Blogs > Millennial Traveler

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

Friday, May 30, 2014

Rocky Mountain National Park Photos

It's been about two years since I was last in Colorado for a friend's wedding. Since my friend just celebrated her two year anniversary, it got me thinking about the trip. Here a few of the photos...

(Crystal, my fellow traveler in crime, along the Alberta Falls hike)

(It's amazing how close you get to these huge mountains)

(Loved this idea)

(Because Art and Hiking should go together more often)

Longer Trips for Boeing 787s, and an AirBnB update

In national and international news this week:

AirBnB Information Will Be Given to NYS Attorney General -

I love the concept of AirBnB (though I haven't always had the best experience with it) but it seems like officials want to make sure everything is in order with the house/apartment/room-sharing service which provides cheap accommodations for out-of-town travelers. The AG particularly wants to make sure no one is running illegal hotels.

According to the NYT"Airbnb, the apartment sharing service, and New York law enforcement officials came to an agreement Wednesday after a dispute over rental data that lasted for the better part of a year. Under the terms of the deal, Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York State attorney general, will get the information he is seeking about Airbnb hosts in New York City, but it will be stripped of names and other personally identifiable information."

Boeing 787s Longer Flights -

Instead of the usual three hour flights with 787s, the planes have been given the green light for flights as far away as 5 1/2 hours, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

According to this article by Justin Bachman: "That will permit new routings, such as anonstop flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne that United (UAL) plans to begin in October.It also means that newer, longer-range version of the 787, called the 787-9, can fly polar routes such as those used for flights between the U.S. and top business destinations such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing, and Shanghai. Those routes across the North Pole require the extended operations certification because safe diversion airports in case of an emergency are few and far between.

Saratoga Race Course Season Passes Now Available at Stewart's Shops (and other local news)

A quick wrap up of this week/end's local activities news and travel-related news:

Saratoga Race Course Season Passes at Stewart's-
The track season at Saratoga, the nation's oldest sporting venue of any kind in the country, will start on July 18. It's always a fun time in the area with the track's races, tours and breakfasts, and non-track things like visits to Yaddo, doughboys and crepes in downtown Saratoga, swimming at Victoria Pool, people watching on Gaffney's patio, and trips to Saratoga Lake.
You may notice I focus a bit more on the non-track things. I'm not much of a gambler. But if you are - or you enjoy the overall vibe at the track - you can now get NYRA's Saratoga season passes at area Stewart's Shops.
Here's a bit more about that as reported by our sister paper The Saratogian. The grandstand passes are $30 and the clubhouse passes are $50.
Regular admission to the track is increasing to $5 for the grandstand and $8 for the clubhouse - up from last year's fees of $3 and $5, respectively.
Or, if you want to go the old fashioned route, you can also obtain a season pass through this online form.

Rensselaer Train Station Temporarily Closed -
The CDTA announced this week that the train station's parking garage would be temporarily closed this weekend (Fri-Sun) to allow for maintenance.

Freihofer's Run Security Measures -

The 36th annual Freihofer's Run for Women, which attracts more than 4,000 women running throughout Albany, is slated for Saturday (May 31) at 9:45 a.m. on Madison Avenue near the State Museum. There's last chance registration available today for $40. Along with the run, there are bands and other activities.

If you're running or spectating, the Albany Police have instituted these rules:
  • Backpacks/coolers/duffle bags will not be permitted at the race venue.
  • Anything brought onsite, including runners’ items for FRW bag-check, must be transported in a clear plastic bag for easy inspection.
  • No animals, dogs or domestic pets (with the exception of service dogs) will be allowed on-site due to the presence of police dog patrols.
  • Photo identification is required.
  • All 5K participants should be on site by 8:45 a.m.

Cheese Traveler Friday Night Cookouts -

The Cheese Traveler, located at 540 Delaware Ave. in Albany, will hold its first of many Friday Night Cookouts tonight. The food, described here on their site, is priced between $4 and $10.

