Archive | March, 2013

Family Time: Philadelphia Freedom

28 Mar

The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were debated and adopted at Independence Hall.  (Photograph by Ellen Fitzsimons, Flickr)

Here they are — ten kid-friendly things you can do in and around Independence Hall:

1. Ponder whether the sun carved into the back of General George Washington’s chair inside Independence Hall is rising or setting (Benjamin Franklin wondered as much during the Constitutional Convention in 1787).

2. Sneak down Bladen’s Court, a secret passageway off Elfreth’s Alley, and listen for the ghosts of two Loyalists hanged during the American Revolution.

3. Go to St. Peter’s Church cemetery in Society Hill to make grave rubbings of notable Philadelphians.

4. Mail a postcard to yourself from the B. Free Franklin post office, where clerks hand-cancel stamps with a colonial-era postmark.

5. Pretend you’re in The Brady Bunch (or at least find out what shag carpet is) at Jones, a paean to ’70s decor and home to some groovy mac and cheese.

6. Duck into the Curtis Center to gaze at “Dream Garden“ the luminous mosaic made of some 100,000 pieces of Tiffany glass.

7. See how a clove drop and a peppermint Gibraltar—two early 20th-century confections made at Shane Candies—measure up to their modern counterparts.

8. Putt through the crack in the Liberty Bell at the Philly-themed miniature golf course at Franklin Square.

9. Walk across a huge map of the city, which spans an entire gallery floor at the newly reopened Philadelphia History Museum.

10. Book a tour or stay overnight on the WWII-era battleship New Jersey (take the ferry from Penn’s Landing).

Family Time: Philadelphia Freedom B. Free Franklin post office , Battleship New Jersey , Bladen’s Court , Caroline Tiger , Dream Garden , Elfreth’s Alley , family time , Franklin Square , Independence Hall , kids , National Geographic Traveler , philadelphia , Philadelphia History Museum , Shane Candies , St. Peter’s Church

The Radar: Travel Lately

28 Mar

Sensō-ji is the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. (Photograph by Aapo Haapanen, Flickr)

The Radar – the best of the travel blogosphere – is a regular feature on Intelligent Travel every Wednesday.

Here’s this week’s:

  • Easter Island may be hard to access (after all, it’s the most remote inhabited island in the world). It can also be expensive. But budget options abound for those that seek them in this tiny Chilean outpost. @budgettravelsac
  • Cannes, St. Tropez, and Nice are, well, nice, but you don’t have to keep to the French side of the Riviera while you’re on holiday. Trade your bonjour for buongiorno across the border in San Remo. @easyhiker101
  • Despite making headlines recently as a hotbed of instability, Beirut possesses a charm worthy of praise. And in the Lebanese city’s low-key Mar Mikhael district, old and new converge in the most surprising ways. @Gadling 
  • A bus designed to look like a panda bear whisks visitors around a city, free of charge. As kitschy as it may sound, this “only in Japan” phenomenon proves to be a terrific way to get to know Tokyo. @HuffPostTravel
  • Just 90 miles away from U.S. shores, Cuba exudes the aura of a bygone era. For those bogged down by the grind of modernity, consider this unique Caribbean island your great escape.  @NevEndingVoyage

The Radar: Travel Lately Beirut , budget travel adventures , Cuba , Easter Island , Easy Hiker 101 , gadling , Havana , Huffington Post Travel , Italy , japan , Lebanon , Never Ending Voyage , ngtradar , San Remo , The Radar , tokyo

You have been issued a Vacation Citation!

28 Mar

Under normal circumstances getting issued a citation is nothing to smile about but not anymore. Best Western has launched a clever new campaign on Facebook that allows you to issue a vacation citation.

I am sure you know someone who needs sometime away, perhaps your boss, your best friend or even yourself. The program, which is connected to Best Western Rewards, allows you to select from a list of your Facebook friends and you can customize the reason you are issuing them the citation, an official declaration that you are encouraging them to getaway!


