New Press a Penny and Some Souvenir Coins

So as my last post indicated I’m back from my week in Europe. I have a lot of posts ahead of me from this trip. I’m starting my posting my souvenirs and then will share my trip journal.

I was able to pick up one press a penny in Cologne. Though there it’s press a .05 Euro. I also picked up some souvenir coins to add to my collection. I have some from Paris.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Belgium, Europe, Family Vacation, Germany, Gifts and Souvenirs, Mish Mash, Press A Pennies, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Postcards from Cologne

I just got back from a week in Europe. One of the places I visited was Cologne, Germany. I was only there a day, but I had the chance to pick up 3 postcards. More info from this trip coming soon.

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Categories: Europe, Family Vacation, Germany, Mish Mash, Postcards, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Postcards from St. Pete Beach

My parents came back from Spring Training and stayed in St. Pete Beach. They brought me back these postcards. I just never got around to posting them until now.

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Categories: Florida, Mish Mash, Postcards, Travel, USA | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Postcards from São Paulo

My dad’s coworker went to São Paulo and brought me back these large postcards.

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Here’s some more postcards from places I’ve never been/postcards from friends:

Categories: From Friends, Mish Mash, Postcards, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Postcards from Cuba

My dad’s coworker just got back from Cuba and was nice enough to bring me back two postcards.

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Here’s some more postcards from places I’ve never been/postcards from friends:

Categories: From Friends, Mish Mash, Postcards, Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Losing a Piece of my Travel Soul

I have been planning my families’ vacations since 2007. That means every single detail. I pick the flights, airlines, trains, visas, dates, times, hotels, restaurants, museums, sites, etc. I spend days, weeks, and sometimes even months researching every last detail. What time does this museum close? What days is this site cheaper to visit? When do they have extended hours? Which train will take us from this place to the next? So on and so forth. It’s exhausting, but so rewarding. My mom and I are insane travelers. We shove an entire city or country into a couple of days. Would I recommend this? No. However, when you have a limited number of days off you got to do what you got to do. Plus we are from NYC, so we walk twice as fast as everyone else. We don’t regret the intense vacations we have because we are able to see so much. I never want to leave a place with a serious case of “I wish I could have seen/done/visited ______.” I might only get to a visit a place once so I want to see it all the first time. This means I need a place to store and organize all of these details and directions.

This place was always Yahoo! Trip Planner. My trip plans were masterpieces. I had every last minute mapped out with times, admission costs, and directions for every place. My trip plan became my bible while I was on the run in Greece, Paris, Dallas, etc. A couple months ago I went on Trip Planner to start my next trip plan for my upcoming trip to Europe. I kept getting an error message. I tried everyday for a week with no luck. I was having a trip planning breakdown. I emailed, Facebooked, and tweeted Yahoo! and Yahoo! Travel. They told me to be patient. The error message never went away. My thumbs up and comments from other people were no longer visible either. I knew then I should fear for the safety of my beloved Yahoo! Trip Planner, but I put those depressing thoughts out of mind. After days of research I picked a new company to use for my trip plans. I’m using TripIt. I don’t love it, but I don’t have a choice. I held out hope for Yahoo, until a couple days ago.

On February 27th the dreaded email came:

Dear valued Yahoo user,

In an ongoing effort to sharpen our focus and deliver inspiring and engaging products and services, we sometimes have to make tough decisions. Effective March 21st, 2014, the Yahoo Travel services “Trip Planner” and “My Travel” will be permanently discontinued. If you have uploaded Trip Plans to the site, please click here to learn how to save your information.

Thank you for your continued support.

