Author Archives: She Is Going Places

About She Is Going Places

Encouraging travelers of all ages, budgets, and backgrounds to get out and go exploring.

2017 Travel Bloggers Summit on Study Abroad & Global Citizenship NYC

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I first heard about studying abroad during college when I went to interview the director of my school’s program for the student newspaper. While I don’t remember much of what we talked about, I do recall getting excited over the places as a student I could go to – Ireland, England, Spain, and Italy. And leaving with some flyers to peruse when I got home.

But I ended up not studying abroad. I never signed up.

Maybe I was hesitant, worried about the money aspect or missing out on what was happening with friends at home. Nonetheless, my travel years since college have made up for it. However, the opportunity could have taken me in directions I can only “what if” about.

Nowadays, studying abroad is becoming more the norm. It’s also getting help from travel experts and bloggers – with many having studied abroad themselves – in telling how transformative this experience can be. This Friday, I’m going to the Travel Bloggers Summit on Study Abroad & Global Citizenship at Hostelling International NYC to see how.

Presented by Hostelling International USA and Partners of the Americas, this three-day summit (which started today) is a sequel to an inaugural event at the White House in 2014. This initiative was established to encourage young people to set out and see the world through educational experiences. To help foster this push, many well-respected travel experts and bloggers were invited to Washington, D.C. to learn more and become involved in this project.

Many of them I will see tomorrow in NYC.

 

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Creative Commons photo/ Andreas Mortonus

 

 

Why Study Abroad?

So why promote studying abroad? Well, here’s some data. A 2016 Open Doors Report released by the Institute of International Education found that during the 2014-2015 academic year found that:

  • Reported 313,415 U.S. students studied aboard. As for where they went, Europe received the most U.S. students, with 170,879 of them participating in undergrad programs there. Outside of North America, the Middle East and North Africa hosted the lowest number of these students, with a combined total of 6,844.
  • What are they learning? The report found that these top five fields of study are attracting U.S. students to study abroad: STEM, business, social sciences, foreign language and international studies and fine arts. As for how long they’re gone, it’s short-term, with 63% of them going abroad for eight weeks.
  • As for who specifically is studying abroad, the report found that the largest ethnic group of U.S. students was white (at 72.9%). Students who identify as multi-racial, American Indian or Alaska Native are rarely doing so (at only a combined 4.6% for the 2014-15 academic year).

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Creative Commons photo / Kenneth Lu

 

Breaking Down Barriers

Another focus of this summit is to determine how to break down barriers that prevent students of diversity from studying abroad. A 2017 presentation on Diversity Abroad for a grant by Partners of the Americas found reasons such as:

  • Awareness of its value – misconception that it’s a vacation
  • Cultural restraints – since study abroad is not a traditional part of higher education experience, families are not likely to support the student either morally or financially
  • Finances – it’s too costly or students cannot afford the loss of income for the time period abroad

Even high education might also hinder opportunities for their students to study abroad due to issues such as map out courses for credits transfer and count toward graduation, lack of funding for new programs, and engaging with faculty and adminstrations to see the value of having a study abroad component.

What Can Be Done

Along with raising awareness, there are initiatives in making study abroad more accessible such as grants. Adminstered through Hostelling International USA, Explore the World scholarships help selected applicants in financing an international trip that includes an educational or service component.

Besides money, studying abroad is also noted for its non-tangible value: learning a new language, understanding of different cultures,and building skills that can serve an ever-global growing economy.

Another cool aspect of this NYC travel summit is that it’s happening during NYC’s Global Citizen Week, which will cumulate with Saturday’s Global Citizen Festival, a separate, ticketed event on Central Park’s Great Lawn. If you’re on Twitter, follow along with the discussion on Friday (Sept. 22) at 3 p.m. via the hashtag #studyabroadbecause.

Have you studied abroad? If so, share with me your experience.

 

 

 

 

Foodie Travel: What to Eat in Charlotte versus Raleigh

 

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Photo: Charlotte’s got a lot Facebook page

 

Your Pick: Charlotte or Raleigh?

 

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Photo: visitRaleigh Facebook page

 

While Durham has been getting buzz as a foodie destination, two other North Carolina cities also have much on their plates to offer – Charlotte and Raleigh. These Southern metropolises are spooning out different tastes and dining perspectives that will leave visitors satisfying. Perhaps even stuffed. From food to drink, here is a culinary comparison of the best of what Charlotte and Raleigh are serving up.

First, let’s start with Charlotte.