Here are my top 5 reasons to issue someone a vacation citation, comment below with your list:

  • Weather woes – sudden sadness brought on by the fact it’s officially spring but it’s still snowing.
  • Day Off Despair – recognition that the longest stretch without a statutory holiday is between Family Day and Easter.
  • Sleep Deprivation – unable to remember the last time you got a full eight hours of solid sleep
  • Hat & Mitts Hatred – the nice new winter hat you were so excited to wear in November is now a source of great frustration
  • Anti-social Behaviour – the long Canadian winter hibernation means that the only socializing you have done is waving at your neighbours while shoveling!

I encourage you to send out a few citations and have some fun with your friends. If my encouragement is not enough, Best Western is throwing in some fabulous prizes, every citation issued gets you in a weekly draw for some great prizes but also into the grand prize draw for a “Dream Getaway” which includes 5 nights at a Best Western Hotel, round trip airfare and some great gift cards to spend along the way. Click here to go to Facebook to learn more and start sending your citations.
Let me know some of your reasons for issuing citations!

You have been issued a Vacation Citation! vacation citation , vacation contest

A Day in Dallas

28 Mar

I came to Dallas with no expectations, and despite some disparaging tweets and comments from the online peanut gallery, most of my well-traveled readers eagerly guided me through the third largest city in Texas, pointing out where to go and what to see and do.

I was grateful for their advice and how it reinforced my belief that no matter where you land in the world, no matter how familiar and mainstream it might be, there are splendid and exotic moments to be found. Dallas, Texas is such a city and even after just one day of perusal, I grew convinced that I needed a few longer days to truly know what this place was all about.

In the morning I was overwhelmed with tulips and bridal gowns at the Dallas Arboretum, then enjoyed a smokey, meaty brunch at Smoke. Afterwards, I explored more of the downtown and arts district, including the Dallas Museum of Art, the outstanding Crow Collection, and Nasher Sculpture Center and in the late afternoon, I was able to peruse the Highland Park and Preston Hollow neighborhoods, famed for the giant mansions that reflect some of the great wealth attached to this city. I also went for the biggest baddest steak in Texas at Bob’s Chop & Steakhouse and had a cracking foot massage. The next morning, I hung out with some of my Twitter followers at Klyde Warren Park (an urban space-turned nature park with its own Twitter address) and talked about how much I had enjoyed Dallas–really.

As I travel across this state, I find it impossible to fit Texas into any particular box–and you can say the same  about Dallas. Anyone who travels here can find whatever they want, from JFK conspiracy theorists soliciting followers to Vietnamese food trucks and glossy high-rises that reflect the passing clouds in blue and copper windowpanes.

I know I’ll return–Dallas is a city with a long To Do list, including a visit to Cowboy Stadium (next time) but until then, I’ll remember everything I did get to see and do in the Big D.

A Day in Dallas city , dallas , Texas , Texas Trip , travel , visit

Skiing Turkey: Backcountry Gear for Breaking the Snow Ceiling

28 Mar

Photography by Cat Jaffee

Photography by Cat Jaffee

I live in Kars, a snowy, cold eastern Turkey town that author Orhan Pamuk describes as  “the edge of the world.” Sometimes when I am staring off the dramatic dropping cliffs of the Anatolian plateaus, I couldn’t imagine a place that would better fit the description. Everywhere I look, it is white rolling mountains uninterrupted by trees or roads or houses—a wide-open backcountry heaven. Going on my third year of living here (one of two permanent, registered native English speakers for more than 200 kilometers) and the only resident backcountry skier in the region—I recently came to a realization that if I am going to live out here, I better go big or go home. I should take advantage of this amazing terrain or go live in a place with a few more daily comforts.

