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San Miguel Allende at Dusk

Just last year, I visited both Mexico City and Guadalajara and was pleasantly surprised with how much I liked both Mexican cities, but not surprised at how much I loved the food. Over the last several years, the Mexican town of San Miguel de Allende started to slowly enter my sphere of travel consciousness. Perhaps it was because I know at least three people who’ve moved there. Perhaps it was because the charming colonial town was named the world’s #1 city in Travel + Leisure’s 2017 World’s Best Awards and in the same year, Conde Nast named it one of best cities in the world. Regardless of how it got on my travel radar, it quickly shot to the top spot of my list. I had to go there and see what all the fuss was about…and, of course, find out where to eat in San Miguel de Allende. Located in central Mexico in the state of Guanajuato, the quaint city is bursting with flowers, cobblestones, and friendly faces and is so close to the U.S…the only question is why did it take me so long to get here?

San Miguel de Allende Food

Jacinto 1930

Since it is already a popular escape and expat home (10% of its population are expats), the San Miguel de Allende food scene has continued to grow exponentially while attracting foodies and renowned chefs from around the globe. There are a multitude of great places to eat in San Miguel de Allende with many more opening up all the time. As usual, I compiled a curated list of restaurants in San Miguel de Allende from friends, food articles, and other recommendations. So here are just a few of my picks of the best places to eat in San Miguel de Allende.

Where to Eat in San Miguel de Allende

Home to more than 350 restaurants and several big markets, you’ll never run out of mole, tacos, or tequila to sample. And at night, there’s nothing like sitting on one of the many gorgeous rooftops with a margarita under the stars.

Check out my video of San Miguel de Allende food here:

The Best Restaurants in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico - YouTube

 

Atrio

Just opened a few months ago by Jose Maria Calvo and Jesus Manuel Calvo, from Spain, romantic rooftop Atrio (meaning Atrium) sits directly across from the main church, the Parroquia, with terrific views and international dishes. There’s a big focus on Spanish, French and Mediterranean.

Co-owner, Jesus Manuel Calvo (Chus), ofAtrio San Miguel de Allende

Quince

Nearby, Quince also has a stunning rooftop atmosphere and modern Mexican fare. Make sure to try one of their fantastic cocktails from the bar or their very own tableside gin and tonic cart.

Cucumber Margarita at Quince

Salmon at Quince

Bovine

For an urban-chic feel, try recently opened Bovine from rising star, chef Paul Bentley of Magno Brasserie in Guadalajara. The clubby, dark restaurant might as well be in New York City. While known for its meat dishes, the fish and vegetable dishes stand out just as much.

I ate fish at Bovine!

The Restaurant

Donnie Masterton’s The Restaurant is very popular with the expat crowd. Try to snag a table near the fountain in the front patio and enjoy global comfort food like spaghetti and meatballs, mushroom risotto, and chops and steaks.

Moxi

Cozy and delightful Moxi is tucked inside the contemporary and arty Hotel Matilda (where I happened to stay and will post a video review of soon!). Operated by award-winning chef Enrique Olvera (known for Pujol in Mexico City, one of Mexico’s top restaurants), here you can enjoy modern Mexican cuisine made with fresh, local ingredients. It has a dimly lit, romantic vibe with soft lighting, calming blues and whites, and an expansive outdoor patio.

Enrique Olvera’s Moxi

Casa Dragones

For some fancy tequila, duck into the

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I’ve still yet to visit Jamaica! So this is a guest post from Monique Solomon at www.iriediva.com.

Ocho Rios, Jamaica is a charming town on the island’s north coast that’s a beautiful flurry of local and visitor activity throughout the year. Visitors stream through the cruise port or travel in from resorts all over the island to view and experience the town’s famous natural attractions. Here’s an idea of what to do in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

You’ll want to visit Ocho Rios even for a day to experience the bustling charm of this town in which the famous reggae icon Bob Marley was born.

In fact, his childhood home was turned into a museum.  You can visit it and see where Bob wrote many of his famous songs. The tour can be booked from any hotel or you can simply catch a cab in Ocho Rios square and asked to be taken to his Nine Mile home. The tour takes you through the house where his clothing, international awards and relics have been collected. Fans around the world have donated to the museum. There’s also a gift shop for original items from the Bob Marley line, records, and other souvenirs on property plus a cafe with some delicious vegetarian food.

Where to Eat in Ocho Rios

Jerk Chicken By Grahampurse [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

When researching for a trip to Jamaica you’ve likely made a list of local foods to try. For the most delicious authentic meals, ask for Miss T’s Restaurant which is on a little road off Main Street that runs through the town. Here, homestyle dishes like oxtail with rice and peas, curry goat, brown stew chicken and escoveitch fish are almost always on the menu.

