Monthly Archives: October 2010

Mother Daughter Trip Decision

At least I think it is a decision.  We kicked around many, many destinations, and only one met all of our needs–plus one ‘want’ which is and always will be ‘wine’.  We’ve settled on a classic driving-on-windingly-scenic-roads-in-a-convertible tour of the Napa Valley.  It makes sense–we both love wine, we both love being less in a city and more in the country, and Italy is out.  So Napa wins…for now, anyway.

We figure we can fly into San Francisco, stay for a night and a day to see the city (exactly long enough to become annoyed with it), and then drive North for a few days.  The mom wants to do the wine train, which sounds like fun (though is a bit expensive) and likely we’ll do an additional day touring wineries.  Then, depending upon distance and where we’re staying, we’d like to do some light hiking, ideally near some very tall trees.  I’ve not done much research yet, but it seems like this might just be possible.  And if it is–I think we’ve found our winning location!  Stay tuned for excited ‘yay we booked it!’ posts.

And speaking of staying tuned, we’re leaving for the Orlando NCTE convention in just over two weeks.  Am I excited?  You bet your mouse ears I am!  And you, dear reader, should be excited, too.  I’m sure at least one part of the trip will be a horrible wreck, and you get to read about it!  That or I’ll love it there, and become my greatest fear–an adult who wears Disney character clothing.  I shudder at the thought…

 

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Help Me Plan My Next Trip!

I can no longer blindly Google.  I’ve run out of search term combinations.  I’ve tried ‘mother-daughter’ trips, girl getaways, relaxation vacations, family travel, resorts close to airports, top US spa destinations–and, according to my browser history, that was all before breakfast!

I need help.

And I know people read this blog.  I assume those people like to travel.  So–travel people–please help.  Where should my mother and I go on a mother-daughter trip this spring?

Here are the details (you shall soon see why this has proven difficult):

Purpose of Trip–To relax.

Trip Dates–The third week of April (this is non-negotiable), ideally Monday-Friday, but can extend into the weekends just a bit if need be.

What mom doesn’t want–To leave the country, to be massaged, to gamble, or to sit in the sun (and I want to go to Vegas or the Caribbean)

What I don’t want–To spend hours traveling from the airport to wherever we’re going, to be cold or wet, or to have little or nothing to do (and she wants to go to Myrtle Beach)

Places we’ve considered–Sedona (too cold and too far from the airport), Savannah (not enough to do but still at the top of our list), Jackson Hole (too cold in April), The Grand Canyon (same as Sedona, obviously).

Places I’ve researched–Club Med Sandpiper Bay (too expensive), Canyon Ranch Spa (also too expensive), and several all-inclusive resorts (all out of the country, all in the sun).

I thought going on a cruise would be a good idea, and I spent days looking at cruise options.  We finally picked one (we=me, with a bit of mom-input) and then she decided to add the ‘not wanting to leave the country’ clause, which nixed that whole plan (though if anyone out there could write up a convincing rebuttal for her involving why Caribbean islands should not count as ‘leaving the country’–as everything there is created for tourists–that would be great!)  So I spent a great deal of this morning plus most of detention duty researching other options, and I’m literally all over the map.

I need help.  Readers–I know you are out there–please help!  Suggestions are beyond welcome!

Oh and also–my husband and I have four days in May to go somewhere with sort of the same restrictions.  Well, actually the only restriction is that it not take forever to get there.  We’re ok with a mid-length plane ride, but not one that ends with a three hour bus ride to our final destination (sadly, most resorts require this–trust me, I’ve googled!)  See–Vegas really is the best place on earth.  It takes four hours to get to the airport and then ten minutes later you are in the casino with a gin and tonic–unless you are yelled at by a clearly-does-not-know-his-place airport security guard!  But even then, you eventually have that gin and tonic and tickets to Jersey Boys, and all is right with the world.

 

The Importance of Circular Thinking

We went to a wine festival a few miles from our house yesterday, which hardly qualifies as travel and thus is not the point of this post.  However, I mention it because said wine festival taught me a very important lesson–the importance of thinking things through.  I say I think and I plan, and I do think and plan, but often that thinking and planning is very linear–I think outward, always reaching for more, more, more.  This is particularly true when it comes to travel planning (if you doubt me, please refer to the insane trip we took this past summer that was supposed to be a road trip to Montreal and turned out to be a three-country European tour!).  I’m realizing that it is important–and often helpful–to think in circles, as counter intuitive as that may seem.