Other than a heliski operation on the Black Sea, out here there are thousands of kilometers of untouched backcountry terrain that has never been explored on a pair of AT skis. Coupled with daily fluffy snowfall and meters upon meters of annual snow accumulation with very few avalanche casualties a year, northeastern Turkey is a backcountry skier’s dream. However perhaps the casualty number is low because no one is going into the mountains–especially a young woman.

As a solo American woman living here on the Turkish/Georgian/Armenia/Azeri borders, I am used to spending my days getting funny looks and humored variations of “yapamazsın” a saying that means “you aren’t able to do this.” They are not accustomed to woman trekkers, let alone a young woman hiking through villages in full gear up mountainsides through snow and trees, over bear tracks and towering ridges, out doing it solo.

Photography by Cat Jaffee

The ski resort in Kars, Turkey; Photography by Cat Jaffee

This is new for me, too. I was born and raised skiing all terrains in Colorado, but I am a backcountry novice. Out here in Kars, we have a quaint nine-slope ski resort (Sarıkamış Kayak Merkezi) where there are as many people barbequing and walking around with sleds as there skiers. Jokes aside, the snow is actually great, and it feels like pure skiing without all of the distracting bells and whistles of fancy resorts. Just you, the mountain, and a kebab.

But for a good challenge though, the backcountry calls. So while I had two weeks home in Colorado, I went big. I bought all of the gear I thought I could help me live large while staying alive. I get one chance a year to buy gear and because I reside in a remote village in Turkey, I have a zero return policy option. As such, I buy gear is as if my life depends on it, because, well, it does. And when you are a woman breaking snow ceilings in eastern Turkey, you want to know you have the best tools possible.

Photography by Cat Jaffee

Photography by Cat Jaffee

Here are some of the beginner backcountry and all-terrain purchases I made, why I made them, and how they are holding up after a month of backcountry skiing in the South Caucasus.

1. I started with my skis. I needed something light that I could spend 50 percent in country when I was skiing on the resort with friends, but something that could handle the powder and extremely varied terrain of the backcountry. I also hike long distances with skis on and off my feet, and my commute to and from my hills includes anything from a 5 km walk through a village to an hour-long bus-ride full of farmers. With these considerations, I went with the VOLKL NANUQ,  and they are the perfect fit for me. They are great for flying and travel because of their weight, and I am stunned by how well they transition between groomed slopes and 1 meter backcountry powder. I have also learned that I spend a lot of time looking at my skis when I am climbing, and the icy bears on the Nanuq are a classy touch, especially in parallel to the bear tracks I am finding underfoot.

2. The next purchase was footwear. For boots, I wanted a light boot that could be stiff enough for the front country but flexible enough for a good 10 km hike. I went with the Scarpa Gea RS that has a 120 flex index, a respectable number for a regular downhill boot. I had the boots fitted and find them still a bit loose in the ankle, but they are comfortable, and the walk-on walk-off flip option is great.

3. Other than my ski boots, I get one pair of shoes to be my everything else – running shoes, walking through villages shoes, jumping into a meeting shoes. My criteria for this shoe is first and foremost not-white because none of the local roads are paved and are dominated by muddy runoff. This brings me to my second criteria,the shoe must also be waterproof yet breathable. And as with everything I own, the shoe has to be light. I have gone with the Women’s Hedgehog GTX XCR by The North Face. I am training for a marathon so I add inserts for support, and throw on a pair of yak tracks for ice training. They fit my wide foot well and so far they are keeping my feet dry, and they are small enough to throw in the ski pack.

4. Next for poles, I have gone with the Black Diamond Expedition Ski Pole that has so far been my biggest disappointment. The pole is light in weight and adjustable, but the basket engineering is off and I am constantly loosing them. They don’t stay on with my speed. Without the baskets, the pole feels nearly useless in deep powder when I am skinning up a mountain face. Because I can’t easily get replacements out here, the poles–even if light and collapsible–will stay home until I can get new baskets that don’t fall off during the first run.

