Discover Chicago in the Documentary – Finding Vivian Maier

London Transport Museum quote

Love this quote on the floor of the London Transport Museum

Looking back I wished I had the maturity (and foresight) to know that I should have taken more photos of my childhood – the neighborhood, the stores, the neighbors and those I interacted with – documenting life in Northeast Philadelphia in the 1970 – 1990’s.  Sure there are the photos of my first day at school each year in my Catholic school uniform with my friends and photos of the dogs we dressed up (all kids do this right?) but missing are the photos of life all around me.  Back then, the camera had flashcubes (yes, squares that plugged into the 110 film cartridge camera) and the really neat invention was the Polaroid One Step camera with instant photos that magically developed in front of your eyes.

But as much as the “instant” world was starting to appear, lost was the daily struggles all around us.  The gas lines of the 70’s that alternated by license plate numbers on odd and even days, the labor strikes my dad was involved in, the Hands Across America line up we participated in on Frankford Avenue.  If only I had a camera to capture the moments of the community, the societal events of the times and the emotions of people.  As I travel now armed with a myriad of cameras – phone, blackberry, DSLR – I’m hungry to capture it all – to find the hidden gems but they seem few and far between in the world of selfies, facetime and social media.  Try as I might, I’m a dabbler in the photography arts (see my #FriFotos) which is why I was so engrossed in the Oscar nominated documentary, Finding Vivian Maier.

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BLeisure Travel? I Blame “Bennifer” for the ridiculous names

To show my age, I remember Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez and the insane media circus around their relationship.  The combining of names began and they were no longer Ben & Jennifer they morphed into “Bennifer” to make it somehow easier than saying or typing their whole names?  Really? At the time, it seemed cute and then it stopped being cute.  All of sudden many words started to combine, to make, in my opinion, dumb shortened names.  The media hyped it, the masses accepted it and it then becomes a new word in the dictionary.  This makes me cranky to see things shortened/combined, it seems lazy but I guess our texting and short attention spans need shortcuts!?  I recently stopped reading a magazine article that was in shortened code and was dismayed by a business email from an outside vendor with text speak in it – what have we allowed to happen to words?

Street Art London

Street Art London – the shortened names make a statement

The Staycation

So it was only a matter of time when marketing folks in the travel industry joined the sheep and combined their terms.  The more famous (and I think hated by everyone) is the “StayCation”. If you are staying home for vacation, chances are you can’t afford a “staycation” in a full service hotel in your city.  In Philly, it would probably cost you more than a beach holiday.

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Categories: My Thoughts and Musings, Travel | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

I Won’t Pay 180 Euro for a Hostel Room in Venice!

Two years ago I attended a travel writer/blogger conference in Dublin.  At the time, I heard about this new type of boutique hostel, Generator Hostels.  The Dublin hostel, interestingly located in the same complex as the Jameson Whiskey Distillery, was full of attendees who all spoke highly of the new hostel.  But wasn’t this a hostel?  Basic dorm rooms stuffed with party people and interesting stories?  The website promises so much more as they offer nine design hostels telling you to “stay with them if  you are sociable, travel is your way of life and you want more than a hostel”.  Intriguing concept although isn’t “more than a hostel” a hotel?

Venice Italy

Start a cruise in Venice and enjoy getting lost in the city as I do – one of my favorite cities in Europe

So spring forward to now, 2015, and I’m searching for lodging in Venice, Italy for a date in May. As all Starwood hotels are uber expensive (think over €400 a night!) and there are no point awards available, I’m using my backup plan of AirBnB and thought, hey what about that boutique hostel – Generator Venice hostel?  This would be a great time to try that out so I can save money and see what a boutique hostel looks and feels like.  Would Venice be a party place or more sedate?  I wondered if it truly was full of kids on gap years or were there old people (their parents age) like me there too?  So I went to the pretty  website and read about the conversion of the Venice property from a grain house with design details like mosaic flooring, textile curtains and a Murano glass chandelier (of a clown!).  I was impressed that the photos on the website were hitting all my cool designer notes for a boutique property.

Venice Gondola Traffic

Traffic Jam in Venice

As I can barely share a room with a family member or friend, the thought of six or a dozen roommates in dorm beds is too much for me so I looked at the private room option.  Lured by the pretty twin room pictures with private bath, starting at €45 (wow, hostels really are cheaper and decorated nicely!), I happily entered the details into the booking engine.

