Blogs > Millennial Traveler

New and traditional ways of exploring the globe, and your own backyard.

Monday, May 30, 2011

When Bugs Attack...

Something else Memorial Day weekend marks - the start of bug season.

We've been lucky up until now, I'd say, since we've had some warmer (albeit rainy) weather basically sans insects. Well, if the dozen or so bites I've found on my body - so far - are any indication, I'd say the mosquito, knats, and blackfly human harvest is in full swing again.


Well, I keep telling myself it could be worse. For one thing: it could be snowing.

But, for another: it could be like the time I visited Venice, stayed in a quasi-sketchy hostel where I saw mosquitos buzzing around the ceiling of my shared bedroom, tried to keep safe under my goosedown sleeping bag, but woke up the next morning looking like I had chicken pox. I'm pretty sure most people I met in Venice and in Vienna (my next train stop) thought I had brought back the plague. Luckily, it went away after a few days.

As I keep reminding myself it could be (much) worse, I'm going to dip in the lake to cool and soothe the itching sensation.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Great Adirondack Camps

Memorial Day weekend, the kickoff of the summer season, is here. And I can finally wear white again.(even though I have been anyway but now it's *socially* acceptable)

This weekend is a traditional time for bbqs, picnics, the season's inaugural beach visits, camping and going to camps.

The whole "I'm going to my camp this weekend"-thing is really more of a Northeast tradition, I've found. I remember my friend Liz in Florida telling me that when she described her parent's "camp" on the St. Lawrence River to her friends in Melbourne, Florida they honestly thought her parents ran a full-out kid's summer camp - instead of owned their beautiful site on the river with easy access to the Thousand Islands, Canada, and their home in Ogdensberg.

It would seem "camps" likely started out with the Great Adirondack Camps which have a really interesting history in our state having been summer homes to the country's rich, famous, and famously rich.

There are eleven Adirondack camps on the National Register and four are National Historic Landmarks including Sagamore on Sagamore Lake and Camp Pine Knot on Raquette Lake, which is credited with being the first great Adirondack camp - it's construction began in 1877. These and similar camps, like Camp Uncas on Lake Mohegan and Echo Camp on Raquette Lake, were where the Vanderbilts, Carnegies, (J.P.)Morgans, Roosevelts, and locals like Robert Pruyn (a prominent 19th century Albany banker who established the Santanoni Preserve and great camp) would spend their summers - or, to truly get in the Great Camp tradition, they would "summer" at the camps.

I've had the honor of going to a Great ADK camp once since my alma mater owns one near Saranac Lake. It's actually called Canaras (Saranac backwards). Complete with an old library, boathouse, several individual guest houses, and a lodge with the most stuffed dead animals and horns I've ever seen, the camp truly lives up to the rumors that it was once owned by the Rockefellers and hosted many a famous actor/actress in the early 20th century.

But this weekend I am at a slightly simpler camp on Lake Elizabeth in Grafton. It may not have been owned by a former president but it has nice access to the lake, a hammock, and a steady supply of ice cream. Yes, it's been a good weekend.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Stout (Disclaimer: I don't like beer, least of all stout)

So, as you probably have noticed from past posts, I go to a lot of beer related things: beer festivals, breweries, beer-focused bars. But do you wanna know a secret? I'm actually not that big a fan of beer. (shhh, don't tell my will ruin my party girl image completely)
I'm really more of a liquor and wine person these days. But....I can appreciate any venue that mainly offers beer as long as there's a good time to be had.
And the new Stout bar offered this.
It, along with the City Beer Hall, had its soft opening last night so they both were only accepting cash which was annoying but understandable. And I believe they are accepting credit cards now, or at least they said they would.
Stout is just across the street from the Biergarten and owned by the people who run Graney's in Albany and they offer the same yard-long beer containers (see my friend Eric displaying his proudly).
This bar, aside from the very Irish theme, did not really strike out as very different from other Albany nightlife spots. It was like a fusion of Juniors with Lionheart - a pub feel with sports playing everywhere on flat screen TVs.
I think part of the reason I wasn't impressed was because, as stated earlier, I really don't like beer as much as I used to. My bf loved this place especially due to the beer selection (displayed kinda like the Biergarten's on an overhead chalkboard) which included hard-to-find McSorley's on tap.
The waitresses all wore green garter belts which I found interesting and there was an outdoor patio area.
Their food selection, last night anyway, just included deli sandwiches (we had one and it was very good and fresh).
The bar was a good time though and we had fun with friends. And I always enjoy checking out new places - even if they are named for my least favorite beer of them all.
But, of the two we went to last night, I liked City Beer Hall just a tad more (you can't really compete with a long awaited mechanical bull). Though, I have a feeling I'll stumble over to Stout again maybe after filling up on a good German meal across the street.

