Capturing Christmas Magic in Budapest with Flytographer

Two years ago, I arrived in Budapest, the last stop on my solo European Christmas markets trip. It was my first visit to Budapest, and after a week of traveling solo through Vienna and Bratislava, which included losing my wallet my second night of the trip in Vienna, I was a bit tired and frazzled.

After arriving at the Keleti train station from Bratislava and making my way to my hotel using the city’s trams and subways, I settled in to the hotel bar to enjoy a glass of wine and unwind. It was time for the #luxtravelchat Twitter chat, so I hopped online to chat with fellow travelers before I ventured to explore the city on my own.

Buda Castle in Budapest by Flytographer Roky

Buda Castles at night. Credit: Roky, Flytographer

Flytographer in Budapest

During the chat, Nicole Smith, the founder of Flytographer, mentioned that the Flytographer service was expanding into Budapest, and she wondered if I had free time for a photo shoot with one of their new photographers? Since my only agenda during my stay was to explore the Christmas markets and then add in anything else that seemed interesting in my free time, a photo shoot to document my trip sounded perfect to me.

Flytographer is a vacation photography service with photographers that can be booked in 180 cities around the world. There are different shoot package options, and shortly after the end of your session, you receive a link to high resolution images of your vacation photos, ready for you to download.

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Budapest buildings along the Danube by Flytographer Roky

Nicole connected me to Roky, the Flytographer in Budapest, and we communicated via WhatsApp to set a time and place to meet for our photo shoot. I wanted pictures of me walking around the Christmas markets experiencing the sparkly lights, the stalls filled with Christmas decorations and the food vendors selling mulled wine and other hot beverages to keep you warm. Roky suggested that perhaps we should meet a bit before dark so we could also photograph some of the city’s landmarks. We decided to meet by the Széchenyi Chain Bridge along the Danube River, the river that separates the Buda and Pest sides of the city.

Starting the Photo Shoot with Roky from Flytographer

I met Roky right as the sun was setting. He had arrived earlier and took some photographs of the landscape since he loves to take photos and Budapest is a beautiful subject! We chatted briefly and then he directed me to the bridge so we could take some photos before the sun disappeared.

The Little Princess statue along the Danube River by Flytographer Roky

The Little Princess statue along the Danube River by Flytographer Roky

Roky took some initial shots of me, and while I am usually comfortable having my picture taken, I felt a bit uneasy at first since I did not know Roky, I was not simply standing in front of a landmark and smiling, and I was posing by myself. Since Roky was hoping to capture some candid shots, that added to the pressure since it is difficult to wander around and act like you do not realize that your picture is being taken!

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One of the first photos Roky took of me, with the Danube River in the background

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One of our early photos by Flytographer Roky

Shortly after we started though, I was smiling and laughing and enjoying the moment. Roky has an friendly, easygoing way about him, so I soon felt comfortable as he directed me to stand here, turn this way, look up and smile.

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We walked on the Chain Bridge to take some photos Credit: Roky from Flytographer

He would stop along the way to show me the photos he took so I could see our progress, and he also explained some of the settings he was using on his camera. As you can see, he has quite the eye for getting some gorgeous shots!

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Taking pictures as a yellow Budapest tram approaches Credit: Flytographer Roky

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Watching as the tram passes Credit: Flytographer Roky

Night Shots at Vörösmarty Square Christmas Market

After taking these photos by the river, we walked a short bit towards the Vörösmarty Square market, as the day turned to dusk and then night. Roky wanted to experiment with some techniques, and I was game, as I enjoyed chatting with him about Budapest, his photography techniques, and our favorite travel experiences.

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Approaching the Vorostamy Square Christmas Market Credit: Roky, Flytographer

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Standing still for a longer exposure while people pass by Credit: Roky, Flytographer

The Vörösmarty Square market was one of my most favorite that I visited during my entire trip (Vienna-Bratislava-Budapest), as it had so many beautiful ornaments and Christmas decorations that were handmade. The food stalls were huge, with large pots of stews and local delicacies. Of course there was spiked punch (and you could choose which spirit to add), mulled wine and hot chocolate!

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Pretty light balls hanging in the trees over Vorosmarty Square Christmas Market Credit: Flytographer Roky

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Looking at the traditional chimney cakes Credit: Roky, Flytographer

Roky let me wander through the market, explaining what some of the different foods were, and we stopped for some mulled wine. It was all traditional Hungarian foods, and everything looked delicious.

Trying Somlói Galuska at Gerbeaud

Somehow we started talking about chocolate while we were walking around, and Roky told me I must somlói galuska, a traditional cake dessert with chocolate. Since we were right near the famous Gerbeaud cafe on Vörösmarty Square, he asked if I would be interested in trying it then. Am I interested in dessert? Of course! So into the cafe we went, a beautifully decorated space, and the desserts looked all delicious. We each selected a dessert to try, and then of course, I had to post a photo on Instagram.

