Sunday, August 15, 2010
Saturday, August 14, 2010
In late July we enjoyed one of the little gems found in Manchester, Tennnessee: Beans Creek Winery's music on the lawn. For such a small town (home of the Bonnaroo music festival) Manchester has some interesting culture.
I could mostly drone on about the fabulous evenings out in Memphis, mostly related to the arts. But that I will save for a future post. One thing my wife has brought to my life in our 11 years of marriage (11 years today, actually. Happy anniversary!) is a great appreciation for the arts. I, like many kids, was an artist of sorts as a kid. I've been a writer my whole life.
And one thing I don't brag about but I was an award-winning trombone player growing up. Now, well, I can't even read music. But I love to listen to it, love to stare at art and learning to enjoy theater.
Spent a weekend in St. Louis with some friends. It was a guy trip to watch a baseball game. A funny thing I learned on this trip: I think my wife is easier to please on a trip. Find a few art galleries, plenty of shopping, some good local restaurants and throw in a museum and we have a great trip.
The guys, on the other hand -- well -- I'll just say it's a good thing the World Cup was going on because we were able to watch games while waiting on the Cardinals game to begin. There just wasn't as much to do during the day for five guys.
Of course this same group of guys spent several days in New York and only had one baseball game to attend. There were multiple museum trips and things not related to sports. Of course it is New York.
Our only other travels this summer have been to Panama City Beach, Fla., in late June. The beach was great, and there was no oil. Of course the oil spill, while we never saw oil and definitely didn't smell anything related to it, hovered over the week.
The hotel had oil -washing stations on the deck. Every morning we observed men and women wearing fatigues and work boots slowly walking the beach staring at what the surf had washed up during the night. Thankfully, it seemed, they never found any oil, although oil did wash up the week before we arrived.
And we only experienced two waits at restaurants. We were there the week before July Fourth when waits can be an hour or more. Not complaining but I'm sure the Gulf Coast economy is.
Which is why I was especiall happy to hear on NPR yesterday that a group from St. Louis recently raised $15,000 with the sole purpose being they would spend it along the coast. They began in Mississippi and traveled east drinking coffee at a local coffee shop, eating breakfast at a local restaurant, buying knicknacks at a local knicknack store and on and on and on.
$15,000 isn't going to go far along the coast where the local economy reportedly is being devestated as bad -- and in some cases worse -- as the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina. But it's a start. It encourages me even more so now to make the trip to New Orleans this fall we've been casually talking about.
What else have I done this summer? Well, As you've unfortunately seen I've taken a major step back from the blog. I hope to reverse that now. I hope those of you who have followed me along the way will be patient. I want to write about things that inspire me to write in addition to things you will find useful and I hope entertaining. I have several ideas. I promise.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Do you definitely draw attention to yourself as a tourist and peruse the book while standing on the street corner? Or do you sit in the hotel room and memorize every detail of the selected pages so you won't need to refresh with a peek at the book? Maybe you just take your chances without the book and if you get lost, well, you get lost.
He also mentioned ripping a few pages out of the book and carrying them along. While I haven't done that, I will admit to at times pulling the book out of my backpack while on the subway or bus or sitting at a park bench. Yes, it screams lost tourist, but sometimes when you're, you know -- lost! -- you sometimes have no choice, at least if you want to get unlost.
But I also try to have my own mini-travel guides that are easy to fold up and stuff in my pocket. One of the more common things I do is before leaving for a trip I will pinpoint on Mapquest the city, neighborhood or area that I will be traveling to and print it. Then, on the blank corner or back of that sheet of paper I will write out a guide of restaurants, shops, sites, subway stops and any other points of interest and number them. I will then put the corresponding numbers on their respective spots on the map.
So I have a small sheet of paper that I either fold or roll up and slip into my pocket. Yes, I might be standing on the street corner studying a map, but to you I could be poring over a take-out menu.
