Oklahoma Road Trip – March 2021

After of a full year of COVID life, we have decided to embrace the concept of road tripping. Our20210317_140941.jpg most recent road trip adventure during our spring break took us to Oklahoma with stops in Waco, Texas; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Boise City, Oklahoma; and Amarillo, Texas. It was amazing to be on the road, and we had a great time at our stops.

Waco, Texas

When we arrived in Waco, Texas, we took a nice evening walk along the Brazos river on Waco’s riverfront. Right near the Waco Suspension Bridge, we visited the Veteran’s Memorial. We also got our first nitrogen ice cream at Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream. They also had keto (low-carb) options.

The next day, we stumbled on a wonderful farmers market on our way to the Magnolia Silos, where we could enjoy some delicious locally grown foods. We also got coffees at Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits. The Magnolia Silos was far more of an extensive area than I expected. There are many shops, areas for family fun, and places to eat, including lots of food trucks. One can definitely spend multiple hours there. However, expecting to get into the bakery is wishful thinking. The line was ridiculous. 

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If you are interested in a bit of true crime history or have seen the most recent “Waco” miniseries, there is a memorial just 20 minutes outside of Waco, where the former Davidian compound was located.  

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

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We had just about one full day in Oklahoma City, and we made the most out of it. We stayed in the part of Oklahoma City that is called Bricktown, which was easy walking distance to everything that we wanted to see. We started the morning by visiting the Myriad Botanical Gardens and the Crystal Bridge Observatory. Then we visited the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, which had a very impressive glass art display by Dale Chihuly. As we love to support independent bookstores, we stopped at Commonplace Books before spending a couple house at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. This museum was amazing, and we probably would have spent more than two hours if we hadn’t already had such a full day. It was an emotional museum for sure but 100% worth a visit. To end our day in Oklahoma City, we visited the riverwalk and did a wine tasting at Put a Cork In It. It was a very relaxing way to end a great day in Oklahoma City.

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Boise City, Oklahoma

IMG_20210316_113616_641.jpgWe enjoyed a nice drive across Oklahoma to Oklahoma’s panhandle, where we would visit our next destination – Boise City. After reading Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time and watching Ken Burn’s The Dust Bowl documentary, we wanted to learn more about that time and found that the Cimarron Heritage Center provided a great exhibition related to the dust bowl in Boise City. Before heading to the center, we stopped at the local Bluebonnet Cafe for lunch, where it appeared that the entire town of Boise City, not a large town, was present. It was such a unique experience, realizing that we were in a location where points of discussion that we normally experienced in the city were not relevant here. The people didn’t talk about the current COVID pandemic or politics or world events, they discussed their cattle, farming equipment and what parts of their fields were currently being plowed. These are all hardworking people, who are dedicated to their families and their land. Unfortunately, our trip to the Cimarron Heritage Center was not a success right away. The individual who was running the center that day had to close the center early to attend a funeral. That is what happens in small towns, and luckily we were able to be flexible and come back to visit the center the next day. We are so glad we did. This was far more extensive of a museum than expected. It included much more than the dust bowl, but all topics of history in the area like the Santa Fe Trail, World War I and II, dinosaur and mammoth excavations, and much much more. By far this is the most unique museum and well worth the trip. 

Amarillo, Texas

IMG_20210315_182707_721.jpgAmarillo, Texas was just supposed to be a pitstop for some rest before traveling home, but due to the delay in visiting the Cimarron Heritage Center, we managed to spend a little more time in Amarillo. At least we had enough time to visit Cadillac Ranch (one of the strangest sites we have ever seen) and a local independent bookstore called Burrowing Owl Books, which was conveniently located next to a delicious cookie shop that even had Keto cookies on the menu.That concludes our 2021 Oklahoma Road Trip adventure. Until next time…

HAPPY TRAVELS!!!