My first (and it won't be my last) trip to the City Beer Hall

Sometimes I do come out of my trying-to-be-a-mature-adult cave and spend money that really should be going towards other things (like health insurance or a house) even though I know in the end most of my money really does go towards travel.
But, I made an exception last night and went to two new bars in Albany - The City Beer Hall and Stout.
Our first stop was the City Beer Hall which I was mega-super-excited about since I have always wanted a bar in Albany with a mechanical bull, even though I did "ride" the one in Syracuse at Daisy Dukes...for a whole five seconds and that was after trying to get up on the bull for about a minute (short legs, le sigh).
The bf and I had a slight issue finding parking but only because we really weren't looking in the right place. Once we went down Howard Street where the beer hall is located we found parking without a problem (though all the spots were filled when we came back).
At the western style bar (with a friendly beer hall atmosphere, a fire place, and long tables and benches), I ordered a Dale's Ale and we were both happy to see a lot of good beers available, with Ommegang on tap. I had just gone to the craft beer event not long ago so there were a few familiar names (like Clown Shoes' black IPA Hoppy Feet which sold out at the fest).
With our beer orders, we got two free tickets for personal pizzas. I neglected to ask if this was a soft opening thing only or if that would be the case with future visits.
We went up a couple steps to the kitchen area where we saw our thin crust, flatbread pizzas made by a couple talkative and nice staff members.
Nearby the kitchen, there is an entrance to a patio area outside with tables and another bar. And upstairs there are barrels for tables, another bar, a view of the beer hall below and Da Bull. It was a pleasant surprise that riding the bull is free and only requires you signing away our life on a waiver and showing a valid ID. I watched a couple people ride it which was amusing. I figured I'd wait until I was with a larger group of friends with which to make a jackass out of myself.
I also read somewhere (Tablehopping, I think) that the basement would include a speakeasy cocktail area but a bouncer said it was not yet open to the public.
Overall: I liked the experience. The people were friendly. The place wasn't as packed as I expected and the beer was reasonably priced with a good variety. They do need to expand their food list, though, to offer something besides pizza and I think they do plan to do that.
The only things I worry about are: how hot (temperature wise) it will be in there with a lot of people and little ventilation, and what drunk people in large groups are doing to do with the actually-kinda-sharp saw blades set up for decoration at an inebriated person's reach.

