Tag Archives: Travel

Follow Your NOLA (a love letter to New Orleans in pictures)

Follow Your NOLA

For some, there are places in this world that call to them even if they’ve never been. I’d always thought that was the truest definition of wanderlust, a need to go places we’ve never been. A recent trip to New Orleans changed my perspective. If ever there were a person in this word for whom the tagline Follow Your NOLA applied that would be my youngest daughter. 

From a very young age, maybe about six or seven, she’s been fascinated by New Orleans. One might think that came from tales of my travels, but no. Long before my first visit she’d seek out shows on the History Channel or Discovery that talked about the folklore, food, and stories that cling to this city like so much Spanish Moss. It was actually rather sweet to sit huddled on the sofa and shiver at the tales of The Myrtles Plantation. Frankly, I was nearly as enamored.  

After my first trip to NOLA when she was eight the fascination grew. I think she wore beads and a mask to school for a week. Her room began to take on a distinctly French Quarter vibe and by the time her ninth birthday rolled around it was clear the theme would be… Big Easy. 

 I’ve often wondered over the years if perhaps she was drawn to this city not by wanderlust, but by something deeper within her. In my travels, I’ve become certain that there exist in this world people who are simply old souls.

These people seem to have deeper connections to places, customs, and cultures than most of us do. They needn’t have grown up near or been raised within the places and things they love. They are simply a part of them no matter time or distance. My daughter is an old soul and New Orleans her muse. 

She recently celebrated her first double-digit birthday. How? With a trip to her city. 

Never have I seen such instant love. The child who is usually first to start fussing about long walks, couldn’t sit still. She nearly prowled the streets of the French Quarter. Night fell and she lit up like one of the gas lamps that dot the streets. She savored every spice (even tried alligator) lingered to look at every piece of art, got her cards read and sang Ella Fitzgerald songs on street corners with bands from around the globe. 

This is her city and she is its child. They belong together. Here is a short love letter to New Orleans in pictures that she chose. 

Stay tuned for full articles on food, music, history and the unique culture of New Orleans (penned by me) for A Cork, Fork & Passportand Skimbaco Lifestyle

Laissez les bons temps rouler, mon amis!  

 

Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Williamsburg: cursed (by my own offspring)

Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream with Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom

Racing heartbeat. Rapid breathing. Unrestrained screams of sheer terror. Public mocking from those you gave birth to. It’s all just a day at the park, if you’re me and that park is Busch Gardens Williamsburg during Howl-O-Scream – Cursed.

Some people get totally into Turkey. Others bring the awesome to decking halls (um, lights synced to music and everything). Me? Well, Halloween is my thing.

I own no less than two full, instructional-grade skeletons. You won’t find a single cuddly black cat or smiling jack-o-lantern in my house. I’ve spent decades perfecting the art of scaring small children – even a handful of grown men. People drive from other cities to test their nerve at our doorstep on Samhain.

I do the scaring. Not the other way around… or is it?

I’m not even being ironic with that opening paragraph, people. I screamed. I was mocked. This weekend I suffered the revenge of countless trick-or-treating folk and new family tradition, (a-la-Rosemary’s-baby) was born.

It all started out rather slowly. The park we’d visited in the summer had gone through a creepy makeover. Gone were the Union Jacks that hung in London Square, replaced with posters of Jack The Ripper. Jack-O-Lanterns were strung amongst the trees and some scary spiders lurked. But other than the ghoulishly awesome upgrades, the park remained the same. 

Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Emily rode her favorite flying dragon. We enjoyed some Guinness in Ireland, the big kids waited forever to take on Verbolten. Then, with the sinking of the sun, came an eery sound track and time for the small ones to head back to the hotel with dad. 

I stayed behind with Ryan and Kaytie to check out the scares. Yeah, like some theme park is going to be “terrifying” – pfft!

We waited in line for our turn in, “Root of All Evil,” a greenhouse themed haunted house walk through. The wait was long, but there were vendors along the route peddling refreshments, and trinkets. note: the barbequed scallop skewers – worth the waiting in line. Time with my teen and Marine made the waiting fly by.

Walking into the maze I was keyed up to get new ideas for this year’s festivities – then the wall came alive and growled at me! I screamed like a 4 year old, and it was on. At every twist and turn another something, or someone popped out at me and nearly caused me to pee!

This isn’t your mall parking lot “haunted” attraction people. IT. IS. SCARY. I haven’t involuntarily cursed that much in the presence of mixed company since my days in the Navy. Chased through fog so dense that you can’t see two people ahead of you, actors lurk through the hanging vines emitting noises that are decidedly non-human. Emerging back  into the open air, you might think you were safe… until a guy with the chainsaw chases you!

A CHAINSAW!

At one point the adrenaline coursed so rapidly through me that I picked my 20 year old son – a muscular, solid US Marine- up off his feet and tossed him at .. whatever the hell that was that just tried to grab me!

Weak, shaken and down right terrified I turned to my kids for succor. Wrong answer. The two of them where breathless with hysterical laughter.. at me.. THEIR MOTHER!!

At least the small crowd that gathered to point and laugh, having been near me in the maze, weren’t related.

Busch Gardens Howl o scream

Naturally this meant we had to head over to, the “Catacombs” for more. But first, we had to get there. Through Canada where it seems there was some sort of biological disaster. I honestly don’t know because I was hiding behind my son – who pointed me out to nearly every actor roaming the scene all too happy to take part in a game of “Scare the Old Lady.”

Inside the Catacombs it was so bad that I needed to throw my son again – since he obviously wasn’t going to save me. It didn’t help that  his sister sold me out too. I turned around at one point to comfort her only to come nose to bone with a guy in the BEST skeleton makeup I’ve ever seen. Though that didn’t register as I tried to climb UP the wall.

