Friday, April 14, 2017

New York, New York

If I can make it there . . .
I'll make it anywhere
It's up to you, New York, New York!
All photos by Cynthia Dial
#travel #travelpics #travelingcynthia #newyorknewyork

Friday, March 31, 2017

And Once Again, the World’s Best Airport Is . . .

Singapore’s Changi Airport named best in the world—for the fifth time

Excerpted from by Matt Vallano  

Perhaps it’s time to consider Singapore's Changi Airport the “New York Yankees of air travel.” How else could one spin the news that Lion City’s largest airport has been named best in the world for the fifth consecutive year?

The designation came down earlier this month from Skytrax World Airport Awards, an independent annual evaluation that bases the final rankings on the results of millions of international passenger surveys. This year was the sixth annual Skytrax awards; Changi has five first-place victories and one second-place win (back in 2012).

It’s not hard to see why fliers could consider the three-terminal airport to be the air travel equivalent of the winningest sports franchise of all time. In addition to being one of the busiest hubs in Asia, Changi boasts two 24-hour movie theaters that show current releases for free, a rooftop swimming pool (complete with locker rooms for changing), and a butterfly garden teeming with butterflies.
The airport is also putting the finishing touches on a fourth terminal, which, according to the Straits Times, a Singaporean newspaper, is slated to open later this year.

There were other highly lauded airports in the running, too: Tokyo Haneda International Airport, Incheon International Airport in Seoul, Munich International Airport and Hong Kong International Airport rounded out the Top Five. (Haneda also won an award for the world’s cleanest airport, and Hong Kong was hailed has having the best and most varied dining options.)

Sadly—embarrassingly, really—not a single North American airport cracked the Top 10. In fact, the highest-ranked airport on our continent is Vancouver International Airport in Canada, at No. 13.
The United States isn’t represented on the Skytrax list until No. 26, an honor that goes to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. (The dark horse win seems like a great piece of trivia to whip out at your next soirée.) Denver International Airport was tabbed as No. 28.

It’s hard not to read the Skytrax list of winners and dream about what U.S. airports could be. The takeaways: We need more free movie theaters. Or at least a few butterfly gardens.

#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #worldsbestairports

BEAR FACTS: About Quebec's Saguenay -- Lac-Saint-Jean

by Cynthia Dial for TraveLife Magazine

From its rolling green hills to flower-box accessorized homes to a landscape dotted with water everywhere, Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean had me at ‘bonjour.’

A region – not a town – the vibe of this area almost four times the size of Belgium is so surprisingly cozy that locals call it “a small village at the end of the road.” Comprised of Lac-Saint-Jean and the Fjord-du-Saguenay, the destination is large, diverse and comfortably isolated (a one-and-a-half-hour flight from Montreal; a two-hour drive from Quebec City); but its overflow of down-to-earth experiences and out-of-the-norm adventures makes whatever effort necessary to reach it – worth it.

Adventure is in this region’s DNA. Winter season entertains ice skaters, ice fishermen, downhill and cross-country skiers and dogsledders, while warmer weather appeals to hikers, fishermen, beluga whale watchers, boaters, kite surfers and with 700 km of road biking lanes and 200 km of mountain bike trails, it’s a cyclist’s dream.

The 257-km Véloroute des Bleuets (Blueberry Trail) – which wends around Lac-Saint-Jean, crisscrosses 15 municipalities and enters countless villages, with interspersed treks through farmland and forests – attracts more than 200,000 annual cycling enthusiasts. With five microbreweries on La Route des Bières (The Beer Route), be forewarned that the only thing missing from this fun-filled trail may be a designated driver.

Beyond these active temptations, some of the area’s most popular ventures include the word “bear.” Okwari Aventures is where black bears can be observed from a watchtower in their natural habitat (of the region’s 3,500 black bears, 30 are here). With assistance from a guide, visitors can hike the area, learn about the world of beavers and salmon and ride along the water in a Rabaska canoe. To maximize a bear watching visit, it’s good to know that between the end of June and mid-July cubs are prevalent and September’s blueberry season is a delicious attraction for the mammals.

