Monthly Archives: January 2017

7 Must-Attend Travel Festivals


Photo credit: Travel and Adventure Show

For many reasons, I enjoy going to travel festivals.

First, they make you feel as though you’ve seen the world and can still be home in time for dinner. Second, vendors often hand out perks you want to actually grab up, including discount coupons, products for sale at special show rates, free food/drink samples, and contest giveaways. Third, there are talks by travel experts on everything from destinations to money-saving trips, to niche markets – you most likely will find a lecture you want to sit in on. Plus, or fourth, some travel shows cater to those who want to turn their passion for travel into a professional pursuit.

If you’re seeking inspiration, advice on where to go this year, or help with becoming a travel pro, here are seven travel festivals worth attending.


Credit: The New York Times Travel Show/Facebook

The New York Times Travel Show

Usually held in January, this travel show takes over an entire show floor of the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. It’s easy to navigate, as destinations and travel industries and niches are divided into pavilions. Europe is in one area. Africa is in another. So are Asia and South/Latin America. The USA has its wing, so do niche markets like river cruises, adventure travel, and wellness. It can get packed, but be patient and wiggle your way up to a booth or good viewing spot. The weekend program includes seminars by top travel industry names (like guidebook author Arthur Frommer, and his daughter, Pauline Frommer), book signings, and cultural/culinary demos. The 2017 show will also feature a new Family Travel Pavilion, offering various kid-friendly activities.


Photo credit: The Boston Globe Travel Show

The Boston Globe Travel Show

While I’m biased towards New York, other states are sites of good travel shows. The Boston Globe puts on one every year, with 2017 being in early February at the Seaport World Trade Center. I haven’t been to it yet, but from looking at their schedule, it looks like a good one. Their three-day schedule includes cultural performances and speakers such as Patricia Schultz, author of “1,000 Places to See Before You Die.” One neat offering is a Craft Beer Pavilion, where breweries from New England and other parts of the United States will offer samples of their suds. You have to buy tickets to get in, but the price includes show admission.


Photo credit: Women’s Travel Fest/Facebook

Women’s Travel Fest

Hey, ladies: this annual March weekend conference puts you in good company. My friend Kelly Lewis organizes this event, which changes location every year, scheduling a program that provides information and inspiration. Discussions will focus on common concerns such as personal safety and health needs, but also first-hand perspectives on overcoming challenges and finding your inner strength. Past speakers have included THINX Co-Founder and “SHE-EO” Miki Agrawal and Travel Channel host Samantha Brown, along with noteworthy travel writers and experts. On the main day, there are vendor booths with products and services ranging from personal care goods to tour offerings. The last day of the event tends to focus more on workshops. Past Women’s Travel Fests have been held in NYC and San Francisco, and the 2017 conference is going to New Orleans!


Photo credit: TBEX/Facebook


Travel blogging is emerging as a growing and credible market, but learning how to turn a blog into a profitable and continuous brand is the trick. This three-day conference, with versions in North America, Europe, and Asia, brings in travel experts/bloggers who have made names for themselves within their respective areas. They lead sessions on everything from SEO, social media, and technology, to business partnerships and marketing. I’ve attended three so far, and I find that you meet travel bloggers who are at different stages: starting out, in the middle, and established. Another thing I like about TBEX is its rotating locations. They provide the opportunity to see destinations like the Philippines, Sweden, and Israel, or ones that don’t first come to mind like Huntsville, Alabama.


Photo credit: New York Travel Festival

New York Travel Festival

Again, back to New York City. Every mid-April, this ongoing festival emphasizes all aspects of travel and switches up its programming and host venues around the city. What makes it different is that the festival’s format extends to consumers, travel industry professionals, and those who seem to be in between. Discussions really drive this multi-day event, with tracks, discussion panels, and individual presentations. One room may have a talk on diversity in travel, another might converse about visiting Cuba or Antarctica, and an additional one could be highlighting local exploration. Tickets vary depending on your interest or background and access to certain sessions.


Photo credit: Travel and Adventure Show

Travel and Adventure Show

I’ve heard about this travel show through friends who went to, or spoke at, its Washington, D.C. edition. While this January event has already passed, the Travel and Adventure Show carries onto other cities across America – Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Denver, Philadelphia, and San Diego. It’s said to attract top travel experts like Rick Steves, Samantha Brown, CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg, and airline expert Johnny Jet. This traveling show also puts on various educational seminars, cultural presentations, and culinary showings. Its yearly schedule kicks off in January and runs through April.


