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Sunday, August 15, 2010

An ode to Elvis

People trivialize you, worship you, make fun of you, impersonate you, loathe you, listen to you, laugh at you, watch you, roll their eyes at you, squeal in delight at you, censor you, call you the king, call you a has been, march by the thousands in a solemn candlelit procession to your grave, laugh at those doing so, call you a pop culture icon, a Hollywood joke, a comeback specialist, a bloated druggy, an icon worshipped in death whose music, movies, image and reach seem to live on into eternity.

You are the original pop culture icon, a position many have tried to follow but few have succeeded in fulfilling.

Elvis, where would Memphis be without you?

It's easy to trivialize Graceland and the three quarters of a million visitors it attracts annually. But where would the Bluff City as a tourist draw be without Elvis? Would music lovers flock to Sun Studio to see where other music greats once recorded? Maybe so, but it's hard to argue that Sam Phillips' discovery of Elvis there is the main drawing point.

Beale Street was a hotbed for black culture. A young Elvis sometimes could be found roaming the street listening to the magnificent music echoing off the brick buildings. But the street eventually became a shell of its former self. Would there have been a movement in the 1980s to restore it to its former luster and ultimately make it the No. 1 tourist attraction in the state of Tennessee without the impact and attention Elvis had brought the city?

It's hard to argue the influence on the world's music Memphis has had. Elvis wasn't the reason for the success that came out of Stax. Sun produced a number of hits before the King. A number of studios are recording music today.

But without the Graceland visitors who flock to the city every year would there be a place for the Rock 'n' Soul Museum, Sun Studio tours, the much newer Stax Museum of American Soul Music? Who knows, but it's safe to say Elvis' reach on the Memphis tourism industry is huge.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Looking back at summer

Have you traveled much this summer? Us, not really. Funds are low right now so we've had to keep the travels basic right now. Spent a week at the beach and lots of staycations here in Memphis.

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

Travel Dilemas: When to Open the Guidebook

A friend and reader of this blog raised an interesting point recently when discussing how to carry a guidebook when visiting a city.

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

Southerners Beware: Oil Spill Ads Coming

If you live in the South you should prepare yourself for a deluge of TV ads featuring the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The AP is reporting today that tourism officials along the coast are asking BP PLC to pay $7.5 million a month for a national ad campaign targeted at overcoming the negative coverage of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The report said the focus will be on casinos, entertainment and family attractions -- not the beaches.

The targeted markets are Atlanta, Birmingham, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Jackson, Miss., Charlotte, Memphis, Nashville and Dallas.

I've never been to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Spent plenty of time in the coastal communities of Alabama and Florida, though, and from a lot of reports from those communities that I've been reading they are having to battle the negative news.

I've seen Facebook postings from Florida resorts showing pictures taken today showing the beautiful beaches and clear water. The state is in full spin mode trying to get the message out that things are all clear there.

I wonder as the weeks go on and we enter the busy summer season if travelers will trust the messages or if they'll just vacation elsewhere. I also wonder if Florida and Alabama will follow suit on the TV ad campaign.

The next few weeks should be interesting to follow.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How to Pack Light: The Rolling Method

I came across great advice today in a New York Times article on how to pack efficiently. While it's a good article, what I really enjoyed was the slideshow that shows how a flight attendant packs for a 10-day trip all in a carry-on.

That's right, no checked luggage. And in these days of paying baggage fees with airlines, this is great advice. But women, don't fret. As you see in the pictures, she has a full wardrobe laid out, not just one outfit that has to be washed over and over.

Her tip os to roll everything. Pack shoes and heaviest items on bottom and move up with the lightest items rolled and placed on top.

She also suggests that if you have really nice clothing that needs to be laid out as flat as possible start with those items across the bottom and then leave them hanging out of the suitcase until you get to the top.

So if you have a nice pair of slacks lay them across the bottom and then place all your rolled clothing items on top. Then when you've finished, take the pants that are dangling out of the suitcase and drape them over the top. It appears that this will keep all folds out of the pants.