Thinking in circles requires visiting the same idea several times, which helps you see that idea from several angles, and get more comfortable with it.  But thinking in circles means you have to slow down–after all, you cannot run as quickly in a circle as you can in a straight line.

So yesterday, at the afore mentioned wine festival, we drank a lot of wine (obviously).  And we then wanted to buy a lot of wine (also obviously).  But instead of setting off to collect bottle after bottle immediately following our fifteen-vineyard buffet, we stopped and had lunch.  And discussed.  And weighed the pros and cons of the different wines we wanted to purchase.  By the time we’d finished lunch, we realized we’d gotten what we came for–a taste of a whole bunch of great wine, plus some cheese and chocolate–and so we went home, wineless, with our credit cards untouched.  That was a good decision.

I realized today that I’ve kind of slowed down with the NCTE/Disney Trip planning, and I think that indicated a shift to the same sort of circular thinking.  I’ve gone around and around about which park tickets to buy, for how many days and for how many parks, but I’ve made no decision.  I realized this is because I’m trying to resist the urge to plan outward–so I circled back around to what we wanted to do in the first place, and that helped to make my decision.

I bought our tickets today, and we won’t be overextending ourselves.  We will be going to one park–the magic kingdom–on our first day there, as that was the whole point of booking the flight for the night before (I really just want to ride the teacups and have our picture taken in front of the castle.  It is important to note that I have no idea when I became someone who cared about such things!)  We will also be going to Epcot after the convention on Friday night.  This was what we discussed at the onset, and this is what we shall be doing.  No frantic hopping from park to park for us.  After all, we’re going to the convention–we’re not ‘going to Disney World’.

Because I could not help myself, I added a second day for myself (it was only an extra $47), should I want to go to a park before the pre-convention sessions on the first day.  But I don’t have to go, and I won’t decide if or where I shall visit until that morning.  If the resort pool is pleasant, I’ll hang out there in the morning.  If it’s full of kids in diapers (which I imagine it will be), perhaps I’ll check out Animal Kingdom, as it is close to the resort that hosts the sessions I want to attend that day.  Or maybe I’ll go to Hollywood Studios.  Who knows where I’ll end up–but whatever I do, I’ll have knocked the idea around in my head–in a circle–for a while first.

Down with outward planning!  Hurray for circular thinking!

On Disney

I realize I’ve not really shared our Disney ‘plans’, and that’s because, well, we’re not really sure of them ourselves.  First of all, this next trip is and will always be primarily about the convention.  And that’s how we want it.

For example–my husband has to be there over 24 hours early to begin his meetings, and on the first official day of the convention, his day begins at 8am–the convention itself does not begin sessions until 2:30 in the afternoon.  However, because of this, he is done with his ‘duties’ by noon on Saturday, even though the convention runs through Sunday afternoon.  Which should mean that we could either come home early and get all of our weekend stuff done before the work week begins, or we could have spent an afternoon in a park having fun together.  But we’re not.  Why?  The Middle Level Mosaic, a session that I enjoyed so much last year I’m literally choosing it over The Happiest Place on Earth, goes from 2:30 until around 6pm on Saturday night–and I’m going.  And, hopefully, I’m dragging my husband along with me!

But that does not mean that we have to entirely forsake said Happiest Place–though originally we had planned to do just that.  It seemed to me, at first, that even a brief visit to one of the parks would be disastrous–after all, we’ve all heard about my aversions to lines and crowds.  But then I started to research–ah if only I didn’t ever research, how different my life would be (I recently got rid of my Facebook–perhaps I should go on a Google fast as well!) and, well, the parks kind of look like fun.  I have to admit, I got a little bit kid-like and jump-up-and-down excited about the idea of doing all of the typical Disney things– the teacups and It’s a Small World and The Haunted Mansion.  Additionally, I’ve always always always wanted to go to Epcot.  It seems like my kind of place–a theme park for nerds.

