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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Where Women Rule in Washington, DC

Coming to the Women's March in Washington, DC? Take a little time to visit sites dedicated to powerful women.
While the proverbial White House glass ceiling is still intact (sigh), there are a few places around the nation’s capital where women rule the roost. Sadly, those places are not in the halls of power, still dominated by a (white) male majority. But if you want to focus on the history and accomplishments of women, Washington DC does offer several museums celebrating the fairer sex.

It’s likely politic to start a tour of dynamic dames at the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument. The National Park Service added the Capitol Hill museum site to its roster in 2016. The historic building was once home to the National Woman’s Party (NWP), which led early movements for equality and the right of females to vote. When the party purchased the house in 1929, it evolved into a center for feminist education and social change.

Today, the museum honors the Suffrage Movement (it’s named for two early suffragettes--Alice Paul and Alva Belmont), along with the continuing fight for equal rights. Memorabilia includes Susan B. Anthony’s desk, Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s chair, a fine arts collection depicting famous women in American history and the wood blocks used to print suffragist literature. There is also a textile collection of banners, capes and costumes used by the NWP while picketing the White House or marching in parades and equality demonstrations between 1913 and 1970.
NMWA/Thomas H. Feld
Next, head to downtown DC to recognize creative women of another character. The National Museum of Women in the Arts calls itself the only facility in the world dedicated exclusively to examining the work of a broad array of female artists. The institution has a permanent collection of 4,500 pieces, some of which date back to the 16th century. More than 1,000 artists working in a variety of mediums are represented, including Mary Cassatt, √Člisabeth Louise Vig√©e-Lebrun and Joana Vasconcelos. The museum regularly presents rotating special exhibitions featuring innovative female artists from around the world. The role of the female artist is also explored through film, cultural conversations and artist talks.  

NMWA/Dakota Fine

Statuesque Women

There are statues of Jefferson, Lincoln, Lafayette, Einstein and dozens of other statues around DC dedicated to dudes. Women are not as well-represented (imagine that), but there are some sculpted homages to the country’s fiercest females.
Eleanor Roosevelt statue
Eleanor Roosevelt statue |Flickr CC: Sean Hayford Oleary

Eleanor Roosevelt was likely the first First Lady to take the reins of power and run with them. Among other accomplishments, she was part of the first American delegation to the United Nations and chaired its first Commission on Human Rights. That’s why the life-size bronze of Eleanor stands in front of a UN logo at the sprawling FDR Memorial.
Photo courtesy of washington.org

Roosevelt was a big supporter of Mary McLeod Bethune, one of the country’s early civil rights activists. Bethune devoted her career to improving the lives of African Americans through education and political and economic empowerment. She founded a private school for African-American children, headed up the National Council of Negro Women, and was a special assistant to the secretary of war during World War II. Her memorial in Lincoln Park features the elderly Mrs. Bethune with two young children. Bethune is also celebrated at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Vietnam Womens Memoria-washington dc
Vietnam Women’s Memorial | Flickr CC: Jeff Kubina

One of the most touching sculptures on the National Mall may also be among the most overlooked. The Vietnam Women’s Memorial is located in a grove of trees near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The 2,000-pound bronze statue by female sculptor Glenna Goodacre depicts three servicewomen, one of whom is tending to the needs of a wounded soldier.

More ideas, including monuments and statues dedicated to strong women, can be found here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

So You Want to Be a Travel Blogger?

I'm Tallin You
I'll never describe Estonia as 'quaint'
The Top 9 Travel Writing Taboos

#1: Avoid cliches like the plague. The Danish in Copenhagen isn't the best thing since sliced bread (since when is sliced bread so great, anyway, I wonder?) When was the last time you really felt like a kid in the candy store? And unless you are trying out a carousel, you don't give things a whirl.

#2: Avoid words you never use when talking. I'm talking iconicquaint, and rustic. 

#3: Just to prove that I am not overly persnickety, I'll allow one quaint or iconic per article. But never, ever use luxe or azure, for sure.

#4: That the grass is green is not newsworthy. That the beach is sandy is not newsworthy. Don't include useless and/or redundant adjectives. Keep it pithy, people.

#5: Can a city boast? Apparently, it can, as "Chicago boasts the best deep-dish pizza in the world" and "Honolulu boasts grand luxe hotels, sandy beaches, and azure skies."  But IMHO, a place cannot boast.

#6: Is Albania the next Italy? I don't think so. But some travel writers do. "The next...." is not merely cliched writing; it is also somewhat pejorative if you think about it (i.e.--the next best thing to sliced bread....but it ain't no slice of bread).

#7: Don't trash the locals or local customs just for the heck of it. If you do, as in this piece I did for National Geographic Traveler  that literally trash talks Albania, provide context and balance.

#8: Maybe it's me, because I simply abhor chick-lit. Articles about your journey of self-discovery are usually a yawn, even to your closest friends. My best advice is to circumvent this form of literary litany. An aside--why is it that 99 out of 100 of self-confessional, self-delusional pieces are written by women?

