Category Archives: Culinary

Exploring Philadelphia’s Old City District

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Last week, Philadelphia welcomed in a new museum that’s really fitting for its location in Old City district – the Museum of the American Revolution. For work, I got to see a pre-opening preview of the museum and spent some time revisiting locations significant to our nation’s founding.

During our country’s Colonial days, Philadelphia was a big deal. In what’s now the Historic District, which Old City belongs to, there are buildings still standing from that era and plaques marking areas where once located structures once have their respective ties to our legacy. But it’s not all history here in Old City. This neighborhood’s present-day scene is really buzzing with restaurants, nightlife, and galleries.

Here are my suggestions for exploring Old City.

First, check out these museums and attractions.

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Museum of the American Revolution
As a 2.0 American history lesson, this redbrick building goes beyond dates and facts. It’s designed to bring visitors directly into the growing conflicts that would have the 13 British colonies deciding to break away from English rule and develop a new republic. And, of course, there are many sides to the story. In a chronological format, the museum delves into not just the main characters like General George Washington, but also other individuals whose voices often may be overlooked – women, freed and enslaved African peoples, and the Native American Oneida nation. Artifacts are on view too. In particular, see Washington’s headquarters tent that’s enclosed in a glass casing – where he made crucial battlefield decisions.

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The President’s House and Liberty Bell
Maybe you know this already or you don’t. Before the White House was built in and D.C. would become our nation’s capital, our country’s first two Presidents George Washington and John Adams resided in Philadelphia. While their presidential home – known now as The President’s House – is long gone, an outdoor display marks its spot where you learn about the African Americans who served Washington and his family. Adjacent to this area, take the time to view the Liberty Bell. It once was a working bell, before getting its now signature crack, and has become a symbol for civil rights.

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Benjamin Franklin Museum
Most of what we think of this Founding Father is from his later years in life. But he’s got his place in our history, and it’s definitely noted. With fun videos and well-described objects, this museum is based on a lower level of a building and tells overall about his life story. For example, Franklin is actually not originally from Philly, came to live here at a young age and went on to be prosperous and influential. Afterward, head to Christ Church Burial Ground, where he’s buried and find coins placed on top of his tombstone.

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Independence Hall
You need to walk over to the Independence Visitor Center first to get your timed entrance ticket to visit the interior of this landmark and step into the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed. While waiting in line for your turn inside the East Wing, go visit the West Wing to view original copies of documents like um…. the Declaration of Independence.

Now, as for dining, here we go. My picks include:

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– 2nd Story Brewing: This brewery/restaurant/ bar was started by a local farmer (who still owns it) and her beer-brewing son-in-law, with bar grub that’s healthy too (as shown here).

– The Little Lion, located right across from the Museum of the American Revolution, centers on fine, Southern-inspired comfort food with brunch, lunch, and dinner selections within a casual setting.

– Zahav, an Israeli restaurant featuring small plates, tasting menus, hummus and other traditional dishes with a modern twist, and an at-the-bar happy hour specials like half-off on hummus.

– Khyber Pass Pub: This dive-looking, dark wooden interior bar with a side gastropub is touted for its Southern food and beer selection plus has vegetarian-friendly options. Some unique choices include popcorn that can suit vegans or carnivores (the latter version features bacon grease).

– Han Dynasty: The Old City location of this chain does a contemporary yet still authentic take on Sichuan cuisine. One of their best dishes is their Dan Dan Noodles, and you’re given a choice on the spice level by calling out a number.

– Fork: This sophisticated New American restaurant that’s said to have jump-started Old City’s restaurant scene about 15-20 years ago. With an elegant interior and a push for seasonal ingredients, lunch/dinner choices can feature handmade pastas and high-end starters.

– The City Tavern: Yes, it can seem touristy with the wait staff dressed in historic attire, but it provides a fun intro to what the Colonials ate and drank with choices based on authentic period recipes.

– The Franklin Fountain: An ice cream parlor bringing you back to the time of soda jerks with bow-tied waiters and quite the list of flavors.

