Welcome to New York!

Taylor Swift wrote us a song–Welcome to New York–and it was the soundtrack of our visit there recently. In that vein, I thought I’d write a melody of my own to sum up our weekend there. Maestro, if you please…

New York is Cold
A Melody by S. Bates

Brrr! Brr! Wear your scarf.
Freeze freeze…with hat and gloves!
The 9/11 Memorial is profoundly gorgeous
And filled with thoughts of love.

Subway to Soho; get your Metro card.
Stop in Prada en route to warm up…
Meet friends from college over brunch
at Hundred Acres over bub(bles).

Head uptown down the avenue;
Ignore the freezing wind (freezing wind!)
Stroll hand-and-hand in Central Park
Before spotting the Plaza and going in!

A glass of Malbec at the bar
Will warm you like nothing can.
Head down Fifth Avenue to experience
The deliciousness that is Bergdorf Goodman.

Here the cafe is a dream–
The best to celebrate…
Friends, family, art deco, impeccable service,
And your fiance’s birthday.

Bundle up…bundle up!
The rest of the trip is a whirl.
Dining at Vice Versa and A Voce
Makes you ready to get on a diet, girl!

Check out of the fabulous W Downtown;
Hop an Uber and head to JFK.
You avoided the winter storm.
Go home, warm up, hurray!

I knew I was an global business traveler and an amateur photographer, but until I wrote the above (possibly Grammy-winning) ballad, I had no idea that songwriting was in my future. (Insert sarcasm here.) Even with my lack of musical talent, I hope you’ll agree with me that a trip to cold NYC is the perfect thing to do in January, provided one has a fabulous winter coat. Welcome to New York!

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Business Trip to Bangalore

Although I’ve had the pleasure of journeying to India before (you can read about my trip to Delhi here), I was thrilled to go on a business trip to Bangalore last month. Part of my excitement was visiting the tech hub of India, and after my previous visit to “Incredible India!”, I wanted to experience more. The similarities: the hustle and bustle of daily life, the kindness of the people I encountered, and the incredibly delish cuisine. Speaking of cuisine, I enjoyed some of my favorites–masala, paneer, dosas!–multiple times throughout the visit. I also learned to love Indian tea.

With a packed agenda of meetings and not much time to see the city after it took nearly two days for me to arrive, I hired a driver to take me into the city center on a Sunday afternoon. I visited the quaint Bangalore Palace, which had guided tours and quite a bit of history to learn about the families that lived there in the past. (Note: if you are vehemently against the shooting and displaying of wild game, I’d skip it.) My driver also took me to Shiva Temple, and he was kind enough to tour it with me to explain some of the Hindu traditions. It was there that I took the majority of my photos in Bengaluru, and it–along with some religious history from a kind colleague–I got the best picture of local worship.

The majority of the week was spent in cars going to and fro my hotel–the swanky Zuri Whitefield–and the many meetings I had. The negative side of the Zuri: I did take the opportunity to go to the hotel’s spa (where the masseuse asked me if I ever exercised…I cringed); and the positive:the kind waiters tried to show me which foods were spicy. The one late afternoon I had off, I got to explore a local mall and try on some fabulous clothes at Biba, where I bought a really pretty shirt.

The main difference between this trip and my 2011 trip to India was sadly time: I did not have near enough of it to explore as I would have hoped.

 

Des Moines: French for The Moines

For our second annual Mom/Daughter Eating/Drinking/Touring Extravaganza, my mother and I visited Iowa and Nebraska this weekend. Friends and acquaintances asked why we’d make a specific trip to visit what is known as the “flyover states,” yet I am glad we did–Des Moines is quite a cosmopolitan treasure to explore! We arrived on a Friday morning, and after some navigation of the downtown area’s easily explorable streets, we hit the gorgeous state capitol building.

Iowa was my 36th state capitol to visit, and it was well-worth the trip: a beautiful 23 karat gold dome, a collection of miniature inaugural gowns of Iowa’s first ladies, and an incredibly gorgeous law library. If I lived in Des Moines, I’d try to figure out a way to have my wedding in the library–from stunning spiral staircases to rows and rows of books, it’s no wonder that international dignitaries and politicos regularly visit.

We enjoyed bloody mary drinks and lunch at a local spot before heading back out for a visit to the Center Street Pedestrian Bridge and the Robert D. Ray Asian Gardens. Free to the public, this was a nice way to burn off lunch…another of which being some light shopping on Locust Street. My favorite store was RAYGUN, which sold wonderful Midwestern-themed graphic products, including wares with this week’s blog headline “Des Moines: French for The Moines” emblazoned across them.

We drove by the well-known Salisbury House and walked through the Pappajohn Sculpture Park–worth a stop. Our evening was spent relaxing at our hotel’s evening reception (a perk to staying at the Embassy Suites) before heading to a delish prix-fixe meal at Lucca, both ideally located on Locust Street, with a beautiful night view of the capitol. We were in town during Iowa’s Capitol City Pride Fest 2014, as well as during an evening concert on the river, so our night ended with a glorious fireworks display. With or without the pyrotechnics, we found Des Moines to be charming!

 

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.

My First Trip Down Under

Before every trip, I buy a DK travel book to scope out the lay of the land and figure out what touristy things I want to do. When I arrived in Melbourne, my friend Alison (who spent three years as an ex-pat in Oz) and I spent some time figuring out our itinerary, including the famous painted beach houses in Brighton, a fabulous tour of the Old Melbourne Gaol (pronounced like our “jail,” but we enjoyed calling it a “gale”), and some light shopping in the Central Business District at the Quick Brown Fox and Witchery.

Melbourne is the 2nd largest city in Australia, and it boasts the oldest Chinatown outside of China in the world. We enjoyed some truly delish international cuisine: Stalactites for Greek fare and Malaysian food at casual favorite Nudel Bar. Also, two local teams were in the Australian Rules Football Final during my September visit, so I got a little caught up in footy fever. Melbourne was easy to get around: we mostly walked everywhere after arriving at Flinders Street Station. There was also a darling little tram to take around the downtown CBD.

I asked Alison the whole trip if we could go somewhere where I could hold a koala and jump with the kangaroos. While that didn’t exactly happen, we got close when we made a day trip to the Yarra Valley Wine Country. We stopped by a couple of quite lovely wineries before having a scrumptious lunch of salmon and cheese soufflé at one of them, before heading to Healsville Sanctuary. There, we saw many native Aussie animals, including Hamish the koala, kangaroos, wombats, and Tasmanian devils! It was a dream come true, and the first of three great visits to Melbourne!

Perhaps in a future blog post, I’ll share my tips for getting over jet lag in on a long international journey, as the trip home included a 15 hour leg. Until then, ta (thanks) to my friend for hosting a bonzer (fantastic) trip Down Under!