Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Washington, D.C.: Solo Through our Nation’s Capital

Washington, D.C.:  Solo Through our Nation’s Capital  
I Went Because...

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C. this year through my volunteer advocacy work with the Alzheimer’s Association. The annual Advocacy Forum in April was an amazing and very sentimental experience for me, as I got to learn about the devastating disease that my father endured. 

Washington D.C.
Sure, I had been to D.C. a few times before. The trips were chaotic, in-and-out-of-town business trips, with little opportunity to get acquainted with the local community. This time, however, I truly absorbed my surroundings — the historical monuments, the government feel, and the beauty of an urban city filled with personal stories.   

Supreme Court in Washington D.C.
The Forum gave me the opportunity to see our government in action and speak with Congressional Representatives and staff in their offices on the Hill. My bonus was that we saw a Senate Hearing in action with the Council on Aging.  I enjoyed walking the underground tunnels connecting these government buildings, and loved observing these people engaged in their daily work activities.  

First, Planning the Trip 

Planning trips is one of my favorite parts of the process. Even with our early Sunday departure, I was glad to have booked a nonstop flight across the country from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. I was fortunate enough to have a clear, sunny day with a view of our country below. The cross-country travel experience left me humbled by the vastness of this large nation we sometimes take for granted.  

Worth a Splurge

Ridesharing services are affordable and convenient. I always hire a private car service going to and from the airport in new, unfamiliar places. After all, this is my time to relax and orient myself. When I arrive, I enjoy the text from my driver as my plane lands, and appreciate when he or she meets me at the baggage claim and whisks me off to my next reveal. This is one convenience I add to enhance the beginning of my trip. 

First Picture I Took When I Arrived - Washington Monument 

Don’t Miss This Place to Stay

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I am immune to high accommodation prices. Travel accommodations are a central place to come “home” to for downtime.  Of course, I use my own hotel search website, and I reached out to our Association coordinator for a list of places to stay. My hunt started by plotting suggestions on a Google Map. 

I was intrigued by Woodley Park Guest House, located across the street from the conference hotel. This was close to a two-block shopping area with a drug store, coffee establishments — an absolute must for me, McDonald’s (just in case), and nice restaurants. I chose a room in this three-story guesthouse based on the website pictures and descriptions.

Woodley Park Guest House, Washington D.C.
My cozy writer’s room had a private bathroom and was located on the third floor of a beautifully renovated historic home. Although there was no elevator or television, I enjoyed the complimentary internet access (a definite must for writers/travelers to keep abreast of news and get to know the region). Our hosts greeted us with smiles and friendly small talk every day, and I even received welcomed help with my luggage when I arrived.

My Cozy Writer's Room, Washington D.C.
 Coffee was ready on the landing every morning, and I enjoyed family-style light European breakfasts, as well as wine gatherings in the afternoon to top off the friendly atmosphere. 

I am not a morning person, so I was a bit shy to go downstairs for my first breakfast. That said, I made new friends each morning. I met other people attending the conference from other states, and a number of worldwide travelers.

It is best to reserve six months in advance because there are only a few room types. I enjoyed reading a personal confirmation email the day after I made my reservation. I am used to modern, upscale hotels for business, and I liked this pleasant change of pace. Woodley Park Guest House was a fantastic place to step away from the hectic conference and relax.  

Add Sightseeing to Your Schedule 

I had the advantage of listening to online chats with tourism and blogger friends about Washington, D.C.  There are so many things to do, so it is best to make your own list. A suggestion from a Tour Director friend about Old Town Trolley Tours for day one overview was perfect. My hosts helped me book my ticket. 

Arlington Cemetery, Washington D.C.
 I started out mid-morning on this rainy day to find the first stop. The driver guides were helpful and provided useful city narration. My must-see destination was the coveted Arlington Cemetery and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with the Changing of the Guard. This took three trolley transfers, but eventually I found it! It was very inspiring to watch this moment of silence.  

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington Cemetery
Changing of the Guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

I jotted down my must-sees for my second trip. Luck was with me on this day, and the weather showed a mix of clouds and sun — the sun came out during the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Changing of the Guard at Arlington Cemetery! 

Cool Souvenirs

I found an adorable charm to make earrings, bracelets, and key chains from my favorite Etsy store (see my side panel) that remind me of my trip when I wear them. Combine with a gem stone or another charm. Keep your travel memories with you! If you need help - leave a comment.

Things I Saw
  • Capital Building
  • Congressional and Senate offices
  • Supreme Court
  • Botanical Garden
  • Lincoln Monument
  • Arlington Cemetery
  • National Mall
Botanical Gardens, Washington D.C.

Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

Walk Up the Steps to See Abraham Lincoln in Washington D.C.

City Drive Views 
  • Washington National Cathedral
  • Georgetown
  • Whitehouse
  • Ambassador Homes
  • Monuments Overview
My Next Must-Sees
  • Newseum
  • Mount Vernon
  • Georgetown

What is your Must-See in Washington D.C.? I am anxious to read them - comment below.  
Take advantage of every trip by adding an extra sightseeing day! ~ the Fun Tour Guru

Pictures taken by DW - Follow me on Instagram for more views. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

My Hit and Miss of my Last Trip and Trip Planning Advice

My Hit and Miss of my Last Trip and Trip Planning Advice

Even road warrior travelers make mistakes. I collect several stories about packing tips every month, and these anecdotes are very helpful. After all, we don’t often share what worked and what didn’t on our trips. And the truth is that everyone appreciates value shopping and saving a few dollars here and there. Of course, every trip is different. Few people take international trips as frequently as they travel domestically. Packing for longer trips is a different matter than getting ready for an overnight business trip or a pleasure trip right here in the USA.

My main advice which I can’t help but reiterate here, is to pack lightly. For your wardrobe, choose two or three colors that you can mix and match. Hand-wash your clothes during your trip. And when it comes to planning for your getaway, use a Pinterest board like this one to save the items that you want to purchase.

Cold December day at the Wartburg Castle, overlooking the town of Eisenach, Germany

My Miss on My Trip

My miss on my last international trip was with my luggage. I got caught up in searching for the best deals on luggage and forgot about the consequences of my decisions — like how easy the bags would be to lug around on trips. Remember, you have to carry your bags with your belongings inside!

My usual practice is to take one piece of luggage with wheels and a handle — a standard size, nothing huge — that I check in with the airline, and then to bring two carry-on bags with me on the plane. These are bags that I sling over my shoulder. I use one to carry an extra set of clothing and tech tools like my laptop, phone, cords, chargers, writing pad, etc. The other is my daypack, which comes with a shoulder strap, and which I keep in front of me like I would a purse.

On longer trips, I look for an oversized personal bag into which I can slip my small daypack during the flight. When I arrive, I have both my daypack and my larger bag to carry any purchased items on my return flight.

I blew it on my last trip. The new oversized bag (picture) that I thought would be perfect for my daypack and any extra items turned out to be way too big and awkward for my height. I’ll say it again — don’t forget that you still need to carry your bags with you at the airport and times like during transfers to hotels.

My Awkward Carry On Bag on this Trip

I know better than to stray from my usual practice. However, I wanted to try something different (though I should have tested this on a shorter trip).

Now I’ve returned to my old carry-on (a comfortable shoulder bag) along with my daypack. And I recently found this convenient carry-on bag, which has plenty of room for a laptop. It converts into a backpack as well.

My Hit on the Trip

Traveling in the winter from California poses a new set of challenges for travelers. And yes, we do have coats in Northern California. I own lightweight jackets and all-weather coats that I wear on cooler days and in the rain.

I am familiar with heavy coats from when I grew up in the cold, icy, snowy weather of Central USA. I added this item to my Pinterest board and eventually found the fabulous black wool coat, which came with a hood. It was the perfect length and went down to right above my knees, yet was long enough to cover the tops of my legs. And as a bonus, it was a designer coat on sale since I’d shopped for it ahead of time! It kept me warm on the cold, winter December days I spent in Germany.

Heavy Black Coat and Day Pack in Ruhland, Germany
 Trips should be fun, one-of-a-kind experiences. Most of us don’t get away all that often, and we don’t want to create unpleasant situations. In order to make the most of your next trip, remember these basic tips:

Let's have fun. Where am I going next? From the The Fun Tour Guru 

What are your Hits and Misses from your last trip? Tell me in the comments below.  

No affiliate links included.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Brunch, Plazas, History, Nature in Cedynia, Poland

I love to go out for breakfast and brunch with friends and family.  I started thinking about all of the places I have gone for breakfasts and brunches both locally and on my trips.  There is a one in 2014 that stands out.  Is it the surprise factor of where I was going why I recall this one?

I will not be writing about the delicious German and Polish foods this time, I am going to  describe the “where” I went for the first time. 

Going out for breakfast in Cedynia, Poland

This particular morning I was whisked off in my carriage on a chilly December Saturday morning for our delicious brunch and get acquainted reunion conversation. The countryside I went through looked much like I remember growing up in Missouri as we crossed over the Oder River and the Poland border outside Bad Freienwalde, Germany. 

