Category Archives: Uncategorized

Virgin America raises the bar

      
Most check-in kiosks at the airports are pretty much the same – no frills, functional, and utilitarian. Not much to write about, until I passed the Virgin America desk.  Wow! I was so surprised by what I saw! They had white tables with simple, clean lines – no boring grey plastic ATM style kiosks – with modern looking computer monitors to check-in on. The tables were also adorned with beautiful flower arrangements of  white calla lilies, babies-breath sprigs, and leafy twigs. There was was also this soft purple light that glowed from underneath the tables edge and reflected off the table legs. 

Those few changes made such a difference in the whole atmosphere around their counter check-in area. It imparted the feeling of a calm and soothing welcome. What a nice way to start a trip! 

Virgin America, you have set the bar a little higher for other airlines. I hope they stand up and take notice. 

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WITS – women in travel summit 

I am on my way to my first travel writer and blogger conference. This one is located in Irvine, California. I am so excited to network with other writers, learn from industry professionals, connect with brands and just meet some all around great women! 

Flew out of Denver. What a busy airport! The TSA lines were the longest I have everseen, but thankfully it was moving fast. 

  

The Travel and Adventure Show in Dalllas

 

After 12 years and 61 shows, the Travel & Adventure Show Series has established itself as the premier consumer marketing platform in the travel industry. Since 2004, the Travel & Adventure Shows have helped over 1.1 million travelers find, plan and book their dream vacation.

 nicaragua- buen viaje

This past weekend I was thrilled to attend the Travel and Adventure show in Dallas, Texas at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. There were over 100 amazing travel related booths showcasing the most amazing destinations that spanned the globe. There were travel specialists and tour operators from cruise lines, photo safaris in Africa, Yoga tours in Nicaragua, and trekking in Nepal. There were large, well-known companies as well as small private owner/operator tour companies such as Buen Viaje Tours in Nicaragua which offers small, personable tours for families as well as individuals, ranging from cultural tours, birding tours and photography and art workshops.

rick steves

The show hosted several guest speakers that gave talks aimed at helping you in your travels with advice on planning your next trip – what is new for 2016, and suggestions on where to go. The guest speakers included; Rick Steves – traveling through Europe through the back door, Pauline Frommer – What you need to know before you plan your next vacation, Peter Greenberg – The brave new world of travel in 2016, and Patricia Schultz the author of 1,000 places to see before you die.

The savvy traveler is always looking for new tips and techniques to enrich their travel experience. The Travel and Adventure Show did not disappoint! There were presentations on the challenges and rewards of traveling solo around the world on a motorcycle, how to travel smart and pack light, and how to take better travel photography.

camel 1

Not only could you plan your next dream vacation get-away at amazing show only prices, there were also activities that you could participate in and shows that you could watch to give you a feel of the exotic destination that you would soon be headed to. Some of the fun, and even unusual, activities were camel rides, ride a segway, climb a rock tower, or practice your diving in a 18,000 gallon heated dive pool.

diving

Throughout the weekend you could watch colorful dancers from Mexico, Hawaii, Bulgaria, Bahamas and the Middle East performing elaborate traditional dances on the Cultural Stage.

 

In addition to cultural dance and music demonstrations, there were also cooking demonstrations from local chefs and chefs from Maui who created mouth-watering recipes such as Ahi Tuna Cruda with grilled pineapple; pan roasted brussel sprouts with sweet chili vinaigrette and goat cheese; seafood tostadas and more.

MY 2 CENTS – All in all, it was an exciting show with a fabulous turn out! Travel excitement abounded and dreams to explore new places were fostered and born. This was a great local event to learn about activities and cultures in distant foreign lands, learn about available adventures in your own backyard, and even meet your tour operators before you go on the tour! I highly recommend you attend one in a city near you! The Travel and Adventure Show currently has venues in Washington DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Diego and Dallas.

 

Till we talk again!

Donna

Next Stop…. Louisiana!

In preparatory celebration for experiencing  all the sights, sounds, and tastes of Halloween in New Orleans I thought it would be fun to learn and share some informative, interesting and down right weird tidbits about Louisiana and one of its largest cities, New Orleans.

