know before you go: PHL

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if you’re a bird, i’m a bird

Thank goodness another football season is upon us, after what felt like an endless summer of baseball.  At least we had the World Cup to break up the boredom (just kidding, I love you MLB).  NFL kicks off tonight when the Falcons take on the defending champ Eagles. Fly Eagles Fly, to catch the game tonight!

And the only things that get more air than Matt Ryan and Carson Wentz are the planes coming and going from Philadelphia International (PHL).  See how I tied that up nicely?  Like a pair of cleats.

PHL is an old airport, but it’s undergoing a major renovation/expansion over the next few decades.  It is becoming more of a favored international destination for bargain European airlines, and serves the large Delaware Valley.  There are 7 terminal buildings, A-F with about 125 gates.  A West (Philadelphia, born and raised…) serves American, Lufthansa, British, Icelandair, and Qatar Airlines.  A East is Aer Lingus and American.  B  and C are American.  By now you can probably tell American has its hub here.   D is Air Canada, Alaska, United and Delta.  E is JetBlue, Frontier, Southwest and Spirit.  F is regional American Eagle flights.

Remember: ✈️ = streets of philadelphia to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = philadelphia freedom

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (SEPTA trains are pretty cheap to and from the city)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (if you want, you can walk all seven terminals)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (There’s Chick-Fil-A and Cantina Laredo.  Need I say more?  Yes? Bar Symon, Chickie & Pete’s (crab fries), Chipotle, Dunkin Donuts, Pinkberry and Red Mango, Legal Seafood.  Oh yeah, Geno’s and Tony Luke’s for cheesesteaks 😉

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (will get updated with the expansion, I’m sure)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available, lots of charging stations — the kind with actual desks and seating)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️  (typical airport stores, not a ton of luxury brands, but there are minute suites, Admirals, British Airways, Delta and United lounges and rotating art exhibitions.)

3 days in New York

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As I spent a lot of this Labor Day weekend watching the US Open, I got serious green tennis ball colored envy.  I need to go to Flushing, NY stat (my friend goes every year, I have no excuse).  I mean, what a perfect way to spend a long weekend, exploring the last few days of summer in the city and then enjoying Primetime tennis!  Until I make it there, all I can do is dream of past New York adventures.

concrete jungle where dreams are made.

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know before you go: Las Vegas (LAS)

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Labor Day is the bittersweet holiday that marks the end of the summer, and what better way to commemorate hard workers who have helped this country prosper (?) than to get out of town and party!?!

I’m headed to one of my favorite airports this weekend, McCarran International Airport (LAS) serving Las Vegas, Nevada.  You could not get me to drive on the 15 during a holiday weekend, and so I’ll pick flying to Vegas every time…especially because it is a fun airport.  There’s a lot to do here on a layover, like gamble!  I’m not sure I’ve ever flown internationally from here, but I would say I average 6-8 domestic connections per year.  It’s a huge hub to and from the west coast with 110 gates.

First of all, it’s fairly close to the strip (less than 5 miles), and it’s cool to see Las Vegas boulevard from an aerial view as you start your descent.  This part always gets me pumped.  However, because Las Vegas is hella hot, both takeoffs and landings can be very turbulent.  This part makes me hesitant.  That’s Las Vegas in a nutshell.

The worst thing about flying into Vegas is that inevitably, one of your flight attendants will call it “Lost Wages.”  This is the worst joke, it needs to be retired.  Please.

The confusing thing is that it is split into Terminal 1 and Terminal 3.   There is no Terminal 2.  Not sure if Lance Burton (a Vegas deep cut reference)  made it disappear or what, but it’s not there.  Terminal 1 (concourses A-D) has a lot of domestic, but not all.  Terminal 3 (also D along with E) has international and some domestic.

I love people watching here.  There’s no other airport where the arrivals and departures are so bipolar.  When people get here, they’re ready to party, all bright-eyed and bushy tailed.  And then when they leave…well they look more like Conor McGregor after 10 rounds with Floyd Mayweather.

The security lines are always a bit hairy, and you’ll watch the TSA video featuring celebrity impersonators/Vegas entertainers like a hundred times, but once you’re in, there’s chimes and flashing lights and all sorts of commotion from the slot machines!

