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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24 hours in Minneapolis

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Did y’all see that game last night? It was a classic, with the Minnesota Vikings pulling off a miracle last play to win over the Saints.  And since the Super Bowl is happening in Minneapolis this year, here’s a repost of the 24 hour guide to the city of 10,000 lakes to prepare those who are heading that way in February!

 

you’re gonna make it after all…

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3 days in the wilderness: Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole, WY

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I am a fan of national parks.  I love them.  They are our national treasures, and I think they are the best thing about this country, by far.  American National Parks feature various ecosystems, geological formations, showcasing the topographic wonders of this country while always continuously championing conservation efforts.

Yellowstone was the first National Park in the United States and one might say it’s the granddaddy of them all.  It was signed into law by Ulysses S. Grant in 1872 and covers a vast land area over Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.  Yogi Bear also lives here.

Just kidding, I know he lives in Jellystone.

Let’s go get us a pic-a-nic basket…

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3 days in Copenhagen

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I can safely report that there is nothing rotten in the state of Denmark.  In fact, I can certify that Denmark is 100% fresh after spending a few days there (rotten tomatoes reference for us nerds).

Danes are known for their convivial spirit as embodied in the trendy term hygge (pronounced who-guh).  There’s no corresponding English word, but it is approximated to cosiness in life, i.e. drinking hot chocolate with your friends by an open fire with a wool blanket while wearing yoga pants.  Hygge is also personal responsibility: the Danish are have a great deal of respect and care for their homeland and fellow man.  They’re said to be one of the happiest peoples in the world and it’s probably because of this trust and friendliness.  People don’t lock their bikes up. This blew my mind.

I spent a culture, food, art, architectural jam packed three days here, and it left me wanting to go back and experience more of that hygge life.  Read my itinerary and tips after the jump.  Hygge down!

I wanna Dansk with somebody…

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24 hours in Minneapolis

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In honor of the Minnesota State Fair, here’s a quick guide for the 1/2 of the Twin Cities. Recently on my way back from the east coast, I decided to take an extended layover to visit one of my friends in Minneapolis.  I’d never seen this city in the summer, only when the snow drifts were higher than my head, and I’d always heard about how beautiful the city of a thousand lakes was when the weather was more amenable.

After landing at MSP, I could see why people might say that.  The skies are terrifically blue with lush greenery everywhere and the people are all outside on their bikes, running in the streets.  Minneapolis is known as a cultural blender of a city, and it’s great to see city dwellers of all types enjoying their city.  Love is all around, no need to waste it…

you’re gonna make it after all…

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know before you go: Taipei (TPE)

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The Taipei Taoyuan Airport (TPE) is one of the most popular layover spots to and from the US to any destination in Asia (serves as a hub for China and Eva Air).  It is so popular, they’re planning on adding a whole new terminal in the next few years to increase the population traveling through by about 45 million/year (that’s like 80 million total)!

I have been through this airport several times to and from Asia, and it never disappoints (even when you’ve missed your flight due to delays and have an unexpected extra night here before being re-routed through another unplanned destination before going home, oh and by the way, they’ve lost your luggage–luckily, there are loungers that are pretty comfortable to sleep in).  There’s a gym where you can shower for free, arcade games, playground areas, a library, and massage areas to pass your time.  And everything is super clean here.

However, it can be confusing to navigate for not having technically that many gates (~ 40).   First of all, it is located about 30 minutes from Taipei, so plan accordingly, as traffic can be a bear.  Once you get there, it’s pretty big for only having two terminals.  Terminal 1 has concourse A (north) and B (south).  Terminal 2 is split into concourse C (south) and D (north).  It’s a little counterintuitive.  Terminals are connected by a SkyTrain (although not the easiest to get to); concourses are connected by the main halls (immigration, passport check, etc). Lounges are on the 4th floor, the departures happen from the 3rd floor, while the arrivals are herded to the 2nd floor from the same gates.  There’s a lot of up down, down up happening in this airport. Fortunately, there are a lot of signs in both Mandarin and English, which helps a lot.

Terminal 1: Emirates, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cathay, etc (flights to most Asian countries)

Terminal 2: Delta, United, Eva, China, China Southern, China Eastern, Singapore, Japan, KLM (flights to non-Asian countries)

Once in your concourse, it gets easier.  There are a lot of restroom facilities, breast feeding rooms, cultural displays, and restaurants–mostly fast casual.

The food choices are mostly Taiwanese/Asian inspired except for standard Starbucks, McDonalds and Subway.  I had an above average Taiwanese beef noodle soup in the Terminal 2 food court.  The shopping has a lot of local Taiwanese souvenirs, teas, aboriginal gifts, but not so much in terms of luxury boutiques (for some reason I only remember Van Cleef & Arpels and Bvlgari).

The best thing about this airport are the themed gates.  Namely one…the Hello Kitty gate.  Eva Air features a Hello Kitty flight, so one of their gates is decked out in all her glory.  IMG_0602.jpg

Remember: ✈️ = goodbye, kitty to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = hello, kitty

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️✈️ leaving Taipei (the luggage carts are free), but immigration line on arrival was ✈️✈️

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (not bad for Asian food, not the best for variety)

Bathrooms:✈️✈️✈️✈️ (very clean facilities and a plus for availability of free shower)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️  (free wifi available)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (gym, arcade, cultural exhibits, Hello Kitty, airline lounges, places to sleep, however I expect more variety from duty free shopping)

3 days in Nashville

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Of the places I’ve lived, I’d say Nashville was the most fun (and I grew up minutes from Disneyland).  I LOVED living in Music City and go back whenever I can.  It seems everyone else in the US has this idea, as tourism and people moving to Nashville is at an all time high.  So much so that they are undertaken a huge project to increase the size of BNA to accommodate more flights (including a new nonstop from London–watch out, Nashville, Harry Styles is coming for you).

It’s no wonder why…this is a world class destination.  There’s no way you can fit it in 3 days, but I sure as hell try when I visit.  I usually return for a concert, Bonnaroo/CMA fest, sporting event, special occasion–whatever the reason for your trip, just know that you will leave Nashville less rested, a few pounds heavier, but your soul will be more fulfilled than when you arrived.

Pack your antacids and settle in kids, this is gonna be a long one, but it should have you..

Chillin like a Nashvillain…

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