Thursday, November 3, 2016

NYC Christmas Windows - an Illustrated Guide



Around the holidays, people flood to New York City's department stores. Some come in search of the perfect gift while others choose to window shop. As befits the Greatest City in the World, New York's Christmas windows are a magical pageant of light, color, and design. Here, I'll share my favorite way to see them in a day.

I like to start at 34th Street and work my way uptown, avoiding the worst of the crowds at Macy's (there are lines just to see the windows by mid-morning) and giving me options of how I'd like to extend my day once I hit Central Park. This twenty-three block stretch of Manhattan contains some of the most famous shops in the world and in December, you'll get to experience them at their most iconic.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Denver Destination Wedding



Destination weddings are so much fun. What's a better combination than travel, food, a party, and spending time with friends? 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Things to Do Outside Denver



If I'm going to be honest, this post should be called, 'Four Things to Do Outside Denver, Only Two of Which I Personally Experienced Due to Time Constraints'. Denver is a great travel hub for a road trip, especially with Rocky Mountain National Park close by. But if you're short on time, as I was, here are a few options closer to town.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Downtown Denver



The whole point of going to Denver for the weekend was to attend my dear friend Stacie's wedding, but since I'd never been there before, I decided to spend a little time getting to know the city. After a morning flight, I spent a leisurely afternoon shopping and dining on the 16th Street Mall. The following day, my friend Meaghan and I passed a couple of pleasant hours on a walk a few blocks south of our hotel. Here are a few spots I enjoyed in Downtown Denver.

Monday, October 3, 2016

A Stay at the Brown Palace

 

Flashback to October of 2009 - one of my BFFs was getting married in Denver, so I flew out for an extended weekend.  Our group of six had been pretty tight in high school and by some miracle, all of us were able to make it to the wedding.  My friend Meaghan rented a car, while I took care of accommodations for the two of us in Denver. And while Denver has lots of options, I knew exactly where I wanted to stay.

Monday, September 5, 2016

I Found a Pikachu in Charlottetown



2016 will probably always be remembered as the summer of Pokémon Go. The gaming app was released a few days before my birthday, and that week saw me and my coworkers joining, texting one another when we found a new Pokémon, becoming part of the Red Team (Valor!), and then spending my birthday evening walking around the Mosaic District, "catching them all".

Monday, August 29, 2016

Brudenell Kayaking and Panmure Island Lighthouse

 

I'm ashamed to admit, in the past two years I have not gotten in the canoe my parents trucked all the way up to Prince Edward Island. So maybe it's surprising that I suddenly decided we should try kayaking. Outside Expeditions offers group kayaking and lessons at two spots on the island - one at Cavendish, near Anee's land, and one on the Eastern side of the island, on the Brudenell River.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Great Canadian Soap Co.



The Great Canadian Soap Co. was one of those touristy stops that I just hadn't gotten around to visiting yet. Until this past summer! I wasn't convinced it was going to be worth visiting, probably because it seems to be so popular and I'm contrarian like that. But I decided I needed a bunch (10+) of relatively inexpensive souvenirs and goat soap seemed like a decent bet.

Monday, August 15, 2016

At Home on Prince Edward Island



When I write about Prince Edward Island, especially about the time I spend at my parents' home, I sort of feel guilty, like I'm like bragging about an experience most travelers won't have. But each year I visit, I discover new things to love about the island and indulge in the things I already know - like the amazing food, the private beaches, the birds and wildlife, the tucked-away harbours, and the view from my parents' cottage. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Mexico City Budget


Here's something I haven't done before, or at least, haven't posted before: an itemized budget following a trip. One of the main reasons I picked Mexico City is because it's an inexpensive destination for an American - cheap flights are easy to find and the exchange rate is good. Mexico City suffers less inflation than the more touristy areas of the Riviera Maya, even during touristy times like Spring Break. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

What I Wore: Mexico City Edition


 

