Friday, August 22, 2008

Flying through Fay

It's amazing how fast the weather changes.

Yesterday morning, I woke up to a beautiful morning in Maryland. It was in the low 80's and breezy as my family and I made our way up to BWI airport for a flight to Florida. We were flying to Orlando and Southwest only flies direct to Orlando out of BWI. Even though it is an hour drive for us up to Baltimore, the Southwest experience is far worth the minor inconvenience of the long drive. What's so special about Southwest? Southwest is the ONLY airline still offering great rates and ON TIME flights... even during the most delayed, most expensive time in air travel. All of the major carriers are now charging you $15 for your first checked bag... NOT Southwest! You get two free bags and you only pay $25 for a third!

Gone are the days of beverage service from airlines such as United and US Air... now, even a bottle of water aboard a US AIR flight will cost you two bucks. Southwest continues to offer FREE drinks, a 100 cal pack of crackers AND peanuts. Now, if she only had TVs at every seat... I would say that I like SW better than my Jet Blue. (Note... Jet Blue still offers free first bag, drinks, and yummy snacks; but their ticket prices are far more expensive than they used to be.) Oh, well... there is still nothing like watching a marathon of What Not to Wear or Keeping Up with the Kardashians while flying across country. That is just hard to beat.

We got through security and checked in at the gate and found that they were expecting an on-time departure. We were surprised... not because of the current issues with air travel, but because Hurricane Fay had just blown up through Cuba and was sitting right above central Florida. Nice. I have to say... I really do not mind flying anymore, but put my kid on a flight and tell me that I will be "OK" flying through a Hurricane? Well, let's just say that I might not have minded a cancellation.

We boarded on time... we took off on time. About half way through the flight (and after the FREE diet soda, peanuts and 100 cal pak), Eva and I were comfortably watching an episode of Mickey Mouse Club on my video IPOD when the Captain told us that he was turning on the seat belt sign for safety. He mentioned that there would be a bit of turbulence as we made our way south through the Carolinas and Georgia and into Florida. So, we buckled up... I said the Our Father a few times and settled back in to sing Mickey's hot dog song. Bump... Bump. It's fine... I took a deep breath. Bump. Lori, do not look anxious or you will scare the child. (Its weird when you talk to yourself. I have to say its weirder to talk to yourself and write it in a blog.)

We started to descend and the bumps got a little better but the plane kept being tossed from side to side. Our Father... I could see the ground and then the air... Who art in heaven... Pounding rain... Hallowed be thy name... landing. The entire airplane of people applauded secretly finished our silent prayers.

We just flew from perfectly beautiful weather to Florida in the middle of a hurricane. It's amazing how fast the weather changes.

Travel On.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

12 Hours In..

I recently started to do "one day" itineraries for some of the world's most popular places for I thought you guys would enjoy few... to rant at me about. Let the arguments begin...

It is all about art in this one-day itinerary in Barcelona, Spain...

(1) Architecture… Antoni Gaudi
Barcelona has some of the most beautiful architecture in Europe. You simply cannot say that you have truly experienced Barcelona without standing in front of one of Antoni Gaudi’s creations.

Gaudi, born in Reus, Spain in 1852 studied at the Escola Superior d’Arquitectura in Barcelona and designed his first major commission for the Casa Vincens using a Gothic Revival style that set a precedent for his future work. Gaudi’s characteristically warped form of Gothic architecture drew admiration from other avant-garde artists.

To experience his best work, head over to La Sagrada Familia (CHURCH OF LA SAGRADA FAMILIA, C. MALLORCA, 401, 08013 BARCELONA). This is simply one of the most amazing structures in all of Spain and it should not be missed. Expect construction though…this building has been under construction since 1882 and some say it will never be completed. (Accessible by Metro – Sagrada Famila stops on the Blue and Purple lines) To me it looks like a sand castle that was crated by dribbling sand. The structure seems to bend in places. Amazing.

Allow 2.5 hours in your schedule to explore this amazing structure.

(2) Picasso Museum… said to be the best museum in the world!

Pablo Picasso grew up and went to school in Barcelona before leaving for Paris in 1904. He has strong ties to the city and created this museum for his home city. It is here where over 3800 works make up the only permanent collection of Picasso’s in the world. The museum allows you to explore his works in chronological order from the famed Man in a Beret to the beautiful Las Meninas. Again, it is a must in Barcelona.

