Rome if you want to…

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Rome is a polarizing place.  For some, it represents the peak of romance, beauty and charm. For others, it’s a crowded, tourist-laden nightmare.  I think its real appeal is that it’s both; it’s a city of contradictions.  There is a mix of ancient and modern, sometimes seamless in execution (turning on a busy street and seeing the Parthenon) and others not so much (the futile attempt of expanding the Metro due to delays in the name of archeology). It’s very urban, but yet has simple charms similar to those found in Italy’s most rural countryside villages.  There are so many relics and ruins; it’s often a little overwhelming! But, if you take a step back to enjoy the moment, it’s a city that can leave you breathless.  You will understand why it’s called the Eternal City.

Take a Roman holiday…

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know before you go: Los Angeles (LAX)

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I have often called LAX the eighth portal of hell, and I mean it.  There is no worse pain than landing at LAX on a Friday afternoon/night.  Well, maybe there is if you’re Chrissy Teigen and John Legend.  Y’all need to stop what you’re doing right now and read about their 8 hour flight from LAX to LAX due to a passenger snafu last night.  I would die.

Anyway, if you’re flying into LA, hope you didn’t make any plans because you’ll be stuck for an hour before you can even reach Century or Sepulveda Blvds.  It has one of the worst traffic flow designs of any place that is allegedly supposed to serve that many people.  Like the architect deliberately thought, how can we purposely make it so there’s only one route out that bottlenecks like crazy?

Even though it one of the worse places on this planet (you think I’m exaggerating.  I am not), it’s a necessary evil that has to be dealt with because you can fly almost anywhere from there.  One of the busiest airports by volume, if you’ve flown internationally from SoCal, you’ve likely flown out of LAX.  It is the second busiest airport in the US by passenger load, and maybe for this week it is a little better than the busier ATL (at least there’s power).

There are 8 numbered terminals separate from the Tom Bradley International terminal.  1= Southwest; 2 = Delta and SkyTeam members: Aer Lingus, WestJet, Virgin, Aeromexico.  3 = Delta, Copa, Avianca, Interjet; 4 = American 5 = American, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit, Sun Country. 6 = Alaska, Virgin America, Air Canada, Mokulele, Great Lakes. 7 and 8 = United.  There are random exceptions in terms of check in counters for some of the international carriers of the codeshare alliances, but all international flights return to Tom Bradley (TBIT).

I will give it one thing though, there’s some good shopping there, particularly duty free.  And if you’re uber wealthy, there are separate luxury lounges that are not connected to the terminals where you can get checked in and taken to your plane by SUV.  There could be more restaurants, as the selection is dispersed sparingly amongst the terminals.

Remember: ✈️ = welcome to the jungle to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = i love LA (we love it)

Convenience to the city: ✈️  (theoretically it is, practically it is not; may the odds be ever in your favor if you’re flying in during peak hours, rideshares help but it takes awhile)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️  (you’re at the mercy of shuttle buses on the tarmac that wind passengers around planes from terminal to terminal)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️ ✈️ (fairly efficient for its size)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (three planes because the eateries are good, but limited in each terminal, so there’s not that many given options.  But…you should look for Ink.sack by Michael Voltaggio in TBIT, La Brea Bakery in Terminal 1, lots of Coffee Beans and Starbucks as well as local coffee shops around; Pinkberry locations, Panda Expresses, Shake Shack in terminal 3, Wolfgang Puck eateries in 6, the Habit and Wahoo’s fish tacos in 6; LA’s hipcute cafeteria Lemonade in 5, Umami Burger, 800 Degrees Pizza, SlapFish, etc)

Bathrooms: ✈️  (don’t expect them to be that clean unless you’re in a recently renovated terminal)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️  (no free wifi, which makes complete sense)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️ (every lounge ever (including a luxe Qantas), retail from bliss spa, Spanx to Burberry, Gucci, Hermes, Harley Davidson — wish there were more options per terminal, but hey real estate is a premium here.  I took one plane off because the Sanrio store closed.  Also, don’t forget to check out the spacey Theme Building on arrival, home of the former Encounters restaurant (wasn’t actually that bad food wise) but now is a viewing deck on the weekends)

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4 tres magnifique days in Paris

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There are not enough adjectives to describe the wonder of Paris.  No one needs a guide to this city, there are a million ways to enjoy it, and the little discoveries down every alleyway are what makes this place special.  You don’t need a ton of money, you don’t even need to see any of the popular tourist attractions.  You could walk around for days and not spend one cent and be content.  It’s all splendor.  The air is different when you arrive in this city of light and magic.  You feel different, you get a new lease on life– nouvelle joie de vivre.