Delmar Farmers Market Opens-

The first day of the Delmar Farmers Market is Saturday (May 31) at 9 a.m. The market features more than 60 local vendors with produce and crafts. This is the market's 6th season.

NYS Thruway Farmers Markets -

The "Tailgate Farmer's Markets" will be at the travel plazas throughout NYS this summer at the locations below.

Grey Mouse Farm
Plattekill Travel Plaza
Thursday - Sunday: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Malden Travel Plaza
Thursday - Saturday: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Ulster Travel Plaza
Saturday - Sunday: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Beaver Meadow Farm:
Guilderland Travel Plaza
Friday through Sunday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Country Pride Cheese House:
Malden Travel Plaza
Friday and Saturday: 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Thorne’s Family Farm
Port Byron Travel Plaza
Daily: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Junius Ponds Travel Plaza
Thursday – Monday: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

New Brewery in Troy, NY and a Trampoline Park in Albany

What does a craft brewery in downtown Troy have in common with a trampoline park off Central Avenue in Albany? Admittedly, not a lot but they are both opening this weekend in the Capital District.

Rare Form in Troy has been talked about for over a year in the #EnjoyTroy community and I, for one, am glad it's coming to fruition with a ribbon cutting today (May 30) at 4:30 p.m. at their 90 Congress St. taproom. I'll be checking it out so feel free to look for a future blog post about their beer and ambiance.

From prior interactions with the brewers, I know they'll have at least one IPA and a Ginger Beer (I've recently become a huge fan of that style of beer so that works for me). All Over Albany had a conversation with Kevin Mullen and Jenny Kemp about their new business and the overall trends of craft beer - which is still on the rise in popularity. Local beer blogger "Fuj" also had a sneak peak of the small facility - which can hold about 40 people - and their beer.

(Taproom area, website photo)

And The Record's Lauren Halligan has reported on the brewery in the past as well.

Needless to say, people are excited. Really excited.

The brewery - joining Brown's in Troy as a fellow craft beer provider with a taproom - is open Wed-Thurs from 4pm-8pm, Fri-Sat from 12-9pm, and Sunday 1-6pm.

It's up to you whether you'd want to indulge at the brewery before or after going to a trampoline park. Do you intake the calories then work them off? Or visa versa? Hmm.

Well, at least you have the option now that the Flight Trampoline Park in Albany is opening this weekend at 30A Post Road in Albany/Colonie. The unique business has also been discussed in the digital world for the past several months since they made the announcement they'd be expanding from Connecticut and coming this way.

And, what's not to like? There's trampoline fitness classes, dodgeball, and a family night.

"Open Jump", as the activity is apparently called, is Mon-Fri 1-9pm, Sat. 10-9pm, and Sunday 10-7pm. Prices for this are: $9 for 30 minutes, $13 for 1 hour, and $23 for 2 hours. The Fitness Classes are $10 per class, $15 for 2 classes, or $60 for 10 classes.

(Flight Trampline Park logo, from website)

There are group discounts, and rentals of "bounce boards" and other items. Like any such business, a waiver must be signed before you do any activities.

For further information about the trampoline park, call 952-0433.

So, who wants to jump around and then go out for some pints?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Fort Ticonderoga Opens King's Garden for Summer Season

I've written about Fort Ticonderaga a few times and I have to admit I have not yet been there in my adult life. But, this photo of their King's Garden made me want to visit soon. Maybe you'll have a similar reaction.

(provided photo)

Below is a bit of information about the garden, opening this weekend, and the historic fort.

From the press release:

Fort Ticonderoga’s King’s Garden opens for the season on May 24 with a stunning display of annuals and perennials!  As the largest public garden in the Adirondack-Lake Champlain region and one of the oldest gardens in America, the King’s Garden offers daily guided tours and self-guided activities for adults and children throughout the season.  The King’s Garden is open from 9:30 am until 5 pm daily, May 24 through October 13, 2014.  Admission to the King’s Garden is included with a general admission ticket to Fort Ticonderoga.  For additional information on the King’s Garden’s and its 2014 programs visit or call 518-585-2821.