Miss T’s has won local awards for her authentic dishes that remain consistently delicious, attracting locals and the curiosity of visitors wanting to try traditional Jamaican dishes.

Scotchies is heralded as one of the best spots in Jamaica to grab authentic jerk chicken and should definitely make your list of places to visit for good jerk. A laid-back casual dining experience in an outdoor environment awaits with jerk pork, chicken and fish on offer with additional goodies and sides. The Ocho Rios branch is the biggest one and offers lots of seating, a bar to refresh and catch a game on the big screen and reggae music lightly humming through the speakers.

For a fancier fare, head to the hills and dine at Evita’s, an Italian restaurant overlooking the town. Owned by a charming Italian lady who has lived in Jamaica for several years, this restaurant has been a mainstay on the Ocho Rios popular scene and offers a delicious menu of traditional Italian dishes infused with Jamaican flavours.

If you want to stay on the beach while enjoying a fancier environment, then Christopher’s, the restaurant at Hermosa Cove will provide this for you. It’s a quaint spot at this artistic boutique hotel overlooking the Caribbean Sea. The restaurant serves up scrumptious international cuisine in an architecturally delightful surrounding right on the beach.

What to do in Ocho Rios

Ocho Rios is home to Mystic Mountain, Dolphin Cove and Dunn’s River Falls among other popular attractions and activities. These are all very well known touristy destinations but the one that you must visit is the waterfall. This natural water feature cascades gently enough to be climbed for several hundred feet and provides refreshing natural pools along the way in which you can take a dip while snapping photos of your enchanting surroundings. Water shoes are a must to prevent slipping on the falls and can be purchased on the grounds if you forget your own.

If you’re keen on avoiding the crowds at Dunn’s River Falls, Konoko Falls is another option in the city. It doesn’t empty out to the beach below like Dunn’s River, but these falls aren’t lacking in beauty or adventure and will be just as satisfying. The grounds were once inhabited by the Tainos, some of Jamaica’s very first inhabitants and there is now a museum on property dedicated to them. Tour guides will take you through this museum, along the pristine and gorgeous botanical garden and onward to the waterfalls. Feed the birds, take pictures with the iguanas running around (hold one if you’re brave enough) climb the falls and then enjoy a delicious meal at the jerk pit and bar on property. The grounds are large enough for groups or families to enjoy a game of touch football etc on the grass.

If you’re wanting to simply sit back and relax on a beach in Jamaica, some of the islands best are in Ocho Rios. It’s an entirely different vibe at a public beach than it is at a private resort-guests-only beach and should make your list of things to do just to soak up some of the island’s culture. Whether at Priory Beach, Reggae Beach or Ocho Rios Bay Beach, you’re bound to find fish huts selling fresh fish from the day’s catch cooked to your preference right on the beach as well as vendors selling various treats such as oysters, peppered shrimp, coconut candies and even handmade sandals and jewelry.

Music is often blaring from a speaker somewhere and a game of football (soccer) will probably happen on the sand while families and visitors lay around on lounge chairs, blankets or beach towels. The beaches in Jamaica are mostly dotted with coconut trees, almond trees and sea grape vines providing ample shade from the glaring sun.

Where to Stay in Ocho Rios

One of my favourite places to recommend staying in Ocho Rios is the Jamaica Inn. This lovely boutique hotel sits on glorious golden sands and a beach so calm and clear that you’ll be amazed. They’re also a spot that the turtles love and during hatching season you can see hundreds of baby turtles coming up from their holes in the sand and heading down the beach into the sea.

For a more budget-friendly option, the Kaz Kreol Beach Lodge is right on the beach. It is quaint and comfortable and offers free breakfast with your room.

If you’re more of a whole place to yourself kinda person, book an apartment in the Turtle Tower which is also right on the beach, very budget-friendly and smack-dab in the city centre.

You’ll find that because of its popularity, the town of Ocho Rios is a melting pot of cultures with visitors from all walks of life traversing the streets while locals go about their daily lives. A lot of the town’s commercial activity is based around tourism and all the amenities you may require can be found in the town. Those who seek nightlife, quiet time, eco-adventures, romance, family fun or adrenaline filled vacations will all find what they’re after in this small but robust beach town in Jamaica.

Author Bio

Monique Solomon is a Jamaican lifestyle blogger at www.iriediva.com where she shares the best of her island tropical paradise with her readers. She’s also into DIY beauty, fashion and personal development and shares her take on these topics over on her blog and social media. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter

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The post City Guide: What to do in Ocho Rios, Jamaica – Where to Eat, Stay, & Play appeared first on LL World Tour.

