Destinations, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, Tips and Tricks, Washington, DC

Don’t Go It’s A Tourist Trap

Don’t you hate it when you ask for travel advice and someone tells you not to go to the one place that you have always wanted to go because it is a tourist trap? Whether it is The Empire State Building in New York, The White House in Washington, D.C., or The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, tourists spots are popular for the simple fact that tourists want the experience that they have to offer. It’s no wonder that tourism is a multi-million dollar business.

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Standing across the street from the touristy La Bodeguita del Medio in Cuba.

I get that we want people to have an authentic experience when they visit a destination, but I always encourage first time visitors to do all of the touristy things just in case you don’t get a chance to go back again. The next time you visit the same destination, I say you should explore the off the beaten path hidden gems. I grew up in San Francisco which is one of the most touristy destinations in the United States. Whenever family and friends visited San Francisco they wanted to go on the cable cars, view the Golden Gate Bridge, and go to Fisherman’s Wharf. I was always happy to oblige because my hometown is a beautiful city and I love to show it off. I am also a big fan of the hop on hop off buses like Big Bus which lets you visit all of the touristy spots in one day at your leisure. Click on the link to book your tickets in advance.

The next time someone tries to dissuade you from seeing a popular tourist destination just politely thank them, then ask if they can offer helpful tips for getting around the long lines and the crowds.

What touristy spots have you been told not to visit during your travels? Share them in the comment section. Remember to like, subscribe, and share!

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Destinations, Hotels, Philadelphia

How I Spent 48 hours in Philadelphia

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Travel back in time when you visit Old City Philadelphia © Dec 2017, D. Bell

It is amazing how being away from a bad situation can provide you with much needed perspective. Last year during my winter break I planned a quick jaunt to Philadelphia. I had never been to Philadelphia and I didn’t really know anyone there, however I spent the first few days of my break mulling around my apartment not doing much. I was determined to end the year by going somewhere. I had to get out of  Washington, D.C. which was where I lived at the time. Someone had posted about the Kimpton Hotels brand and I dreamed (no, literally) about their Fiji soaking tubs. I know some people get really grossed out by hotel bathtubs, but I always bring my own cleaning products when I travel so I cleaned it well before I used it.

I can’t deny that the trip to Philly was rough. First I scheduled and missed a couple of buses. The bus that I finally made was late because the driver had to go all the way to Baltimore to get his license. I kid you not! To add insult to injury there was high drama on the bus, but I was determined to get to Philadelphia. Word to the wise, never take Greyhound if you have another option available. There are other bus companies that provide much better service.

When we finally pulled into the bus terminal in Philadelphia, it was too late to sightsee so I requested an Uber (I could have walked but it was freezing and I had no idea where I was.) Once I was checked into my hotel room I headed upstairs to have a cocktail at the hotel’s swaggy rooftop lounge. The lounge only offered small bites and I was voraciously hungry so I headed back down to the main floor to eat dinner at the Red Owl Tavern.

After a full day of stressful bus travel I was exhausted, so I headed back to my room  recorded a room tour, took a shower, and went to bed. The nighttime views from my 9th floor corner suite were stunning! On one side there’s a view of the Ben Franklin Bridge  and on the other side there’s Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. In the interest of full disclosure, the bell atop Independence Hall rings every hour on the hour. You can see the nighttime view from my room by watching my room tour video on Youtube.

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Kimpton Monaco Hallway © Dec 2017, D. Bell

When I woke up the next morning I looked out of the window and I thought I was Alice in Wonderland trapped inside of a giant snow globe! Snowflakes whizzed past my window and everything below was blanketed with a fresh white coat of snow.

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A snow covered Independence Hall as seen from my hotel room © Dec 2017, D. Bell

While it snowed outside I took a long luxurious soak in the Fiji soaking tub. It was everything I imagined it to be!  All of my cares and worries melted away and the stress that previously had my  muscles tight and knotted seemed to dissolve. When I emerged from the tub I felt like a new woman. I brought my own bath salts, but the products provided by the hotel, Atelier Bloem, are quite amazing and have a refreshing clean scent to them.

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Fiji Soaking Tub in King Corner Spa Suite © Dec 2017, D. Bell

I did a little sightseeing after lounging around the room all morning. I visited Independence Hall but because of the inclement weather there weren’t many tourist out. I crossed the street to visit the Liberty Bell where a line of visitors waited patiently in the cold to get inside of the building where the bell is housed. I was starving afterward so I grabbed a pizza from down the street to bring back to the room for dinner. I relaxed in my room for the rest of the evening.

The next day I needed to check out by noon, but not before I indulged in one more luscious bath in the amazing soaking tub. I planned to stay in Philly to watch the early fireworks show at Penn’s Landing but the temperatures were too frigid so I decided to change my bus reservation so I could leave about an hour and half after my scheduled check out time.

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Corner Newsstand in Philadelphia © Dec 2017, D. Bell

I still managed to have enough time to have coffee at the Cosi down the street from the hotel then wander the streets of Old City until I reached Penn’s Landing. I hopped on the SEPTA for $2.50 and rode the subway down to 30th Street station where I got on the Mega Bus and had an relaxing and uneventful ride back to Washington, D.C.

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They still used tokens. I think they were being phased out © Dec 2017, D. Bell

I definitely want to go back to Philly once the temperature begins to warm up.  It’s an often overlooked tough little city with a lot of moxie and great architecture. The vibe of the city is primarily working class and unpretentious. People for the most part are chilled. It felt like a mix of New York, Jersey, and Baltimore.

