Must See Historic Sites in Philadelphia

It’s hard to believe my favorite holiday is right around the corner.  The Fourth of July marks the adoption of the Declaration of Independence and is usually celebrated with fireworks and BBQs.  It is pretty remarkable to think about what things would be like if we hadn’t declared our independence from Britain.  So in addition to enjoying the long weekend, it’s a great time to look back on history and appreciate our independence and liberties.  Philadelphia is a great place to do just that.  It was the first capital of our country and home to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.  

I have been to Philadelphia a few times before for work, but never really had time to explore.  So we decided to visit Philly back in February for President’s Day weekend, which turned out to be bitterly cold.  That was fine though because we planned on spending most of our time inside (more about the art we saw in a later post).  We would need to come back another time when the weather was better to see more of the outdoor sites.

Independence Hall in Philadelphia looks just like I would have pictured it back in Revolutionary time.
Independence Hall looks just like I would have pictured it back in Revolutionary time.

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Fun Times Biking in Central Park + A Discount Code!

As I have said before, Central Park is my favorite place in New York City.  There is so much to see and it is beautiful all year around.  It is such an oasis in this amazing concrete jungle I now call home.  I spend a lot of time in the park running, picnicking, taking pictures, and attending events.  However it took me eleven years to go biking in Central Park.

You may be wondering why I haven’t biked before.  Well, I am not that big of a biker, most times I prefer walking or running.  I see a lot of people biking in the park and they go fast, and I was worried about how crowded it could be.  Last but not least, I don’t own a bike.

Anisa biking in Central Park.
Anisa on her bike from Central Park Sightseeing.

Well, my friends at Central Park Sightseeing helped solve the biggest problem.  They are conveniently located by the park and have great bikes you can rent by the hour, day, etc.  They also have helmets (only required if you are under 14), locks, maps, and baskets if you like.  In addition to bike rentals, Central Park Sightseeing does tours and rollerblade rentals too!  They are also offering a discount code for our readers, so check out their website and use the code Tex50 to save 50%.  They recommend booking 48 hours in advance and you will need either a valid ID or credit card for a deposit. (more…)

Breakneck Ridge Lives Up To Its Name

Since we had such a good time on our hike in San Sebastian, I really wanted to do another hike in NY.  Many people don’t realize, there is plenty of good hiking not too far from NYC.  However, getting to many of the hiking trails requires a car (which I don’t have).  I had heard good things about Breakneck Ridge and that Metro North trains stopped there on the weekend, so I thought we should give it a try.  

One of the many scenic views from Breakneck Risge that make it worth all the effort.
One of the many scenic views from Breakneck Ridge that make it worth all the effort.

The train runs about hourly on the weekends and takes about an hour and half to get to Breakneck Ridge.  You can check the schedule here.  It is worth it to get up early to catch the train since the hike is popular and can get crowded.  The train goes along the Hudson River and is very scenic.  To get out at Breakneck Ridge, you will need to move towards the back of the train.  The only door that will open is the one at the front of the last car.  The Breakneck Ridge train stop is very basic, there is just a tiny yellow wooden platform.   (more…)

Five Tips to Help You Plan Your Trip to Las Vegas

IMG_5207I always like to have a vacation to look forward to while I am working like crazy during busy season and Vegas is known as a place to have fun and let loose.  I had found a good flight on Southwest and my friend, Michelle, had a flight credit that she needed to use, so we decided to take a quick two night trip. I generally enjoy planning trips –choosing activities, perusing menus, and picking bars – and advance research is definitely important to maximize your fun while in Vegas.  Otherwise you are gambling – and I’m not talking about playing the slots!  Here are some planning tips that I think are critical for any Vegas trips:

  1. Choose your hotel carefully.

We were looking to do an affordable quick two night trip to Vegas.  Neither Michelle nor I are gamblers, so we were interested in getting some sun, having a few (too many) drinks, eating some delicious food, and getting to see some of the sights in Vegas.  Location of your hotel is key in Vegas.  It may look like one hotel is right next door, but that “next door” is probably still a twenty minute walk.  In order to make the most of our trip (and not have to spend any cost-savings from the hotel room on cabs), we wanted to stay at a prime location on the Strip. (more…)

Barcelona’s Picasso Museum: Not What You Would Expect

Picasso is arguably one of the most famous artists ever, which is one of the reasons that the Picasso Museum in Barcelona is so popular.  While he may be best known for his cubist paintings, this is not what you will see in the museum.  I really enjoyed my visit because it really helped me learn more about Picasso’s life and appreciate what an incredible artist he really is.

Picasso's "Reading at a Table," 1934 Metropolitan Museum of Art
Picasso’s “Reading at a Table,” 1934 Metropolitan Museum of Art

Unfortunately, no photography is allowed inside the museum, so all the pictures in this blog post are Picasso’s work that I have seen at other museums.

The Picasso Museum is located in the El Born area of Barcelona.  We really enjoyed the walk to the museum.  We passed several nice pieces of art on our way.  I didn’t even realize when we arrived at the museum because it just fits in so well in the neighborhood, but then I saw the line to get in and knew I was at the right place.  

I highly recommend buying a ticket in advance to avoid the line.  The advance tickets are for a timed entry so you need to plan ahead.  The museum is open late Thursday evening until 9:30pm and closed on Mondays.  On the first Sunday of the month and every Sunday after 3 pm, the museum is free.  However, I would expect the line to be worse than normal during those times.

