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…

Get your green on!   Continue reading

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!

 

 

bon voyage: know before you go CDG

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Paris is one of THE magnificent cities of the world, and its main airport? C’est si bon!  It is the second largest airport by volume in Europe and the 10th largest in the world.  Obviously Paris is a destination in its own right, but as a port to the rest of the world, if you’re headed to Africa or the Middle East, good chance you could be stopping here, too.

The hub for Air France, this airport is named after the leader of the French resistance against Nazi Germany during WWI who later became president of the newly re-democratic France, Charles de Gaulle.  The history is complex, so you’re gonna have to trust me when I say he was a very notable French figure in the 20th century.  They don’t name airports after just anyone (see: the soon to be Muhammad Ali airport in Louisville).

There are three Terminals, but the set up is not exactly like other airports.  Terminal 1 is for airport operations, mass transit stations, shops and restaurants, check in counters and baggage claim.  Terminal 2 is split into sub-terminals 2A-2G. 2E is where your long haul flights will be, as it can accommodate Airbus A380.  Air France international flights are almost all exclusively run through Terminal 2 (American, Delta are also Terminal 2, while United flies through both 1 and 2A).  2F is for intercontinental European and 2G is in a separate building and is dedicated to regional Air France flights.  Terminal 3 is for budget airlines.

Remember: ✈️ = hate it  to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ =   louvre it (sorry i couldn’t do any better, i’m le tired)

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (16 miles away, but RER metro transit will take you from central Paris –and there’s a new express trains coming soon.  There are also express buses and old fashioned car travel as well)

Ease of navigating through terminals:  ✈️✈️✈️ (there are CDGVAL trains that will take you from one terminal to the next; it does get confusing though and there’s not a lot of helpful people jumping at the chance to help you)

Convenience of check in/security lines:  ✈️✈️✈️ (there are a lot of travelers here, that doesn’t make things go quickly)

Dining:✈️✈️✈️✈️ (there is only one thing to know and that is there is a Laduree in 2F.  Otherwise, there’s a McD’s, Starbucks and Pre-A-Manger along with french offerings)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️ (fair for an airport of its size)

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

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (this is Paris, home of Cartier, Dior, Chanel, Hermes, Lacoste, Louis Vuitton, Longchamp, Saint Laurent –you will find them all here along with well known Italian brands too 😉  All that’s missing is Goyard and Louboutin and then you’d have the best place ever airport shopping center in the world.  There are MANY lounges available as well — Air France/Delta SkyTeam in like all terminals, American, Etihad, Air Canada, El Al, Emirates, Qatar, SAS, Lufthansa, United/Star Alliance, Cathay Pacific.  Also, this airport was used in both U2 and Alan Parsons project album artwork, so extra cool points.  J’aime cela!)

24 hours in Vienna

Austria is one of those fly under the radar countries.  Like, in the way that it’s surprising you don’t hear about how amazing it is all the time.  Because you should.  Because it truly is.

Especially it’s capital and largest city, Vienna or Wien (they speak German here).  Not Ween, that’s an alt-rock band.  This is a European city: there’s sprawling boulevards, a backdrop of rolling hills and mountainous terrain, miles of shoreline along the Danube river, awe-inspiring art, stunning Roman and Baroque architecture, amazing food, interesting if not dubious history (umm home of Freud, Hitler and Lenin?), innovation and culture, and…it’s the sound city of music.

plan your travel soon because vienna waits for you

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weekend in krakow

When I was in fourth grade, one of the books required for reading was called The Trumpeter of Krakow.  This was a tale of persecution, crystals and alchemy, a haunting brass pronouncement, and arson.  Things that every child should learn about.

Flash forward some years, who’d have thunk I’d be standing in the middle of Pope John Paul II’s hometown, staring at that very tower where the Trumpeter was murdered?

Not 10 year old me, that’s for sure.

Poland is one of those former Eastern Bloc countries that typically flies under the radar, which I guess is a good thing for them because it’s not yet completely overrun by tourists.  I really loved visiting it, from the metropolitan and bustling capital Warsaw to the low key and casual Krakow.  Of course, there is a very storied history of this country because of role as the incendiary event of WWII (when the Germans invaded) which then lead to them being occupied by USSR from then until the end of the Cold War in 1989.  Lots of history.  Don’t sleep on Poland, I guarantee you it will be one of Europe’s must visit destinations in the next few years.