Have you been to Old City? What do you recommend?

Have you been to Old City? What do you recommend?

Why I (Might) Eat at McDonald’s When Traveling

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Due to broadening my palette and getting more food writing assignments, I’ve made a vow to try as many local dishes and dine at non-chain restaurants as I can while traveling.

However, it’s a promise that I can’t always keep.

Part of that reason is because I travel about once every two years with a relative of mine who is strictly a meat and potatoes person. When traveling, his go-to meal plans often involve heading to the famous Golden Arch. I follow along, but I cringe. I rarely, if any, eat at McDonald’s at home (okay, maybe Wendy’s or a good fried chicken joint instead). But I join him, and I place my order. And at times, under certain circumstances, I find myself doing the exact same thing.

Though I do make eating locally a priority in my travels, going to a fast food or chain restaurant is acceptable. Here’s why it’s okay to eat at McDonald’s (or insert your favorite place here) while traveling.

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Menus can vary.
When glancing at the menu at a fast food chain location overseas, you might be surprised to see some items. Depending on tastes, diets, and even government regulations, menu offerings can look different. There are similarities – fries, sodas, ketchup – but you’ll probably find a few twists. With McDonald’s, I’ve seen fried shrimp in Amsterdam; jalapeno poppers in Stockholm; and a chicken sandwich with what I swear was oregano or some other kind of herb on the bun in Windsor, England. In Lucerne, Switzerland, I saw what was claimed to be an All-American burger, a Californian style (I’m not big on burgers, so I didn’t validate that claim.). In Prague, a small can of pilsner came with my combo meal, and I saw one guy there having what was called a McBox. Yes, in a box. Likewise with Starbucks, I tried smores-flavored lattes in Stockholm, matcha-flavored ones in Kyoto. Both were different.

It can save you money and/or time.
Fast food is, well, fast food. Maybe you’re arriving right before the doors close or have to grab and go to get to your next stop on time. Though the level of service can vary, one good thing about fast food chains like McDonald’s is that you have a sense of what you’re ordering, and what it costs. When I was Lucerne, a few days after my wallet was stolen in Cologne, I was forced to curve my spending. I had to stretch out my Swish francs, and food became one budget area that required some wiggle room. Plus, if you know Switzerland, you know it can be a pricey destination. So for my remaining two days in Lucerne, I was able to get a sandwich and a small drink from McDonald’s for breakfast and lunch or dinner.

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Getting help if you need it.
Like at home, fast food chains are where locals and even visitors go. So if you need directions or have a question that a native might know the answer to, these chains might be where to turn. Although it’s presumptuous to assume that workers behind the counter may be fluent or conversational in English or another language, chances are that they can understand and answer your questions. Or at least try to help. If not, there could be a customer who can assist you. One more thing: if you have food allergies, fast food is more than likely a safe bet. Also, based on my experience, these fast food chains might provide free Wi-Fi, which you can access while having your meal or drink. Log-in registration may be required.

Sometimes you want a taste of home.
From fries to ice cream sundaes, familiar food can be comforting. Like I wrote before, for the most part, you know what you’re ordering from a fast food restaurant. Menu boards are also pictorial, so you can have a better understanding of what’s available. Also, if you’re close to being “hangry,” you probably want to get something to eat. Or maybe it’s what you feel comfortable with eating at that moment. On the final morning I had in Tokyo, I couldn’t venture too far in search of breakfast. Luckily, there was a McDonald’s right around the corner from my hotel, where I was able to order a McGriddle Cake combo. I was able to sit and eat there with enough time left over to run back, shower, pack and check out. Plus, I had extra yen left over to get my final sushi meal at Narita Airport before heading back to the states.

So tell me: what’s the most interesting fast food meal you’ve had while traveling?

5 Surprising Things about Cincinnati

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Before my visit in Cincinnati, I didn’t know much, if anything, about it. After spending a recent weekend here, I learned a few interesting things about this city near the Ohio River. Here are five of them.