I'd love to know what you do.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Crews work to collect oil over the weekend near and around the location where the Deepwater Horizon oil platform caught fire and sank. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Casey J. Ranel (photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
If you have a trip planned to the Gulf Coast this summer have you considered rescheduling or attempting to cancel yet? I don't have a choice since our condo is a timeshare. We'll be there, even if the oil is washing ashore at our condo. Well, I guess unless we're not allowed to visit.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (Photo courtesy of Tennessean.com)
As a resident of Memphis and someone who was trapped in Middle Tennessee during the weekend's floods (more on that later) the flooding in Nashville is big news for me right now. We've had our own storm damage in Memphis, especially severe flooding in the northern part of the county in Millington.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Friday, April 9, 2010
I have a ton of pictures from our trip to Siena, Italy, and I hope to over time post some of the best here. This photo shows, like many instances throughout the beautiful villages of Tuscany, a street filled with Vespas and beautiful buildings.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
As a fan of all things music I've wanted to tour the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland since I knew it existed. But it wasn't meant to be on this trip, as I was the only one of six people on this trip who wanted to tour the hall.
I don't have many regrets in life but I certainly regret not touring the hall of fame. That's one of the advantages to solo travel: It's on your terms; no one to please but yourself.
Will I ever make it back to Cleveland? Who knows, but if I do I certainly will attend the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. I guess the lesson is if you're in a city and you see something you want to tour or experience, do it then. You never know when you might be back.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
From Elvis and country music to Jack Daniels whiskey and the Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee is full of major attractions. But here's a list of five off-the-beaten path spots, specifically in West Tennessee, worth considering.
The Bird Dog Foundation Inc. in Grand Junction, about an hour east of Memphis, is home to the National Bird Dog Museum, National Retriever Museum and the Field Trial Hall of Fame. Visitors to the center can learn about more than 40 breeds of bird dogs, the area’s annual Field Trial’s champions and enjoy exhibits on some of the sport’s most famous dogs.
The center is open every day but Monday. There is no admission charge but donations are accepted.
McNairy County Sheriff Buford Pusser’s exploits in cleaning up crime with his “big stick” have been lifted to legendary heights, thanks to a series of “Walking Tall” movies.
The museum in Adamsville, about an hour south of Jackson, is open daily. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for students. A tour includes a short video and guided tour of the museum.
Were you one of the millions of TV viewers in 1977 who made “Roots” the most watched event in TV history? The miniseries was an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by the same name, written by Alex Haley. You can learn about Haley and his books at the Alex Haley House Museum.
The house, about an hour north of Memphis, was home to Haley’s grandparents, where he lived for eight years. The property is also Haley’s final resting place.
The museum is open daily except Mondays. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students and children.
Memphis is home to the nation’s only center devoted to the preservation of metalwork. The museum, overlooking the Mississippi River, displays exhibits and a working blacksmith on the grounds.
The museum is open daily except Mondays. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for students and children ages 5 and up.
Memphis’ lone brewery is also a charitable organization that donates a percentage of all sales to the Wolf River Conservancy, a group dedicated to protecting the river that flows through southern Tennessee and the Memphis area’s famous drinking water.
Learn about the brewing techniques and taste a few beers at this relatively new operation at 827 S. Main St. Free tours are offered every Saturday at 1 p.m. Reservations are required.
Friday, April 2, 2010
The Memphis Zoo today announced revised admission policies that are aimed at the Zoo's ever growing attendance.
"Our top priority is the safety of our guests, Zoo staff and animals," said Dr. Chuck Brady, Zoo president and CEO. "We are committed to providing Zoo visitors with an educational, fun and safe experience."
The Zoo will continue to allow free general admission on Tuesday afternoons after 2 p.m., commonly known as Free Tuesday. Many revisions to the Zoo's policy affect the Free Tuesday program. Those changes include discontinuing the Free Tuesday program during the month of March and managing the admittance of minors into the Zoo.
Effective April 6, 2010, people planning to visit the Zoo during Free Tuesday hours will be required to adhere to the following policies:
*The Memphis Zoo allows free general admission to Tennessee residents on Tuesday afternoons from 2 p.m. to close.
