displaying the weather they endured today… and according to my fancy little weather station that receives time so accurate it comes from the Atomic Clock in Boulder, Colorado, we had a high today of 80 degrees. Yes, it is good to live in Florida!

Happy Chinese New Year

By: Judie Mackie

January 26 marked the Chinese New Year for 2009. This celebration lasts about 15 days and some in China will take weeks of holidays to enjoy feasting with family and friends. The Chinese calendar has a 12 year cycle and each of those years is named for an animal. 2009 is the year of the Ox. The animal ruling over a year is believed to influence the traits of those born in that year.

Legend and tradition say that Buddha called for all the animals to come bid him farewell before he departed the earth. The twelve animals that showed up were the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig, in that order. Buddha showed his appreciation by naming each year after the animals and in the order they arrived.

According to the Web site 123 Chinese New Year, people born in the Year of the Ox will have leadership and organizational skills. They are strong and responsible, but can be stubborn, narrow minded and have low public relations skills. In keeping with the 12 year cycle, those born in the year of the Ox would include those born in 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, and not again until 2021.

Feasting, fireworks, family and friends mark this exciting time for the Chinese who will traditionally wear red for the occasion. The foods chosen for feasts have symbolic meaning such as oranges for wealth and good fortune and eggs for fertility.

Perhaps one of the largest US celebrations of the Chinese New Year is the Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year parade and Festival held on Saturday, February 7th at 5:15 p.m., but the festivities run from January 24th until February 15, 2009. San Francisco plays host to such exciting events as the Miss Chinatown Pageants and the Flower Market Fair with plenty of oranges and tangerines, the symbols for abundant happiness, and live blooming plants to honor rebirth and new growth. Entertainment includes lion dancing, Chinese opera, martial arts demonstration, a petting zoo for the children, basketball events and much, much more.

I think next year I may plan a vacation to San Francisco to join in all of the festivities, until then, Kung Hei Fat Choi! (Happy New Year!).

More Heads in Beds

By: Judie Mackie

Over development and a poor economy have guests, visitors and tourists on the receiving side of some deeply discounted vacation packages. Sadly, not enough folks are feeling confident about the economy and are hesitant to take advantage of the deals.

Keep in mind these hotels, motels, lodges and inns also have mortgage notes, employees and overhead to contend with. With continued discounts on rates you will likely see discounted quality of services as the lodging industry also tries to deal with cutting expenses.

I saw a story in the Wall Street Journal discussing the major reduction of businesses and attendees participating in trade shows. Knowledge for new products and services can be largely obtained on the World Wide Web and companies can save big money by cutting funds for these expensive road trips, and that is just one measurable indicator.

Conventions, trade shows, meetings, large festivals and personal vacations have contributed to the bottom line of our community for many years. We hope the goods ones make it thru this sluggish market by providing new and enticing ways of getting more “heads in beds” so our community businesses have every opportunity to prosper in this new year.

Amelia Island Ritz Carlton

Don’t miss your chance to swing by the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island this holiday season. Their seasonal decorations and holiday lights would even put a smile on Mr. Scrooge’s face.

Their traditional gingerbread house has been replaced this year with a pirate ship made of gingerbread! The SS Amelia Ginger is alone worth seeing.

The Expat’s Corner

Is Herd Metality Comforting?

Is Herd Metality Comforting?

In a world where there is more information “on the fly” than anyone can comprehend without going “nuts”, the “herd” mentality becomes the accepted comfort zone. What’s good for the ‘herd” cannot be bad for me, is what most people base their decision making process on. Hence thought processes are pretty much generalized for common acceptance. In a recent article on I read that there are now 391,000 millionaires in China, up from 310,000 last year, and that many of them book plane loads full of eager buyers for US properties. There is a full blown movement among the Chinese Wealthy to fly and buy US properties today in groups. I’m not going into the benefits and reasons for them in this article, but would like to highlight the destinations they’re looking at.

Predictably they focus on Brandname Destinations because that’s what the ‘herd” does. For the Chinese, US brandname destinations are St.Francisco, LA and San Diego and Seattle to a lesser degree and as always top ranked New York.