Piazzas of Italy, Belgium, and Troy

In light of the piazza news in Troy, some of my co-workers and I thought it would be fun to list some of the more famous piazzas in the world (well, mainly in Italy).
I have fond memories of some of Europe's piazzas - the memories mainly include me walking around with a variety of gelatos (usually recipes involving chocolate and hazelnut) while admiring the beautiful architecture and wishing it would come back with me to New York.
Well, I may not get the Duomo in Troy, but we are getting a piazza at the end of Broadway. Now we just need Gelateria Lisa to move to Monument Square and I am set.
These are some of the must-see piazzas. Maybe one day Troy will make the U.S. list. :)
Piazza Fontana di Trevi - Everyone (or at least nearly everyone) has heard of the Trevi Fountain. Well, there's a reason for it. It's immense and amazing.
Piazza San Pietro - This is the piazza at the entrance of St. Peter's Basilica. You've probably seen Pope-broadcasts from here with millions of Catholics filling the space. (I remember getting a really nice gold watch for my dad here...but then, upon further inspection, I thought it was too girly since it had flowers on it and I kept it for myself and got him a pocket watch from Sicily instead).
Piazza Venezia - The beautiful image of this piazza with its famous monuments atop a hill in Rome stays with you for a very long time. I still remember walking down its steps. (which brings me to the...)
Piazza di Spagna - The Spanish Steps in Rome has inspired visitors, artists, and writers since the 18th century. It's nearly impossible to have not seen a painting of it (my favorite is by F. Childe Hassam). I remember there being a McDonald's nearby when I visited which kinda ruined the mood; apparently it was the oldest McDonald's in Italy though built in the late 1980s, according to a plaque there.
Piazza Santa Croce - The main building in this very old plaza was built by the architect of the Medici family.
Piazza San Marco - (St. Mark's Square) Though this piazza is sometimes famously submerged in the ever-sinking city, St. Mark's Basilica in the square is absolutely amazing with Catholic drawings, and opulent gold details.

Grand Place - This is technically a central square but I think it counts as a non-Italian piazza (especially if Troy's counts as a piazza). The place is also near the country's Little Man Peeing statue which has become a symbol of the country, marking a care free attitude/fun - or so my AAA tour book said.
Piazzas are basically a place for people to come together (they're also great for people watching). The $30 million development in Troy, I think, will be a welcomed edition to the city.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

International Rewards

This BBC story gives a whole new meaning to your international rewards points. And is just one example of why I love reading the BBC news site.

One German re-insurance company (they insure other insurance companies) rewarded their sales people with a brothel party in Budapest, Hungary. According to the article, based on a German newspaper's story, the "orgy" took place in a bath house where the men could do anything they liked.

Since this is a family newspaper (*achem*) I won't go into too much more detail but I encourage you to read the article. I also encourage you to realize that Budapest is actually a very historical city with more than just whore houses. My brief stay there was to see a huge art museum, a couple castles, and the opera house. I remember their money system being kinda confusing but I think they have since changed over to the Euro - which makes me wonder if the participating 20 girls got tipped for their services in the insurance party.

I actually just won an incentive from The Record (Visa and Regal gift cards) this week for making 40 videos for our Website in one month. I don't know whether to be jealous, or grateful that I don't work for this re-insurance company.

And, on a side note, the most popular read article on the BBC site now is about the Rapture. Glad our (idiot) religious and non-religious folk can amuse the rest of the world.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Have you been to the world's "pretties places"?

The U.S. News and World Report recently put out a list of the world's "prettiest places." The word pretty is kind of a vague term but I like the idea.
On the list: Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia, the Taj Mahal, the Great Barrier Reef, Borobudur in Indonesia, Machu Picchu in Peru, The Great Wall in China, the Great Temple of Ramses II in Egypt, the Northern Lights, the Palace of Versailles in France, and the Grand Canyon. Of the 10, I've seen four and the rest were basically on my wish list, except for the ones in Croatia and Indonesia. Though, I keep hearing really, really good things about both countries so I might have to add them to my list. (ok, done, they're on my list)
I guess this all comes down to what your definition of "pretty" is.
I've already given my opinion on the Grand Canyon. I didn't really find it all that amazing. Pretty? Maybe. But no more so than the Rocky Mountain National Park or the Yellowstone Lake's West Thumb Basin. Now those are pretty.
I'll agree with Versaille - that was just luxuriously-pretty. And the Temple of Ramses II - that was worth getting up at 3am to see at dawn. And I was lucky enough to go to a college where we sometimes saw the Northern Lights if we stood on the college quad at night (obviously) and waited.
In my humble opinion, I would add the Cappodocia region of Turkey, the Celtic areas of the Scottish Highlands and Irish and Welsh coasts, the Norwegian fjords, the Swiss/Italian Alps, Germany's Bavarian castles like Neuschwanstein, and the Adirondacks, for good measure.
I'm also surprised a Hawaiian spot is not on the list. I've never been there, but again, I've heard really, really good things.
But what do you think, where are the prettiest places in the world?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Travel and the Economy

The New York Times reported today that President Barack Obama said he wanted to focus more on travel, basically that a healthy economy and travel go hand in hand. And ain't it the truth.

