Monthly Archives: June 2013

Here’s Why I Go Places… And You Should Too

July starts this Monday (in the U.S., that is) and I’ll be getting ready to leave for upcoming excursions. While I’m going to keep quiet about where I’m heading for now, I want to use this post to encourage you to get out there too.

Maybe you want to explore Europe by rail or go backpacking through Southeast Asia. Or even trek off the map to remote places (I don’t know if even I could do that). Or perhaps you’re content with seeing more of your home country. To all of you, I say, “Just. Go.”

Doing it? Great!

Hesitant. Why?

Can’t. Why not?

399710_4325971780202_280524651_nIt’s understandable that many of us are putting off the idea of traveling right now, or not even considering it. The job market is still shaky, layoffs still happen, and wallets are getting tighter. I know and have met many people who have been impacted by the current economy. And I have been too.

So, why still encourage travel? Well, first, travel is not only about taking week-long vacations or booking a hotel or flight reservation. Or feverishly surfing through third-party search engines for discounts and package deals (well, it’s a good idea). Rather, travel can be about exploring your surroundings or discovering new venues or locations. It’s just that simple.

And also that’s why I decided to name my blog, “She Is Going Places.”

Here are my other reasons for “going”:

– You learn more about the place you live in. How many people actually see much of their town, city, or even state/region? It’s like living in New York City and never going to the Statue of Liberty or Empire State Building.

– You can recharge your batteries. When you’re unemployed or in a rut, being out and about can be good for your well-being.

– You develop a better sense of direction. For me, it’s a work in progress.

– Your self-confidence gets a boost.

– Most often, you can choose where, when and how you want to go.

– Your possibilities are limitless. Going to festivals, shows and other events counts.

– You discover new venues or attractions and/or give longtime places a second look.

– You have a great reason to get together with friends or relatives. (Having someone that is open to trying new things with you is best.) However, don’t be afraid to venture out on your own.

So, please get out there. Thanks.

A Nomadic Shares $$$-Saving Tips for Seeing the World

Similar to many career circles, travel writers and bloggers mix and mingle. While we take pictures, post words, or shoot videos of our destinations, it’s common for us to be working on a few side projects too. Like books.

MattA while ago, I befriended blogger Matt Kepnes, who is also known by his blog name, “Nomadic Matt.” He recently released his paperback “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day. Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter” (Perigee Trade, 2013), and, like other budding travelers, I wanted to get his advice.

Kepnes told me that his book came about from hearing the same story from people he meets: how they would love to see the world like he does, but can’t because of money, time, and so on. He sums up his work as “an outgrowth of people asking me how they can do travel too. This book is the answer to that question.”

With the motto, “travel cheaper, longer, smarter,” Kepnes is quick to dismiss the notion that travel requires a lot of dough.

A three-part guide, this book first breaks down the basics on getting the groundwork ready before your trip. Kepnes addresses often-searched topics such as saving on flights and accommodations. He also tells how to shop around for the right travel credit card and purchase travel insurance (which he highly recommends).

Book Cover1Section two offers additional tips for cutting down on expenses on activities, dining, and transportation. The book’s final part gets specific on being savvy with your Euros, Pesos, or whatever currency is used in your overseas destination. It goes by region, highlighting where Kepnes has been in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South America, Central America and Southeast Asia. The $50 amount in the book’s title is based on his experience with budgeting his money as he traveled worldwide.

Kepnes’ own big adventure began in 2003 with a two-week trip to Costa Rica, which he credits as giving him the “travel bug.” Then the following year on a trip to Thailand, he began rethinking about what direction he wanted his life to take.

Back in the U.S., he put his plan for traveling the world into action. In July of 2006, he took the money he had saved from his job as a hospital administrator and headed off on a yearlong trek. This “year” led turned into 18 months on the road, and then six years.

When he returned home for a while in 2008, he started his blog to share his insights and advice. And, of course, he continued his journeys.

With first-time travelers, Kepnes finds they often make the mistake of not planning well. They neither budget properly nor realize the extent of what things can cost at their potential location. “Everyone has their own splurge that makes them happy,” Kepnes noted. “It’s up to you and how you want to budget your money.”

Kepnes, who presently lives in Manhattan, hopes his book will inspire others to get going. “You only live once, so definitely spend time traveling.” I agree, Matt!

Exploring Krakow: Poland’s Living Legacy

Who says summer days are lazy? Like many of you, I’ve been busy catching up on some projects and completing assignments. And, also like you, I am making plans for seeing family, friends, and places of course.