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Time to shake off those winter chills and start planning your spring and summer travels! Travel does not have to be daunting and is always worth it. Take a road trip, a train trip, or just jump on a plane — it’s easy and important to make time to getaway, to unplug and to get out of your routine and comfort zone. I enlisted the help of some fabulous female travel bloggers and writers to share why their favorite city makes a great spring escape!

Spring in Chicago

Millennium Park in the beautiful city of Chicago.

I have to start with my favorite city of course! The crocuses and daffodils are already coming up here in Chicago. Chicago comes alive in spring as the birds start singing and sidewalk patios start opening up.

As the weather gets warmer, be sure to check out all our cool rooftop bars and outdoor spaces. Jump on a divvy bike and explore the Lakefront trail or city side streets. One of my favorite things to do is wander around the local neighborhoods to get the real flavor of the city and try all our fabulous ethnic food. And don’t miss a touristy, yet beautiful stroll down Michigan Avenue were the sidewalk planters will be bursting with gorgeous tulips and spring flowers.

Spring in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Dog

Thinking of a getaway to Manhattan this spring? Fuhgeddaboudit! Real New Yorkers know that Brooklyn is the borough you want to be in when the snow finally melts. Start your visit at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, a gorgeous 52-acre garden in the heart of Brooklyn. Its renowned Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival is April 28-29 this year, but the flowering cherries bloom through mid-May.

If the beach is what you fancy, Coney Island’s Luna Park (which features classic rides like the Coney Island Cyclone roller coaster and an assortment of carnival games) is open on weekends starting on March 24. Beat the crowds by visiting in the spring instead of the dog days of summer, when the beach is packed to the brim with inflatable flamingo tubes and umbrella lounge chairs.

Of course, no trip here would be complete without experiencing its mouthwatering Brooklyn food and drinks scene. Don’t miss the mafaldine pasta at Lilia or cocktails at Fresh Kills Bar and Maison Premiere. On the casual side, Red Hook’s Hometown Bar-B-Que features arguably the best BBQ in the city. And who can forget about Brooklyn’s outstanding pizza joints, like Roberta’s and Juliana’s!

If you’ve still got time after all of that pizza, head to the “David Bowie Is” exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, on display until July 15. The exhibition features unprecedented access to Bowie’s personal archive and is a must for all “Ziggy Stardust” fans.

From Julianne at www.itsfivehere.com. Follow her on Facebook. Spring in San Diego

Ocean Beach Pier at Sunset. Photo courtesy: Jen Coleman.

Spring break in San Diego… but the ocean is too cold to swim! That might be true, but there are still amazing things to see (and eat) all over the city without having to fight beach crowds.

How about seeing baby seals in La Jolla and followed by street tacos at Puesto and rock your world gelato at Bobboi Natural Gelato for dessert? If you don’t believe us, ask the 1121 Yelpers who rated it 5-stars!

A little further down the coast, the streets of Pacific Beach are lined with purple flowering jacaranda trees. As you stroll down Garnet Avenue, stop in for the city’s best wings at Bub’s.

Spring brings king tides to the Cabrillo tide pools. Make sure you stop by Ocean Beach’s iconic Wonderland Pub for a killer happy hour and watch the sunset on the Ocean Beach Pier.

Head downtown to the Gaslamp District and the waterfront. Spring is whale watching season as they migrate north from their Baja birthing lagoons. This is the perfect spot to jump on a boat to catch this tour.

If it’s Saturday, visit the Little Italy Farmer’s Market to snack on some delicious Cravory Cookies (they’re a game changer!).

Make sure you don’t forget Old Town and the fresh tortillas at Coyote Cafe.  From the Flower Fields in Carlsbad to the border crossing in San Ysidro, don’t overlook spring break in San Diego.

From Ed and Jen at colemanconcierge.com.  Follow them on Instagram.   Spring in Washington, DC

Cherry Blossoms in DC. Photo Courtesy: Kay Rodriguez

When people think of Washington DC, monuments, museums, and government buildings typically come to mind. However, what many visitors don’t know is that there are many unconventional things to do in Washington DC, especially in the springtime.

Most notably, in March and April, the city fills up with its annual pastel pink cherry blossoms. One of the most famous places to see these iconic blooms is in the Tidal Basin, but there are flowery, picturesque streets all over the city. While here, check out some of the fascinating art exhibits in the city at Blind Whino, Artechouse, and Dupont Underground. Or, eat at some of the various international restaurants scattered around the neighborhoods (Compass Rose is one of my personal favorites!). Alternatively, if you prefer to enjoy the spring weather outdoors, rent a city bike or on one of the many walking trails through DC’s green spaces, like Rock Creek Park. Between its outdoor activities, eclectic neighborhoods and streets, and delicious food, there’s no shortage of things to do in the springtime in the US capital city.