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Trying somloi galuska in Gerbeaud Photo by Roky of Flytographer

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Instagramming my somloi geluska at Gerbeaud cafe Photo by Flytographer Roky

After finishing dessert, it was time for our Flytographer session to come to an end. I had a fantastic time taking photographs with Roky; he captured beautiful pictures documenting my joy and wonder exploring the Christmas market. These photos are my most treasured souvenir of my solo trip, and the easy friendship I developed with Roky is a fond memory too.

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When I returned home, I was blown away by the pictures, and they instantly reminded me of the sights, sounds, smells and tastes from that night. My friends were equally impressed – when I shared one of the photos on Facebook, the response was overwhelmingly positive.

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Daylight photo on the Chain Bridge. Photo by Flytographer Roky

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Enjoying mulled wine Photo by Flytographer Roky

Flytographer – the Best Travel Souvenir

Flytographer is the best thing you can purchase while traveling, as the photos capture a moment in time and help you remember a special trip forever. I have also had sessions with Flytographer in London and Buenos Aires, as a single traveler and with family (read my post about our London experience here), and I can not recommend them highly enough. And, Budapest is a great city to visit in the Christmas season (if these photos haven’t convinced you).

You can receive a $25 off for your next Flytographer session by booking through this link. Use #FlyFan when you book to receive the credit.

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Drinking mulled wine at Vorosmarty Square

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In front of the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Photo by Roky of Flytographer

While my shoot in Budapest with Flytographer was complimentary, the opinions of my experience are entirely my own.

Sabor a Cabo – A Festival Celebrating the Tastes of Los Cabos

It is hard to believe that I live so close to Los Cabos, Mexico, yet have never traveled there. Many in Los Angeles escape to Los Cabos because of the warm weather, beautiful ocean water and short flight from LAX. And as I learned at a press event in September, there is another reason to add “Cabo” to my list of places to visit: Sabor A Cabo.

Los Cabos Tourism invited me to a press event in September to highlight and promote the Sabor a Cabo festival which takes place December 4 – 10, 2016 (they also hosted the July Travel Massive Los Angeles event, which featured fantastic food and drinks). Sabor a Cabo is an international food festival featuring the cuisine of Los Cabos and also the cuisine from visiting chefs from notable restaurants around the world. This year, Mexico’s most famous rock band Mana will perform a benefit concert at the main event on December 10th.

The Sabor a Cabo press event was held at Rock & Brews in El Segundo, California. Dave Furano, the co-founder of Rock & Brews, graciously welcomed us. In addition to Rock & Brews in over a dozen U.S. cities, there is a Rock & Brews in San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Chef Rodrigo Cabeza de Vaca, Chairman of CANIRAC, the National Chamber of Restaurants and Seasoned Foods Industry in Mexico, spoke to us about the event and its growth since its founding eleven years ago.

We were treated to a light lunch featuring samples from several top Los Cabos chefs: Ángel Carbajal of Nicksan, Jesús Castro of Edith’s Restaurante, and Paolo de la Corte of Sunset da Mona Lisa. Their tasty bites were a wonderful representation of the local flavors of Cabo.

The food presentation, as you can see, was beautiful, and the food did not disappoint. All of us were oohing and ahhing as each course was delivered to our table.

Chef Angel Carbajal of Nick-san's Compache with Poke at Sabor a Cabo at Rock & Brews El Segundo

Chef Ángel Carbajal of Nick-San prepared this Compache with Poke

Chef Angel Carbajal of Nick-san's Compache with Poke at Sabor a Cabo at Rock & Brews El Segundo

Chef Paolo de la Corte of Sunset da Mona Lisa oysters with truffels for Sabor a Cabo event at Rock & Brews El Segundo

Chef Paolo de la Corte of Sunset da Mona Lisa prepared these oysters with truffles. They were heavenly.

Sabor a Cabo chefs pose with Kiera Reilly at Rock & Brews in El Segundo for Los Cabos Tourism

Posing with Chef Angel Carbajal of Nick-San, Chef Jesus Castro of Edith’s Restaurante, Chef Rodrigo Cabeza de Vaca of La Galeria, and Chef Paolo de la Corte of Sunset da Mona Lisa

The growing popularity of this festival is such that we were told that some of the ticket packages for Sabo a Cabo was already sold-out in September, so make plans now to attend this festival next year. More information can be found on the site, Sabor a Cabo.

Watching Formula 1 in Los Angeles

Last weekend, we licked our wounds because we weren’t in Austin to watch a beautiful, sunny weekend of Formula 1 racing at Circuit of the Americas. But we found a salve for not being there in person with the next best thing, watching the race live with fellow Formula 1 fans in Los Angeles at Pirelli P Zero World.