Here are my top 10 must-see pieces in the museum…
(1) Man in a Beret, 1995
(2) Portrait, 1896
(3) The Embrace, 1900
(4) Still Life, 1901
(5) End of the Number, 1901
(6) Roofs of Barcelona, 1903
(7) The Madman, 1904
(8) The pigeons, 1957
(9) La Meninas, 1957
(10) Seated Man, 1969

Allow 3 hours for this museum.

(3) The art of dining…
The region of Catalonia has a strong culinary reputation. It’s proximity to the Mediterranean will have you tasting olive oil, garlic and seeing plenty of seafood dishes on the menus of Barcelona. Lunch is the main dining attraction in Spain and it is an event that takes place daily from 2-4pm. Typical dishes such as paella, botifarra arb mongetes (stew of pork sausage and white beans), and tapas can be found everywhere. For the best of all worlds, try Escriba on Ronda Litoral Mar. This restaurant is sea-front and has excellent catalan dishes and flavorful sangria. This is a great choice for sampling the flavors of the city. Be sure to call for a reservation before your trip to secure a table outside by the beach.

Allow 2.5 hours for this dining extravaganza.

(4) The art of shopping… La Ramblas
La Ramlas is a series of short streets that make up the shopping district known as Las Ramblas. This is the place where you will stroll through shops, smell the scents of fresh cut flowers and enjoy the street performers. Traveler be warned though… this is tourist central and in prime seasons this place will be flooded with people and pickpockets!

Now, what does this have to do with Art? La Ramblas has a hidden Miro! No, not a hidden Mickey! Can you find it? It is an original mosaic by the famous painter Joan Miro and it is right in the center of La Ramblas! Let me know if you find it. If you do not see it... you need to really think about laying off the sangria.

Allow 2.5 hours for browsing the shops

(5) Barrio Gotico… The art of doing nothing
The Barrio Gotico is the Gothic quarter of the city and the oldest part of Barcelona. This area is only steps away from La Ramblas and is lined with wonderful cafés where you can sip a beautiful Spanish wine and people watch until the clock strikes. There is no better way to end your day than with a glass of wine people on a warm Spanish night.

Allow 1.5 hours for exploring and relaxing

Do you have a favorite spot in Barcelona that I missed? Let me know!!

Travel On...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Unexpected Travels

Hi all...

This weekend was supposed to be a relaxing one... at home with Eva. With my travel schedule, it is really important to schedule "at home" weekends alone with the family. Peter went out of town to St Louis this weekend... so, I made plans to have a relaxing weekend at home with my girl.

Yesterday, I received a call from my mom at 8am. Not only did my Dad suffer a heart attack earlier this week.. she was calling to let me know that my 97 year old grandmother suffered a stoke and was not doing well. As soon as I hung up the phone, I went right onto and booked two roundtrip tickets to Tampa with a rental car. Not only was I able to get a flight for that afternoon... I got it for a great price. Lastminute is totally worth it if you need something, well... Last minute.

So, two hours after the call... Eva and I made our way to Dulles airport to make a flight to Charlotte, NC for our later connection to Tampa. We had a near perfect experience overall. No cancellations, everything was on time... we were even upgraded to first class on our second leg! A wonderful thing as a single parent traveling with a 2 and half year old! (The seat is big... but a free cocktail was exactly what the doctor ordered!)

We made it into Tampa without a problem and jumped into our rental car from AVIS. We rolled into the ICU at Winter Haven Hosptial at 10pm... exactly 12 hours from when we loaded into my SUV that morning heading for the airport. Ahh... when the magic of internet booking and air travel work... its just a great thing.

We were able to see my Nana last night and she was very relieved to see us walk into her little area of the ICU. We stayed for a bit and then went back to my mom's house for the night.

This morning we bounced back and forth between my Dad and my grandma. I was even ablwe to help my mom clean her house, food shopped and made a yummy dinner for us. Again, not what I had in mind for this weekend... but, it is great to be here for all of them.

Anyway, I just wanted to send an update so that you all knew that I was not slacking on the blog.

Be good all and keep traveling... Summer is almost over dammit.

BTW - Set the TIVO... The Hills is back on MTV on August 16th. Who is more annoying... Heidi or Lo? Yeah, its a hard one.