5. Perhaps my favorite purchase has been the Dynafit TLT Radical FT Binding. From the outside, it looks like your boot is held down by two tiny pins at the toe. But in reality, this is a nice piece of engineering that keeps your boot locked-in for high downhill speeds and then free and elevated for the steep climbs. Shifting between the different settings took some arm-work at first, but when I learned how to hold down the instep piece of the binding, I noticed they clicked nicely to every setting I desired.

6. I went with the standard Black Diamond custom fit skins that have been fairly good except for super steep climbs, where to my surprise, I have caught myself sliding back down the hill. They also don’t fair well with wet snow.

7/8. I have started putting my iPhone into a bright pink Griffin Survivor Case while I ski due to its water proofing abilities and the fact that I am always trying to catch a good shot of tracks, or snow, or light. I am thrilled how well it protects my IPhone from moisture and elements so far. I am less happy that my new Olloclip iPhone lens  doesn’t fit with it, or any iPhone cover for that matter, making it hard to bag some of the wide angle or fish eye shots that I must save for drop and moisture free scenarios.

While breaking the figurative snow ceilings of eastern Turkey, I want to know that I have gear that can keep up with my dreams and requirements. Gear is one of the pillars to keeping us safe in the backcountry, so we can both live big and go home.

Skiing Turkey: Backcountry Gear for Breaking the Snow Ceiling backcountry , Cat Jaffee , National Geographic Young Explorer Grants , skiing , turkey

Toronto Business Travel Summit

28 Mar

toronto.jpgMonday, March 11th marked the 7th annual Business Travel Summit in Toronto, held once again at the Board of Trade. The annual event that is coordinated by Best Western has become a barometer for corporate in travel in Canada. I was honoured to once again be the moderator for another engaging discussion from a very impressive panel.

This year’s panel included Summit veteran’s Dorothy Dowling, Best Western’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing as well as Tanya Racz, President of the GBTA (Global Business Travel Association) for Canada. The panel also included two rookie’s Brian Robertson, COO of Vision 2000 Travel and Michael Koetting, Executive Vice President of Supplier Management for Concur and Trip It.


By all indications the state of corporate travel in Canada is looking very positive according to all the panelists. Number of trips, room nights and even rates are all up. Corporate Canada is back on the road and in some industries even setting new records.

Much of the discussion revolved around the changing travel behavior particularly with more women and more “Millennials” travelling than ever before. Businesses are much more aware of their “duty of care” when it comes to their employees and their well being while away from home.

The travel industry also has to react to these behavioural changes with much focus on mobile use, peer reviews and social networking as well as new online players like Google, apple and Facebook.

Dorothy Dowling from Best Western made a real important distinction between loyalty and frequency programs that landed with everyone in the room. Although Canadians love and embrace these programs, including the very popular Best Western Rewards program, they reward frequency and not necessarily loyalty. These programs do indeed continue to influence behavior but Brian Robertson opined that “recognition and service benefits, like easier check in, are as if not more important than points.”

The panel concluded with everyone’s outlook for the next twelve months and without exception the forecast is optimistic. In a turbulent and ever changing industry it’s nice to see the industry leaders all on the same page and bracing for growth.

What do you feel will be the hot corporate travel topics in the next year?

Toronto Business Travel Summit canada , millennial travel , toronto business travel summit

The World’s Best Neighborhoods for Spotting Street Art

28 Mar

Stumbling upon vibrant street art may seem like you’re digging for a needle in a haystack but it’s actually easier than you think, especially if you know where to look. Many cities where street art culture flourishes have one or two neighborhoods where street artists tend to leave their mark. From Bogotá’s colorful La Candelaria to London’s gritty East End, here are 11 of the world’s best neighborhoods for spotting street art.

Williamsburg – Brooklyn, New York

Brooklyn street art; Best Neighborhoods for Street Art

Brooklyn. Photo courtesy of Megan McDonough.

