Friday, August 26, 2016

6 National Parks in the middle of Big Cities

Kids can earn a Junior Ranger badge during a trip to the big city.

This week, America is wishing Happy 100th Birthday to the US National Park Service. A century ago, President Woodrow Wilson signed the act that created the agency “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations".

When most people think of National Parks, the panoramic landscape of the Grand Canyon, the towering waterfalls of Yosemite or the iconic Old Faithful geyser nestled in Yellowstone come to mind. But the National Park Service is not tasked solely with preserving the natural wonders of America. They also take care of its historical sites, many of which are located in big cities. Would you believe that more than a third of all national park sites are located in metro areas? Forty of the nation's fifty most populated urban areas have national parks in them. 36% of all National Parks visits occur at urban sites. According the Urban Agenda, it's part of the service's goal to reach Americans where they live and be relevant to their everyday lives, not just be part of a postcard perfect vacation in the Great Outdoors.

In honor of their mission to satisfy both the country mice and the city mice, here are a few of my favorite urban sites managed by the National Parks Service

Friday, August 12, 2016

At the End of the Universe at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston

Kusama's Love is Calling

The At the End of the Universe exhibit by Yayoi Kusama first caught my eye on my cousin's Instagram feed (@wanderng). Polka dotted, neon colored tentacles rose up from the ground and twisted down from the ceiling. An infinite field of incandescent lights exploded across a dark room. Curiously drawn to wanting to immerse myself in this experience, I knew that I would visit the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH)  the next time that I was in town.

Friday, June 24, 2016

36 Hours in Cody, Wyoming

The town of Cody, Wyoming is a popular stopping point for travelers making the long drive between Yellowstone National Park and Mount Rushmore. While I considered resting my head here for just one night, I'm so glad the family decided to spend an extra day exploring this cowboy town which was founded as a tourist magnet in 1896 by the already famous Buffalo Bill Cody.


The historic Irma Hotel and home to the Cody Gunfighter show

Gunslinger Showdown

We arrived in the late afternoon of a sunny June day. Driving through downtown, I noticed that quite a crowd was gathering in front of the historic Irma Hotel. While most cowboy stories tell of gunfights on the street taking place at high noon, the Cody Gunfighters put on a performance in front of the hotel at 6PM every Monday through Saturday during the summer months. It's like the Old West come to life.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Let Me Take a Selfie

I'm a big fan of art in public places. As a parent, dragging all my kids into an art museum is a bit of a hassle. So, it's nice when we encounter art as we are out and about. Bonus: Docents don't yell at your kids if they touch the art that's out in public like they would in a museum. After all, art that is exposed to the outdoor elements tends to be rather sturdy. (Well, except in this poor guy's case.)

Friday, May 6, 2016

Night Falls on Venice

Venice
St. Mark's Square under an indigo sky at night

Venice at night is a different creature than the one you'll encounter in broad daylight. While the sun is high in the sky, people are on a mission to squeeze in all there is to see. For many of the tourists, they only have a few hours in this glorious city. Hordes of people queue up at the entrances of St. Mark's Basilica, the Doge's Palace and the Campanile. Tour guides lead their people through St. Mark's square from one sight to another while waving their tiny flags in the air.

Friday, April 22, 2016

In Search of Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

Long before I became an expat and started reading travel blogs, I was an ardent fan of expat books and travel books. Admittedly, many of them had to do with food such as Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo or chef David Lebovitz's The Sweet Life in Paris. I laughed at Bill Bryson's attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail in A Walk in the Woods and tried to immerse myself in Parisian expat life with the classic Hemingway memoir, A Moveable Feast. I developed a better appreciation for PBS's Europe through the Back Door host, Rick Steves, when I read his book, Travel as a Political Act which I highly recommend. 


Celebrating New Year's Day 2013 watching surfers --  Tamarama Beach, Sydney, Australia


However, what I've never had an interest in is surfing books. My book club recently decided to read Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, an autobiography by Willian Finnegan. That's what I like about book clubs. They expand my horizons and get me to read books that I may not have chosen on my own. Looking back through my photos though, surfers apparently appeal to me enough that I snap pictures whenever I see them.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Delectable Desserts at Remy onboard the Disney Dream Cruise

Only Disney can get away with using a rat as a restaurant decor motif


Last year's Spring Break voyage onboard the Disney Dream cruise ship was so fantastic that everyone in the family couldn't wait to go again this year. I was keen to try Remy or Palo, the romantic, adults-only restaurants, but hesitated since the no-extra-cost dinners at the family restaurants were already on par with the type of fine dining we'd splurge on for an anniversary dinner. As I was looking through the Onboard Activities, the Pompidou Dessert Experience at Remy, also listed as the Remy Dessert Party, immediately caught my eye. Scheduled mid-afternoon during our Day at Sea, it was the perfect opportunity to indulge in my favorite food category. This was definitely a far cry from the free flow of soft serve ice cream that I would have otherwise had for my afternoon snack. And instead of replacing a fine dining meal, I was adding an additional one into my day. Great idea, if you ask me.
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