New this year!
“The new ‘Breaking Ground: A Tour of the Historic Garden’ highlights Fort Ticonderoga’s horticulture story that spans centuries,” said Beth Hill, President and CEO of Fort Ticonderoga. “The tour, led by Fort Ticonderoga’s historic interpreters, will be offered daily and explores the horticulture history of the Ticonderoga peninsula including the story of the garrison gardens and the Colonial Revival walled garden.”

“Guest can roll up their sleeves and dig into Fort Ticonderoga’s centuries of horticulture in the formal garden along with the Discovery Gardens - the Garrison Garden, Children’s Garden, and Three Sisters Garden,” said Hill. “Special programs, such as Hands-on Horticulture, will allow guests to discover the techniques used to keep the King’s Garden thriving.”

Also new this year is an interactive 1776 Garrison Garden which will bring this vibrant, living garden space to life and highlight the vital vocation of gardening that was an important part of soldiers’ duties at Fort Ticonderoga as troops raised vegetables to feed the sick soldiers in the Northern Department of the Continental Army.

From Garden to Table!
Vegetables and edible flowers grown in the King’s Garden are served daily at Fort Ticonderoga’s America’s Fort Café.  King’s Garden vegetables are also included in the Soldier’s Dinner program presented each mid-day by interpretive staff.

About the King’s Garden
The walled colonial revival King’s Garden was originally designed in 1921 by leading landscape architect Marian Coffin.  The formal elements – a reflecting pool, manicured lawn and hedges, and brick walls and walkways – are softened by a profusion of annuals and perennials, carefully arranged by color and form.  Heirloom flowers and modern cultivars are used to recreate the historic planting scheme. Guest’s favorites include the lavender border, towering hollyhocks, bearded irises, dinner plate dahlias and many types of phlox.

Outside of the nine-foot brick walls of the Colonial Revival King’s Garden, the Discovery Gardens include a children’s garden, an interactive 18th-century American Garrison Garden, and Three Sisters Garden. The restored Lord and Burnham greenhouse, charming gazebo, sweeping lawns and shady picnic spots invite visitors to explore the landscape at one of America’s oldest gardens dating to the French occupation of the Fort in the mid-18th century.

Located on Lake Champlain in the beautiful 6 million acre Adirondack Park, Fort Ticonderoga is an independent not-for-profit educational organization, historic site, and museum that ensures that present and future generations learn from the struggles, sacrifices, and victories that shaped the nations of North America and changed world history. Serving the public since 1909, Fort Ticonderoga engages 70,000 visitors annually and is dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of Fort Ticonderoga’s history.  Accredited by the American Association of Museums, Fort Ticonderoga offers programs, historic interpretation, tours, demonstrations, and exhibits throughout the year and is open for daily visitation May 10 through November 2, 2014. The 2014 season features the Fort’s newest exhibit Founding Fashion: The Diversity of Regularity in 18th-Century Military Clothing which brings together for the first time the museum's wide variety of important 18th-century clothing, related artwork, and archeological fragments to illustrate the diversity of clothing worn by the armies who served at Fort Ticonderoga during the French & Indian War and Revolution. Visit for a full list of ongoing programs or call 518-585-2821.

 America’s Fort is a registered trademark of the Fort Ticonderoga Association.

Saratoga National Historical Park Seasonal Openings

I just wrote a piece about what it takes to open some Saratoga National Historical Park infrastructure for the summer season.
You can check that article out this weekend but here's some info about the park and its facilities.

From the press release:

Saratoga National Historical Park announces season opening

WHAT: Beginning of summer season at Saratoga National Historical Park

WHEN: Memorial Day weekend, Saturday – Monday, May 24-26, 2014

·         Schuyler House (Rt. 4, south part of the Village of Schuylerville) and Saratoga Monument (Burgoyne Street, Village of Victory) open Saturday – Monday of Memorial Day weekend, from 9 AM to 5 PM;
·         Schuyler House and Saratoga Monument open Fridays – Sundays, plus major holidays, 9 AM to 5 PM through the summer season;
·         Saratoga Battlefield  (between Rt. 4 and Rt. 32 just north of the Village of Stillwater), tour road open 9 AM to 5 PM through May, and starting June 1st open
 9 AM to 6 PM for the summer season.

