Welcome ...

One day I was contemplating the advice I had been sharing with hundreds, if not thousands, of people over the years. I decided it was time to put my experiences into the written word and hope that you find as much pleasure in my adventures as I have ... and maybe, just maybe, if your travels cross some of the same places that mine have, perhaps my words of wisdom will make your journey that much more fun and exciting.

So whether it's local restaurants or exotic destinations ... as my Uncle Jim described me, I am the "intrepid traveler", always ready for an adventure, whether traveling solo or leading the way ... you never know what will pop into my head and come out on the keyboard.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Create & Keep A Customer

"The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer."

I can confirm that I am a BELIEVER in this. So what should businesses do to keep a customer?  First and foremost, this is a no-brainer, THEY SHOULD HIRE WELL.  This allows a business to deliver a great customer service experience and keep their customers returning because if they hire badly, they need to discount in order to make up for bad customer service.  If I can get a good experience and save money at the same time, that's terrific.  However if I am saving money but have a bad experience, you can bet I'm NOT coming back again.

For example, I was out shopping with a friend who wanted to buy a camera.  We went into a store that had the model that he wanted, and it was a good price BUT the sales associate who waited on us, was TERRIBLE.  It was almost as if he knew he had the sale in the bag and could barely give us the time of day.  Instead of saying yes, my friend and I left to continue shopping. Needless to say, we found another store with the same item, but it was $20 more. However the CUSTOMER SERVICE EXPERIENCE was outstanding!  The new sales associate couldn't have been nicer.  Not only did he give us a warm welcome, he took the time to point out every single feature the camera offered.  My friend asked me my opinion.  It wasn't my money, so he could do what he wanted however, I told him that I would rather pay the $20 more for the customer service.  Consider it a $20 education because the sales associate showed my friend how to really make the most out of his camera plus the guy threw in a camera case.  

In the end, he bought his camera at the store that charged him $20 more. Why?  It was the customer service experience that closed the deal.  This particular sales associate sold himself more than he sold the camera.  And this is what business should be all about. We forget that the first point of entry into a sale is the sales person, not the store.  The store name may attract you and can put all the pretty displays out but if the staff can't sell themselves out of a paper bag, the store might as well close up shop and go home for the day.

I was ecstatic when Nordstrom's opened in Nashville. Do they charge more for their merchandise? In some cases, probably, however it's the customer service that keeps me coming back.  From buying clothes, I now have a personal shopper who knows what I like and then emails me when certain styles and colors come in.  This saves me TIME, something that is absolutely priceless to me. Their staff is ENGAGING.  And I can honestly say, it's been the same from Nordstrom Seattle, to Nordstrom San Francisco to Nordstrom Nashville so I can also mention CONSISTENCY.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Making the Days Count versus Counting the Days.

Recently I imported over 2000 photos from my phone to my laptop.  As I sat and watch my flash across the screen, I sat back and realized how many wonderful memories were captured.  Ladies, men always seem to wonder what we do to fill our days and nights and this is what inspired todays blog.  Enjoy.  May you find some inspiration, as I know some of you will find your faces here too, and I would love to hear what YOU do to make your days count.

We find simplicity.

We keep our heads above the clouds.

We love our furry friends.

We camp at 10,000'.

We get and give hugs.

We get silly.

We install ceiling tiles.

We express ourselves.

We get pedicures.

We tantalize our tastebuds.

We admire the view.

We drink Champagne simply because we want to.

We find the magic.

We wait for the sunset.

We laugh with our family.

We look for love.

We eat dessert first, because life is too short.
We celebrate with good friends.

We love our Moms and Godmom's.

We extend ourselves.

We find hidden treasures.

We get dressed up.

We cook delicious dinners.

We drool over delicious men.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Cracked Conch

I recently spent two weeks in Georgetown, Grand Cayman and ended up being amazed by the depth and breath not only by the beauty of the beach and the ocean but by the wide variety of food. And not just food, but fine dining.  As most of my friends know, I LOVE good food! Wherever I go, I make it my mission to find the best restaurants.

One lazy afternoon, I ventured out with the car. This was my first time driving on the opposite side of the road, just like they do in England. I felt like a 16 year old, just learning to drive!  It was a bit intimidating, but no guts, no glory. My new friend Kirsten, also an American, gave me a valuable piece of advice. Since the drivers seat was on the left side of the car (normal for us here in the good old USA), as long as the curb was on my side, I was on the right side of the road. It worked. (Kirsten, you are brilliant!)

As I love to do, I simply drove until I got lost, but honestly, how lost can you get on an island. Just look for the water as all roads lead back to George Town. Part of my wandering took me into neighborhoods which the average tourist wouldn't see, some stunning and some not so stunning, but interesting no matter what. I had to brake for chickens, turkey's, tourists, and the icing on the cake was braking for iguana's. How often does THAT happen?

The highlight of my drive was lunch. Located on the Northwest end of the island, I found the Cracked Conch, Grand Cayman. Since it was late in the day by the time arrived, as luck would have it, I had the entire restaurant to myself.  A Key West-style house, painted white with quaint blue shutters, the Cracked Conch sits perched on a rocky cliff overlooking a popular dive spot. Soothed by the Caribbean wind, I watched the dappled sunlight on the surf and sighed with sheer relaxation.  With my book in hand for entertainment, I settled in for what proved to be an amazing lunch.
What a culinary experience! Appetizers included the typical Conch Chowder ($9), Cracked Conch ($11) and Honey Jerk Tuna Tartar ($12). Entrees included Jerk Pork Belly Sandwich ($13), Chicken Tikka & Arugula Salad ($13) and Mahi Mahi ($15). With that in mind, here is what my tastebuds danced with:
  • Appetizer:  Conch Ceviche ($11) served with tomatoes, red onions, cucumber water lime juice, avocado and cilantro.  This dish was like eating sunshine! The conch was so thinly sliced, I could see through it and it literally melted in my mouth.  The Chef had added a touch of Scotch Bonnet peppers to the dressing, so the splash of citrus combined with the warmth of the peppers was delectable.
  • Entree:  Tuna Nicoise ($16) which included seared tuna, poached egg, french beans, fingerling potatoes, tomato & black olives, vinaigrette. Typically when we have a Tuna Nicoise salad, it consists of canned tuna with a hard boiled egg on top of a mound of lettuce.  The sheer surprise of how well all of the ingredients melded together ... who would have thought of combining fresh seared tuna with a poached egg. And not one leaf of lettuce inside.  This dish was served warm and was exquisite.
  • Because the first two dishes were incredible, I had to move onto Dessert. I was already full so couldn't imagine eating one more bite but because the appetizer and entree were so full of flavor, I couldn't imagine that dessert would be a disappointment. It would have been like a PBJ with out the bread. All things must come full circle so I chose Pineapple Ravioli. Yes, you read right. Pineapple Ravioli.  Two ravioli pastries stuffed with sweet, fresh pineapple, served over pineapple foam and a bright pineapple sorbet on the side, with a sprinkling of powdered sugar tying the ingredients together.
For anyone bound for Georgetown, Grand Cayman, whether by ship or by air, be sure to put the Cracked Conch on your "To Do" list because for me, this will be on my Top 10 favorite restaurants in the world. The Cracked Conch is only open December through May and local attractions include the Turtle Farm and the Swim with the Dolphins Theatre.  I have no idea what a taxi would cost you to get there, but you could combine sightseeing and lunch ... and then head back to the ship or your hotel.  It's worth it.