Yahoo Travel Team

I didn’t know if I should cry or be angry. They had just killed a piece of my travel soul. I was in a state of shock for at least 20 minutes. I now have to print my trip plans so I have them, but it just won’t be the same. My entire trip plan portfolio represents hours upon hours of research, frustration, tears, joy, excitement, aggravation, curiosity, etc. Each trip plan had to be perfect before leaving for a trip and each trip plan reflects a part of me. They show you I love Egypt, history, politics, Italian food, bakeries, Hyatt hotels, and the Northeast. I can seriously close my mind and picture myself hunched over at various computers with travel books all over my floor or desk, google maps tab open, and tons of other relevant travel sites minimized. I will miss reading other people’s reviews on places and looking at the pictures while I contemplated whether each attraction, hotel, or restaurant was worthy of being added to my trip. The trip plans were also my first time doing something connected to travel on the internet. I constantly refer to them when working on this blog.

If you want to look at my trip plans before they disappear on March 21st 2014 please click the links below. I deleted a couple before I decided to make this blog post. If it takes you to the trip journal tab just hit “Trip Plan”:

Greece

Cancun

Israel

Georgia

Washington DC

Boston, Plymouth, and Salem

Baltimore

Dallas

Paris

Boston, Lexington, and Concord

Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland

Yahoo! Trip Planner all I have left to say is, “Thanks for the memories!”

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Categories: Mish Mash | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Almost Missed Our Train to Philly

2/20/14
You probably don’t know this about me but I’m either early or late. I’m rarely ever on time. My mother knows this about me and thus usually forces me to be anywhere from 1-2 hrs early for planes and trains.

I woke up at 7:30am and our train wasn’t leaving until 10:30am. In my mind that left 2 hrs to get ready, 30 mins to travel there, and 30 mins to wait. Somehow that didn’t work out. It was 9:45 and I was struggling to find a bag I needed. I found it and we ran out of the house to the subway. My mother was pissed at me. I kept mumbling I told you not to book an early train. I don’t do mornings. We run down the subway stairs and catch the packed train waiting to leave the station. We got on much to the annoyance of the people standing already. We waited and waited and waited and waited. The train wasn’t leaving the station. My mother kept shooting me dirty looks while I prayed for the doors to close. In my head I was picturing a repeat of my MET fiasco where it took 2 hrs to get uptown. I kept looking at my phone for the time. What the hell was going on? We were going to miss our train and it would be all my fault. The train doors finally closed at 10:05. The train ride should take 20-30 mins. We were screwed. By some miracle we got to Penn Station at 10:17. We had made it! I didn’t majorly screw us up.

Our train was on time and we took seats in the quiet car. The lady behind me spent the entire ride sneezing and coughing on me. To quote Jimmy Fallon’s character Sara, “ew!” I used the train ride to text, respond to work emails, and plan a video my friends and I will be filming next week.

We arrived in Philly around noon. We got out of 30th st station and we could immediately tell something was wrong. A street was blocked off with caution tape. There were police, fireman, and a huge crowd. There were more sirens in the distance. I took a picture because my friends and co-workers tease that I bring horrible events to places I go (war, revolution, bombings, natural disasters, etc). I sent it them and really figured it was just a bad fender bender, but no one was hurt because their was no ambulance, sense of urgency, flames, etc. We boarded Septa and headed to our hotel. A large transvestite fell on me when the train lurched. I smiled at the thought how normal that was when my non city friends would have freaked. I’m just glad I wasn’t crushed. They were the size of a football player.

We got off the train and were very confused. The entrance for our hotel was gone. We remembered a side entrance that was rarely used and headed there. That entrance was now the main entrance while they undergo restaurant renovation. We checked in and were happily surprised to find out that our room was ready despite being 4 hrs early and we had been upgraded due to my mom’s birthday. Our room was located on the 32nd floor, who is considered one of the club floors. The club lounge was located on 31. We headed to the lounge first only to find out it is only open on weekday mornings until 10:30am. It had a beautiful view though. Lots of different chairs to sit in. We headed back down to our room which was the exact same room as last time just 10 flights up. The room had two double beds, flat screen tv, desk, mini bar, Keurig, and a bathroom with a tub. The view is lovely from the room and it is very quiet.

