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.

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!

Destinations, Hotels, Philadelphia

How I Spent 48 hours in Philadelphia

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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Tips and Tricks

Is travel a form of self-care?


Private pool at Ojo Caliente Resort and Spa in New Mexico

We live in a society that tells us things like ‘go hard or go home’ or ‘you can sleep when you’re dead.’ These beliefs are what create the superwoman complex that keep American women on a hamster wheel of always being busy. It is no wonder that 1 in 4 women in our country suffers from heart disease, and that we are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression and anxiety.

All of it doesn’t really hit home until you find yourself directly impacted by it. This year has been one of the most challenging for me in a long time. The majority is my stress is work related because I bought into the work harder achieve more work ethic. I felt guilty when I needed to take a wellness day and I would grind away until I was completely burned out. My justification was that I could rest on my laurels once I finally reached my end goal. Well, let me tell you that was a big mistake. I was very close to reaching my goal when I had the rug pulled out from under me. I won’t go into details here, but it created a lot of anxiety, anger, and resentment. I slowly began to sink into a depressed state and I felt stuck. I needed a hard reboot if I was going to claw my way out of depression.

I tried to work it away
But that just made me even sadder
I tried to keep myself busy
I ran around circles
Think I made myself dizzy

~Solange Knowles – Cranes in the Sky

For what’s it’s worth, the fact that I am an earth sign means that spending time in nature has a positive impact on my mind, body, and spirit. While I am a city girl by default, nature is always the magic elixir when I need to push my way out of a deep funk. As an educator, I get long summer breaks. However, my mental state was in such a state that I needed to do something sooner rather than later. I was imploding. I felt like Solange Knowles in her song, Cranes in the Sky. Nothing that I was doing was having a long term impact on restoring my sense of joy.

As I mentioned in another post, I had a distorted view of travel. But I had to overcome the travel anxiety. I had to ‘get my mind right’ so I booked a trip to the desert. It was just what the doctor ordered. I came back home with a fresh mindset, renewed and reinvigorated. It was as if someone had flipped a switch in my mind.

Mud bathing at Ojo Caliente in New Mexico

What really got me thinking about the question of travel as a form of self-care was when I shared my New Mexico experience with a new friend who is also an educator. She responded with, “Wow, you really take care of yourself.” It caught me off guard because I consider myself a caregiver. It all started when my mother was in the end stages of renal cancer and I was her primary caregiver. A few years after she died I started teaching. It is the hardest job I’ve ever had and one that requires the spirit of stewardship. I invested all of my energy into being the best daggone teacher that I could be for the next decade and a half. But somewhere along the way I lost myself.

Time to save the world
Where in the world is all the time
So many things I still don’t know
So many times I’ve changed my mind
Guess I was born to make mistakes
But I ain’t scared to take the weight
So when I stumble off the path
I know my heart will guide me back

~Erykah Badu – Didn’t Cha Know

It also made me think back to a few months prior while sitting in a meeting we were asked what we do for self-care. I stated things like, manicures and pedicures, meditation, and massages while other people listed things like going on vacation. At the time that option seemed so far out of reach to me. I guess the universe has a way of bringing things into alignment at exactly the right time.

Self-care is not selfish

In hindsight, I realize that travel is probably the ultimate self-care. It is an intentional way of saying to yourself and others that you matter enough to take time out of your busy life to stop and smell the roses. It is a recommitment to loving yourself. Some people look at travel as selfish. Some people might even call you brave for leaving your comfort zone. I call it necessary. The change of pace, the change of scenario, and the exposure to new people and energy is powerful. It helped me remember that I matter, and that is the best self-care that anyone can experience.

What do you do for self-care?  How do you make travel a form of self-care in your life? Share in the comment section.