*Persons ages 16 and under must be accompanied by an adult age 21 or older.
*Adults age 21 and older may accompany up to five children ages 16 and under.
*Photo ID with proof of age and TN residency are required for free admittance. Current college or military photo ID will be accepted.
*Free Tuesdays will not be held during the month of March.
"The Zoo is committed to the Free Tuesday program as a way to provide access to all segments of our community," said Dr. Brady. "This program and its participants will benefit from the new guidelines put in place. A visit during Free Tuesday should be just as enriching and enjoyable as a visit on any other day."
A new policy in effect every day is an overall cap on the number of visitors inside the Zoo. Revised general admission policies will apply every day of Zoo operation:
*The Zoo's capacity is 10,000 people inside the park at any one time. Once capacity is reached, admission to the Zoo will not be permitted.
*The Memphis Zoo reserves the right to refuse or permit admission at its discretion.
One would think that Memphis’ favorite month is May, what with a whole month-long festival and all. But Memphis in April can hold its own.
From the tulips in bloom at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens to baseball at AutoZone Park, April is a great time for locals and visitors alike to get out and experience what Memphis has to offer.
The great thing about April in Memphis is we haven’t yet reached the busyness of the summer travel season and we’re still weeks away from May, when Memphis shines with an abundance of events. Sure, the weather still has potential to turn cool in the evenings and drop some rain showers from time to time, but spring in Memphis is here and that means more times than not, the weather is beautiful.
And what better way to celebrate the season than a trip to AutoZone Park where you can usher in the 2010 baseball season by cheering on the 2009 Pacific Coast League champion Memphis Redbirds. The Red Carpet Home Opener will be April 16 and will be the first fireworks night of the season.
Baseball and beer tend to go together and debuting at AutoZone Park this year is Memphis’ own Ghost River Brewing with a beer made just for the park, Home Run Red.
And speaking of beer, the Memphis Brewfest will be held April 24 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at AutoZone Park. It’s an opportunity to sample a number of beers from around the world.
On the art front, if you haven’t had the chance to make it to the Dixon for its exhibition titled “Monet to Matisse” it’s not too late, although you better hurry. The show will end on April 4. The exhibition features more than 40 paintings and works on paper by the most influential artists of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist movements from the Dixon’s permanent collection of late 19th and early 20th century art.
Image courtesy of Dixon Gallery & Gardens (until I can get over there and snap my own)
But if you’re too late for the art, it’s a perfect time for the tulips. Beginning in mid-March and expected to be in bloom until at least the middle of April, the Dixon has an amazing display of some 20,000 tulips. For this beautiful exhibition, Dixon floriculturist Greg Francis and greenhouse manager Manjula Carter designed the planting with 35 varieties of hybrid tulips and 16 species tulips, along with hundreds of camassia and allium bulbs. All 14 types of tulips are represented.
But if you’re hunkering for some art, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art exhibition “Venice in the Age of Canaletto” is on display through May 9. The exhibition is inspired by Giovanni Antonio Canaletto’s painting The Grand Canal from Campo di San Viola. The exhibition focuses on a period – spanning the 18th century – that saw Venice transformed into a destination for wealthy European tourists. The exhibition features paintings, prints, furniture and textiles.
And not to be outdone by Memphis in May, this month will feature the annual Africa in April Cultural Awareness Festival April 15-18 in Robert F. Church Park along Beale Street. This year’s event will honor the Republic of Nigeria and will feature a diverse cultural marketplace, food and entertainment.
And finally, not to forget the opportunity to sit outside and enjoy the great weather with good friends, April in Memphis means prime patio season and the Bluff City has plenty of offerings, particularly in Midtown and Downtown. Whether you want to simply take a glass of wine from the hotel bar at The River Inn of Harbor Town up to the rooftop to enjoy a spectacular sunset or enjoy a beverage along Beale Street, there are a multitude of offerings.
