Tag Archives: travel

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. 

Advertisements

How to walk a new city without getting lost!

There are so many apps these days for all of our gadgets. There are apps for everything imaginable, some very helpful such as those that help you keep track of your daily life, pictures, passwords, accounts, inventory and such. Then there are those that have no other value other than for the pure entertainment of it. I am about to tell you about an extremely handy travel app that every traveler, regardless if you are embarking on your first journey or you have been around the globe several times, should have in their digital arsenal.

I have to admit when I first came across this travel app I was not expecting much. I thought that it would be like so many other apps that claim they have all these fabulous functions that you can’t travel without, the typical “all that and a bag of chips” line. But I did agree to try out the app, so I took it for a test drive so to speak on a recent trip to New Orleans (check out the adventure here). Wow, was I surprised! I was so pleased with the functions, the ease of the app and how fun it was to use that I decided to tell you all about it!

THE MUST HAVE WALKING CITY GUIDE

GPSmyCity was so fun and easy to use! It is chock full of interesting ideas of where to go, what to see and do! I used the New Orleans guide, but there is an impressive over 470 cities (click here for a complete list) around the world that are mapped out with walking tours to attractions that are sure to appeal to just about all interests. There are three main categories for the walking tours – Sightseeing  Walks, Custom Walks where you choose your own attractions that interest you, and then the Saved Tracks.

img_6137

NOW WHERE WAS THAT?

If you are like me, you just kinda wander where ever your eyes and heart lead you, not really following a clear or set path, which was very evident when I used the Saved Tracks option! It tracked my every step and wow, did my path zig-zag all over the place!  No wonder I was so tired at the end of the day! One of the features that I really liked about the Saved Tracks option was that I could drop a pin on the map in the app and enter the name of a location such as the store where I found that cute pair of shoes but was not quite ready buy yet or the restaurant that I wanted to go back to because there were just too many things on their menu to try in one sitting, but of course I could not remember just where they were located because I had zig-zagged all over the city!

img_6130

TWO FOR ONE BONUS!

With GPSmyCity all I had to do was to go back to my Saved Tracks and look at the pins I dropped, find the location I was looking for, and then I could see where it was and how to get there. Very easy! That particular function was also very helpful after the trip because I could look back at where I had been and then write about it. Very handy for us travel writers and bloggers! Not only can you drop a pin, you can also save a picture or two of the location, or in my case, the shoes that I wanted! Who does not love a simple, functional, and fun app!

img_6133

SO MUCH TO SEE AND DO!

The Sightseeing Walk category has pre-entered attractions grouped together by themes such as City Orientation, Architechual Splendors, Prominent Shopping Areas, Nightlife, Churches, Museums and such. Of course, each city has themes that are unique to that city. New Orleans for example, has a Voodoo Tour and a French Quarter Tour. Within each theme, there will be a list of what to see, why to see it, a brief history of the attraction, hours, and a map of where it is located.

img_6135

HEY LOOK AT WHERE I AM!

As an extra bonus, you can also share your walks on Twitter and Facebook, if you choose to do so, with all your friends and family so they can follow your adventures around the world.

 

 

8 Things to do at the Texas Renaissance Festival

TRF
Arrgh!

In the small town of Todd Mission, Texas approximatetly 50 miles northwest of Houston is the largest renaissance festival in this country. The Texas Renaissance Festival is 55 acres of fun, fantasy and merriment. Founded in 1974 by George Coulam, the festival welcomes half a million guests annually to be transported via their imagination to another time and land.

The Texas Renaissance Festival proudly tips its hat to the over 500 costumed performers on 17 stages, and nearly 400 shops featuring unique artisans, merchants, craft vendors, human-powered rides and a diverse assortment of food purveyors offering mouth-watering dishes with a home-cooked flair. The festival runs 8 weekends from October to November annually. Each weekend has its own theme which in turn influences the vibe of the festival, the performances, games and contests for that weekend.  The themes for the eight weekend event are Oktoberfest, 1001 Dreams, All Hallows Eve, Pirate Adventure, Roman Bacchanal, Barbarian Invasion, Highland Fling and Celtic Christmas.

There is so much to see, do and taste that there is not enough time in one day. Thankfully there are hotels and B&B’s near by that you can book a room at or bring your camping gear or RV and stay at the festival in one of their camping locations for a nominal fee.

8 THINGS TO DO AT THE TEXAS RENAISSANCE FESTIVAL:

Watch a live show

With 17 stages there is a wide variety of music and performances to choose from. They are all geared towards fun and frivolity with audience interaction.

TRF
Polka Band in the German Village
TRF
Pirate Band

 

 

Hang out in a pub

Have a seat in one of the many pubs and drinking (non-alcoholic drinks are served as well as mead, wine and beer) establishments, rest your feet and strike up a conversation with the person next to you. You never know who you might meet! We met an individual who was a fire spinner performer at the festival but for her day job she was a legal assistant who also dabbled in interior design!

imageTRF
Say hi to your neighbor
imageTRF
You will meet some interesting people!
TRF
Enjoy and have fun!

Watch a jousting match

The jousting is entertaining to watch with knights vying for the maidens hand.

