Storytelling Through Pictures

There are some places we visit that inspire such awe as to rob us of words. (Which can complicate things if you happen to write blog, or hope to send an email to your mother who awaits word of your adventures like an Elizabethan spinster. ) Were it not for storytelling through pictures, many a story would be lost.

I started traveling, in earnest, in my late teens. From the tiny seaside town in Southern Spain that served as home, we’d take weekend jaunts into new worlds. Phoenician archaeological sites in Segóbriga, mysterious labyrinthine passageways of Morocco, and luminous Greek beaches — sadly, I’ve few pictures to tell the stories of these places that changed my world.

Back-in-the-day the only photographic tool I could operate was a disposable camera. Sure it was the, “High Tech” option of the era, but I still managed to cut people’s heads off, miss shots, and miniaturize epic works of art through my inability to grasp the concept of scale. Though I did capture blurred visions of what may or may not have been ghosts. At least that’s what I’m going with, it wasn’t just a bug flying through the shot – Marc!

As I’ve trod the winding path of this journey called life, I’ve lost so many of the stories from those early days — simply because I couldn’t take a decent picture, or was too lazy to go get them developed.  Then came the smart phone, and the DSLR, tools that can make storytellers of us all.

Truth be told, I’m still not the best shutterbug. The stories are getting better though. I have a DSLR, but frankly I’m still rather confounded by it. Having a phone with a good camera feature has made all the difference.

I recently moved from iOS and a trusty -if outdated- iPhone4 to the Samsung Galaxy Note4. The differences between iOS and Android have been rather like being abandoned a foreign country without speaking the language.  (I’m slowly learning to converse with the natives.)

My Rosetta Stone moment came with a visit to the new Verizon  Destination store in Boston as part of my participation in the #VZBoston event. Here the Mediums of Modern Technology help  we everyday folk to see through the fog and communicate with the devices that inhabit our daily lives. 

Verizon Destination Store of Boston

The store is packed with products that make our lives better; WiFi-powered “canary” air quality monitors, connected home devices that allow you to adjust your thermostat, turn on/off lights, even view live video of your home – remotely.  Here is the place to test out those electronic fitness devices you’ve been on the fence about,  pilot a drone,  snap a Boston-Themed selfie, or print your a skin for your phone, tablet or laptop. Better than all of this though, is there are actual experts there to show us how to use all this mind-blowing stuff.  Which brings me back to stories and pictures.

Timing couldn’t have been better for my visit to Boston’s Back Bay and this treasure trove of inspiration a on Boylston Street. I’d be heading to Ireland the following week and could use some expert help with using my phone to snap photos. No heads would roll in these photos. 

What I Learned…

Download the Dropbox to your phone and set it for camera uploads. Note: This can eat up your data. I have mine set to upload only when attached to WiFi.

The Galaxy Note® 4 has a wide-angle, 3.7MP front-facing camera so you can capture crisper selfies. Photograph anything else, the Galaxy Note 4 comes equipped with a 16MP rear camera with built-in Optical Image Stabilization. That means I can zoom and stabilize at the same time, so no more miniaturized works of art or blurred “spirits” of questionable tangibility.  

There are several photography settings on my phone, and most “updated” phones that  allow for focal changes, capturing panoramic and action shots, and best of all (on my phone) correcting things like blemishes, under-eye circles, and wrinkles that resemble the Grand Canyon – YEAH for “Beauty Face!”

Taking photos with a phone – as opposed to a full-sized camera like a DSLR – allows you to flexibility and more spontaneous shots.   Laying on the moss in a cemetery to shoot up at a historic Celtic High Cross – so much easier with a phone.

Droim Chliabh - A Celtic High Cross remains of the monastery founded by Saint Colmiclle  between 900 and  1200 in Drumcliff, County Sligo, Ireland.
Droim Chliabh – A Celtic High Cross remains of the monastery founded by Saint Colmiclle between 900 and 1200 in Drumcliff, County Sligo, Ireland.

Social sharing is storytelling, one picture at time. And, much easier from a phone!

The result of the advice I got in Boston? So. Many. Stories.

The old reflected in the new. Copley Plaza, Boston
The old reflected in the new. Copley Plaza, Boston
Fore Ireland Kirk at For Abbey
Fore Ireland Kirk at For Abbey
Doors of Dublin, Ireland
Doors of Dublin, Ireland
The Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland
The Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland
Acient Archway at Fore Abbey, Fore, County Westmeath, Ireland
Ancient Archway at Fore Abbey, Fore, County Westmeath, Ireland
Celtic Crosses in the Kirk Yard of the Church at Fore, County Westmeath, Ireland
Celtic Crosses in the Kirk Yard of the Church at Fore, County Westmeath, Ireland


Disclosure: Opinions expressed are entirely my own, because honesty is always my policy. I have relationship with Verizon Wireless as part of the #VZWBuzz Social Media Team . I was hosted as a member of the team for my visit to Boston and the opening of the Verizon Destination Store there. I have not been asked to, nor required to provide a positive opinion. No monetary compensation was revived for either the visit or this article.