Some favorites include Celtic Crossing (903 S. Cooper St.), which is aided by a great Monday pint night special of $2.50 per beer. Other standouts include Boscos Squared (2120 Madison Ave.), Young Avenue Deli (2119 Young Ave.), Calhoun’s Sports Bar (115 E. GE Patterson Ave.) and, if you can get a spot by the windows, the Flying Saucer (130 Peabody Place).
Here’s to a fabulous April in Memphis.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Two guys sit at the corner playing dominoes; a man in slacks and Oxford shirt sips a Coors Light bottle next to me. Two seats down, a woman in her 50s eats dinner while sipping scotch (burger, greasy fries and scotch?).
I am perched in the middle of the bar where I can watch a few minutes of the game before I have to head out to an event. There's a low buzz from the growing dining crowd and the sweet, relaxing guitar of Stevie Ray Vaughn. Those sounds, along with a pint of Ghost River Golden, are easing my tension.
The bartender is efficient and friendly. Well, he's friendly to his customers, but no so much to his physical position in life.
As I'm enjoying my surroundings Trey, our friendly bartender, suddenly irks me. A female University of Memphis grad student, formerly of Syracuse, N.Y., sits down at the bar.
Instead of making conversation with her as to what she's doing in Memphis, he instead quizzes her as to "Why the hell are you in Memphis?" It's good-natured banter, but it still irritates me just the same. I guess it's just today's Memphis Negative Nancy.
But another Stevie Ray Vaughn song just came on and the beer is still cold.
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Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Today, the heart of Downtown Little Rock along the southern banks of the Arkansas River is centered on Markham Street/President Clinton Avenue and its art galleries, a number of restaurants and the Clinton-related sites. The River Rail connects all the major sites in Little Rock and, via the Main Street Bridge, loops Downtown North Little Rock.
Little Rock is worth a look, particularly for a weekend getaway. Lodging options abound from upscale hotels to quaint bed-and-breakfast inns. We've stayed in the Rosemont Inn & Cottages, a bed-and-breakfast inn just a couple miles south of the river.
Arkansas tends to be the punchline of jokes, but is, in fact, a state filled with beauty and a number of great outdoors activities, several of which can be found just outside Little Rock.
Monday, March 29, 2010
But this was our first time at this restaurant, and I must say it's one of the best dining experiences I've had in Memphis. And that's nothing against the dining scene in the Bluff City. Memphis is a foodie city; of course most consider it as such because of the barbecue and traditional Southern fare.
But there are plenty of fine-dining options, and Flight is one of the latest to join the fray.
I don't know that I would call Flight the best food in Memphis, the best wine in Memphis or the best atmosphere in Memphis. But it does a tremendous job of combining the three, in addition to offering a unique option for dining in Memphis: the concept of flight dining.
Let me explain. Food items are listed on the menu in threes. Feathered, seafood and fresh fish, for example, are presented as flight trios. The feathered flight features small plates of chicken, quail and duck. Of course you can order individual small plates, mix and match from different flights or just order a larger entree of one item.
Wines are also served in flights of three: Chardonnays, zins and sparklers, for example. The wine flights reminded me of the great eateries in Napa and the numerous wineries there with tastings available. At Flight, the wine flights come out with tasting cards describing the wines one has ordered.
The setting inside the restaurant, in addition to the superb food, reminded me of great eateries in New York and Europe we've dined in. We sat upstairs where we could look out through the large windows in this corner spot, with Monroe Avenue to the left and the trolleys speeding by on Main Street.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
I was intrigued by the news this past week that Travelocity is now offering a “name your price” concept for hotels like the service found on Priceline.
In case you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s pretty simple. Staying in
The difference, it appears, between Priceline and Travelocity’s new service is that Travelocity eliminates bidding. You simply plug in the city, date and how many people are staying in the room and it returns a list of hotels by star rating, price and general location, such as downtown. The catch is that you don’t know the name or exact location of the hotel until you book – and make a nonrefundable reservation.