For many tourists, a trip to New York City rarely includes visiting all five boroughs. Yet, just a short subway ride from Manhattan is Williamsburg, one of Brooklyn’s most up-and-coming neighborhoods. Home to galleries, trendy bars and vintage shops, the area draws a young and culturally curious crowd with an appreciation for street art and other forms of creative expression.

Taking advantage of Williamsburg’s public spaces and abandoned lots, emerging artists come here to work on a variety of experimental street art ranging from stylized text to poster-work, stickers and stencils. While graffiti and murals are scattered throughout the neighborhood, North 3rd Street and Bedford Avenue is a good starting point. Keap and Hope streets are generally covered in street art as well.

Kreuzberg – Berlin, Germany

Berlin street art; best neighborhoods for street art

Berlin. Photo courtesy of Megan McDonough.

Even in Berlin’s quiet and more residential neighborhoods, street art is never far from view, so one can only imagine how much there is to see in punk-driven, alternative neighborhoods like Kreuzberg. Most guided street art tours start in Mitte and end at the East Side Gallery, a section of the former Berlin Wall in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg consisting of 105 paintings from artists around the globe.

If touring the neighborhood solo, the best starting point is around the Kurfürstenstrasse and Mehringdamm U-Bahn stations, where various forms of street art are easily spotted. Don’t skip the “Spaceman” by Victor Ash, which is said to the biggest stencil currently in existence. If traveling in late April, there is an annual three-day Gallery Weekend celebrating art through a series of events, parties and special gallery openings.

La Candelaria – Bogotá, Colombia

Bogota street art; Best neighborhoods for street art

La Candelaria. Photo credit: Guache Street Art via Flickr.

Bogotá’s downtown La Candelaria neighborhood is starkly different than the modern buildings that tower over trendy Parque 99 in the north. The mere size of the city can be intimidating to travelers but the vast majority of local street art is conveniently located in La Candelaria, as are most of the city’s museums and various cultural attractions.

Despite the crowded squares, traffic-jammed roads and slew of budget hostels and bars catering to Bogotá’s boom in tourism, La Candelaria still maintains its old town charm. A simple walk through the pedestrian streets yields an array of old and new street art with subject matter ranging from thought-provoking political messages to pop-culture references.

Belleville/Menilmontant – Paris, France

The phrase “Paris is for lovers” goes way beyond the literal translation. While city landmarks like The Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe do make for a romantic backdrop it’s just as easy to fall in love with the street art here too. For the most innovative and representative graffiti, head northeast to the Ménilmontant and Belleville neighborhoods.

Formerly two small villages, they became part of central Paris back in 1860 and have since become a hub for art connoisseurs and leisure travelers alike. Explore solo or tag along on one of the regularly scheduled street art tours where guides navigate the Parisian streets highlighting work from famous local artists like Space Invader and Jef Aerosol.

Brasil – Santiago, Chile

Brasil, Santiago; Best Street Art Neighborhoods

Brasil, Santiago. Photo courtesy of Megan McDonough.

Several of Santiago’s neighborhoods have evolved throughout the years to cater to different industries. For example, El Golf serves as the center for international business affairs while Lastarria houses many of the city’s cultural museums and upscale restaurants. On the other hand, the often-overlooked neighborhood of Brasil is somewhat of an outdoor museum in its own right.

Before relocating to Las Condes, rich families built their mansions in Brasil, which explains why the area boasts a mix of architectural styles and a maze-like design. Nowadays, residents are evenly mixed between young university students and older tenants who never relocated. It’s the perfect place to spot vibrant street art in Santiago and also the most affordable neighborhood if on a budget.

Santa Teresa – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro street art; best neighborhoods for street art

Santa Teresa neighborhood. Photo credit: Rodrigo Galindez via Flickr.

Unlike in most cities, street art is legal in Rio de Janeiro as long as the artists are granted permission by building owners. While street art can be spotted just about anywhere here, Santa Teresa has become the most recognized neighborhood for artists eager to showcase their work.

