Three Sites for Everyone to Experience in Atlanta

No matter what your style or scene is, these top three highlights of Atlanta are sure to make for a good time for anyone.  There is a mix of history, broadcasting, good food, and a sensational museum to be enjoyed at all ages.

We spent 2 days in Atlanta and here is what we covered and highly recommend for you:

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  1. CNN Tour.  We paid $15 for an exclusive behind the scenes glimpse of what happens in the news room at this CNN Headquarters.  We were able to ask all the questions that we wanted.  I’m sure there is a lot of sensitive information that wasn’t shared, but the overview on production and what takes place during breaking news moments locally and globally was still interesting.  The whole experience was about 1 hour and we finished at the gift shop where it was possible to buy souvenirs, including a picture of yourself as a reporter (for a fee).  If you’re hungry, there is a food court in the atrium with typical fast food and some healthier options.

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2. Sweet Auburn Historic District.  The story of MLK is more than Black American history. His story is global and for all humankind.  MLK was born in Atlanta.  Along Auburn Avenue, you will embark on the home MLK was born in, the church his father pastored at, which later became the church he pastored at as well.  MLK is also buried here and there is a memorial site with a couple of museums all within the same two blocks.  Be sure to catch the two mini film documentaries in the museum, one which is the virtual tour of the interior of the home he grew up in and the other film is about MLK’s life.  You might think that you know all there is to know about him, but I’m sure you will discover something new here. Estimated time to spend here: Minimum 1 hour, but plan for 2.5 hours.

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3. Coca Cola Museum.  Besides the amusements parks I have been to as a child, I don’t think I have seen so many happy faces in one place at the same time.  Coca-Cola has always been sensational with their marketing.  They really are putting smiles on people’s faces.  Upon entry, we were given a small can of coke before we entered a room with a ton of artifacts, including the first fountain that was used to dispense the cola.  Our tour guide told stories, shared facts and figures and even hinted at giving us the recipe.  Throughout the entire experience we were teased with the notion of getting the recipe. At one point, I thought we were actually going to walk into a vault with a variety of concoctions.   I found this museum to be quite fun because the design continued to heighten our senses with the use of images, collectors items, movies, samples, and interactive displays.  Estimated time to spend here: 1.5-2 hours

If you have enough time, you can fit in a visit to the Aquarium.  I hear it is one of the best experiences of all aquarium visits in North America.  The next time, I visit this city, I’ll have to check it out.

Have you been to Atlanta? What would you say are the top 3 things to do?

World Tourism Day 2018

In support of world tourism, September 27th has been marked as World Tourism Day to promote growth of international travel and inclusiveness.  This year UNWTO (UN World Tourism Organization) is focusing on innovation and digital advancements in the tourism industry.

Technology has certainly helped me travel with more ease.  I have been booking flights online for more than ten years and only used a travel agent to help with making more grand arrangements for my wedding guests and celebrations.  Planning a trip is quite an enthralling experience and the tourism industry is constantly changing.  Booking last minute travel and finding deals has become easier.  Navigating through cities using google maps has made getting lost in a city a less risky experience.  Using apps like Yelp and TripAdvisor make planning the agenda super easy.  I often refer to blogs and instagram photos to map out must see places in a city.  I even find the best doughnut shops with Instagram!

Traveling through security has also seen a ton of advancements.  From automated bag check in processes to automation at the security check to boarding passes scanned on mobile devices to TSA Pre-check and now most recently something call CLEAR.  Everything is about speed.

Connecting with people across the globe continues to get easier and safer.  Don’t let language be a barrier.  Google translate and other devices can have helped me connect with people and move around with more comfort than travelers did 20 years ago.  My Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese are very weak and while in Colombia, Brazil, and Japan, I did my best to speak their local language and people always appreciated my efforts.  Thank you Google for the help!

Traveling to many cities internationally will you give you a real perspective of what problems exist and the gaps from country to country.  We are witnessing countries create smarter cities and others that are still dealing with simple issues like lack of safe drinking water.  The Smart Cities Council has a vision to use technology to improve livability, workability, and sustainability across the globe. I look forward to more positive environmental impact that digitalization will have on all countries across the globe.

“Harnessing innovation and digital advances provides tourism with opportunities to improve inclusiveness, local community empowerment and efficient resource management, amongst other objectives within the wider sustainable development agenda”, said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.
Photo credit: Photo by Artem Bali from Pexels

1 Day in Denver

If you have a layover in Denver you can easily head into the city for a few hours by train.  The ride to Union Station is 45 minutes.