One drawback I’m finding so far with Travelocity is its location listing is not as complete as Priceline. You can find all the major cities on Travelocity, but the second- and third-tier locales are not there. I’ve used Priceline for smaller cities such as
I will consider Travelocity in the future, maybe for one of our many trips to Atlanta. I'll report back then. In the meantime, Gadling.com has a good review of the service. Read it here.
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Friday, March 26, 2010
Today's Friday Photo is more of a Friday Photos. It's the Suffolk village of Lavenham, a couple hours northeast of London in East Anglia.
We visited Lavenham nearly five years ago while on an extended stay in Norwich, a city about an hour and a half northeast of Lavenham. We only spent a couple hours there, but it was one of our more memorable experiences in England on that trip.
While there, we stumbled upon a showing at an art gallery, had a leisurely stroll along the beautiful streets and enjoyed a couple of pints at a local pub.
Travel & Leisure listed Lavenham as its fourth of 25 undiscovered villages in Europe. The funny thing about the listing is it doesn't mention a single word about what struck me as the best thing about the village, the half-timbered cottages, many of which have a crooked slant.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Monday, March 22, 2010
I can’t think of a better time to write about an outdoor event in Memphis than on this cold and rainy Monday. It’s hard to say what the weather will be like this Friday in Memphis, but here’s hoping it cooperates for the first Friday Night Art Trolley Tour of the spring.
In case you’re not familiar with it, the Friday Night Art Trolley Tour is a monthly event on the last Friday of every month in Downtown’s South Main Historic Arts District. Technically, the event encompasses all of the district – Main Street south from the Beale Street area to just south of Central Station at the intersection with G.E. Patterson Avenue. But the heart of the shops, galleries and boutiques begins at Huling and heads south to Central Station (and including the galleries along Huling).
The district itself seems to constantly be changing. Seven years ago when I began attending the Art Trolley Tour, the businesses in the district were pretty much all art galleries and a couple of restaurants. Today, it’s a mix of galleries, designer boutiques, shops and eateries. And what was once what I would describe as a hole in the area between Huling and Beale Street, has been filling in with several restaurants and a smattering of galleries.
So why go? Well, if you like art, particularly local and regional art, the galleries usually debut new works at these events. It's a great time to expose yourself to the local arts scene in Memphis.
Maybe you like the Downtown designer boutique feel found in New York’s SoHo. It’s not SoHo, but there is a nice mix.
And when the weather is good, the sidewalks are actually pretty full of Downtown residents, visitors, tourists, the after-work crowd, the Friday pregamers, the wine-and-cheese crowd and more walking from gallery to boutique with a glass of wine in hand.
The details: The night begins at 6 p.m. and while many shops close around 9, the bars and restaurants stay open later. The Main Street trolley from Beale Street south is free.
Also, the South Main Association will be grilling hamburgers and hot dogs and offering complimentary Boscos beer to its members ($5 for nonmembers) in the lot next to Bluff City Coffee beginning at 6 p.m.
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Sunday, March 21, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
Seeing pigeons in New York City is a common occurrence, but it's still a little odd when you find one staring you in the eyes up close 86 stories above the street. But that's what I found when on the observation deck at the Empire State Building in Midtown Manhattan. There were pigeons everywhere, but this guy allowed me to get extra close. Central Park and the Upper East Side are in the background.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Obvious statement of the day: New York is a walking city. Even when taking the subway, a bus or hailing a cab, you will find yourself walking. And we're not talking a block or two. Many times, it's blocks upon blocks.
So when visiting, why would you go out of your way to experience an attraction that requires walking an easy mile? And this is a mile that once you start, there's no turning back.
But for me, one of my favorite experiences in New York City is walking the Brooklyn Bridge, particularly if you can do it on a beautiful, sunny day.
You can drive across the bridge and see the architectural gem that it is. But if you want to really experience the beauty of the bridge, it's got to be on a walk.
And don't worry about safety. The bridge has a wide walking/biking path elevated above the roadway. Just make sure you stay in the walking lane and don't get in the way of bikers.