Photo credit: Wanderful/Women in Travel Summit

Women in Travel Summit

Organized by Wanderful, a global women’s travel community, this female-focused summit provides attendees (primarily women’s travel influencers and industry members) with resources to fully enhance their digital presence. Basically, it centers on women who are their own “girl boss.” Beginner and advance-level info sessions are divided into three tracks: lifestyle (all about traveling), media (the business/tech side of blogging) and entrepreneurship (business and marketing strategies). The Women in Travel Summit, also known as WITS, is now in its fourth year. Its 2017 edition will meet in Milwaukee, Wisconsin this April.

See each festival’s website for information about tickets and a full schedule. Also, let me know what travel events/festivals I’m missing.

Exploring Mexico City with Le Méridien


Le Meridien Mexico City eclair, by pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini

In December, I was invited by Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts to come to Mexico City and get a taste for their “Éclair Diaries” program led by pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini. Through his partnership with Le Méridien, Iuzzini has the task of creating signature eclairs for various properties within the U.S. and overseas. So far, the project has taken him to New Orleans, Paris, Barcelona, Cote D’Azur, and New Delhi, where he scouts out venues for obtaining local ingredients and creating a destination-themed eclair.

Now, for the “Eclair Diaries,” Mexico City has become the latest chapter, with Le Méridien Mexico City being the recipient. To see how Iuzzini begins his recipe process, our group accompanied him to Central de Abasto, Mexico City’s major wholesale market. It was the perfect place for Iuzzini to conduct his research, and for me to learn more about Mexican cuisine.

Joining us were Jared Reardon and Sonia Arias, a husband/wife culinary duo from Jaso Restaurant in Mexico City. The couple led Iuzzini around to different vendors, providing details about what was on display and negotiating with various merchants.


Johnny Iuzzini selects ingredients for the Mexico City eclair.

We followed Iuzzini, as he examined foods by sight, scent, and taste. He tried fruits unique in look and flavor: the citrusy granada china, the papaya-looking mamey sapote, and the dark colored but sweet tasting zapote negro. (I did too.) With every stop, Iuzzini pulled out his notebook, jotting down notes and first impressions. And, of course, he made some purchases like piloncillo, a brown cane sugar molded in a cone shape.

As Iuzzini spent the following day immersed in kitchen R&D, I got to spend time with another Le Méridien ambassador – coffee connoisseur Esther Maasdam. Maasdam is in charge of training Le Méridien’s master baristas and creating a series of latte art inspired by property destinations.


Coffee expert Esther Maasdam creates a latte work of art.

And she knows her coffee. On the final day of our visit, we got to watch her work her magic at a barista machine and hand-paint latte images inspired by her time in Mexico such as cacti and a Mexican wrestling mask. Also that morning, Iuzzini unveiled the finalized recipe for his Mexico City éclair. It consists of a mole-flavored shell with a mamey-vanilla cream filling, a tamarind-lime glaze, crispy peanuts, caramelized bananas, and crystallized huitlacoche.

Along with Central de Abasto, our group got to explore other sites in Mexico City. They included:


Amazing fish dish at Restaurante Nicos

Restaurante Nicos: In the Claverai neighborhood, this family-owned restaurant has simple yet elegant décor, and its breakfast/lunch menus are quite refined. For lunch, we had a mix of orders such as a river fish steamed a corn husk, barbecued rabbit, and turkey and pork with mole. Desserts were just as grand: Mexican buñuelos, a fried dough, served in molasses, a corn cake with eggnog sauce; and spiced popcorn paired with pumpkin gelato and zapote negro sauce. Of course, an order of guacamole is great for starting off your meal, and Nicos staff makes it table-side. At the end, order Mexican coffee, as it’s also prepared right in front of you.

Museo Tamayo: Le Méridien’s “Destination Unlocked” program partners each of its properties with a local cultural institution, giving guests get free admission. Le Méridien Mexico City is paired with Museo Tamayo, a contemporary art museum in Chapultepec Park. Named after abstract painter Rufino Tamayo, his featured works include “The Watermelon,” inspired by his childhood selling fruit. Outside, find a swing set that, yes, you can go on. However, it’s best that you don’t climb on the adjacent jungle gym; you might get yelled at by security. The museum’s restaurant offers modern takes on traditional Mexican cuisine, with one must-try being the chicken stuffed with cuitlacoche and goat cheese over pinto beans.

Chapultepec Castle (Castillo de Chapultepec): Also in Chapultepec Park, this hillside castle was once the Imperial residence of Mexican Emperor Maximilian I, and his consort, Empress Carlota. Over time, it also served as the official home of Mexico’s presidents. Now it’s a history museum. Spend some time at the royal couple’s furnished rooms, a stained-glass corridor, an observatory, and a terrace with aerial views of the city.


