Tag Archives: Travel

Things I did and did not do in 2019

I think most people take time the end of year looking back and considering what the years end signifies for them. What did they do? What did they want to do but did not? Last year, I did a year end blog. As I read through it now, I realized I didn’t even put my goals for 2019 on it! But that’s okay. I don’t remember them now. But I will tell you what I did do and what I hope to do in 2020.

Travel

Early 2019 brought quite a bit of travel for me. I had several pieces in a juried show in NYC, so my husband and I took the train up for the opening reception. We stayed several days in a very cold and rainy New York. The train trip up was amazing and definitely something I would love to do again.

We also spent a couple of days in Pensacola Beach for a memorial service for a family member. We visited downtown Pensacola and spent some time walking on the beach.

I visited friends in Boston and Providence, learning a great deal about my country’s history, good and bad.

Something New

Around mid-summer, I came up with a new idea, a travel podcast. So, not being one to research or plan, I started one! It’s called Tourist in your Town. It started out to be just about what to see and do when you visit a place. But it quickly evolved into a combination of travel and history. Check it out!

Tourist in your Town travel podcast

I did talk about starting a commercial photography studio in that late 2018 blog. I sort of did that. I have the gear and the space. I even did some freelance work over the year. But I discovered that I had two options. One was to leave my full-time paying job and hope that I could get enough work to pay my bills. Or two, stop taking freelance work, keep that full-time gig, and pursue my true passions, travel and art photography in my spare time. I chose the second option. Probably because I’m not the kind of person to take big chances. I would, of course, take the right kind of freelance work if it landed in my lap. But I’m not pursuing it and I am saying no to things that just aren’t worth it. I value my time too much for that.

Me with my Tourist hat on

My aha! moment

I did spend most of 2019 angry and sad about losing that dream that I didn’t know I had (lost job in 2018). But towards the end of the year, someone posted a meme on FB that said something like what would yourself from 10 years ago think of yourself now. And my brain popped. Myself from 10 years ago had no clue of any of the things I’m doing now. That person’s goals looked very different from my current goals and wins. Now, I all I can think is how excited I am for the next 10 years!

Goals for 2020

So, what are my goals for 2020?

  1. Grow the podcast
  2. Be more present
  3. Make better art

Feel free to share your own goals in the comments or just post a link to your own blog!

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Rain in Boston Massachusetts

In early October, I visited some friends in the Boston area. Since I’ve started a travel podcast, I find myself having to travel at least every two – three weeks. I mostly travel by car because I can only do weekends right now. But I decided to fly up to Boston for a quick trip. I took a four day weekend at work and booked the flight.

People on rainy street in Boston
Rainy Boston street scene

Early October is a great time to see the leaves up there. However, it’s also a great time for changing weather. It rained. A lot. I tried to prepare for it by taking a raincoat, umbrella, and a home-made camera cover. The camera cover worked okay, but I think it’s best to shell out the money for a real one. A good thing about the rain is the clouds were amazing.

Storm clouds roll in over Trinity Church in Copley Square in Boston, MA.
Trinity Church in Copley Square
Rain clouds over Old South Church in Boston
Old South Church in Boston
The historic firehouse of Engine 37 / Ladder 26 in Fenway
Fire Engine 37 / Ladder Company 26 in Fenway

To hear more about my visit to Boston, visit Touristinyourtownpodcast.com!

Don’t worry if you can’t listen to the podcast, I’ll also be posting pics and fun updates here!

Asheville, NC The Block

On my recent trip to Asheville, NC, I took a walking tour with a company called Hood Huggers International. The tour features the history of African-Americans in Asheville, as well as a look to the future of the community. The tours founder, Dewayne Burton, took me to an area called “The Block”. The block is an area of downtown Asheville that was once a thriving African-American Community. Burton is very involved with his community and is working hard to improve the lives of African=Americans, not just in Asheville but in the United States. He has created a new “green” book that features black owned businesses in Asheville and is hoping to expand the book. If you want to know more about my tour, you can listen to the Podcast here.