Apparently I’m the best attraction at the park – or at least that’s what the guy ahead of us felt compelled to share.

So traumatized was I that while heading out of the park I felt a soft brush on my arm and took off with a hop. I thought something had come out of the trees after me. Turns out it was only the water bottle clipped to my backpack. Yes, the kids will be telling that story for years to come. 

There is only ONE weekend left in this year’s Howl-o-Scream event. 

When:  October 24-26th 2014 (but is an annual attraction)

Tickets: $75 (ages 10 and up) $65 (ages 3-9)

Parking: $15

Those tickets are pricy, so I did some math for ya. Here in Maryland Bennett’s Curse (a haunted walk through attraction) will set you back $30. Howl-o-Scream features SIX of these type of attractions, PLUS the full fun of the park before the sun goes down, so you do really get your money’s worth.

Not into scaring yourself (seriously, I had nightmares) for fun? Then give it a couple of weeks. On select days November 21st  through December 31st Busch Gardens turns on the charm for Christmas Town.  Sip hot cocoa, stroll through “Europe” enjoying seasonal traditions from all over,  and take in the lovely lights. You’ll love it as much as we do… but dress warm. We learned our lesson on that one last year when we almost became part of Frosty’s family!

This post was made possible in part by my participation in the Busch Gardens® Williamsburg Ambassador program. I paid for my oldest son’s ticket, though the rest of family were provided park passes in order to experience the park and share with my readers.  All other items, including, games on the mid-way, feeding the birds, food and drink (nothing like Guinness on tap), I paid for. My opinions and those of my family are 100% our own – because YOU deserve nothing less!

Gone Glamping

Primitive.  That’s the term that is used to describe the camping experiences of my youth. Dad sparking the fire with flint. Mom cooking over the open flames. Not an outlet in site – did they not understand the urgent necessity of blow drying?  Where was glamping when I needed it?

I harbor no delusions, camping in the traditional sense is not for me. Though I do love to be out in nature, sleeping on the ground just doesn’t appeal to me all that much. Give me a quality bed, a respectable thread count and an actual bathroom and I’m a happy non-camper.

When the trend of glamping (glamorous camping) started to pop up, I knew it was for me.  A romantic “Laurence of Arabia” style tent, real furniture and a proper powder room… what’s not to love?

Firelight Camps Glamping

All that and more can be found at Firelight Camps in Ithica, New York.  Reserve one of their six safari-style tents equipped with hardwood floors, a private balcony, a king or queen size bed, and hotel-quality linens, and you’ll know we aren’t in a Coleman anymore.

Set up on the grounds of the iconic La Tourelle Hotel, this gorgeous “tent city” is within hiking distance of the Finger Lake Trail system and Buttermilk Falls State Park.  Head out on a trek to a picturesque waterfall, then come back to relax in the spa. Top it all of with a glass of the famed local vintage and indulge in gourmet s’mores.

Firelight Camps Gourmet Glamping

Charging stations, a bathhouse that includes a sauna, gorgeous linens and lovely furnishing all make for a happy Glamper!

Firelight Camps also strive to maintain lodging with a lighter carbon footprint and elevating Eco-Tourism to a luxury level.

© Allison Usavage

The Details

Address: 1150 New York 96B, Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: (406) 852-2476

Website: www.firelightcamps.com

Rates: Start at $170 nightly for a weekday reservation and range up to $230 nighty for weekends.

Reservations: Are open for through November 2, 2014 and will be opened up again in May 2015. (it gets a bit cold to camp after NovemBUR in upstate New York)

Notes: Though this experience is geared toward the grownup set (ah, kid-free travel) they are also a family-friendly property. Dogs are welcome as well. 

 

 

Finding Cheap Flights … YOU can do it!

Tips and Tricks for Finding Cheap Flights

Getting there can be half the adventure, it can also eat up more than half your travel budget and much of your sanity. Between having to pay for your bags,  seemingly endless fees, hours searching, and aggregate sites that, “search hundreds of fares all at once,” and open about that many windows while they’re at it – it’s a wonder we don’t all just say on the ground.  Here are some tips to help you get those cheap flights, easy and pain-free.

Wait Till Tuesday (had to toss the 80’s pop reference in there)

Several studies have pinpointed Tuesday (after 3pm eastern) as the sweet spot for saving on flights. Why?

Airlines tend to launch sales late on Monday. When the competition gets wind of it, they often drop prices to stay competitive. Loading the savings into their systems takes a bit of time, but by about 3pm on Tuesday everyone is on the same page. Often you can find fares that are even a tad cheaper than that first advertized offer.

The Early Bird Gets The Cheap Ticket

Fly out early in the morning. You’ll save enough money to buy some Visine for sure. Maybe even enough for a pick-me-up facial when you get where you’re going.

Happy Hump Day

Wednesday is marks more than the halfway point in the work week, it is also the cheapest day of the week to hop on a plane.

Listen to the Birds

Following in the footsteps of everyone from Lady Gaga to the Pope, nearly every airline that flies is on Twitter. Follow the carriers you’re hoping to hop a ride with. You might find a flash sale. 

Like I did with Frontier

Frontier
Pick Up The Phone!

I’m as guilty as any text-loving-send-me-an-email-I-can-find-it-online modern day human who would rather avoid a conversation via phone.

Real. Live. Human interaction – gads!

The thing is, actually talking to that real person can both save you money and time. Calling up the fine folks at Aer Lingus to book our tickets to Dublin and London was not only painless, but perfectly pleasant. The person on the other end of the line was able to quickly search days, times, lengths of layover, and more. They helped me find an even better itinerary at almost $650 less than I’d been able to find on my own. Now THAT is a conversation starter!