From Kay Rodriguez at Jetfarer.com. Follow her on Instagram. Spring in Nashville

Nashville’s Radnor Lake. Photo courtesy: Ashley Hubbard.

Nashville is a fantastic spring destination – the flowers are blooming, the days are longer and the air is getting warmer. Nashville is full of outdoor patios and rooftops that can be quite chilling in the winter and a bit stifling in the summer so spring is just perfect for enjoying all that Nashville has to offer. 

Some of the best things to do in the Spring in Nashville include Cheekwood in Bloom (Cheekwood is a well-loved estate and every spring you can visit to see 150,000 colorful blooms filling the gardens), checking out some of the best restaurants with patios in the city, taking a hike in one of the nearby parks (my favorites being Radnor Lake or the Warner Parks), checking out the Cherry Blossom Festival, or catching a Nashville Sounds minor-league baseball game.

From Ashley Hubbard at A Southern Gypsy. Follow her on Instagram Spring in Boston

Boston Garden. Photo Courtesy: Brianne Miers.

Spring is when Boston locals come out of their long winter hibernation, and tourists from around the world start arriving in droves to experience all that “the Hub” has to offer. As a 10-year resident, I recommend checking off the historical sites along the 2.5-mile long Freedom Trail, cheering on the Red Sox at Fenway Park – the nation’s oldest ballpark – and taking a leisurely stroll through the Impeccably landscaped Public Garden. If you’re a foodie, head to SoWa in the South End, where you’ll find 10 of the city’s most popular food trucks and a farmer’s market with regional vendors. My favorite thing to do when the weather is warm is get out on the water – hop on one of the Boston Harbor Cruise’s sightseeing tours to learn about the Waterfront and Harbor Islands, or rent a kayak at Community Boating to get some exercise on the Charles River.

From Brianne Miers at A Traveling Life. Follow her on Instagram.
Spring in Phoenix

Springtime in Phoenix

If Phoenix is on your U.S. bucket list, there’s no better time to visit than spring! Phoenix offers so many things to do (check out our favorites for families here) and spring brings a few bonuses: gorgeous weather, blooming succulents and even baseball spring training. Some of the best things to do in Phoenix, whether visiting the Desert Botanical Garden or hiking Camelback mountain, are too hot..

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Oh, 2017 you were not one of my favorites. This past year has been stressful for many of us in the United States and around the world. In many ways, it feels like we’re all in some kind of national depression and it’s been like no other time, at least in my lifetime.

For me personally, 2017 has been a bit of a fog. I’ve been back in Chicago full-time now for about a year and a half. I sold my former condo of 13 years which I haven’t lived in since 2006, when I left to travel around the world. I’ve been reconnecting with myself after being in a seven-year long relationship. It has not been easy, but I also am grateful for my alone time (well, with my adorable cat, Bug). At times I can feel completely content and at yet at other times, utterly alone.

I love my new neighborhood and apartment and have enjoyed reconnecting with my favorite city. One of the highlights of my year was having my mom come for a visit in May and my dad in June. It had been a long time since either were here and I loved having them here!

I’ve been working with a lot more video and photography clients through my business, LLmedia.co (check out my site re-design!). And I continue to write travel and food articles for American Way, The Chicago Tribune, and West Jet plus wrote for some new publications such as the Scandinavian Traveler, Luxury Las Vegas Magazine, and Hemispheres Magazine (United Airlines). I am also doing various speaking engagements here and there about travel and also video. I am also proud to have been named the executive director of Crate Free Illinois, a non-profit, that is working to lessen the suffering of farm animals.

Travels this year took me to Washington, DC (for the Women’s March), Mexico City, Guadalajara, Milwaukee, Indianapolis (for Bloghouse Indy!), Buffalo (for my third visit in 3 years — I have a crush on Buffalo, but don’t tell Chicago), Pittsburgh, Colorado, Bloomington, New York City, and New Jersey. Wow. That’s still 11 trips. But many were much shorter and closer than years past.

I am hoping for some more far flung trips next year. On my list are Iran, Georgia, and Iceland. Have you been? I’d LOVE your tips.

How was your 2017? And where are you hoping to visit in 2018? I’d love to hear from you.

And without further ado, here are my favorite photographs from 2017.

Obama Farewell Address in Chicago – January 2017

Beautiful “Cherries” dessert at La Postreria in Guadalajara

Quintonil in Mexico City

Jaiba at Quintonil in Mexico City

Downtown Guadalajara

Tamarind Margarita on the Tequila Express

Aboard the Tequila Train

Soaking up some Jalisco sun on the Jose Cuervo Tequila Express

Rooftop cocktails at Soler de las Animas Hotel

Couples enjoy tequila tasting

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It’s that time of the year again: Consumer-mas!

