Barbados Catamaran El Tigre Snorkeling

Whispers to the Universe – My Year in Travel Review

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It’s funny that I put out into the universe “win lottery or find love or retire early to an island escape” (I’m good with one or all of them) and yet nothing happens but I respond to a twitter chat question in early January as to where I might go in 2017 and I ended up at those places I hadn’t planned initially on revisiting.  I replied “maybe go back to Scotland and Alaska for a do-over but have nothing planned out for the year” 2017 was a year of returning to familiar destinations with a new lense to see them through (i.e. – family, friends or age).

So to recap the year see below.  Where will I go in the New Year?  Well, I had hoped to apply for the New York Times Travel position (a year of travel to each of their 52 places to see) but missed the application deadline working on my essay (boo!). So as of now, I really have nothing planned so let’s see what the universe has in store for me.  I can’t run away to Europe this time but fingers crossed the destinations are just as exciting (and there’s good chocolate).

New York Winter Weekend

With my solo ticket booked for Hamilton, the Musical on Broadway, I rode Amtrak just over an hour from Philadelphia to New York City for a cold January weekend visit.  Wrapped in my puffy long jacket with a hat, hood and two pair of gloves, I braved the elements and wandered about the city in search of my favorite NYC cookies and the iconic photos of the city.

One ticket to Hamilton at the Richard Rodgers theatre NYC
Hamilton at the Richard Rodgers theatre in New York City

I attended a new Broadway show (that closed a month later) on Friday night, Hamilton on Saturday afternoon followed by a luxury NYC steakhouse dinner at STK Midtown.  On Sunday, I met a friend for brunch after checking out of my new favorite NYC boutique hotel, The Refinery Hotel. It was an expensive weekend but always a nice treat nonetheless to escape to New York.

Berry Parfait Dessert at STK Midtown
A big dessert portion at STK Midtown and I’m not ashamed to say I ate it all!

My First Disney Cruise – The Disney Magic at Easter

I tried to persuade my family to look at other cruise lines for our multigenerational cruise to the Southern Caribbean but they have only sailed with Disney and loyal to Disney they are.  I, however, have sailed multiple cruise lines so I was able to compare the Disney cruise experience with the others.  One cool feature that I loved, that only Disney Cruises seem to do, was Fireworks at Sea – I love fireworks so this was such a wonderful night. With Disney movies, lovely ports and family dinners, my Mom celebrated her 75th birthday just as she wanted it to be – surrounded by family (and unlimited ice cream!). Read my guest cruise post on multigenerational cruising.

 

Weekend in Scotland

The crazy trips I do to keep my British Airways Silver Elite status.  This year, I was able to go to Scotland and then take the train from Edinburgh to London for a quick visit.  Lucky me that the British Airways IT meltdown happened while I was on the train from Edinburgh to London rather than attempting to fly (all flights canceled).

My quick weekend in Edinburgh was over the warm, sunny weekend in May.  Having toured the city nearly 25 years ago, I thought it was time for a refresh (I do enjoy the shortbread biscuits).  I had such a fun time on the Scottish Highlands day trip, my rainy visit to St. Andrews and enjoying the city center with Edinburgh Castle.  Hitting repeat on Scotland made me realize that a proper trip to the country is required in the future to explore much more outside of Edinburgh.

Alaska Cruise in July (aka Meeting Oprah)

Alaska was an easy destination to revisit as my first cruise to Alaska more than twenty years ago was marred by equipment failure (leaking oil into the ocean).  We had to skip the day’s visit to Glacier Bay on the “Glacier cruise” and with a boat full of disappointed (and angry) people, the adventure was soured by what we missed.

Glacier Bay Alaska view with Holland America Eurodam
Glacier Bay Alaska was a fantastic day on Holland America Eurodam

So when I was working from home on Valentine’s Day and an email popped up about the “Oprah Live Your Adventure” cruise, I thought it sounded like a wonderful way to get to the glaciers along with unique programming to examine my life (and lifestyle) with like-minded people. I quickly booked my spot (at an inflated price for a solo of course) and was excited to see what this new Holland America programming would look like.  There was also the option to meet Oprah at a private fundraising dinner (read how I got that Oprah ticket). So Happy Valentine’s Day to me!

Alaska cruises are busy, busy, busy – with very early mornings and afternoon departures.  While I got to spend the day marveling at glaciers in Glacier Bay, my quest for Alaska is not satisfied.  My next visit will be on land for much longer as I hope to visit Denali National Park and spend time in Anchorage.

