Monday, July 31, 2017

Walk That City

Recently, I read an article by Walk Score listing the top 10 US cities with the best walking. 

This is an excerpt from Walk Score...
Here are the top walkable cities in the U.S. as determined by Walk Score.
10: Baltimore, Maryland: If succulent crab and free museums are your thing, Marlyand’s historic port city of Baltimore is probably one of the best weekend trips you’ve never considered. Summer and fall mean festivals galore—seafood, wine, Belgian beer, oysters, jazz, and rhythm & blues festivals are just a few that take place between April and November.
Stroll around Little Italy, bike along the harbor, and mill about downtown on a Segway tour or seafood crawl. Don’t forget to stop in at the Baltimore Museum of Art or the Walters Art Museum—both are free.
9: Oakland, California: San Francisco’s oft-overlooked little sibling, Oakland is the perfect Bay Area alternative to pricey San Fran. A bustling waterfront bar scene and diverse historic neighborhoods make picturesque spots like Grand Lake Theatre and Jack London Square worth a visit. Sip slowly on an outdoor patio or head to Redwood Regional Park, which is accessible by public transit.
8: Seattle, Washington: Seattle offers both downtown sheen and adventure-packed outskirts. See the Space Needle and skyline from Kerry Park before you hop a bus downtown to peer the opposite way from the skyscraper’s 50th floor. The city is easily connected to its airport via a new light rail line, which makes it perfect for a day-long stopover between flights.
7: Washington, D.C.: Despite some recent minor transit woes, Washington D.C. remains one of the most walkable cities in the nation with the fourth largest American Metro system.
It’s no secret that cherry-blossom season brings flocks of tourists to the city’s monument-flanked Tidal Basin, and free national museums draw crowds year round. Transit service can also take restless visitors out to Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, and a public bike share system makes the nation’s capital your oyster.
6: Chicago, Illinois: The Windy City’s towering skyline, eclectic neighborhoods, and urban Lake Michigan beaches make it a young and vibrant destination that draws hoards as soon as it warms up each summer. Chicago’s museums and culinary scene make it worthwhile in the winter, too, but music, comedy, sports, and food festivals from spring through fall are all comfortably accessible by foot or transit—Chicago boasts the second largest public transportation hub in the nation. You’d be sorely mistaken if you brought a car with you to this city.
5: Miami, Florida: From South Beach relaxation to street art walks and Little Havana, Miami is best explored on foot to get a feel for its colorful neighborhoods and friendly locals. Leisurely lying on the beach, learning about art deco architecture from the sidewalk, and strolling brightly lit Calle Ocho at night are all easily within reach of downtown.
4: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Get in touch with American history at the Liberty Bell, eat authentic cheesesteaks and hoagies, and stumble upon public art and festivals in the first American World Heritage City. Philly’s SEPTA system is reliable and far reaching, but the City of Brotherly Love is also almost entirely walkable and outdoor friendly, with more than 10,000 acres of public green space to be explored.
3: Boston, Massachusetts: Boston is the smallest city by far to make Walk Score’s top five. Its public transportation system, the MBTA (locally called the T) is expansive, and downtown can be almost entirely walked if you’re up for it. Narrow cobblestone roads and picturesque parks dating back to colonial times make this charming utopia perfect for grabbing a public bike and riding from the harbor to the sprawling green Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Mall, which stretch from downtown to Back Bay. Boston also has the third largest transit authority in the country, beating out D.C. and San Francisco.
2: San Francisco, California: Cable cars are an iconic symbol of California’s northern hub, and visitors take advantage of their rickety capabilities more often than the locals do for a reason. Bay Area Rapid Transit is likely to get you where you’re going faster, but the street cars make for perfect sight-seeing. While the hills might tire you out a bit, San Francisco is the second most walkable U.S. city, and has plenty of bike and Segway tours to take advantage of once your legs are worn out. Bike across the Golden Gate on your way to Alcatraz or hop public transit to gape at the Redwood trees north of the city—no car required.
1: New York, New York: Manhattan and greater New York City are of course home to the biggest rapid transit system—the MTA—and without a doubt the best place to visit sans wheels. Having a car here might very well cost you as much as your accommodation, so instead wander Central Park and take the subway like a true New Yorker—or hail a yellow cab if traffic isn’t too bad. Walking food tours, outdoor parks, and art museums are a good place to start—just make sure you obey the crosswalk signs.
 Do you agree with these? What are your favorite walking cities?

Thursday, July 27, 2017


Ever wondered how to say "cheers" in a different language? If are 30 languages, including how to pronounce them. 

If this is something you've never wondered about...just look at the photos!