LA F1 Fans at Pirelli P Zero World to watch Formula 1

Watching the USGP at Pirelli P Zero World with fellow F1 fans

Thanks to the LA F1 Fans meet-up group Mark Sternberg created a few years ago, each week during the Formula 1 season LA fans gather to watch the races with fellow F1 enthusiasts. We once thought we were the only Formula 1 fans here in the US, since hardly any of our friends knew what we were talking about when we said, “Formula 1.” Now we meet with other followers of the FIA’s premier motorsport series, Formula 1, to watch races at various locations throughout Los Angeles.

Most race weekends, the group watches a tape delayed broadcast of the race due to the international nature of the sport. With races occurring around the world, finding a location to watch a race in the middle of the night, and the willingness to watch in the middle of the night, is a tough proposition.

Usually, the LA F1 group gathers at the Britannia Pub or Cock and Bull Pub in Santa Monica. For the season opener in Australia, Mark arranged for a viewing party at Tom’s Urban in downtown LA. A few weeks ago, the group returned to Tom’s Urban to watch the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka live – starting at 10:00 PM Los Angeles time. The new U.S. Formula 1 team, Haas F1, sponsored the party and offered team hats and other team promotional items that Mark raffled off. Over 100 people gathered to watch.

Last weekend, for the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, the LA F1 Fans group met at Pirelli P Zero World in Century City. Pirelli is the official tire for Formula 1. A catered buffet, wine, and beer were offered (for a fee), and we enjoyed a big screen viewing of the race.

Pirelli P Zero World LA F1 fans viewing party

Pirelli’s P Zero World in Century City, Los Angeles

Lavazza cappuccino at LA F1 fans Pirelli P Zero World for Formula 1

A Lavazza cappuccino and Formula 1 viewing

It was a good, but not great race. Our group really made some noise when Carlos Sainz, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were battling for fifth position near the end of the race and Alonso and Massa almost took each other out.

LA F1 Fans at Pirelli P Zero World to watch the USGP Formula 1 race

Watching the USGP at Pirelli P Zero World in Los Angeles

During the commercial breaks, the fans chatted with each other and looked at the cars on display and parked outside.

McLaren at Pirelli P Zero World for LA F1 Formula 1

A McLaren 570 GT parked in the back of Pirelli P Zero World

McLaren Pirelli P Zero World LA Formula 1 fans

McLaren 650S in Pirelli P Zero World

McLaren at Pirelli P Zero World for LA F1 fans viewing

There’s a McLaren behind us but we’re all focused on the action on the track!

Williams Martini Racing Pirelli LA F1 fans

Wearing my Williams Martini racing shirt to support Felipe Massa by this beautiful Maserati

This weekend, Formula 1 is in Mexico, offering US west-coast fans an opportunity to watch the race live at a reasonable hour. Join them tomorrow at the Britannia Pub in Santa Monica, and cheer for your favorite team and driver among fellow Formula 1 fans!

What: LA F1 Fans watch the Formula 1 Mexican Grand Prix live

Where: Britannia Pub, 318 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA

When: 10:30 am

Details and to RSVP: http://www.meetup.com/LAF1Fans/events/235117340/

While Mercedes AMG Petronas has clinched the constructor’s title for the third straight year, the driver’s championship is still in play. Nico Rosberg could clinch his first F1 world championship if he wins the race and his teammate, reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton, finishes tenth or lower. But Lewis is on the pole for the race, with Nico in the second grid position and the Red Bulls breathing down their necks in third and fourth. It should be an exciting race. We hope to see you at the Britannia to watch with us live tomorrow!

Who do you think will win the race? Who do you think will win the driver’s championship?

More photos from the USGP viewing party are here:

McLaren Pirelli P Zero World LA F1 fans viewing

Back of the McLaren 570 GT

McLaren Pirelli LA F1 fans viewing

The McLaren 650 S from the back

 

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Airport Restrooms – Why Can’t Stalls Be Larger?

(First published on Cloud Surfing Kids; this post has been updated since its original posting in December, 2015)

Traveling through airports is often a hassle and sometimes downright unpleasant. But with many airports being renovated with new food and retail vendors, sometimes the down-time waiting for a flight, in between layovers or unexpected flight delays can be more pleasurable than in the past. Except for the bathrooms. I cannot speak to the men’s restroom situation, but it seems that whoever designs airport restrooms these days has not considered how most of us travel in modern times – with a rolling carry-on bag. These small rolling luggage bags are wonderful – if you pack smartly and efficiently, you do not need to check luggage. If you check luggage but still bring valuables and other items on the plane, these wheeled bags are much easier for traveling through the airport, eliminating the need to carry heavy items on our shoulders or arms.