Charlotte’s Eateries

 

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Photo: The King’s Kitchen & Bakery / The Plaid Penguin

 

Nicknamed “The Queen City,” Charlotte has traditional Southern specialties but also cuisines representative of cultures from around the globe plus some fun infusions.

With an adjoining bakery and breakfast café, The King’s Kitchen & Bakery is a non-profit eatery that not only provides lunch and supper picks like gumbo, catfish and baked or fried chicken, and healthy fare, but also gives their workers a fresh start and helps to feed those within the local community. With locations in Charlotte’s Uptown and Southpark districts, Rooster’s Wood Fired-Kitchen puts a European twist on scratch cooking this cuisine.

In also what’s described as “Southern-leaning American fare,” 204 North Kitchen and Cocktails in Uptown gets a little spiffy but also has a drinks list featuring fun and unique pairings and classic mixed drinks. Or go for Lowcountry cooking at Mert’s Heart and Soul, a couple-owned, colorful and soul food eatery in Uptown Charlotte. Zada Jane’s in Charlotte’s Plaza-Midwood neighborhood gives vegetarians some love, with choices that could include their non-meaty “Kool Kips” nachos and a selection of salads and sandwiches (plus some options for carnivores).

 

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Photo: McKoy’s Smokehouse and Saloon Facebook page

 

Of course, Charlotte’s barbecue joints hold their own within North Carolina, tenderly. South Charlotte’s McKoy’s Smokehouse and Saloon offers smoked meats like their pecan-smoked wings and perfected seasoned pork. Since 1963, the no-frills Bill Spoon’s Barbecue in Starmount focuses on its food with cooking up Eastern North Carolina style barbecue (with the whole pig being prepared and served with a mustary and vinegary slaw). Then, there’s Midwood Smokehouse, with three locations throughout Charlotte, whose brisket got high rankings in The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America.

Other interesting dining opportunities in Charlotte range from The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar, an infusion minded eatery in South Park, to Aria Tuscan Grill bringing refined Italian fare to Center City, to Crepe Cellar Kitchen and Pub, a Euro gastropub noted for its savory crepes.

 

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Photo: The Old Mecklenburg Brewery Facebook page

 

Charlotte’s Breweries

As for the beer scene, Charlotte is also has raising the glass on breweries with some new or recent additions or long-time spots. Described as a Belgian brew pub, Heist Brewery in NoDa neighborhood is placed within an industrial setting with craft beers and pub fare.

There are German beer halls too. The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery has an eight-acre beer garden and pub, and VBGB Beer Hall and Garden puts a contemporary take on this tradition with 30 craft and import beers on top. Other noteworthy places include Birdsong Brewing Co., with lively scene serving flights, pints, and growlers; Sycamore Brewing, which also offers international eats, and the Growlers Pourhouse, with a curated beer program that rotates taps and prime bar food such as their award-winning Rueben sandwich. In NoDa, Free Range Brewing lets their

Other noteworthy places include Birdsong Brewing Co., with lively scene serving flights, pints, and growlers, and Sycamore Brewing, which also offers international eats. Growlers Pourhouse has a curated beer program that rotates taps and prime bar food such as their award-winning Rueben sandwich. Free Range Brewing lets their ingredidents determine what type of beer will be produced, in brewing small batch beers in various styles.

Now, let’s see what Raleigh has to offer food-minded travelers.

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Photo: Little City Brewing and Provisions Co. Facebook page

Raleigh’s Breweries and Distilleries

Raleigh’s more than 25 breweries are as diverse as their sudsy creations. In the Warehouse District of Downtown Raleigh, Crank Arm Brewing Company produces three flagship brews and rotates seasonal beer styles and works with local vendors and farmers in obtaining specialty ingredients for unique flavors. With a focus on creating a place for community, Oak & Dagger Public House serves up its draft beers and an “elevated pub” lunch and dinner menu. Another neat feature: a research library where experimental, small batch brews are being concocted. Then there’s Little City Brewing and  Provisions Co., described as an industry chic bar that not only serves beers but also unique cocktails and wines.

As for distilleries, Oak City Amaretto locally handcrafts this sweet Italian liqueur, and Raleigh Rum Company produces small batches of this distilled beverage. Plus, Pinetop Distillery – with its title coming from an old nickname for moonshine – offers tours of, and tastings at, their facility on Saturdays.