And thanks to the NYT article, I discovered a cool travel blog I recommend: Heather Poole, the flight attendant whose rolling I recommend above.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Smell the roses instead of the oil

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.

I read an AP story this morning saying there have been a number of cancellations along the Gulf. Business is looking up for East Coast beach communities as beaches like Hilton Head Island, S.C., and Tybee Island near Savannah look to capitalize on the Gulf's misfortune.

I'm not sure how many people will have a choice, though, at least those who have already made reservations. Travel insurance won't even cover these reservations as the oil spill is considered an act of man, not God. That's usually the only hope as I understand it for policy holders to get out of reservations.

Some people save for a year to make these one-week treks to the beach. Sometimes the anticipation of these trips is what gets them through the cold winters and rainy springs at home.

I feel for those people. On a truly selfish level thinking as a traveler instead of a local in these communities along the Gulf of Mexico where their livelihoods could be devastated by the oil spill, it's hard to save up for a trip only to have to cancel it.

But where I really feel for those travelers is when it's people who put all their energy and focus into this one annual vacation. They don't sit back long enough to enjoy life, to experience the joys of life around them. As a Memphis resident, I look forward to barbecue fest this weekend. I look forward to a Saturday morning at the zoo, A Friday night at an art opening, a Sunday brunch -- on my backporch.

I hope these beach vacationers take a moment to sit back and look around at the people and places around them. They might find they have things to look forward to seeing right in front of them.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Planning trips in wake of disasters

This time last week I found myself closely monitoring news of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as we plan a trip to the Florida Panhandle for late June. Now, after spending a weekend in rain-drenched and flooded Middle Tennessee, my travel thoughts also include Nashville.

I don't think I can compare these disasters to the tragedies brought by the terrorism acts of Sept. 11 and the devastation along the Gulf Coast brought by Hurricane Katrina. But in a purely travel sense -- the reason for this blog -- there are similarities.

New York recovered, but it wasn't immediate. Same for New Orleans, although many would argue that city will never be the same.

Considering the Gaylord Opryland Resort is the largest hotel and convention center in Nashville, I think it's safe to assume convention business is questionable for the time being there. The Opryland hotel could be closed for several months. Where will those already scheduled conventions go? If Nashville loses even some of its convention business that will be a major hit to the local economy there.

I read earlier that some of Nashville's attractions could begin reopening this weekend. And with the country music fan festival still scheduled to take place in June, there is hope that a drop in tourism in Nashville will be just a blip.

The Gulf of Mexico is a trickier situation. The oil spill hasn't reached land yet other than some scattered reports in Louisiana. But if or when it does, what will it mean for that area? Some reports have total devastation because of what it could mean for the seafood and travel industries among others.

The sands along the Gulf are still white. But will that change? How long will it take to clean up if the oil does wash ashore?

But maybe it doesn't wash ashore. Maybe as it drifts toward the beaches the booms they've put in place keep the slick back. I've read reports of the oil's putrid smell. When I'm sitting beachside in a couple of months will I still smell the beautiful saltiness blowing in on the breeze or will it be the rank smell of oil? Will I be able to step foot in the waters? Will there be any fresh seafood at all the seafood restaurants? Or will I find myself ordering the chicken nuggets off the kid's menu?

And I can't even begin to wrap my mind around the environmental damage to the marshes along the coast.

Too many questions abound and I don't even know where to begin to look for the answers.

I do recommend, though, if you have planned a trip to the coast for this summer or are thinking about it, don't be too quick to cancel your plans. Be smart and don't join the rush to judgement. Those coastal communities need our tourism dollars.

There are some informative websites out there and I recommend you peruse them. The first stop should be Deepwater Horizon Response. This is a great site with everything related to the cleanup efforts. It has daily updates, pictures and links to state information.

You should follow me on twitter here

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Nashville: A city in need

Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (Photo courtesy of

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.

Downtown Nashville (Photo courtesy of

But since this is a travel blog my mind is on Nashville. Maybe you've seen pictures of the damage caused by the high-rising waters in and around the city from last weekend's deluge. A number of that city's attractions have been touched by the waters -- literally. The beautiful grand lobbies of the Opryland Hotel are under water. Some 1,500 visitors were evacuated Sunday night.