They have good fast food options, it’s easy to get from one concourse to the other (although from the Southwest C gates takes half your life).   You have to take a tram from the gates to baggage, but it’s quick.  The baggage claim area is huge.  Their rideshare waiting area can be tricky to get to (have to cross the street into a parking structure whose elevator levels have the weirdest designations–random mezzanine level, huh?). But overall, if you had to have a layover here, it wouldn’t be a complete loss (unless you do get tempted by the shiny machines with the flashing lights).

Remember: ✈️ = lost wages to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = viva, las vegas!

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (good signs, it’s a long walk)

Convenience of security lines: ✈️✈️ (get there early)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (mostly fast food, great hours, and there’s Coffee Bean and Starbucks)

Bathrooms:✈️✈️ (always crowded, need more)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️ (free wifi available, not enough charging stations in the gate areas, but have designated areas that are always packed)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Gaming facilities.  People watching can occupy you for hours.  Only a few lounges (AmEx and United), some Xpress Spas, weird B list mall stores, no luxury purveyors because I think they want you to spend the money in their casinos instead)

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3 days in Sedona feat. Grand and Antelope Canyons

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The country lost one of its foremost American war heroes this week, Senator John McCain.  A POW during the Vietnam War, he continued to serve his country after returning home, both in Congress and in the Senate, representing the state of Arizona.

here’s to home, RIP

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know before you go: SMF airport

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Flying out of Sacramento, California (SMF) airport is probably the fastest experience of any airport.  It’s impressive.  I’ve flown out of here dozens of times and it has literally never taken me more than 15 minutes from parking to gate, and this is even on holiday weekends.

The airport is about 15 minutes from Downtown Sacramento, so depending on the time of the day, you could be stuck in infamous California traffic, so plan accordingly.

There are two terminals: A & B with 32 gates total.  A is home to American, United, Delta, Jet Blue.  B has Southwest, Alaska, and Hawaiian.  I appreciate when airports have multiple options for coffee shops, and while they are still chains such as Starbucks and Peet’s, at least you have options.  The unique thing about Sacramento is that the food offerings are almost exclusively local Sacramento restaurants, which is an extra nice touch for people to get the local flavor of the town if you only have a layover.

Other than security being fairly efficient and fast, the airport is clean, has a lot of outlets for charging your devices, and has plentiful restrooms.  Downsides, there are not any lounges, but as there are not too many direct international flights, you’re probably not going to have too long of a layover or need to shower here.

Remember: ✈️ = old sac to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = sac kings

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️ (it’s pretty far from downtown, even though the traffic isn’t usually terrible)

Security: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️:  super efficient, especially if you have pre-check

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Dos Coyotes, Burgers and Brew, Iron Horse, Paesano’s, Cafeteria 15L, and Squeeze Inn are all local restaurants, which is nice if you don’t end up leaving the airport)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️ (clean facilities)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available, charging available both in common areas and at the gates)

Amenities:✈️✈️ (no lounges, not a lot of shopping, a somewhat out of place Asian Pacific Californian exhibit?)

 

24 hours in florence

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Florence is the Renaissance city of all Renaissance cities.  Sitting in the cradle of the Tuscan region, Firenze is the locale that probably best encapsulates all of which Italy is known.  It’s a delightful mix of old world and modern Italy, with its cobblestone streets juxtaposed with industry and high fashion.  There is more art than you’ll know what to do with and the food and culture is spectacular.  Take a poll of people who have been to Italy, and I think 8/10 will say Florence is their favorite.  There’s a reason for that, it’s an enchanting, captivating place.

the dog days are over…

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3 Days in Kansas City: happy 816 day

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Happy one year anniversary to this blog!  In honor of that milestone, here’s the very first blog post showcasing one of my favorite places I’ve lived, Kansas City!  And it just so happens to fall on 8/16 day!

Kansas City is underrated.  You will hear me say this over and over again, but it’s true.  There is literally something there for everyone, for all budgets and tastes.  It has Midwestern values combined with a sophisticated art and dining scene comparable to any of its urban counterparts, but psst…it’s more affordable.  I used to tell people back in California that KC is a sleeper city (I’ve heard the term flyover country more times than I care for), but the secret’s out.  KC is having a real moment right now.  After the MLB All Star game in 2012 and the Royals winning the World Series in 2015, people have started to take notice of this city as a travel destination.