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1) Flying into Kentucky
On a flight to Cincinnati, you might be surprised to discover that you don’t actually arrive in Cincinnati. Actually, you land in Kentucky, specifically at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, which is about 15 minutes or so from Cincinnati. Instead of heading straight there, make a stop in nearby Covington, Kentucky. Its MainStrasse Village has German roots with a Main Street, U.S.A. feel. Its center square is the location for various festivals such as an Octoberfest and it’s lined with shops and restaurants housed in buildings from a past era. Good eats picks include Otto’s, an American bistro known for its fried green tomatoes and twist on the native dish, Kentucky Hot Brown; Frida 602, a mezcal and taqueria with décor inspired by artist Frida Kahlo’s Blue House in Mexico City; and Bouquet, a farm-to-table restaurant whose menu is dictated by what ingredients are in-season.

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2) Over-the-Rhine
Cincinnati has 52 neighborhoods, with one of its oldest being Over-the-Rhine. When the first wave of German immigrants came to the U.S. in the 1830s, many settled and founded in early Cincinnati neighborhood, so much that their native language became the spoken word and their culture thrived. Over-the-Rhine’s name comes from this legacy. Workers lived north of the Miami and Erie Canal and nicknamed it “the Rhine” after the German river, so their settled area was like going “over the Rhine.” Breweries and drinking establishments flourished here up until Prohibition. As residents moved out, and the Over-the-Rhine faced hard times. its revitalization began in the mid-2000s with a wave of artisan restaurants being ushered in. Find many of them along Vine Street. This section has become hotspot, with a medley of eateries, shops, and bars. Stand outs include: Taste of Belgium, for a great waffle fix; Senate, with the most amazing gourmet hotdog combos; The Eagle, for delectable fried chicken; Graeter’s, a hometown ice cream shop known for its Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip; and Holtman’s Donuts, for their maple bacon option. While Vine Street is about food, O-T-R’s Main Street has its share of finds such as Gomez, for innovative Mexican fare; Japp’s Since 1879, once a hair store but now a hip nightspot; and contemporary art murals created as part of ArtWorks Cincinnati.

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3) Quite a Beer Legacy
Speaking of German beer, by the late 1800s, Cincinnati was producing a serious amount of suds in Over-The-Rhine, so much that there was no need to export it outside of Ohio. By 1890, the city was the third largest beer producer per person in the country. Prohibition severely changed that, causing many breweries to shut down for good. Yet it wasn’t entirely over. In 2009, this legacy began its comeback with the resurgence of the brand Christian Moerlein. Now, over a dozen craft breweries and micropubs are in operation. Among them, Rhinegeist Brewery is housed inside the original Christian Moerlein bottling facility. In a sense, it’s a 21st century beer garden with long picnic style tables and cornhole, ping-pong and other games going on. Another brewery is Taft’s Ale House, named for our 27th President and Supreme Court Justice, William Howard Taft. It’s located inside a former church and features items relating to Taft and his wife, Nellie. Yet Cincinnati’s brewing past still lingers. Plus in recent years,an underground network of abandoned caverns used for cooling German lager have been discovered. See one of them on an escorted tour with American Legacy Tours.

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4) History with the Underground Railroad
In the mid-1800s, as the debate over the practice of slavery split national opinion, the U.S. was divided between free states and slave states. Ohio’s place in this part of our country’s history is connected to the Underground Railroad, where the Ohio River Valley was a key site for freedom seekers to head up north. In downtown Cincinnati, near the banks of the Ohio River, the National Underground Freedom Railroad Center traces how slavery came to the Americas up through the U.S.’s post-Civil War Reconstruction with historical imagery and artifacts. The center also covers the effects of modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

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5) A Ton of Bridges
Bridges might not sound exciting, but Cincinnati has some iconic structures connecting the city to Northern Kentucky and other locations in Ohio. Its most noted one is John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, which links Covington to downtown Cincinnati. Opened in 1867, it’s a nice way to go back and forth over the Ohio River. Plus pedestrians and cars have their respective paths. Though Roebling’s name might not ring a bell, this engineer’s modern marvels are well known. Roebling was said to use this baby blue colored bridge as the prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge, which opened about two decades later. For a relaxing walk, the locally-called Purple People Bridge (it has a more official sounding name) can only be crossed on foot. It connects from Cincinnati’s Sawyer Point to Newport on the Levee in Northern Kentucky.