Sometimes, I get a little costume-y when packing for a trip. It's a tendency I have in general, given my love for the visual arts. (When I was in third grade, our class had to dress up as and present what we wanted to be when we grew up - I was a fashion designer.) It's good to be aware of both function and form when you're packing for a trip. You want your clothes to be comfortable and weather-appropriate, but you probably want to look cute for photos as well. Cultural sensitivity is another thing to consider - on one hand, considering how closely you want to comply to local societal norms, and on the other, trying to avoid insulting anyone with cultural appropriation.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Xochimilco



Xochimilco is one of those weird cases where the internet picks up a certain aspect of a moderately well known site, and that aspect becomes better known by tourists than the original site itself. La Isla de las Muñecas, or "Island of the Dolls" started popping up on Pinterest boards and various blogs and websites a few years back, as one of the creepiest places on earth. It was one of the things that inspired me to start making a Mexico City itinerary, a few years before I actually went.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Zócalo



Originally, I had planned to try to visit the three famous sites around Mexico City's main square, the Zócalo, my first day there. I knew it was an ambitious - maybe impossible - plan. In the end, I only visited the Templo Mayor on Saturday and nixed a day trip to Puebla on Thursday in order to follow a more leisurely schedule and fully enjoy everything Mexico City has to offer.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Casa Azul



Ah, Frida. Patron saint of the punk, the revolutionary, the devil-may-care attitude. Worshiped and popularized and commercialized in ways that would no doubt amuse her. 

You probably already know she suffered from polio as a child, and that as a teen, she was in a horrific bus accident in which she was impaled with a metal bar - a devastating injury that cause her problems for the rest of her life. You probably know her for her self-portraits, for her turbulent marriage to Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, for the ribbons in her hair and the ever-present cigarette dangling from her hand.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Coyoacan



On Wednesday, I had a couple of missions, and they were working against one another. While I wanted to see the Ballet Folklorico perform at Bellas Artes, I hadn't wanted to lock myself into an expensive(-ish) ticket and then have to plan my day around it. Wednesday was my last chance to see the show (they perform 2x per week, Sun & Weds). Trip Advisor had said you're safe buying day-of, and I went with their advice, even though it was Holy Week. I considered waiting at the box office till it opened, but that wouldn't be till noon. My other, more important objective - the Casa Azul (Blue House), where Frida Kahlo was born, lived, and died. Advice was to get there ASAP, as the line gets long. There was conflicting advice online as to whether it opened at 10:00 or 11:00, but most sites said 10:00. I decided to shoot for 9:30.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Lunch at Pujol


When I started planning for Mexico City, I was thrilled to read I could get a decent meal for $2-3 USD. I love food, but I don't have the type of budget that allows me to splurge on fancy multi-course meals or tasting menus on the regular. After a bit of reading, however, Mexico proved to be an exception. There are a number of high-end restaurants in Mexico City - Biko, Quintonil, Contramar - but one name keeps coming up again and again as you read articles about the dining scene. Pujol has been ranked one of the top 50 restaurants in the world for the past few years, currently sitting at #16. The tasting menu cost $1,650 - a little under $100 USD. It's a price that seems ridiculous in Mexico, but when compared with other top restaurants around the world, it starts to look like a bargain. I was curious.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Anthropology Museum



To this point, I had visited the Templo Mayor and Teotihuacan. I'd learned a bit about Mexico's "modern" history at the Castillo de Chapultepec. Now it was time to visit what is possibly the biggest global draw to Mexico City. Mexico has an incredible history, with multiple vibrant and powerful cultures existing within its borders throughout the centuries. It also celebrates that history by showcasing artifacts in one of the top museums in the world - the Museo Nacional de Antropologia.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Chapultepec Park and Castle


My perfect - and improbable - Tuesday started out with an Uber to Chapultepec Park. After a brief stop by HSBC to withdraw some cash, I used my phone to navigate my way. (It was more difficult to find the entrance from the Paseo de la Reforma than I'd imagined.) Once in the park, I enjoyed the early quiet as I walked toward the Castillo de Chapultepec. I stumbled across a few monuments and modest Aztec ruins on my way.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Visiting Teotihuacan on the "Equinox"



My original plan had been to stay at Teotihuacan as long as I liked and just catch the bus back, but with limited funds and no data on my phone, I decided to stick with my new Costa Rican friends. The line at the first gate our van pulled up to went on forever, so after a quick survey of the group, we drove to Gate 3, closer to the Pyramid of the Moon. The line, though still long, looked much more manageable. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Ballooning Teotihuacan