WHO:  Saratoga Battlefield, Schuyler House, Saratoga Monument, together with Victory Woods (Village of Victory, just south of Saratoga Monument), make up Saratoga National Historical Park, site of “the most important battle in the last 1000 years.”

For more information about this or other events, please call the Visitor Center at
518-670-2985 or check our website at  our Facebook page at or our Twitter feed @SaratogaNHP

Trip to NYC's Little Italy

Here's some information from the local International Center of the Capital Region about an upcoming day trip:

From the press release:

On Friday, June 6, 2014, the International Center of the Capital Region is sponsoring a one-day bus outing from Albany to NYC to celebrate and discover Italian-American history, heritage and cuisine. The trip includes visits to the historic Italian Consulate on Park Avenue and a stop in Little Italy in lower Manhattan for a meal and shopping. The cost is $70 and includes transportation, snacks on the bus and admission to stated activities. The group will leave at 7:00 AM and return at approximately 7:00 PM. Space is limited. To make a reservation or for more info call ICCR at (518) 708-7608 or

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What I Plan to do on my Summer Vacations...

Can you believe it? The four-letter "s" word is gone until next winter and it's now unofficially another "s" word: Summer.
It's a big world and I like to have a wish list of places I want to see and things I want to do. I'm so much of an over-planner I made most of this list back in January.
But, here it is.
St. Lawrence  University - this has nothing to do with tourism and everything to do with visiting friends and finally showing my boyfriend where I spent some of the best years of my life. But, for those who are interested in checking out the North Country when it's not a frozen tundra, there's a new brewery in Canton and it's not far from the St. Lawrence River, places in Canada like Ottawa and Kingston, and Alexandria Bay.
Nantucket - I loved my visit to Martha's Vineyard last year and this has made me curious about its island neighbor. I've heard the two islands are nothing alike. MV apparently has more to do/see and Nantucket, despite being larger, is more of a place to just relax. Still, I'd like to see for myself. And it'll be fun to wear Nantucket Red in Nantucket.
Jones Beach State Park - Long Island has been on my to-see list for a few years and we never seem to make it down, even though it's only a few hours. This year, the plan is to buy tickets to the NIN/Soundgarden concert at Jones Beach and hopefully spend the day there beforehand to enjoy the beach and facilities.
Philadelphia - As it happens, the day following the concert there is a large - and apparently more awesome than usual - beer festival sponsored by Sierra Nevada in Philadelphia. Jon's never been to Philly so it'll be a fun excuse to visit the city and see some of the sights.
Acadia National Park - This was the first national park east of the Mississippi and it is, at some times of the year, the first place in the continental U.S. where you can see the sunrise. Needless to say, it's been on my travel wish list for a while. I'm hoping to book a campsite there in the coming weeks.
Other possible places: Mount Washington, Hither Hills State Park, the Outer Banks, Delaware, and Atlanta. And, without saying, there will, of course, be a few trips out to Grafton's Elizabeth Lake and to the Adirondacks.


Feel free to comment, compare, give me some pros/cons. I've never been to most of these places before so input would be great.
And, let me know where you are planning to go this summer. Maybe I can start making my list for next year early. ;)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Whiteface Mountain Veterans' Memorial Highway and Other Regional Vistas

Love scenic views but you're not much of a hiker? There are a few regional options for you, including the Whiteface Mountain Veterans' Memorial Highway in Wilmington, NY.

The highway, located in the heart of the High Peaks of the Adirondacks about 2.5 hours outside Albany, will open for the season on Saturday (May 17). Repairs are wrapping up for the season from a $12 million project on the 8 mile road.