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Eagles fans on the SEPTA enjoying a cold brew on a cold day © Dec 2017, D. Bell

Philly has the history of D.C. but the personality of New York. I love it! I want to experience the other areas of the city and I want to see how it operates during a typical work week. This trip was the highlight of my year and I am so glad that I bit the bullet and decided to go. I had two other trips booked and planned earlier in the year but I canceled them. I think it was a bit easier to navigate this trip because it was still relatively close to home. Want to see more photos from my visit? Click here.

I would love for you to follow and subscribe for more travel related content. Please leave a comment below. 

~Ciao!

Destinations

Travel Goals – Mid-year review

This year I was determined to travel more. I finally got over my travel anxiety and made it happen. Nike was right…sometimes you have to “just do it!” I am so glad that I not only booked the two trips that I took this year to New Mexico and Cuba, but that I followed through and actually went on the trips! Both experiences have been life affirming and the timing was perfect for the transitions that are happening in my life.

Next year will be a milestone birthday for me. I have been waiting for this birthday because I figured by the time I reached this point in my life I would have it all together. Well, life has a funny way of throwing curve balls at us to keep us on our toes and I am ready for my new chapter. I pray that it involves as much travel as possible.

Upward and onward!

What are your travel goals for 2018? Share them in the comments section. Remember to like, share, and subscribe for more travel related content. 

Airports, Destinations, New Mexico, Spas and resorts, Washington, DC

Day 3: Unavoidable Travel Delays

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Sunrise over the southwest

There is something about living in major cities that causes people to become harsh, detached, and abrupt toward one another. It is most noticeable when you visit places that operate at a slower pace. This was my experience when I traveled back to Washington, D.C. from Albuquerque, New Mexico. TSA is typically the worst part of traveling for me because I tend to make a lot of rookie mistakes. I eventually plan to purchase the TSA pre-check for future travels. I posted earlier about how on the way to New Mexico I was subjected to a body search – twice. Read about that experience here. While I know that Albuquerque isn’t as busy as the airports in D.C. I didn’t want to risk being held up at security yet again. So I woke up early to pack and drive back into Albuquerque.

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Porch of the historic hotel at Ojo Caliente

Once everything was packed I headed into the lobby for my morning cup of coffee. It was quite early so there was only a group of four elderly guests lounging around, presumably for the restaurant to start serving breakfast. After getting my coffee, I headed outside to sit on the porch and sip my coffee.

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Fire pit still lit

The fire from the previous night was still burning and the intoxicating scent of piñon wood hung heavily in the air. I decided to get one last set of pictures of the property.  While snapping my photos I heard a low meow. I thought I was hearing things because I hadn’t seen any animals around the property during my stay. Sure enough, an adorable cat managed to sidle up beside me,  hopeful that I would have something for it to eat. I petted the cat then went back to taking pictures. The cat eventually lost interest and sauntered towards the parking lot.

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My new feline friend

The front desk didn’t open until 8:00 A.M.  I was anxious to get on the road so a helpful staff member offered to see if they could check me out early. They were and I was on the road to Albuquerque by 8:00 A.M.

I arrived in Albuquerque about 2 hours later and pulled into the rental car drop off area. I was greeted by a friendly guy named Harold who informed me that the car would be checked in then he would drop me off at the airport. He caught me off guard since I was expecting to catch the shuttle back to the airport. During the short drive to the airport Harold informed me that he had moved to Albuquerque about 5 years earlier from Los Angeles after he got divorced. He said he enjoyed the change of pace in the New Mexico. He asked if I was considering moving to the area and I gave him a firm, no. We parted ways and I made my way into the  airport terminal.

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I ordered the Ranchito with organge juice

I ate a bland breakfast at the first restaurant that I saw before entering the security gate called Tia Juanitas. I can not recommend it. While it is pretty hard to mess up breakfast the food was basically just edible an overpriced at $15. I got the same breakfast at the resort the day before for a couple of bucks less. The server managed to upcharge me by asking if I wanted avocados. She never mentioned that it was an extra charge and I didn’t think ask if it would cost extra. Well it was an extra $1.50. I didn’t even eat them. The meal did the job though which was to keep my stomach from growling.

The Albuquerque airport is pretty small so there was no need to catch a shuttle and jog along a moving walkway to get from point A to point B. There was a sign at the security checkpoint that stated that no gate is more than 5 minutes away. I decided to dress in loose comfortable work out clothes and I was able to breeze through the body scanner this time. Unfortunately my carry-ons needed to be searched. Never mind the fact that my bags were packed exactly the same as they were on the way into New Mexico. I was glad that I had loads of extra time which kept me from stressing out about the hold up.

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Looking a bit travel worn

Since the charging port in the rental car didn’t work (read more about that here) I needed to find a place to charge my phone. I found a corner nook table with wall outlets behind it in the food court, plugged in, and began tapping out my blog series. If you haven’t yet read the previous two posts go here and here.

My flight to Denver from Albuquerque was bumpy but otherwise uneventful. However, upon arrival in Denver I learned that my flight into D.C. was delayed. I tried to talk the airline staff into getting me on a earlier flight that will land at National airport, to no avail. To top it off, all of the sit down restaurants in the concourse had lines. I wandered to the end of the C concourse and found a table at Vino Volo where a well deserved glass of wine was poured. I also had a delicious warm roasted chicken salad to accompany it.

20180416_163141My flight boarded a little early and we actually made it into D.C. on time. I had booked a Super Shuttle since I was flying back into Dulles. Unfortunately there was a lot of confusion about which exit passengers were to meet at and we spent nearly an hour rounding up the other passengers – all women – all going to different parts of the city. Fortunately, I was the second passenger to be dropped off and I was able to make it home before 2:00 A.M. While it was nice to be home, I really enjoyed my stay in the Southwest and I look forward to going again soon. If you are looking for an amazing spa resort experience I highly recommend checking out Ojo Caliente as a perfect rustic desert retreat.

Missed part 1 and part 2? Click on the links.