turn down for Angkor Wat

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Angkor Wat is one of the great ancient wonders of the world.  The pièce de résistance of the Angkor archeologic complex in Cambodia, this temple is a site of religious worship and has been used continuously through the ages.  It is truly one of the unique architectural delights anywhere.  Just incredible.  I’ve said this before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but the people in these ancient civilizations were so sophisticated and advanced, much more so than anything we could do these days.

This whole region in Cambodia encompasses not just Angkor Wat, but also Angkor Thom another “city” of the ancient Khmer.  The architecture, city planning, irrigation, artistry of these communities were so intricate, and even more marvelous is the fact that this was all built in the middle of the jungle.  They had to bring in the stone from a mountain 50km away by floating it down the Siem Reap river.  Think of how many elephants that must have taken!

And somehow the mossy twisted roots now coursing through the ruins of this ancient oasis has only added to its grandeur.  Everyone has a chance to feel like Lara Croft here.

welcome to the jungle

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Bienvenido a Miami: Parte 1

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south beach bringing the heat

I may be the only person who goes to Miami for the architecture. Context: Miami is not my favorite place. I don’t enjoy nightlife (I am a million years old), scantily clad people (I will never own or wear a body stocking, no one wants to see this) or loudness (both in sounds and personalities). I get you, Miami, but you’re not always my type. When you’re still, you’re lovely, but you can get crazy so fast. Too temperamental.

I think when you’re young and you go there, it’s a lot of pressure to go out and party, but you know what?   In your 30s, you no longer give AF. And that, my friends, is growing up.

Welcome to Miami…

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MSP: NCAA Championship edition

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Man, it seems like Minneapolis is getting all of the sporting events because of their fancy new stadium.  Of course, the NCAA tourney will be played there on Monday, April 8th.  For those of you heading to the game this upcoming week, here’s a little Minnesota refresher.

you’re gonna make it after all…

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know before you go: volare FCO

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Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport (say that three times fast) is one of my favorite airports ever.  It’s very representative of the city it serves, Rome: bustling, loud, a little disorganized and has the best shopping ever.  It’s one of the busiest airports in Europe and you get that impression right away; there are people everywhere.

There are three passenger terminals, 1, 2 and 3 (however 2 is currently closed for renovation) with > 50 gates.  The renovated areas of the airport are NICE.  Like, there are moss living plant walls in the bathrooms, nice.  It is the hub airport for Alitalia and Vueling, and most international carriers have flights to FCO.  Flights to and from the US can be found on American, Delta, United, Norwegian and Alitalia.

Remember: ✈️ = rome if you want to  to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ =  volare, whoa whoa!

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (22 miles away from city centrale; there is transit, but if you know anything about Rome’s metro system, you know it’s not the easiest to navigate)

Ease of navigating through terminals:  ✈️✈️✈️ (as with a lot of European airports, they don’t announce/show your gate until right before departure, so don’t wander too far)

Convenience of check in/security lines:  ✈️✈️✈️ (faster than I thought it would be)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (McDonald’s, inexplicably Ferrari and Mercedes Benz cafes.  There’s a place called heaven Italian Food Street in the shopping mezzanine. As I tend to say, the worst pasta in Italy is like the best pasta in any place you live, so mangia!)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (the renovated bathrooms are some of the nicest bathrooms i’ve ever seen)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Free wifi, charging is available if you can get it — don’t forget your Type E adapter!)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (this rivals CDG Paris as one of the best in airport shopping: Bottega Veneta, Bulgari, Burberry, Dolce&Gabbana, Ermenegildo Zegna, Emporio Armani, Fendi, Gucci, Hermes, Michael Kors, Moncler, Montblanc, Omega, Pandora, Prada, Rolex, Salvatore Ferragamo, Sunglass Hut, Swatch, Tod’s, United Colors of Benetton, Valentino, Versace.  You can even get a free personal shopper to accompany you on your duty free bonanza!)