Midlife Angst: Trying Again

So, here I am starting something new. I’m almost 48 and feel a little too old to be starting over with something I know nothing about. I have decided to start a travel podcast. It’s called Tourist in Your Town. Head over to the website and check it out.

I know nothing about audio recording or editing. But I guess I’ll learn. I thought this might be a good thing for me to try. I love to travel and I love to talk about it. So, it seems a logical step for me.

I have 2 episodes out now and am having a great time with it! Give it a listen!

Rail yard in the Old City

I went to NYC and did a thing

I had 2 pieces in a juried exhibition at the Salmagundi Club. So, we took the train up to NYC. Read about the trip up here. Once in New York, we ate and drank and walked. The walking was probably a sad thing to watch really. I was having back spasms and the mister had a cold. We did not take the town by storm. But we did have a good time. The reception for the show was packed. It was exciting for me to see my work on the wall with so many other beautiful pieces. 

Dinner

Before the show, we went to Burger and Lobster for dinner.  The service was excellent. I also had the best Dark and Stormy ever. We both got lobster rolls and were fat and happy when we left.

Artist’s Reception

When we got to the Salmagundi Club, we noticed a long line for the coat check. There is a restaurant in the club, so we thought it might be for that. Nope. Turns out all of these people were there for the show! We made our way to the gallery, where we found this.

We made our way to where my pieces were and took a few quick pics before the crowd swept us around to see the rest of the show. 

We made it back home, despite the fact that we almost missed our stop on the way home. But that’s another story.  

All Aboard the Crescent

In September 2018, I visited NYC. Read about that visit here. While there, I took tons of photos. Two of those images were accepted into a juried exhibition called “Glimpses of Our World”. Naturally, my husband and I decided we needed to go NYC for the artist’s reception. My husband doesn’t fly and driving seemed like a stressful nightmare. So, we decided to take the train. Specifically, the Amtrak Crescent, which runs from New Orleans to New York City.

At the Station

Knoxville does not have a station, so we had to drive to Charlotte, NC to get on the train. Did I mention the train was leaving at 1:45am? It took just over 4 hours to drive to Charlotte. Did I mention this was something we just really wanted to do? When we got to the station, I was a bit surprised by the size of it. I had seen photos of the exterior. Since the Charlotte Station is the fifth busiest station in the Southern US, I expected it to be a bit bigger on the inside. It was not. The building was originally built in 1962 by Southern Railway. It has not changed since then. Although, I have read that Charlotte is planning a larger transit station to be finished in 2024.

On Board

Once on the train, our porter, Vincent, helped us find our roomette. A wee space, great for 1 person, acceptable for 2. The seats fold down to make a cot. And an upper bunk slides down. When you get a sleeper, you also get a porter. Vincent was a excellent! He made sure we got breakfast and lunch and did not miss our stop. He switched our roomette from the night layout to the day layout (2 seats). We talked to Vincent about his hometown of New Orleans, another place now on our list of places to visit! We slept well, once we got used to the movement of the train. People in roomettes get breakfast and lunch on the day train. Both meals were fair. Better than an airplane meal, which is a rarity anyway these days. Lunch is a prepared menu, so don’t get too excited about a gourmet train lunch.

A great way to travel

The great part about train travel is that you get to see a little more of the US than if you drove. Of course, we were moving pretty fast so unless there was a stop, it was difficult to take any photos. But it inspired us to drive the route and see some of those beautiful towns and cities some day. Another thing I like, is that when you go to the dining car, they will seat with you someone you don’t know if there is space at their table. This is a great way to meet some interesting people and learn about new places to see! If you do not want to do this, they are accommodating and will allow you to sit alone, if there is room. For breakfast, I sat with a young man from Canada. He was not very interested in chatting, and that was fine.

