the other Sydney (Nova Scotia)

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Sydney, Canada has very little in common with its shared name cousin from down under.  For one, it is quite small, being located in the peninsular province of Nova Scotia.  There are no wallabys or koalas, but there is certainly an abundance of natural beauty.

Sydney, more of a community than actual city, is located Cape Breton Island (no relation to Breton crackers, I don’t think).  This island is located at the far Northeastern tip of the province, and has experienced a boom in tourism over the years due to said natural beauty.

This was the place to see some of the most beautiful fall foliage.  I mean, the roads along the famed Cabot Trail and up in the highlands (the Scots were attracted to this place for a reason) were lined with vibrant hues from the frostbitten leaves.

And yes there is another Canadian Sidney from Nova Scotia, but we’ll get to him later…

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colorful hue, vietnam

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Love a good pun.  Pronounced hway (not really exactly right don’t @ me) not hugh like the color or Grant, this very proud city was the former Imperial capital of Vietnam until the end of the Nguyen dynasty in 1945. I’m sure you’re familiar with what happened next.  Vietnam has three regions, and this is the largest city in the central region (see previous posts on Hanoi and Saigon/HCM).

Hue was the stop after Hoi An, my favorite on the Vietnam itinerary, and I think I would have enjoyed it more had I NOT GOTTEN SICK on the way there.  I made a rookie travel mistake that you will read all about after the jump.  Hot tip: don’t drink foreign beverages.

right hue, wrong hue

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take me down to the Vatican City

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So, I’m not Catholic.  Just gettin’ that little factoid out there.  I am, of course, familiar with the religion and of historical and current events, but I am by no means an expert.  I went to Rome without having read up extensively on the topic, purposefully to leave my mind open to the environment.  Despite my lack of knowledge, I have to say that going to the Vatican City was an unforgettable experience.  There is beauty in the concept of a religion, even if its not yours.

just like a dream, you are not what you seem…

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3 days in Toronto: NBA Finals edition

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A year ago, I literally posted that about the move that sent Kawhi up north. Well, apparently that trade certainly paid off as the Toronto Raptors will be playing the GS Warriors (yawn) in the NBA Finals.  No hate towards the Warriors, but aren’t we all sort of rooting for some new blood to take the Larry O’Brien?

Here’s a throwback post all about the great white north:

Oh Canada…

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day trip to Louisville: Derby time!

Derby City has a long, illustrious history of horse farms, and of course, the Kentucky Derby, but there’s so much more to the city.  It’s the hometown of the Greatest, Muhammad Ali, Louisville Slugger and great southern eats like Kentucky Fried Chicken. Come on, you know you love those 13 spices.

I only got to drive through this city, but the roadtrip through this part of the country is serene and beautiful.  There’s fields of bluegrass for as far as the eye can see and pastoral scenes of horse farms and billboards advertising bourbon distilleries and caves.  It does not get more southern than this.  If you’re coming from the South, you will pass Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, too.  Louisville sits on the banks of the Ohio river and for that, was/is considered the gateway to the South.  And in fact, if you cross the river, you’ll be in Indiana.

Louisville, even though steeped in Southern history, seems very vibrant and young, maybe in part due to the college atmosphere.  There are a lot of trendy coffeeshops, I really liked Quills and local chain Sunergos.

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My first must see in the River City was the Muhammad Ali Center, a cultural museum dedicated to Cassius Clay, the man who would become the greatest American boxer of all time.  This center has interactive displays, movies and even a boxing ring.

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There’s tons of paintings and art featuring him, including this gorgeous piece by LeRoy Neiman.

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It’s not for profit, and celebrates the life of a man who inspired so many.

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The center sits on Louisville’s waterfront, which features a large lawn and green area, with playgrounds, paths and an outdoor event venue.

Louisville’s downtown is actually larger than I expected, with the center being the KFC YUM Center, where the Louisville Cardinal NCAA team plays basketball.  You are in Bourbon country, so there is a Woodford Reserve Club in the arena, and just down the street is one of the distilleries on the Bourbon Trail, Evan Williams.

The buildings in the West Main District and Whiskey Row have facades in the cast iron revivalist style, similar to those in SoHo in NYC.  There are tons of art galleries and museums, hotels in this walkable area.  It’s also home to the arts district of Louisville, with the Center of the Performing Arts and Actors Theatre.  Inside the Actors Theatre is MilkWood, one of severeal Top Chef allum Ed Lee’s dining experiences in the city.  I wanted to try this place so badly, but it was closed when I was passing through.  Louisville has a ton of high end dining options: maybe you’ll run into Tom Brady at Decca or the Fat Lamb, you never know.

