Tag Archives: Travel

Three Quotes And A Photo

We took a two-week road trip recently through Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky, (another blog), and I came across three quotes or phrases that I thought were fun, along with one very interesting photo.

The phrases first…

What is a bookshelf other than a treasure chest for a curious mind.
(I like this for all the obvious reasons)

Say what you will about the south but no one retires and moves north.
(I never thought about this before but there is some truth to the words)

Intoxicated people, children and leggings, never lie.
(Well now, we can go on forever about this line)

As for the photo, I was stopped at a light in Lexington, Kentucky and saw this window advertisement for the attached business.


Now, I’m not really sure what kind of establishment this is. Is it a bait and tackle shop? A bar and grill? I was thinking maybe both but the fine print right next to her lips and below the anchor says…you’re sure to catch something.

That altered my mindset just a bit. While I was tempted to investigate, I thought better of it and left when the light turned green. Not that I wasn’t curious but you know what they say about curiosity.

Besides, I just wasn’t in the mood to catch anything from a place called Ole Hookers.

Driving The Blue Ridge

We had an opportunity last month to take a road trip to North Carolina/Virginia. We spent a few days in Asheville, which has an abundance of crazy good restaurants then headed north along the Blue Ridge Parkway to a pretty little town called Blowing Rock. It’s one of those drives  you can probably make in two hours. It took us seven. There were just too many beautiful places to stop along the way. A short hike or two and before you know it the sun was getting lower in the sky. A few weeks later in October and the colors along the parkway must have been gorgeous. Anyway, here are a few of the places we stopped to take a look, understanding that photos never do these scenes justice.
Please keep in mind I’m not a photographer and I was only using my iPhone.

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During one of our hikes we heard music playing on a phone laying on a tree stump. We looked up and saw two people up in a tree. When I told them I had to take their picture they laughed and asked me to take one with their phone as well. I don’t know who they are but they made the blog.

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If you ever have an opportunity to visit the mountains of North Carolina, and I highly recommend it, take a long day and a slow drive between Asheville and Blowing Rock. You won’t be disappointed.

Judging Perceptions

Quite a few years ago I happened to be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for a meeting. Clean city, nice people. As I was waiting for the hotel elevator with a middle-aged couple, we had a brief but very nice conversation. In the few minutes it took for the elevator to arrive and take us to our floor, we talked briefly about the city of Milwaukee. They were from Wisconsin but visiting for a couple of days. As we stepped off on the same floor, we continued speaking about the new ballpark and the city’s proximity to Chicago, which was only a 45 minute drive. It was a very nice conversation and we even laughed once or twice. As we were saying goodbye, the woman asked me what brought me to Milwaukee and where I was from. I told her I was in the city on business and that I was from New Jersey. In an instant, her facial expression changed as she said, “I’m surprised you’re even speaking to us.”  With that, they both turned and walked away quickly, as if I had some sort of infectious disease they were afraid of catching.

New Jersey.

Those two words conjure up all kinds of jokes, hostilities and images. Hollywood and late night talk shows have had a field day with it. Comedians regularly include it in their acts. Speak with people from other states and many times their feelings are similar to that Wisconsin couple. Traveling by car to another state with New Jersey plates and you will be lucky if they don’t flip the closed sign on you as you pull up. A recent poll I read claims New Jersey is the least liked state in the union and the only state in the U.S. in which more people have an unfavorable opinion of than a favorable one.

I’ve often wondered why people feel this way and what all these negative opinions are based on. I suppose the impression many people have of New Jersey is what they see when they fly into Newark Airport. The see the ports and the smoke stacks of the refineries on their way into New York and they think the entire state looks like that. They run into someone who may be rude to them at the airport and think everyone in the state will have the same personality. They watch the Sopranos and think everyone in the state is mobbed up. The watch Jersey Shore and believe everyone at the beach is a lewd drunk with little common sense or morals, even though the people in that show were from New York.

How sad that we allow others to define our views and opinions based on what their limited experiences may have been. Is the area around Newark Airport unattractive? You bet. But if that’s all you care to see, then you’re missing this……..

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And if you think the beaches are only what you’ve seen on the embarrassment of the Jersey Shore show, then you’re missing this…..

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At this point, I’m guessing you think this is an advertisement about New Jersey. It isn’t. It’s about allowing others to decide for us. It’s about making up our own minds about a place or, more importantly, a person. It’s about giving everyone an opportunity.

Every state has their armpit areas as well as their fair share of rudeness. Maybe we’re a little more direct here about what we say and how we say it but quite honestly, I prefer that approach. I’ve been places where people smile at you and say, “bless your heart,” as the knife is going in your back. How sweet.

I wonder how many people we never got to know because someone else told us to avoid them. I wonder how many places we’ve never visited because someone else had a bad experience, which may have been their own doing. How much music, how many restaurants, how many trips have we lost because of what someone else said.

Why?

After all, when was the last time you believed anything that came out of Hollywood? Talk show hosts and comedians? Really? These are the people whose opinion you really want to take into consideration?

We’re all smarter than that.

Aren’t we?

