Antonio Banderas: A Gift from Malaga

As the voice of Puss in Boots in the series of Shrek films, Antonio Banderas’ accent is becoming just as recognisable as his easily identifiable face.

Hailing from the Spanish city of Malaga, Banderas started his acting career in Spanish films and TV shows in 1982. It wasn’t until 1993 that he made his first appearance in a major English-spoken film – The House of Spirits, alongside Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irons and Winona Ryder.

Banderas originally wanted to become a professional footballer but an injury when he was 14 put paid to those dreams, but his heart was set on stardom and aged 19 he started working in Spanish theatre productions; however, it’s his career in Hollywood that has put him on the celebrity map.

After The House of Spirits, Banderas appeared in the Oscar-winning Philadelphia. He went on to play the lead role in Robert Rodriguez’ Desperado alongside Salma Hayek. As a precursor for his part in Shrek, Banderas narrated Evita – starring Madonna, Jimmy Nail and Andrea Corr – before starring in the 1998 version of The Mask of Zorro. He would later play the lead role in The Legend of Zorro opposite Catherine Zeta-Jones.

In 2001 he again worked with director Rodriguez, appearing in the children’s action adventure film Spy Kids, as well as being cast in the sequels.

By now, Banderas’ name was known the world over and his appearance in Imagining Argentina alongside Kuno Becker would lead to a high profile name-drop. When Becker went on to play Santiago Munez in the 2005 film Goal!, the player was eventually accepted into the Newcastle ranks because the sister of Hughie McGowan – villain of the squad – fancied Munez, which McGowan explained by saying “she thinks you look like Antonio Banderas”.

Banderas has also tried his hand at directing with two films to his credit – 1999’s Crazy in Alabama and the more recent El camino de los ingleses (Summer Rain in English speaking countries) in which he cast his wife, Melanie Griffiths, and their daughter Stella del Carmen Banderas.

Although based in Hollywood, Banderas still spends a lot of time in his home country taking flights to Malaga to see his family and childhood friends.

As well as visiting Malaga, Banderas also stops off in northern Spain where he owns a vineyard producing red and rose wines under the company name Anta Banderas – although it is always his acting that people will remember Banderas for, no matter how versatile his career becomes.

The information contained within this article is the opinion of the author and is intended purely for information and interest purposes only. It should not be used to make any decisions or take any actions. Any links are included for information purposes only.…

Yes, Napa Valley, but Which Airport?

You want to go to California wine country–and for good reason. Not only will you see the scenic splendor of soft hills covered with vineyards, but you’ll also have the opportunity to enjoy the history, architecture, and some of the best restaurants in the U.S. However, since Napa and Sonoma Valleys don’t have their own commercial airports, you will need to select among airports nearby, including the Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, and the airports in Sacramento (SMF), San Francisco (SFO), and Oakland (OAK).

Picking the right airport can definitely impact your costs and enjoyment of the California Wine Country. Here I’ll review the pros and cons of each airport so you can pick the one that suits you best.

Oakland Airport (OAK)

Can we talk? Oakland Airport is my least favorite choice because its highways are congested, and the drive to Napa passes through urban sprawl.

If you do select this airport, be especially careful with timing. You won’t want to mix rush-hour traffic with trying to make a flight.

On the other hand, Oakland Airport offers the most budget airfares in Northern California.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

If you are visiting both the Bay Area and Napa Valley, this airport is a good choice.

The San Francisco Airport offers the most non-stop flights into Northern California. And, with Southwest, AirTran, and Frontier serving SFO, you can get airfares as low as Oakland’s.

However, just traveling toward Napa, you can get stuck in traffic congestion, or even worse, rush-hour slowdowns.

Here’s a route that cuts down on congestion by avoiding downtown San Francisco: From the airport, take westbound Interstate 380, which starts just north of the rental car terminal. Then take the northbound I-280 freeway, northbound Highway 1, and then the Golden Gate Bridge for better scenery, even though you’ll encounter some stop and go driving on Highway 1 in San Francisco.

Beyond the Golden Gate Bridge, your route will depend on your first stop, but see the link at the bottom of this article for instructions on locating the most scenic drives through Napa and Sonoma Valleys.

Sacramento Airport (SMF)

The Sacramento Airport is probably used least for access to the Wine Country, and yet I often prefer it.

With a population nearing 2 million, Sacramento benefits from extensive air service, including budget airlines, such as JetBlue and Southwest, which help to keep the fares down of all the airlines serving this airport.

In addition, you don’t have to drive through dense urban areas to get to Napa Valley. In fact, you don’t have to drive through Sacramento at all, which allows you to avoid rush-hour congestion.

Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport (STS)

Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport reopened to commercial flights in 2007. It is often called the Sonoma County Airport, and also referred to as the Wine Country Airport or Santa Rosa Airport.

(The airport is named for the famous Charles Schulz, creator of Charlie Brown and his pals. Charles Schulz lived …

Travel Tips: Your Flight to Hawaii

One of the most frequented questions on my blog is if you need a passport to visit Hawaii. If you are a U.S. citizen the answer is no. Hawaii is the 50th U.S. state so there is no need for a passport. It is no different than from going from say, Nevada to California except the long flight of course.

Flying to Hawaii can be a very long trip if you haven’t planned right for it, especially if you have kids along. Flight times vary from around 6 hours from Los Angeles or San Francisco, 8 hours from Salt Lake City and around 12 hours from New York and as long as 17.5 hours from the UK.

To keep your kids busy bring along some books or a portable DVD player and a couple DVD’s to help keep them occupied. Make sure the DVD player is fully charged or has new batteries so it will last long enough for the flight. Don’t forget the headphones! People in the neighboring seats don’t want to hear the Barney song all through the flight. Most flights should have an in-flight movie to watch as well.

If you are bringing an infant be sure your car seat has the FAA approval sticker on it somewhere or you won’t be able to use it. Have an ample supply of diapers, wipes and powdered formula as well. A few dry snacks are also a good idea especially if your kids are picky eaters, they might not like the food served on the plane so bring something you know they will eat. You can bring fruits and vegetables on the plane and eat them there, but you cannot take them off the plane in Hawaii. Also be prepared to fill out the Agricultural form in flight so keep a pen handy.

I usually fly the red eye out of Las Vegas at 2 am so it is dark and much easier to sleep through the six to seven hour flight. The flights can get a little chilly since you are sitting in an air conditioned place for so long so bring a light jacket, you are likely to need one sometime during your Hawaii trip anyway, keep it handy in your carry-on.

The flight is a good time to reread any Activity brochures you may have picked up or to go over your itinerary to make sure you time is wisely spent, or just sit back and relax and prepare yourself for the slower lifestyle of Hawaii, after all you are going to Hawaii!…