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Sunday, February 28, 2016

"Good Morning Baltimore!"

Much to my disappointment, I only had a half day in Baltimore. The weather was just not cooperating! The morning was misty, damp and cloudy, but I still had a wonderful time. Since my time was short I chose to focus on just the Inner Harbor area. There's a lot more to the city of Baltimore, but the Inner Harbor is the hip tourist district.
Cost Saver's Tip: DON'T PARK ON THE PIER. It was horribly expensive. I parked on pier 5 because I was close to the attractions and would save me time! But it cost me $24 for just 3.5hrs of parking!
Any way, on Pier 5 is the Seven-Foot Knoll Lighthouse, along with some of the high-end dining establishments. 
But just before this I had an amazing thing happen to me. I stopped for coffee and the barista offered me an umbrella to use! It was a wonderful #RandomActofKindness and really made my day! Check it out! 
It has cats in it! 😸😽😻 which I'm allergic to 😷 so it was rather ironic. 😏
After the lighthouse, I went to cross the bridge towards pier 4 and came across the USCGC (United States Coast Gaurs Cutter) Taney. As I've perviously said, my Grandfather and my Dad were both in the Coast Guard so I always love to see tributes and memorials to them. 
Next it was on to pier 4! My main point of interest was the National Aquarium, but it didn't open for another 30 minutes (10am) so I went and explored the rest of that pier. There's several shops and restaurants, so if you're planning for lunch down there don't worry! Plenty of variety. I very much liked the look of their Barnes and Noble store. It was a beautifully renovated factory! 


Monday, February 22, 2016

Museums made fun!

This week I had a wonderful chat with a family of a single mom and 3 girls( 11, 13, and 14). I had sat next to them in the Air & Space building of the Smithsonian. The girls were filling out these questionnaires and I thought perhaps they were here with their school. However, it turns out they were just here for fun and their mom types up these fill-in-the-blank worksheets before ever trip. Then they fill in the answers and if they complete them then they all get to enjoy a surprise bonus on their last day.
I thought this was truly genius and when I asked the mom more about it she confessed that it's actually turned out far better then she even imagined! When the girls were younger they spend hours of each vacation fighting, now they're working together so they can have that prize. Although she confessed that they have yet to not complete a quiz. She wasn't sure how she'd end up handling it, but she doesn't anticipate that happening since the girls are allowed to assist each other- but NOT give away answers.
I asked if it took her long to compile these quizzes. "About an hour one evening", that's it! She does 3-4 questions per museum and she's found that it's promoted team work, excitement, museum interaction and family bonding. 
The girls also seemed very excited about traveling too. When I told them I had lived in Germany they had loads of questions. They're trying to get their mom to take them there this summer, but she seemed worried about cost. I gave her a few links which could really help cut down on that and I think she's actually considering it.
All I do know, is this woman was brilliant. I can only imagine how intimidating traveling as a single mother must be. She's really inspired me and I hope to use her tricks if I ever become a parent!