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Categories: Hotels, Italy, Travel | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Me on Monday: Kicked Off the Hamster Wheel of Life Into the Unknown Adventure

I ended 2014 by backing into a pole at the work parking lot and started 2015 not much better.  Looking back I remember saying when I found the parking spot “don’t forget about the pole” later.  Well, clearly as I was backing out and watching for traffic I forgot about the pole when I heard a crunch on the driver’s side door and watched the side mirror bent backward.  It was the smallest of inches that made the difference.  Knowing that this was an expensive fix, I sulked at home ringing out the old and hoping that toasting to the New Year would bring me better luck.  Sadly, that hasn’t happened. The bad stuff followed me into January with a downed cable line in the garden, a plumbing issue and then a water pipe leak. My house seemed to be turning on me.  In addition to a water leak, I was leaking money here, there and everywhere.  My nicely organized scheduled life was taking a detour as I had to wait for repair men (who didn’t show), talk to “customer service” folks and rely on contractors to fix the house. I was working late to make up for the time, missing the gym or too tired to do anything. It just seemed like one thing after another.  While my biggest worry for 2015 was having to get braces and the effect on my travel budget.  The worse was yet to come.

Street Art London

This is not the bird of happiness – the street art in London

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Categories: The Good Stuff | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Dock to Dish: Your Artisanal Fisherman in the Florida Keys and Montauk

Do you eat seafood?  If so, how much do you know about the origin and journey your fish took to end up on your plate?  Other than the occasional fish & chips, I’m not quite the seafood fan and can pretty much say that for the most part I have no idea how the fish to dish chain works.  This food ignorance is no excuse and I look forward to learning more about our global foods and sustainability at the Milan Expo 2015 later this summer. The Expo will showcase global foods and sustainability, calling attention to how we eat, what we eat, where our food comes from and how the food of the future might be grown and consumed without depleting resources or harming the environment even more. For now though, I was schooled, rather quickly, by the folks of Dock to Dish in the Florida Keys during our press demonstration at the Philly Travel & Adventure show.

Dock to Dish in Three Hands

Dock to Dish in Three Hands

Taste of Travel Cooking Demonstration

Taste of Travel Cooking Demonstration

Dock to Dish is a local collective of twenty-one fisherman in the Florida Keys, families and select restaurants motivated to improve the quality, transparency  and sustainability of fishing.  There is also a Dock to Dish in Montauk, New York (with of course a wait list to join) and in New York City a group of participating restaurants. Commercial fisherman are the most endangered species they tell us.  So the fisherman are “rock stars” worthy of collectible cards (just like baseball cards) with information so you can get to know your fisherman.  Dock to Dish also encourages you to learn more about the local seafood.  The members only group has introduced a new way to source your dinner.  It will be the fresh catch of the day, literally!  Members in Key West get a ping alert between 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. with the fish choices, any fish leftover will go to the local participating restaurants.  There is no waste as the catch turns over daily.

Dock to Dish in Three Hands

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My Amazing Race Moment in Philly – No Opportunity Wasted w/Phil Keoghan

Phil Keoghan Travel Adventure Show

Phil Keoghan talking about his life and the Amazing Race at the Travel & Adventure Show

I was running out to lunch when I saw Phil Keoghan, host of The Amazing Race, walk past me with the travel show staff.  Just a regular guy with his carry-on.  He was stopped by the local news to answer a few questions so I stood behind to listen.  He said “Philly is a place of passion” and that the Amazing Race “shows that travel is safe” and “there is a lot of the world to see”.  All so true.

When I returned from Reading Terminal (across the street from the Convention Center) every seat was full so I had to stand way in the back to listen to Phil’s inspirational talk.  Taking a read of his audience, he asked “How many had visited New Zealand, his birthplace”,  I was surprised (and proud) by the number of hands raised along with mine.  Then he mentioned his favorite sport of cricket – “How many people know about cricket?” -my hand again went up and, in this case, I was the lone person with a raised hand!  Even Phil was surprised by this “just one hand, really?” (Sorry Phil, this is Eagles territory)

 The Amazing Race

The Amazing Race….how many of us have dreamed of participating in it?  Thought “I could do that”  Well, I have always thought it would be fun (except the whole eating live bugs, crunchy bugs on sticks and other “good for you protein” sources) but  I’d be out of the race the minute I hit a food challenge (bye-bye a million dollars!). Last year I ran my own unexpected race to JFK with my niece – that was enough insight to know that racing around the world in 21 days is crazy difficult (12 shows in 21 days!), the fact that it’s all coach flying is just insane! I’ve been fascinated by the show since it started and after Phil’s talk, I’m now convinced that CBS needs to do a behind the scenes show of Phil’s race from city to city. He spoke of barely making it to the mat himself a few times (being stuck at Immigration, sleeping in an airport, etc.).  He is definitely not living the 5 star life on the road as he showed a photo of himself washing his hair in the gas station parking lot with curious onlookers as well as a bit of fun with the airport baggage carousel.