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Photo credit: Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant Facebook page

Raleigh’s Shops and Eateries

From Southern cooking to in North Carolina is essential. One popular place to go for breakfast or lunch in downtown Raleigh’s Moore Square District is Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant, noted for its funky ceiling fixtures and southern classics on the menu (there’s also a sister site called Big Ed’s North, located in North Raleigh). Big Ed’s also holds a Hot Cake challenge, consisting of eating a total of three large servings, and provides all-day breakfast offerings. Explore its location include the Historic City Market, with other tenants such as restaurants, cafes and bars. Best picks include Treat, an ice cream shop, and Woody’s At City Market, a long-time watering hole.

Trying BBQ is a must head to The Pit, a Warehouse District eatery serving a whole hog, pit-cooked barbecue, or Clyde Cooper’s BBQ, a Carolina-style barbecue fixture in downtown Raleigh since 1938, or fellow long-timer Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, which opened three years later!

 

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Photo: Escazu Artisan Chocolates Facebook page

 

Raleigh’s Chocolate Shops

Got a sweet tooth? In Raleigh, chocolate has quite a decadent place with a good amount of shops and factories. Azurelise Chocolate Truffles creates orders of this decadent treat and other sinfully good sweets, while Escazu Artisan Chocolates additionally prepares bars and other confections, and Videri Chocolate Factory holds tours of its facility.

So which city’s culinary scene has your mouth watering, or making you thirsty for more? To get your food-centered trip started, check out these suggested hotels in Charlotte and in Raleigh, respectively.

This post is part of Trip.com’s Underdog Cities program.

South Africa Tourism and Citi Bike NYC Host TriBeCa Block Party

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During the month of September 2017, Citi Bike NYC riders might want to check in at the TriBeCa docking station – at Franklin Street and West Broadway – to get a glimpse into South African art and culture.

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South African Tourism and Citi Bike officials with Imani Shanklin Roberts and Esther Mahlangu

On Wednesday, September 13, representatives from South African Tourism, South African Airways, and Citi Bike NYC held a ceremony unveiling of a street mural at this station. The event was to announce a month-long partnership between Citi Bike NYC and South African Tourism, to encourage New Yorkers to be inspired to see South Africa.

The mural was designed by New York City resident and visual art Imani Shanklin Roberts. At the Wednesday event, Shanklin Roberts said her Afrocentric piece was created in honor of Esther Mahlangu, a South African artist. Mahlangu, who was also at the ceremony, is recognized for her colorful and geometric paintings. In her comments, Shanklin Roberts noted that she had a piece of Mahlangu’s and was inspired by Mahlangu’s artistic methods.

The general public can join in the celebration this Saturday, September 16, with a South-African themed block party organized by Citi Bike and South African Tourism. Held in the vicinity of the Franklin Street and West Broadway docking station, this block party will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. It will feature South African food and music plus the opportunity to talk travel with ambassadors from South Africa.

Other aspects of this partnership involve 30 South African branded Citi Bike docking stations across the city and a special vacation package offer from South African Airways Vacations.

 

Dallas or San Antonio: Day and Nighttime Fun

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All Dallas photos via DallasCVB

Your Pick: Dallas or San Antonio?

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San Antonio photos via Visit San Antonio

While Dallas and San Antonio are both in Texas, each city has its respective offerings – day or night. In the northern part of the Long Star State, Dallas has been emerging as a major metropolis. As for its counterpart in between South and Central Texas, San Antonio is steeped in Colonial heritage; its roots trace back to its founding by the Spanish.

During the daytime or at night, here is a list of what both Dallas and San Antonio have for visitors to learn a thing or do or have some fun.

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Dallas Farmers Market is happening on weekends with its eateries and outdoor markets.

Daytime – Dallas

Within Dallas’ West End district, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza takes visitors on a chronological journey not just about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy but also Kennedy’s life and legacy. After your visit, walk over to the plaza, to reflect upon the events taking place here in November 1963, and then to a nearby memorial to the President that’s a block away.

Dallas also has a link to another U.S. president. On the campus of Southern Methodist University, the George W. Bush Presidential Center, which houses a library and museum delving into the two terms held by this former Commander in Chief.

In East Dallas, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden puts you in a diverse and colorful habitat of flora and fauna extending to manicured lawns, sections showcasing species such as roses or camellias, and a trial garden area.

Within the Dallas Arts District, spend some time around Klyde Warren Park, an urban oasis that’s built over a six-lane freeway. Then head to the Dallas Museum of Art. Its collection spans over 5,000 years and across cultures ranging from Africa and Asia to the Americas. Afterwards, walk among the outdoor pieces of art at the Nasher Sculpture Center. If science is more your thing, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science has an IMAX theater and floors teaching about scientific discoveries across all fields with hands-on areas.