Opry Mills Mall with Opryland Hotel in background. Cumberland River in foreground (Photo courtesy of

Just imagine for a moment being on a vacation, a business trip or just in the hotel having dinner and suddenly being told you had to leave because of rising waters. 

The nearby Opry Mills Mall reportedly has been flooded, as has downtown Nashville, including the famed Second Avenue and all its clubs, bars and restaurants. Who knows what it will look like when the waters recede. Music Row and the historic Ryan Auditorium, original home of the Grand Ole Opry, are safe. But the current Grand Ole Opry building at Opryland is under water. So is the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

(Photo courtesy of

Imagine the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, any of the Smithsonian museums in Washington or even smaller venues like Memphis' Stax, the Rock and Soul Museum or Sun Studio being under water.

The Tennessee Titans' stadium was flooded and the downtown arena where the NHL's Predators play saw rising waters.

How to bring this closer to home? Well, it depends on where home is for you. In Memphis, imagine Beale Street being under water. FedExForum's plush lockerrooms gutted. I don't know if Graceland and the Grand Ole Opry building are on the same level, but both are important music treasures to their respective cities. So imagine the first level of Graceland being under water.

New Orleans' French Quarter was also flooded from Hurricane Katrina, although nowhere near the degree to that in Nashville. A visit I made there two years after the fact showed how nicely that area had recovered. Downtown Nashville and the Opryland area will recover as well.

But what will help the recovery happen quicker is if we spend our tourist dollars there. When the mall reopens, shop there. When the hotel opens, visit its spectacular lobbies and buy dessert or dinner at one of its many restaurants. Book a night there. When Second Avenue reopens, have a dance at the Wildhorse Saloon.

In the meantime, if you'd like to help the people of Nashville here are a few resources courtesy of my friend I Love Memphis.

The first place is nashvillest, which lists a lot of great information. 

If you're on Twitter, check out @ericshuff. He's the the social media director for the Tennessean newspaper. 

Hands on Nashville and The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee lists valuable ways we can all do our part to help the Nashville community recover.

You should follow me on twitter here

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I have a couple of travel tips that posted last week to travel site I thought I'd share the links below. Gadling has a lot of fabulous travel stories, tips and nuggets, and these two items appear in its Travel Tips in 100 Words or Less.

Ricky Martin t-shirt on all seven continents

I'm Back!

After a two-week absence from the blog in order to work on a very time-consuming project (still ongoing) I'm back to the blog. I will try to get back on track beginning today.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Reinventing Beale Street

I will be interested to see what becomes of the east end of Memphis' Beale Street.

That section of the district has struggled for years. It seemed the additions of Hard Rock Cafe and Pat O'Brien's on that end would really liven things up. I'm not sure how Hard Rock is doing but unfortunately Pat O's closed down a year or two ago.

Now that end will get some new businesses: Red Rooster (340 Beale), Lil' Anthony's Cafe (341 Beale) and Ground Zero Blues Club (310 Beale). Only Lil' Anthony's Cafe is new; Red Rooster and Ground Zero previously were located on Lt. George W. Lee Avenue in a hidden-away spot across from Gibson Guitar.

Here's hoping the bars find new life on Beale. And here's hoping that end of Beale really starts jumping now. 

There will be a celebration on Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. with $5 wristbands that will provide admission to all Beale Street clubs. 

There also will be tours of the historic Daisy Theater.

A couple of other additions to the street could help lure more daytime visitors. There has been some sprucing up taking place at the W.C. Handy House and the Ernest Withers Museum Collection & Gallery will open at 333 Beale.

Withers was a Memphis photographer who died a few years ago. His subjects ranged from Elvis to the civil rights movement.

The first phase of the ultimately 7,000-square-foot museum will encompass 3,000 square feet and include a set of Withers images curated and installed by Tony Decaneas of Panopticon Gallery of Boston. There also will be 40 pieces of art hanging in the space.