Then there’s the 26-hour, bear-filled VIP tour and overnight stay called “Adventure in the Land of the Caribou.” Located within Zoo Sauvage de Saint-Félicien (named one of the world’s most beautiful zoos and home to more than 1,000 animals from 75 native or exotic species), the experience is unique in an opposite sort of way – the animals roam free while its VIP guests are “enclosed.” During the venture, a ride in an elevated, open-air, protected trolley train through its 324-hectre Nature Trail Park section can be stop and go. As it’s in an area where bears (alongside such large North American mammals as elk, bison and deer) roam freely and continually wander along the road, cross it and sometimes block it, the most valuable visitor advice is cue the cameras.
The wrap-up of this VIP adventure includes an old-fashioned meal cooked over an open fire, a finale of s’mores and an overnight within a prospector tent tucked into a sleeping bag atop a bed of balsam needles. There are no showers and no flush toilets, simply an exceptionally clean outhouse (no, that is not a typo), the opportunity to bottle fed a baby moose and the possibility of an unannounced up-close-and-personal caribou greeting anytime, anywhere within the campsite. The rules are simple: Always walk in a group, never wander off and rely on good old-fashioned common sense.

“Creative adventure” best describes the assortment of accommodations found in Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean. In addition to the within-the-zoo stay is Parc Aventures Cap Jaseux’s variety of high-energy adventures and assortment of overnight possibilities – from accommodation in a tree house eight meters above ground to a stay in a huge fiberglass bubble dome (windows cover a third of its surface) to sleeping in a suspended sphere – all perched in pine trees and all featuring panoramic views of the Saguenay Fjord. Awaking within the woods (actually overlooking it) is like no other ‘good morning.’ There are no hotel-like amenities; but the outhouse is again impressive.  

Activities can be negotiating the tree-to-tree ropes course, propelling along the park’s nine zip lines, tackling the via ferrata (imagine climbing a sheer cliff above the fjord) or, my selection, early-morning sea kayaking in the fjord. Jerome, our kayak guide, describes this on-the-water choice “always different, never the same,” citing the ever-changing variables of tide, wind and group number. “But it is always special,” he concludes.

A more subdued but no less distinctive immersion into the region’s past is an overnight in a ghost town, the historic village of Val-Jalbert. A booming, thriving pulp mill company town from the 1920s (at its 1926 peak there were 950 residents), one couldn’t even visit during its decades-long closure. However, these days its recreation of the back-in-the-day town and the natural site on which it sits lure thousands of annual visitors.

Among Val-Jalbert’s irresistible enticements are 40 original buildings seemingly frozen in time, 24 rooms situated in its turn-of-the-century houses now converted to 21st -century luxury accommodations, the general store, convent school, post office and walk-about “residents” in character – perhaps Mother Superior in route to school or the mayor’s daughter riding her bicycle along its main street. Additionally appealing is Val-Jalbert’s unparalleled natural beauty. The draw of its paper pulp past, 55-meter high Ouiatchouan Falls, surpasses Niagara Falls.

My departure arrives all too soon. As I bid farewell to this area of which I knew little but to which I instantly bonded, I reflect upon my Quebecois adventure. Aboard the small airplane, I turn to my seatmate, a local named Andre – until now a stranger. “In few words, can you describe this area – your home?” I quiz. He replies in three: “I love it.”  

Just The Facts
~ French is widely spoken and English is spoken sporadically; but should there be a language barrier, no problem. In typical Saguenay-fashion, it’s in a local’s nature to find someone to help. 
~ It is important to note that many of Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean’s attractions and accommodations are seasonal and fill quickly, so book well in advance to avoid disappointment.

~ For tourist information on Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean, go to

#travel #traveltips #travelpics #travelingcynthia #canadaadventure #saguenaylacsaintjean  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Even More Ways Airline Food Is Getting Better

Many airlines are reintroducing free inflight meals for all fare classes.

By Ramsey Qubein for

Since the dawn of modern air travel, wisecracks about airplane food have been the fodder of comedians worldwide. But those jokes are losing some of their punch as airlines begin to reinvest in the onboard dining experience for everyone. Sure, there are buy-onboard inflight menus with top-notch restaurant and celebrity chef partnerships. But when it comes to meals included in the cost of your ticket (either in front or behind the curtain), fliers will find that some airlines are stepping up their game to bring a more delicious element to air travel.

Premium transcontinental routes lead the way
In the past few months, we have seen many airlines make notable investments in the inflight product. Delta made a big splash when it announced free economy- class meals coming to select transcontinental flights earlier this year. The free meals are being offered not only on premium routes between JFK and Los Angeles or San Francisco, but also on several other long domestic flights. Passengers in economy class will have three options to choose from, including a vegetarian selection or deli sandwiches with chips.

Routes with this new amenity include those between Boston and Los Angeles, Seattle/Tacoma, and San Francisco; between JFK and Portland, Oregon, San Diego, and Seattle/Tacoma; and between Seattle/Tacoma and Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Raleigh/Durham among others. This signals a return of inflight meals for everyone as in the 1990s—which, while only a small step, is certainly an appreciated one.