A little issue with the roomette though. There is an actual toilet in the roomette. This is just awkward and weird for me. Fortunately, there was no smell, which was my biggest concern. Other restrooms were available 3 cars up in Coach. So, I admit, that I did break down and use the in room facilities. It was not the worst thing ever. That being said, Amtrak, please remove these and just put a facility in each passenger car. I know that is the way it is in the newer trains. But maybe the Crescent could use a quick retrofit?

The toilet in the the room. I can hear the “nopes” from around the world right now.

We Made it

We loved ride the train. I like being able to walk around and stretch my legs. It did take a little longer than what would have been a 3 hour flight. The ride was 12 hours. However, we did not have to arrive 2 hours early, go through security, remove all of my toiletries, or face a good possibility of delay. The PIA factor in flying that makes the long train ride worth it for me. I get so stressed out when I fly. How long will security take, will the alarm go off and I have to get wanded and patted or worse, taken to the side? Will I leave something in the plastic bin? Do my socks have holes in them? We also did not have to find a way from the airport to the hotel. The hotel was 2 blocks from Penn station, so walking was quick and easy.

Stay tuned for the next entry about NYC and the show!

New York City Day 1

When it was time to leave Providence (see Rhode Island or Bust), E dropped me at the station early because I did not know what to expect. Would it be like the airport? Would I have to remove my shoes and take out my electronics and shampoo? Would I get the joy of a pat down? Nope, none of that. They did have police walking around, watching for suspicious behavior, I suppose. That left me with some time to kill, so I went down and took some photos of the platforms. When it was time to board, I hopped on and grabbed a comfy seat. Coach seats on trains are nice and cushy. After everyone found a spot, no seat assignments here, we were off. I was headed to New York City, just me and my camera.

On the Train

I sat next to a very nice woman from Florida. Her daughters lived in New England and she was visiting them. She told me to visit the Public Library in New York. So, I added it to my list. There are several reasons to love the train. One of those is that you can have a conversation without everyone else in the whole place hearing what you say. It’s also easy to get up and move around.  I visited the snack bar where the cashier told me about the time he visited East Tennessee and loved it. There’s also the views.  I got to see so much of New England that I would not have seen otherwise. It made me want to visit the places I viewed from the train.

Made it NYC

The train pulled into Penn Station and I had a moment of what now? I had researched the location of my Airbnb and the exits were clearly marked, so I found my way out easily. The Airbnb was only 3 blocks from the station. I made my way there and there was a nice guy waiting to give me a key card and show me to my room. It was a private room with a shared bath and kitchen area. I had reservations about the shared bath, but it ended up not being an issue for me. I only ran into the other tenants once in the 4 days I was there.

Skyscrapers ©Sharon Popek
Right outside of my Airbnb

What Now

The biggest problem with visiting a place like New York City without specific plans is there are so many options, it’s hard to decide what to do. I took a shower and relaxed for a bit before deciding to hit the streets in search of food and drink. It was Sunday and quite a few of the nearby places were already closed or closing soon. But I found Jack Doyle’s Irish Pub and Grill and planted myself at the bar. After a couple of perfectly poured Guinnesses and a delicious Caprese Salad, I was ready to go to bed and start again the next day.

Stay Tuned

Watch for Day 2! The next installment includes a trip to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, more beer, and lots of walking.

 

 

 

Rhode Island or Bust

I lost my job in July. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. When I lost my job, it allowed me to take some time off, giving me a chance to spend time with one of my oldest friends (as in how long I’ve known her).  She was also off of work because she was going back to school to get her Master’s Degree at Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. Turns out she would be driving up and needed someone to go with her. Since I had nothing better to do, I offered to be her partner in this extra long road trip, from East Tennessee to Rhode Island.  We loaded up and headed out. It was Rhode Island or Bust.

