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Tag: travel

Kid-Friendly Vacation Activities in New Orleans

Traveling to New Orleans doesn’t have to be all about Bourbon Street. I’ve got a few tips from our family trip.

New Orleans is actually a great place to take your family on a little vacation. We traveled there over spring break and really enjoyed exploring the city, learning about its history, listening to jazz, and of course eating all of that great food. It didn’t hurt that the French Quarter Festival happened to be going on during our last couple of days.

A key ingredient to our vacation’s success was doing a lot of our exploration on foot. That’s the way to really get a good sense of a city. As my sixth grader, wife and I all enjoy a good hike, it wasn’t a problem racking up some serious city-walking mileage.

If you’re considering a similar adventure and one that specifically avoids Bourbon Street, here are a few of our own highlights. A big shout out goes to my wife for doing the research to identify these peak experiences.

Spooky Family Ghost Tour by Unique NOLA Tours
We learned about the many ghosts haunting houses in the French Quarter. And along the way, we also got a nice New Orleans history lesson. It’s important to have a great storyteller as a guide, and we got really lucky with Dane Rhodes. He’s a local actor who’s been in a variety of movies in small roles. He told our tour group that his claim to fame was we’ve probably seen a movie on TV with his face exploding. Enough said.

Crescent Bike Tour by Buzz Nola
The only limitation to a good walking tour is you can only travel so far. The solution is to expand your reach on a bicycle. This three-hour bike tour took us to the amazing City Park and its live oak trees, the beautiful riverfront as well as Cemetery #3, where we learned about the complex process of managing generations of family members in above-ground tombs.

Audubon Park in the Garden District
To expand your view even further, you can jump on the St. Charles Streetcar and head out to the beautiful Garden District and Audubon Park near Tulane and Loyola universities. (The Audubon Zoo is also in the park, though we didn’t take the time to go there.)

A super lunch spot a few blocks outside the park is Tartine at 7217 Perrier Street.

Cajun Encounters Swamp Tour
If you really want to get out of town, then a swamp tour 45 minutes outside of the city is a worthwhile half-day excursion. (A bus picks you up in the French Quarter.) If you’re looking to see some alligators and other cool wildlife up close, this is the perfect boat tour.

HH Whitney House Bed and Breakfast
There are plenty of hotel options in New Orleans, but staying at a bed and breakfast really enhanced our experience. We loved our time at the HH Whitney House Bed and Breakfast just northwest of the French Quarter. (We had a two bedroom suite with a private bath.)

It’s located at 1923 Esplanade Avenue (about a 25 minute walk to the center of the French Quarter) and run by Glen Miller.

Beyond enjoying a fantastic home-cooked breakfast each morning, we really appreciated Glen’s hospitality and recommendations for where to go and what to do. Not that you can’t do your own research, but it was so great having a home base with someone looking out for you. By the end of our five days in New Orleans, it felt like we were staying with a close friend. Glen is simply fabulous.

Bring your Camera!
Finally, no vacation is complete without the opportunity to spend some time taking photos. And of course, New Orleans offered plenty of visuals for me to capture.





Time to Dust off your Luggage

After two years of relative isolation during the pandemic and really three years since our last family trip by plane, it felt so energizing jetting to Louisiana and exploring a different part of our country with my family.

Two final recommendations:
Praline Beignets from Loretta’s
Café au Lait from Café Du Monde

Yum.

Offbeat Photo Moments from our London Vacation

If you’re expecting iconic London photography, there’s nothing more to see here. If you’re hoping for something a little different, well then… I might have something for you. Unique or throwaway? You decide!

My family and I have recently returned from a week’s vacation in London, and yes, I snapped more than a few pictures along the way. As part of my little photographic exercise, I also attempted something a little different…

In addition to finding iconic shots as well as any number of family selfies, I tried to also observe our London experience using a different eye. So, I took a few photos that represented the story of our trip from an alternate perspective… imagery that you might easily miss (as well as a few that were entirely impossible to ignore).

These offbeat moments were right in front of us. I just had to open my eyes a bit wider or turn my head in a different direction to spot them…

Sunrise at Heathrow Airport
When you’re walking off the jetway at 6am after your seven-hour flight, you’re probably not taking the time look out the window towards the airport. Well, you should… a sunrise is beautiful just about anywhere!