American quickly followed suit announcing it would bring back free meals on its premium flights between JFK and Los Angeles and San Francisco, but the carrier stops short from expanding it to other flights. Still, a free meal for a busy traveler is always a nice perk.
It’s not just long flights getting a free dining boost. JetBlue has introduced free coffee and Turkish simit (similar to a bagel) with spread plus free beer and wine on its short shuttle runs between Boston and New York LaGuardia.

It’s all about the presentation
While the free economy meals are likely to come in a bag or box on these domestic runs, premium cabin meals get more attention. Effective April 1, Delta will be updating the service ware used on its domestic and international flights, featuring new plates, glasses, and silverware from designer Alessi. The Italian company is known for its fashionable designs using bone china, crystal glassware, and stainless steel. The Alessi pieces will look great with the airline’s artsy new Delta One meal offerings designed by chef Dan Jackson, who also oversees the menu at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Not to be outdone, United is launching its first official international Polaris flight next week from San Francisco to Hong Kong, which is part of the airline’s refreshed push for premium cabin business. The airline has partnered with Saks Fifth Avenue for new inflight bedding, including mattress pads and cooling gel pillows.

But before guests hit the sack, they can partake in a new dine-on-demand menu (the most robust offering of its kind for a North American airline) with dishes like lobster macaroni and cheese and tomato soup with grilled cheese. The Asian fusion chicken noodle soup with coconut milk is already getting rave reviews on its domestic trial runs. On the beverage front, morning flights feature a bespoke Bloody Mary cart, the option to enjoy wine flights on multi-tiered stands to taste as many varietals as are on the menu, and a new coffee menu from famed Italian espresso brand Illy.

In fact, Illy coffee is also available on United’s domestic flights for all passengers, and it comes with a sweet Dutch stroopwafel perfect for dunking. Delta serves Starbucks brews on both domestic and international flights to all passengers.

Hotels and airlines learn from each other
While airlines and hotels have used brands such as Illy and Starbucks products before, it is nice to see your favorite brands both in the sky and on the ground when you reach your destination. Starwood’s Le Meridien doesn’t want its travelers to wake up on the other side of the world without the right coffee. Le Meridien hired both a “global latte artist” and a “global master barista” who travel the globe training its hotel baristas and staff on how to make the perfect cup of coffee. Many Le Meridien baristas are even sent to Illy’s “coffee university” at its Trieste, Italy, headquarters.
According to global master barista Franz Xaver Zauner, there more than 100 ways that a cup of coffee can be spoiled in its preparation, and his role is to prevent each of those mistakes from happening. If you are wondering how United plans to combat those mistakes in the air, its flight attendants underwent similar training procedures to deliver the perfect Illy cup. The same type of training is important at Cathay Pacific, which serves Illy espresso and cappuccino in the air; it is also launching the first airport lounge Chinese teahouse concept at its Hong Kong hub.
Lufthansa is taking a page out of many hotel playbooks and has set up Nespresso stations at its gates in Frankfurt and Munich so that passengers can purchase premium coffee while they wait.
And if you think you’ve seen it all . . .
Sure, toque-wearing chefs roam the aisles of Austrian and Turkish Airlines among others, but airlines are still discovering ways to impress their customers. KLM serves draft beer from a specially designed cart with the proper pressure pumps to get the carbonation just right. The Dutch Heineken recipe uses the same ingredients as what you might find in a bar or grocery store and is said to taste just as refreshing above the clouds. It is available in business class on select intercontinental flights.
South of the equator, Brazilian carrier Azul is partnering with a Sao Paulo–based food truck provider for its new onboard menu. The airline serves meals from the popular Buzina Food Truck to all passengers on its flights to the United States and Portugal, with dishes including artisan cheeseburgers and grilled macaroni and cheese.
On American Airlines, passengers in first and business class need not stress that their preferred choice won’t be available—its website allows travelers to preorder meals similar to what Finnair, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, and others have long offered. Delta Air Lines is finalizing plans to launch a similar system so that a customer’s first choice is ready and waiting once he or she is inflight.

And forget leaving the lounge to head into the terminal for your favorite specialty coffee drink. Emirates is launching small Costa Coffee outlets in some of its lounges to bring the coffee chain’s barista service and full menu directly to its premium customers.
#travel #traveltips #airlinetravel #airlinefood #travelingcynthia

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Cheers from around the world!