And despite how very exhausted I know we will be from all of the convention-ing, there are some opportunities to work park time into our schedule.  For example, we made Epcot a priority and manged to fit it in.  Fortunately for us, the gods smiled down upon that plan (I think the gods like nerds!)  It turned out that the one night we have free to use the convention special ‘after 4pm’ tickets–Friday night–is also an ‘Extra Magic Hour’ night at Epcot.  So even though we won’t get there until around 5pm, we can stay until midnight.  Which is great.  We’ll be able check out the World Showcase, have dinner (I have reservations at the Biergarten) and then catch the fireworks show, which is supposed to be great.  Additionally, when the park finally does close and we make our exhausted way back to our hotel, we don’t even have to wait for transportation, as the resort we are staying at is right next door!

It is entirely possible that we should stop at that, and be happy we get to go to Epcot.  But circumstances gave us a second opportunity, in the form of flight times.

You see, the only direct flights from our local airport into Orlando take place around dinner time.  My husband has to be at a 7:00 meeting on the first day we arrive–that’s his first duty.  So we couldn’t possibly leave that Wednesday and have him make his meeting…which means we’re leaving the night before, immediately after work.  This also means that we have that entire morning and afternoon to check out another park…or two.

The original plan for that day was to visit the magic kingdom and the magic kingdom only.  We figured we’d be plenty amused by that park from 9am until 5pm, when he will have to leave to get ready for his meeting (though I won’t have to leave!)  But then I talked to a bunch of people and did some research on crowd levels that day (which are insanely low, as it is a random Wednesday in November, when kids are all in school) and now we’re contemplating doing a park hopper day and trying to fit in Animal Kingdom.  My husband really wants to go on the safari ride, and who am I to tell him no?  If not for him and his awesome job, we’d not be going to this convention (and I’d not be going to the exhibit hall where all of the YA books are, or the middle level mosaic, where all the YA authors are).  So now we’re contemplating fitting two parks into that one day.

Clearly I should be stopped.

But I cannot be stopped.  Because, you see, there’s not that much difference between the price of a one day park hopper pass and a two day park hopper pass (can you say ‘snowball effect’?)–I think the difference is something like $40, which in travel terms is mere pennies (we’ve spent more than that on two drinks at the pool in Vegas).  So technically I COULD get a two day pass for myself (even though I’d not be ‘hopping’ on the second day) and spend the morning at Hollywood Studios on Thursday.  I have to be back at the convention center by 2:00 for the pre-convention sessions, but that still gives me at least five hours in Hollywood Studios–and how much time does one person really need?  I read about the single rider lines, and I’ve wanted to go on the Studio Backlot Tour ever since I was a kid when the park opened (and was called MGM) and they aired clips of it on the Disney Channel.  That and that alone is worth the extra $40.

Ahh, those geniuses at the Ministry of Disney World Ticket Pricing.  You’ve got me just where you want me!

I probably should not do this–particularly because I like sleep a lot, and there’s a really cool pool complex at our resort that I want to have at least a half hour to check out at some point during the convention.

To be fair (I say that a lot, don’t I?), I probably will not do this, but it is important to note that I am thinking about it.  Behold the power of Disney–it makes me forget (or, rather, purposefully ignore) all of the lessons I learned in Europe about ‘squeezing too much in’.  But oh well–if I try it, that should at least make for some interesting blog posts.  And that’s why I started traveling in the first place–to have something to write about.  Even if that something is bad, and that writing could better be described as ‘bitching on my keyboard’!

And, no matter what, come 2:00 that Saturday, I will be in line for the most important ‘ride’ of the week–The Middle Level Mosaic.  Have I mentioned how much I love that session?  That and that alone is worth the cost and time associated with the convention.  It is the Studio Backlot Tour of the NCTE Convention!

Man…I’m really a huge nerd…

Message Board Madness

I’ve discovered something about travel message boards–with only one exception, some people on all travel message boards can be really mean.  Now, I’m not saying that all people on message boards are mean–I’d say about 85% of message board people are really nice and helpful.  Hell, I planned most of our last trip with lots of help from the wonderful people at Rick Steves.  But there are some people that just cannot resist the urge to be judgmental jerks just because the internet provides that evil catalyst, anonymity.

