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Travel Advice

Murals and Graffiti over Miami

October 7, 2016 • By

I love art in all of its forms, but nothing is purer than the bold expression of street murals and graffiti renditions.  I can’t say when I became interested in this type of art.  I think it may have something to do with the fact that it’s considered taboo and even criminal in most parts and simply appealed to the rebel in me.

Graffiti, in particular, is the raw expression of social causes, grievances, joys and disdain with the system or government, the world or just the unfiltered state of someone’s mind at a given time.  It’s real and honest and is neither right nor wrong.  It has a purpose and it’s up to the audience to figure it out or not.  At the end of the day, there’s really no consensus needed because the artist isn’t asking for it.  Their message stands on its own merit and isn’t seeking approval from anyone.

It’s fitting that Miami would be open such displays of grandeur; a short drive around the city will quickly inform you that they are not afraid of color or bold statements.  How can you not admire that?


Travel Advice

Travel Photo Wednesday – Amsterdam

October 5, 2016 • By

Carisa and I were taking a leisurely stroll in Amsterdam, Holland, a couple of years ago.  We didn’t really have that much time there, only 24 hours.  However, we couldn’t help but notice these lovely shutters on random row houses as we passed by.

We didn’t understand its utility; it seemed more of a hassle than simply using curtains.  You would have to step outside on a practically non-existent balcony and then reach out on either side with the skill of a high wire artist to close them shut.

Then again, perhaps, that is the point.  It’s not supposed to be easy to close.  As I understand it, the Dutch aren’t shy types and prefer the freedom of using these out-stretched shutters instead of curtains that deprive them of precious sunlight.  However,   I could see that some residents were using Dutch lace in some of the windows.READ MORE


Fun stuff, Travel Advice

My first Dollar Tree haul: Travel Edition

September 26, 2016 • By
Note
Today’s post is the first of a new blogging challenge from Darren Rowse of Problogger.net! The challenge is create new embedded content, which can consist of video, instagram photos, tweets, etc. I am particularly excited because it marks my first attempt at creating a personalized video for my readers.

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I was really excited for the opportunity to make a video for this challenge.  I have never created a video that allowed me to speak directly to my readers, so this was an awesome opportunity.

I was thrilled to make this video and I really want to do this again because I had fun, but since this is my first time, I am sure that I made some rookie mistakes. However, I did enjoy talking about my subject, the Dollar Store, so the key is to discuss what you truly enjoy.READ MORE


North America, Travel Advice, Trip Reports

Visiting the Grand Canyon with Red Rock Canyon tours

September 6, 2016 • By

Alright, I have to admit that I have been on a tear when it comes to visiting as many U.S. Parks as I can before my annual pass expires.  So far, I have been to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks and more recently, The Great Smoky Mountains.  We decided to add The Grand Canyon to the list while planning our trip to Las Vegas.

The problem that we encountered is that there are so many tour companies who will pick you up from your hotel off the Las Vegas strip and after doing the same thing for each successive passenger, they will finally pull off hours later to your final destination.  Some of the tours will make a stop at the Hoover Dam, which is becoming less of an attraction due to the drought.

Quite frankly, it was difficult to distinguish one service from another, so how do you ensure that you’ll make the best choice?  Well, I decided to pay a visit to TripAdvisor, which allows you to read real reviews from real travelers about specific hospitality services.  I came across one tour that really appealed to me because it was run by a gentleman by the name of Tom Dziadek whose stellar reviews won me over.

A little background about Tom’s company

His company, Red Rock Canyon Tours, started out unsurprisingly as a tour company that served visitors to Red Rock Canyon six years ago.  Two years ago, Tom decided to apply his wealth of knowledge about the Grand Canyon into a full service group tour for people visiting Las Vegas.   While his fledgling website leaves a little to be desired, it was fairly easy to see what he offered in comparison to other companies and it was easy to purchase our tickets on his site.

The prices were slightly higher than the rest of the tours ($119.00 PP/entrance fee included), but I was happy to pay it because the maximum number of participants on Tom’s shuttle would be 14, we would leave earlier than the rest of the luxury tour buses which meant we would arrive before they would and have ample time to explore and take photos before the rest of the hoards arrived.

We were told to meet in what was essentially a passageway between the Paris Las Vegas hotel and the CVS pharmacy next door to it.  It was where taxis and limousines would park to pick up their fare.  I must caution you that Tom takes his schedule seriously, so do not be late!!  As each person arrived, he had you to fill out the standard liability contract that you must sign before leaving at 6 a.m. sharp.

We took our seats but I must confess, that while the shuttle is comfortable, if you are tall, you will have a problem.  We had two stops along the way for a bathroom break, coffee, food, etc. and I mentioned to Tom that my legs were cramped and his relief driver, Kevin, happily gave up his front passenger seat to ensure my comfort.  I was able to keep that seat the rest of the way and on the return trip.READ MORE


Travel Advice

Packing cubes: the essential tools of Team Carryon

August 18, 2016 • By

You may recall that I offered my 12 travel packing tips, a few years back and while they are still valid, it’s always cool to know that there are new developments on the airline baggage front.  It all began with the old fashioned plastic vacuum packs that you could store your clothes in and suction out the excess air with a vacuum cleaner.  Good times, right?