While I try not to be much of a consumer, especially of wasteful, disposable items, I do appreciate some great gadgets and travel gear that make traveling and life easier and fun! I’ve been doing this travel thing for a couple decades now so I know what works and what doesn’t.

Here are some items I personally use and recommend. 

Gadgetry

 

Canon 60D

I am often asked what kind if camera I use. For most of the photography on this blog and in my professional jobs, I use a Canon 60D with a few different lenses. I’ve had this camera for a few years now and its been great. It does all the stuff a camera is supposed to do, plus one feature I really love is the articulating screen. For someone that does video occasionally (and is traveling solo), it really helps to be able to swivel the screen around 180 degrees so I can see myself while filming.

BUY IT!

BlackRapid Camera Strap

I hated the rough, non-giving strap the Canon comes with. The Rapid strap is comfy and also has versions for women. I love how I can sling it across my body but still glide the camera in place for a shot. Highly recommend.

BUY IT!

 

Sony Mirrorless Camera

A mirrorless camera has been on my wishlist for a couple years now . I think this upcoming “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday” might finally be when I drop the cash for this. Toping the list for me is the Sony A6300.

BUY IT!

 

Gimbal Stabilizer

I’ve been doing more filing on my Samsung Galaxy S7 as the quality has increased a lot for Samsung. In order to keep my shots stable, and my arm from tiring out, I use a gimbal stabilizer. This one is from DJI, one of the most popular drone companies. The quality is top notch.

BUY IT!

 

Rode Lav Mic

Another great item for filming on-the-go with my phone is this awesome little lavalier mic from Rode. Rode has become very well-known for their mobile audio gear and having this for quick interviews is way better than using the built-in mic on your phone.

BUY IT!

 

Vanguard Travel Tripod 

I got a new tripod last year and love it. The Vanguard is lightweight, easy to use, and comes in a great carrying case .I love that it collapses down some compactly (the top half folds into the legs) and has a leveling bubble built in. The only caveat is the height. If you are interviewing anyone over 6 feet tall, it might not be at eye level, but it hasn’t affected me yet.

BUY IT!

 

Backup Hard Drive

I’m still amazed at how cheap memory is these days. I needed a larger capacity portable hard drive and got the Seagate 5 TB drive. It’s great! Small, sleek and so roomy!

BUY IT!

 

Karma WiFi Hotspot

I am still loving my Karma wifi hotspot which allows me to do a pay as you go data plan and not need a cell phone plan! This has been saving me hundreds of dollars each year from not getting a cell phone bill. I highly recommend.

BUY IT!

 

Spigen Mobile Case

I needed a case for my new phone. I tried a few but thy felt bulky and not aesthetically pleasing. I am so glad I found the Spigen case. It’s strong yet so thin and sexy! It really takes on the shape of the phone so you can still appreciate your phones design. Another gift I highly recommend.

BUY IT!

 

Pop Socket

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Mother and son work a street food stall in the center of the city.

I finally made it to Mexico City and all I can say is ‘what took me so long?’ I love the city! It’s exciting. It’s hip. And it’s full of the most amazing food. I am already hungry to go back. From fresh and tasty street food to some of the most innovative, award winning cuisine, CDMX (Ciudad de Mexico) or DF (Distrito Federal) is truly one of the best.

The diversity of the food here is astounding (forget what you might know of as ‘fast’ Mexican food in the U.S.). It doesn’t matter if you are into great street food or upscale restaurant dining; everything is delicious, local, and full of flavor. Plus with the strong dollar, you can get a wonderful dinner with drinks for at least half the price you would in a city like Chicago. There are so many places to try and this was just my first visit, but here are my picks of where to eat in Mexico City.

Food Tour of Mexico City

For a great primer, I love taking food tours in new cities. There are several different companies in Mexico City offering walking culinary tours. I did a lot of research and received a few recommendations, which pointed me to Club Tengo Hambre.

This tour really packs it in and hits many local, street food stalls. We made at least eight stops over about three and a half hours walking in the heart of the city. We stopped at some classic shacks known for their tacos and other handhelds like Quesadilla Lights, Taqueria Los Cocoyos, and El Huequito.

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“Mexico City is open for business and welcoming travelers with open arms,” says Paula Feltrin, the Director of Marketing and PR at the St. Regis Resorts in Mexico.