Checking Into Wellness: New Trends in Hotel Amenities

Wellness The New Hotel Amenity -- Mokara Spa Omni Nashville
Mokara Spa – Wellness at Omni Nashville Hotel

Who doesn’t love to indulge when traveling? After all, food is the universal language, right?  Sharing a meal can erase nearly  all barriers. Sadly, it can also erase much of the hard work you’ve done in the gym.  It seems hotels are catching on to our desire to indulge while traveling without straying too far off our path to wellness.

In a recent survey commissioned by Omni Hotels, seven in ten respondents admited to having  gained weight while traveling – even,  when making extra effort to maintain healthy dietary habits while away. According to a similar survey previously commissioned, about 26 percent of respondents wished their hotel would help by partnering with nearby yoga studios or fitness centers.

Slowly, but surely, hotels are making strides to bring wellness amenities to their guests. Starwood hotels now  offer New Balance® shoes and clothing for you to use during your stay at the reasonably rate of just $5.00 a day. Known for going that extra mile, Four Seasons properties feature some truly unique,  “whole-body” wellness programs. Fore example; Four Seasons Westlake Village boasts registered dietitians, exercise physiologists, and mouthwatering eats from the  Wellness Kitchen.

Omni’s Nashville Hotel recently announced  its Mokara Wellness program. Downtown Nashville’s only full-service spa is providing complimentary personal training and group fitness classes. Guests can participate in everything from low-impact exercises and high-intensity workouts to yoga and aerobics. A rejuvenating selections of healthy food items is also available from its spa menus.

Nashville joins several other Omni hotel properties that offer an array of wellness services.  Packing a healthy outlook – and your yoga pants – can go a long way towards keeping you on a path to wellness while you explore new roads.

That said, I still want my pillow chocolate, thank-you-very-much!

Taking the Pain out of International Flights

Someone once said that getting there was half the fun. Obviously whoever said that didn’t spend much time stuck in airports or squeezed into economy seating on international flights. I, on the other hand, have. Making the most of your trip starts with taking the pain out of international flights.

 Tips for taking the pain out of international travel from CNOW

That Stale Sandwich Costs HOW Much?

Unless you can subsist on twelve pretzels and a miniaturized bottle of water, you’re going to need a little nosh before you board that long flight. Though some airports are getting better when it comes to eateries -notably a small extension of iconic Jerry Remy’s in concourse “C” at Boston’s Logan, where you can grab pub grub worthy of Bean Town and even passably good Chowdah –   most still subscribe to the old “standards” of bland, stale, and over priced fare.

If you’re looking at a long layover the better bet is often an airline club lounge.  These airport oases feature a veritable cornucopia of quality bites, comfortable seating, charging stations, and even grownup libations. On a recent flight with Aer Lingus I was invited to visit their lounge. Though it was a bit cumbersome to get to, once there the chef-prepared food, self-serve cocktail station, WiFi, and even take-away snacks were well worth the trek.

Not a member of the elite circle for the carrier you are flying with? No worries, several airlines offer one-day passes for purchase when traveling with them or on partner carriers.  With many in the $30-$50 range, they can easily pay for themselves after a refuel and a drink or two.  

Get Me OUT of Here!

One of my favorite tips for getting the best price on international flights, is to book them with a long layover. The added bonus here is you get a mini-trip out of it  – if you plan things properly.  Plus you get to escape the airport and stretch those gams, not to mention it’s great for staving off cabin fever in kids and adults alike.

Some of our best trips have been long layovers!

Turn a layover into a mini trip

I Was Promised There Would Be WiFi…

Nothing is quite as frustrating as hitting cruising altitude only to find out that the WiFi you were so stoked about is spotty, at best. Don’t physics play a role here?? I mean you’re closer to the damn satellite so shouldn’t the WiFi work?! Yeah, not always. 

As any good Scout will advise you… always be prepared.  Not just for the WiFi letdown, but for less than attractive on-board entertainment options like; $5 headsets that ONLY work on the two-pronged plane outlets, nonfunctional video screens, and… Boyhood (I’ll never get those twelve years back) 

My advice? Load up that playlist, download some flicks you WANT to watch (important not to confuse this with streaming – no WiFi = NO streaming,) grab a good old fashion page turner. Last, but not least, take along GOOD headphones. Nobody wants to hear the the fussy baby in the middle of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock soliloquies. Nobody!

