Travel Photo of the Month: March 2015

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One of my favorite photographs is from a rainy Sunday afternoon visit to Paris’ Musée d’Orsay. My now-fiance’ Jacob and I were there early in our relationship, and while I’d been to Paris multiple times, I’d never explored this spot. The building that houses famous artwork is a work of art itself, as it was converted from a train station. I was fascinated by the clock faces on the top floor…the view from which one could catch a glimpse of the city beyond.

At one point during our tour, we found ourselves alone in a large, but unoccupied gallery. It had hardwood floors and high ceilings, and Jacob extended his arm and asked me to dance. We only did a very brief spin, but it was a very special moment–dancing alone in Paris. Seeing this picture reminds me of that drizzly but romantic day at the Orsay and brings a smile to my face.

Musée d'Orsay

Musée d’Orsay

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A Day in the City of Sisterly Love

Philadelphia is known as the “City of Brotherly Love,” yet this weekend, it was that of sisterly love, as my sister Jamie and I spent eight jam-packed hours touring the city. Since we were only there for a very short while, we had to make the most of our time. We began with brunch at Parc, a lovely brasserie at the bustling Rittenhouse Square. My sister would recommend the French toast, while my two eggs any style provided the perfect energy to fuel a fast-paced day.

To optimize our time, we decided to let Stray Boot’s city tour lead us around Old Town. Like a scavenger hunt, this app-based tour was perfect for seeing the popular tourist destinations, such as Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the home of Betsy Ross, and Benjamin Franklin’s post office. It also took us to some spots we may have missed like the charming Elfreth’s Alley and the portrait gallery at the Second Bank.

After two hours, we finished our tour and walked across downtown to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, home of the steps from Rocky. We did our best touristic version of that famous scene before enjoying a cold soda from the museum’s cafe. Because of our strict timeline, we weren’t able to visit the museum’s exhibits, but the building itself and the surrounding area were beautiful. We finished our day with photos at Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture and City Hall, a gorgeous building with William Penn statue-ing at the top.

No trip to Philadelphia would be complete without a Philly cheesesteak, which we scarfed down hungrily at Steve’s Prince of Steaks. In summary, it was a fantastic day of touristic adventuring, American history, local cuisine, and sisterly bonding. I’ll leave you with this nugget of wisdom from Thomas Jefferson: “But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement the greater part of life is sunshine.”

London Calling

Today, the social media world exploded with the news of the #RoyalBaby. Like the royal wedding two years ago, I tried not to get swept up in the media frenzy, yet seeing all of the pictures of people waiting outside of Buckingham Palace for the news made me think of past trips to London. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been to the capital of the British Empire, but I certainly can blog about some of my favorite touristic stops!

Greenwich
I love to visit this area, which is easily accessed by the DLR–Docklands Light Rail–from the city center. The very first time I ever visited the area, I met the Cutty Sark, which is a fantastic old ship with a witchy woman on its figurehead. Nearby is the Gipsy Moth, a fabulously old pub with very decent food. It’s worth a visit before heading up to the Royal Observatory, home of the world’s clock and the Prime Meridian (and a great city view.)

Oxford Circus / Trafalgar Square
Shoppy-shop is always a favorite travel activity, and this busy intersection is home to a swanky Selfridges and a huge Topshop. It’s bustling, absolutely expensive, and the perfect antidote for jet lag upon arrival. A few tube stops away is another favorite spot for people-watching: Trafalgar Square. Sit by the huge lions and watch the world pass by before going into the National Gallery. Admission is free, and the building itself is a treasure.

On the Thames
Big Ben and the rest of the Parliament Building always get a sunny “cheerio” when I visit, and I can always find something new to photograph in this part of London. I don’t know if its the shape of the London Eye–or the view from its pods–that I find so interesting, but I love looking through my lens here. Also, the Tower of London (and its burly Beefeaters) is a fascinating visit, especially if one is interested in the saga of Henry the Eighth…which I am!