However, I did mention that there was one exception, and it is rather amusing.  I’ve encountered mean people on message boards dealing with topics from Thalys trains to Caribbean cruises–but no one has ever been mean to me on the Disney World Message Board.  Everyone there is really, really nice.  Maybe it really IS a magical kingdom!

 

Return of the Nerd-i

I’ve officially been writing this blog for so long that I’m starting to be able to write about second annual trips–in this case, the second year we visited the National Book Festival.  Yes, I’m that much of a nerd.  I’m a National Book Festival groupie.

To be honest–which clearly is the point of everything I write–I was a bit apprehensive about the book fest trip.  Up until the week before I wasn’t even sure if we were going to go.  This was for a number of reasons, but the main one was, well, my apprehension.  It was our first trip anywhere since The Great Europe Trip, and the idea of heading off to a city once again–even though it is my third favorite city in the world–made me a little sick to my stomach.  I have honestly never been so nervous about such a short, run-of-the-mill trip before.  I’m like a dog, beaten by an abusive man who now fears all men.  But instead of dog, I’m a tourist.  And instead of a man, it was Paris.  Ok–I’m nothing like the dog.  But still–it was traumatic.

Fortunately, most everything worked out very well.  We left for D.C. after work on Friday–which is never a good

 

Looking North from our Balcony

 

idea–and it only took us around four hours to make the three hour trip–not bad during Friday rush hour traffic.  We boarded the metro in Maryland with no problems, and the hotel we’d booked on priceline sight-unseen turned out to have a metro stop in the basement–the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel–so all we had to do was take an elevator from the station and we were in the lobby of the hotel.  How great is that?

It was around 8:30 by the time we’d finally arrived, and we decided to cancel our reservations at Jaleo because, well, we were tired and didn’t want to venture out into the city.  While the hotel was convenient in that the metro was in the basement, it was inconvenient in that you needed the metro in the basement, because there is absolutely nothing on that side of the National Mall–not even a Dunkin Donuts!  (note:  I hate Dunkin Donuts, particularly because of the spelling)  So we ended up having a perfectly awful meal in the hotel restaurant–which I do not ever recommend doing–and then retiring to our room.  I should mention that our room did have a fabulous view of both the Washington Monument and the Capitol building from the north facing balcony, which was lovely at night.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny, and started off rather well as I discovered something amazing on this trip–the awesomeness of room service.  There was a little card that you could put on your doorknob to order breakfast at a certain time, and it would be delivered to you like a yummy, coffee scented wake up call.  As my husband snored on Friday night, my slightly tipsy self (we’d had some wine with dinner) filled out the card and slipped it on the doorknob–and at 8:00 sharp the next morning, a man knocked on our door with hot coffee and biscuits and muffins and juice.  It was awesome, and my husband was thrilled to be served breakfast in bed.  He literally woke up, rolled over, sat up, and I placed food on his lap.  He was thrilled–as was I, as usually breakfast at hotels is an annoying affair consisting of getting up, getting showered, heading out, and then returning to the room after dinner so my husband can, ahem, do what he has to do in the ‘room’ (read:  bathroom) after breakfast.  It typically takes at least an hour and a half out of our morning.  I feel the time savings alone more than makes up for the cost–which, I admit, is insane.  But they bring it to you–I’ll pay for that!  We ordered an even more comprehensive breakfast for the next day, also delivered right on time.  It was so substantial that not only did they wheel it in on a little linen covered table, but it held us over until we returned home that night for dinner.

 

Garden at the Smithsonian Castle

 

The book fest was even more enjoyable than last year, as this year we had great weather.  We got there before it even started, after walking through a beautiful garden on the Independence Ave. side of the Smithsonian Castle (at which point, many times, I repeated the phrase ‘screw Europe–it’s pretty AND clean here!’) Because we arrived at the fest so early, we were seated front and center for THE author we came to see, Suzanne Collins of Hunger Games fame.  Her talk was interesting–we learned a lot about her own background and came to understand where the inspiration for her stories comes from–and then headed out to lunch at Mitsam, the very best cafeteria in the whole world, located in the American Indian Museum.  I wrote about Mitsam as part of my REALLY long post on day two of our Thanksgiving Trip, and it did not let us down during this visit, either.  In fact, we got there so early we got great seats with a view of the fountains.