An opening is planned for the end of May.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Baby's First Travels

In honor of one of our readers giving birth to twins today, I thought I'd share in pictures a few of our son's first travel moments.

Above is our first trip to the beach. This was our first day in Gulf Shores, Ala., for our then 10-month-old.

This is his first tourist attraction, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home in Springfield, Ill. This came over a Thanksgiving visit when he was 13 months old. Shockingly, he was completely still and quiet as I held him during the hour-long walking tour of the house. There is no way this child could do that now. I'm thankful now that he was a little late to the idea of walking. Otherwise, this tour would not have happened.

This wasn't his first trip to a baseball game (that came when he was 7 months old). But this was his first time to attend a baseball game as a mobile toddler, which meant I did not watch a second of baseball. This is AutoZone Park in Memphis when he was 20 months old. I'm still surprised he stopped long enough to pose for this photo.

This is more a monumental occasion for me, a sports fan. It's the first time I attended a sporting event and did not watch a second of the action.

His first trip to a state park. This was July Fourth weekend at Petit Jean State Park in Central Arkansas. We were on a trail to see a cave with Native American drawings on the wall. He was impossible to keep at a walking pace. This came at about 21 months.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Photo Friday: Streets of Siena

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.

We were walking along a random street when my wife just happened to look off to the left from this bridge and saw this peaceful street.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame travel regret

I've been thinking a lot today about one of my biggest travel regrets. It came five years ago while on a baseball trip to Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

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

Off the beaten path in West Tennessee

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.

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.

Buford Pusser Home and Museum

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.

Alex Haley House 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.

National Ornamental Museum

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.

Ghost River Brewing

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

Memphis Zoo revises attendance policy

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.

Previewing Memphis in April

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

Stevie Ray Vaughn, cold beer and a Memphis Negative Nancy

The Syracuse-Butler Sweet 16 tournament game has just started and I have just enough time for a pint. It's a Thursday, just after 6, and the Huey's in East Memphis is filling up. But there are a couple spots open at the bar.

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.

You should follow me on twitter here

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Are you up for a staycation?

Gas prices are up some 60 cents compared to this time last year and I've read that the average price per gallon is supposed to move back above $3 this summer, even in affordable markets like my hometown of Memphis, where I'm paying $2.60 per gallon now.

Plenty of airfare deals abound, but when low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines advertises "amazing" roundtrip deals in the $250 per person range, you know things are changing when it wasn't that long ago that we expected $99, $150 tops to fly roundtrip with them.

On top of rising gas prices and an uncertain airline industry is the still slow-to-recover economy. While we technically moved out of being in a recession during the last three months of 2009, things are still tight for many.

So for travel lovers who aren't finding the money to book that international flight or even an extended weekend getaway to a major American city, your choices seem limited. You can be satisfied with a weekend trip to grandma's house, or you could sit at home and dreadfully look at pictures online of the places you wish you could be. Sure, you could do that, or you can plan multiple staycations to get you through that travel funk.

It's funny, but you can ask most Memphians if they've ever been to Graceland and the answer would be no. On the other hand, people travel from around the world to Memphis to learn about the city's rich musical heritage and pony up $30 for a tour of Elvis' mansion and grounds.

The same could be said for most American cities. I wonder how many Atlanta residents have ever stepped foot in the highly regarded High Museum of Art.  What about the Arch in St. Louis? And do you think many Dallas residents drive across the Metroplex to tour Fort Worth's amazing zoo?

And it's not just the typical tourist attractions that fill most cities. Here in Memphis, for example, we have the Friday Night Art Trolley Tour the last Friday of every month in the South Main Historic Arts District, one of the best minor league ballparks in AutoZone Park, sunsets on the Mississippi River, concerts at the Levitt Shell, great theater, museums, a great zoo and the nation's largest urban park in Shelby Farms.

Those types of local treasures are always on our list of places to find when we travel. Funny thing is, they're right here in our backyard.

Sure, you know these places exist. You see that cool art exhibit scheduled and think you'll make it there before it closes, only to realize two weeks after it's left town that you never made your way over. 