"If you're lucky enough to be Irish, 
you're lucky enough."
Irish saying
Mobile, Alabama
Alps, Germany
Sayulita, Mexico

#happystpatricksday #travel #travelingcynthia #irishquote

Saturday, February 25, 2017

San Diego

Saturday night San Diego: Old Town Trolley's City Lights Tour with great driver/guide Boxcar. #travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #travelpics

Travel Tip: Nashville Airport Layover

Do you enjoy longish layovers? While I doubt your answer is "yes," my recent Nashville plane change while in route to San Diego from Orlando resulted in two memorable hours -- complete with hot chicken (a local specialty) and live music (another local specialty) -- courtesy of lunch in the terminal's Gibson restaurant and the talent of local musicians, Alyssa Jacey and Adam Rausche.

Photos by Cynthia Dial

#travel #traveltips #travelpics #travelingcynthia #nashville #nashvilleairport #alyssajacey #adamrausche

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Where, oh where, in the world is this?

Where, oh where, in the world is this? Tip: In commemoration of Valentine's Day, it's romantic. 
Photo by Cynthia Dial

#travel #TravelTuesday #travelingcynthia

Calling All Luxe-Loving Partygoers to Mobile for Mardi Gras

Written for Cynthia Dial for

Known as the month of Mardi Gras, February is the time of the year when revelry rules. As one of the world's best known celebrations - a fete easily recognized by its signature purple, green and gold colors - this fun-for-all event is incomparable when combined with the southern comfort of Mobile.

As the setting of 6,000 buildings on the National Historic Registry and best known for the most gracious of greetings, this Alabama town is strictly southern - locals pronounce its name in three soothing syllables, the city flower is the azalea and the region playfully lays claim to three seasons – hurricane season, college football season and Mardi Gras season. Though established in 1702 by the French (its Dauphin Street is named for the son of Louis XIV), Mobile is a town where people politely address you with the prefix “Miss” or “Mister” before your first name and strangers smile at you ‘just because.’

The belles of the balls are its leading men and women, adorned in extravagant royal trains (custom designed with family crests, crystals, stones, fur and an elaborate imagination) and accompanied by their respective courts. So majestic are these evenings it’s been said that it's been said that should a guest question the effort required to attend, doubts are dispelled as quickly as beluga disappears from a silver serving platter.

Paying homage to themes for everyone are the day-after-day and night-after-night parades, complete with marching bands, over-the-top floats and thousands of throws (from beads to doubloons to stuffed animals to Moon Pies). Locally-shared paradegoer tips are straight forward. Parade observers: the best viewing is from balconies (many hotels allow guests to use theirs); don’t jump parade barricades (the fine is $298); to get the most throws go to the parade’s end and carry signs, especially those with a bullseye (they are like magnets for throws). Parade walkers: be prepared (if right handed, put the beads on your left arm so you’re ready to toss); keep up with your group (so as not to get run over); look where you are going (there’s lots of loot on the ground for prime-time tripping) and don’t forget to enjoy – you will feel like a rock star.

To best understand Mobile and its relationship with Mardi Gras, visit the Mobile Carnival Museum. Located in a restored mansion, this multi-room exhibition is replete with showcases of majestic crowns, resplendent scepters and bejeweled robes, as well as an in-depth history of Mardi Gras and its true birthplace – all shared with in-depth knowledge and a bit of good humor. When asked the approximate cost of a train for the Royal Court, the reply is classic Mobilian – “Oh honey, where are you from? We don’t talk about money here.” (Official answer: It can be as little as an SUV or as much as a small house.)

Located along downtown’s parade route is The Battle House Hotel – a coveted selection of accommodation during Mardi Gras. Originally opened in 1852, the hotel overflows with history. It sits on site of Andrew Jackson’s headquarters during the War of 1812 and Stephen Douglas was a hotel guest the night he lost the 1860 presidential election to Abraham Lincoln. Destroyed by a fire and survivor of three hurricanes, The Battle House was closed for disrepair from 1974 till 2007 when it reopened as a renovated masterpiece – a reputation it retains to this day.

Mobile’s assortment of mansions – its antebellum homes surrounded by live oaks, magnolias and camellias – provides yet another peek into the city’s resplendent yesteryear. Built in 1855 is Bragg-Mitchell Mansion whose circular staircase, crystal chandeliers and fine antiques serve to “remind guests of a time when hospitality was a way of life.” And on the National Register of Historic Places is Oakleigh Plantation, built in 1833 by a wealthy cotton broker.

Beyond Mardi Gras, its back-in-the-day accommodations and its historied past is also a city where favorite food spots spill over- from off-the-beaten-path dives to difficult-to-get reservation restaurants.

Beginning with basics is Panini Pete’s – named Mobile’s Best Lunch Spot and known for its signature paninis and wet beignets (“Pete’s awesome twist on a classic French Donut! Made from scratch and served with a lemon wedge.”). Self-described as “good times made from scratch,” Cream & Sugar Café is the place to go for homemade scones and Conecuh sausage biscuits.