I would like to suggest David McCullough's fabulous book "The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge" written about the construction of the bridge. I read the book after walking the bridge, so it's certainly no prerequisite to walk the bridge.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
I've gotten a little hit or miss over the past week or so with my blog, and I think it's partially because I've lost a little of the focus of what I originally had in mind.
On one hand, I find myself wanting to write about Memphis, the place I live, work, play and socialize. While I call myself a traveler, I'm not like many of the travelers I follow in cyberspace who are constantly traveling, whether in a permanent sense, or just find themselves on the road three weeks out of every four.
Unfortunately because of finances, I can't up and take a three-day trip or one-week getaway on a whim. Memphis, on the other hand, is my hometown, an American city that people from around the world travel to for our food, music and culture.
But not everyone out there lives in Memphis, travels to Memphis or even cares about Memphis.
I also want to write about all the great places I've traveled to, discuss the latest travel trends and the places I hope to one day experience.
So with this wide variety of travel topics I find myself wanting to write about, I figure a little organization is in order. So starting today, I'm going to start a weekly rotation of topics.
Memphis Mondays: This is where I will write about the latest goings on in my hometown.
Travel Tuesdays: This is an opportunity to write about other cities, countries and locales I have been to or hope to one day see.
Wild Card Wednesdays: This gives me the opportunity to write about a variety of topics. Could be a continuation of a Travel Tuesdays topic, or some other travel topic such as the latest in the airline industry, for example.
Thursday Thoughts on Travel: This is where I will write about a range of topics, mostly items that I've been labeling as Travel Essays.
Photo Fridays: A weekly photo or photos from my travels and the latest hot spots.
Week in Review/Web Weekends: Weekend posts will cover the gamut of the latest in online travel and social media, as well as a review of travel topics from the week and a preview of things to come in travel.
This isn't really anything crazy, it's just a way for my OCD self to be more organized with the blog in an effort to make it more useful for my readers.
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Saturday, March 13, 2010
I've spent a few days as a child in a cabin in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas; an extended weekend in Cincinnati, Ohio, for a college basketball tournament; a week in icy cold Boston, the Massachusetts seaside and Kennebunkport, Maine; a few college spring breaks in Panama City Beach, Fla.; an overnight stay in Little Rock, Ark., for more college basketball; and a weekend in Springfield, Ill., for a family gathering.
I think that just about covers it.
So why do I bother writing about these random trips? Well, as schools are heading out for spring break and the weather turns warmer, at least here in Memphis, it makes me think of travels. The past week has seen amazing temps here in Memphis, and I've had the opportunity to get out and experience our world-class zoo and enjoy some dining out more than usual.
March is a unique time of year to travel. The weather is warming, but in some regions it's still quite cold, possibly even snowy/icy. Of course if you have children in school, March provides an easy way to get away in the offseason without feeling guilty for taking the kids out of school.
My child is only 3, so I haven't experienced the need for spring break yet.
Like many college students, I spent a few spring breaks at the beach. For me, it was Panama City Beach, Fla. These trips actually helped cement my love for the beach, despite the fact that the water was too cold to enjoy. But the smell and sounds of the ocean, it doesn't matter if it's raining, snowing, cold or hot, a beach is a beautiful thing.
So what are my favorites from these March trips?
Legal Seafood; Harpoon Brewery; seeing a random lighthouse on the snowy, rocky Maine shore; eating lobster soup in Kennebunkport; experiencing the quaint and quiet fishing community of Marblehead, Mass.; walking out on a frozen Walden's Pond; seeing the House of Seven Gables (no, I've never read the book and don't know who wrote it, now that I think about it); walking the battlefield where the American Revolution began; eating a cannoli in Boston's North End; walking the campus of Harvard; and ice skating outdoors at Boston Common.
And that's just the Boston trip. One of the great things about this blog is that it helps me relive many of my favorite trips. That's also why I keep a journal while traveling, not to mention an abundance of photos.