After lunch we visited the Fiction and Mystery tent to hear Ken Follet speak.  Pillars of the Earth is one of my all time favorite books, but it seems that everyone was there to ask him about the recent mini series adaptation.  And by ‘everyone’ I literally mean EVERYONE.  Every single person at the entire festival tried to squeeze under the tent, and I was reminded yet again why I work with children and not adults–when adults do stupid, annoying, self-centered things, I get beyond annoyed.  Because adults should know better.  But yet time after time, adults would enter the crowded tent, shove their way through the hoards of people already standing behind the seats, and place themselves in the middle of an open aisle.  The aisle was open for a reason, moron.  And then the usher security guy would have to go up to yet another person and shoo them out of the open walkway.  I enjoyed Ken Follet’s talk, but was so annoyed by the other people there–and by the fact that I was

 

National Book Festival 2010

 

literally being crushed by said people, even though I was trying to take up as little room as possible–it was a welcome relief to return to the Children’s and Young Adult’s tent to hear one of my other favorite YA authors, M.T. Anderson, speak.  His talk was possibly the most enjoyable of the day; I felt like I was watching not only the guy who wrote one of my all-time favorite YA books–Feed–but a stand up comedian.

All in all, the day was very inspirational, and I came home with lots of ideas of how to write my own book–if and when I ever get around to doing that.  I really need to do that.  I’ve started many–I’ve finished none.

It was hot–very, very hot–as we walked back to the hotel around 3:00, and so we stopped at the hotel bar on our way to our room to enjoy the air conditioning and a glass of wine.  Later, we retired to the pool to cool off before dinner, which was at Fogo De Chao, a place we’d visited on day one of our Thanksgiving trip to D.C. last year.  It was meat-tastic, as usual, though I really still do prefer the cheddar popover-style rolls to anything animal based on the menu (if you can consider ‘men in gaucho pants walking around with meat on sticks’ a menu!)

 


So many people...

 

After an ok night’s rest in two separate beds–we had two doubles instead of a queen or king, so we slept 1950’s-tv-style–I was tired and ready to go home.  But before leaving for the weekend, we ventured out one more time, fortified by the afore mentioned room service breakfast.  The mission–space.

 

Air and Space Museum

 

We arrived at my least favorite Smithsonian right after it opened, and only a few minutes before the morning guided tour began.  Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know–we LOVE guided tours.  This tour was no exception–we learned so much about things we never thought we’d understand–like the physics behind flight, for example.  The tour was led by an insanely knowledgeable ex-fighter pilot who was beyond anything that I could have expected from a tour.  This man knew more about flight than the tour guides at the National Gallery in London knew about art (and that’s A FREAKING LOT, in case you were wondering).  In fact, had we more time, we would have stayed on said tour for the entire, oh, I don’t know, four hours it would have spanned.  But we had to be on our way by early afternoon, so we hung out on the tour for a little under two hours, before abandoning ship to check out a bit more of the museum on our own before our 12:25 Imax Hubble 3D showing.  My husband was all psyched about this show, and I have to admit that I was, well, less than.  But it was amazing–the 3D images in the opening sequence alone caused me to close my eyes, and learning about how galaxies are born–well, that was pretty freaking awesome.
We left the Air and Space Museum around 1:00 to make our way back to the hotel, to the metro, to our cars, back to PA.  We arrived home around 5:00 and sighed as we prepared for the new work week.
Nothing went wrong on this trip.  It was definitely not the best trip we’ve ever taken, but it was also not a disaster.  For some reason (Europe, I’m looking at you) I assumed it would be awful.  It was not.  And I’m glad we went.  I really needed a palate cleansing trip before our NCTE slash Disney trip in November (which is now officially 40 days away!)  I have high hopes for the NCTE adventure, mainly because, well, I loved last year’s convention so very much.  Plus, now that I’ve discovered room service, I’m guaranteed at least one meal per day–which is more than I could say for any day on The Great Europe Trip.  And breakfast is the most important meal of the day, after all.