  • Louisiana was first successfully settled in 1718 after the French explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier had claimed it for France in 1682.
  • Louisiana became the 18th state of the Union on August 30,1812
  • There is a bill in the State House of Representatives that fixed a ceiling on haircuts for bald men of 25 cents.
  • There have been over 30 hurricanes that have hit Louisiana since 1900. The most notable Hurricane in recent history being Katrina (2005). Hurricane Isaac’s (2012) storm surge was so powerful that the Mississippi River ran backwards for 24 hours.
  • Louisiana does not have counties like some other states.Their political divisions are called parishes instead.
  • It is illegal to gargle in public….. seriously!
  • Louisiana is the only state that has a population of Cajuns, descendants of a 17th century settlement called Acadia in the northeastern section of  North America that includes parts of eastern Quebec, the Maritime provinces of Canada and Maine that were driven out of Canada in the mid-1700’s.
  • Louisiana is the only state that still refers to the Napoleonic Code in its state law which forbids privileges based on birth and allows freedom of religion.
  • With that being said, if you are a palm reader, fortune-teller or mystic it is illegal for you to officiate a wedding in New Orleans.
  • The town of Jean Lafitte was once a hideaway for pirates.
  • New Orleans hosts the world-renowned celebration of Mardi Gras. An ancient southern Europe custom brought to Louisiana by the French that celebrates food and fun on Fat Tuesday just before Lent, 40 days of prayer and personal sacrifice.
  • New Orleans Voodoo has its roots from African slaves.
  • If you bite someone in Louisiana with your natural teeth it is considered a simple assault but if you bite them with false teeth it is considered aggravated assault.

this one made me laugh…..

  • You are not allowed to tie an alligator to a fire hydrant in New Orleans!
alligator
Can’t tie your alligator to a fire hydrant

Bloomin’ Bluegrass Festival

impromptu jam session
impromptu jam session

The Bloomin’ Bluegrass Festival and Chili Cook-off in Farmers Branch, Texas was quite a shindig event! The festival is put on every year by the Farmers Branch Chamber of Commerce and the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation. This two day event brought 11 bluegrass bands from around the country to show their talent for strumming out folk songs and over 20 chili chefs vying for the title of best Bloomin’ chili.

Bluegrass music is a subgenre of country music that was inspired by ballads that were sung by the settlers from Ireland and the U.K who arrived in the Appalachia area of the United States in the 18th century. Bluegrass is traditionally played on acoustic stringed instruments such as the fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin with the addition of the harmonica or jaw harp. The stringed instruments are accompanied by a vocal harmony of baritones and tenors often with a modal sound in the highest voice.

For a sample of what bluegrass sounds like check out the Del McCoury Band or the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band who were also at the Bloomin’ Bluegrass Festival.

In addition to live music and a wide assortment of chilies to taste there were also food vendors that sold funnel cakes dusted in powdered sugar, plates mounded high with freshly made potato chips, sweetly popped kettle corn, crawfish and meat pies, fried gator (yes, it really does taste like chicken!) and gumbo just to name a few dishes available to fill a belly while listening to live bluegrass music.

In between sets of bands playing music you can take tours of historical homes and structures, watch historic demonstrations or shop in the arts and crafts marketplace for homemade jewelry made from semi-precious stones, silver, natural gem stones, praline bars, abstract metal art, leather goods, or copper wind chimes.

fall decoration
fall decoration

Try these yummy dishes at your next pub visit

lamb burger
lamb burger

The UK is best known for their warm, hearty and flavorful foods. Recipes which have been handed down for generations are a mixture of delightfully flavorful vegetables such as carrots, turnips, rutabagas, peas, potatoes, and meats such as lamb, venison, chicken, and veal.

Sweet potato Chips (fries)
Sweet potato Chips (fries)

If you want to sample this countries vast and unique array of savory dishes, pubs are a great place to accomplish this. The pubs of the UK are as diverse as the people who inhabit the country and the food that they eat. Familiar menu items in a pub are their hearty and savory pies which they call pudding, made with a selection of vegetables and meat in a delicious thick brown gravy topped with a flaky buttery pastry top and a side of mashed peas.

Steak and Kidney pudding Quick Recipe:

1 package of Pre-made pie crust (2 crusts  per box)

1 packet of Brown Gravy mix

1 lb, of stewing steak

4 oz. of kidney (lamb or ox)

Preparation

  1. Line a greased pie pan with 1  of the pie crusts

  2. Cut meat and kidneys into small pieces

  3. Mix the meats together and put into the pie pan

  4. Pre-mix the gravy and pour over meat

  5. Put the other pie crust on top sealing the edges by dampening your finger in water and running it around the bottom pie crust.