Established in 1938, Wintzell’s Oyster House has long been the place for oysters – fried, stewed and nude – and listed in the culinary guide “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die.” Nearby is Miss Ruby’s Spot of Tea, known for its most-Southern-of-belle’s proprietor, Miss Ruby Moore, and such signature dishes as Eggs Cathedral and Banana’s Foster French Toast – both listed in “100 Dishes.”  

Found at the top of the list, as well as at the top of Mobile, is Dauphin’s. Located on the 34th floor of the Trustmark Bank Building, this restaurant creation of Chef Steve Zucker and owner Bob Baumhower (of Miami Dolphins’ fame) serves contemporary coastal cuisine. But its best offering is found at its chef’s table – an in-the-kitchen tabletop with an over-the-city view. The Battle House’s Trellis Room has the distinction of being Mobile’s only AAA Four Diamond Restaurant and is known for such creative classics as pimento cheese hush puppies and rabbit pot pie.  
Photos by Cynthia Dial

While the date of Mardi Gras varies from year to year (Mardi Gras 2017 is February 28), an inescapable constant is Mobile's welcoming excitement. From arrival, it's apparent this is a city that's jazzed you are there - a city that lets the good times roll and roll and roll! 

#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #travelpics #mardigras #mobilemardigras #mardigras2017

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Travel Quote of the Day

“Seeing a city early morning is like seeing a natural beauty without makeup.”
Cynthia Dial, travel writer
Photo of New Orleans 
and by Cynthia Dial 

#travel #travelquote #travelpic #travelingcynthia #TravelTuesday

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Where, oh where, in the world is this?

Where, oh where, in the world is this?
#travel #traveltips #travelpics #travelingcynthia

Thursday, January 26, 2017

10 U.S. Cities Perfect for Long Weekend Trips When You Work Full-Time

Excerpted from by Becky Mahan

Americans, we suck at travel. It’s a fact: studies show that American employees only use 51% of their eligible paid vacation, and about 40% of Americans don’t use it at all! While we feel you should use that time off (it’s yours, after all), we also get that Americans have a raw deal when it comes to how much vacation time we get. Two weeks per year is hardly enough to go gallivanting around the world. But that’s okay. If you can be smart about it, you can knock off a ton of globe pins in a year: particularly, by book-ending weekends and taking advantage of holidays.

Think about it: Saturdays and Sundays are built-in “vacation” days. If you use just one of your precious PTO days, you can take Friday (or Monday) off and hit the airport on Thursday night (or Friday night.) If you use, gasp!, two PTO days, you can head out Thursday night, spend Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and most of Monday in your destination, and head home Monday night. (Just make extra coffee Tuesday morning when you’re back in the office.)

But where can you go for only 3.5 days, you ask? Luckily, with only a 6-hour average flight from coast to shining coast, our beautiful country offers plenty to do on a long weekend. Here are some of the best places to go, whether you only have Saturday and Sunday or longer:

First time in Chicago? Don’t worry, your selfies with the Bean and that monster deep-dish are acceptable. And the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago. Museum of Contemporary Photography, and Millennium Park are all must-dos, as well. But check off other obligatory (and far less-known to visitors) boxes, too: spend some time in Wrigleyville if you’re sports-inclined, or head west and walk along the 606, a discontinued train track that has been re-purposed into an art-filled link between four Chicago neighborhoods, if you’re not.
Photo by Cynthia Dial

Who hasn’t spent a wild weekend in Vegas? Perfect for weekend turnarounds because, well, it’s Vegas, Sin City is so packed with things to do that you might want to take an extra day off just to sleep. Don’t spend all your vacation money in the casinos, though: if nightlife is your thing, hit the clubs, like OMNIA at Caesars Palace (not where the real Caesar lived, by the way) to enjoy top DJs and bottle service that costs a mortgage payment. Or head downtown to Old Vegas and Fremont, where there’s a new restaurant and bar scene, and the slots and tables are cheaper, too. But no matter what, don’t leave without hitting up at least one buffet or fine dining establishment: Vegas has some of the top cuisines in the whole freaking world, and you’d be sorely remiss if you didn’t indulge in the ridiculous world cuisines of the Rio’s Carnival World buffet, or the monster double-deckers of beef at Gordon Ramsay’s BurGr.