We were hungry so we headed to Reading Terminal Market. We picked up a mini King Cake, a brioche roll, garlic crostinis, and an M&M cookie. I ate the roll in 10 seconds. I also got a christmas rubber ducky to add to my collection. We headed to an expensive thrift store so my mother could buy herself something nice as a birthday present to herself. Every time we go to this store they are closed. We arrive and they are closed again. However, this time there is a worker on his cell and he refuses to open up. Great work ethic! That annoyed my mom so we decided to move on. We did a lot of shopping. We went to Dollar General, Buffalo Exchange, Payless, H&M, Claire’s, and the shops at Liberty Place. We got free tea at Liberty Place from Tazo. We were going to go to Federal Doughnuts to see what the hype was about, but it looked like it was going to pour. We started to walk back to the area outside Reading Terminal. We did more shopping! I went to Burlington Coat Factory and Five Below.

At 4:45pm we headed back to Reading Terminal for discounted cookies. The problem was their dough wasn’t delivered on time so they didn’t have many cookies. My mom got a bunch, but I just got two. We headed across the street to Maggiano’s for dinner. We were so surprised that the place was almost empty. It’s usually swamped so much so that you face a 2 hour wait if you don’t make a reservation in advance. They sat us in a booth. We knew what we wanted to eat right away. We ordered fried zucchini and two margherita flatbreads (1/2 price for happy hour). They brought us out hot rolls. My mom ate most of the zucchini and some of the flatbread. I downed my food. All of a sudden the waiter, Edward, came out with cookies, a strawberry, and two candles for my mom. So sweet and awesome. I had put in my Open Table reservation that it was my mom’s birthday, but I totally doubted anything would be done. She was so surprised. I ordered an apple crostada and went in search of the waiter to sneakily give my credit card to so I could pay for dinner, but I couldn’t find him. Meanwhile, the couple in the booth next to us were having a bad night. The guy sat in cherries and the girl spent the whole time crying into her menu, then a tissue, and then her alfredo. We asked them to pack up the cookies and the remaining pieces of flatbread. We got matches for future candle lighting.

We got back to the room and were shocked to see two cupcakes and a card by the TV for my mom. The hotel had signed the card. We put a candle in the cupcake and she quickly made a wish. We settled in to watch the Olympics. She ate her cupcakes and I noshed on the leftovers.

Categories: Family Vacation, Food, Philadelphia, Travel, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Europe’s Best City Escapes for Spring

In about 2 months (not 1 month-stupid WordPress widgit) I will be heading to Europe to do my annual international vacation. We will be going to Amsterdam, Cologne, Brussels, Ghent, and possibly some other small cities. So when I saw the article below I was glad to see I was going to one of the cities on their list.

All rights belong to Yahoo! and you can view the original slideshow/article here.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

The Netherlands takes pride in its tulips, and for good reason: these flowers are big business. This spring, explore the countryside on bicycle to see vast fields carpeted with vibrant tulips in a dazzling array of colors. , located in nearby Lisse, is famed for rows upon rows of flowers that stretch as far as the eye can see. Take a day trip there when the gardens are open, from mid-March to mid-May, by direct bus (No. 858) from Schiphol Airport.

Insider Tip: In the city, opt for ‘s equally fabulous and historical floating on the Singel canal—the only one in the world, open daily—to view floating barges that burst in fragrant swathes of red, pink, orange, and yellow petals.

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal

In spring, Europe’s westernmost capital is bathed in warm climes, with picture-perfect hues that pervade twisting cobblestone alleyways. A spring trip to is a fairy-tale fling in a global city that’s undergoing something of a renaissance. Outside the city, neighboring castle-clad towns Sintra and Cascais both make for easy day trips.

Insider Tip: The hip, bohemian neighborhood of is filled with creatives. Explore the quarter’s abundance of artistic murals, three-table bars where elderly men smoking pipes flank traditional bars, and Capoeira schools and cafés that boast an eclectic edge.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary

The hip capital ranks as a popular budget-friendly destination. The city offers medicinal thermal baths, edgy “ruin pubs,” and a gritty, post-Communist exuberance. For exploring, the lower Pest side of the Danube River boasts opera, theaters, and the city’s historic Jewish quarter, while Buda on the upper side features the castle district’s posh residences.

