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!)

All’s Mayahual in Costa Maya

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Quintana Roo is an eastern Mexican state on the Yucatan peninsula and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. From Cancun to Cozumel, you will find resort towns dotting the entire length of the Caribbean coast. It’s not all sandy beaches, there’s a ton of historical Mayan settlements and various ecosystems.

Costa Maya is basically a Disney-fied version of a Mexican port. Legit, it literally looks like the same developers who build the attractions at Disney built it – from the colorful plaster/stucco walls to the just-so perfect vibrant décor. El nombre real de esta area en del este de Mexico es Mahahual. I guess they figure that’s a little harder to pronounce than the more Anglicized Costa Maya. It is basically the southern most point of the Mexican seaboard and is a stone’s throw away from Belize.

My oh Mayans…

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know before you go: MIA

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One of the few times the blog post title actually makes sense because chances are, during a weekend in Miami, there’s a high probability of actually going MIA.

Miami International (formerly Wilcox Airport) is one of the busiest airports in volume and is a main gateway to Latin America.  This place is always bustling.  Located about 8 miles from Downtown, it serves the entire metropolitan area of Miami/Dade County.

Like everything else in this city, the set up is a little confusing, with three terminals: North, Central and South. North houses the largest Concourse, D, which is the main home of American and takes the bulk of passengers both domestic and international.  Central Terminal has Concourses E, F, and G serving OneWorld, international carriers and domestics, respectively.  South Terminal has Concourses H and J, which serves Delta/SkyTeam and Star Alliance with a few One World carriers as well.  In total, there are 131 gates.

Remember: ✈️ = miami vice to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ =  welcome to miami

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (8 miles from downtown, there is a MetroRail, Amtrak, buses and buses)

Ease of navigating through terminals:  ✈️✈️✈️ (it’s a large airport, so at least there’s the MIAmover to take you between terminals and to the rental car facility.  It’s a little bit of a hike to get there though)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Where MIA achieves success is having a lot of dining options that explore local flavors.  There’s a lot of Cuban food in this airport, like a lot, a lot.  From the famed Cafe Versailles to the modern Ku Va, if you have a hankering for some Cubano treats, you’ve got it.  There’s also the normal Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Dunkin, McD’s, KFC, Sbarro, TGIFriday’s, Taco Bell, Burger King, Nathan’s fare.)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️ (Terminal D is very well lit, clean, could have more locations)

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

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (hotel on the premises, yoga room, Military Hospitality, multiple American Admiral’s clubs, VIP lounge by LATAM, Delta Sky Club, Avianca/Star Alliance, and even a Consular lounge for foreign dignitaries, which is kind of cool.  MIA also fancies itself as a mall, and there are the typical brands like Michael Kors, Coach, MAC, Bijoux Terner, Sunglass Hut and Hudson.  There’s also some specialty shops that are hella random shops like RonJon, Penguin and Johnnie Walker to keep it interesting.  Great place to people watch, saw the Chainsmokers at the gate last time I was here.)

 

 

 

row, row, roatan

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Honduras.

Not a region of Mexico.

There’s been plenty of news out of this country in regards to the dangerous conditions and crime, but what doesn’t get as much press is that it is a culturally rich country abutting the Caribbean sea that has white sandy beaches, temperate surf and colorful, friendly people.

Tropical the island breeze, all of nature wild and free, this is where I long to be…

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here’s looking at you CMN: know before you go Casablanca

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Play it again, Sam.  Originally built by the US as a military airport during WWII, Casablanca’s Mohammed V airport has evolved into the busiest airport in Morocco.  After Morocco gained its indepedence from France in the 1950s, the airport basically rebranded into a public airport named after the former King/Sultan of Morocco, Mohammed V who ruled in the 50s-60s.

There are two terminals 1 (domestic and international) and 2 (international).  It is the hub of Royal Air Maroc and probably services more passengers from Paris to Morocco than any other airport in the country.

Remember: ✈️ = what in heaven’s name brought you to casablanca? to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = the beginning of a beautiful friendship

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (30 km from the city, but there is a train station on in Terminal 1 that will take you to the city)

Ease of navigating through terminals:  ✈️✈️ (Terminals 1 and 2 are connected, lack of signage makes things a little difficult.  Airport communication is in French, Arabic and English but can be confusing)

Convenience of check in/security lines:  ✈️ (very crowded, expect longer wait times)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (some westernized options: Starbucks, pomme de pain — very expensive)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️ (could use more facilities based on the level of passenger traffic)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️ (free wifi x 30 minutes, remember your European adaptor plugs)

Amenities: ✈️✈️ (there’s a few international brand stores, local Moroccan purveyors, pharmacy, urgent care, Pearl lounge and a VIP concierge service)

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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taipei getaway

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Taipei is the capital of Taiwan, the large island formerly known as Formosa, just off the coast of China.  Officially, this commonwealth is currently a part of the PROC, but it has had a very tumultuous history due to its location between Japan and China.

Because of its location as a gateway to the East, it is a very popular stopover destination.  I have used it as such twice and found it to be every bit as exciting as some of my final destinations.

Perhaps the most well known feature of this city is its bounty of night markets and food.  The origin of your milk teas and soup dumplings, Taiwan is a food lover’s fever dream.

boba fete…

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Sonoma Wine Country Weekend

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In honor of the new Amy Poehler directed movie, Wine Country, that hit Netflix last week, here’s to celebrating some of the best Sonoma Valley has to offer.

Visiting Napa during Memorial Day weekend is a must for my all time festival love, Bottlerock, but I actually almost prefer the less crowded, easy going nature of the Sonoma Valley.   They’re both great.  This is how you know you’re old, by how much you enjoy wine country.

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half of my heart is in havana

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Cuba has always been a mysterious destination to me, an off limits locale due to the long standing US embargo.  And what they say is true, you often want what you can’t have.  Thus, when the travel ban was eased in 2015, Havana shot to the top of my list of places to travel, and I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to visit.

Growing up in the US, there was not much information about this large Caribbean nation other than what was very briefly covered in history books, so I didn’t know what to expect.

This turned out to be a good thing because Havana was the best surprise.  I was stricken by its je ne sais quois (or no se que in Spanish…doesn’t really translate ;).  I mean, it’s an incredibly culturally rich and beautiful city.  It is both quaint and cosmopolitan, architecturally divine with its expansive boulevards and thoughtful city planning.  But there’s more to it than that because a lot of cities have those things and they’re not quite as fascinating.

Historically speaking, from pirates to American gangsters, you’re not going to find as interesting a place in these parts.  The country’s rise to immense power due to the sugar trade was astounding and its revolutionary history with its colorful figures is even more intriguing.  And being closed off to American travel for so long?  Maybe that adds to the allure.  Whatever it is, Havana is a really wonderful destination.

As Camila Cabello says, take me back, back, back…

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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?