I lived in the heart of America for eleven years, so when I visit, I try to hit all of my favorite spots in 2-3 days.  This is a tall order because there’s so much to eat do! Of course, this itinerary assumes that you’re not coming for a specific concert or sporting event.  I could write a thousand posts about that (and maybe I will), but for now here’s my way to spend 3 days in Kansas City, MO (with a cameo from Kansas City, KS, too).

Click those red heels like Dorothy, because there’s no place like home…

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know before you go: JFK

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I have a complex relationship with JFK, as I do with LAX.  Being the two most populous international arrival airports, they should be more inviting and welcoming than they are.  Instead, customs lines are long, people aren’t the friendliest, and they both could be cleaner for sure.  Plus, at JFK, you have to leave security to go terminal to terminal!  There’s no way that’s not confusing to a foreign visitor, or even to a local for that matter.

Perhaps we’re trying to give foreign visitors a picture of what America’s truly like?  Confusing and crowded and sweaty.  At least it’s still better than LaGuardia?

JFK is located in Queens, about 16 miles south of Manhattan.  There are 6 terminals with about 128 gates.  Terminal one serves a bevy of international carriers (Air France, Korean, Lufthansa, JAL, Turkish, Norwegian, WOWAir, Alitalia, Air China, China Eastern).  Terminal 2 is for Delta, Four is for Delta and Skyteam (including Aeromexico, China Airlines, China Southern, KLM; JetBlue, Emirates, Etihad, Singapore and Virgin amongst many others).  Terminal 5 is a club in NYC and it also serves JetBlue.  Terminal 7 has British Airways, Alaska, LOT, Icelandair and Qatar.  Terminal 8 is for American.

Remember: ✈️ = ny i love you but you’re bringing me down to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = welcome to new york (it’s been waiting for you)

Transportation to the airport:  ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (metro, bus, taxi, car, airporter, lots of options)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️ (just the fact that you have to exit and re-enter security sucks)

Convenience of security lines: ✈️✈️ (it goes as fast as it can with the sheer volume of passenger traffic; customs lines can be brutal here)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (there’s lots of options, but it’s inconsistent; like some terminals have McDonald’s and Starbucks, some don’t.  Some have Peet’s and don’t get me started, eesh.  7-Eleven in a few, and Terminal 4 has two Shake Shacks while the others don’t have any.  Some have Dunkin Donuts and Buffalo Wild Wings/Panda Express!  Why so cruel, JFK?  And since it’s NY, so I’m kind of expecting elevated dining, but there isn’t much beyond fast casual)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️ (please don’t judge us by the bathrooms in this airport)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️ (free wifi — didn’t always used to be the case)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️ (again, inconsistent luxury shopping between international terminals.  Tumi, Cartier, Hermes, Mont Blanc — do people need last minute fountain pens as gifts? Good luck in Terminal 2, there’s like a Best Buy kiosk for shopping and that’s it.  Lots of international flights means lots of lounges {except for the last one shutting down in Terminal 5}, but don’t expect any yoga or meditation/prayer rooms in this airport, there’s no real estate for that)

hometown hits: orange, california

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Orange County, California is more than housewives and McMansions. Granted, we do have our fair share of overly plasticized people, sprawling estates and vapid teenagers, but anyone who visits will encounter a far different vantage than what you might have seen in a show.

What they don’t show on TV is a 3 million + populated area filled with cultures from all corners of the world.  There’s Little Saigon, Korean District, and Little Arabia to name a few neighborhoods around.

But, what started it all, and what was most attractive to settlers to this part of Southern California was its miles and miles of orange groves, hence the name of the county.

Before Walt stuck his spike down to create Disneyland, this whole area was filled with ranches amongst the fruit trees.  And in some pockets of the area, you can still unearth some of the history of this county, especially in appropriately named Orange, California.

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on the fringe: day trip to edinburgh

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Edinburgh is the perfect city for a day trip/long layover…especially during the month of August, when the city celebrates its nearly month-long creative arts and entertainment based Fringe Festival.

Even if you’re not visiting for the Fringe benefits (see what I did there?), it’s manageable, transit is well planned and there’s a lot to see and do in a small area.  For being a smaller capital city, Edinburgh’s history is just so rich and jam packed with notable figures and events.  Just don’t be like me and not realize that they use British pounds instead of Euros.  Doh.

Tartan up!

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