Yet, if you need to use the restroom and are traveling alone (and thus need to bring said carry-on bag into the bathroom stall with you), one must be a contortionist. The bathroom stalls in most restrooms are simply not deep enough to accommodate both you and your wheeled bag while closing the door. I often wheel the bag in, slide it next to the side of the toilet, close the door, then wheel the bag against the door while I use the toilet. To exit the stall, I repeat, or I climb over my bag. I often say a quick prayer that I am able bodied enough to contort my limbs to fit into the stall and climb over my bag, and I wonder how others who are not as flexible manage. Sure, many people wait to use the stalls intended for those with disabilities, since they are larger, but there are usually only one or two of those stalls per bathroom, and if there is a line and you are short on time before your flight, you may not have time to wait for one to be free. Not to mention that those stalls should be kept open for those who truly do need the extra accommodation.

wheelchair cloud surfing kids

What amazes me now as I travel to new, modern airports is that many have large restroom areas, with several feet of space between the sinks and the stalls. Yet the stalls are not deep enough for a person to walk inside and close the door, much less walk inside and close the door with a bag in tow. I did not even mention the self-flushing toilets that seem to be quite popular. With all the contorting I do to situate myself in the stall, the self-flushing toilet flushes at least three times before I even use it!

(Cloud Surfing Kids Editor’s Travel Tip: carry mini Post-It Notes in your bag to cover the sensor on the auto-flushing toilet. This will keep it from flushing until you remove the Post-It Note. Especially good when traveling with children who might be frightened by the toilet suddenly flushing when they are still on it!)

I take pictures in airport restrooms (if the room is relatively empty since I do not want people in my pictures and people are suspicious if you’re taking photos in the bathroom!) because I am always delighted by the stalls with enough space to walk in with my bag and close the door. I silently award bonus points for stalls that have a shelf for your purse or bag. The small hooks on the backs of most stall doors are not strong or large enough to hold a coat and large bag. I am also astounded at all of the “space” in the bathrooms that could be utilized for deeper stalls, so I sometimes document that too.

Some of the best airport restrooms I have encountered in my travels:

PHL  Philadelphia – Terminal D

While this terminal was a bit run-down as it is not for the main PHL carrier (US Airways, pre-merger with American,) but for United, Southwest and Delta, it has some nice bathroom stalls. They are not new or always necessarily the cleanest, but the stall doors open outwards into the restroom and not inwards into the stall! I have never had an issue bumping into other travelers, and it is so easy to enter the stall with a wheeled bag. At the beginning of the terminal, what used to be right after going through security, but is now near the terminal exit, are some wonderful bathrooms with super-large stalls – so big that an individual sink is in each stall. The sinks never seem to be in working order, but I love that the stalls are big and I am not bumping into every wall while trying to secure myself and my belongings so I can use the facilities. There are only a handful of these super-large stalls, but whenever I visit that restroom, there is never a line and only one or two other people using them.

Terminal D is being remodeled, and when I traveled through there recently, I was nervous as I walked into the bathroom – did they keep the stall doors that open outward into the room? I am happy to report that they did! The new bathroom features bright colors and two rows of stalls with doors that open outward. The stalls seem slightly longer too, so with the length and the door opening out, I was easily able to bring my bag into the stall with me. The sink counter-tops are worthy of note too. I am often frustrated by sopping wet counters because water splashes everywhere and hand dryers or paper towels are across the bathroom from the sinks.

As I was looking in wonder at the new restroom and finding my phone so I could take some photos, another woman exclaimed, “This must have been designed by a woman!” She was amazed at the sink stations and how the paper towels were right by the sink.

PHL Philadelphia Airport bathroom stalls

Bright color and stalls that open out at PHL’s Terminal D bathrooms

PHL Philadelphia airport bathroom stalls

Looking at the stalls at PHL from the other direction. The frosted glass windows allow some natural light to brighten the room.

PHL Philadelphia airport bathroom stall

Bright green tiles along the back of the stalls. The stalls are deep and the doors open outward (though the restrooms needed servicing).

PHL Philadelphia airport bathroom sinks

The sinks at PHL terminal D restroom. Automatic faucet, soap dispenser and towel dispensers!

SAN  San Diego

I had not visited this airport for several years and was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful open floor plan and the bathrooms – deep stalls! A shelf on the back wall of the stall to stow a bag! Automatic water and soap dispensers!

SAN San Diego airport restroom stall

SAN bathroom stall – could be deeper, but note the shelf above the toilet – with bars – to hold a bag

SAN San Diego airport bathroom stalls

SAN bathroom stalls – plenty of room between stalls (tall doors – nice) and the sinks, so it would be nice if the stalls were deeper. Frosted glass windows add natural light

SJC  San Jose

The newer terminal building bathrooms are a delight – big restrooms, large stalls, automatic faucets and Dyson hand dryers.