As most visitors are wont to do, your weekend will best be spent in the famous colonial-era French Quarter, where you’ll find the equally famous Bourbon Street and its infamous bars, nightclubs, and other nighttime hangs. Of course, you can’t miss the fabled beignets at Cafe du Monde, or the various other Nawlins’ food favorites, like muffuletta, jambalaya, and gumbo, at the many eateries nearby. And while good hotels are available everywhere, only stay in the French Quarter if you have a good pair of earplugs (or want to embrace the action.)’

You’ll want to rent a car here; Los Angeles is huge and diverse, and you’ll be able to see much more in a weekend if you have your own wheels. Spend some time at the beaches and their easygoing, chill communities, including Santa Monica and Venice Beach (and the eclectic Venice Boardwalk.) If clubbing is your scene, you’ll want to settle yourself in Hollywood for the night, or check out the music on Sunset Strip and the hipster indie clubs in Silverlake. Art lovers will want to pilgrimage to the Getty Center and Getty Villa, or climb to the Griffith Observatory for spectacular nighttime cityscapes. And, of course, Beverly Hills and ritzy Malibu are worth even just a drive through the neighborhoods and their jaw-dropping mansions.

You’ll also want a car to get around the sprawling metropolis of San Diego, where you can hit the beach, snowy mountains, sparse desert, and country highlands all in one day. The “city” is really a massive complex of individual towns and communities, so whatever you crave, you’ll find it. Stroll around Seaport Village and the downtown districts (including the historic bar and restaurant-laden Gaslmap, and art-centric East Village), or catch a ferry across the bay to the “island” of Coronado with its cute wharf and bay-front boardwalk. Little Italy is chock-full of trendy eateries, taprooms, and rooftops with amazing views (and one of the biggest farmer’s markets in the country), while eclectic North Park is like a mini Portland, and Hillcrest is the self-described “gay-borhood” of the city. Del Mar is luxe and high-end (if you go in the summer, hit the fair, and in the fall, the horse races), while the chill hippie beach town vibes of Encinitas and Carlsbad just beg you to stop and sip a cold-brewed coffee. Pacific Beach. or “PB” as the locals call it, is also a “chill beach town,” but with much more of that nitty-gritty, dumpy clubs and dive bars-feel that is somehow still cool. And did we mention the plethora of microbreweries (or the king of them all: Stone Brewing), beaches, and San Diego's food of choice, fish tacos?

If you want an escape/retreat sort of weekend, Napa and neighboring Sonoma are a sure bet. As one of the world’s premiere wine-producing regions, Napa Valley boasts over three hundred wineries and wine-centric eateries. And nearby Sonoma is just as beautiful, but without the crowds and overpriced tastings, so it’s a much more mellow alternative. Wherever you make your base, be sure to scout out the smaller vintners, who have just as much class and charm as the mega-wineries, but with arguably more authentic character: like Castello di Amorosa's 12th century castle or Frog's Leap trails and 19th century barn. Looking for a bit of an outdoor adventure? Ditch the car and pop between the wineries on bike, or by private chauffeur — or even the awesome Napa Valley Wine Train. But don’t make the mistake of thinking this region is all wine and only wine; the towns of Napa and Sonoma themselves are charming and vibrant, offering plenty of culture, art galleries, and distinguished restaurants and cafes.

Welcome to the urban traveler’s paradise: with iconic clanging cable cars, Victorian row houses, quirky neighborhoods and stunning waterfront, it’s rare we hear anyone say, “I hated San Francisco.” (We’re also slightly biased.) Make the most of your weekend by living like a local: rent a bike and explore the beautiful trails of  Golden Gate Park. Graze on organic oysters, cheese, and sustainably-grown heirloom tomatoes in the Ferry Building, or try to choose from the concentration of the best. burritos. in. the. world. in  The Mission District, or sip on Irish coffee at the Buena Vista and bread bowls of chowder in Fisherman's Wharf. Or, hop on a ferry and explore Sausalito, Tiberon, or Alcatraz — just don’t forget a jacket.

Old World charm meets vibrant New World sophistication here, where a thriving restaurant culture and booming theater and art scene are king. Stroll down the beachside boardwalk, The Battery, or take a horse and carriage through the cobbled downtown streets to see centuries-old mansions, Spanish moss-draped trees, and spooky cemeteries. At night, the gaslamp-lit streets make you feel as though you stepped into the 1800s, but pop into one of the innovative restaurants for a trendy dish and you’ll instantly remember what year it is (or, opt for the classic Southern fare of sweet tea and crab soup or fried alligator.) Still, history oozes out of Charleston’s every orifice, and Civil War buffs in particular should not miss Fort Sumter, or the stately homes-turned-museums.