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Behind that large gold replica of Michelangelo’s David (not sure the reason for that), lies Proof, a funkily decorated dining room that features everything from catfish dip to bourbon pie.  And of course, they’ve got juleps, which you’ve got to try when you’re in Kentucky.

Just a few blocks down is the Louisville Slugger museum.  You can’t miss it, it’s the one with the 120 foot tall baseball bat in front of it.

IMG_7115.JPGThis museum also serves as an active factory and you can take a 20 minute tour where they show you from start to finish how the bats are made.  Everyone gets a free mini-bat, but just remember not to put it in your carry on if you’re flying (it will be confiscated).  There’s a wall of famous “slugger” autographs and batting cages, of course.  There’s also famous bats that you can hold.  It’s kitschy, but I’m into baseball, so I liked it.

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This was a super quick trip, but that’s a good starting point to your Derby weekend.  Even though Churchill Downs is the main event, don’t forget to explore the other amazing attractions this city has to offer.

Famous Louisvillians: Muhammad Ali, Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lawrence, Hunter S. Thompson, Diane Sawyer, and Rajon Rondo (a motley crew if there ever was one)

Listen to: Nicole Scherzinger, My Morning Jacket, Patty Loveless and Bryson Tiller (Louisville gets more and more interesting as this list goes on)

Souvenirs: umm, Bourbon and a Louisville Sluggers — that should make for a fun night?

Touchdown in Kan-SAS CITY

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THE AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME IS GOING TO BE PLAYED AT ARROWHEAD!  THIS IS NOT A DRILL!

For the first time EVER, Kansas City hosts the AFC Championship game on Sunday and I am STOKED to say the least.  It’s gonna be hella cold, but I know Chiefs Kingdom is going to show up.  Unfortunately, I’ll be watching from Vegas (poor me, right?) but for those who are visiting KC, welcome to the loudest stadium in the NFL!

If you’ve read this blog, you may know that I lived in Kansas City just shy of a dozen years (and write about my visits) and I LOVE coming back.  It will forever be my second home, and the Midwest is very dear to my heart.  The trips have become fewer and far between as I am now an Adult (capital A) with a “job,” but recently I had the chance to go back for a little bit of work and a lot of play.

The changes that have occurred in this city since I left 4 years ago are astounding and numerous, and I guess in some ways I am lucky all of these cool, trendy places weren’t around when I was living there, or else I’d be broke and/or very large.  I’m even luckier that many of my pals still reside here, and I get personal tours every time I return.

I visited some old favorites and found some new ones, and of course, got to spend time with people I love…which is the best reason to travel.

Going back to Kansas City!

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Feliz Navidad from Mexico!

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In the words of the great Jose Feliciano, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart!  Feliz Navidad is one of the all time great Christmas songs, and Mexico is one of the all time great travel destinations.  The culture, food, history, people– everything about this country is amazing.

La Ciudad de Mexico (CDMX) is one of the foremost cosmopolitan areas of the world, with bustling energy, a lively arts and fashion scene, inventive and traditional food culture, and architectural gems galore.  There are well preserved alhambras and monuments reminiscent of the grand plazas of Europe amongst a sea of modern skyscrapers and high rise hotels.

Fun fact: I won the Spanish language award my senior year in high school.  Another fun fact: my Spanish is terrible. Like muy terible. I have the worst American accent when I attempt to speak, but I do try, y es la intencion es lo que cuenta? Un poquito (read: oohn poke-ee-toe)?  En acualmente, escribo mejor que hablar, que lastima!  Lo siento, yo se mi espanol no es bueno, pero me humor por favor.

Nota: Todas las photografias en esta blog post son cortesia de mi hermana.

CDMX is having a real moment right now, so brush off your Paso a Paso book from high school…vamos a Mexico! HOLA y Bienvenidos a Mexico!

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happy holidays 2: lost in new york

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Remember Home Alone 2?  That’s a holiday classic that never gets old.

New York is my favorite US city when it comes to the holidays, and really for lots of people — that’s why it’s featured so heavily in many movies around this season, Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, Scrooged.  From the Rockefeller skaters to the Rockettes, this city comes alive during the most wonderful time of the year.  Even though it’s colder than Jack Frost, there’s something very magical about rockin’ around this enchanting city while it snows.  Happy Hanukah and here’s to dreaming of a white Christmas!

Tis the season!

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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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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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