CLT  Charlotte 

I visited this airport last year en route to London. The terminal was bright and airy, and so were the restrooms. An opaque window in the restroom allowed natural light to enter, and the stalls were deep.

CLT Charlotte airport bathroom stalls

Stalls at Charlotte airport – with frosted window providing natural light – and taller/longer doors

CLT Charlotte Airport individual bathroom stall

CLT bathroom stalls – deeper, and with a side shelf to place a purse is nice, but nothing to secure bag on the shelf

CLT Charlotte airport bathroom sinks

Sinks at CLT airport bathroom. Automatic faucet and soap dispenser with towel dispensers and trash cans next to the sinks!

IAD  Washington Dulles

I traveled through Dulles on a late Saturday afternoon and the airport was very empty. These stalls were a nice size, and the automatic faucets for the sinks worked well. Note the paper towel dispensers right above the sinks with holes in the counter to dispose them! Usually, trash cans are at the exit to the restroom, so after utilizing the sink, you must find a receptacle to dispose of your paper towels. And then you turn back to the sink to freshen up. Having trash cans built into the sinks keeps the sinks cleaner, and makes it easier to dispose of trash!

IAD Washington Dulles airport bathroom stalls

IAD bathroom stalls (note how ‘short’ the stalls are compared to Charlotte’s – less privacy)

IAD Washington Dulles airport bathroom individual stall

IAD bathroom stall – wider than most but could be deeper

IAD Washington Dulles airport bathroom sinks

IAD bathroom sinks – nice to have automatic sinks and faucets with paper towels above and trash receptacle in one place

COS Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs is a smaller regional airport, and while the bathroom stalls are not particularly large, they are not crowded. Finding an open stall was not an issue, something I appreciate in smaller airports. I was particularly struck by the shelf with what I assume are coat hooks – a plus for traveling in the winter months with bulky outerwear.

COS Colorado Springs airport bathroom stall

COS bathroom stalls – not particularly deep

COS Colorado Springs airport bathroom disabled stall

COS stall for disabled passengers – slightly wider stall and the door opens out

COS Colorado Springs airport bathroom shelf and coat rack

COS bathroom with coat hooks, shelf (for bags?) and electrical outlets

Airports with restrooms that could use improvement

DEN – Denver

Denver’s bathrooms are large, befitting a large airport, and they should receive bonus points for the amount of both stalls and sinks. However, the towel dispensers are opposite the sinks, as are the hand dryers. I think it would be more convenient, and perhaps efficient, to have the sinks and towel dispensers and hand dryers close to each other. On the opposite wall with the mirrors and a shelf, passengers can use the mirrors to freshen up. The current situation means that the mirrors are blocked from people drying their hands.

DEN airport bathroom stalls in Denver

Plenty of stalls in DEN

DEN bathroom individual stall at Denver airport

Individual stalls at DEN were OK, but could be at least a few inches deeper.

DEN Denver airport bathroom sinks and hand dryers

DEN sinks and dryers. Only a small shelf – above the hand dryers.

DEN Denver airport bathroom baby changing station

DEN baby changing station

IAH – Houston

I was amazed at the space between the stalls and the sinks in Houston– I don’t know if someone expects a line of 10 people waiting outside each stall, but the stalls themselves are so short it makes no sense! Either make the stalls deeper or have the stall doors open out. Otherwise, you need to be a contortionist to fit in the stall with your bags, and yet there is so much open space in the restroom itself.

IAH Houston Airport bathroom

Lots of open space in this Houston airport bathroom, but no room for larger stalls?

SFO – San Francisco

Re: the restrooms in the United terminal by the 70s gates:  A bit older, there is plenty of open space in the restroom itself, but the stalls remain small. Bonus points for Dyson hand dryers.

LAX – United Terminal (7/8)

I fly United the most so am most familiar with terminals 7 and 8. While I know that there are new stores and food offerings, the restrooms are in serious need of an overhaul, and in fact, they are being remodeled. But the stalls are older so I can’t fault them for not being deep.

LAX – Tom Bradley International Terminal

I took photos of the bathroom in the new Star Alliance Lounge at Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT). While featuring wood doors and a modern design to provide that luxurious feel, the bathroom stalls are not very wide or deep for accommodating a wheeled bag.

LAX TBIT Star Alliance Lounge bathroom stall

LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal Star Alliance lounge bathroom stall – nice full length door but stall could be wider and deeper

LAX TBIT Star Alliance Lounge bathroom sinks

LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal Star Alliance lounge bathroom sinks

Notable Feature:

This is not restroom related, but I like the new trend of providing stations for refilling water bottles in the airport terminal. Using these stations will hopefully decrease the need for purchasing bottled water past security, which is often expensive, and cut down on plastic waste.