I remember a few years ago when a friend was living in Australia and she went to New Zealand to travel around for a month. Well, I saved and saved and planned to go. But, it was around this time that newspapers were doing particularly bad. I honestly was not sure if I would have a job or not in the near future.

I made the decision not to spend that money and not to travel with my friend just in case I needed the funds if I lost my job. That was one of those times that I truly hated being an adult.

Fast forward a few years, the newspaper industry is still in limbo but I have much more confidence in my job stability. I just went on a cross-country road trip and am planning a few trips in the future.

I'm just one example of the link between the economy and travel.

Don't feel too bad for me about missing out on New Zealand and Australia. I ended up meeting up with my friend several months later when she finally came stateside again. I did my first major U.S. road trip and drove from NY to FL, in a manual car (which I had to learn to drive). It was a blast.

Though, at some point, I really do need to hit up NZ. Will someone please get married there next so I have a really good reason to go?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


There's something very important about traveling that I have yet to address in my 83 blog posts so far. And that would be - souvenirs.

Who doesn't love souvenirs? You get them for yourself, for your family, and friends...and you even bring back that T-shirt for your favorite co-worker.

When I travel, I tend to keep it on the cheap and just get postcards. Mainly because I'm running out of room for other things and I just enjoy the little photos and pictures a lot. I bet I have one of the best collections of postcard artwork in the world because I started that tradition a while back where I get at least one card in every art/museum I go to. My favorite of those is probably a Botticelli work from the National Gallery in London.

But MSN just had two interesting pieces about souvenirs - one about the things you should buy when traveling and another about the impulse buys you really won't miss (and they pictured those fun Statue of Liberty green hats people get....I kinda like mine actually and I have a free torch/flashlight to go with it).

I tend to agree with a few of the items on the to-buy list. For example, I LOVE my Irish sweater and I only wish there were more occasions to wear it. And I know my mom liked the amber necklace I got for her in Denmark. I also enjoy my Murano glass and Carnival mini-mask.

And I still remember how full my suitcase was after six months in Europe and Eurasia, due to souvenirs. I technically had over the weight limit but the guy was nice and let me by, not sure if I'd be so lucky today.

The only thing I wondered from the list was why it had so many Balinese souvenirs. Guess I'll have to find out for myself eventually...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Canals: (Partially) Up and Running, er Flowing

So, an announcement today from the canal corporation I'm sure had a lot of local boaters happy: part of the Erie Canal near Waterford is opening for business on Saturday at 7am. If you want to get a head start on the summer boating, I recommend getting to bed immediately.
Also in the area, the Champlain Canal remains closed due to high water. Area canal officials estimate it could be a couple weeks before everything is opened.
One of these years, I want to rent a canal boat and just cruise along the historic waterways. That...and sail around the world. All I need is a boat and to learn how to sail.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rental Car-A-Rama