 

 

 

EscapeMaker Opens Farm Escape Pop Up Shop

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Have you heard of the term “agritourism”? Find out more by heading to South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan. EscapeMaker, a company that offers ideas for local and regional trips, has opened a pop-up shop promoting agri-tourism (travel inspired by working farms or other agricultural sties) now until April 24 inside the seaport’s historic Fulton Stall Market on 207A Front Street.

Presented by Amtrak, the EscapeMaker Pop Up Shop will be open to the public Thursdays and Fridays, from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors will find information for planning vacays that will get them out into countryside areas. Details will include ideas for farm escapes, wine and craft beer trails, apple picking locations, and local getaway packages.

Along with the shop, EscapeMaker will hold three Sunday tastings of various food and wine samples inside the market and onto Front Street. They are free and run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The schedule includes:

April 10th – Local Craft Beer, Cider & More
April 17th – Local Wine, Cheese & More
April 24th – Local Farms & Family Getaways

For more info, visit this link.

Exploring Fort Worth, Texas

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Recently I traveled to Fort Worth, Texas for two work assignments. For three days, I ventured about its different districts, exploring its culinary, historic, and cultural offerings. Although I’m going to leave most of what I did out – I’ll post the published articles once they’re online – here are some places to consider seeing or dining at.

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Horseshoe Hill Café
In the Stockyards National Historic District, this restaurant is all about cowboy cuisine – Texas food influenced by ethnicities and ingredients found in the state’s various regions – and serves up Western favorites. Its specialty is chicken fried steak. You can order the traditional version with peppered gravy to inventive twists like chili con carne and queso blanco or chili gravy and a fried egg. There are also other offerings like sides of red chile cheese enchiladas and a nice 16 oz. dry aged ribeye.

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Guided Tour of the Fort Worth Stockyards
Fort Worth’s history with the cattle industry began as being the last stop for cowboys and their steers en route to Kansas’ railheads around the mid-1860s through 1880s. Although the industry has changed much over time, the Stockyards are still a visual reminder of this period. One way to learn more about the Stockyards is through Stockyards Historic Walking Tours. Starting from the visitor center, a guide takes you along specific spots throughout the Stockyards and gives the backstory on these buildings. Tours happen daily. While at the Stockyards, see the twice a day Fort Worth Herd parade. At 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., a small set of longhorns and their handlers walk down East Exchange Avenue.

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Esperanza’s Mexican Cafe and Bakery
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to sit down and eat here. However, I kept hearing from locals about how good this place is. So I decided to a quick run over and see what I could grab. There are two locations, but I went to its site near the Stockyards. This venue gets a lot of nods for its breakfast and lunch, but it also has a side bakery in the front featuring Mexican pastries. I grabbed what I could say a version of a jelly-filled, powder sugared donut. It was messy but tasty!

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National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame
Based in Fort Worth’s Cultural District, this museum is unique in that it solely is about cowgirls and pioneering women who promote Western heritage on many different levels. And it pays tribute to them. Some of them are known, while some might be surprises. On the lower level, there are a number of displays dedicated to Annie Oakley. A holographic Annie speaks about her days as a gunslinger, and her clothes and other items are on view. Upstairs, the hall of fame features photos of various American women of the West.