Selfies at the Rocky statue after you run up the steps are obligatory. Go for it. And deciding which cheesesteak is better between Pat's and Geno's is also okay (though we recommend going off the beaten path to try smaller vendors, as well.) You’d be remiss if you didn’t taste American history at the Liberty Bell and Constitution Center, and the abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary is a unique, spooky experience. But just a few blocks away from the noise and crowds of downtown, shady cobbled alleyways await, with red-brick colonial houses, hidden eateries, and pockets of history. Meander through Fairmount Park or while away the afternoon beneath the trees in iconic Love Park, people-watch in  Rittenhouse Square, or sip a sundae at Franklin Fountain in Old City for a taste of what makes Philadelphia an actually quaint and unpretentious city.

Everything you’ve heard about this eclectic city is (probably) true: filled with artists and activists, rose gardens and microbrews, vinyl and coffee (all done to perfection), it just oozes “hip.” Get a taste of the thriving restaurant culture, fueled largely by the region’s countless wineries and organic farms. Try porchetta and dirty fries at  Lardo, fried rings of lard at Voodoo Doughnuts, nitro cold-brewed coffee at  Stumptown Roasters, or sustainable poached eggs at The Screen Door; you won’t be sorry. On the south side of the city, relax in Washington Park and the International Rose Test Garden, or head outside town to the iconic Multnomah Falls. And in between, peruse the many markets for everything from organic dog treats to re-purposed bamboo-framed sunglasses.

Still wondering how you can travel more while working full-time? 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Martin Luther King Day

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." 
Martin Luther King Jr. 

#travelingcynthia #mlk #martinlutherkingquote #martinlutherkingday

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Been There, Seen That: Alternatives to Europe's Biggest Cities

Excerpted from AFAR by Andrew Richdale

Where to go in Europe, once you've explored Berlin, Rome, Barcelona and more.Visit the continent with fresh eyes this year by booking a trip to these rising-star cities.

If You Like Rome . . .
Visit Parma, Italy
UNESCO recently named the birthplace of Parma ham and Parmesan cheese the world’s first Creative City of Gastronomy.
What to do: Enjoy langoustines and shrimp beignets at F.I.S.H. Sample salami at the market near Strada Matteo Renato Imbriani. Drink your fill of the local lambrusco. And top it all off with the creamy fior di latte gelato from Cremeria Emilia.
Photo by Cynthia Dial
If You Like Berlin . . .
Visit Leipzig, Germany
A breeding ground for young artists, Leipzig, with its warehouse parties and Soviet towers, could be Berlin right after the wall fell.
What to do: Don’t miss Spinnerei, a 25-acre former mill turned studio compound for 100 artists. Wander through provocative photography exhibits at Halle 14 and shop for elegant coral-like sculptures at Claudia Biehne’s studio and shop.

If You Like Barcelona . . .
Visit Malaga, Spain
Sunny days by the sea, tapas binges, a bounty of trippy architecture—it’s Barcelona without all the hippies and students.
What to do: The port city has been occupied by more than five different civilizations in its 2,800 years. Admire the ruins of Phoenician lighthouses and Roman theaters. Back in this century, sip Spanish beer at the new El Rincon del Cervecero.

If You Like Copenhagen . . .
Visit Aarhus, Denmark
Like Copenhagen, this second-largest Danish city is home to eye-grabbing modern design and a thriving New Nordic food scene.
What to do: Aarhus is full of forward-thinking minds. Challenge your palate with  the calf’s-blood macaroons at Frederikshoj and admire the spiky Iceberg apartment complex. Get around using the city’s new light-rail, which opens this year.

If You Like Zurich . . .
Visit Bern, Switzerland
Bern has the same sophisticated vibe, Old World architecture, and green spaces as Zurich—just with one third of the population.
What to do: It’s all about the good life here. Hike up to Rosengarten, a park with 200 types of roses and sweeping views of the old city. And visit the Zentrum Paul Klee for an exhibit on Klee’s relationship with the Surrealist painters of Paris.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

How to Survive an Insanely Long Travel Delay

The chillest guide to actually enjoying holiday travel

Excerpted from AFAR by Maggie Fuller

Nothing activates that noxious, gut-dwelling ball of dread as quickly as the words “travel” and “delay” in the same sentence. Every year, traveling with unpredictable weather and the universe’s morbid sense of humor create the perfect storm of travel disasters. Will you be trapped on the tarmac for five hours? Or find yourself unwillingly stepping into Tom Hank’s role in The Terminal? 