It seems I've been going to the Albany International Airport a lot these past couple weeks, for Make A Wish meet/greets and also to hang out with friends from out of town.
On one of the last visits I was there, I stopped into the Enterprise rental car business because I was wondering what their policy was on credit cards. The last time I rented a car, it was unfortunately because my other car was totaled, they needed a credit card to secure the car. My only problem: I don't have a credit card.
Well, I'm not sure I'd consider that a problem. I consider it a good thing that I am not sinking further into debt. I already have enough of that with my student and car loans, thank you very much.
So, when I rented from Enterprise in Troy they required that I bring in a pay stub and my National Grid bill to show that I had an income and paid my bills. Luckily, I have a lot of random things in my car and so I was able to produce these things.
One of my co-workers was recently asking me about rental cars because she is planning a road trip to Utah/Nevada. Actually, her vacation starts this weekend. I'm very, very jealous. But, I guess she had the same dilemma as me in the lackage of a credit card.
As it turns out, Enterprise at the airport does rent cars as long as you show your return ticket. My guess is it that proves you will not steal the car? And they assumed the same policy would apply for my trip to Northern Ireland, though they recommended calling the company.When I looked online, it did say you could use a debit card too.
I have yet to call them but while reading the New York Times today I saw an article that suggested using to rent cars since they (like kayak or priceline) compare prices with many rental car companies like Hertz or Europcar, find coupons and then even apply the coupons after booking the car.
I went to their site and I did find better deals than I was expecting. Then, I looked at the fine on-screen print and noticed the cheap prices were only for manual cars.
Now I'm debating learning to drive standard (since the last time I did was for an East coast road trip several years ago where I only really drove on the highways and referred to my friend to drive in heavy traffic), maybe in this process I'll get a credit card too. We'll see.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Egypt's Tourism is Down, obviously

According to the Associated Press, only about 211,000 foreign visitors went to Cairo in February. This is just 20 percent of the amount of tourists there (1.1 million) a year ago.

The political results of the power struggle in Egypt have yet to be seen but the economy is certainly not being helped so far. The AP also reported that 14 percent of jobs in the country are tourism-related.

I, honestly, wouldn't doubt it if nearly 50 percent of Egypt's economy relies on the money spent by tourists. It sure felt that way when I was there, and I tried to not just stick to the regularly traveled route.

I really wondered how this would affect the exchange rate for the country. When I was there (in 2007), it was nearly 5 Egyptian Pounds for every $1 - a great exchange rate. Well, now, it's 1.00 Egyptian Pound = 0.1690 U.S. Dollar, according to Yahoo. That's just ridicules. (In comparison, one British Pound is 1.64 U.S. Dollars.)

And to show what exactly 5 Egyptian Pounds buys, if you're not in the touristy areas: it can be taxi fare for a few miles or purchase a couple bottles of water. For an American buck.

Along with the Amazing exchange rate now, there are no lines for all the major attractions (and this is usually a busy time for them since it's not quite summer, when desert temperatures hit their hottest).

If I were you, I'd go to Egypt. You'll probably get a good deal on the airfare too, and you'd be helping a country slowly get back on its feet.

Friday, May 6, 2011

During my lunch break, I get to have a pie thrown at me

As I get ready to take my lunch break from work, during which I plan to get two pies thrown at my face by a blonde 2nd grader, I want to remind everyone to visit the circus this weekend.
You probably wonder what one has to do with the other. Well...
I participated in a Clown College a week ago and today is our graduation, which apparently includes pie throwing. Only I don't get to throw any. Seems kinda unfair, doesn't it?
Oh well, the college was fun. Several members of the media were matched up with Make A Wish kids and we learned clown routines and some tricks. My little partner's name is Faith.
And I actually look forward to seeing her face, as shaving cream runs down my forehead, after she throws the "pie" at me.
The families, and some of the media peeps, then get to enjoy the circus show tonight.
I attempted to go last night but it didn't quite work out.
So, I gave my tickets for tonight's show, since I have a family obligation, to my friend Eric and his girlfriend. (They have awesome seats too.) Make sure to wave to them tonight. If shaving cream supplies last, I may instruct Faith to throw a pie at them too...
Anyway, I got off topic. The shows at the Times Union Center run through Sunday and last night was pretty full. I wouldn't be surprised if the weekend shows are even more packed, which is good news for everyone (well, except the animal cruelty protesters).
There's nothing quite like a circus, so I encourage one and all to escape for a bit and enjoy elephants, acrobats, jugglers, clowns, and more. I'll be enjoying the part that counts...making a kid smile.
Ok, off to get a pie thrown at me....