I’ve become enamored of  BackBeat Fit wireless headphones by Plantronics – sent to me by Verizon Wireless for a test drive.  I’d never have expected that going wireless would make such a difference.  No more tangles (or cords stuck in the hairbrush in my purse.) The sound is on par with over-ear headphones like Beats, without messing the do or making you a target for a snatch and grab.

The Cold Shoulder

Let’s talk travel pillows. Call me picky, but there is no way I’m resting my head on the multi-user flatbread that passes for an airline pillow. That said, I’m not so keen on lugging a bulky travel pillow around the globe either.

The solution? An inflatable neck pillow. There are several on the market. Some in the classic “U” shape, others with a more ergonomic design like the Bucky Gusto.  REI carries a number of options you can test before buying.

Ugh, I’m So Bloated!

Okay, this may border on the wrong side of “TMI” but I tend to swell up like a tick during long flights. Not only can this be unsightly and uncomfortable, it can also be unhealthy.  For years I’d tried to stave off the bloat with extra hydration and moving about the cabin as often as I could. This can present issues on two fronts if you hit turbulence.  It isn’t fun to be over hydrated and stuck in your seat.

Find yourself a good – even cute – pair of compression socks and  maybe cut back on the water a bit. You may still swell a bit but you’re not going to have to grin and hold it.

Sweet Dreams, Baby

 If there is one universal truth to all air travel it is that the best fight is one you can sleep through.  As I often travel with kids in tow, this isn’t always possible. Neither is it an option if you can’t seem to nod off. Popping an Ambien at nine in the morning is often even less practical. This leaves us to turn to more homeopathic avenues – which are likely better for us anyway. 

Valerian has long been used to help ease the path to dreamland and has several application options as an essential oil. Some other options are lavender, and camomile. On the less holistic side there are a plethora of sleep aid products out there that contain active ingredients like diphenhydramine – which incidentally also helps with motion sickness and is an antihistamine that may help ease symptoms of allergies.*

I hope these few tips will have you enjoying every leg of your next adventure. Have tips of your own? I’d love to hear them!

Virgin Atlantic JFK Clubhouse Spa
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Spa at JFK (photo credit: Virgin Atlantic Airlines)



* please be sure to check with your doctor before taking anything to help aid in sleep.

Disclosure: Technology item(s) mentioned were sent to me for review, no monetary compensation was provided. Opinions expressed are entirely my own, because honesty is always my policy. I have relationship with Verizon Wireless as part of the #VZWBuzz Social Media Team, but have not been asked to, nor required to provide a positive opinion. 







Top Tips For Visiting Sesame Place (a guest post)

Top Tips for Visiting Sesame Place in Langhorne, PAOne of the things I love most about travel blogging, and writing, is connecting with people who share my passions; food, travel, giving back, and helping others make the best off all those things.

When one of those people does me the honor of agreeing to share their insights here on my blog… hello, Awesome! Today I’m thrilled to welcome Shobha George, author of the brilliantly written, muse worthy blog, Just Go Places.  Sit back, relax, and take notes as Shobah shares her Sesame Place tips. 