I encourage you as we enter the heart of spring to consider local attractions in your own place, whether you're able to make that big trip this year or not.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Little Rock: Worth a look for presidential history, culture

Before Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992, Little Rock, Ark., wasn't known for much to travelers.

Sure, it's the big city (along with Memphis and Dallas) to Arkansans (I should know, I lived about 30 minutes north of Little Rock until age 14). We shopped there, went to the hospital there, attended minor league baseball games there and even took school field trips to the zoo and museum there.

Unless you're a regional traveler who lives no more than a couple hours from Arkansas' state capital, though, there really wasn't much reason to visit. 

But things began to change, particularly in Little Rock's Downtown, in the early 1990s when work began to create River Market, which opened in 1996. Revitalization efforts have continued with a 2.5-mile trolley (pictured above passing the River Market) that began operation in 2004, the opening of Verizon Arena in 1999 just across the river in Downtown North Little Rock and, the biggest of all, the opening of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum in 2004.

Clinton Library

The five-story main building, which as you can see resembles a mobile home, houses the museum. The center features a number of exhibits on Clinton's time as president and serves as a good overview of world and domestic history from the 1990s.

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.

Anchoring Markham Street is the River Market, which features two open-air pavilions, a 10,000-seat amphitheatre, an indoor bazaar, shops and a farmers market.

Little Rock's Rosemont Inn

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

Memphis Mondays: A taste of Napa, New York and Europe in the Bluff City

We happened upon a gem of a restaurant in Memphis Saturday night, Flight Restaurant & Wine Bar. Well, we didn't exactly happen upon it. I had a reservation.

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.

Details: Flight is at the corner of Main and Monroe. I never find parking to be a problem Downtown, but for those who do, Flight offers complimentary valet service.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Web Weekend: Thoughts on Travelocity's new 'name your price' service

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 Atlanta for two nights and want to book a 3 Star hotel, but don’t want to pay the full price of $150 a night? On you pick your neighborhood, star rating and then name your own price. If they don’t accept it you can change one or more of your criteria or wait 24 hours and try again with a higher bid.

I use Atlanta as an example because I’ve had success using Priceline in Atlanta multiple times. I’ve had success finding 3 and 4 star properties, usually for around $50 or $60 a night.

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 Springfield, Ill., and Birmingham, Ala. But those cities are nowhere to be found on Travelocity.

I will consider Travelocity in the future, maybe for one of our many trips to Atlanta. I'll report back then. In the meantime, has a good review of the service. Read it here.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Photo: A crooked, beautiful village in England

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.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bookstore Travel List Take 2

I realized last night there were a couple of stores I left off my original list that there is no way I would want to omit. Sure, there are several stores at outlet malls and random little storefronts that I'm not even sure they still exist or not. I won't bore you with those.

But these two should be on any bookstore lover's list.

I discovered The Elliot Bay Book Company in Seattle nearly seven years ago. Located in the heart of the historic Pioneer Square District, I hear the store is about to close and relocate to a new location at 1521 10th Ave. sometime between March 31 and April 14. I'm not sure the exact reason Elliot Bay is moving, but I hope it can continue its status as an independent bookstore gem.

I won't pretend to have many fresh ideas on Elliot Bay considering my only visit came in July 2003. And who knows what will change at the new location. But when I did visit, I recall loving the wealth of books on the Pacific Northwest I found. As a history buff, I love finding local history subjects in these stores. I recall finding a good book on the exploration of Oregon there. I also bought my copy of the Lewis and Clark journals at Elliot Bay.

One of our new favorites was discovered last summer in New York's West Village. Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books is not only the winner for coolest and strangest name, but it also just might be the winner for smallest store that produced the most purchases we've found on our travels. My backpack was jam-packed with books from this place.

This store is on Carmine Street near Bleecker. In addition to some really cool children's and art books, we also left with Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" and some random selections on the music industry. And books are cheap here.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Some independent bookstore faves for the literary traveler

I was reading a story in the April issue of Travel & Leisure last night that looks at bookstores in London. I'm pretty sure that on past visits to London I have not visited the stores that were featured, or at least I don't recall them.