Philatravelgirl photo with oprah on alaska holland america Eurodam cruise
My Photo with Oprah – the story behind it was so fun and adventurous

Pre/Post Cruise Seattle

With family in Seattle, I do love spending time visiting favorite spots in the city and seeing my friends. Sadly, my time was cut short due to a crazy delayed flight from PHL so first I ate my feelings for dinner at Palace Kitchen. My friends made up for my delay with a busy one day in the city – brunch at the Four Seasons Seattle, Infinity Mirrors exhibit at Seattle Art Museum, a visit to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and dinner in University Village.

Pancakes Four Seasons Seattle Goldfinch Tavern
The super delicious and flaky buttermilk pancakes at the Goldfinch Tavern at the Four Seasons Seattle

Back at the newly renovated Hotel 1000 by midnight for my 4 a.m. wake up call (ugh).

Weekend in Washington, D.C.

With a last minute chance to meet up a group of lovely travel bloggers that I’ve been chatting with on Twitter for more than a year, I jumped at the opportunity.   D.C. is just over two hours from Philly via Amtrak.  Making home base the luxury hotel, The Fairmont D.C. was a perfect choice.  We could walk to Georgetown or take a cab/uber (as a group) to a variety of attractions and restaurants quickly.

AMOR sculpture D.C. National Gallery Sculpture Garden Art Weekend in D.C.
AMOR in the National Gallery Sculpture Garden – being from Philly I LOVE it

Strolling the city’s galleries (The Renwick Gallery, The Hirshhorn and Artechouse) as well as the D.C. public gardens/parks to see art was a wonderful reminder that the city is SO MUCH MORE THAN POLITICS.  It was in D.C. that I tried Silent Disco, found the best burger in D.C. and was moved by the weight of words at the Dr. King Memorial.

Best Burger in D.C. Bourbon Steak D.C.
Best Burger in D.C. – I think its a winner at Bourbon Steak D.C.
MLK Memorial D.C. Art Weekend in D.C.
MLK Memorial at night is stunning – his words on the wall so powerful and relevant

I also did a quick spin to tour the U.S. Capitol, Library of Congress and Supreme Court (all politicans were on vacation). Art, food, luxury in a town that can’t help but make your think, discuss and question the world was a wonderful weekend escape.

US Capitol Rotunda Tour
Many groups inside the US Capitol Rotunda with the carved sandstone walls

Wellness Spa Adventure out West

Needing to use my vacation days, I booked a last minute adventure out west.  I would return to Red Mountain Spa in St. George, Utah for four days of rest, relaxation and restoration.  My mind, body and spirit needed a reboot and I found it in the mountains, in the spa and in the sounds of the resort. Once I felt a bit grounded again washing off the drama of life at home and settling into myself, I rented a car for a quick road trip to Arizona and Nevada.

Horseshoe Bend November Morning View Page Arizona
Your view varies by light – my Horseshoe Bend photo with shadows

In three days, I would drive over 700 miles and enjoy the sights along the way.  From St. George, Utah to Page, Arizona, I drove to experience Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon, views that had been haunting me on social media for months.  From Page, Arizona, I would drive back into Utah and turn toward Zion National Park to experience the beauty of nature.  The stay at Zion Lodge was not only the perfect location from which to explore but it gave me a chance to stare up into the sky and wish on every star above.  From Zion, I made my way to Las Vegas for a birthday weekend of luxury pancakes, cookies and a concert at the Wynn Hotel.

Zion National Park Photo Sunset
Winding roads on the way to Zion Lodge in Zion National Park

Year in Travel: Ending with Fireworks

Last year as I watching New Year’s Eve celebrations from around the world as I’ve done in years past, I said “I will be there next year and not on this couch”.  Well here we are, its just before midnight so am I on the couch again?  Nope, prior to my job loss, I had booked my flight to see fireworks and usher in the New Year with a hundred thousand strangers.  Where is here?  Stayed turned for that info (unless you follow on Twitter and already know).

United Views flying from Denver to St George Utah
Views flying from Denver International Airport to St. George Utah

Year in Travel: Next Up 2018

For now, I’m whispering to the universe “Hawaii, Galapagos and Antarctica” in addition to my loud chants of “lottery win, find love or retire early to an island escape” to pay for those destinations.  Who knows what the New Year will bring?  Last year I casually mentioned a few places that turned out to be a path to rediscover the past with the present me and emerge into the future.  Where will your path lead you to this year? What will you whisper to the universe? (comment below and share the inspiration).

La Jolla Sunset
What a gorgeous sunset from my room at the Hotel La Jolla

 

Happy New Year! 

Art Weekend in D.C. Anais Nin Quote
Great quote by Anais Nin at The Renwick Gallery in D.C.

Thanks for following my adventures. I hope 2018 allows you to see and experience the world around you both near and far.

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