Kensington Gardens
As I experienced a little jet lag on our first morning, I stumbled through Kensington Gardens on a cloudy day. Then, suddenly this moment presented itself. My vacation had officially begun!

The Elphin Oak
I found this delightful sculpture filled with fairies, elves and animals at the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Playground.

British MuseumDon’t forget to look up! This skylight ceiling bathed visitors with blue-cast sunlight seemingly from an alternate reality.

The London EyeWhile everyone else was looking up and over London, this reverse view down was really cool.

Cutty Sark
For me, viewing the hull of this restored 19th century clipper ship from this angle was the true highlight.

Tower of London
Sure, everyone races to see the Crown Jewels. But the Tower of London tour also houses many other treasures, including the opportunity for my third grader to get close to chainmail armor.

Hungry Raven
My son spotted this peculiar moment as this hungry Tower of London guardian tried to figure out how to get inside an already-open Pringles can.

Tower Bridge
I got the complete view by looking up to look down.

Lock Hatters
My father visited this iconic hat store on St. James’s Street 60 years ago and recommended I stop by and ask if they remembered him. While I stopped short of asking the very proper salesman to check their records, I did FaceTime my dad while we were walking through Lock Hatters and facilitated a reunion of sorts.

The View on St. James’s Street
This view had a timeless feel. So I quickly pulled out my iPhone XS Max to capture the image.

Ceiling at King’s Cross Station
The grafting of this ceiling extension using such a modern design onto this old structure is both radical and brilliant.

Chilly Night by the Thames
A hot chocolate street vendor provided some additional heat to help this pop-up café also serve as a warming station.

Silent Disobedience
This doesn’t appear to be much of an accident…

The Tube
Riding the Underground was our total transportation solution. It felt more cushy than NYC’s subway cars, but the space was also a bit tighter and rounder. Mind your head!

Red Telephone Box
A phonebooth? Still? How quaint.

Sunset over London
Both a sunrise and a sunset during a London trip?! That’s definitely worth calling out. And a nice way to end our little photographic journey across the pond!

The Price of Staying Connected

Warning. This is not a drill. My iPhone will no longer function as a cell phone after crossing the Andes. Wi-Fi is my only lifeline to home. And it’s all my fault.

Previously….
In my last post, you may recall I was preparing to fly to Chile for a work project. My plan was to dumb down my iPhone and only rely on its Wi-Fi capability and use both Apple’s FaceTime and Skype to stay connected with my life in the northern hemisphere.
This is my story…

Not in Kansas Anymore
My Delta 767 has just touched down in Santiago.
Two hours late.
It’s the back-up plane. And what happened to my aircraft?
It had equipment problems and was pulled out of service.
The cause?
Its entertainment system wasn’t working.
Bummer.

I had scheduled my first meeting in Santiago with a two and a half buffer of flex time for me to chill out after I was to arrive at my hotel.
Unpack. Take a shower. Maybe go the bar and try a Pisco Sour.

But not anymore. It’s going to be tight. Really tight.

As I wait in line at customs, I turn on my iPhone, prepared to begin my little experiment. And suddenly it hits me.

I feel a shiver as the adrenaline shoots through my body. I’ve forgotten to forward my normal cell phone number to my new Skype Online Number.
D’oh!! It was the last thing I was supposed to do.
Rats.

So now I have a choice. Either leave my cell phone number behind for the week, or open up my device’s defense bubble and try to forward my cell phone number in an unfriendly roaming jungle.

Yes, I know I could live without knowing if anyone actually called my cell phone number while I was away, but I had worked so hard to put my plan in place.
I just had to know how it was all going to work.

It’s like building a rocket ship.
If you don’t go anywhere in it, what’s the point?

Cut to ninety minutes later.

I walk into my hotel room. That meeting is now twenty-five minutes away, and I haven’t showered in thirty hours after two flights totaling eleven hours.

Pop Quiz: What do you do? What do you do?!
Yeah, I forget common sense and instead pull out my iPhone to make the fix in search of truth.

I go to Airplane Mode and flick it off.
I feel like I’ve activated Skynet.

My phone immediately receives a Chilean carrier signal.
Ping!

It’s a text warning me about international charges. It’s like they were waiting for me.
I’m not sure how this is possible as I still have data functionality turned off.