20 Years of Travel #18: Paris

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The 20 Years of Travel series continues by featuring the City of Love: Paris, France. I grew up watching old movies that were set in Paris: An American in Paris, Funny Face, Gigi, and many more. I dreamed of seeing this amazing city. I went for the first time in 2006. I was a bit disappointed with Paris at that time. I can now say that my disappointment was almost completely due to lack of planning on my part. I was traveling to Paris with a classmate of mine after we finished a graduate course in Geneva, Switzerland. As students, we had a tight travel budget. I was able to get a discount on a hotel in Paris through my job at home, but that unfortunately was located on the outskirts of the city. It ended up costing a lot of money and time to travel into the city center. We also were visiting in the middle of the summer tourist season and 100 degree heat. We waited in the heat for hours to get into Notre Dame (pictured above), which was worth it, but unpleasant. My most amateur mistake was waiting until our final day in Paris to go to the Louvre, which was a Tuesday, the day that the Louvre is closed. We decided to go visit Versailles instead, which was impressive but was under renovation and none of the fountains were turned on.

Luckily, almost ten years later, I decided to give Paris another try. I had a much better experience. We stayed in the city center, smallest hotel room ever, but worth it for the location. We also went in the middle of December which in my opinion is the best time to see Paris. There are minimal tourists and beautiful Christmas markets everywhere. I believe there is also a lot to be said about experiencing the same city at different points in one’s life as well.

Things to do and see:

Champs Elysees

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The Champs Elysees is one of the most famous avenues in the world, leading to the Arc de Triomphe.

Roue de Paris

This is a large ferris wheel off of the Champs Elysees, where you can experience amazing views of Paris.

The Seine

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There are walkways along the Seine, where you can take romantic strolls with views of the Eiffel Tower.

The Eiffel Tower

Of course you have to explore the Eiffel Tower. My friends and I went up to the top at sunset for the amazing views and then decided to walk down, which wasn’t as strenuous as I thought it would be. I only had a problem with my little fear of heights and the fact that you could feel the tower sway a bit.

Notre Dame Cathedral

This is the famous gothic-style cathedral in Paris. If you have an opportunity, do the gargoyle tour as well as exploring the inside of the cathedral.

Favorite Bookstore

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If you are a booklover like me, Shakespeare and Company Bookstore is a must!

The Louvre

This amazing art museum did not allude me on my second visit to Paris. December is a much better time to visit this museum anyway. I was there at opening time and got to stand alone in front of the Mona Lisa for twenty minutes.

Musee d’Orsay

Musee d'Orsay Collection

This is my favorite art museum in Paris as I love all things Degas, Renoir and Monet. The above picture shows just a few of my favorites.

Christmas Markets

If you find yourself in Paris around Christmastime, you can experience a plethora of amazing Christmas markets that are set up all over the city.

Sights I Still Want to See

Two trips to Paris were not enough to see everything I wanted to. I still have not gone to Sacre Couer and the catacombs. Hence, why they are not featured here. Those will just have to wait until my next visit.

Day Excursions:

Versailles

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Less than a hour train ride from Paris is the Palace of Versailles. Not only is Versailles featured prominently in history, but it contains beautiful art and expansive gardens. Many of my husband’s pictures are featured above as he recently got to see Versailles with minimal renovations and working fountains, unlike my original visit to Versailles.

Rouen

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Less than a two-hour train ride from Paris, Rouen is an idyllic French town. We visited because of our interest in Joan of Arc, but there was so much more to this town. Definitely one of my favorite places.

Excursion I Still Want to Make

As mentioned before, I really love Monet paintings. Monet’s home and where he found some of his inspiration is located less than an hour from Paris in the town of Giverny.

If you are looking for more excursions into Normandy from Paris, see my Normandy link below.

Related Posts:

PARIS, FRANCE (December 2013)

Normandy, France – October 2014

I am sure Paris and I will meet again soon!

Happy Travels!!!