Located on the top of a hill in the center of the city, Santa Teresa was once an upper-class neighborhood that later fell into disrepair. Then in the 1960s and 1770s artists and other creative moved to the area and slowly transformed the deteriorated neighborhood into the artistic hub it is today. Narrow streets and colonial architecture keep the neighborhood’s history alive while street art reflects current affairs. Art galleries and studios are also located in Santa Teresa to appeal to all artistic talents.

Beyoglu – Istanbul, Turkey

Located just north of the Golden Horn in Istanbul, Beyoglu (also known as Pera) was once a fashionable neighborhood with large apartment buildings in the late 19th century. As years passed, the wealthy residents moved to other neighborhoods and crime seeped into the streets. Today, gentrification has lessened crime and attracted the artistic community.

The result is a relatively quiet residential neighborhood with a good number of art galleries, cafes, restaurants and coffee houses. This cultural revival has in turn attracted aspiring stencil and graffiti artists to the area who use the alleyways as their own personal canvas.

East End – London, England

London street art; Best neighborhoods for street art

London. Photo courtesy of Megan McDonough.

Similar to other global cities like New York and Berlin, London neighborhoods each have their own unique personality. A far cry from the city’s posh West End, London’s East End is an international mix of cultures that forms a uniquely cohesive whole. The gritty neighborhood has emerged as a prime location for spotting street art, with organized walking tours now a regular occurrence.

Banksy, who hails from England and is probably most widely-recognized street artist in the world, has several pieces still in tact in London’s East End. For a crash course in London street art, start in Spitalfields and make your way to Brick Lane via Fournier Street. If time permits, venture into the nearby areas of Shoreditch and Camden for more variety.

Wynwood – Miami, Florida

Breathing new life into Miami‘s otherwise forgotten Puerto-Rican neighborhood, Wynwood is now bursting with color thanks to a few local artists who helped to give the area a much needed facelift. With the Midtown Miami urban development, people looked at Wynwood with new eyes, converting abandoned warehouses into trendy cafes, lounges and restaurants.

Now, there are more than 70 galleries, art collections and an impressive amount of street art to keep passerby entertained. Most of these art attractions are located between North 36th Street and North 20th Street. Every second Saturday of the month, the neighborhood hosts an “ArtWalk” where locals and tourists can browse from one gallery to the next at their leisure. Wynwood also has a thriving fashion and textiles industry.

Hosier Lane – Melbourne, Australia

Hosier Lane, Melbourne; best neighborhoods for street art

Hosier Lane

Unlike many of the other cities rounding off our list, Melbourne artists steer clear of creating graffiti and tagging, which are both illegal here. Street art in Melbourne primarily consists of elaborate wall murals and stencil work but is equally impressive.

Popular locations to spot new and existing work is on Hosier and Rutledge Lane across from Federation Square and on Caledonian Lane where it intersects Bourke Street. Hosier Lane is a pedestrian laneway in central Melbourne where artists paint the walls with often-times political artwork. Up until 2011 when it was painted over, a main attraction on Hosier Lane a mural called “Our Lady Hosier”.

Newton – Johannesburg, South Africa

Although the street art scene in Johannesburg is relatively new compared to New York and London, the city is showing definite signs of promise. The recent “I Art Joburg” project invited five international artists to create murals on prominent buildings like the MAMA. Many tourists head to Braamfontein, specifically Juta Street, to browse through street art but there are lesser-known areas that also offer colorful street art.

Newtown is one of several Johannesburg neighborhoods where emerging talent practice their craft. The best time to visit is on Sunday mornings when many of the local artists are working on their latest projects. The environment creates an atmosphere reminiscent of an open-air gallery.

The World’s Best Neighborhoods for Spotting Street Art art , berlin , Bogotá , brooklyn , featured , Istanbul , Johannesburg , London , Melbourne , miami , new york city , Paris , Rio de Janeiro , Santiago