The Zocalo, main square, of the city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Mexico City and the surrounding areas recently suffered a devastating 7.1 magnitude earthquake. It killed more than 200 people in Mexico and toppled dozens of buildings. While some areas were hit badly, the Mexico Ministry of Tourism is saying that there is “no reason for visitors to cancel travel plans to Mexico.” The airport was only closed for a few hours the day of the quake and most museums and cultural attractions reopened last week and were approved as structurally sound.

“With no doubt, one of the best ways to help citizens is by traveling to Mexico City and supporting local businesses, such as hotels, restaurants, museums, parks and attractions,” says Feltrin. “Though some buildings did get affected, especially in Condesa and Roma neighborhoods, restaurants are open for business and in need of support from diners.”

The Mexican economy depends on tourism, so planning trips at this time, will help the country. Plus a visit to Mexico City will very likely change your opinion of Mexico (one of “dangerous” places or Cancun spring-break beach parties). Last year, the New York Times named it the number one place to go. That hasn’t changed. The city is thriving, cosmopolitan, and vibrant. With a rich colonial history, upscale neighborhoods, world-class museums, and an amazing food scene, the modern metropolis is a refreshing and exciting escape.

So without further ado, here are some photos that I think will make you want to visit Mexico City…and soon!

The stunning, Art Nouveau Palacio de Bellas Artes, the main music, theater and opera hall.

Mexico City (aka CDMX, Ciudad de Mexico, or DF, Distrito Federal) is one of the cheapest capital cities in North America. From the U.S. flights are cheap (my round trip from Chicago was about $300) and on the ground, food is plentiful and extremely affordable. A nice dinner with drinks for two can be $50 or less.

The Neighborhoods of Mexico City

The Cathedral in Zocalo

One of Mexico City’s biggest draws is its collection of unique neighborhoods, or colonias. The historical center of the city, is the Zocalo (main square), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It encompasses the sprawling Constitution Plaza, where you’ll find the palace and massive cathedral. Discover the ruins of the cradle of the Aztec empire at Templo Mayor.

Spend some time in Chapultepec, the city’s enormous park (it’s twice the size of New York’s Central Park). Inside you’ll find the colonial castle, the zoo, museums, and tons of gardens, forests, and ecological reserves.

Polanco is arguably the fanciest of them all, with incredible restaurants, cafes, and hotels. I stayed here and loved it. The main drag, Avenida Presidente Masaryk, is like Michigan Avenue or 5th Avenue, but on steroids. It just kept going and going with some of the most high end shops around. The wealth here was quite astounding. I loved wandering the side streets with all the modern cafes and parks.

The park-like path that runs through the center of Avenida Ámsterdam, an oval road, and former horse track, around the neighborhood.

Spend an afternoon strolling around the more bohemian neighborhoods of Roma and Condesa, full of cafes and boutiques. Grab lunch at the trendy Mercado Roma, a food hall with numerous counters to tempt your taste buds. Watch the sunset with a mezcal cocktail atop the nearby chic Condesa DF Hotel.

From Condesa DF Rooftop

Condesa DF Rooftop Bar

A little further south is the charming San Angel with its cobblestone streets, art galleries and markets. Come on Saturday for the bazaar and browse lots of art, handicrafts, jewelry and more. I loved strolling the back streets to see some of the beautiful, vibrantly painted colonial homes. Also the Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo is nearby.

San Angel

What to Eat in Mexico City

The food here is rated as some of the best in the world. Suffice it to say, the food was my main motivator for visiting and now just one of many reasons I will return. I’ll be dedicating the next post entirely to what to eat in Mexico City. But for now, here’s a beautiful teaser:

Shrimp “Flauta” at Quintonil

Arts
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There is so much waste going into our landfills and oceans. The sad part about it is that we’ve been saying this for decades. It only seems to have gotten worse. And there are even more plastic products to deal with today. Yet, so much of it can be reduced or recycled. When I was growing up we always recycled so thankfully, it’s always been a part of my life and consciousness. One of the first books I bought as a kid and still have is 50 Simple Ways to Save the Earth. I re-read it recently and still so much of it isn’t being done by the majority.

I still have it!

In college, I was shocked that my dorm at the University South Carolina had no recycling program so I set up one myself. I sure hope they have all this in place today. I did the same thing again a couple years later when I started working at a TV station in Columbia and couldn’t believe all the paper going in the trash! Paper! It’s one of the easiest things to recycle.

Some scary plastic stats:

(courtesy Ecowatch)

  • Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.
  • 50 percent of the plastic we use, we use just once and throw away.
  • Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times.
  • We currently recover only five percent of the plastics we produce.
  • The average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year.
  • The production of plastic uses around eight percent of the world’s oil production (bioplastics are not a good solution as they require food source crops).
  • Americans throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year (source: Brita)
  • Plastic in the ocean breaks down into such small segments that pieces of plastic from a one liter bottle could end up on every mile of beach throughout the world.
  • Annually approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. More than one million bags are used every minute.
  • One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.