Now, fast forward a few years and the newest tool in efficient packing are packing cubes.  What are they, you ask?  They are small cloth cases with patches of netting that allow the clothes to breathe and sturdy zippers to contain them.

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Let’s face it.  We are all guilty of over packing and you can never fully appreciate what problems it causes until you arrive at your destination.  You almost never wear everything that you’ve packed or you feel as if you didn’t pack enough.  By planning ahead and thinking realistically, you can narrow down your choices based on what you actually plan to do on your vacation.READ MORE


Travel Advice

Racial profiling in aviation

August 7, 2016 • By
Note
Hello Readers! Today’s post is the sixth of seven daily posts that I am writing for the Problogger ‘Find Your Blogging Groove’ challenge. It’s meant to encourage bloggers to post more frequently and thoughtfully. Today, I am going to write a “Discussion” post that I hope will encourage a dialogue about this compelling issue.  If you wouldn’t mind, please do me a HUGE favor and respond to the 5 question anonymous survey that will appear as a pop-up below.

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One of the most controversial stories in travel news today is the reports of Muslims being removed from airline flights for seemingly innocuous reasons.

Just this week, two American Muslim women were asked to leave an American Airlines flight after one of them talked to another (white male) passenger about the lack of food and water during their five hour delay on the tarmac.  The male attendant claimed that they (the woman who was complaining and her friend who happened to have been watching a tv drama at the time) made him feel unsafe.

The attendant told her “If you have a problem, you can get off the plane.”  The woman asked him for his name since he wasn’t wearing a badge and he refused.  She decided to take a photo of him so that she would be able to identify him when she lodged a complaint.  She and her friend were essentially escorted out because the photo taking was a violation.READ MORE


Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide to enduring long International Flights

August 3, 2016 • By
Note
Hello Readers! Today’s post is the second of seven daily posts that I am writing for the Problogger ‘Find Your Blogging Groove’ challenge. It’s meant to encourage bloggers to post more frequently and thoughtfully. I am going to add a new installment to my Newbie’s Guide series and I hope that you find it helpful to you!

You did it!  You’ve just booked your first international trip and you are stoked!!  You’ve always dreamed of seeing _____ (insert your dream destination) and you now have to become acquainted with the fact that you will be traveling a fairly long distance.

How long you say?  Depending on where you plan to land, you can count on at least 8 hours of flight time.  That’s a long time to sit in a flying tin can, but fear not, I will give you some tips on how to get through the experience without losing your marbles.

long haul

First, take care of some housekeeping issues before your trip

If you are not currently signed up with the Global Entry program, I would advise you to do so.  It will save you a major headache when traveling period, but especially internationally.  It will allow you to smoothly transition from customs to your gate during your departure and from customs to your destination upon arrival.READ MORE


North America, Travel Advice

Spotlight on Joseph Strauss, Chief engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge

July 20, 2016 • By

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I must confess.  Until we actually arrived in San Francisco to see the Golden Gate Bridge in person, I had no idea that it was flanked by the Golden Gate Park!

Located in the center of it, was a statue of a man that I was not familiar with.  His name was Joseph Strauss and he along with Charles Alton Ellis, the man who is largely credited with the actual structural design, is responsible for bringing the Golden Gate Bridge to life.READ MORE


Consumer Advice, Lifestyle, Travel Advice

The Top 5 Carry-on Bags Under $60

July 12, 2016 • By

Recently, after years of inadequate solutions to my carry-on bag problem, I had to finally purchase one that suited all my needs. The search was far too long and tedious. After all, how hard is it find a tote bag with a shoulder strap, multiple organizer pockets and a laptop compartment?

Apparently, I underestimated what’s out there and, perhaps, my overly critical eye because it took several months to locate the perfect bag. Now that I’ve been through the fire, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on the concerns of today’s jet setter and I’ve compiled a list of options that should satisfy the most persnickety amongst you- at an affordable price.

 

For The Traditionalist – $49

READ MORE


Lifestyle, Travel Advice

Exploring The Negro Motorist Green Book

July 5, 2016 • By

It was a precursor to today’s TripAdvisor but it literally saved lives……

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In the not so distance past, traveling for black people was not as pleasant an undertaking as we may view it today.  Right after Reconstruction, laws were passed to ensure the permanent second class status of black people.  Many whites felt that blacks were ‘too free’, so laws were instituted to make sure that they knew their ‘place’ in society.

They were not allowed to travel freely like white people.  Many hoteliers refused them service as did restaurants, gas stations, amusement parks, etc.  It was literally life-threatening for those who found themselves in the unfortunate situation of being caught in ‘Sundown towns’.  It wasn’t unusual that direct eye contact with or speaking to whites could get you thrown in jail for the offense of ‘reckless eyeballing’, assaulted or even killed.READ MORE