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Alive at Five, partial lineup

It's that time again. I got my annual Facebook invite for the ongoing Alive At Five event.
Which made me wonder if the lineup had been announced yet. Well, it hasn't officially. And, after so many people were mad at him last year, I kinda doubt Kevin Marshall will make a fake one again this year either. In fact, I'm still mad Flava Flav didn't actually come. seems two artists have confirmed this year. For June 9, The Marshall Tucker Band is playing and June 16 10,000 Maniacs will take the Corning Preserve stage. The series starts on June 2, according to the Facebook event and Albany's Web site.
I actually really enjoy "These Are The Days" by 10,000 maniacs (the song brings back a lot of nostalgia from college and being in my sorority in Chi Omega since it was kinda our theme friends from the sorority still play it at their weddings). So, I'll probably be going to that one. :)
Let's keep our fingers crossed for Flava Flav this year too.

Flooding, Flooding everywhere (and what a mess it makes)

The Amtrak route from Albany to Montreal has resumed today after the railroad passenger line discontinued it yesterday due to flooding north of Whitehall.
And, as predicted by Waterford Harbormaster Dick Hurst, the canal system is not opening in the Capital District area (along the Champlain and Erie) for at least a couple of weeks also due to flooding.
I would give you the weather forecast predictions and say whether they might affect flooding, but...I tend not to listen to weather forecasts. It's really hard to avoid them too, considering they make up about 1/3 of a TV news broadcast and then they have them on the 9s on YNN and on the 8s on the radio.
So, I'll make my own will be partly cloudy this weekend with a chance of showers and sunshine. Vague enough?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Enhanced Potential for Anti-American Violence

The U.S. Department of State issued a travel alert for those traveling and living abroad which is in effect until August. And American government facilities remain at a heightened state of alert worldwide.

Basically, anyone who lives abroad who might be in an area affected by the "current situation"/ "recent events" (aka Osama kicking the proverbial bucket) are asked to stay at home and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations. That goes for people traveling to these volatile locations too. And they should remain in regular contact with family members and loved ones, just in case.

So, stay vigilant people and keep informed of what's going on. Though, in regards to updates about Osama, I think one of my co-workers' old sayings probably applies best: "Still dead."

In all seriousness, one of my old tricks for avoiding conflict and confrontations while abroad (especially in the Middle East) has been to say I'm Canadian. Sure, it's a little cowardly but the Middle Eastern people I encountered, mainly from Egypt, loved the Canadians. They would always say 'Oh, Canada Dry!' after I said I was Canadian. To this day, I still have no idea what they meant by that. I don't think they were referring to the ginger ale.

When I was taxi-ing/training around that country, I actually took a poll of my own with people I met. And most had no qualms with Americans. They just didn't like our involvement in their region and they really didn't like Bush (I think most can agree with that one).

Just to be on the safe side, I'd listen to the travel alert. And maybe brush up on your Canadian culture, eh?

Royal Wedding, pffft

You may have noticed I neglected to write anything about the British Royal Wedding.

That was intentional.

But, according to every single media outlet ever, it did happen.

Don't get me wrong, I love British culture. I lived in London for months. One of my goals while there was to try to memorize the royal line. That, by the way, is really hard.

Still, I really had no interest in this wedding and I became even less interested as I was bombarded by tweets, status updates, headlines, and blogs to watch it.

To date, I hate yet to watch any video or examine any photos of the event.

So, in your Face media (of which I am technically part of...and I technically did write quasi about the wedding....technically...I guess....).

I'll leave this off on three notes:

One - yay for Osama's death getting the new attention of the news entities (because at least that is news worthy)

Two - (a new joke I heard that is English related) London culture is driving in a German car, to an Irish pub, to drink Belgian beer, eat Indian food, and watch the Italians kick Spains butt in football/soccer - while shouting British phrases like "Wanker!" and "Bloody Hell!"

I added that last part myself. Have to give the Brits some credit.

And Three - Tell ya what, since I did no coverage of this wedding at all. I'll cover the be-jesus out of a wedding you probably won't care about but means a lot to me. My friend Clementine's wedding in N. Ireland. First update: I just got her wedding dress today mailed to me at work (long story, don't ask). It's white.