I could also write about a day trip to Stonehenge and Bath (lovely!), pen about an evening at the West End theatre district, or wax eloquently about the high tea service at the Waldorf. But I shan’t tonight; there is a #freshprince to read about online. London is calling…and I might pick up the phone!

Temple, Texas, Y’all

I grew up in a very small town in the midst of the beautiful Texas Hill Country. When I was in my teens, I can recall thinking that I wanted to grow up and be a global traveler…although I wasn’t sure what path I would take to get there. In college, I studied marketing in hopes to land a job after graduation at a global company. Since those days, I’d like to think of myself as a global citizen, yet I love to visit Central Texas to remind myself that home is where the heart is.

Central Texas Sunset

Central Texas Sunset

After a fabulous family vacation this weekend, I will always have a bit of Temple, Texas in my heart. It’s little big town–smaller than more well-known Central Texas towns like Austin or Waco–and you could argue that one must be creative to find things to do. One of the definite highlights of the city of around 65,000 inhabitants is the Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum. Located in a beautifully restored former railroad depot, it has been beautifully restored. I’ve been to a private event there in the past, and it is a gorgeous building and worthy of a museum visit. My young nieces loved it.

I could write about the few local restaurants in the town–the inexpensive but truly filling Chinese buffet at Yank Sing or the famous white wings at Las Casas Mexican food–yet I don’t go there for the culinary experience (although I’ve been known to crave an ice cream treat at the local Dairy Queen). It’s still a place where one can walk the neighborhood at dusk and feel safe. It’s where a visit to the renovated H-E-B grocery store where encounters several friends. It’s an afternoon shopping excursion to Hobby Lobby or Brickwood Boutique for local treasures. I visit because it is family. I journey for the memories.

This blog post is more introspective than most of my recent entries, and I’ll end on this note. I hope each reader has a lovely place in the world to visit like Temple, Texas…a place to unplug, relax, and relish the smaller things, like fields of gigantic sunflowers or a Central Texas sunset.

Las Vegas Like a Local

This past year, I have found myself spending quite a bit of time in the City of Sin. Usually during my once-a-year visits, I am about ready to leave Las Vegas two days after I arrive, yet lately, I’ve had the opportunity to see the city from a different vantage point. Here are a few of the more local places I’ve enjoyed visiting:

Polar Bear Celebrating Winter at Bellagio Conservatory

Polar Bear Celebrating Winter at Bellagio Conservatory

  • Bellagio Conservatory. I like to visit this breathtaking garden each season, and for a year now, I have celebrated summer, autumn, winter holidays, and the Chinese New Year among the exquisite blossoms. No trip here is complete without drinks and truffle popcorn at the Petrossian Bar.
  • Neon Museum. Casino and hotel signs of the past litter this “neon graveyard,” which advises an advanced reservation to tour. If you desire some flexibility during your time in Vegas, I’d also suggest:
  • The Mob Museum. This former U.S. Post Office is now converted into an absolutely fascinating collection, also known as the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement. Learning about the city’s unique history with a twinge of scandal was riveting!
  • The Smith Center. An incredible art deco building houses Las Vegas’ premiere destination for the performing arts. I’ve been lucky enough to see three Broadway musicals here, the best of which being Billy Elliott. The next season looks promising, too, with performances of Les Miserables and The Book of Mormon.

    Red Rock Canyon

    Red Rock Canyon

  • Red Rock National Park. I love hiking at Red Rock Canyon, which boasts many trails with varying levels of difficulty. After the breathtaking views, I like to relax with a movie at Red Rock Casino or luxuriate by the pool at Red Rock Country Club.
  • Food!: Away from the Strip, both the Vintner Grill or Table 34 are packed with local diners, as well as the incredible Due Forni (soon to open in Austin, Texas!) and Lola’s – A Louisiana Kitchen.

So, next time you hit the moment of Vegas-style sensory overload, why not step away from the Strip and experience some of the other world-class entertainment and dining options that I’ve had the incredible opportunity to explore like a local? What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, and I just might, too, someday!