#9: Never, never, never use the term "something for everyone" in your writing. It's lazy, it's annoying (to me, anyway) and it's simply not true. Don't you be telling me Des Moines has something for everyone. For example, if you are a surfer, where's the beach? New York City doesn't have something for everyone. If you are a climber, try finding a mountain to scale in Manhattan (skyscrapers don't count). Heck, even Sydney, the best city in the world (again, IMHO), doesn't have something for everyone. For example, if you are an astronomer, you can't see the Big Dipper and vast parts of Ursa Major in the Australian night sky. But you can pet a koala.

Which brings me to one more parenthetical point. You can pet a koala, but you can't pet a koala bear. Koalas are marsupials, not bears. Put that in your pouch and ponder. And one more point that may save your life one day: If you want to pet a koala, don't do so by awakening it from a eucalyptus-induced stupor. I can tell you from experience... this not a good idea. A koala awakened abruptly from its languor is a vicious animal. But that's a story to be chronic

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Travel Trends for 2017

2017 is going to be the year of the experience. Now that travel to places that were once considered exotic has become somewhat pedestrian (oh yeah, I’m heading to Easter Island tomorrow--you?), it’s the search for the ultimate experience that may reign supreme...no matter where it takes place. That said, experiences need to be one-of-a-kind and indigenous to the place visited.

For example, during a recent trip to Italy, I bypassed Rome and Venice and focused on making gelato in Bologna and truffle hunting near Alba.

Tasting the fruits of my gelato-making efforts
at Gelato University in Bologna

Searching for truffles with
Igor and Rocky

A fjord in
Northern Norway

2017 will also be the year when people are looking chill out and escape from reality. This means that instead of heading to the world’s great cities, they may be prone to head to the outer reaches of familiar countries. Iceland has been a very popular place for the past several years. This year, there may be a fjord in your future, as seekers of calm and isolation may head above the Arctic Circle, exploring Nunavut in Canada, Lapland in Finland and Northern Norway. In all of these places, visitors can experience the Midnight Sun, giving them more daylight to lap up adventures. In Northern Norway, those adventures include riding horses, hanging ten at the world's northernmost surfing school, or French kissing with wolves.
Getting Intimate with Wolves
at Norway's Polar Park

In the United States, the desire to get away from crowded spaces will also predominate. National parks will continue to be popular escape routes. Rural states like Nebraska and the Dakotas may also see an upswing in tourism. 

Also, so-called secondary cities will experience a renaissance. During the past few years, places like Richmond, VA; Cincinnati, OH; and Boise, ID have become beacons of urban cool. Young chefs, priced out of major markets, are opening restaurants in these smaller burgs, while uber-cook, cutting-edge lodging brands, like 21c Museum Hotels and Aparium, are focusing their efforts in these under-a-million cities.

Art at a 21c Museum Hotel

A room at The Modern in Boise, Idaho

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Dropping the Ball...and the Pickle...and the Potato...On New Year's Eve

When it comes to New Year’s Eve celebrations, very few places are dropping the ball these days. Instead, they are dropping wenches, wrenches, pickles, potatoes and bologna—and that’s no bologna.

The New Year’s Eve bologna drop in Lebanon, PA is a bunch of bologna

Pennsylvania may reign supreme when it comes to dropping things on New Year’s Eve. There are more than a dozen drops around the Keystone State, ranging from a button in Carlisle to a sled in Duncannon to the aforementioned wrench in Mechanicsburg (naturally).But certainly, Lebanon’s Bologna Drop takes the cake as a must-see New Year’s Eve event. You never sau-sage a thing as a 250-pound lunch meat plunging 16 feet to the excitement of adoring peeps.

Speaking of PEEPS, the marshmallow concoction is usually associated with Easter. But in Bethlehem, PA, where the treats are made, the drop of a 4.5-foot tall, 85-pound illuminated PEEP chick makes New Year’s Eve egg-stra special.

What’s the dill with pickle drops? While it’s a “no-briner” that Dillsburg, PA drops a six-foot Mr. Pickle, why is a place called Mt. Olive celebrating with a cucumber? It turns out the North Carolina burg is home to the largest independent pickle company in the country. But an unanswered pickle is why Mt. Olive opts to drop its three-foot cuke down a flagpole at midnight Greenwich Mean Time (7pm EST).

We wish you a happy bleu year! | Photo courtesy of Plymouth Arts Center
We wish you a happy bleu year! | Photo courtesy of Plymouth Arts Center