The highway was completed in 1935 and dedicated to all war veterans. More than 70,000 people travel to the highway annually. The road is full of great vistas and a few unnerving hairpin turns.

(from my hike down the highway)

I have a few memories on the highway since my family used to travel to the Lake Placid area annually. We would take the highway up and take photos at the top with the mountains and picturesque lakes below. There is also a photo op with a sign stating the height of the mountain (4,865 feet) - it's the fifth highest in the state. I remember the brakes from cars smelling on the way down on each of our trips, despite drivers putting their vehicles in the lower gear.

I also used the highway when I was first starting my hiking trips up to the Adirondacks. On one trip, we would have been stuck on top if not for the highway down. In that case, it was great having man-made items at the top. Luckily, I learned my lesson and I've never had a close call on any other hikes.

(Whiteface summit and observation area)

This week through June 30, the highway will be open weekends from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and on Memorial Day. From July 1 to Sept. 1, the highway will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. before resorting back to weekend operations from Sept. 6 to Oct. 5.

The cost is $10 for a vehicle and driver, and $7 for each additional passenger. Cyclists can summit the highway for $6.

More information can be found here about the highway and here about the nearby Olympic venues in Lake Placid.

There are also great vistas from: the Corning Tower in downtown Albany (open weekdays until 4 p.m.), Thatcher Park which has a view of much of the Capital District from an escarpment in Voorheesville, the Saratoga Monument in Victory which is free to scale, the Grafton Fire Tower with views of Vermont, New York, and Massachusetts, and the 100 mile View on Hogback Mountain along Route 9E in Wilmington, Vt. which on a clear day has views to the White Mountains in New Hampshire.

(One of my favorite ADK photos I've taken - despite the black line - on Whiteface)

Speaking of the White Mountains, another mountain you can drive up is Mount Washington. The Auto Road there opens Friday (May 16) and private tours start Memorial Day weekend. Self tour rates are $28 for the car and driver, and $8 for additional adults. This includes a bumper sticker and audio tour CD. The mountain is over 6,000 feet high. I'm rather hoping to drive up it sometime myself in the near future.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Troy Food Truck Festival Cancelled Due to Weather

The Food Truck Festival slated for this Friday (May 16) is cancelled due to severe weather and a 90 percent chance of rain in the forecast.
The festival was planned to take place at Riverfront Park in Troy from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
From talking with friends who work and live in Troy, some were not a fan of the event taking place on a Friday as opposed to the weekend but - after I thought about it for a while - I kinda dug the idea since it would be a fun happy hour-type event....enjoying food and the waterfront on a Friday evening. That is, weather-permitting.

(from WGNA site)

The event, sponsored/organized by the city of Troy and Townsquare Lifestyle Events, does not have a rain location. I mean, where exactly could you hold a large event with multiple trucks inside?
While I love the idea of food truck festivals, the stars really do need to align to have a nice event. You need perfect weather, and a proper amount of trucks for the crowd size.
Take last year's festival into consideration:
1) Once again, weather --- It was Hot, scorching. Like, I have a horrible memory and even I remember how hot it was last year. In fact, I think I started my base tan of the season at that May event.
2) You need a lot of food trucks to handle the crowd (estimated at 4,500 last year). I remember going early and not having any issues with lines last year. But, a couple hours later, many of my friends said they had to wait in line for an hour or more, and that many of the trucks had either closed by then or had run out of their most popular fare. Last year, there were about a dozen trucks. I'm not sure of the number this year.
I also went to a food truck festival in Saratoga Springs recently where I waited in line for about 40 minutes for one slider. That was my own fault. If I had realized I would be waiting that long, I would not have put the order in.
A friend and I were talking on Facebook last week about food trucks and, honestly, no item is worth more than a 30 minute wait. She felt that even 15 to 20 minutes was too much.
So, at a food truck festival - where you're trying to attract a lot of people and showcase your food - it's hard to find that balance between an extremely annoyed and a satisfied customer. As I said, I love the idea of the food truck festivals but they're hard to pull off.
I know I read somewhere that a local blogger had tips about how to survive and thrive at a food truck festival (by mainly having multiple people wait in multiple lines and deciding on your priority foods) but I can't seem to find the link at this time.
There is silver lining to the coming gray clouds....
In lieu of the Troy Food Truck Festival, there are a couple other options this weekend including the St. Sophia annual Greek Festival in Albany and the World's Largest Spring Yard Sale in Ballston Spa.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