Afrikaans – Gesondheid (Geh-soond-hate)
Albanian – Gëzuar (Geh-zoo-ah)
Arabic –
في صحتك (Fi-sih-tik)
Bosnian – Živjeli (Zee-veh-lee)
Chinese (Mandarin) –
干杯 (Gan-bay)
Croatian – Živjeli (Zee-veh-lee)
Czech – Na zdravi (Naz-drah-vee)
Dutch – Proost (Proost)
Filipino – Mabuhay (Ma-boo-hay)
Finnish – Kippis (Kipp-iss)
French – Santé (Sahn-tay)
German – Prost (Prost)
Greek – ΥΓΕΙΑ (Yah-mahs)
Hebrew –
לחיים (Luh-kai-um)
Egészségedre (Eg-esh ay-ged-ruh)
Skál (Skowl)
Irish (Gaelic)
Sláinte (Slawn-chuh)
Salute (Sah-loo-tay)
乾杯 (Kan-pi)
Korean –
건배 (Gun-bay)
Norwegian – Skål (Skowl)
Polish – Na zdrowie (Nahz-droh-vee-ay)
Portuguese – Saúde (Sow-ood-uh)
Russian – Будем здоровы (Boo-dem Zdor-oh-vee)
Slovak – Na zdravie (Nahz-droh-vee-ay)
Spanish – Salud (Sah-lood)
Swedish – Skål (Skowl)
Thai –
ไชโย (Chon-gow)
Turkish – Şerefe (Sher-if-fay)
Vietnamese – Dô (Djo)

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Few Quick Museum Facts

The Musee d’Orsay is home to the best impressionism collection in the world. Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Renoir, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec are all here in a beautiful setting. Check for sure, but it has been closed on Mondays.

To get a sense of The Louvre, you’d need several days…probably weeks. For that reason, plan in advance. I’ll cover more specifics about The Louvre later. Again, check to be sure, but it has been closed on Tuesdays.

The Musee Rodin is fantastic and the outdoor sculpture garden is even better.

More museums later…

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Can You Travel with Friends?

When traveling with friends, it’s important to put in some time and effort to ensure the trip runs smoothly for everyone. 

Before anything is booked, you should all discuss your individual needs, goals and preferences to ensure that you are compatible with your fellow travelers. Ask yourself and your companions these questions…

Do you want a relaxing holiday or do you want to take in all the sights?

Do you have a budget?

Is everyone okay with the expenses?

Do you need vaccinations?

Do you want to do group activities?

Do you know what is necessary for the trip?

Does everyone have the correct papers and travel gear?

Is everyone open to adding activities?

Is it okay to change plans during the trip?

These may seem like overplanning…but a few upfront questions may make your trip more enjoyable.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Be Polite in France

Think about these few suggestions next time you're in France...

Want Produce at le Marché?
Strolling through a local fruit and vegetable market is one of the many simple pleasures awaiting you in France. Everything is so fresh, so appealing, so artfully displayed, perusing and purchasing produce can be a highlight of your trip. However, be forewarned that poking, prodding or picking up the goods is not accepted. There’s an unspoken hands-off policy at a French marché . Let the vendor pick up the produce for you, and just point if you want to select a specific item.
Greet the Shopkeeper
In some countries, it’s okay to just nod, smile or ignore the staff when you walk into a shop. Here, when you walk in and out of a small boutique, bakery, pharmacy or shop, you should always acknowledge the clerk with a crisp bonjour – better yet, bonjour Madame or MonsieurMercis are always appreciated as well.
Ask Your Waiter to Bring You the Bill
The French are very laissez fair about hanging out in cafes, bistros or restaurants as long as you’d like. There’s no pressure to turn tables here, and so you can nurse a glass of wine or a cup of coffee to spend all day at a coveted spot on a sidewalk table should you choose. The flip side is the waiter won’t anticipate your need for the bill or present it to you in a timely manner unless you specifically ask for it. To them, handing out the check is akin to rushing you out the door. They’re not necessarily ignoring you, neglecting you or providing poor service. They’re just happy to have you linger.
Drinks with Your Meal
In many countries, it’s okay to have a cup of coffee, sip soda, or drink a flavored beverage throughout a casual meal. Sometimes we expect the refills to keep coming. Not so in France. Water or wine are the accepted liquids to accompany food. Sure, you can order a Coke or juice or whatever you like, but you’ll be going against the grain here. If you don’t want to stand out like a sore foreign thumb, do like the French do. A glass of wine is usually cheaper than a soda, and tap water is free (no need to pay for the bottled stuff), so this shouldn’t be a problem.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Is This the Right Hotel for You?

Check the exact hotel location
View the map and look at street view if you want to make sure the location is as great as it seems on the website. Busy roads, tracks, and freeways might be too close for your comfort.

Check review sites
Look at all reviews…not just the bad ones or the fantastic ones. Weigh what is being said and if the same issue comes up several times…you may want to rethink your hotel. Also, check what reviewers have to say about room location, extra options, shuttle services, and nearby attractions.
This could save you time and money in many ways.

Check parking availability and cost
If you will have your own car, check both availability and pricing on parking at the hotel. Many times, hotel parking can add anywhere from $10 to $35 or more to your daily hotel cost.
If no hotel parking is available, check where the nearest parking ramp is and the cost of parking there.