Phil Keoghan baggage carousel

A bit of travel fun on the baggage carousel with Phil Keoghan

And then he shared his stories of when his driver got lost based on the directions to turn at the elephant in the road (well of course the elephant walked away) and they pulled up to the pit stop just as another team was arriving so he had to run up to the mat, quickly say “hi” to the local greeter and welcome “team number one”.  I feel like I want to go back to that episode to see how he handled it since the viewer doesn’t get the back story of his travels.

Elephant South Africa Safari

Road block on safari in Sabi Sands – elephants definitely get the “right of way”

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Categories: Activities/Experiences, New Zealand, The Good Stuff, Travel | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

John Golicz: A Passion for Travel, Adventure and 1000 Travel Tips

When travel is a passion, you want to share it with everyone you meet. You tell family, friends, co-workers of that great hotel or wonderful guide, you post pictures on social media to get it out there – Travel is Awesome! For others like John Golicz, CEO and Founder of The Travel & Adventure Show he shares his passion with seven cities each year and hundreds of thousands of travelers each year.  He brings travelers together with experts and plays a part in their next adventure.  The Travel & Adventure Show made its first visit to Philadelphia a few weeks ago.  Having received six inches of snow on the first day of Spring, we Philly folks were afraid winter would never end.  The Travel & Adventure show provided spaces to find inspiration, meet the experts and dream of the possibilities (and escape the cold!). This is a passion you want to be a part of.  I was able to catch up with John for the few moments he wasn’t running around the Pennsylvania Convention Center checking with vendors, talking to guests and meeting the attendees.  He is definitely hands on as is the rest of his family – I met his wife and son each with their own roles in the company.

John Golicz

John Golicz welcoming the press to the Travel & Adventure Show

When I met John to sit down and chat, I immediately thanked him for bringing the show to Philly.  Having followed the show for the past few years on social media in Los Angeles and D.C., I was thrilled to see people talking to the experts from South Africa, Iceland, Nepal, Alaska and St. Lucia.  Talking to John was very easy and comfortable, you forget he is CEO and me, well, I was forgetting to write down his “exact answers” to my questions as I was having such a good chat.  Here is a bit of our chat:

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Solo Travel: Please Don’t Ask Me “Where Is My Husband”

Snowmobiling Langjokull Glacier Golden Circle

Adventures in snowmobiling in Iceland on Langjokull Glacier

It’s getting very personal out in the world especially if you are a solo woman traveler.  For years, I shrugged off the crazy questions, the observations that are best left unsaid and the many comments that folks forgot to filter.  I would rationalize it that it was their culture to ask, comment and observe. But lately, I’ve been reading posts by amazing women travelers that make me scream “What is wrong with people?”.  Megsy wrote a great post about Having Curves after a comment about “looking overweight and unfit”.  She wondered if you can be overweight and travel (um, yes you can, the BMI chart isn’t the only measure of a person’s health). We all can’t be cute and petite like Samantha Brown  nor look glamorous after a bucket shower in Botswana .  I then read Jeannie’s post about body diversity (inspired by Megsy’s post) after she was called “fat and pregnant” on solo travel to multiple countries where apparently it’s ok to say anything you want.  When did filters go away?  Common courtesy?

I’m tired of reading about all the defensive measures solo women need to take to explain themselves when they  just want to see/enjoy the world. I’m tired of people trying to work out their issues by cutting others down, trying to make people feel less and feeling that it’s ok to make personal comments.  I’m tired of the media telling me that I’m not thin/pretty/young enough or worthy enough for this, that or the other.  Tired of the ads to try this miracle cure to erase time, wrinkles and fat. Everyday, there are messages telling me “I’m not x enough, not worthy of y or z” so when I travel I like to escape the drama of the everyday and reconnect with the awesomeness that is me – the part of me that knows I am definitely enough (and worthy of cookies, chocolate and wine, in moderation of course). It’s so easy to forget that on the hamster wheel of life.

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Categories: The Good Stuff, Travel | Tags: , | 1 Comment