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Also, there’s a Venchi for one last gelato before you go. Or be like me, and have two before you go!  That’s amore!

know before you go: KOA

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The long anticipated Southwest to Hawaii routes just went on sale, and man were there some good deals (especially if you have flexible schedules).  I’m definitely going to have to take advantage of a random Tuesday flight one of these days –worth it for < $100 from LAX.  The departure cities are mostly from Northern California and the destinations are three airports for now: HNL (Oahu), OGG (Maui) and KOA (Big Island), with the hope to expand to more destinations and inter-island flights.

Often times overshadowed by it’s flashier sister Oahu, a Big Island adventure is actually Hawaiian must.  So much vast, natural beauty.  Volcanoes National Park, Waipio, Akaka Falls and black sand beaches are just a few delightful destinations on this very large island.  Throwback to my 5 day itinerary, which is a perfect amount of time to spend hanging loose in the Hawaiian tropics.

Ellison Onizuka (in honor of Challenger astronaut and hometown hero) Kona Airport is the Big Island’s larger airport (the other being Hilo ITO) and it truly looks like a Polynesian village when you taxi towards the main cluster of buildings.  It really reminds me of the Siem Reap airport in Cambodia, too.  The bulk of the structure is outdoors, because it is so temperate and gorgeous in Hawaii.

There are technically two Terminals 1 which has gates 1-5, and 2 which houses gates 6-10.  It only has one runway, and still uses ramps to board and deplane passengers from planes.  I love these kinds of airports, it makes you feel like you’re flying Pan Am in the 60s or something.  Southwest joins Hawaiian, Japan, United, Delta, Alaska and American.

Remember: ✈️ = go Big Island or go home to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = Bigger the Island, the better

Distance from city: ✈️✈️✈️ (about 7 miles from Kona Village, 25 miles from the resorts on the Kohala Gold Coast — give yourself time if you’re renting a car, it can take a long time)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (could probably walk from one side to the other in 5 minutes)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️✈️ (a lot of families, one security area, you do the math)

Dining: ✈️ (there’s not much, so highly suggest picking up something from Pine Tree Cafe nearby — the chicken karaage and mac salad, mmm so good)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️ (not many, but not usually crowded)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️ (no wifi set up yet)

Amenities: ✈️✈️ (you can definitely get lei’d here, and that’s a plus right?)

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

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I know, it’s not for a few more days.  But since St. Patty’s falls on a Sunday this year, take some time to start planning your weekend.  There are celebrations all over the US (Chicago’s green river is a perennial favorite of mine), but it would be a dream (and possibly a little bit of a nightmare) to celebrate it on the Emerald Isle itself.  Here’s a throwback to my day in Dublin…

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i warsaw the sign

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Warsaw, Poland is a wonderful European capital city, with bustling markets, turbulent history, gorgeous architecture and amazing food and culture.  It is a patchwork quilt of a place, its architecture reflecting a storied history: Gothic churches, medieval squares and Soviet bloc gray cube buildings.  It has survived countless invasions and bombings and continues to thrive with its lively, vibrant urban-yet-traditional population.

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Any visit to the city must include a trip to its beautiful Old Town. The heart of Warsaw, this area was bombed by the Germans during WWII, and restored to its former glory after the war ended.  There are lots of outdoor cafes and restaurants in the square now, and you’ll find hordes of locals and tourists alike wandering about.  To really experience Poland, you gotta snack on pierogies throughout the day.  Locals don’t really eat them in restaurants, because they’ve got Polish grandmothers, but for the rest of us, we have to go to town…Old Town that is.  Gosciniec Polskie Pierogi is one of the more well known spots, no frills, really good authentic style dumplings.

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This is a city with lots of monuments and statues commemorating the many historical events that have occurred.  The Warsaw Uprising Monument memorializes an uprising from the Polish underground resistance against the Nazis in 1944, who had been occupying the city for the 5 years prior.  Of course, the Germans weren’t so happy about the uprising, so they basically torched 90% of the city in the years thereafter.  This memorial sits in Krasinski Square, right in front of the supreme court of Poland.  Very symbolic.

A short walk away is the Royal Castle, which is grand on its own, but one of the most notable attractions actually sits in front of it, the Castle Square.  This may  be the most charming cobblestone square in all of Europe, with its perfect pastel colored townhomes and the large King Sigismund topped column at the center (see first photo).