That story had me thinking this morning while driving into the office about some of my favorite bookstores from my travels. I always try to find at least one bookstore while traveling, partially because I'm a reader and partially because when shopping with my wife I need somewhere to spend some time.

I don't just go into any bookstore. Sure, I might occasionally find myself in one of the mega-chains, but for the most part I seek out local gems, particularly ones that have a good selection of used or marked-down books.

One of my favorites is The Book Loft of German Village in the -- you guessed it -- German Village of Columbus, Ohio. This place is huge; it claims to be a city-block long store and I believe it. I like this store because it's jam-packed with books. It's almost like an old house with tiny hallways that lead into random rooms filled to the brim with books. Plus, the prices are fair, with many bargain-priced selections.

New York City's Strand, which claims to have 18 miles of books, is another fave. This place can be a bit overwhelming with its choices. The store is at the corner of 12th Street and Broadway, just down from Union Square. I recommend picking up a book, followed by a visit to the Union Square Greenmarket for some grub to enjoy in the park while reading a few pages.

Staying in New York, our next bookstore is Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, a smaller used bookstore at 126 Crosby St. on the Lower East Side. This is one of those smaller stores I love for its randomness; you're not going to visit with a specific title in mind because chances are they won't have it. But they might have a Frank Lloyd Wright biography, fantastic book on football hooliganism you didn't know existed and a random Winnie the Pooh book, all of which I bought on my first visit there a couple of years ago.

This store is also a nonprofit organization; Housing Works is devoted to ending AIDS and homelessness. The organization since 1990 has been devoted to providing services for homeless men, women and children living with HIV and AIDS in New York City. Housing Works also has some great thrift shops throughout the city. My wife and I can attest to the great selection at two of the shops we found last summer.

Finally we have Square Books, the Oxford, Miss., institution that is the epicenter of books in this Southern literary center. Square Books and its sister stores Off Square Books and Square Books, Jr. are all found on the Courthouse Square. If you ever find yourself in Oxford I highly recommend stopping in one of these stores.

Square Books is a typical independent bookstore with a lot of general titles. But it also stays true to its location with a heavy dose of William Faulkner, Southern studies and regional artists. Off Square Books is probably my favorite, though, because of its bounty of random titles found at a cheap price. We've bought our share of Dr. Seuss books at Square Books, Jr. too.

This is such a small list, I know, but these are some of my favorites.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Reinventing Panama City Beach's tackiness

With the warming temperatures thoughts are beginning to turn toward outdoor activities and maybe even summer travel plans. For many, that includes a trip of some sort to the beach. And here in the South, that means the Gulf Coast, particularly the stretch from Gulf Shores, Ala., eastward through the Florida beach communities of Pensacola, Ft. Walton Beach, Destin, Seaside and Panama City Beach.

That last one can be a tricky beach destination for some to consider. Many think of Panama City Beach as the epicenter of college spring break and the epitome of tackiness. But while it remains a spring break destination, Panama City Beach has been reinventing itself over the past 10 years.

It started with a complete beach restoration after hurricanes in the 1990s eroded the beach. Then, many of the small mom-and-pop motels began coming down, replaced by towering condominium towers. (I'm not going to argue for the existence of condo high-rise towers, by the way, but I will say they look better than the truly seedy motels that dotted PCB before.)

In the past couple of years, PCB has joined the national retail craze with the establishment of an outdoor mall -- the industry calls them lifestyle centers. For the most part, Pier Park offers retail options that can be found at home in every suburb, which goes against my philosophy of local travel. But in the context of reinventing PCB, I won't argue with its existence.

The latest reinvention of PCB is the opening this May of a new airport that will feature a runway capable of landing transatlantic flights. Southwest Airlines will offer direct flights from four cities: Nashville, Tenn., Orlando, Fla., Baltimore and Houston. That will really open up not only PCB, but the Florida Gulf Coast in general to the U.S.