Then this morning I catch another story about Bradley International Airport in Connecticut, touting the economic lifeline importance of having a direct flight to Amsterdam-Netherlands for their area. (see article below). The next thought in my brain process is, why does the Jacksonville Airport claim the title to be an international airport and why are there no international flights. Then when my thoughts wander off, I conclude that Florida has a huge brandname recognition in Europe, of course with Miami taking the top spot, but fading because of crime news and congestion. Finally I contemplate what it would mean for real estate and the economy in Northeast Florida if direct flights from Amsterdam would come into Jacksonville Airport. It would rapidly build a brandname for another Florida of great Quality of Life without the hassle and the congestion of South Florida.
I wonder how much the Bradley Connecticut Area Economic Council had to pitch in for Delta Airlines to resume daily direct flights to Amsterdam and how much interest there would be to pursue a similar course of action here in North East Florida. Of course I could be a little biased since Amsterdam is my hometown and I would not have to commute to Atlanta or Miami for connections.

Story: WINDSOR LOCKS, CT – When Bradley International Airport’s long-awaited daily nonstop international service to Amsterdam was canceled on October 1, 2008, the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s Office of Marketing & Route Development immediately began a focused effort to seek resumption of the service.

The Department’s formal proposal to re-establish the service centered on the proven performance of Bradley’s market demand for service to Europe and included incentives offered through the Bradley Enterprise Fund, matched by contributions from the Metro Hartford Alliance and Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council. Today, thanks to the hard work of these authorities, Bradley International Airport has announced that nonstop flights will resume between Bradley and Amsterdam, effective June 2, 2009.

Delta Air Lines has committed that its Northwest Airlines subsidiary will operate the flight starting June 2 using 160-passenger Boeing 757-200 aircraft. Service will operate five times weekly.

The flight will operate in cooperation with Delta’s European partner KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, providing easy connections beyond KLM’s Amsterdam hub to 81 cities in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and India.

Governor M. Jodi Rell said, “We’re thrilled. The flight was contributing millions in economic development to the region. The Department of Transportation, airport officials, and a coalition of the Metro Hartford Alliance and Western Mass Economic Development Council should be commended for their efforts, especially during these tough economic times. We applaud Delta Air Lines for its commitment to Bradley International Airport and for reinstating this important route for summer 2009.”

“We refused to give up on this service, and our efforts have been rewarded,” said DOT commissioner Joseph F. Marie. “To have this service reinstated at a time when the airlines are going through a severe downturn is nothing short of miraculous. The department is proud of the partnerships forged with the board of directors and economic development agencies and looks forward to continued success.”

“The fact that this service is coming back is a testament to a coordinated public-private partnership that worked diligently to prove that Bradley could indeed support a flight of this nature,” said Bradley board chairman L. Scott Frantz. “There are an estimated 4.7 million travelers located within a 90-mile radius of Bradley International Airport, including the eastern portion of New York state and western New England, who deserve a hassle free, on-time travel experience in contrast to traveling through the often-congested New York and Boston airports.”

“We’re excited to see Hartford-Amsterdam return this time as part of the network of the world’s largest airline,” said Bob Cortelyou, Delta’s senior vice president – network planning.

Airport Security Checkpoints Love New Laptop Bags

By: Judie Mackie

A new laptop bag for computers has been approved for use at airport security checkpoints. The bags open flat when unzipped and only your laptop computer remains on one side of the bag, just like setting it into a plastic bin provided by security. I have traveled often for business. This new bag sounds like a winner!

Placing your clear and quart sized bag of fluids, tiny purse, shoes, sunglasses and coat into one bin, unzipping your laptop case and placing the computer into a bin by itself, placing the laptop case (without the computer inside) and your permitted carry on bag full of clothes all onto the conveyor belt while trying not to lose track of your boarding pass so you can quickly walk barefooted through the “people” scanner, can be overwhelming to even the well-seasoned flyer.

Not having to remove the computer and deal with the extra bin has to be close to the greatest invention of the year! These new bags are priced at about $100.00. I think I’ll add one to my Christmas wish list.

Book Three Get One Free

The Ritz-Carlton and American Express are offering an exclusive deal for Am Ex card holders valid through December 19, 2008. Book three consecutive nights at any Ritz-Carlton resort and be our guest for a complimentary fourth night.

… and now the fine print:
Payment must be made with any American Express Card. Package is subject to change and cannot be combined with any other offer. Offer valid from May 1, 2008, through December 19, 2008, and is subject to availability. Advanced reservations are required; rates do not apply to groups. Rates listed are per room, per night, double occupancy, and exclusive of taxes, gratuities and other charges unless otherwise noted. A four night minimum stay is required. The complimentary fourth night room charge will be credited at the time of check-out. For guests staying eight nights, a total of two complimentary nights will be credited.

Contact the Ritz Carlton Resort for more information!

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