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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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day trippin’ dubrovnik: world cup edition

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GOOOOAAALLLL! It’s going to be Croatia vs France in the World Cup Finals on Sunday, so what better way to prepare for what is going to undoubtedly be a nailbiter, then to highlight the two nations?  I’ve already written extensively about the best of Paris, France, but congratulations to Croatia for making it to their first ever FIFA final!  You kinda have to root for the underdog, right?  I’m just happy I get to write about one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited, Dubrovnik, Croatia.

I visited Dubrovnik a really long time ago.  Like, we’re talking, I barely had my driver’s license/independence, and they barely had theirs.  It’s obviously changed quite a bit.  Back then, being in Dubrovnik was so memorable because it was a relatively unbothered by tourism (except cruise ships, which is how I came to visit).  Croatia had only declared independence from the former Yugoslavia republic in 1991, gaining that right in 1995 after winning their war.  I visited 5 years later, so the nation was a baby.

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mt srd then…scroll down for mt srd now

But babies grow up…and turn into popular teenagers.

Like really popular…instagram-influencer-status teenagers.  Seems like it is the hot destination of the moment, and I’m glad it’s getting its day in the limelight.  There’s a bustling tourism trade, especially due to its location as a jewel on the Adriatic Sea.  The coastline is one of the most gorgeous you will see, with its orange rooftops and imposing fortresses.  I guess some really popular TV show filmed there too — thrones something or other (wink wink), and that draws a lot of people, too.

As it has been some years, I’ve enlisted the help of my pal (and fellow traveling doc) BD, who has graciously let me use some of his photos and given me some updated tips.

it’s a nice day for a red wedding…

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that’s amore: 36 hours in venezia

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What is there to say about Venice that hasn’t been said?  It is the pre-eminent beautiful destination of the world.  A city made up of thousands of tiny islands, its canals are the vasculature to the heart of the city, Piazza di San Marco.

With great beauty comes great tourism, and I think that is the main detractor from the city itself.  There’s too many people here, and in turn, the culture has turned outward rather than inward.  Of course, there is still great art, food and history, all things Italians are most proud of, but you have to push through the crowds and dig deep to find it.

It’s worth it.  Just live in the moment, enjoy the fact that you have the privilege of being surrounded by gorgeous scenery.  Che bella e la dolce vita…

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know before you go: (HAM) hamburg

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hamburg fish market

When you go here, you’re literally GOING HAM. (!)

Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city.  I know, I thought it was Munich, too!  But, Hamburg edges it out at ~ 1.8 million people, and attracts many more as it is a very popular destination for tourists.

Despite having more people, HAM is only Germany’s fifth busiest airport.  It seems like every international airline in the world operates flights to and from this airport, from the common like British Airways and United to the obscure like Iran Air and Air Malta (although United in the only American airline represented,  and that’s only seasonal flights from Newark). There are two terminals, 1 services most of the airlines in Oneworld and SkyTeam alliances.  Terminal 2 houses Lufthansa and its Star Alliance partners.

Remember: ✈️ = hamburglar to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = hamburger helper

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (located 5 mi from the city center and easily reached by train or Deutsch Bahn)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (McDonald’s, Starbucks, and a lot of bakeries, which allows an extra ✈️)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (clean, of course, it’s Europe)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available, fair amount of charging)

Amenities:✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Lufthansa, Emirates and AirBerlin lounges, brands popular with Germans like Gant, Desigual, Moleskine, Ray Ban; there’s also a pharmacy, acupressure massage and a dental office! Gotta love German efficiency.)

london calling part 1

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As the world gears up for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding, scores and scores of journalists and fans will be flocking to London town (well, Windsor for the actual nuptials) to try and catch a glimpse of the royal entourage.

If you’re one of the lucky few, or even if you’re not, take this opportunity to delight in the sights of one of the best cities in the world.  It’s incomparable, really.  So much jam packed history, art, music, everything!  All roads lead back to London.

Mind the gap…

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