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Dine out on Near Southside’s West Magnolia Street
This section in Near Southside is a place to go for dinner or after drinks. Coffee shops, cocktail bars, and restaurants are lined along here. One night, I just walked up and down this street, and going into places that looked appealing. Desserts will always get my attention, so I went inside Stir Crazy Baked Goods, a cozy bakery along this district. Inside, there are cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and muffins in different flavors good sizes, but with prices that are easy on the wallet. Another venue that was recommended to me for more of a meal was The Bearded Lady. It has more of a pub atmosphere, with a full board of craft beers (including Texas suds). Apps are interesting like fried cactus strips, fried leek rings, and whole fried okra. Sandwiches and burgers have their say on the menu. There’s a fancy grilled cheese selection and a Build Your Own Damn ½ Lb Burger (I opted for the former; it was good.).

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Acre Distillery LLC
A recent newcomer to Fort Worth’s Downtown area, this venue is a combination of an espresso bar and distillery. In the morning hours, this place serves up caffeinated brews and light breakfast orders, particularly to nearby Texas A & M students. At night, the scene changes to more of a cocktail environment featuring in-house made gin, vodka, and two types of bourbon. These distilled spirits also get mixed up as cocktails paired with flavored moonshine infusions such as a cinnamon and can be served alongside charcuterie boards.

Taiwan Tourism Bureau and Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel Present ‘Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine’ in Flushing

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This October, discover Taiwanese dishes like fish congee at “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” in Flushing.

Taiwan has been making some headlines lately, as a rising culinary destination. Recently CNN featured stories about 40 must-try Taiwanese foods and especially on street food in the city of Tainan. But don’t worry if you can’t get to Taiwan right away. This month, you can get a taste of the country’s cuisine in Flushing, in the New York City borough of Queens.

From Friday, October 16 through Tuesday, October 20, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau and the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel in Flushing are presenting “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine,” a five-day culinary extravaganza, inside the hotel’s Brasserie Du Dragon Restaurant. It’s open to the public, so they can learn more about Taiwan through a fun way – the food! “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” will feature daily lunch and dinner servings with a choice of different types of Taiwanese street food prepared in partnership with award-winning Taiwanese chefs.

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Well-respected Taiwanese chefs will prepare an elaborate menu at “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine.”

Wondering what you’ll find on your plate? Here’s a cooking lesson about Taiwanese food.

This cuisine is a melting pot of China’s regional culinary styles mixed with foreign influences served establishments ranging from fine restaurants to night markets. Another big and tasty aspect of Taiwanese culture is what’s known as snacking. Often happening at night markets, snacking centers on handheld bites, sips of a beverage, or a plate that just needs an accompanying fork or spoon.

Common snack or street foods in Taiwan include bubble (or pearl) milk tea; danzai noodles; oyster omelets; meat rice dumplings; coffin bread; and a sweetly flavored crushed ice. Other local specialties include candied fruits, Taiwanese style meatballs, rice noodles, and various breads and cakes.

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Guests at “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” will get to try the popular Chou’s Shrimp Rolls.

As for the “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” event, a must-have will be the main entrée: Chou’s Shrimp Rolls. Chef Chou, who was from Tainan, created his specialty shrimp rolls in 1965. This dish quickly earned him fame throughout his home country. In the 1980s, Chef Chou updated his recipe by making the rolls out of fresh and juicy shrimp. Now made mixed with high-quality ground pork, fish paste, celery and green onion, the shrimp rolls have won over the taste buds of gourmands from all over Taiwan and the world.

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Taiwanese cuisine has embraced flavors and traditions from China and foreign influences.

The menu for “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” is as follows:

A Welcome Drink
Ancient Plum Juice, made with roselle, preserved plum, osmanthus, umezuke, and prunus mume.

Hors D’oeuvres
Preserved Fruit or Chou’s Shrimp Crisps

Soup
Handmade Milkfish and Shrimp Balls in Bone Soup

Appetizers
Grilled Mullet Roe, served with radishes and great garlic, or Tainan Coffin Toast, filled with seafood chowder.