Insider Tip: Spanning three floors, offers everything from local meats to baked sweets. Spring kicks off a roster of world-themed food days, including Chilean and Moroccan eats. The Easter market is one of the busiest times of year; expect throngs of hungry crowds counting their forints.

Riga, Latvia

Riga, Latvia

Deeply etched in European history, is synonymous with classical music, elegance, and historic architecture. Get lost in the quaint side streets on a spring morning and make sure to visit the city’s medieval center, which offers the widest collection of art nouveau buildings in the world. Here, the concentration of remarkably intact medieval architecture dates back to the 12th century, which contributed to Riga’s World Heritage status. The European Union also recently recognized the city as the European Capital of Culture for 2014.

Insider Tip: Foodies should head to for locally sourced Latvian tidbits ranging from pig snout and sauerkraut to hemp butter. End your day with a drink and a rooftop view from the ‘s 26th-floor Skyline Bar. The spot fills up fast, so get there early to enjoy spectacular panoramic vistas.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen, Denmark

Spring kick-starts a year of Danish design and architecture exhibitions. Start at the iconic , which first opened in 1755. The hotel is newly refurbished, overlooks famous square, and sits near the Nyhavn Canal, the Royal Danish Theatre, and shopping street Stroget. Spend another afternoon at , Northern Europe’s largest aquarium.

Insider Tip: For unforgettable organic fare, go to super-hip , the Meat District neighborhood, and try restaurant, which is housed within a 1920s Bosch warehouse, or the neighboring .

Categories: Mish Mash, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vacations in Aruba

Growing up I went to Aruba every May and eventually it switched to every summer. I used to consider it my second home. Back then Aruba wasn’t well known and tourists didn’t flock to it in droves. It wasn’t unusual to run into celebrities who would travel there to escape the crowds. I have met more basketball teams than I can count. I’ve also met several actors and comedians. I met Sinbad in the pool.

My family and I used to stay at the Playa Linda. Our room had one bedroom, a living room with a pull out couch (where I slept), a living room, full bathroom, dining table, and full kitchen. There were two pools. One for kids and one for adults. Nothing special. A staircase led down to the beach with huts. The lobby had a small game room, a small store for essentials, a bathing suit shop, a tourist shop, and a restaurant. Back then there was nothing really around. There was a 2×1 Dunkin Donuts across the street, which made us very happy. On the beach there was a large hut that would have free coffee and cookies at 2pm everyday. The cookies were plain tea biscuits, but I used to love them. There was also a bar by the pool. The place eventually started to feel run down so we moved down to the Hyatt.

The Hyatt is where I have most of my memories. We used to stay on the top floor of the hotel (9th floor). We knew all the staff and they all knew us. They watched me grow up. The top floor has a desk for the concierge, a room with a computer (later addition) library and TV, there’s several areas to set up food and drinks, and another room with seating. We used to eat breakfast here everyday. Cookies would be put out in the middle of the day and I always looked forward to them. At night appetizers and dessert would be put out. Some nights we would make dinner out of the appetizers. Taco night used to be one of our favorite nights. I used to run down the hall in my pj’s at all hours of the day and night for food. I couldn’t imagine doing that now. The hotel had a casino in the lobby. My last year in Aruba I was 18 so I could gamble. I had fun playing the slots and black jack. There were several small shops in the lobby including a TCBY, which I went to every night. There’s also a salon and gym off of the lobby. There’s two restaurants on the lower level. Ruinas del Mar was the fancy one. We used to go there for brunch and for one fancy meal every trip. We used to order grilled salmon for dinner. The other restaurant, the Palms, is more low key. We would order lunch from them. I would either get a grilled cheese w/fries or a tuna pita w/ chips. There’s a bar and a smoothie station on the lower level as well. There are two giant pools with another bar off of the lower pool. There’s also a hot tub and a water slide. I spent many hours on that slide. I’ve won several competitions on that slide. Some for speed and some for tricks. I could do flips and turns on the slide. Beyond the pools there’s the beach. Every afternoon there would be Bingo. We never missed Bingo. The prizes included free drinks (alcohol and smoothies), money, free equipment rentals, etc.