Of course, getting a morning or afternoon meal is important. Head to venues like the Dallas Farmers Market, with sit down or grab and go options with eateries serving up choices like seafood, Cajun, Mex-Tex or pizza.

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Deep Ellum has quite the music scene going on.

Nighttime – Dallas

Dallas neighborhoods are buzzing as an evening hangout spot; check out these particular two locations. From live music venues to breweries, Deep Ellum offers locations suiting your interest; perhaps go for a drink at Deep Ellum Brewing Company or Braindead Brewing. In South Dallas, the Bishop Arts District has a fair number of eateries and venues ranging from Bishop Cider Co – a hard cider producer with a tasting room at its location – to Tilman’s Roadhouse, a Western-chic restaurant serving comfort food.

For those unsure about what to eat, Trinity Groves is a trendy enclave that houses an eclectic mix of restaurants serving vegetarian, Middle Eastern fare, Chinese, barbecue, steak, or sushi. For overhead views of the city, the Reunion Tower takes you up over 500 feet and displays a layout of the city with its Halo interactive system.

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The Alamo is San Antonio’s iconic landmark.

Daytime – San Antonio

San Antonio has many daytime sightseeing options showcasing its history, day-to-day living, and culture. The Alamo may be well recognized for its popular tagline but this monument also offers visitors a history lesson through a tour of its battlefield and walks through its Alamo Church and Long Barrack Museum. Also spend time at the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park to learn more about Spanish frontier missions.

The San Antonio River Walk connects to sights including the San Antonio Museum of Art and Blue Star Contemporary, a nonprofit contemporary arts organization. It also now contains a new eight-mile expansion known as the Mission Reach, which directly links to the Spanish missions

San Antonio’s downtown area’s Main Plaza has the historic San Fernando Cathedral and hosts both seasonal and ongoing events like a Christmas tree lighting and a farmers’ market.

If nature is of interest to you, see the San Antonio Botanical Garden, with a beautiful range of plant wonders, or the Natural Bridge Caverns, a set of underground chambers that can be explored via lighted and paved routes. Or go for a slower pace at public parks like the new Phil Hardberger Park, a former dairy farm turned green space, or the kid-friendly Hemisfair with its noted Yanaguana Garden.

Museum aficionados can linger in the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, which puts on a consistent calendar of exhibitions and public events, or the Witte Museum, which bridges science, nature, and culture in one location.

For breakfast or lunch, go to The Guenther House, an art nouveau Southtown café at Pioneer Flour Mills that whips up pastries and various daily specials.

 

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The San Antonio River Walk has places to head out to for a great dinner.

Nighttime – San Antonio

San Antonio’s evening scene is all about nightclubs and dance halls. Do some toe stomping, or get some lessons in footwork, at Cowboys Dancehall. Unwind while hearing live music and enjoying refined Texas cuisine at Jazz, TX, or listen to some serious dueling piano action at Howl at the Moon. Sip on cocktails among rooftop views at Paramour or head to Zinc Bistro & Bar, a downtown favorite as a European wine pair with a Texas twist. Or hear some mariachi at The Mariachi Bar at Mi Terra Café.

The River Walk can also make for a nice nighttime option. Entertainment at The Majestic & Empire Theatres can feature musical acts and cultural performances. Best pick restaurants include Moses Rose’s Hideout, a watering hole with live music and a menu of burgers, tacos and barbecue; Waxy O’Connor’s, an authentic Irish pub; and Boudro’s, a New American bistro noted for its tableside made guacamole and grilled lunch and dinner offerings.

As for craft beer, find good choices. Freetail Brewing Co. produces staple suds such as their La Muerta made for the holiday, Dia de los Muertos. Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling, an industrial “brewstillery” puts out a range of craft whiskeys and microbrews. Blue Star serves Southwestern fare in the happening Southtown neighborhood while Southerleigh Fine Food and Brewery operates within the city’s historic Pearl brewhouse.

Start your trip planning with these Trip.com recommended hotels in Dallas and San Antonio.

This post is part of Trip.com’s Underdog City campaign.

Boston and Philadelphia: A Tale of Two Historic Cities

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Boston Public Garden. Photo: Massachusetts Office of Tourism

What’s Your Pick: Boston or Philadelphia?

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Independence Hall by D. Cruz for VISIT PHILADELPHIA

 

While the distance between of Boston and Philadelphia are located about a three-hour drive or six-hour Amtrak trek apart, these major cities have one big thing in common. They’re sources of history. And the modern day scene in these respective cities is thriving too. Here’s what to see in each state.