In thinking about summer vacations, I wanted to share a new post about a trip to Eastern Europe last year. Among three cities and countries I jaunted to with my cousin, Krakow, Poland really stood out for me. From its medieval days as a major trading stop to sections impacted by events leading up to World War II, Krakow maintains a thriving link to the past while being in the present. Here is what to see and do:

Walk Around Krakow’s Old Town Section

100_8979The focal point of Krakow’s Old Town section is Rynek Glówny, which also carries the distinction of being Europe’s largest medieval square. There is also a neat mixture of neighboring architecture found here. Town Hall Tower, the remnant of a 14-century town hall, has a 100-step staircase for climbing up, or browse among the wares offered by vendors inside Sukiennice, also known as Cloth Hall. This venue was once where merchants cut fabrics and nowadays more touristy but it’s a good source for finding souvenirs and handcrafted items.

Around Rynek Glówny, meal options are plenty with restaurants and cafes. Pretzel carts sell nice-sized ones in plain or seeded versions. I paid about maybe a Euro and some change for one, and they can be filling. Another neat find around Rynek Glówny is St. Mary’s Basilica, which is worth going inside to view its ornate alter and ceiling. If you happen to be around outside this church on the hour, look up at its tall tower to catch a trumpeter playing four calls.

Stay in Rynek Glówny a bit more, or buy in advance your timed admission entrance, to see Rynek Underground, a fascinating museum that literally takes visitors underneath street levels to seeing reconstructed displays on how medieval Krakow looked.

Exhibits are based on real archeological findings, as relics are paired alongside touchscreens and short videos that provide details on everything from daily living to trade routes. Another wing gets even more visual with history films on various chapters of Krakow’s background. An impressive, 3D chronology on key figures throughout Krakow’s past is aired as a 360-degree presentation. Definitely get your tickets to Rynek Underground beforehand. Waits can get long.

Glimpse Into Royal Living

At Wawel, a hillside area near the Vistual River, kings were crowned and later buried and also lived out their reign for centuries. I recommend getting an early start here 100_9025because there are limited daily tickets for going inside Wawel Castle and Wawel Cathedral.

You can walk around the grounds of this complex but seeing the interior of both these places provides more insight on Krakow’s royalty.

Wawel Cathedral is the resting place for national heroes and political leaders as well as late kings whose legacies live on in embellished tombs and sarcophagi. About three years, the late Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife were interned in a crypt. The cathedral has a number of small chapels named for saints or key figures. You can choose to climb up the Dzwon Zygmunta, a bell tower, where it’s said that if you touch the clapper of the massive Zygmunt bell (the largest of the five bells) with your left hand, you will have good luck.

Graced with an Italian Renaissance courtyard, Wawel Castle has staterooms and private apartments with lavish furnishings such as tapestries and paintings along with Crown Treasury and Armory and other national wonders.  Carefully climb up the narrow Sandomierska Tower, once used to hold firearms and artillery. Once you leave Wawel, journey down toward the Vistual River to follow a path route along the water and get a different look at the hill.

See the Strength of Jewish Community

100_8942 copyAs the Nazi invasion of Poland led to the beginning of World War II, Krakow’s Jewish population was forced to leave the long-thriving district of Kazimierz and pushed into a wartime ghetto called Podgórze.

Today, Kazimierz has been reinvigorated as a place for kosher dining and a happening night scene, and also has a marketplace called Plac Nowy. Steven Spielberg filmed Schindler’s List here, and there are significant houses of worship such as the Remuh Synagogue & Cemetery, dating back to 1553, and Popper Synagogue, now an arts center.

Podgórze contains standing reminders of the onslaughts that happened there. Plac Botherów Getta is a memorial of 70 chairs in remembrance of the ghetto’s occupants who were rounded up in this public space to be sent on to concentration camps.

Next to the memorial, Pharmacy Under the Eagle was once a working pharmacy that doubled as a secret meeting place for residents. Now it’s a museum. Along a section called Lwowska, catch two remaining segments that made up Remnants of the Ghetto Wall, built for what it’s called.

Other sites in Krakow worth a visit include:

Oskar Schindler Enamelled Goods Factory

Discover the story behind Schindler’s List by visiting the Oskar Schindler Enamelled Goods Factory (or simply called Schindler’s Factory), whose owner saved the lives of more than 1,000 factory workers.

Archdiocese Museum

Before becoming Pope John Paul II, the late Karol Wojtyla attended university in Krakow and was an archbishop here. The Archdiocese Museum showcases his life, interests and travels.

The Planty

A public park that stands on a once-fortified circle, The Planty has statues, monuments and plaques along with sites including the Barbican, a fort/drawbridge dating back to the 1400s, and Bunkier Sztuky, a pretty cool art museum.