I have spotted stations in SFO (San Francisco), SEA (Seattle-Tacoma) and ORD (Chicago O’Hare).

ORD Chicago O'Hare airport water fountain

ORD O’Hare offers a water refill station connected to their water fountains. Eco-friendly!

SEA-TAC Seattle Tacoma Airport water bottle filling station

Water bottle filling station at Seattle-Tacoma airport

Tips for using airport restrooms:

  1. If traveling with another person, take turns visiting the restrooms and watching each other’s bags. Bring only your purse and whatever toiletries you might need – the less you bring in to the restroom, the easier it will be to navigate the tight stall spaces.
  2. If traveling alone, allow extra time and wait for an available disabled stall – these are larger and easier to use if you have a wheeled bag with you.
  3. Explore the terminals – ask a flight attendant or gate agent for recommendations – like the Philadelphia airport example above, there might be hidden restrooms with more room than others.

*Note to Airport designers:  Consider how travelers utilize all of your facilities – not only the gate areas (where extra electrical outlets are always welcomed and needed), and the food and shopping options, but also the restrooms! Allow for more space, maybe add a shelf in the stall, perhaps even a shelf over the sink to place a bag while washing hands. Doors that open outward help a lot!

What about you? Do you have a favorite airport restroom? We would love to add to our list of airport restrooms that better accommodate the modern traveler. Comment on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram page or on the Cloud Surfing Kids Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages. Send photos using the hashtag #bestairportstall. We will add a “best of” post as we get additional airport stalls that are noteworthy.

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Formula 1 Fan Fest at the US Grand Prix

We returned to Austin last year to attend the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas (we last visited the race during its inaugural race in 2012).

I flew to Austin on Wednesday, and thanks to following  F1 on NBC Sports on Twitter, I managed to meet Manor F1 Driver Alexander Rossi shortly after landing! I rushed over to the food truck court while he was filming a segment for the show, “Off the Grid.” You can read more about my experience here.

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I met Manor F1 driver Alexander Rossi while he was filming a segment for NBC Sports show, “Off the Grid.”

We were staying with my sister outside of Austin, so drove downtown on Thursday to walk around, visit the Circuit of the Americas Fan Fest and then later that night attend Will Buxton’s Big Time Bash at the Rattle Inn. We parked close to the Rattle Inn, since that would be our last stop of the night. As a huge fan of Topo Chico water, Dave was thrilled to see this Topo Chico mural on the side of the their building and had to take a picture.

Sidebar: Topo Chico water is carbonated mineral water from Mexico. My sister and her husband introduced Dave to it a few years ago, and he is hooked. Topo Chico is only gradually entering the market in Los Angeles, so it has been difficult for us to find. It is everywhere in Austin – you can even order it at bars! Needless to say, Dave was in heaven – we were in Austin to watch Formula 1 AND he could drink as much Topo Chico as he wanted.

 

Austin Rattle Inn Topo Chico

Dave outside the Rattle Inn, thrilled with the Topo Chico mural on the building.

Aryton Senna Exhibit

While walking around the city, we discovered this exhibit on famed Formula 1 multi-World Championship driver Aryton Senna. It was a small exhibit, but featured some of his race suits, helmets and wings from the cars he drove in Formula 1.

Aryton Senna helmet Formula 1 USGP Austin

One of Aryton Senna’s helmets.

 

Aryton Senna Formula 1 Austin USGP McLaren

Senna’s helmet, race suit and gloves, and the steering wheel and wing from his McLaren Formula 1 car.

Aryton Senna display at Formula 1 USGP Austin

The small display of Senna memorabilia

Circuit of the Americas Fan Fest

After enjoying the Senna exhibit, we headed to the COTA Fan Fest on Rainey Street. The Fan Fest is free, and listed an impressive line-up of musical acts including Public Enemy and Trombone Shorty, but since we were there to see the race, we did not stay to watch them. We knew we would be tired walking around the track on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so we decided to focus on being well-rested. That being said, the Fan Fest provides entertainment for the serious and casual race fan, and excellent live music.

The skies were threatening rain, but we walked into the enclosed area and explored some of the food and drink booths. Not surprisingly, Topo Chico was there!

Circuit of the Americas Fan Fest USGP Austin Topo Chico

We had to have our picture taken in the Topo Chico photo booth, and we took home a Topo Chico poster (Dave is that obsessed with this water that he wants a poster!).

COTA Formula 1 Fan Fest USGP Austin Topo Chico

All smiles drinking Topo Chico!

There was an Illy coffee truck, which was exciting for me since I love Italian coffee.

Circuit of the Americas Fan Fest USGP Formula 1 Austin Illy Coffee

Free cans of Illy iced coffee drink!