I will say there are two beach communities in Florida I prefer over Panama City Beach: Apalachicola Bay and St. George's Island to the east and Seaside to the west. But that's one of several reasons Panama City Beach is the perfect spot for us.

Random street view in Apalachicola near the river

We can be to Apalachicola Bay within a couple of hours along a scenic beachfront highway, where we can sample the world's greatest oysters and spend a day of walking the very quiet and quaint streets, as seen above.

Sunset in Seaside

We can drive 20 minutes west and enjoy the entertainment, atmosphere and shopping of Seaside without paying the high prices of staying there. And another 20 minutes west is Destin and its Silver Sands Factory Stores.

This is not my most ideal trip, although I believe everyone needs a trip to a beach, a mountain, a lakeside cabin; somewhere quiet to unwind and enjoy life instead of discovering new cultures and cities.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Memphis Mondays: South Main Historic Arts District Friday Night Art Trolley Tour

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

Wineries in Florida

This information comes from @roritravel, otherwise known as Rori Paul, a travel writer based in Orlando who writes about all things Florida.

She tweeted a link of Florida wineries earlier this week. This map features 13 wineries, one of which -- San Sebastian Winery in St. Augustine -- I've been to. It's been five years since I've been there and I've learned a lot about wine since then. So I won't even pretend to judge its wine at this point.

But I do recall enjoying a tasting with about 20 others around a U-shaped bar. We enjoyed several of their local bottles, even bringing home a few.

Every state in the U.S. has a winery. The French might argue no one other than their country makes wine. And while you might prefer your vino from Bordeaux, Piedmont, Tuscany, Napa or even New York, there is plenty of good wine out there not from these wine capitals.

And the best thing about these 13 wineries listed on the Florida Grape Growers Association's Web site is that they all are local products. And enjoying local experiences and products is at the heart of Local Traveler.

So if you find yourself in Florida this summer, if at all possible plan a stop at one of these wineries to pick up a local bottle to enjoy with those oysters.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Photo Friday: A curious New York pigeon high in the sky

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.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Enjoying March Madness with the locals

If you're reading this right now, chances are you're sitting at your computer acting like you're working while secretly watching NCAA Tournament games online. Well, at least that's what I'm doing.

The first Thursday of March Madness is one of my favorite days of the year. Four tournament games going at once, upsets, last-second shots; it's a beautiful day. It really should be a holiday in the United States.

I don't have any statistics to back this up, but I am confident to say that you could go by any bar or restaurant with TVs in this country that happens to be open right now and there would be crowds gathered.

The only trips I've been on during the tournament (other than to actually attend tournament games) was college spring breaks. So I haven't been faced with the decision of whether to find a place to watch games or go about the business of the reason for my trip.

But I'd like to think that if I were traveling for vacation/leisure purposes, I'd have to cut away from a day of museums and sightseeing to spend a few hours at a local bar, especially if I happened to be in a city that has a local rooting interest in the tournament.

For example, I imagine it would be a fun experience to be in a bar in Philadelphia's City Center with TVs tuned to the Villanova/Robert Morris game, which as I type this, is tied 58-58 at the end of regulation. To experience the joy, pain and nervousness of these fans while not having a rooting interest would be great.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Memphis' Beale Street gets name change

It appears since our beloved Memphis Tigers are not in the NCAA Tournament this year, Beale Street is converting itself to Beal Street in honor of Vanderbilt's Jermaine Beal.

Performa (manager of the Beale Street Entertainment District) CEO and Vanderbilt grad John Elkington will post symbolic sign alterations Thursday at 10 a.m. at the corner of Rufus Thomas Boulevard and Beale.

They're encouraging Vanderbilt fans who live in town to watch the Commodores' tourney games in the clubs along Beale.

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Walking the Brooklyn Bridge: A true New York experience

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.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blogging Take 2

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

Reliving past March travels

Unless you're a spring break traveler, March doesn't tend to be one of the busiest times of the year for travel. I've been on a few trips in March, none of which were the most memorable I've ever experienced, but they were all enjoyable in their own right.

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.