 

NYC Cupcake Tour

I love desserts. I could go to dinner and be perfectly happy ordering an appetizer and dessert and if you want to skip the app, that would be fine with me. So when one of our daughters gave us a cupcake tour in New York City as a gift, my happy face had a happy face.

The tour happened in and around Greenwich Village and included six stops. Not every stop involved a cupcake, which was fine with me. You want to have a cupcake tour and throw in a few different kinds of desserts? That’s like asking me if it’s okay to take me on an ice cream tour and include pies, cakes and a chocolate stop. How is that even a serious question?

The walking tour was supposed to last two-hour but it ran over about thirty minutes and involved walking about a mile and a half.

The first stop was a little store called Baked by Melissa. These were not your typical cupcakes but rather the top of a mini cupcake. They were all very different and priced at one dollar each. Melissa’s is just off Union Square in case you’re ever in the neighborhood. Our sample was a seasonal creation called a Lemon Cuparoon and it was very good.

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Our second stop was a gelato/sorbet place called Amorino. They don’t just serve gelato in a cup as many places do, they create a work of art, as seen by the photo below. Their gelato is served like a flower and it’s impressive to watch them make it, especially when they incorporate more than one flavor. Our sample today was a seasonal mango sorbet and I have to say I’ve never tasted sorbet like this. It was made with all natural ingredients and felt like I was biting into a fresh mango both in texture and taste. It really was very good and the best sorbet I’ve ever tasted.

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Our third stop was my favorite. The front of Molly’s Cupcakes looks like a school bus and the tables inside were classroom desks. But the real attraction was the cupcake itself. If you are ever in New York, Chicago or Iowa City, I’d suggest you walk off your plane and find this place. The cupcakes were that good. We were able to choose our own full size cupcake and frosting and add toppings from the toppings bar if we wanted a little kick. My wife had a carrot cupcake with cream cheese frosting and said it was the best she ever had. I went old school with a vanilla cupcake and chocolate frosting. When I was done I asked if I could work there for free. I didn’t want to finish the tour or go home that night. I wanted to stay and close the place down; sweep the floors, clean the tables, wash the tins, whatever it took.  I was prepared to endure a sugar coma and if that’s the way it ended for me, the smile on my face as they carried me out would be enough for people to understand. Here’s a taste of Molly’s..

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IMG_1534IMG_1537Our next stop was another little place called Bisous Ciao Macaron. It should be noted that these are not macaroon’s, those coconut cookies, but the French Macaron which is a little piece of heaven in a small dessert sandwich. We sampled a chocolate macaron which was just the right amount of sweet and so delicious. Bisous Ciao also served some other delights which you can see below. Great little place in the village that you should try if you’re ever there.

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At this point the sugar was definitely kicking in, so what did we do? We went to a tiny little place called Milk and Cookies, of course. Most of these places are very small and this place was no exception, unless you’re describing the cookies. They were big and they were very good. Our sample, if you can call it that was a very large oatmeal, sea salt and toffee cookie. It was excellent but I could only eat a piece. Why? Because I had to buy a chocolate chip cookie and sample that also. And yes, you are reading the photo correctly; they are 29.50 for a baker’s dozen. And yes, people were buying them like crazy. That’s our tour guide, Mallory, in front of the store.

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Our final stop was, unfortunately our least favorite. Magnolia’s Bakery has been credited with starting the cupcake craze back in the late 90’s based on its inclusion into the popular show, Sex  and the City. Bus tours and a near cult following were a result but for us, the sample of a red velvet mini cupcake was not up to par with the rest of the stops. It tasted dry and kind of stale.

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Some sights along the way included the snake man and the giant bubble man in Washington Square Park.

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Of course after all those sweet, we were in desperate need of some real food so we hiked over to Little Italy and had an early dinner outside at La Mela. That enormous dish which could have easily fed two people was red snapper with rigatoni and a side of the best broccoli, (no joke), I’ve ever had. Must have been the roasted garlic. IMG_1556 IMG_1557

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It was a fun day, even though we walked over ten miles, according to our tracker. There are so many food tours in the city, if you’re so inclined to try one. We walked from midtown, down to Union Square, did the tour, walked to Little Italy and Canal Street and then back to midtown. The Village has a very different feel than midtown and you never know when you’ll run into a little club like Cafe Wha?, where Bob Dylan first played in New York and people like Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, Springsteen, Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor also performed and honed their skills.

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Hope you enjoyed our little tour. Stay hungry and now you can go and have a cupcake… or two.

Think You Can Still Afford Disney?

I came across my ticket book the first time we took our oldest daughter to The Magic Kingdom in Orlando in 1976. The cost for a one day adult entry with 10 attractions was $7.00. For a 12 attraction entry the cost was $8.25. This was up from $4.40 for a seven attraction price when the park opened in 1971.

tn_76-12rideADaopWell, things have definitely changed at Mickey’s place. Disney has raised the gate price to the Magic Kingdom 41 times since the park opened, including nearly doubling it in the past decade. This year the price for a one day adult admission to the “happiest place on earth,” will set you back 105.00 plus tax. That’s the first time a one day admission to the park has exceeded $100.00.