A few weeks in advance, I'd gotten in touch with Sean and Diana at 'Flying Pictures' and booked a "sunrise" balloon flight over Teotihuacan for Monday, March 21st. Monday is a popular day to visit the pyramids, as most museums in the city are closed. I'd read that Teotihuacan gets crazy around the equinox, but figured that since it had technically fallen on Sunday this year - the 20th - the worst of the crush would be over. Sean had mentioned something about a balloon festival in his correspondence, but I figured that would be a fun little extra...

Monday, April 25, 2016

Condesa y Roma



Condesa and Roma are two of the trendiest neighborhoods in Mexico City. While not as upscale as Polanco, walking around this area made me understand why the city is occasionally compared to Buenos Aires. Beautiful Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings, lively parks, and on-trend restaurants and markets make these neighborhoods a treat to walk around. I'd done a little research using Google Street View before leaving home, and marked some of the oft-photographed buildings on a map (at the end of this post), but I also stumbled across some interesting finds of my own.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Parque Alameda Central - the Heart of Mexico City



Before I arrived in Mexico City, I thought of the Zocalo as the heart of the city. But after staying at Hostel Suites DF in Colonia Tabacalera, I began to have a sneaking suspicion that at some point the city center shifted west to the Parque Alameda Central. I started my Sunday morning sitting on one of the many benches on the edge of the park, facing Avenida Juárez. Like the Paseo de Reforma, the street is blocked off to traffic on Sundays and is an excellent place to watch the city go by. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Templo Mayor

Mexican students posing in front of a reproduction of the Coyolxauhqui monolith

My first afternoon in Mexico City was spent at the spot where modern-day Mexico was born - in the heart of Tenochtitlan, at the ruins of the Templo Mayor. But before we talk about that, a few observations:

First observation - Aztec myths and gods have always seemed so "foreign" to me. When I went to Egypt, I was well-versed in their ancient mythology, which is no less convoluted than that of the Aztecs. But I think loads of people get at least some exposure to Egypt in school, thanks to it being one of the building blocks for Western civilization. In the same history, the Aztecs were a people conquered. We learn about their defeat at the hands of Cortés and practically nothing about their stories and beliefs. (Difficult names like Coyolxauhqui and Huitzilopochtli probably don't help.)

Second observation - I've seen - both online and in person - lots of confusion about Mexico's different indigenous cultures. (People saying Teotihuacan is a Mayan or Aztec site, when it isn't either, for example.) The Aztecs were the last great Pre-Colombian civilization at the time Cortés arrived, but they'd only been in that position for about 200 years.

Third observation - Aztec is a misnomer. Mexica is the proper name, and is used on signage throughout museums and historical sites. So, from this point on... Mexica.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

What I Ate: Mexico City Edition


I knew I wanted to do a food post for Mexico City. (After all, Mexico's cuisine is listed on UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage list.) At first, I wasn't sure how structure it - by category? Should I include or leave out things I wanted to go more into depth on? I ended up taking the easiest out, by listing everything in chronological order. Trying to remember what I ate on which day started to feel like 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar', aside from the fact that I didn't turn into a butterfly at the end. So let's go with that theme and see the things (ALL THE THINGS) I managed to consume over a week's stay in Mexico City...

Monday, April 4, 2016

Salvaging Your Pictures with Photoshop


I recently got back from Mexico City. While I love solo travel, one of the downsides (for me, at least) is an album full of awesome shots of buildings, food, people, food, fauna and flora, food, etc... but little proof of you in them. Camera phones and selfies have made this less of an issue, but it's still nice to have some pictures of you doing something other than holding your phone aloft to get the most flattering angle. I try to make a point of relying on the kindness of strangers in hopes of getting a decent picture of myself each time I travel. But often, the results can be disappointing...

Monday, February 29, 2016

Spring Break Planning

I am a planner. I enjoy researching and writing up itineraries almost as much as I enjoy traveling. My maps section of my Google drive (still my favorite way to figure out a trip) is full of planned routes around countries I've never been to.