A typical day for us would go like this:

1) Dad woke up to run and play tennis. He would save our pool chairs
2) Breakfast
3) Gym
4) Change for the pool
5) Pool
6) Cookies
7) Lunch
8) Bingo
9) Pool or walk to the other hotels
10) Change/shower
11) Appetizers
12) Finish changing
13) Dinner out of the hotel
14) Dessert in the hotel
15) TCBY and hang out in the lobby, casino, or walk the beach

My mom and I aren’t pool, beach, or sun people. So we often walk to the other hotels just for something to do. We would just walk or shop. We spent a lot of time in the Holiday Inn and Allegro/Occidental, since they were the closest hotels. The furthest we would would be to the Wyndham to the left or the Marriott to the right.

Once a trip my mom and I would take the bus into town and spend the day in Oranjestad. We would spend the day shopping for items to bring home to friends and coworkers.

After I turned 18 we stopped going. I wanted to see the world and going to Aruba every year prevented that. Now everyone has caught onto Aruba. The place has changed in the last 8 years. I probably wouldn’t recognize it anymore. I hear there are so many new hotels, restaurants, and shops.

I’ll do individual posts for some of my favorite places in Aruba.

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Hotel Map Back in the Day

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Updated Hotel Map

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When I was 18 this was the Hotel Map

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Sinbad and I back in the day

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At the mini golf place in Aruba

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Hyatt Lower Pool-Jump Time!

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Playing bingo and being silly

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Some hotel in Aruba

18! I can gamble. Hyatt’s Casino. I won $20.50 that night.

Hyatt Beach

Hyatt Pool Area

Ocean View from Hyatt Room

Ocean View from Hyatt Room

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Waiting outside Ruinas del Mar

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Beverly! She worked at Palms

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Palms Restaurant

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Did I mention I absolutely hate suntan lotion?

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Aruba from our balcony

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Coloring in my room

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She was the house keeper. I loved her.

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Hanging in our spot

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On the 9th floor with Angie

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Bingo Time!

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Hanging out with the amazing women that worked on the 9th floor

Aruba 1990

9th Floor

One of many iguanas on the island

Joking around on the lower level of the pool

Marriott

Hanging with an iguana

Waterslide time!

Aruba from our balcony

Categories: Aruba, Caribbean, Family Vacation, Photos, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Man’s Tattoo Tracks World Travels

All rights belong to Good Morning America and Joanna Prisco. The original article can be read here

 

Man’s Tattoo Tracks World Travels

Feb. 17, 2014
By JOANNA PRISCO via Good Morning America
PHOTO: Bill Passmans tattoo is seen after filling in some of the countries he has visited.

While most travelers use photography and souvenirs to remember the places they’ve been, one man has taken a much more permanent approach to recording his trips.

For the last four years, Bill Passman, a former lawyer in Louisiana, has been tracing his steps in foreign countries via a large world map tattoo on his back.

Passman, 59, wrote on his blog that he was inspired to begin the evolving ink project while sitting in a bar in Utila, Honduras, where he met a woman who was marking her travels via red dots on a similar outline of a world map tattoo.

But the retiree takes his body art in a much more vibrant direction, coloring in each country with a different hue once he has visited. The map currently has 60 different nations filled in, including from his most recent post documenting Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Finland and Russia.

ABC News’ attempts to reach Passman for comment were not immediately responded to, likely because he is on the road somewhere.

“I got the tattoo as a way to show my passion for travel,” he wrote on the blog.

Categories: Mish Mash, Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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