DC in a Day

What can you expect from attempting to cover the Nation's Capital in a day? Well for starters, you should anticipate an ache in your feet and legs so deep that you just want to cut them off!!! But that goes without saying really. πŸ™ƒ
On a serious note, you'll have to sacrifice. It's impossible to see everything in one day. I know people who have lived here for years and still not explored ALL of the smithsonian. My recommendation is to choose the top 2 items you're wanting see (think bucket list) and chart your day around them. Then everything else is a wonderful bit of extra adventure, and we all know I love those!
On this trip I've chose the Lincoln Monument
and the Air & Space sector of the Smithsonian
Two classics. And even though I've visited them both before, they were still in my top 5 things to see again. It was really hard to not pick the US Holocaust Museum
the BEST museum I've ever visited, hands down. But it's incredibly emotionally draining, I didn't think I'd be able to recover quickly enough to enjoy the rest of my day.
The nice part of my selection is that they're right on the Mall, so it was easy to get in those much coveted photo ops.
One thing was obvious on this trip, it's an election year and capital hill is trying to get spruced up before all the camera crews show up! There was construction everywhere I turned. Kinda a bummer, but at least the weather was fairly nice. Low 50s in late February, who could ask for more? Plus the sun was out most of the day and the wind was pretty tolerable.
Photographer's tip: 99% of your selfie are going to be at the worst angle imaginable! All those talk builds- no hiding my double chin or round face, so just embrace it! 
Seriously, so unflattering! Oh well.
Walking the mall is an experience in and of itself! It's broken into 3 main sections: capital hill, the grand lawn (or museum alley, as I call it!), and monument lane. I started at Capital Hill and work my was West. But I knew I'd go back east because I saved the Air & Space Museum for the afternoon. I got to explore several of the small gardens joust off the grand lawn area- most of which have wonderful sculpture exhibits. They have everything from contemporary 
To the more traditional European garden styles: 
So a little something for everyone!
Transportation tip: the DC metro is the best in the US! Clean, simple, direct- what's not to love. But if you're just there for a day, I'd just go with a single fare card. If you're there for 3 days then get a pass, it's totally worth it. And try to avoid office hour rushes like 7-8am or 4:30-6pm. It's hard because several of the museums close at 5pm, but I would recommend just trolling around a bit more until the rush passes. Also, for those of you with more balance than myself, bike shares are available all over the city!
They could save you some ache in your feet, but be safe because DC drives don't break for tourists!
Lastly, dining. Just be prepared, it's going to be costly. Everything is tourist and politician pricing! If you're looking to splurge- Old Ebbit's Grille is just next to the White House and their burger is delicious. If you're just looking for something lite and quick, most of the museums have cafes. The fare is pretty traditional and won't break the bank. But you all know me and my love for local, so I go where the people lead me! And this trip they lead me to a Peruvian Food Truck called El Fuego. All the offerings looked good, but I went with a Pan Con Chicharon with Yucca Fries. It was delicious and very filling! 
Rest Stop Tip: bathrooms on the mall are hard to fine, but each building of the Smithsonian should have at least one per floor. Charging stations are also a rarity! I only found one bench with a plug-in within the whole Air & Space building! So again, timing is key. Also, stay off Twitter- lesson learned. πŸ™„
At the end of my day I felt pretty productive for having less than 8 hours in the city! Here are a few other sites I visited along the way: 
The Castle
The MLK Jr. Memorial 
The WWII Memorial 
The Korean War Memorial
The reflecting pool, empty πŸ˜’
The Capital Building, under construction πŸ™„ (see above horrible selfie!)
Tomorrow I'm heading to Baltimore! Look for that post. It should be excellent!




Sunday, January 3, 2016

Those Memphis Blues

This title is so applicable considering the outcome of the game, but as the old saying goes "it's not if you win or lose, it's how you play the game." And the Liberty Bowl was a wonderful game. My friends and I greatly enjoyed the game and getting to explore Memphis. I only wish I had more time!
My brief trip began in the morning on Friday, Jan. 1st 2016. Traveler Prime (TP) picked me up from my apartment and we headed off to the airport. I've probably said this before on this blog, but flying through MCI is one of the best airport experiences you could ask for! I never spend more than 40mins in that airport. Walk in, go through security, and BOOM- you're at your gate. Biggest disappointment on this trip- the Starbucks inside the terminal couldn't make a latte. It was devastating!
Any way, it went MCI-MDW-MEM (KC to Chicago to Memphis). This was my first companion pass and I couldn't be more thankful to TP!
In Chicago we stopped briefly for lunch: 
We landed in Memphis and got a great deal with Über to get to the hotel: The Doubletree of Downtown Memphis. It's on the corner of Union and Hernando, just one block down from the Peabody. Sadly, I did not get pictures of either fine establishment-- epic hotelier fail!
Any way, we dropped off our bags and immediately hit Beale St for the Liberty Bowl Pep Rally to support our friends in The Pride #KSUMB 
The band did a fantastic job and they even played a Les Mis mashup! But more than all of that was seeing everyone together on Beale Street! Later that evening we hit up a few of the bars: the Tin Roof and Rum Boogie Cafe. The live music was great, but the drink prices... Whoa! I'm not made of that kind of money. It's a good thing I was only going out that one night! My brother paid $17 for a double whiskey & diet. Yikes!
Of course the next day one of my friends tells me that the locals all hangout in Midtown or south of downtown... Too little, too late Pal! Well, you live and learn.