  6. Bake at 350 for approximately 3 hours or until the crust is golden brown and the juices are just starting to bubble out

A pint of Guinness or a Stout is a great accompaniment with this dish. Just saying… pretty yummy!

ploughman's platter
ploughman’s platter

Another great dish you will find is the Ploughman’s Platter which consists of a tasty selection of roasted and cured meats, aged cheeses, both hard and soft, and a small loaf of freshly baked bread that has a crispy buttery top sprinkled with oats and a warm soft interior that makes it an excellent pull-apart bread. There will also be small sides of homemade berry jams and churned butter.

When you are done with your main course and you still feel a bit peckish, try one of their dessert items such as the Bread Pudding that has raisins that have been plumped by soaking them in brandy or whisky, the Jam Suet Pudding (much better than it sounds) or the cranberry orange scones with a spot of tea or coffee.

ahhh! Dessert!
ahhh! Dessert!

Monument Monday: Balto

Monday is Monumental Monday here at Whats New Adventure. The topic of conversation?….. Yup, you guessed it, monuments! The world is full of absolutely amazing monuments! Monuments that are grandiose, extravagant and seen by millions of people to small plaques that only a few local people know about. Do you have a favorite monument? Do you know of a monument that could use more recognition? Share your comments below! I would love to hear from you about them!

Dogs have been herald as man’s best friend for centuries. They are always there when we need them, giving us unconditional love and not asking anything in return except for love. In a corner of Central Park in New York City is a monument to a dog that represents many dogs from several dog sled teams in a historically important time period in Alaska.

Nome 1900
Nome 1900

The year is 1925. The location is Nome, a village just 2 degrees south of the Arctic Circle that saw a boom in population when gold was discovered there in 1899. The terrain is what some people would describe as bleak with small scrub trees and a flat tundra that is covered with ice and snow for many months out of the year. The indigenous people who are friendly, quick to smile and to welcome others to their table for a meal are also experts in efficiently living off the land and carving out a home in a land that many would consider inhospitable.

Nome had 1 doctor and 4 nurses in a 25 bed hospital when the potentially deadly diphtheria epidemic broke out. The antitoxin that the doctor had on hand was not enough to treat the population of Nome, which at that time was just under 1500, and the antitoxin had expired.

The doctor made an emergency call to have additional vials of antitoxin transported to Nome. The additional antitoxin was located in the west coast hospitals. The problem was that transportation was very limited in Alaska at that time, in addition, it was winter which reduced travel options even more. To get the antitoxin to Nome from the west coast would take well over a month via plane, train and then dog sled team. The people of Nome did not have the luxury of waiting 30 days!

A doctor in Anchorage at the  Anchorage Railroad Hospital discovered some forgotten vials of the antitoxin in a store-room that he wrapped in quilting and put in a metal container and then sent it to Nenana, a town that was as far north as the train could go.

It was arranged that dog mushers would get the serum in Nenana at the same time that mushers would start the trip from Nome towards Nenana. They would meet along the trail at the half way point in Nualto and create a relay to get the serum to the people of Nome.

balto map
Historic map of trail from Nenana to Nome

The trail from Nenana to Nome is 674 miles (1085 km) long and under normal circumstances would take 30 days to traverse. The best dog mushers and dog teams were recruited to relay the serum from Nenana to Nome in less than 6 days, which was how long it was estimated that the serum would survive in the brutal winter conditions of Alaska.

DogSledRace
Dog sled team

Balto, a black and white Siberian husky, was the lead dog of the dog sled team run by Gunnar Kaasan. Balto lead the dog sled team in nearly a straight line through  a blizzard with white out conditions so intense that Kaasan could hardly see the dogs that were harnessed the closest to the sled. The blizzard winds were so severe that at one point Kaasan nearly lost the serum when the wind grabbed the sled and sent it tumbling. The serum became dislodged and fell in the snow drifts. Kaasan severely frostbite his hands searching for the serum.

balto kaasan
Gunnar Kaasan and Balto

Through blizzards, frostbite, temperatures that ranged between -50F and -85F (-46C and -65C) with the wind chill and wind gusts at an estimated 80 mph it took 20 mushers and 150 sled dogs, many of who lost their lives on the trail because of the cold 5 1/2 days to make the 674 mile (1085 km) trip to Nome. The serum was delivered to the doctor in tact and with out a single broken vial!

Today the race to save the people of  Nome is celebrated every year with the Iditarod Sled Dog race which takes place during the Fur Rondy Festival in February.

The monument to Balto and the other 4-legged heroes of that momentous trip was created by Frederick Roth on December 15, 1925.