Entrees
Chou’s Shrimp Rolls, made with fire shrimp, celery, scallions, onion, fish paste, minced pork, and pig stomach membrane.
Stir Fried Shredded Eel Noodles

Milkfish Congee, made with milkfish, oyster, celery, congee with bone soup, and topped with crisp fried garlic.
Danzai Noodles, made with minced pork, fire shrimp, and noodles in a bone soup.

Dessert
Almond Tofu Pudding or Fresh Fruit

The cost of admission to “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” gives you a memorable experience without needing a passport or airfare. It is at $39.95 per person, with an added 15% service charge and 8.875% sales tax. There is an 18% service charge for parties of six or more. Lunch will be served from noon to 3 p.m., and dinner from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 718-670-7400 or through Open Table (Brasserie Du Dragon Restaurant). The Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel is located at 135-20 39th Avenue in Flushing. Visit the hotel’s website or the Taiwan Tourism Bureau’s website here.

Editor’s Note: This sponsored post was brought to you by Taiwan Tourism Bureau via Cooperatize.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/Cooperatize/scripts/page_time_5.js?cookieDomain=sheisgoingplaces.com;page=91241-31701;title=91241-31701;brand=http://eng.taiwan.net.tw/m1.aspx?sNo=0002026;

10 Travel Goals For Turning 40

Photo by Billie Ward via Flickr

Photo by Billie Ward via Flickr

I turn 40 this week. As this age might make you reflect a bit on life, I decided to think about some travel goals I would like to reach at some point. Or at least before I reach 50. So here’s a list of my 10 future travel goals, maybe to accomplish before I hit 50.

1) Get better at swimming. I can swim, but just not that great. Or not that far out. So I need to build up my stamina. And because I want to try snorkeling at some point.

2) Master a language. When I travel overseas, I make it a point to learn words like “hello,” “please,” “thank you,” “how much” and “where is ___.” And with my trip to Japan later this year, I would like to grasp a few phrases that I can speak as well as understand with ease.

3) Pack a carry-on at least once. With airlines charging bag fees like $25 each way, a carry-on probably could save me money and time. It also might make me better with packing and have me go directly from the plane to the airport exit.

4) Practice slow travel. Slow travel means spending more time in one place – instead of rushing around from venue to venue or city to city. I’ll probably struggle with slow travel, but some day in the future I’m going to try and focus on spending time in one area or doing or seeing one or two things daily. Or maybe three.

5) Attend one major sporting event. I was lucky to have been in Paris the night of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Final between France and Italy, and, after the match was over, walked amid the parade of soccer fans along the Champs-Élysées. I would love to get to the Winter or Summer Olympics, but even going to the Super Bowl would be awesome.

6) Participate in a major cultural festival. Like sports, going to a major cultural festival like Carnevale in Venice or Rio de Janeiro or the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona would be pretty cool. I was in Barcelona for a music festival called La Merce, but there are others that are equally if not greater fun.

7) See Machu Picchu or the Galapagos. I’ve yet to get to Central or South America and if I could only visit one place/country, I could get to it either to Peru or Ecuador. For some reason, I’m captivated by the ruins of Machu Picchu and the wildlife of the Galapagos Islands. Maybe 2016 will bring me to one of them.

8) Improve my photography skills. Lately for photos, I’ve been using my iPhone 5S as a camera. My shots come out great, but I also want to have a camera for taking a variety of close-ups, panoramics, and nighttime images.

9) Get to all 50 states. There’s a lot to see in America. So far this year, I got to visit Montana for the first time. Next month, I’m heading to Michigan, also for the first time. Roughly, I’ve been to about 25 states and I would rush to get to Oregon, Hawaii and Alaska. Even seeing the Heartland or Southwest would be cool.

10) Learn more about food and drink. I’ve gotten over being a picky eater, and I’ll try almost any type of food now. But I like to have some culinary savvy. With eating and drinking, I know what I like, and what I don’t, but I wish I can know more about the terminology behind a dish or a cocktail. What makes the flavors work together? Usually, I say it’s good, but that’s where I reach my limit with descriptions.

What travel goals do you have before turning 40?