Seeing Familiar Places and New Ones on Connecticut Open House Day

Indoors or outside, the weather was great this past Saturday, June 8 for Connecticut residents to check out our state’s annual Open House Day. With more than 100 attractions statewide participating, I decided to stick around Fairfield County to get reacquainted with two museums that I last saw as a child. Plus, one has a new neighbor that is worth climbing around.

Fphoto-24irst, I headed out to The Discovery Museum and Planetarium on Bridgeport’s Park Avenue, near the city’s border with Fairfield. A mainstay since I can remember, the three-level museum pays tribute to milestones in science, innovation, and exploration. On the main level, the museum’s “Adventure Science” section starts with a jungle gym set up that provides a miniature version of the Adventure Park located next door. Younger visitors didn’t hesitant to try it out, climbing, jumping and running around the structure.

Moving on across the wing, the next space shows how Bridgeport and other places in Connecticut made major strides in engineering such as Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford, whose founder Igor Sikorsky is credited with launching the U.S. With space exploration, Hamilton Sunstrand Space Systems in Windsor Locks (now known as UTC Aerospace Systems) developed a portable life support system for NASA space suits worn by Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong for the 1969 moonwalk.

Speaking of outer space, the lower level holds the museum’s Planetarium and a Challenger Learning Center, along with AV displays about the planets and enlarged photos of the  cosmos. Here youngsters can also go exploring with MoonBase Discovery, a section with shuttles for climbing inside and getting behind the wheel. Don’t forget to head up to the third floor for more hands-on activity with a mixture of exhibits highlighting energy in all its various forms.

photo-33Going back outside, my next stop was at The Adventure Park at The Discovery Museum, which is behind the museum’s property. Opened two years ago, the aerial attraction sits on five acres of woods in Veterans Memorial Park, with 11 different course levels that encourage you to climb, crawl, pull through and step across one platform to the next and reach the end point by zip lining.

Choose to stick in your comfort zone, starting with a new purple line, or perhaps challenge yourself to reach a level like the double black diamond (60 feet up). Go at your own place. Other things help put fears aside. The park’s crew members suit you up in a fitted harness and gloves and give clear instructions about the magnetic clips you’re given to get to each point.

And you’re not left hanging mid-course. Call for help by saying “staff,” which I did, and they will come. I finished with a needed upper body workout and a confidence boost.

Finishing out the day, I drove up to Stamford for a quick jaunt around the Stamford Museum & Nature Center, which is close to the Merrittphoto-43 Parkway. The 118-acre property has a nice mix of family activities: hiking trails, a working farm, a children’s playground, nature center, a nature preserve, and an observatory. Heckscher Farm is home to goats, sheep, pigs and chickens, with an organic vegetable garden and an animal embassy. Step inside Bendel Mansion and Museum Galleries to see the former summer home of New York designer and department store owner Henri Willis Bendel.

Even if Connecticut Open House Day is now closed, get out and see these places!

Umbria Tourism Goes Tech with MultiMedia App Launch

photo-22Known as the “green heart of Italy,” Umbria is symbolized by food, wine, ceramics, history and culture. It’s also quite picturesque, as this central and landlocked region is noted for its scenic character with rolling green hills and historical towns like Assisi.
To better market its visual appeal, Umbria’s tourism board has taken a tech savvy approach that connects old-world traditions with modern-day applications. At a June 3 reception at Eataly in New York City, representatives unveiled English versions of UmbriaApp, a collection of roughly 20 apps using a multimedia storytelling approach to showcase the region’s offerings.

During the reception, officials described the process of creating the UmbriaApp line as a  “imaginary bridge” between Umbria’s past and future innovation, in terms of shaping the direction in which tourism hopes to go.

photo-21As of this writing, the English apps will be released first for iPad, with versions for iPhone and Android to follow shortly. Italian versions are currently available. Developed by Sesinet Snc, an Italian company, all apps are free and can be downloaded through iTunes.

Varying by subject, apps cover art and history museums, festivals, bike tours and particularly food and wine.

One of the new apps that is quite appetizing is “Umbria Enogastronomia.” This culinary app is a virtual cookbook on Umbria’s authentic wines and cuisine, covering the region’s meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables. Users can also replicate a taste of this region in their kitchen by browsing through the app’s range of recipes, complete with photos, ingredients, and preparation notes.

The unveiling at Eataly kicked off “Umbria Week 2013,” a week-long roster of activities in Manhattan from June 3 through June 8 that serves as a precursor to a “Sensational Umbria,” a month-long celebration scheduled for November.

In highlighting Umbrian cuisine, samplings of traditional dishes such as lentil soup (with its recipe included in the culinary app) and pesce crudo were offered. Tastings provided by Goretti Winery in Perugia, Umbria’s capital, complimented the evening.