To the East

We headed East from Knoxville up I-81. We would be overnighting in Richmond, VA with E’s brother and his girlfriend. The only hiccup was our inability to find a Waffle House when it was time for lunch. We opted for Cracker Barrel instead. Perfectly fine, but it’s no Waffle House. Almost there, we decided we looked like we’d been driving for 7 hours and smelled like it too. So, we stopped at a rest area and cleaned up a bit and changed our clothes. We were once again the ravishing goddesses we were when we started out. Once in Richmond, we met up with E’s brother and girlfriend at this great oriental restaurant, Beijing. The food and service were excellent for a busy Friday night.They are a lovely couple and so kind to let us stay in their place. We spent the night at their house and went to a local diner, City Diner,  for breakfast. A great way to start the day!

Through the Big City and then some

Back on the road, we made our way up through the New England states and toll road mecca. Tolls are a huge PIA, in case you didn’t know. There has to be a better way. Someone out there, please come up with a better way! The roads were terrible too, so it’s not like the $40 we paid in tolls were going for great roads or anything. Rant over.

I was most nervous about driving through New York City. While, we wouldn’t be on the city streets, I knew it would still be a bit crazy and stressful. Guess what! It was! There were so many odd on ramps and off ramps, stay left, go right, stay left, cross 4 lanes and go right. It was a bit nuts. But we made it through without incident. We took a wrong turn somewhere after NYC and ended up taking the scenic route through Connecticut. I’m glad we did. It was beautiful and I will definitely be going back there.

Providence Found

Once in Providence, Rhode Island, we found our Airbnb,  a big sprawling home divided up into apartments. We were exhausted, but also starving. We went out in search of food. Apparently, Providence strongly discourages late night shenanigans because almost all of the nearby restaurants closed at 9pm. Yes, even on Saturday. It was close to 8:30, so we were limited on options. We decided (decided for us because not much else in the area), on Andreas, a greek restaurant.  We started with the Mussels and they were yummy. I quite frankly don’t remember what else we had because we were half asleep already. Back at the Airbnb, I showered and promptly went to sleep.

Moving In and Heading Out

We started out early, so we could have breakfast then get the van unloaded and me on a train to NYC.  We unpacked the van on to the sidewalk because we had to get the vehicle quickly moved. Finally we got everything into her apartment and she dropped me at the Amtrak station.

New Adventures

We went our separate ways. She, off to a completely new and different life. Me, to a solo vacation in NYC and a new life waiting for me at home. I am thankful that we were able to spend this time together and support one another when we needed it the most!

I am proud of both of us for being brave women!

 

 

Johnson City Tennessee

We recently took a quick trip to Johnson City, TN. It has been on our list for awhile because we love Yee-Haw beer.  But we finally had a good reason to go. It was work related, so at least the gas was paid for!

Dinner and a Beer (or two)

The first place we went was, of course, Yee-Haw Brewing Company. They have a great in house bar and they share space with White Duck Taco Shop.  Yay! Beer and food all in one handy place.

Downtown

After eating, we decided to walk around downtown a bit and see what else is happening in Johnson City. As it turns out, not much. But it was a Sunday evening. We will try to go back on a Saturday and catch a show or something. Prints are available of the images below – here.

Dessert

I had a hankering for ice cream but there did not seem to be any ice cream shops. I admit, we didn’t look really hard. We headed back to the White Duck to see what they had for dessert. They had two desserts and both were yummy!

We will definitely go back to Johnson City, Tennessee!

 

 

Ireland Favorites

Dublin, Ireland is one of my favorite cities. It was everything I thought it would be and more! The people were kind and gracious, always willing to help and show us a great time. I took many photos in Ireland. But these are a few of my favorites from the land of Éire.

Dublin and the River Liffey

The River Liffey runs through the city. There are 21 bridges crossing the River. Each one is unique and has its own history. I took photos of almost all of them. However, these are a few of my favorites.

We went to a few bars. We drank some Guinness (okay, a lot of Guinness).

Castles

Ruins everywhere. Some are castles, some are just old buildings. But they all look cool.

But Wait!

There’s more! These are some more of my favorites.

To see more photos from Ireland, visit my website.