This is northeast of Berlin, Germany.  I went from my favorite urban city, to a small town, to a find this tiny village. I watched the rolling hills, forests, and wide open space pass by me through my carriage window.

I admit I was a somewhat apprehensive passenger following along on this day to unknown places especially since I do not speak the language and I was not able to do my own research first.  I do love to embrace new regions and I found familiar fun excitement rising inside me again.  How often do we really get to go to new, not familiar, and unknown places? I am grateful for cousins and friends that helped show me the way.

Poland Countryside in December

Why is it the time that passes going to a new place appears to move slowly when in reality, it may only be a half hour?  The distance (per Google maps) from Bad Freienwalde, Germany to Cedynia, Poland is  7.7 km or 10 mi and about 20 minutes. With my imagination, it seemed like a day journey in my carriage.

As we turned off the main two lane highway into Cedynia, I was reminded again of the Missouri town rolling hills. Of course I see the old Church building in the center of town that I recognize in pictures when I surf the web that is close to our restaurant.
The Village of Cedynia, Poland
The popular places people visit and write about of Poland are Krakow and Warsaw, there is not so much information about this village where I went.
I found this description from National Geographic website on Poland, “Café patrons enjoy a view of St Mary’s Church across from Krakow’s picturesque Rynek Glowny, one of the largest public plazas in Europe.”

This is true of Cedynia.  I admired the very old architecture still standing and the mural on the side of the building next to our restaurant in this off the beaten path village plaza.  And I saw one of the other buildings next to the museum undergoing historical renovation.

The drive through central Cedynia, Poland

Restaurants are usually called chata, gospoda or oberża, translated roughly as "tavern" or "inn". The ones I went into were made of wood and with plenty of colorful ornaments hanging on the walls. I did feel as if I was in a 19th century family house. Many of their menus include traditional dishes and beverages with food served on decorated tableware.

Murals, Plaza, History, Cedynia, Poland

I am grateful that I was with friends and family who translated the menu words to help me – this is when my Word Lens app would be an asset to read the words had I been on my own.

I love ordering a “Radler” with my meals. Radler also means 'cyclist' in German, this is your favorite Pilsner or Lager with lemonade or soda (Sprite or 7-Up) added. Why don’t we have this option more often in the USA?

An inside tip to remember is the tradition meal times, the Polish (and even Germans in rural areas) generally take their meals following the standard continental schedule with a light breakfast in the morning (usually some sandwiches with tea/coffee), then dinner at around 4PM or 5PM, then supper at around 7PM or 8 PM.

I found the impressive website (and translated) of Hotel and Restaurant Piast Cedynia  of our restaurant of our fabulous brunch – one of two or three places to eat in this village. My mouth waters when I think about the taste of the combination of delicious European breads and rolls, meats, and American scrambled eggs I ate. There was the fun surprise of candies in this special tiny little wooden box after our meal. Again, I probably would not have found this place on my own.
After Meal Candies!

Country drive around Cedynia, Poland

After our brunch we drove around the countryside through Cedynia Landscape Park, a wilderness forest with lots of history. Of course in December season, it was a very different look that you may see in the summer.  I am still researching my memories of the history spots that I saw on this drive. There is more information about this Park: 

 “Cedynia Landscape Park is a protected area in north-western Poland, bordering Germany. It was established on 1 April 1993, by order of the governor of the then Szczecin Voivodeship. The Park covers an area of 308.5 square kilometres (119.1 square miles).” 

I found this list of things to do from the AlltheCities website:

  1. The parish church of the thirteenth century in Cedynia.
  2. The observation tower of the nineteenth century in Cedynia.
  3. Settlement in Cedynia.
  4. Granite church from the thirteenth century in the Upper Lubiechowie.
  5. The church from the second half of the thirteenth century in Cząchowie.
  6. The church from the second half of the thirteenth century in Orzechowo.
  7. The church from the second half of the thirteenth century in Golice.
  8. Monument at the top Czcibor.
  9. Shrine of Our Lady of Peace in Siekierki.
  10. Cedynski park.
  11. Reserve "cabbage".
  12. Reserve Moors Cedyńskie.

Oh, the places I find myself wandering about these days! ~ The Fun Tour Guru 
I paid for my trip and pictures are mine taken on a cold December day.   My favorite and helpful research websites (some with Facebook pages) I found on my own about Poland and used with this story are: 

Poland's Official Travel Website
Guide to Poland from National Geographic website
Guide to Central Europe from Lighthouse Travel and Tours destinations
About Cedynia, Poland from AllTheCities
Hoteland Restaurant Piast
Radler Beer from the Wishful Chef 
Things to do with kids in Poznan Poland from Travel with Bender