Here’s how we spent a few hours:

Union Station – This award winning historic landmark deserved at least a few minutes of our time before we took on the rest of this trendy city.

 

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If you’re hungry there are 10 chef-owned restaurants all ready to welcome you in and around this building.  We heard about a brunch spot called Snooze, but the wait was an hour, so we moved on and stumbled upon a new spot called Milk Market.  Arrive early enough and you can secure a Bingo card to get in on the game action while you eat.

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16th Street Mall – Walk and shop along this popular tree lined street while you also get up close and personal with skyscrapers of this Mile High City.  There is a free shuttle that runs along this street, but we chose to walk. Be sure to look down some of the alleyways to see the murals (street art) and a random happy face.

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The day we visited there was a free food festival with music, vendors and obviously tons of food in the Civic Center Park. Everything was very close together and this is definitely a walkable city. We went to the State Capital and a County Building in the Civic Center Park.  From far we took in views of the Denver Art Museum, however I was not able to get a good picture because there was too much sun from the angle I was standing. Do stop by the Denver Art Museum as the design is quite fascinating.

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Colorado State Capital

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Civic Center Park, Denver

We took in some of the county tunes in the park!

 

Tattered Book Store – Our final stop before getting the train back to the airport was at the Tattered Book Store.  At a time when people are buying more books online, it is always refreshing to walk into a indie book store that still feels original.  The owner of this retail chain is an advocate for readers in America and freedom of speech.

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Have you been to Denver?  What did you do while you were there?

 

For Pancake Lovers in Cleveland

Growing up, I would wake up on Saturday or Sunday mornings to the smell of mom’s pancakes, turkey sausage, and occasionally fresh muffins right out of the oven.  Having a flash back to that memory has me salivating and wishing I could relive that moment long enough to finish two servings.

On occasion, I do prepare a breakfast half as good as mom’s.  I prefer to go out for breakfast with Amir and a couple of friends.  On a trip to Cleveland, OH we read excellent reviews on Jack Flaps located at 5th Street Arcade.  I’m always in the mood for either pancakes or waffles and at that time I chose the Original Buttermilk Pancakes.  The pancakes were the right size with the perfect fluff and the taste was an A+.  The cinnamon butter, which I believe is prepared in-house, added a unique flavour to experience.

Quick Highlight Reel of Lima, Peru

With so many wonderful places to visit in the world, some of our trips have to be very short and keep them sweet.  You can spend an action packed two days in Lima to get a good taste of the culture, food, and the environment.  I share more information here.

Daytripping in Oklahoma City

I never really had this city on my list of destinations, but now that I’m mostly in the southern US, why the heck not?!  So what does OKC have to offer anyway. Like any city, upon arrival, I always grab all the tourist brochures and figure out what is supposedly the best things to do in the city.  I usually try to figure out more of the local scene, but in such a short timeframe it wasn’t too imperative this time. For OKC…I decided to stick with the highlights.

First stop…

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Inside the paid area of the botanical gardens.

Myriad Botanical Gardens.  This 15-acre botanical garden sits in the middle of the city and is home to thousands of beautifully displayed tropical and desert plants.  The garden is like a symphony of plants orchestrated to be together. The garden is free and if you want to step into tropical zone the cost is $8 for Adults and $5 for children.  Get ready to sweat when you step in there, even on a hot day it felt like I was walking into a sauna cranked up to 100 degrees.  I was dripping in sweat before I even finished walking through.  From the banana trees to coconuts to cocao to ginger, and lots of other cool plants you may have never seen up close and personal this attraction was a great experience.  I rank this the #1 place to visit in OKC and it’s great for small children.

 

Next…

We jumped back in the car and drove through the Business District, Arts District, and Film Row because it was way too hot to walk around everywhere.

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Civic Center Music Hall

 

We then drove to the Park Plaza area and made a visit to the OKC National Memorial.

OKC National Memorial. This site and museum is a memorial that honors victims, survivors, and rescuers of the Oklahoma bombing in 1995.  A National Park representative spoke for about 10 minutes to give the history and an explanation of the design.  There are two gates, which are marked with the time before the incident and one at the moment everything changed (when the bomb struck).  A field of empty chairs represents the lives taken on April 19, 1995.