I’ve been all over the world, and there is no city that causes my heart to take flight like Paris.  No city that comes close in terms of architecture and art and food.  It’s the ultimate muse for any travel fantasy, it puts the lust in wanderlust.  There’s a romanticism that cannot be recreated anywhere else; it’s no wonder that Paris salons attracted the best in art and literature to a bohemian lifestyle in the capital city.

To get a true sense of the city, you have to at least spend 4-5 days here.  My first visit more than a decade ago lasted for almost two weeks.  I saw the entire city as a 16 year old, and even though we did not have smart phones back in the dark ages (le horreur), I’ll never forget the moments during that trip.  It started my love affair with France and gets reignited every time I come back. C’est magnifique.

la vie en rose

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3 days in Boston

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I think I’m going to Boston, I think I’ll start a new life.  So are the lyrics of the Augustana hit from the early 2000s that fill my head every time I go here.  It’s a great city for new starts and rejuvenations, being both young and vibrant whilst steeped in history and tradition.

One if by land, two if by sea…

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3 days in Toronto feat. Niagara Falls

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As far as bucket lists go, Niagara Falls is typically a popular featured destination, for good reason.  I can’t believe I’d never been until now!  It’s one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world, and it’s right in our own backyard.  *Whispers: the Canadian side is better. Sore-y, not sore-y.

Of all of the places I’ve been in our great neighbor to the north, Canada, I had never made it to the eastern side of the country.  But, with all of my immediate family out of the country for Thanksgiving, no time was better to seize the moment and head across the border to Toronto.  I traded turkey for Tim Hortons, and I regret nothing.

Oh Canada…

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weekend in la la land

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Growing up in Southern California, I spent some time in Los Angeles, but never actually lived there.  So, that makes me a total tourist whenever I come to town, and I love it.

It’s sun-kissed, starry-eyed and there’s literally everything you could ever want.  There’s beaches, top education, sports, movie stars, museums, shopping, innovative food and technology.  There’s perfect weather and beautiful bodies, it’s the epitome of the glamorous life.

I love LA.  (we love it).

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24 hours in Prague

Prague is probably the most popular destination in Central Europe.  It’s a great city filled with spectacular vistas and bridges and churches.  It’s the city of a hundred spires, packed to the brim with Medieval churches, a castle, cobblestone paths.  It’s very walkable, and the beer is cheaper than water (it basically is water?) .   It’s a european city, so there’s also a thriving red light district and sex museums–fun for everyone, question mark.  What do you expect, it was the capital of Bohemia at one point.

Praha is a classic destination, with art, culture and architecture abound.  I spent a much too short 24 hours here, and while there are other cities I prefer, this is certain a must see for anyone traipsing around Europe looking for a good time.

The devil wears praha

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3 days in Seattle

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Seattle is one of my top five destinations.  The drizzly climate suits me, there’s an abundance of arts, music and food, and it’s just so damn cool.  The people here are hip, tech savvy and seemingly pave the way for the rest of us without caring if we know it or not.  It’s also so close to the effortlessly amazing Vancouver.  I love the Pacific Northwest.

That being said, it’s hard to do a city guide for a few days because there’s just so much to see.  I could probably do a half dozen guides representing each trip I’ve taken here in the past 5 years, and maybe one day I will.  I’m a true believer that you should do the touristy things on your first trip to get them out of the way so that you can start exploring the local vibes of a city, but in Seattle some of their tourist spots are the best and I like to visit them every time I’m in town.

SO much to do, you’ll probably be left sleepless in Seattle…

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36 hours in Cleveland

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There are very few pleasures in my life akin to traveling to a new destination to see one of my favorite bands perform. This pastime has allowed me to explore cities all over the US and immerse myself amongst locals, which is truly what I love.  Wanderlust sigh.

Recently, I traveled for the first time to Lebron James’ town Cleveland, Ohio to see U2 perform on the Joshua Tree Tour.  This was my second time traveling to see U2, the only band whose music soars better in stadiums than in smaller venues, and as always it was resplendent.  I have climbed highest mountains, I have run through the fields, only to be with them (sic).  Who better to spend a Cleveland summer night with, than ~70,000 locals?  It was a beautiful day…sorry not sorry.

Even though I only had a limited amount of time, I still managed to pack in a ton of sites and eats while discovering that there is so much more to see.  Believeland delivered like Lebron on an alley-oop from Kevin Love.  Guess I’ll just have to come back when NBA season starts up again because…

Cleveland rocks.

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