Dairy gets its due on New Year’s Eve in Wisconsin. In Plymouth, the former home of the National Cheese Exchange, a giant cheese wedge gets lowered from a 100-foot crane. But come early. The cheese roars at 10pm. Sounds gouda to us.
Idaho getting mashed... I mean smashed for new years
Boy oh Boise
Famous Potatoes, indeed. On New Year’s Eve, Boise, Idaho’s most notable spud is a luminous 16-foot tuber known as the Glowtato. Here’s the dirt: Thousands of spectators take to the streets to watch the s’mashing potato plummet in front of the State Capitol at midnight.
Female impersonator Gary Marion, known as Sushi, hangs in a giant replica of a woman's high heel shoe Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015, in Key West, Fla. | Photo courtesy of (Rob O'Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO)
Female impersonator Gary Marion, known as Sushi, hangs in a giant replica of a woman’s high heel shoe in Key West, Fla. | Photo courtesy of (Rob O’Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO)
In Key West, Sushi gets dropped on December 31…but she’s actually a drag queen and not a piece of raw fish. Sushi sits in a giant red stiletto that goes down at midnight. But plenty of actual sea creatures are celebrated along the Eastern seaboard on New Year’s Eve. Key West also drops a conch (and a wench, but that’s off-topic). Easton, Maryland lowers a crab. And in Eastport, Maine, the country’s easternmost city, they drop a sardine. An hour before the sardine goes down, a maple leaf falls in Eastport, sweetly celebrating the city’s neighbor just across the border. Why 11pm EST? Because it’s midnight in Canada. O.
This story originally appeared here.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Holiday Gifts for Your Favorite Traveler

Looking for a holiday gift for your favorite traveler? This post offers all sorts of suggestions and includes a recent Gadget Guru segment from Great Day Washington as well.

Picture Keeper Connect 

It's happened again. You've taken so many darn pictures that you've run out of space on your phone. Back up those images so you can take new ones this holiday season. After purchasing the Picture Keeper Connect ($119.99 for 16 GB), download the app to facilitate the super-easy transfer of photos and videos from a smartphone or tablet to a computer or a portable compact USB drive.

How about a battery pack that not only charges your mobile devices, but your car as well? Weego is a pocket-size jump starter battery pack that can do it all. You can give juice to the main power pack at home or in your car (cables included), and then throw Weego in your glove compartment for those times when something in your car is in need of a charge. There's even a built-in flashlight. There are three Weego models, ranging in price from $99.99 to $289 (depending on type of engine you need to charge). Easy-to-follow-instruction are included, as are jumper cables.


Sometimes, it's the traveler who needs the charge. Could it be that the quickest way to alleviate jet lag is... through the ear? That's the claim of HumanCharger's Finnish inventors, who say their device cuts typical jet lag recovery time in half by emitting light into the ear. The operating principle of the HumanCharger: The headset beams UV-free, blue-enriched white light through ear canal for 12 minutes at a time to the light sensitive regions of the brain that keep circadian rhythms in sync. The HumanCharger ($269.99) comes with a smartphone app that tells you when to take the needed 12-minute bursts of light (after you enter details of your trip). I haven’t tried it myself, but the HumanCharger has been certified to meet the EU Medical Device Directive.
Clean Wave Sanitizing Wand

Germs are everywhere when you travel. Airplanes and hotel rooms can be cesspools of microscopic bugs and bacteria. But the Verilux Clean Wave Sanitizing Wand ($69.99) can zap your these worries away. The wand uses powerful ultraviolet-C light to significantly reduce microscopic germs, mold and dust mites. Take the 10" battery-operated wand and wave it over doorknobs, light switches, bathroom fixtures and the remote control in your hotel room. On the airplane, you might want to zap the tray table and the seat back pocket, two of the dirtiest places around. Frankly, I might be tempted to zap my seatmate as well, particularly if he's hogging the armrest. But the instructions do not sanction that usage.

Black Starry Night Arcopedico Boots

When a traveler is sightseeing, (almost) nothing is more important than footwear. Yet, for women, it can be difficult to find comfortable and good-looking shoes, particularly for winter weather. Well, these Arcopedico boots were made for walking. The knit upper, the soft textile lining, a twin arch support system and a cushioned insole provide all-day comfort. Just as important, the soles are non-slip.

Friday, December 9, 2016

From Italy With Love: Emilia Romagna Edition

While you are enjoying these images of sites along the Via Emilia, take a listen to my recent segment on Italy's Emilia Romagna region on Around the World Radio.  Go to the December 1 show and forward 12 minutes in.

Bologna and Cured Meat

Teatro Regio di Parma (and yes, that's the Michelin Man off to the side)

 Parma Streetscape

A Wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano
Getting Inspected 

Modena Architecture

Modena Balsamic Vinegar 

 Just a Spoonful of Balsamic
(the perfect digestive)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Food Porn Italian Style

Calling all foodies. If you want to truly indulge in the art of slow food, head to Emilia Romagna in northern Italy.

Want to learn how to make Parmigiano Reggiano from a hunky cheesemaker?

Or how can one become Inspector Cheese?

The Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium can set you up.

If your preference is prosciutto, head to Parma to experience the silence of the hams.

Perhaps this looks more appetizing.

Also sample authentic Modena Balsamic Vinegar.

If you want to check out Via Emilia museums focusing on products ranging from pasta to cheese to olive oil to cold meats, here's the menu.

For more ideas on food tours around Emilia Romagna's Food Valley, take a look at this.

We'll be profiling Carpigiani's Gelato University in an upcoming post. Meanwhile, if you want to learn how to make gelato, here's the scoop

Buon Appetito!