On the main stage, later in the evening the musical acts were set to perform. First though, our main focus was hearing Formula 1 drivers interviewed.

COTA Formula 1 Fan Fest Austin

The main stage at the Fan Fest

I really enjoyed this as we usually only hear the drivers interviewed on TV immediately after qualifying sessions or the race, and this informal interview, with four drivers at the same time, allowed us to hear their personalities more. I was thrilled that my favorite driver Felipe Massa was on the panel – he is quite funny! Joining Felipe was his Williams Martini Racing teammate Valtteri Bottas, Ferrari Reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez, and Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg. There were rumors swirling that Gutierrez would be announced as a driver for the new Haas Formula 1 team, and while he was asked about that, Gutierrez artfully dodged that question (and he was indeed announced as one of Haas’ drivers the following week).

COTA Formula 1 Fan Fest Gutierrez Hulkenberg Bottas Massa

Formula 1 drivers Esteban Gutierrez, Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa

I remember Felipe Massa teasing Gutierrez about having a long conversation with Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen (Kimi is notorious for being a man of few words).

Williams Martini Racing Valterri Bottas and Felipe Massa at COTA Formula 1 Fan Fest

Williams Martini Racing teammates Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa

Valtterri Bottas and Felipe Massa interview at COTA Formula 1 Fan Fest Austin

Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa being interviewed at the COTA Formula 1 Fan Fest 2015

Williams Martini Racing Formula 1 drivers Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa at COTA Fan Fest

Williams Martini Racing driver Felipe Massa answers a question while teammate Valtteri Bottas looks on at the COTA Formula 1 Fan Fest in 2015

The interviews continued, but we wanted to make it back to the Rattle Inn for the Will Buxton event. We quickly jumped in an Uber (sadly ride-sharing car services Uber and Lyft are no longer allowed in Austin), and made it over to the Rattle Inn just in time to see…

Buxton's Big Time Bash at Rattle Inn Austin with Esteban Gutierrez and Felipe Massa

Blurry photo of Esteban Gutierrez and Felipe Massa on stage at the Rattle Inn with F1 on NBC’s Will Buxton

Esteban Gutierrez and Felipe Massa on stage with the evening’s host, NBC Sports’ Will Buxton!

There was a suggested donation to join the party as Will and organizer Austin Grand Prix were raising money for Austin’s Meals on Wheels and the Justin Wilson Children’s Fund. The room was packed with race fans.

After Gutierrez and Massa left the stage, we were treated to hearing Alexander Rossi. Rossi, an American driver, had only recently been named a driver for the Manor Racing Team for the last half of the season. As the first American Formula 1 driver in several years, everyone was thrilled to watch him race in Austin.

Manor Formula 1 Driver Alexander Rossi with F1 on NBC Sports reporter Will Buxton Austin Rattle Inn

Manor F1 driver Alexander Rossi on stage with Will Buxton

Some of the loudest cheers that night were for the F1 on NBC Sports television team of Leigh Diffey, Steve Matchett and David Hobbs.

F1 on NBC Sports Steve Matchett, David Hobbs and Leigh Diffey at the Rattle Inn, Austin.

F1 on NBC on-air talent Steve Matchett, David Hobbs and Leigh Diffey on stage at Will Buxton’s Big Time Bash at the Rattle Inn in Austin, 2015.

F1 on NBC Sports Steve Matchett, David Hobbs and Leigh Diffey at Rattle Inn in Austin

A packed house to hear and see F1 on NBC Sports’ Steve Matchett, David Hobbs and Leigh Diffey live at the Rattle Inn in Austin.

Steve Matchett, David Hobbs and Leigh Diffey from F1 on NBC Sports

Throughout the evening, Will Buxton and organizer Austin Grand Prix raffled off prizes from some of the Formula 1 teams. Sadly, we did not win anything.

After the official program, all the fans stayed to mingle, and we managed to meet both Leigh Diffey and Steve Matchett. David Hobbs proved to be elusive!

F1 on NBC Sports' Leigh Diffey and me at the Rattle Inn in Austin

Meeting Leigh Diffey at the Rattle Inn

F1 on NBC Sports' Steve Matchett with me and Dave at the Rattle Inn in Austin

Dave and I with Steve Matchett at Buxton’s Big Time Bash at the Rattle Inn

After mingling with other fans, we were looking for a bite to eat before heading home. Luckily for us, Austin has many options for getting your fill of Tex-Mex, and the Violet Taco food truck was right next door. We ordered a few, and a Topo Chico of course, and they were really good! I would recommend stopping here the next time you are in Austin.

Topo Chico and tacos from the Violet Taco food truck in Austin

Tacos and Topo Chico from the Violet Taco

After filling up on tacos, we headed back to my sister’s to rest up for the official events at the track starting on Friday.