Albatross killed by plastic

Reducing and Recycling in the Travel Industry

Companies and corporations waste so much, if each did its part, they would save tons of trees, energy, and resources. When I think of one sector that I work in, the travel industry, all the waste saddens me. Of course we know that carbon is a big by product of airplane travel. And then there are all the disposable items on board (plus in all of the airports) including all the damn plastic cups they hand out. I always hand the flight attendant my own bottle for them to pour water into (and only if I didn’t already fill it up myself at an airport water fountain).

Hotels create so much waste from their single use toiletry bottles, soaps, and all the disposable items used in their meeting rooms and conference halls every single day. I’ve taken soap home with me (or used my own) and also make sure to use the same bar at the sink that I do in the shower (certainly no need to open two new bars). And, even though they have those signs about saving water and not washing towels everyday, I’d often find new ones in my room anyway, even if I’d hung mine up. That has been really frustrating! So I’ve started to just keep the ‘do not disturb’ sign on my doorknob so they don’t even bother coming into my room. I certainly don’t need tidying up for a couple days! And just because I’m not paying for the electric or energy in my room, why waste it? I always turn off the lights and AC when I leave the room, it’s truly a total waste to leave it on. I wish more American hotels would install the keycard electricity slot that seems to be pretty standard in European hotels. So when you have to leave your room and take your key out of the slot, the power to your room goes off.

I recently was running a conference at a hotel and was appalled at the way the staff kept replacing our bottles of water with more bottles of water even if we’d barely drank from them. I am sure they  are instructed to and sadly many customers probably think that is so great, but it’s a disgusting waste, not even to mention the waste of water that many around the world can’t even access. How about just having out glasses and pitchers?

Over the years, I’ve continued to become more mindful of my waste footprint – from not only what I throw out, but what I consume (or don’t consume) to begin with.

5 Tips to Stop using Disposable Plastics

Maybe you’ve heard some of these before, but which ones are you actually doing in your day-to-day life?

1. Be Mindful of Packaging 

All that wasteful packaging drives me crazy. But we can avoid much of it with a little bit of forethought. I don’t find this inconvenient, I find it enlightening. Whenever you must buy something whether it’s a food item, or another good, think about the packaging. Do you have a choice to ask for less packaging? Request no bag, no straw, no extra napkins, no stupid plastic take-away utensils (especially when you will be eating it at home anyway!).

2. Bring your own bags

This one should just be standard by now. Drive a car everyday? Then always have several reusable bags stashed in the trunk for all those store runs. Don’t have a car? Do like I do and have reusable bags waiting in your most-often used purses, bags, and backpacks. I have one bag tucked into each of my daybags so I’m never without. One of my favorites is the Envirosax brand. They collapse down into a tiny rolled-up cylinder, plus come in all kinds of fun colors and designs. And while I’m talking about bags, please don’t use the plastic bags in the produce section! You can also bring your own bags or jars or do like I do for most produce items, just keep them loose. At check out, they will go in your main bag anyway and you will wash them before use. There is absolutely NO reason that things like bananas (hello? They already have there own natural ‘wrapper’), apples, melons, oranges, tomatoes, onions, lemons, etc. need a bag.

3. Bring your own water bottle

Seriously, if you are not already doing this…what is wrong with you? Of course, there are a few instances when I am forced to buy a bottle of water and I hate doing it! It’s easy to always have one with you in your car or in your bag. I like the newer Camelback chute bottle. It’s BPA-free, plus I like that there is no straw or strange sucking thing. I like drinking my water out of a regular bottle opening rather than some straw-type system. Plus the cap locks into the handle when you are drinking so you don’t lose it and it doesn’t bounce around hitting you in the nose when you drink!

4. Bring your own Mug or Glass

Let’s say you are at Starbucks and you are going to stay there and work on your laptop. Or even read an actual book! Why in the world would you get a disposable cup? This is a huge pet peeve of mine. First off, please know that Starbucks HAS MUGS! So if you are staying in, please, please say “it’s for here” and ask for a nice, feels good on the hands mug. Of course you can also bring your own coffee container.

It’s Pumpkin Spice Latte season! Get it in a warm, toasty mug!

Same goes for cold beverages, I’ve been bringing my own Mason Jar for the last few years because I tend to like an Iced Chai Latte in the summer. And after all these visits, a barrista at my local Starbucks in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of Chicago just told me that they actually have glasses. This was great to know. BUT I have since learned that only SOME Starbucks have the glasses, so best to keep bringing my own. Now if only Starbucks had their employees actually ask customers if it was “for here or to go” we’d be getting somewhere. BUT they do not. SO it’s up to YOU! You can do it!