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20 Years of Travel #12: St. Petersburg

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The 20 Years of Travel series continues with our 2014 trip to St. Petersburg, Russia. While I have no interest to return to Russia any time soon, I thoroughly enjoyed St. Petersburg and would not pass up an opportunity to visit again. If you have just a short time in St. Petersburg, here are some of the highlights:

Summer Palace – Peterhof Palace

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Peter and Paul Fortress

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Winter Palace – The Hermitage Museum

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The Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood

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Museums dedicated to Russian writers

  • Anna Akhamatova Literary and Memorial Museum
  • Nabokov House
  • Dostoevsky Museum
  • National Pushkin Museum

The Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad

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If you want to find out more about our adventures in Saint Petersburg, Russia, please see St. Petersburg, Russia – August 2014.

HAPPY TRAVELS!!!

 

 

20 Years of Travel #10: Milan

The 20 Years of Travel series continues with a visit to Milan, Italy. Even though our trip to Milan in 2015 was brief, it was very memorable, including checking two things off my lifetime bucket list.

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Duomo di Milano

We did not waste any time going to see the Duomo in Milan. We got up early and had a coffee at a cafe off of the Piazza del Duomo, while waiting for the cathedral to open. We bought tickets to not just tour the inside but also to do the rooftop tour, which I highly recommend. I’m not going to lie, I am absolutely terrified of heights (major vertigo) and found the rooftop adventure a bit difficult, but it is still worth it. I’ve been to a lot of cathedrals and this is one of my favorites. Expect to spend many hours exploring the Duomo di Milano.

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Da Vinci’s The Last Supper

No trip to Milan is complete without a visit to Santa Maria delle Grazie to view one of Da Vinci’s most famous pieces of art – The Last SupperI would definitely plan on purchasing tickets to see The Last Supper well in advance. I don’t know if everyone has had this experience, but we were given a certain amount of viewing time, which I wish had been a bit longer. Other than that, I enjoyed every moment of learning about this piece of artwork and spending as much time as I could looking at every part of it.

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Teatro alla Scala

When I was in high school, I wrote a paper on the opera singer, Maria Callas. Through this report I learned a lot about the La Scala Opera House and have wanted to visit it ever since. Knowing this, my husband bought us tickets, as an early birthday surprise, to see one of the best Puccini operas – La Boheme – at La Scala. We had great seats; the onstage sets were really impressive; the acoustics were perfect; and for those who don’t appreciate operas because you don’t understand the language, every seat had individual TV screens that have subtitles translated into your language of choice.

World’s Fair Exposition – and my brush with death

The first movie I ever owned when I was young was Meet Me in St. Louis with Judy Garland. This movie is about a family living in St. Louis during the time when St. Louis is about to hold the World’s Fair (The Louisiana Purchase Exposition) in 1904. Naturally, attending a World’s Fair has been on my travel bucket list for a long long time. As if finally seeing an opera at La Scala was not enough, our trip coincided with the 2015 World’s Fair Expo in Milan, so we also spent a day at the World’s Fair. The theme of this fair was “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” Attendees were provided with food from all over the world. As we were currently living in Tuscany, Italy at the time, we were unable to get many foods that were not strictly Tuscan, so we were super excited about trying food from all over the world.

However, I think I got too excited. I unfortunately had an allergic reaction to something I ate, which could have been at some point while I was indulging in Belgian fries, Dutch pancakes, Food truck BBQ, Mexican tacos and Chinese noodles. The attack was bad and luckily we found a health clinic on site that I could go to. I didn’t have to wait at all before they had me lying on a clinic bed, hooked up to a few machines, with an IV in my arm. I had at least three doctors looking at me.  At one point they asked me what I had had to eat, so I started giving them the list, and they just shook their heads at me. They gave me some medicine, which they thought would work, but the lady doctor noticed that I was still having trouble breathing and the rashes on my chest and legs were getting worse. They actually kicked my husband out of the room at this point, so he was actually a bit nervous about my condition. The doctors opted to give me a big booster shot of adrenaline, and in 10 minutes I was doing fantastic. I cannot remember ever feeling as great as I did at that time. The doctors released me with the advice that maybe I should just stick to eating chocolate gelato from now on. For those that have not experience health care outside of the United States, I did not have to fill out any paperwork before being treated or after I was treated. I just signed a document at the end, saying that I was treated, and that was all I had to do. A big thanks to those doctors who treated me. They were awesome.