But Disney has no plans to stop there. They are considering a three-tiered park admission plan.  Their highest plan would allow you entry into the park at any time, while the other two price points would place restrictions on those days and times. This is just another way for Disney to increase their price to the $125.00 range and make you feel good about the flexibility you currently have without having to pay for it.

Like most big theme parks, Disney is slowly forcing out a large segment of the population and catering more to those who can afford the ticket prices. While they still have “value” properties, they are beginning to move toward a different demographic. They recently opened bungalows at Seven Seas Lagoon with a rate of $2,100 per night. The Polynesian Village just reopened this year with stilted Bora Bora type bungalows that can cost up to $3,400.00 per night. How do you think Walt would feel about those prices?

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Memory Books for $200.00, Steak dinners for $115.00, $53.00 per plate dessert parties,  and $195.00 makeovers for little girls are among other high-priced add-ons which are all part of the new Disney.

Disney has exploded into a $184 billion dollar monster with theme park and resort profits doubling over the last five years to $2.6 billion dollars.  Their Disney park admissions revenue alone has grown about ten percent each year for the past decade to more than $5 billions dollars in 2014. Disney’s main theme park hosted a record 19 million visitors last year. Investors have smiles that you can see even when the sun goes down at night.

What does all this mean for you? Well, according to data from the Visit Orlando tourism center, Orlando tourists average household income peaked at about $93, 000 last year which is $20,000 higher than the average U.S. household wage. So it appears that whatever middle class still exists may eventually have to get their Disney fix somewhere else.

It’s not hard to see what’s happening here. From a business perspective Disney is doing what every good business does; take advantage of demand. Since part of that demand comes from a higher end visitor, Disney is only too happy to accommodate. Since they view themselves as a premium brand, why not begin to charge premium prices? The facade of value pricing and accommodations will always be there but as long as people continue to pay the price of admission, Disney will do what any smart business model does.

Will all this stop people from coming? Probably not. While it might eventually price out a segment of the population, the ripple down effect won’t hurt the bottom line and might help thin the crowds a bit which would alleviate the long lines that currently exist.

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In 1976, an individual could spend a day at Magic Kingdom for less than it would cost to fill up their car with gas. We’re not even in that ballpark today.
While I still enjoy going to Magic Kingdom and will continue to visit, the amount of commercialism and desire to get deeper into your pockets at every turn makes the magic a little less bright for me. But that’s just the way it is today.

Things have definitely changed along Main Street.

Springtime In New York City

 

The weather finally broke on Sunday after almost a week of dreary and raw weather. Sunshine was finally with us so we took a ride into the city to walk around and see a show at Radio City. Apparently, quite a few people had the same idea. Here are a few images.

Bryant Park was busy…

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A Pipe Band was entertaining….IMG_1039

 

Chess boards and backgammon waiting for players……IMG_1041

 

A library for the youngsters……IMG_1042

 

The carousel was operating….IMG_1045

 

Lots of green, finally…..IMG_1048

 

They’re still ice skating
in Rockefeller Center…
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And flowers…………

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Radio City from 51st Street….IMG_1060

 

The stage before the curtain lifted….IMG_1061

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The world famous Rockettes…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsAveI0uAwY

 

 

A pastrami sandwich from the Carnegie Deli….Unknown

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Hope you enjoyed the tour. Looking forward to more of the same weather.

The Clueless Tourist

Americans are not the only tourists that are guilty of not respecting the history and culture of other countries. Far from it. Heck, they apparently have a sign in front of the Louvre in Paris, written in Mandarin, asking people not to urinate or defecate on the grounds. I’m not sure what prompted that sign and I really don’t want to know. Disrespect happens all over the world by people from all over the world, just as there are tourists who visit the United States and make poor or questionable choices.

As an American, I’ve often cringed at the way other Americans sometimes behave when visiting another country; a place where we are essentially guests. Based on what I’ve witnessed, most American are respectful, but there are those who just don’t get it. Like these two clueless California Women who were visiting Rome.

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Apparently they decided to break away from their tour group while visiting Rome’s Colosseum and carve their initials into the ancient amphitheater. Then, to further show off their intelligence, they took selfless of their handiwork.

Now these aren’t kids we’re taking about here. They are 21 and 25-year-old female children who have never been taught the basic principles of respecting history and the property of others. Their parents must be so proud.

While this doesn’t happen often, considering there are six million people who visit the Colosseum and Roman Forum annually, five other people from Russia, Australia, Brazil and Canada were also stopped for doing the same thing.

I don’t know what type of punishment the Italian government decided to inflict on these two women. I know that the 42-year-old Russian tourist was given a four month suspended sentence and fined 20,000 Euros, which, because of a lack of funds, he has yet to pay. Personally, I would cut into their holiday time. I would require them to listen to a detailed history of the Colosseum and other historical sites in Rome, in addition to some sort of community service in and around the area. They’d have to catch up with their tour group a few days later.  Then I’d ask them to leave. Permanently. Because if you haven’t learned respect at the age of 42 or 25 do you really want these people back in your country?

And for whomever did whatever prompted that sign in front of the Louvre…..well, I’d love for you to do that on my watch; because I have a whole special kind of community service ready just for you.

Happy Travels!