5. Bring your own container

This one takes a tiny bit more dedication, but really not that much. When I go have a meal out somewhere I simply tuck a smallish Tupperware container into my bag. This way, I can take any leftovers home (which I usually have because I don’t need to eat the typically large portion served!) without wasting one of their containers. And let’s be clear, it doesn’t matter IF their container is recyclable or even compostable (are you going to actually make sure it goes into a compost bin??), it’s still a new container that doesn’t need to go into rotation. Yes, I’ll admit, if I’m at dinner at a fancy restaurant, this sometimes feels weird, and I don’t always do it, but I’m trying hard to get over it. If you do get takeout or leftovers in the plastic containers, please wash them and save them for next time. And I’m not going to link to any containers here, because we know you already have some!

I loved seeing these metal, reusable ‘taster’ spoons at Jeni’s Ice Cream!

Bonus:

Please say NO to the straw. It seems like a little thing, but they are giving them out everyday and these stupid tubes fill up landfills and harm animals. The problem with straws is one of..

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Greetings from Buffalo Mural by Casey William Milbrand

Buffalo is an underdog. It’s still battling its old branding as a city known for sports teams and cold weather. But, places change.

While we were busy clinging to old stereotypes and snow jokes, Buffalo has been undergoing an extreme makeover. And I don’t use the word “extreme” as hyperbole. Don’t believe me? I encourage you to spend at least a weekend in Buffalo and see for yourself.

A Weekend in Buffalo

For starters check out my latest video on Buffalo:

Visit Buffalo: A Weekend in Buffalo - YouTube
The New and Improved Buffalo, New York

RiverWorks

The entire waterfront has been revitalized. Locals and visitors come here in droves to listen to music, walk on the boardwalk, go boating, kayaking, and even water-biking. Neglected neighborhoods are being rejuvenated with micro breweries and indie coffee shops which are taking over old, vacant warehouses.

Buffalo Canalside

I’m neither a sports fan nor a cold weather fan and I love Buffalo. To be fair, no, I have not visited in February yet. But I have now been here three times in as many years. And as a traveler who still has many more places to go, that is saying something.

Buffalo’s Outer Harbor and Lake Erie

This is not your father’s Buffalo

“We’re taking what Buffalo already has and is uniquely ours and turning it into our top attractions,” Brian Hayden, communications manager for Visit Buffalo, told me on our way into town from the airport.

As a travel writer, of course I meet and often work with tourism folks. Even just talking to my friends at Buffalo Tourism is uplifting. Can you imagine working for a destination that used to be such a tough sell? I was told that parents expected and even encouraged their kids to move away to create a better life for themselves. Like many rust belt towns, Buffalo was in a depression and so were its inhabitants. And now, living in and working for the city is exciting and fulfilling.

Today, Buffalo is telling a new story about rebirth. In just the last five years, it’s undergone a massive reboot. State money has been funneled here to revive the waterfront, infrastructure, and encourage entrepreneurs to start their own businesses. Millennials are moving back home to start new businesses. It’s an affordable town in which to experiment and create. New boutique hotels and restaurants are springing up like dandelions in the spring.

What to Do in Buffalo

Buffalo is a great escape for a weekend. In fact, I highly recommend a stay here with a day trip to Niagara Falls rather than the other way around.

Architecture

Buffalo City Hall

For the uninitiated, Buffalo is a classic American architecture city. Its similarity to Chicago is another reason I feel at home here. Three great American architects shaped the city: H.H. Richardson, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Louis Sullivan. Not to mention buildings designed by Eero Sarinaan, Daniel Burnham, and parks and gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. You may know Olmsted from New York City’s Central Park, but here he designed a system of parks and parkways that was the first of its kind in the nation and represents one of his most extensive.

Hotel Henry at the Richardson Olmsted Complex

A good way to take it all in is by taking a tour. There are a number of tours—walking, biking and boating. I did the 90-minute Open Air Buffalo tour given by the extremely knowledgeable architect and president of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture and Culture, Paul McDonnell. On the tour, you see some landmark building gems as well as charming neighborhoods like Elmwood Village with Victorian and Queen Anne-style homes or the Delaware District with the jaw-dropping mansions of “Millionaire’s Row.”

Louis Sullivan’s Guaranty Building

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House Complex

Food & Drink

The Terrace at Delaware Park

The brand new Terrace at Delaware Park is sits overlooking Hoyt lake in Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Delaware Park. It is the perfect, bucolic setting for an al fresco evening of contemporary global cuisine and shared plates.

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