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Boston Common in the fall. Photo credit: Tim Grafft/MOTT

History Is Happening!

Boston has many trails and locations connecting you to key figures linked to Beantown or in particular the start of the American Revolution.

Walk along the Freedom Trail, a self-guided, 2.5-route that will bring you past 16 historic sites. Pass by Boston Common, also known as America’s oldest park; The Paul Revere House – where the famous nightrider lived during the time of his legendary ride, to its end point, The Bunker Hill Monument, honoring soldiers in one of the earliest battles in the American Revolutionary War. The African American Trail will bring to you stops such as the Robert Gould Shaw and the 54 th Regiment Memorial, which commemorates the regiment that was made famous in the film, “Glory.”

Independence Hall

Independence Hall. Photo by J. Fusco for VISIT PHILADELPHIA

In comparison, Philadelphia clearly has a stronghold on U.S. history – for starters, the Liberty Bell at the Liberty Bell Center. In April 2017, the Museum of the American Revolution opened its doors, to tell the story of why our nation went to being a British colony to a new country in a different light. It goes beyond the usual key players by highlighting other figures such as freed and enslaved blacks, native peoples, and women. Then there’s Independence Hall, where our Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and later on delegates would work on our Constitution. Also, did you know that the first “White House” – as in one before the famous home in D.C. – was in Philadelphia. Called The President’s House, this venue is now an open-air museum where the first Executive Mansion in which Presidents Washington and John Adams stayed.

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Photo: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Being Artsy and Scientific

The arts and sciences have their place in Boston and Philly. In Boston, you can spend a whole day at the Museum of Fine Arts. Its three levels house everything from Egyptian artifacts to Contemporary American art, with pieces from every corner of the globe. A short walk away, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum reflects the look of a Venetian palace with a beautiful courtyard along with a collection owned by its namesake, a major collector and philanthropist. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum honors the legacy of our country’s 35th Commander in Chief. The Mary Baker Eddy Library contains the Mapparium, a three-story, stained glass globe that can be walked through, and the Museum of Science will teach you a thing or two with planetarium shows and live exhibits and experiences like its butterfly garden.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museum of Art / Photo by B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia

Philly can boast having the oldest museum in the country – the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. It’s got some other fine ones too. Climbing up “The Rocky Steps” to the east entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art feels like a workout, but you’ll encounter the statue of Philly icon, Rocky Balboa. Inside the museum, discover artistic and architectural finds from all over the world, with an over 240,000-piece collection!

The Rodin Museum has the most pieces by this sculptor outside of Paris and Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is a fun folk art/gallery space that’s covered in mosaics. If seeking science, The Franklin Institute is an educationally entertaining museum and research center with an IMAX theater and planetarium, while the Mütter Museum focuses on medical abnormalities with displays that might make you a bit squeamish.

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Boston Public Market. Photo by Massachusetts Office of Tourism

Good Eats

Getting hungry? Both Boston and Philly can fill you up at markets or in eateries. An indoor enclave, Boston Public Market sells New England sourced bounty from farmers, fishers, and food product vendors, or features demos and classes at The Kitchen, the market’s programming center. Inside this historic meeting hall, Faneuil Hall Marketplace is now more a mall setup with food stands and restaurants offering staples like pizza, ice cream and chowda. On Fridays and Saturdays, the outdoor Haymarket at Congress and Hanover streets sells fruits and veggies. Boston’s North End is its Little Italy, with pizzerias, cafes and ristorantes such as Giacomo’s Restaurant. As for other restaurants, a hot seafood spot is Neptune Oyster, being well-noted for its raw bar and lobster rolls, or Atlantic Fish Company, a Boston surf and turf institution.

Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market. Photo by R. Kennedy for VISIT PHILADELPHIA

As one of Philly’s major culinary attractions, the Reading Terminal Market is an interior food hall with a cornucopia of Amish specialties, seafood and produce stands, cookware stores, and bakeries and restaurants. Of course, you have to try a Philly cheesesteak, but note there are more places to choose from than the noted rivalry between Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks. McNally’s puts theirs on a Kaiser roll, and Jimmy Fallon was seen digging Dalessandro’s Steaks. Have a hoagie at shops ranging from a tofu type at Fu Wah to the hearty stuffed at Cosmi’s Deli. Explore Chinatown and perhaps go for a late night meal at David’s Mai Lai Wah for their noodles and dumplings.