No time to think. Must continue. Fast.

I go to the call forwarding section of Settings and turn Call Forwarding on.
My Skype Online Number is right there, still populating the field from my earlier testing.
I nervously flick it on.

The phone starts thinking…thinking…. Done.
There it is!

Ping!!
Another text. This one offers my phone a billion texts for a million pesos…or something.

OMG. My phone is under attack! The unknown text costs.!!

Everything starts to move in slow motion.
Must get phone back into Airplane Mode.

Five seconds later, I get the blast doors closed again.
Phew.

Now what?

It’s twenty-one minutes till my meeting.

Twenty-two minutes later I’m in the lobby.
Showered, shaved, and wearing fresh clothes.
I only got fours hours of sleep on the plane, but the fact that I am connected makes all the difference. I’m ready for the job.

Wi-Fi or Bust
And how did my wireless-less communications strategy perform?

First off, I’ve got to say I did feel a little impaired not having access to my full communications arsenal. I felt like I had gone back in time to 2005.

But with a little planning… the way things used to work, it wasn’t all that bad.

My wife and I set up a video chat in the morning and evening every day with our toddler.

Apple’s FaceTime worked perfectly on the hotel’s Wi-Fi network. Our toddler successfully negotiated time with my wife to share the chatting with me, an impressive new skill. (It’s all part of the sharing thing we’re teaching him.) I’m not sure that he understood why my face was in the screen, but he did say once “When going?”
Which I think reveals he understood that I was far away.
His use of ‘going’ probably meant ‘coming back.’. Very cool stuff.

I tried Skype video calling a couple times, but it didn’t seem to work. My wife never answered.

Where Skype really came in handy though was just making normal outbound calls.
As long as I was on the hotel’s Wi-Fi network, I was set.
And I was able to check my Skype Credit balance to confirm that in fact, my U.S./Canada calling plan covered these calls for free. All for that $2.99/month plan.
It wasn’t too good to be true after all. And I even received inbound calls on Skype.

Pièce de Résistance
Remember my call-forwarding hi-stress maneuver?
Yup. That worked too!
I received a critical voicemail that my work briefcase that was in repair was ready for pick up.
(Yes, the world is now safe again for another day.)
Hey, the point is, my little communications scheme worked like a charm.

Time to Pay the Piper
…Except for the lingering fact that I did have to turn on the wireless function the one time, totally against plan.
Deep down, I knew there would be damages.

As my airplane touched down on American soil in Atlanta on my way back to New York, I immediately released my caged iPhone and reactivated the wireless. It roared back to full functionality as if it never left.

My plane had arrived early, and we couldn’t deplane until U.S. Customs opened at 5:30am. (Good detail to remember when you’re flying on a red-eye.)

We had ten minutes to hang out. So I dialed 611 to talk to the AT&T operator and find out how successful my iPhone lock down had been.
Did I cleverly circumvent the traditional international calling payment structure or had I just rung up $300 in roaming fees?

The operator asked if I had set up an international plan.
No, I said with some small, lingering guilt.

There was a long silence as she looked up my account.
Yes, she confirmed. There was indeed a charge.

My heartbeat started to go up.
She wasn’t saying how much.

“For what?” I asked.

“Text messaging,” she replied calmly.

“How much?”

“Twenty-five cents.”

“Can you repeat that?”

“One international text message for twenty-five cents.”

Hmm. Must have been one of those marketing texts when I opened up the floodgates for the thirty seconds.

“Twenty-five cents? Okay. I can handle that….”
Click.

I know.
It’s kind of like being a baseball pitcher and missing a no hitter in the ninth inning.
But if being a parent of a toddler has taught me anything, an almost perfectly executed plan is something to really cheer about!

“Kirk to Enterprise”
I glowed with my little success, as I sat on my next plane headed to New York. Suddenly, I experienced a bonus jolt of mini joy as the rest of the passengers boarded.

I had previously forgotten that Skype video can work on 3G (4G) if the signal is strong enough. And now that my phone was back to normal, I called the ‘fam’ and did a Skype video chat right on the plane.

I felt I was back in time in the ‘60’s in the middle of a science fiction movie about the 1990’s.

There was my boy looking around the plane as I described everything to him.

His face filled the screen.
“Ooooh,” he cried out.

Twenty-five cents?
Priceless.

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