Eno Petrarca brews up an assortment of coffees.

Eno Petrarca: In the Polanco neighborhood, this coffee shop/sandwich place gets good remarks for its meal selection but I can more so vouch for its java. I savored a nutty flavored Latte Cacahuate and sipped on a cold coffee infused with almond and lemon. And while we were there, Maasdam had a turn at their machine (ironically, one of the employees recognized her!). This place is also the sibling of Pujol, a fine dining establishment next door that’s hard to get into (it seats about 13) but specializes a seasonal tasting lunch/dinner menu.

Licoreria Limantour: As a place suggested to Maasdam by one of her colleagues, this cocktail bar in Roma Notre is definitely where to get a quality mixed drink. Bonus: If your knowledge of Spanish is un poco, not to worry: the menu feature pictures of their selections alongside drink listings. I had the Vicqua, a fruity concoction topped with a dried carrot/beet garnish.

La Bodega Mexico: It’s easy to spot this restaurant in the Condesa neighborhood, due to its bright red sign and drapery. Inside, it’s even more colorful with decorative fixtures and a room specifically for live music and dancing. The menu is just as interesting with choices ranging from coconut shrimp to chicken in a mole poblano sauce.

My 5 Travel Goals for 2017


Credit: Michael Mueller/Creative Commons


Happy New Year! I don’t really create New Year’s resolutions, but more and more I’m trying to set some goals to complete over the course of the year. Now with travel being an important facet of my life, I’ve been thinking about what goals I would want to accomplish during 2017. So far I’ve got two that I’ve decided on, and three in the works, so here are my 5 main travel goals for 2017.

  1. Try staying in an AirBNB or other kind of apartment rental. Except for spending a weekend at a hostel, I haven’t stayed a reservation in non-hotel accommodation yet. Maybe it’s due to slight worries about staying in a rental place (P.S. don’t read these types of horror stories) or just figured that a hotel lets me avoid dealing with any serious concerns. Yet for a conference I’m attending this summer in D.C., I decided to give AirBNB a shot due to the location of the property being super close to the conference center and being half the cost of a week stay in a conference-sponsored hotel. So fingers crossed and probably many email Qs sent to the apartment holder.
  2. Better budgeting/spending. Those who know me well get that I like to buy items while traveling – souvenirs, mementos, neat finds, even gifts for family and good friends. Yet, due to a budget that keeps changing, it’s best that I stop doing so (okay, maybe just one thing). I’m pretty good about trying to buy local, in terms of checking where a product is made from or shopping from markets or direct manufacturers. My biggest issue is when my heart gets set on something, and my head tells me it might be better to buy it and bring it home than not to and wonder about it later (hence my wishful thinking on regretting to buy a kimono in Japan last year). So instead of shelling out cash – and definitely avoiding pulling out plastic – I’m going to either set a stricter limit of what I buy or discipline myself in realizing that what I spend will have to come out of something else (eek, meals or attractions).
  3. Getting more comfortable with adventure travel. As a kid who was often picked last for teams in gym class, playing sports has never been my forte. Sometimes my work assignments have me scheduled to do more adventure-style travel, too. I’ve had to pass up on water activities because I’m not a strong swimmer, and I’ve (probably unnecessarily) freaked out over doing ziplining and even rappelling (both of which involve experts leading us through every step and checking our equipment). In hindsight, I’m glad that I did ones that brought me out of my comfort zone, and I also realize that I’m probably holding myself back from trying new things. Even if I suck at them, at least I know that I tried.
  4. Experimenting more with photo and video. 2017 will mark the 20th anniversary of starting out my career in writing/media (wow!) but a lot has changed in my field that time. Even with travel, good writing is still appreciated but nowadays the game of storytelling keeps changing. A video segment of a destination totally provides a different perspective that the written, even spoken, word. And photography also has much to tell. A while ago, I won a GoPro Hero in a raffle and have to get on using it. I also want to invest in a good camera that permits good pics and video taking (if you have a recommendation, I would love to hear it), because it’s fun to learn and can provide some extra work.
  5. De-cluttering big time. This goal doesn’t seem like it fits on a travel list, but probably for the past 10-15 years I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff (from apartment living, clothing bought for special occasions/office work, a hobby of attending book signings, a revitalized interest in reading, and that damn site called eBay) that cost me not just money but also space, time, and, in some cases, emotions. To help me save on future expenses, I’ve been trying to reshop my closet for clothes I can reuse and perhaps give to charity like tag sales or libraries or maybe sell some items for a few bucks.


So, tell me what your goals are for 2017.