Get started on planning your visit by looking at these Trip.com recommended hotels in Boston or Philly.  Tell me which historic city would you head to first.

This post is part of Trip.com’s Underdog City campaign.

 

Star Alliance Worldwide Mileage Competition

Star Alliance

Here’s another travel-related contest for you. It involves Star Alliance, one of the world’s largest global alliances, and a million frequent flyer miles.

Star Alliance is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a worldwide mileage competition where travelers share their favorite cultural experiences for a chance to win one million frequent flyer miles (1,000,000 miles). Twenty-one winners will be rewarded with 1,000,000 frequent flier miles to be used on any of its 28 member airlines.

The competition is now underway and ends on July 31, 2017.

If you’re stumped on how you might use this prize, Star Alliance also offered some suggestions:

  • 2 first class tickets around the world. From New York to Paris to Dubai to Hong Kong, stop along the way and see the world in style
  • Fly an entire wedding party and guests to Hawaii
  • Reunite eight family members in Paris to enjoy all the city has to offer
  • Treat extended family to a Spanish beach vacation in Andalucía. Book luxury hotel accommodations with the miles and have some to spare for a rental car.

However, you have to enter first. To enter, visit this link. Note: you have to be a member of a Star Alliance FFP to participate. If you’re not but still want to enter this contest, you have to sign up and receive a membership number online in order to participate.

 

Then users select the Star Alliance FFP in which they wish to win the million miles and enter your FFP number. Next, contestants will upload a profile picture and an image of a favorite cultural where they will also describe their favorite cultural experience.

Judging will be carried out independently, by among others, Star Alliance’s 20th Anniversary partner, National Geographic. The winners wll be announced on September 28, 2017.

Seeing Suzhou, China

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In May, I got to visit Suzhou, China. It’s considered to be the “Venice of the East.” Here’s why.

Based in the eastern part of China, and 60 miles south from Shanghai, Suzhou feels unchanged by time. In different parts of the city, you feel like you’re stepping back into another era. There are public gardens once belonging to prominent families or government officials; waterways still used for getting from one point to another; stone bridges that can walked over; and streets dating back centuries lined up with markets and teahouses. Here’s what I saw in Suzhou.

The Humble Administator’s Garden

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Built during the Ming Dynasty, the Humble Administrator’s Garden once belonged to a Chinese government worker, who saw this place as a way to retire to a more simpler life.

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Divided into three segments, one third of the Humble Administrator’s Garden is covered in water. You can walk along pathways that take you past pavilions, bridges, connecting pools, and halls. One of the garden’s buildings is called Distant Fragrance Hall, named after an aromatic lotus pond nearby.

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Tiger Hill

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A Song Dynasty poet named Su Shi once said, “It’s a lifelong pity if having visited Suzhou you did not visit Tiger Hill.” Its name involves two legends. One says that the hill physically looking like a crouching tiger. The other is a tale about a white tiger appearing on the hill after a funeral for a warrior king; the tiger is there to guard the tomb.

Legends aside, Tiger Hill’s main feature is not a tiger, but a pagoda. The Yunyan Pagoda stands seven stories tall and has developed a slight slant over the years, giving it the nickname “The Leaning Tower of China.”

Tiger Hill Pagoda

Other features at Tiger Hill extend to a section of tea plants; a garden of bonsai trees, with some dating as far back as 400 years; and a sword testing stone and sword pool, where it’s believed that the king’s sword collection may be buried underneath.

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Shantang Street
and Pingjiang Road

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Suzhou has historic roads that have been in use for centuries. Shown above, Shantang Street is graced with red-colored lanterns, restaurants and eateries such as Song He Lou, and various shops for getting local candies and snacks and a variety of souvenirs such as paper-cutting art and embroideries. Another one is the Pingjiang Road, with eateries and stores on its main road suited to every budget and taste. Besides shopping and dining, go to Fuxi Teahouse, to watch a Kunqu Opera performance.

Lingering Garden

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Another renowned garden in Suzhou, The Lingering Garden has changed hands over the centuries, but has touches reflecting its various owners. One of these owners collected shaped rocks known as “scholar stones” and created a section known as the stone forest.

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The garden is divided into four sections, with special features include halls of various shapes and sizes, a bonzai garden, and a pond and grotto area. Its major structure in Celestial Hall of Five Peaks, a structure noted for architectural asthetics such as girders with lattice patterns.

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Part two of this post will feature more about Suzhou’s crafts legacy along with my excursion to Tongli, a nearby water town. Stay tuned.