Charlotte Tourists 2013 – Day 1

As the years fly by, hosting our friend Bill’s annual visit to Charlotte gets more and more challenging to plan. We’ve hit most of the top touristy spots and I have a self-imposed rule of not repeating things.

It’s a chance to do things we wouldn’t normally seek out so I start collecting ideas months before his flight lifts off the ground in Boston. I’m happy to report this was the most fun “Bill” trip yet! It began when I cryptically told Bill to bring clothes that he didn’t mind getting dirty and, that he must arrive before the end of October. Continue reading

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Barbara Jean’s Restaurant

Saint Simons Island, Georgia

Saint Simons Island, Georgia

Delicious crab cakes and fat shrimp. That’s how a friend described her last meal at Barbara Jean’s Restaurant in the Jacksonville, Florida area. That was enough to pique my interest. There are four restaurants in the chain. The one my friend suggested is in Ponte Vedra on the Intracoastal Waterway.

While enticing, it is south of where we’re staying and we are heading north on I-95. Instead, we opt to try the original restaurant in Saint Simons Island, Georgia. Saint Simons Island is a lovely little upscale area with world-class golf courses, a lighthouse near a pier and Spanish moss hanging on the trees. It’s dripping with quaint. Continue reading

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Museums Open Doors with Free Admission

Smithsonian Castle

Smithsonian Castle and gardens

Free culture! Come and get your free culture! Continue reading

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Bye Bye My Sweet Buddy

Buddy PuppyI spotted a tiny puppy curled in a ball at the back of a cage at the pound. I couldn’t really see the sleeping ball of fur because his cellmate was at the front of the cage barking and snarling at me.

Cairo and Sandy in AnchorageIt was a recon trip. Mike wasn’t with me. Our yellow lab/Great Dane mutt developed a large tumor on his spleen and suddenly he was gone. A week later we were traveling in Europe. It was a whirlwind trip that covered Saltzburg, Vienna, Budapest, Krakow, Auschwitz/Birkenaeu, Prague and Munich Continue reading

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Road Trip? There’s An App For That

Somewhere in Kentucky

Get your motor runnin’
Head out on the highway
Lookin’ for adventure
In whatever comes our way

Lyrics from “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf

Got a hankering to hit the open road?

Before you load up the car, load up your smart phone with these helpful free apps.

Continue reading

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Asheville’s Calling

SONY DSCThe ads are cheesy. An iPhone rings and the caller I.D. says Asheville, N.C. The tagline from this tourism board commercial is “Asheville’s calling. Will you answer?”

Asheville has been calling me for a while but not because of the ad campaign. I have not been able to get out of town for a while and I am desperate for a mountain fix. I need a change of scenery and a day trip is just what my inner travel junkie negotiated with my wallet.

Continue reading

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What Can A Travel Agent Do For You?

Travel Guide BooksFor me, planning a journey is as much a part of the trip as the actual travel. Preparation gets the anticipation juices going. In addition to researching a destination online, I love the now antiquated exercise of going to the library and borrowing as many travel books as possible to map out that next dream trip. Yes, I am a travel geek.

Normally, I don’t take advantage of travel agents. But, travel agencies do serve a useful purpose. Take Mann Travels, a large travel agency headquartered in Charlotte, NC.  They saved me the cost of ridiculous bank fees when I needed dollars exchanged for Chilean pesos for a trip to Easter Island (Money, Money, Money)

Because of that experience, my curiosity is piqued when I see numerous ads promoting a Mann upcoming travel show. On a chilly Sunday in January, I drag my husband along to check it out promising we’ll stay no more than one hour. Continue reading

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Stalking Homeland in Charlotte

One of Showtime's Homeland Shoots in Charlotte

One of Showtime’s Homeland Shoots in Charlotte

The year has flown by and it’s time for the annual weekend visit from my nearly lifelong friend Bill. Although Bill would be content to spend the two and a half days sitting on a couch yacking, that is not my idea of a good time. Prior to his arrival, I make up a list of interesting places to visit.

Bill’s visits were never a challenge when Mike and I were gypsies moving from city to city. There was always something new to explore. But, now that we’ve been in Charlotte for 12 long years, my self-imposed rule of not repeating anything is making that to-visit list more of a challenge.

Most of the must-see Charlotte-area tourist destinations have already been covered: the U.S. National Whitewater Center, the Levine Museum of the New South, the Latta Plantation. We’ve been to the mountains; we’ve been to the sea – road trips to Asheville and Charleston were checked off early on. Last year had an international theme. (Read about that trip here.) So what to do this year?

Charlotte has a pretty active film community because of North Carolina’s generous 25% refundable tax credit for productions done in the state. Add to that a diverse choice of typical looking locations that stretch from the ocean to the mountains with small towns, big cities and farm land in between. Crew costs are cheaper than L.A. and New York. It’s also a heck of a lot easier to close streets, businesses, or a university campus for a shoot here. Continue reading

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Easter Island Planning & Packing Tips

The Mutt and the Moai at Tongariki

A trip to Easter Island is the trip of a lifetime. A trip to Easter Island is long and expensive.

But if you are one of the 50,000 or so people who make this trek every year, you will be well rewarded for your efforts. Don’t shortchange yourself on time, and don’t put off doing it. I should have bumped it to the top of my to-do list a long time ago. I really loved this incredibly special place. Continue reading

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Daily Torture – More DNC Fun

The hottest tickets in town dropped in my lap at a business meeting. Tracy could barely contain her excitement and concentrate on the purpose of the meeting. She had just gotten her hands on tickets to a taping of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” I said, “I would kill to get tickets to The Daily Show!” There were two extra tickets! Tracy generously offered two tickets to me and my husband.

My fabulous employer told me to go and have fun! We tried to concentrate on the business at hand and all raced home to tie up loose ends. Unfortunately, Mike couldn’t get the afternoon off.

A friend who went the day before said we needed to be in line no later than 2:00 and assured me that I could bring a backpack. With permission to pack, I wanted to make sure I was ready for rain. I filled my backpack with the poncho from the media party, a pair of waterproof sandals so I wouldn’t have to stand around in squishy, wet shoes again, a phone charger in case I had an opportunity to plug-in and my iPad to pass any boring time in line. I wore comfortable walking shoes in case we had to park miles away but my mistake was to wear clothes that were way too hot to wear standing in the hot sun. Continue reading

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