What does the hotel offer? Coffee and pastries…or a full breakfast.
You can usually find out this information on the hotel website or by calling the front desk directly. If you are concerned about budget…this is an important question to ask.

Internet access
If you absolutely need Internet access…ask if it is included or what the charge is. It may be free for loyalty members, but not for others.

Loyalty Members
Usually, I recommend booking directly through the hotel if you are a loyalty club member. You can ask questions about upgrades, points, etc. Also, you can make sure they have your member number in order to receive points for this stay.

Sign up for the rewards program
If you are not yet a member and it is free to sign up for a hotel's loyalty program, do it. You may receive some complimentary services for doing so. One more reason to call the hotel directly.

Don't be afraid to ask for a better rate
Again…if you call directly, you can ask for a better rate. Be polite and ask about specials or deals. Sometimes websites do not list programs like AARP or AAA, but the reservation desk will.

Again…don't be afraid to call the hotel directly
You’ve read the reviews and looked at the website. Maybe you still have questions about the Wi-Fi cost, or if the room you want is pet friendly, or their cancellation policy. By calling, you can get your questions answered. It’s also a great way to get a feel for the vibe of that hotel.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Will Fingerprints Replace Boarding Passes?

How about this? You may need nothing more than your fingerprint or face to clear airport security and board your flight.
Delta Air Lines has begun testing fingerprint identification for entry into its airport Sky Club at Washington Reagan National Airport, in cooperation with the private company Clear. It plans to test fingerprint scanning for bag check, security, and boarding next.
JetBlue is starting to test the use of facial scans to match travelers flying from Boston to Aruba with their passport or visa photos in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection database.
Experts say this biometric technology to identify people through physical characteristics eventually will become an integral part of the airport security screening process.
Gary Leff, airline industry expert and author of the “View from the Wing” blog, is skeptical about the benefits for consumers. Leff points to, among other downsides, the fact that airlines’ computer systems can crash at inopportune moments: “When they need to process passengers by hand, they can process people with paper boarding passes but not those who need to be scanned.”

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Going to Amboise?

Amboise Sunday Market

We were told the Sunday market in Amboise was not to be missed. “You’ll find everything here. It’s one of the best in the Loire Valley.” We were also told to get there early.

So, we were prepared. Or, so we thought. Abundant doesn’t begin to describe the number of vendors. It was teeming with people, trucks, and their products. Hodgepodge…no. Diversity…yes.

Since we were early, we found a place to park…not an easy feat for those who came a half hour later. Trucks, vans, ovens, tables, and people as far as we could see. Deciding to pass by the first man handing out samples of horse sausage, we moved along through the rows of tables.  

Aromas from grilling meats and just baked baguettes mixed with pungent goat cheeses and spicy olives. It was heaven to stand and sniff. But, first…coffee and a pastry. Fresh, of course. What better way to people-watch?

Then, time to wander through all the market. Cashmere sweaters from Italy? Sure. Mounded high, red and white radishes complete with their green tops lent a festive air. White asparagus, in season, ranged in size from pencil-thin to cigar-fat. All looked delicious. Sausages, jambon, and meats of many kinds lined up next to fresh, ice-encrusted fish from Brittany, and winemakers offered us Vouvray wine from the area. Spices and fresh herbs vied for our attention as we moved along and eyed the plump, bright orange apricots and ruby red strawberries.

Need some clothespins? Take your pick from one of several booths. T-shirts, leather purses, jewelry, garden supplies, the latest invention for hoeing in your garden, furniture, kitchen gadgets of every possible kind…some you didn’t know you needed until you saw it…, and just about any piece of clothing all had their space.

A lady walked past carrying a large, brown box with holes in it. It was clucking. She had come from the end where vendors were selling live chickens and ducks. Not for eating, mind you. These were special, fancy-looking critters in a variety of colors and feathery top-knots. People bought these for eggs. And, every box that walked away was making a noise. The buyers looked happy.

Roasting meat smells drew us down another path, past the artichokes bigger than my head and fresh, purple-colored heads of garlic the size of apples. Here, four trucks lined the edges. Each truck was a portable rotisserie with five racks of chickens in each. Perfectly seasoned and browned chickens rotated slowly around as the vendor periodically inspected them for doneness. Did we drool? You bet.

Then, there was the Paella Guy. I’ve seen large paella pans. This one wasn’t even in the same playing field. At least four feet across, I’m not sure which was more impressive…the pan, the bubbling mixture, or the smells coming from the pan. We watched as he added rice and some more spices. Stirring it sent the delicious aromas into the air. He grinned when he heard us sigh. More drool.
Sadly, it was time to leave. We were loaded down with fresh bread, a variety of cheeses which we may or may not remember the names, enough radishes and leafy greens for a salad, spicy salami, and enough apricots and berries for both dessert and breakfast.

Were we glad we discovered this market? Oh yeah. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday morning on vacation.