Since I was feeling amazing, we did wander around the expo a little more. I did not eat any more food though and was a bit sad that I missed out on Ethiopian food and trying the crocodile at the Zimbabwe tent. However, I was not about to risk ending up in that clinic again. While that was a scary situation, I guess it made the day even more memorable, beyond seeing all the amazing exhibits and architecture.

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Milan was such a lovely weekend adventure and very memorable.

HAPPY TRAVELS!!!

St. Petersburg, Russia – August 2014

Overview

While visiting friends in Moscow, we all decided to take a weekend trip to St. Petersburg. I am so glad that we made this trip, because St. Petersburg turned out to be one of my favorite cities in the world to this day. One long weekend is not long enough to see all the wonderful things that St. Petersburg has to offer. You could spend one full day just at the Winter Palace and Hermitage Museum, and that is where I will begin my description of some of the sights I experienced in St. Petersburg.

The Winter Palace – The Hermitage Museum

Winter Palace

The Winter Palace is a massive, ornate building, located on Palace Square. While we were there, there was a unique display of Russian armament in the square in front of the Winter Palace. This included tanks and anti-aircraft missiles. Not something you see everyday in other parts of the world. I felt a bit uneasy about this display, but mostly I was uncomfortable seeing kids climbing on the tanks and missiles.

Beyond this display though is an amazing palace. You must walk through the many rooms within the palace. Formally, the home of such leaders as Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, the palace includes rooms of such grandeur. It is simply breathtaking. The grand staircases and elegant chandeliers continue in the Hermitage Museum.

I’ve been to a lot of museums and art galleries in my life, and each one is unique and special. However, I absolutely adore the Hermitage Museum, and as unpopular as I amDaVinci going to be for saying this, I loved it more than the Louvre in Paris. You could spend a full day wandering the halls of ancient relics, sculptures, and paintings. I was amazed at the large collection of paintings by the most famous painters in the world, including Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Gaugin, and so many others. At one point, I turned the corner into a room that was void of people but filled with numerous Picasso paintings. I was simply in heaven. It was just me and Picasso’s art. I also really enjoyed viewing DaVinci’s Madonna Litta. To make myself even more unpopular, I will also say that I think this DaVinci painting is better and more stunning than the Mona Lisa.

Peterhof Palace

Peterhof

I realize that after a full day of wandering through the Winter Palace, you may not want to visit another palace, but Peterhof Palace is worth it. Peterhof Palace is located on the Gulf of Finland. To get there, you can take the Peterhof Express (hydrofoil) from the mainland. Try to pick a nice day to visit Peterhof, so you can enjoy a nice cruise to the palace. Plus, the palace is surrounded by a park and gardens that you will want to walk around. While taking a stroll, we stumbled upon an area that gave some information on the Peterhof Palace during WWII. The palace was severely damaged, and at one point during the war, it was used by the Nazis. We found a nice restaurant with outdoor seating for lunch before continuing on to get a better view of the palace.

Samson FountainPeterhof Palace was modeled after Versailles in France. Many years ago I visited one of King Ludwig’s castles in Bavaria, Germany called Linderhof. Linderhof looks very similar to Peterhof, so I guess many leaders tried to create their own Versailles. Like the others, at Peterhof Palace you will find an ornate fountain with a gold statue. Here it is called the Samson Fountain and is my favorite feature of this palace’s decorations. Just like the Winter Palace, you could spend a full day wandering around the inside and outside of Peterhof Palace.

The World of Russian Literature

As a huge fan of literature, I adore Russian authors. It would be hard to be in St. Petersburg and not dive into the lives of such notable authors, including Dostoevsky (Crime and Punishment), Pushkin (Eugene Onegin), Gogol (Dead SouPushkinls), and Nabokov (Lolita). Many people visit Dostoevsky’s house and museum. I did not get a chance to do this, but I am sure I would have loved it had I had time. Before this trip, I knew very little about Alexander Pushkin. On this visit, I quickly became a Pushkin fan. I purchased one of his stories at the Dom Knigi bookstore and in the evening had a drink at the Literary Cafe. This is the location where it is believe that Pushkin had his last moments before meeting his death in a duel.

The Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

Church-Day

The Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood is another famous site in St. Petersburg. This ornate and colorful church is located on the Griboedov Canal. I highly recommend going inside and taking a look around. Not one surface appears to be free of religious artwork. It is very impressive and also has an interesting history.

The Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad

Leningrad

During WWII, Leningrad (now called St. Petersburg) was attacked by the Nazis. The people of Leningrad defended themselves heroically and eventually were victorious at the cost of many casualties. If this historical event interests you at all, do not miss a visit to the Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad, accessible by metro train. This monument also includes an exhibit that walks you through each stage of the devastating siege that lasted years before the people prevailed and defeated the Nazis. The exhibit is very informative and heart-wrenching.

Victory

It is hard to believe that we discovered all these beautiful gems in St Petersburg in one weekend. It is an amazing and beautiful city.

Moscow, Russia – August 2014

Sain Basil's Cathedral

Saint Basil’s Cathedral

We were very fortunate to have good friends living in Moscow and decided to visit them. The visa process was not fun, but the trip was 100% worth it. The flight was a bit rough, because the only flights from Italy were red eyes. We landed in Moscow around 3:30am. We are not very functional at 3:30 in the morning, and there was no one there to give us directions on how to go through customs, so we were definitely the last two people through customs, but we managed it. Well, when we got to our friends’ place, Gorky Parkwe chatted with them for a bit and then napped for most of the day. We did manage to pull ourselves together long enough to have a relaxing afternoon stroll through Gorky Park. Gorky is an extensive park along the Moskva River. It is a great location to go rollerblading or lounge on some bean bags.

The next day we were far more rested and ready to see some sights. We headed to Red Square. Along the way, I noticed many florists and booksellers, even on the side of the street. As a book lover, I absolutely loved seeing all the bookstands and people reading on the train and in coffeehouses. When we reached the Red Square, we saw an interesting military march, I believe in preparation for a political event that was to happen a few days later. From there we walked toward the State Museum to visit Lenin’s Mausoleum. When you go to the mausoleum, you will walk along the Kremlin wall, passing tombstones of former Soviet/Russian politicians. When you enter the mausoleum, you will be walking in the dark. The officers guarding this area forbid you to use any light. Then you circle around Lenin’s preserved body. That was one of the strangest things I had ever seen, so I was happy to move away from the Kremlin.

Unfortunately, there are no performances at the Bolshoi Theater during the summer, but you can still get a tour if you book in advance, which I didn’t think to do, so we spent the afternoon at the wonderful Tretyskov Gallery. This gallery displays a large collection of stunning Russian art. One of our favorite paintings from that gallery is Ivan Aivazovsky’s Lunar Night on Capri.

Boat Ride on Moskva River

Boat Ride on Moskva River

With our friends, we took a sunset boat ride on the Moskva River. I highly recommend this as it is a great way to view so much of Moscow. Seeing the Kremlin at night with all the cathedrals lit up is just a beautiful sight.

State Museum

State Museum

Our final full day in Moscow was spent at the Kremlin. We started at the Armoury Museum, where you can view the large collection of faberge eggs. Then we moved on to the area with all the cathedrals. We saw the Archangel’s Cathedral, Annunciation Cathedral, Assumption Cathedral, the Tsar Cannon, and the Tsar Bell. Plan to spend quite a few hours viewing all these sights at the Kremlin. We had some time left in our day, so we got some food at the Moscow Gostiny Dvor. This was formally an old indoor market and is now a fashionable mall. We then decided to investigate Moscow’s underground train system a bit more. Each station is so elaborately designed with sculptures and chandeliers. Definitely take the public train system as much as possible to view these grandiose stations.

The Cathedral of the Annunciation

The Cathedral of the Annunciation