While we’re all dreading the reroutes and delays and predicting the worst, we have to keep one thing in mind: A travel delay can actually be awesome. Yes, you read that right. Being forced to stop running around, relax, and enjoy an entire airport of increasingly delightful food, drink, and entertainment sounds like a pretty good deal to us. Here’s how you can turn a disastrous delay into a mini-vacation-within-a-vacation.
Photo by Cynthia Dial
Come prepared
The good news is that if you’re well-prepared with the necessities for a long flight, you’re also well-prepared for a comfy stay in an airport. If you’re not already traveling with an over-sized scarf that doubles as a blanket, this is the perfect time to start. Keeping crucial toiletries on hand will also allow you to freshen up whenever you want. Traveling with others? Consider investing in headphone splitters so that you can actually snuggle up and enjoy the movies and podcasts you’ve loaded on your electronic devices together. Throw in a pair of fuzzy socks or two and you’ve got yourself an airport slumber party. Most importantly, it’s an open secret that a multi-port USB charger or a multi-port adapter will guarantee you access to a coveted outlet, and a few new best friends to boot.

Plan Your Emergency Strategy Ahead of Time
Let’s just agree to assume that a flight delay is inevitable. The only thing more stressful than a delay is Googling “what to do in the event of a travel delay” seconds after you find out your plane has been delayed. While it takes a little extra planning, getting your logistics sorted out ahead of time will let you start enjoying your surprise airport vacation sooner.

Consider travel insurance—since we’re assuming you’ll be delayed, it’s going to come in handy. Most airlines’ flight protection policies and conditions of carriage don’t cover weather-related delays, so check on the extent of your coverage from any rewards credit cards, or consider buying from a travel insurance company like Travel Guard. Just like that, you could while away your extra-long travel delay lounging in a hotel robe, enjoying room service, and watching a popular movie from two years ago—at no extra cost.

Even if you have travel insurance, your airport vacation won’t last forever, so you should stay on top of your itinerary changes. A delay can affect everything from car rentals to hotel reservations to tours you may have booked, so keep those contact numbers (or email addresses) handy so that you can alert rental and travel agents of your change of plans and re-book as soon as possible, if necessary.
Finally, add key travel apps to your arsenal, like the all-in-one TripIt and TripItPro. These apps will help you navigate your terminal, send you updates and notifications on your flight, and some can even help you easily re-book your flight online so you don’t have to wait in line.

Maintain your Zen
Once they’ve announced that your flight has been delayed, don’t panic. If you find that you do need to relocate your center of calm, find the nearest yoga or meditation room. Often complete with mats, wood blocks, and sometimes even instructional videos, yoga rooms are popping up in airports all over the world. These days you can get your “ohm” on in San Francisco International, Chicago O’Hare, Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, and more. USA Today reports that we can expect to see an increasing number of airport yoga rooms in the coming years. Most are free to use, but a few are part of larger fitness facilities or lounges and may require a small fee (which, to us, is worth it).

Head for the Lounges
Even if you’re not a member of a rewards program or rewards credit card, the best thing you do when facing an indefinite delay is to buy a day pass to an airport lounge. Escape the fluorescent-lit and echoing halls of the terminals to be cocooned in the style and comfort of plush couches, curtained windows, Wi-Fi, and available electrical outlets. Depending on the airline and location, your closest lounge may offer free food and drinks or shower facilities, and all lounges come fully-equipped with peace and quiet. There’s never been a better time or place to dive into that bestselling book you’ve been meaning to start, accompanied by a glass of champagne, of course. Most lounge day passes start around $50.

(Don’t) Sweat it
Can’t shake that flight delay anxiety? Work it off in an airport gym. Airport gyms have long been popular with business travelers whose hectic schedules make it hard to fit in exercise, but gyms are lifesavers for weary, delayed travelers. will help you locate fitness lounges and centers in airports across the United States and Canada. For airports without fitness facilities, the site lists nearby gyms and the fastest way to get to them, which is usually a short taxi ride. Stretch your cramped legs and sweat out all that lethargy—just remember to pack your gym clothes and shoes in your carry-on.

Spring for the Spa
If there is ever a perfect time to treat yourself to a massage and a manicure, this is it. We’re not just talking about massage chairs, either. Many major international airports and airport hotels around the world are home to top-quality spas that offer a full range of services, from quick-fix massages to longer, full-body treatments that target common travel complaints from dehydration to achy muscles. If you have the time, airport hotel spas offer a more comprehensive sanctuary experience, but if your plane may take off at any time, Be Relax and XpresSpa both have locations onsite in multiple terminals across the country. You’ll be so relaxed and rejuvenated, you might just “forget” to get on your flight.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New Year's Wish

My 2017 New Year's resolution is not to make a resolution, but rather have a wish.

“I wish the world were half as big, and I would live twice as long.” 

#travel #traveltuesday #travelquote #travelingcynthia