Saturday (or Caturday as Wildcats like to call it) was Game Day! We knew it'd be a tough game. The Razorbacks are a good team... Sadly, their fans are more in love with the S.E.C. than their crazy-talented university. The Cats did great at the start and then came out strong in the 3rd quarter (usually our weak spot). All in all, it was a great game to watch and the band killed it at halftime! 
That big corn dog was a stadium tradition of some sort. All I know, it was delicious!
For that last night after the game I just wanted to find some place local and chill.  My brother recommended a place just a couple blocks a way: South of Beale (SOB). The menu was interesting- small, but diverse. I ordered the Duck Fried Rice and a side of Mac&cheese. It was excellent! And their Spiked Apple Cider was just like how I make mine. Check it out- and check-in on Yelp to get 15% off.
Then bright and early- or rather still dark and VERY EARLY, we headed back to the airport. I made our Lyft driver (Lyft is much cheaper than Über in Memphis!) drive really slow pass Sun Studios. All I know is I'll be back to Memphis. So much more to see. Next time, definitely getting the Gibson Guitar tour!
The next scheduled adventure is early February in Baltimore. I'll keep you posted!
~Greet





Sunday, December 27, 2015

2016- A year of bountiful adventure!

Greetings Follower, both old and new!
I new year is on fast approach and as I look back over the last year I see that all work and no play makes Greet a dull girl. My sincerest apollogies for becoming--- BORING! No, it true! Let's not dance around the topic. Over the last several months I became a lame, working woman. It's a fate worse than death!
However, it is not to be my long term destiny. On Christmas Eve, I received the best gift I could possibly ask for: A Companion's Pass. A.K.A. Free flights to wherever my dearest friend Ethan is flying! It's a Christmas miracle if you ask me.
A little about my friend Ethan, who will now become Traveler Prime on this blog! He works for this huge IT company and travels about 1/3 of the year to various account locations around the U.S. This means when he goes his ticket is paid for, his hotel is covered and most of his food can be expensed. So with his mileages from last year he qualified that he is allowed a free companion ticket on his future flights!
I've already got two trips planned with Traveler Prime(TP) for the next 5 weeks! We're going to Memphis to see the Liberty Bowl Game this coming weekend. As Alumni we want to should our support: #GoCats! Then in the first week of February, he's traveling for work to Baltimore. It's a short trip, meaning I can take the time off work! 
I cannot want to update you all on future adventures as they unfurl. Type at you later!
~Greet
P.S. Hope you all had the happiest of holidays! Season's Greetings from your Vagabond.
"jingle all the way! Nobody likes a halfass jingler."
 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Start Spreading the News!

Alert! Alert!!! Something terrible has happened! I've fallen in love... With New York City!
Never in a million years would I have thought this could be possible. The mass of humanity, living upon eachother and breathing in filth- who would want that? Well, this girl I guess!
To be honest, I fell for the quiet neighborhoods and rich history of the city. This past weekend I met up with a friend and we explored the city in a wandering, stroll of two friends who are more interested in spending time together than seeing the sights. For me, it was the first time back in NYC since I was a child so there were too many tourist traps to check off in just 4 days. We didn't even attempt things like The Empire State Building or Statue of Liberty.
No, instead we both made a short list of Must Do's and tried to cross off as many of them as we could. Below is out lists and our actual itinerary. It was such a great weekend and I can't wait to see my Kiwi again soon. NYC treated is right and I know I'll be back.
Tracy's List:
New York Pizza
Central Park
Broadway Show
Walking tour
Roof Top Bar at Sunset

Nicki's List:
Coney Island
Central Park
cheesecake
Dinner with friend Grace
Time Square shopping

Day 1: Friday, Sept. 4th
I landed crazy early and thought I would check my bag into a 24/7 locker place in Manhattan, but turns out their hours had changed for the holiday weekend. My next thought was to go to our hotel and store it with their bell services. That way I could go explore and get some great pre-dawn pictures. Well much to my delight, they had a clean and ready room at 6:30am and let me check-in! Marrakech Hotel was delightful and so convenient next to the 103 Subway stop on the 1 line. The only downside was that  it was a 5 floor walk up to our room- No Elevator! Still it was a lovely room and staff went above and beyond to make our stay enjoyable.
Once I was checked in all thought of photography fled my mind. I crashed for a few hours and then rushe out the door to meet Nicki, who was coming into town with her Contiki Tour. I got there a little early so I grabbed a bite to eat in Chealsea at this hip burger joint: Black Iron Burger. I followe the advice of the waitstaff and ordered a Hashbrown Burger with Aoli fries. I also had a local beer: Coney Island Mermaid Pislner 
It was as good as it looks!
Once I had met up with Nicki and we dropped off her bag. We took the metro down to Time Square and strolled around for a bit. It was getting close to dinner when we stumbled upon this great Cuban place, so we stopped for dinner and drinks! Havana Central, I highly recommend the Paelle- but split it! It's so much food!!!! 