In honor of Mother's Day - a couple days late - I was thinking of how my mom has helped me with my travels through the years.
For my first international trip to Germany for an exchange program in 9th grade, it was my mother who took me shopping for new clothes for my trip. She also bought me multiple books to read on the plane about some of my favorite heart throbs at the time (Leo DiCaprio and Matt Damon).

(view of the valley in Geislingen an der Steige, Germany where I did my exchange)

It was my mom who bought me my London guide and AAA Europe travel book for my study abroad in England followed by a Eurail pass trip.
It was my mom who I called halfway through my Eurotrip when I was extremely homesick in Berlin and needed to hear a familiar voice. She offered to book a plane ride home early. I think we both knew I wouldn't want to actually come home early, but it was extremely comforting to have the offer.

(in Bath, England - circa. 2004)

It was my mom who, as a belated college graduation gift, paid for my airfare to Egypt/Greece in 2007 and bought me a guide for that two week trip, which I read religiously by my apartment complex's pool the summer before the journey.

It's my mom who I always visit right before a long trip to say goodbye, and my mom who I think of first when buying souvenirs abroad. (I'm still proud of a beautiful amber necklace I bought for her in Barcelona that she wears with most of her outfits for work)

It was my mom who gave me the funds for another flight when I missed a connection to Ireland from England for a wedding.

And it was my mom who helped pay for a cruise my dad and I took to celebrate my 30th bday last year.

My mom has been extremely supportive of my work and play. While she's not really interested in traveling anymore herself, I try to do what I can to help her see the world through my trips, many of which were inspired by my mom's diverse interests.

(my Mom :) )

It's past Mother's Day, but it's always nice to stop and think what our mothers have done for us and to be thankful.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Discount Tickets to Rod Stewart and Santana at Times Union Center

I saw this in my "Promotions" inbox on gmail and thought I'd share.

I'm not a huge fan of either but I'm sure someone out there might find a $17 deal to see both Rod Stewart and Santana attractive.

Here's the link to the local Travelzoo deal.

(from Travelzoo page)

And here's some details:

Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Rod Stewart and Santana bring "The Voice, The Guitar, The Songs Tour" to the Times-Union Center later this month. Tickets are 50% off for this one-night-only concert featuring the rock legends known for their high-energy, hit-packed concerts.
The following seats are available for the concert on Friday, May 23, at 7:30 p.m.: 
  • Upper Bowl (Sections 236-244) ... $17 (reg. $36.50)
  • Lower Bowl (Sections 104-105 & 120-121) ... $72 (reg. $146.50)
The tour unites two musical trailblazers who have helped redefine the sound of popular music for the last five decades through their combined love of rock, soul, world rhythms, funk, jazz and blues.
Book by May 23.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Tulip Peeping Guide and Etiquette

There's no tip-toeing around it - it's Tulip Season in the Capital District.

I've lived in the Albany area for most of my life but really only made going to the tulip gardens near Washington Parks' Moses Statue a tradition in the past several years. In that time, I've noticed some tips I wanted to pass along to those tulip peeping neophytes, or maybe even those experienced tulip connoisseurs, to make your visit a bit more enjoyable for yourself and everyone else.


The most convenient place to park to see the tulips during the week - NOT during the Tulip Festival - is the park road that runs parallel to Madison Avenue near the Moses Statue. With the nice weather, that row fills up quick but during the day/during the week, there's still a lot of park parking nearby.

During Tulip Festival, parking becomes a bit harder. Though not impossible, you definitely have to be patient and persistent, possible circling the same blocks a few times hoping someone has left, or park further out and enjoy the spring weather.