Picasso’s Life Story

Picasso's "Woman in White," 1923 Metropolitan Museum of Art
Picasso’s “Woman in White,” 1923 Metropolitan Museum of Art

To fully appreciate the museum, it is a good idea to know a little bit about Picasso’s life.  Picasso was born in Malaga but lived in Barcelona from age 14 to 23.  Then he moved to Paris.  While in Paris, his best friend, Carlos Casagemas, also an artist, committed suicide.  That marked the beginning of the Blue Period, where the dominant color in his paintings reflected his mood.  After four years, he found a steady girlfriend, Fernande Olivier, who helped him see the world through rose-colored glasses – and what is known as Rose Period began.   (more…)

Paying My Respects at the Cambridge American Cemetery

I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for those that serve in the military.  They risk their lives every day to protect our freedom.  My cousin, Stephanie, spent time in the Army and was deployed overseas twice.  So while I was in Cambridge, I thought it would be nice to visit the Cambridge American Cemetery to show my appreciation.

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If you remember back to your history classes, the UK was the main base for the Allied Troops fighting to liberate Western Europe during World War II.  The Cambridge American Cemetery is the only cemetery in England to honor the service and sacrifice of Americans who served overseas during World War II.

Visiting the Cambridge American Cemetery

The Cambridge American Cemetery is located a little bit outside of the city center on land that was donated by Cambridge University.  There is no admission charge, but you will either need to drive or get a taxi to get there.  There are four main points of interest in the cemetery – the burial ground, the mall with the Wall of the Missing, the visitor center, and the chapel.   (more…)

Learning About Wine the Rioja Way

Note: This post contains affiliate links. See disclosure for more information.

As I mentioned before, I do really like Spanish wine. It is very easy to drink and also affordable.  Since I was doing a food and wine trip for my birthday, it was only fitting that I spend my actual birthday in Rioja, the most famous wine region in Spain.  We only had one day and wanted to pack in as much as possible, so we decided to splurge and do a private tour with Basque Tours.  The plan was to visit four wineries for tastings, one for lunch, and then also see the medieval walled city of Laguardia.  

There is a nice view of the Rioja region from just outside the city walls of Laguardia.
There is a nice view of the Rioja region from just outside the city walls of Laguardia.

Andoni was our driver and tour guide.  He picked us up at 8:30am in San Sebastian and we headed to Rioja.  We made sure to eat breakfast before we left.  It took about two hours to drive to our first winery, so Andoni gave us an overview of the region and Spanish wine.  There are three sections of Rioja – Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa.  We would be visiting Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa.  The town of Haro (in Rioja Alta), is really the wine capital of the region and we would be visiting several wineries there.   (more…)

A Day in Bilbao

Bilbao is known as the financial capital of Basque Country.  At first, I just planned to pass through on my way to San Sebastian.  But then I saw pictures of the Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry, and I was definitely intrigued.  We had a pretty full itinerary, but I felt like we needed to at least spend some time in Bilbao.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have the best weather while we were in Bilbao, so we couldn’t just walk around and explore the city.  We stayed at Hotel Miro, which is pretty much across the street from the Guggenheim.  We could see the museum from our hotel room window and the old town area was about a 15 minute walk.

We could see the Guggenheim from our room at Hotel Miro in Bilbao.
We could see the Guggenheim from our room at Hotel Miro.

When we arrived at Hotel Miro, we were greeted by Alfonso, one of the friendliest front desk employees I have ever met.  We learned about the courtesy lounge that the hotel has in the lobby.  It was stocked with tea/coffee and some snacks (including my favorite – gummies), that were all self serve.  We would definitely take advantage of this during our stay in Bilbao. (more…)

Cider House Rules

I really don’t like beer, but I do like hard cider.  So when I heard that cider was made in San Sebastian and you could have dinner at the cider house, I knew it would be something I would really like.  I had read that the cider in San Sebastian was a little different from what we are used to because it is not sweet.  I was intrigued so I decided to take a tour with Discover San Sebastian to go to the cider house.

Anisa and Russell outside the Petritegi Cider House.
Anisa and Russell outside the Petritegi Cider House.

Discover San Sebastian is a specialized tour company that Eskerne Falcon founded about a year ago.  She grew up in the area and is very passionate about Basque Country – especially the food.  She was part of the team that helped San Sebastian win the European Capital of Culture for 2016.  Her English is excellent because she went to college in the US (at SUNY Binghamton).  It was fascinating to hear her story about going to the US and not knowing a word of English and leaving 5 years later with a degree from a great university.  Eskerne is very knowledgable about the area and has experience working in restaurants and hotels in San Sebastian as well.  She offers several different tours that are mostly food or wine related.  She especially loves taking clients on her pintxos tours. (more…)

Koreatown: A Little Seoul in NYC

New York City is so diverse with so many different ethnic neighborhoods and one of my favorites is Koreatown. Many people just pass through Koreatown because it is so centrally located (mostly 32nd St. between 5th and 6th avenues), but I do think you should consider it a destination on its own. There is plenty to do and many places stay open very late.  At times, it may feel like you have been transported to Asia. So here are some of my recommendations for your visit to Koreatown:

Korean Food

There are so many different types of Korean food that I think everyone can find some type that they like. I really like kimchi (spicy cabbage) but I think it is one of those foods that you either love or hate. Korean BBQ is really fun with a group. I like the places where you get to cook the meat yourself right on your table, but many places will cook it for you. The one thing that you have to take into consideration if you cook yourself is that you may leave smelling like meat, but I think it is worth it! My favorite place to have Korean BBQ is Gaonnuri. It is more upscale than most other Korean BBQ restaurants. It is located on the 39th floor and the views are spectacular. Out of town visitors will be impressed. I would recommend making a reservation.

View from Gaonnuri, sorry about the reflections!
View from Gaonnuri, sorry about the reflections!

A more casual option is Mandoo Bar. While they specialize in dumplings (yum!), they also have other Korean noodle dishes and Bibimbop. Bibimbop is a rice dish served in a hot stone bowl with vegetables and meat. The food here is really good and it is very affordable. (more…)

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