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The East Gate is marked 9:01, which represents the moment of innocence for the city.
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9:03 – the moment everything changed
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The Museum and the Survivor Tree.  The inscription next to the tree reads: To the courageous and caring who responded from near and far, we offer our eternal gratitude, as a thank you to the thousands of rescuers and volunteers who helped.

Next…

We drove through Automobile Alley and didn’t really see anything. This must be more popular when there is an actual event happening.  Our drive continued through Deep Deuce, which is a nightlife area and then we parked in Bricktown to grab a late lunch.  There are a many restaurants, bars, and shops here and a nice canal, which also offers boat rides to cruise the canal for 45 minutes.  We wrapped up our day here after eating quesadillas and soft tacos at the Yucatan Taco Stand.

If you like riding scooters, there are plenty of Bird scooters available in this neighborhood.

Cheers to another short and sweet trip completed! #shortandsweettrips

 

Free Observation Deck in Tokyo

Tokyo has quite a few places where you can go to an observation deck to lookout over the magnificent city.  We found one that was less crowded, free and easy to get to on our way to Senso-ji. The Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center is just around the corner from Asakusa Station and the building itself, designed by well known Kengo Kuma, is a site to be seen.  The first floor is staffed with a team ready to welcome guests (in Japanese, English, Chinese or Korean)  and each floor offers either an exhibition or conference rooms and a cafe.  Make sure you get to the 8th floor to have your FREE lookout of the Asakusa area.  Don’t expect to be able to see the whole city, after all you are only on the 8th floor.

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The cafe and sitting area on the observation deck floor.
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Information board on the first floor.
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This exhibit gave a plethora of information on all of the famous districts in Tokyo.
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From the observation deck you can see the Tokyo Skytree, the Asahi Headquarters and the Asahi flame.  Notice that the Asahi building looks a little like beer in mug with suds on top.

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1 minute walk from the Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center

Traveling to Japan With Ease

First time travelers to Japan will likely find themselves overwhelmed with all of the information that is available, EVERYWHERE.  At least that is how I felt.  I would plan and then get lost in my plan, then start over and get sent down a spiral of endless options again.  I only had 9 days and I didn’t know where to start, what to do along the way or how to wrap up this potentially once in my lifetime adventure.

I remembered what is important in life is to experience the experience.   Regardless of what we chose to see and do it was bound to be memorable and our shared experiences will last forever.

The reality is, there was absolutely no way to cover everything we wanted in such a short period of time.  Even if we were heading to Japan for several months, I guarantee you that we still would not be able to see all the beauty and wonder the country contains.  The highlights for me consisted of half the stay in Tokyo and the other half in Kyoto and we made day trips to Nara and Osaka.

If you are planning your trip to Japan, put your mind at rest, pick what is important to you to see and do and have no worries.  It doesn’t make sense to get stressed about any trip that you go on. Your on vacation and your mind needs to be at ease.  Sometimes, picking less activities is more enjoyable.  I left this beautiful country with more joy than I expected and by the grace of God I will have the opportunity to visit again.

Thanking God for all my travels and more.

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Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Only 30 minutes from Kyoto Station.

 

Image Featured is Osaka Castle in Osaka.

Japan and Sake

The Meiji Era was the first half of the Empire of Japan from October 23, 1868, to July 30, 1912.   During this time the Emperor Meiji, led the industrial growth and modernization of the country and the Japanese people held Emperor Meiji and his family in the highest regard.  I visited the Meiji Shrine located in Shibuya, Tokyo as it was ranked one of the top Shinto shrines to visit in the area.  At the start of the path towards the shrine, I reached a wall of barrels of sake wrapped in straw.  Every year barrels, pictured here, are given to the enshrined deities by members of the Meiji Jingu Sake Brewers Association along with members of other associations as a symbol of respect for the souls of the Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, whom was also buried here.

Sake is a Japanese rice wine with a very strong taste and can have as much as 20% alcohol volume. Sake is said to be the oldest known alcohol that dates back to 4800 BC in China and 300 BC in Japan.   By the 1300s breweries allowed for mass production and during the industrial revolution hand work by villagers was no longer necessary. It seems to be that since about 1904, Japan has been strongly branded with this fermented rice specialty.  I drank sake with a coconut violet cocktail mix nearly every night for the second half of my trip.  It became my tradition to wind down after a day of walking for about 8 hours. Respect be to the Emperor and family souls.

Tip: Purchase a JRailpass (at least 2 weeks before you depart for Japan) to give you more flexibility to see more that just one city when you visit this spectacular country.

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