When to go

This depends on what kind of experience you want. I just went over to see the tulips this afternoon, and many of the flowers were not yet blooming. If you want to see them at their peak, then this weekend and early next week should be good.

If you want to enjoy the live music, crafts, food vendors, and people watching - definitely go this weekend for the Tulip Festival.

But, if you want some alone time with the flowers for photos and meditation, you may want to consider going the week prior next year and/or sometime next week.

The Tulips
There are some 75,000 tulips and 150 varieties that can be enjoyed, according to city of Albany officials. And this is completely free.

They can be found throughout Washington Park, but especially near the Moses Statue which is close to Madison Avenue and not far from the Washington Park Lakehouse, where they have the Washington Park Playhouse in the summer.

Especially this time of the season, you'll notice that there are few times during the day when there aren't people admiring the flowers. So, please be considerate of your fellow tulip tourists.

Some tips: If someone is photographing the flowers you want to photograph, wait a few minutes and go to another bed of flowers instead while you wait.
Be mindful of people doing family/engagement/wedding photo shoots (but note that they should be mindful of you, too).
Wear sunscreen/bring water.
Make an afternoon of it by bringing some food and wine.
Get there early for benches, or bring your own chair.

Finally, this may sound a bit obvious, but stop and smell the roses - er, tulips. Photograph them, sure. But use a couple of your other senses, too. One of my favorite things is comparing the smells and textures.

And, if you like what you see, you have the opportunity after the Tulip Festival to acquire some of the bulbs pretty cheaply.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Swiss Burning of the Snowman

Everything you're picturing right now with a snowman burning is completely and utterly.....true.

It's been about 14 months since I left the country - who's counting? - but luckily I have some friends who I can live vicariously through. One of which just got back from Switzerland where he got to witness a tradition I had never heard of: Burning the Snowman.

From what my friend said, and according to some online materials, this is an annual event in which there is a parade that culminates with a sometimes evil-looking snowman burned. This happens in the spring and you can apparently tell what kind of summer it will be by how long it takes for the snowman figure to burn.

So, it's kinda like our Groundhog Day - which I'm sure the Swiss find equally bizarre.

Turkish Culture and Turkish Film Screening in Menands

Now that we're back to our regularly-scheduled travel blog programming, I get to write about one of my favorite countries --Turkey.
I've written or mentioned the country a few times before. Ok, maybe more than a few times. In college, I traveled to the country, straddling the Middle East and Europe, and loved it there. Sure, the men could be a bit crude - but no more so than in other countries around the world, including Italy, Greece and even here in the US.

(Mary's House in Turkey)

I recently recommended visiting the country to a friend who was asking her Facebook followers where their favorite destinations were and where they hoped to go. Turkey, along with Iceland and Yellowstone, top my list. I guess I go for that very different/volcanic/other-worldly vibe.
But the culture there is pretty interesting, too. A couple ancient wonders of the world were there, Mary (Jesus' mother) was born there and you can see her house, the tea is great, the food is decent, the scenery and coastline are breathtaking, and the people are actually very friendly.

For those interested in learning a bit more about Turkey, I recommend visiting our local Turkish Cultural Center. I feel like we're very lucky to have one so close.

And, as it happens, the center is hosting a film screening on May 15.

Here's a bit more info about the movie from a press release:

On Thursday, May 15th at 6:00 PM, the International Center of the Capital Region in collaboration with the Turkish Cultural Center Albany are offering a FREE public screening of the Turkish Film SELAM followed by a reception featuring Turkish cuisine.  The event will take place in the auditorium of the Albany Visitors Center located at 25 Quackenbush Square in Albany with plenty of free parking.
Plot summary of the movie is as follows: This epic story is based on true events that has been in progress for more than 20 years in which a number of young people in love of peace and humanity leave their countries to teach, help and live in countries they have never heard of before. This is the story of people who live for their ideals and other people before themselves, and who leave their families, loves, friends, countries behind. They set on this pet just with the inspiration of the words which said "A couple of eyes are waiting for you here, but thousands of eyes are waiting in faraway lands." They had sacrifice and kindness in their bags, love in their hearts and a smiling Selam (greetings) in their tongues. This is indeed just three examples of the unbelievable real stories experienced by the devoted teachers all around the world.
To make a reservation or for more information, please call the International Center at (518) 708-7608.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Different Kind of Journey