TRF
Jousting

Try your hand at playing a game

There are many games for the young and young at heart to play. Not into games? How about a ride?

TRF
Rides for kids
TRF
Play one of the many games

 

 

Watch the vendor parade

The vendors gather together with flags and small displays of their wares to show off in a parade around the festival grounds.

TRF
Watch the parade
TRF
Displaying wares

 

 

Go to the weekend kick off pre-party

Every Friday and Saturday there is a  pre-party (21 and over) to celebrate the start of the weekend. The decorations are elaborate and amazing to see! There is a costume contest for the best dressed and a D.J. that plays a wide variety of dance music.

TRF
Dance! Dance! Dance!
TRF
Acrobatic entertainers

 

 

People watch

There are so many interesting people there, both in costume and not, this is a whole entertainment venue on its own!

TRF
So many interesting people
TRF
So many things to see
TRF
The creatures we discovered!
So much to see!
So much to see!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY

What ever you do, have fun! There is something for everyone! Sample the food, wash it down with a cold beverage, cheer for the performers and browse the huge selection of shops with hand crafted one-of-a-kind goods!

TRF
Unique flavors to try
TRF
Many selections to choose from
TRF
Wash lunch down with a cold drink

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

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.

Monumental Monday: William Wallace Monument

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!

w.wallace
William Wallace Monument

The William Wallace Monument located in the stone age settlement of Stirling, Scotland, a city that surrounds the fortress Stirling Castle and the medieval old town of Stirling. Stirling, at one time was the capital of Scotland, is now a flourishing city for local government, higher education, retail and industry. Due to its strategic location near the Highland Boundary Fault between the Scottish highlands and lowlands it is considered as the “Gateway to the Highlands”.

The William Wallace Monument, also known simply as Wallace Monument is a very tall and impressive tower designed by Glasgow architect, J.T. Rochead built from 1861-1869. The massive tower built at the summit of the Abbey Craig dominates the landscape for miles and is a constant reminder of the fierceness that Scots have shown for their freedom and for their independence. The Abbey Craig is a tall hilltop that is comprised of quartz-dolerite. Archeologists have also found evidence  of an early Iron Age fort on the Abbey Craig by the remnants of “vitrified” walls, walls that were created, not in the usual fashion of building out of rocks but by melting stones in a matrix of wooden posts which were then burned to form the ‘vitrified’ wall.

There are numerous walking paths that are used by locals and tourists alike. For those who are more physically fit and up for the challenge (or maybe for young kids who have energy to burn off!) you can hike up to the top of the Craig from the parking and visitor area via the trail (about 20 minute walk, uphill), or you could just take the shuttle bus as well and save your energy for other exploring, shopping, pub crawls…. you choose!. It is a very beautiful walk with awesome views and many picturesque opportunities, well worth your energy expenditure.

080
pretty flowers
image
so many pretty flowers on the walk
image
walk the trail

The Monument, which was built-in the 19th century, commemorates Sir William Wallace,The Guardian of Scotland, a 13th century Scottish hero who gave his life for his country in the fight for freedom and independence. The tower was built-in the Victorian Gothic style from sandstone and is an impressive 220 ft (67 meters) tall and has a whopping 246 steps in its spiral staircase that lead you to each of the three exhibition galleries and the ‘crown’ or viewing platform at the top of the monument where you can see for miles.

The first gallery that you will encounter is the Hall of Arms. Here the walls are lined with banners and plaques that tell the story of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, how it was fought and won on September 11th in 1297. The  Battle of Stirling Bridge had major significance in Scotland’s history and in the history of medieval warfare. Some have described the battle as marking the end of the middle ages because until 1297 armies of heavily armed men and mounted knights were unstoppable. The Battle of Stirling Bridge was commanded by Sir William Wallace and a common army of enlisted spearmen which defeated feudal knights in full armor.

w. Wallace
Story time line

This battle was of particular significance to the Scottish people because it was the first time that a major English army had  been defeated since the Dark Ages. This victory destroyed the myth that the English were invincible and empowered the Scots drive and determination to triumph over the English.

The second gallery is the Hall of Heroes. Here there are 16 busts of men who are considered heroes in the fight for freedom and reform. These busts include some of the more historically important men such as King Robert the Bruce, 1274-1329, Robert Burns, 1759-1796, a poet who attacked various government establishments and the high taxes that were levied, James Watt, 1736-1819, inventor of the steam locomotive which was the springboard for the Industrial Revolution, John Knox, 1510-1572,  and other religious men who spurred reformation of the church.

w. wallace
Hall of heroes

The third gallery is the Royal CHamber. Here you can learn about the trials and obstacles that had to be overcome in the building of the monument. Obstacles included who would build it by having a competition to find a designer, where it would be built, what it would look like, funding and over budget woes to name a few.

For those who make the trip to the top of the monument, the Crown, they will be rewarded with a breath-taking view of Scotland’s amazing country side, from Ben Lomond and the Trossachs in the West, to the city of Stirling and the Ochil and Pentland Hills in the East.

w.wallace
The Crown
w.wallace
the beautiful view from the crown