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When traveling in Eastern Europe, there is a plethora of cathedrals and churches to see, if you’re budgeted for time, pick either St. John’s Arch Cathedral or St. Anne’s Church.  Both are walking distance from the Royal Castle.

To cap off your day, head over (by car or bus) to Lazienki Park, Warsaw’s answer to Hyde Park or Central Park.  This large greenspace houses manmade lake, a beautiful palace, villas, and monuments.

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Possibly one of the most famous monuments in the city, there is a bronze statue dedicated to one of Warsaw’s favorite sons, Frederic Chopin.

Nocturne No. 2 is one of my all time favorites (I’m basic, what can I say?) and this statue is one of my favorite monuments, for its weeping willow canopy connecting through his body, into his hands and onto the piano.

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It’s pierogi time again, and surprisingly, chain Zapiecek is actually pretty decent if you want some homestyle eats in a stylized cozy Polish setting.  Or you can opt for any number of traditional folk dinners, enjoying kielbasa and Golabki (cabbage rolls) and sauerkraut.  Wash it all down with vodka, you deserve it!

 

 

yeah, that Greenville

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There are 14 cities named Greenville in the US, with the one located in South Carolina arguably the most famous.  So, yeah that Greenville, as the saying goes.

Recently, I had the chance to briefly visit some friends in this area, and having no frame of reference to the area before, I can say it is a very nice place to live and raise a family.  It’s a real up and comer as I would say.  Lots of large suburban gated communities, which warms my suburb raised heart, yet there’s also a decently sized, vibrant, and young downtown.

so yeah, come visit that Greenville

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how to survive Disneyworld

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Having grown up a stone’s throw from Disneyland, the house of mouse has somewhat lost its luster on me as an adult.  I know, I know, I bet a lot of you are appalled.

For the rest of you sane lot, I just can’t reconcile spending a car payment for a day standing in lines around hordes of strangers (read: I’m old and apparently too sensible to have any fun).  And living so close to Disneyland, I can hear and sometimes see the fireworks from my house every night at 9:30 PM, so I get to reap the benefits without having to withstand the hassle.  I haven’t been since I was 18.  And trust me, that was a LONG time ago.

That being said, I get it.  People love going to Disneyland…they don’t call it the happiest place on earth for nothing.  It’s a place where whimsy and magic exists, for patrons of all ages.  A microcosm where you can forget the outside for a moment and just have fun. And if you have kids?  It’s definitely a fantastic experience for them.  Who doesn’t want to give their kids the world?

And even though I may be biased as a born and bred Anaheim native, I can still admit that Disneyworld beats our original Disneyland handily.  First of all, there’s 6 parks to our 2.  Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.  You do have to travel to Orlando though, so I guess that’s the trade off 😉

Disneyworld is an actual a world of its own with hotels, transportation, lakes, security, grocery stores, etc.  I think it’s has its own government (obviously Mr. Mouse is a despot).  And although it is a resort…lest you think you’ll be having a relaxing vacation, you are sorely mistaken.  More a rat race, these trips are a whirlwind of multiple parks, characters and Mickey themed everything.  It’s a mousetrap! And it is basically a rite of passage for all families these days (youtube disneyworld trip reveals and then hate yourself afterwards).  Yay gross consumerism!

M-I-C…see ya real soon

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Nashville: the only TEN I SEE

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Nashville is one of the best places I’ve ever lived, and I’m lucky that I still have friends that live in town to visit.  Literally, I will visit at the drop of a cowboy hat.  Nashville is a lot like LA, except smaller, more easily navigable, and of course, musically inclined.  I know it’s known for its music, but can we just talk about the food in Nashville?  It’s spectacular.

This city is growing at an unbelievable pace, it seems like every time you turn around, there’s a new high rise or apartment complex.  My old neighborhood in the West End (don’t think this was a coincidence, I love the Pet Shop Boys)/Charlotte is now the gateway to up and coming Nations and Sylvan Park.

I love you, Nashville.

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