I've spent the last two months on a different kind of journey - fundraising and raising awareness for two causes that have strong connections with my family.
The first is a project that my 22-year-old brother started  and that my dad assists with called the Col. Albert Pawling Memorial Statue Project in Troy which aims to erect a statue of the first mayor of Troy (Albert Pawling) at the corner of Pawling Avenue and Congress Street. My brother, Adam, came up with the idea when he was in high school and he's now a junior at UAlbany. Their goal is to have the statue up by the city's bicentennial in 2016.
The second cause is the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America. My father was diagnosed with Crohn's - a painful intestinal issue which affects your diet and overall lifestyle - when he was in his 40s. The disease worsens with stress and in my dad's final year of teaching he was under a lot of it since he was re-assigned for that year from the high school to the middle school. He was not even able to finish the school year due to the pain and he had two surgeries in his intestines in the months following his retirement. Both surgeries were difficult but he went into ICU for several days after the second one. I still remember getting the call from my mom that I should head up to the hospital *now* because dad's condition was deteriorating. The doctor said he had to throw in the "kitchen sink" to save him, but - two years later - he's still with us.
I primarily raised money for these two organizations through my 3rd Annual Grown Up Egg Hunt in Troy, which was the weekend after Easter.

The event itself, through sponsorships and more than 100 participants, raised nearly $8,000, not including expenses which were minimal due to some very generous people. And I reached out to many of my Facebook friends in the week following the event to supplement the event's earnings.
In total, as of May 6, the Col. Albert Pawling Memorial Statue Project has received $3,600 and the CCFA received nearly $4,700 - the amount I raised for the organization last year as well.
What I have tried to achieve through the Grown Up Egg Hunt is a fun event that also raises awareness of little known charities/groups. Because there are so many out there, I help a cause for two years and then rotate.
In the Egg Hunt's inaugural year, it raised $700 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society - another great cause. That year, I also raised over $3,000 for LLS through other efforts and donated to them the following year as well.
Like so many things, this idea had a very small beginning since I actually was joking about the Grown Up Egg Hunt in a Tweet in 2012. That 140-character micro-blog has turned into an event that attracts a couple hundred people, a dozen volunteers, had the support of 16 sponsors, and about 215 donating businesses. In total, everyone's efforts this year equated into about $8,300 in donations to some very worthy causes.

Now, I need your help once more.
I'm only one person and while I get around, I am not aware of all the great charitable entities in the world or in the Capital District. I am looking for suggestions for a new group to help next year since we've assisted the CCFA for the past two years.
The group must be a recognized 501(c) (3) and preferably something that is little known but has a large impact. It can be international, national, or local.
I've truly appreciated everyone's assistance in the past two months - my friends/volunteers, my boyfriend, my Facebook/social media friends for putting up with my constant charity updates, our sponsors, the myriad of businesses, the more than 50 people who donated to the CCFA website on my behalf and to honor their family/friends who have Crohn's or Colitis, my co-workers for understanding and supporting my work, and especially my family who attended the CCFA walk with me this past rainy Saturday.

I'd like to remain active with the CCFA, just like I'd like to remain active with LLS, but I just don't know if I will have the time/energy to give the proper support to past Grown Up Egg Hunt charities while still assisting and giving awareness to new causes.
There are many worthy organizations out there and I'm just trying to do my part, and think it's wonderful that I have the support of so many.
Thank you.
I look forward to hearing people's recommendations for charities next year and I'm sure the 4th Annual Grown Up Egg Hunt will be an even bigger and better success.