If you have a toddler then you know all about Elmo.  Not that there is much to know – just that Elmo loves you.  And, he will tell you repeatedly that he loves you. 
I have had the dubious pleasure of raising two Elmo addicts myself.  Luckily they are now recovering from their love of Elmo and his theme park, Sesame Place (although I still have flashbacks).  
My parents live near Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.  Every summer when my children were younger, we would spend a large chunk of our summer at Sesame Place.  My children LOVED Sesame Place. I enjoyed making them happy (helped feed my martyr mother complex).
Here are my top tips for surviving Sesame Place.
  1. Get there early when the park opens at 10 AM.  Otherwise the line to get into the park gets really long.  Plus you can keep your car closer to the park entrance without paying for the VIP parking.  Regular parking is expensive enough and not usually included in your theme park ticket itself. 
  2. In the morning, head to the right side for the amusement park rides such as the tea cups and flying rides. When it gets hot later in the day, you’ll want to be on the water rides.
  3. For an under-5 theme park, Sesame Place does not have a lot of shade.  I would suggest you go to the beach area and get yourself a beach umbrella and set yourself up for the afternoon.  Bring buckets and spades for the kids to play.  The beach is also conveniently located in the middle of the water area, right next to Ernie’s Waterworks (the sprinklers) and the lazy river.
  4. Sesame Place gets really crowded in the summer.  The Philadelphia summer camps visit en masse to this park.  If you can, I would go in the morning, get your hand stamped so that you can leave around lunchtime and then visit again in the late afternoon when the crowds have dissipated and the sun’s intensity has lessened.
  5. The evenings are great at Sesame Place.  In the summer, it’s still pretty warm in Pennsylvania in the evenings.  You will definitely be able to enjoy the water park area but without the crowds.
  6. The Sesame Place parades are really fun! The participants are really enthusiastic and seeing the Sesame Street characters is a real treat for young children.  I will never forget my daughter’s face when Elmo shook her hand.  She had such a look of adoration which I doubt I will see again unless I got her Taylor Swift tickets.  Unfortunately, the Taylor Swift tickets in London are going for £350 (about $525) a ticket so that’s not going to happen.
Top Tips for Visitng Sesame Place - a Guest Post from Just Go Places
Any children over the age of 5 will find Sesame Place a bit tame.  I personally think Hershey Park is a better theme park because it is larger and cheaper.  Of course, though, you don’t get the Sesame Street characters.  
I’m going to start my second round of Sesame Place visits this summer because my toddler niece has started her Elmo obsession.  My kids and I can step in occasionally to give my brother and his wife a break.  After all, that’s what families are for.  That and having a good chuckle as I drop an overtired, overexcited toddler off at home as I drive away.
Shobha blogs at about family travel. Be sure to stop by and say, “Hi.”

Trying on The New Glass Slipper: Cinderella Movie Review

Cinderella Movie Romantic Secret GardenI like my espresso with lemon peel, my books – paper, and my Disney princesses animated. Call me old school, a traditionalist, or just plain old… I know what I like, and how I like it. Or, I did.

Being the diehard fan of classic Disney, Maleficent fell a bit short for me and I wasn’t in any rush to pay fifteen dollars to see Cinderella. Even my daughters weren’t particularly piqued by the previews. Though the teen was enamored by the elusive {s in out-of-stock-everywhere and going for a 300% markup on eBay} Cinderella themed line of cosmetics at MAC. 

Then a “Royal” invite from Disney hit my inbox and all that sticking to ideals stuff few out the window. What girl can resist a wax sealed invitation to the the ball – even a digital one? Not me. Or my daughters. So we pulled out the chest of party dress and headed out to a private screening of Cinderella.

Cinderella 2015 The Magic of Disney Returns

There was Footman, The glass slipper, even a royal Blue Carpet rolled out for the occasion.  All were pale in comparison to the story that unfolded on the screen.

We. Loved. It.

The expected magic of a Disney film comes to life in a story both familiar and new, with gorgeous sets and stunning costuming. Ella’s happy world, filled family, love and farmyard friends, comes to a tear jerking end when her mother takes ill.  Before her mother slips away she shares a secret with her daughter – one that really resonated with the mom in me.

“Have courage and be kind.”

Ella lives by these words, through the heartbreak of her father’s death and the trials of life to come with her Wicked Stepmother (portrayed to skin-crawling perfection by the indomitable Cate Blanchett – I really loathed her) and gaudy, obnoxious… hilarious, Stepsisters. She continues to be kind, have courage in the face of hardship, and believe in magic – as evidenced by her relationship with the house mice.


I can’t tell you how thrilled I was that Gus {Gus Gus} was still in the story. He was always my favorite! Sure they turned Jacques into Jaquelin, but even that worked to tie in the theme of a courageous and kind female character.  I missed Lucifer having a bigger role, but he was there too. Lucifie!

My girls and I laughed, and cried. We swooned over the handsome prince, cheered for the triumph of kindness over cruelty, fell in love with the wise King. There wasn’t a thing I could find to dislike – and believe me, I tried.  Nonso Anozie as The Captain was my absolute favorite. He was gallant, funny, and gave a performance that even eclipsed that of the amazing Helena Bonham Carter. {who can do no wrong, in my book}

Not one to bide with hyperbole – at least when it comes to movies… excuses for not working out, well that’s a different story – give Cinderella a full four pumpkins and an additional sprinkle of fairy dust for the stunning costuming. Do not wait for this one to come out on DVD, it must be seen in on the big screen to be fully appreciated.

Trust me, it’s well worth the $15 ticket and $20 small diet coke.

Some Princesses are tougher

 Disclosure: My family and I were invited guests of Disney for a private screening of the film as well as an event. I received no compensation for this review and all opinions are entirely my own – because you deserve nothing less!

I have four kids and an opinion.