Day 2: Saturday, September 5th
Slept in. #noregrets But once we were up and going we head to Brunch, my favorite meal. Yelp directed me to Crepes On Columbus and while the wait was little long and the service was SLOW, the food was divine! We each ordered a savory crepe and then we split a sweet one.
In the afternoon we met our Sandeman's New Europe walking tour of Midtown at Grand Central Station and enjoyed hearing the histories of the train station, the Chrysler Building, New York Public Library, 5th Ave, Bryant Park, Time Square, Broadway and Shubert Alley,  and Rockefeller. It was very educational and Jesse was a great guide.
That evening we went to dinner with Nicki's friend, Grace at The Smith just across from Lincoln Center. The food was excellent and I recommend a cocktail. I had the gnocchi, so rich and creamy!
After dinner we decided to have a drink at a little Irish pub near Columbus Cirlce. It was pretty low key, perfect for Nicki and I to plan out our next day ad have some girl talk.

Day 3: Sunday, Sept. 6th
Coney Island in the morning. It's a long train ride, but with my first Pumpkin Spiced Latte of the season in hand i didn't seem to mind. Plus it was a nice quiet ride and I chatted with a local family who was heading to the beach. It was nice to get a local's view of Manhattan living. Their kids were both under the age of 5 and handled the metro like pros. I was impressed.
The visit for Coney Island was a must for both Nicki and I since we became friends while working for Disney's Boardwalk Resort. So much of that hotel was inspired by places like Coney Island, we just had to visit! 
Plus! I got my New York Hot Dog and Nicki tried a lobster roll for the first time. 
Once we spent a little money on merch, we took the train back into town to buy some Broadway tickets! We ended up getting great seats for Les Mis at 50% off. We were thrilled! 
We headed back to the hotel to get gussied up and then rushed back to the show. 
After many tears and awed silences of the musical, we met up with some of Nicki's tour mates who were celebrating birthdays. They were at this pub with live music called The Mean Fiddler. We had a blast with the music, dancing and good drinks. 

Day 4: Monday, Sept. 7th- Labor Day
This was the longest day, but worth every step! We took 2 walking tours and threw a museum into the mix. By the time we had to climb up to the hotel room we were both nursing swollen feet!
It started with a 10am tour of Central Park from this great tour company that our previous guide Jesse had recommended: Free Tours by Foot. They were so cool and offer several off-the-beaten-path tours that we decided that we'd also take their tour of the High Line Park as well! If we could have, I'd have like to take their Bushwick Graffiti tour too, but it wasn't offered that day!
Our tour of Central Park started at The Pullitzer Foutain and included the Plaza Hotel, the South End- the kids section, the ice rink, zoo, the poet's walk, Betheda fountain, boathouse and lake, and Strawberry Fields with The Dakota.
We stopped at the boathouse for lunch, then heade to the Met! 
 The Met was a lot to take in, but we had a blast. It started with goofy snapchats in the Greek area- tons of Disney's Hercules references. Then we branched out to modern art and the armory, to name a few. There was also this big exhibit in the Costume department, but it was the last day and was crazy packed. We had a hard time experiencing it. So we went to grab a coffee and have a much needed sitdown.
After the Met we grabbed the subway down to Grenwich to meet our High Line tour. It was spectacular. It's this old elevated railway that was converted into a park. It's breathtaking. A view of the city most people have never seen before! It's very industrial meets organic and the art installations are swapped out annually. This year's theme was Visualize. It was designed to make you see something in a different way. My favorite piece was this huge bronze telescope, but did doesn't work. It's suppose to get you to think about what you SHOULD see and BOOM! There's Lady Liberty across the river. So cool. 
After the tour, our guide Dante suggested a little pizza joint down the street. "It's not 'New York' pizza, but it's pretty good even by New Yorkers' standards." It was called Artichoke Basille's Pizza & Bar. They have this great deal where you can try 3 different slices for just $17, so Nicki and I each tried 3 different options and cut them in half! So we basically had one of everything. #noregrets.
Then it was back to the hotel to pack and head to the airport bright and early the next morning. 

Overall, a great time. And I was so happy to spend it with an old friend. New York, thanks for the memories!