3 days in Boston

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Boston has had a pretty good past few days with the Pats beating my Chiefs on SNF and the Sox defeating the Astros on Sunday.  But today is a new day, and we’ll see if Boston can continue its streak against Houston.  Starting with Beantown, here’s the first in the series of the ALCS/NLCS cities.

One if by land, two if by sea…

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miss saigon: weekend in HCM City

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Vietnam is one of the most popular places in the world to travel, probably because it has everything: culture, art, delicious food, natural beauty, miles upon miles of beaches, history, welcoming people, hospitality and above all else, affordability.  You can live like a king on a moderate budget, every dollar goes super far here, while not sacrificing quality.

When traveling to Vietnam, you’re going to want to traverse the entire country, as there are unique landscapes, disparate culture and people throughout.  Even though it’s a smallish country, citizens from each region are very proud of their own distinct communities, from food to style and everything in between.  Just don’t get into a debate about who invented pho…there’s no winning with that one (it was the northerners ;).

The south of Vietnam is a great place to start.  Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is the country’s largest city by population.  The history of this city is rich, from its origin after Vietnamese conquered Khmer area, to the capital of French colonial rule to the then doomed epicenter of the Republic of Vietnam.  Because of the timeline of all sorts of different influences, the city is a mishmash of architectural styles.

Above all else, this is probably the epicenter of the future of Vietnam, with skyscrapers sprouting up everywhere and a population that is projected to be near 15 million in the next few years.  Not as cramped as Hanoi, this area is certainly still very crowded with motorbikes and people teeming into the streets every which way…and it’s ever changing.

blink and you’ll miss saigon

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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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36 hours in phoenix & scottsdale

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Phoenix is hot.

Literally and figuratively.   Phoenix has been one America’s fastest growing cities over the years, and it seemingly hosts every major sporting event possible (BCS bowl games, Super Bowl, Final Four, etc) because of its world class stadiums and ample hotel facilities.  No doubt it’s in part by having the tony suburb of Scottsdale and college towns of Tempe and Glendale nearby adding to its metropolitan area mix.

The capital of Arizona, Phoenix is your perfect desert getaway for a weekend, that’s why so many snowbirds head south to Phoenix, especially in the winter.  And for the rest of us: there’s spas, shopping, golf and fabulous chain restaurants.  Jk there’s obviously great local stuff including a rich art and cultural scene (so many murals!).

phoenix is rising

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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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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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3 days in Reykjavik

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As we all swelter in the blazing sun today, all I can do is dream of the perpetually cool, crisp air in Reykjavik.  While I dream of my next trip to somewhere more brisk, here’s a little #tbt to cooler weather in Iceland.

Iceland is super trendy.  In the past decade, there’s been a >300% increase in the amount of visitors to Iceland — it’s almost to the point where you barely see any locals.  Because I have the worst FOMO ever, I needed to go here before tourists overrun everything and American chains start moving in.  Everyone in my family had already gone (which is not a reason to travel, but again, FOMO), so off I headed to Reykjavik for an Icelandic adventure.

all is full of love…

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weekender in LA: good as gold

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If you’ve ever read food writing in or about any city other than Los Angeles, then you’ve probably never truly experienced how transcendent and indispensable the Counter Intelligence column was to food and culture…and to life in Los Angeles.  Its author was a king in the food world, imparting a Midas touch on any eatery he liked, no exaggeration, as his name was appropriately, Jonathan Gold.

(That was my piss poor attempt to write second person as he did so well).

As a lifelong Southern Californian, hearing about Mr. Gold’s sudden passing was heartbreaking.  You can’t really know how pervasive and revered his opinion was unless you lived and breathed and ate what he ate.  He ate, and ate…real food.

He believed that it was the stick to your soul, sizzling off the wok, fatty soup belly that creates the indelible memories and experiences of a grand food life lived.  And of course, he was right!  Jonathan Gold was the one who would gently steer you in this direction, showing you the light, making things that seemed inaccessible or scary become familiar and expected.

Mr. Gold brought to the masses what all children of immigrants in SoCal have known for years…that the best meals happen in somewhat shabby strip malls, in the sticky dining rooms of mom and pop shops — often times with no white linen table cloths in sight.  Although he wasn’t that discerning, there was a time and place for those experiences, too.  He taught us that all types of cuisine, and on a larger scale, all types of people could and should be celebrated.

He was a champion of the unadorned, the unpretentious, whilst peppering his reviews with esoteric references that elevated the intelligence of his reader.  Only a true master of his craft could achieve such a feat.  And he was recognized for it, having been the only food critic to receive a Pulitzer Prize for food writing.

He was a legend in a city of stars.  Undoubtedly, one of its most influential characters; after all, it was often his opinion that brought everyone to the table.

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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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