This year, Austin Grand Prix announced that they will be taking a break from organizing the Buxton Bash, but they are already planning for an event next year. You can read a complete re-cap of the 2015 event, with a listing of the prizes donated by drivers and teams here.

There is a Fan Fest in downtown Austin again this year on Friday and Saturday nights, and it’s a great opportunity to hear live music and enjoy Austin nightlife. There are also car displays, photos and exhibits, and it is FREE! If you’re staying downtown, you don’t have to worry about driving to and from the track like we did, leaving you more time to enjoy the fun!

Are you attending the USGP in Austin this year? If so, let me know what your plans are while you’re in town. We will be watching the race from California this year.

 

“The Race at the Base” – Fun at the Coronado Speed Festival

Coronado Speed Festival the Race at the Base

On Sunday we drove down to San Diego and Coronado Island for the 19th Annual Coronado Speed Festival. Hosted by Naval Base Coronado on Naval Air Station North Island, the “Race at the Base” features a car corral, ten different car class races on an active runway, and the opportunity to tour the Naval base and ships and explore some of the aircraft on display.

We left Riverside around 7:30 AM (after a friend’s wedding the night before) and arrived shortly before 9:00 AM. Traffic was light so we were able to drive through Coronado Island onto the base and park with no waiting. After parking, we walked to security screening, much like at an airport, except that no large bags or backpacks were allowed. I was turned around with my small backpack as it was deemed too large. Luckily I brought my fanny pack along so I stuffed that with my wallet, cell phone, extra battery and ear plugs, and I hand carried a can of spray sunscreen. The marine layer was still overhead when we arrived, but we knew it would burn off and we would need sun protection.

The Coronado Speed Festival runs all day Saturday and Sunday and is part of Fleet Week San Diego. Tickets for each day were $25 for adults, but we had a coupon from Reader City for $15 each (Active duty military personnel are admitted free and children under 12 are free; a weekend pass is $35). While we missed some of the early races, each group of cars raced in the afternoon as well, and we were able to watch all the different groups race later in the day.

The Paddock

We walked around the paddock where each car was getting race prepped. There was a wide variety of cars to enjoy; I always enjoy the older cars, especially the pre-war racers.

Morgan automobile at Coronado Speed Festival in San Diego for Vintage car racing

A beautiful Morgan automobile.

A vintage Porsche at Coronado Speed Festival

A vintage Porsche

1991 IMSA GTO Roush Mustang at Coronado Speed Festival

The 1991 IMSA GTO Roush Mustang. When we peaked inside the back, there was gravel all over the car floor, picked up from the track.

1991 IMSA GTO Roush Mustang at Coronado Speed Festival

The back of the1991 IMSA GTO Roush Mustang exposed.

Paddock at Coronado Speed Festival

Three cars in the paddock.

Comedian, podcaster, documentary filmmaker and vintage car racer Adam Carolla, who was racing in Group 8 with his Bob Sharp Datsun 610, posed for a picture with us. He said that the first two races on Saturday seemed to go well, but there was something not right with the car, and they were not sure if they had it fixed. He advised that if we saw his car moving slowly on the track, it was the car and not the driver. Sadly when we watched his group race, we knew that his car problems continued, and he did not participate in the afternoon race for his group.

Adam Carolla at the Coronado Speed Festival

Dave and I chatted with Adam Carolla before his group raced.

Many of the cars had signs that described their provenance and race history.

1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass Trans-AM / IMSA GTO in the paddock at Coronado Speed Festival

1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass Trans-AM / IMSA GTO – this car would be in a heated battle for first place in the last race of the day.

1952 Allard K2 at Coronado Speed Festival paddock

The 1952 Allard K2

Watching the Races

We walked over to one of two spectator stands, and when we climbed to the top, we could peer over and see the cars lining up in advance of each race. It was fun to watch the cars drive in and be directed to their place in the grid.

Group 8 cars on the race grid at the Coronado Speed Festival for vintage car racing

Group 8 cars – mass produced cars and sedans built prior to 1973 – line up on the race grid.

Sportscar Vintage Racing Association group 8 cars on the grid at Coronado Speed Festival

Looking down on the Group 8 grid from the stands. In the distance on the left is the short course for the Jaguar test drives.

Sportscar Vintage Racing Association Group 10 cars on the grid at Coronado Speed Festival

Group 10 – NASCAR Cup and Nationwide Stock Cars – line up on the grid

Pre-war race cars at Coronado Speed Festival

The Pre-War race cars line up in the grid as the NASCAR group exits the track

pre-war vintage race cars at Coronado Speed Festival

The pre-war race cars lined up in the grid (the San Diego skyline is in the back on the right)

From this perch we could see almost all of the 1.7 mile race track. Facing north, sailboats sailed by on San Diego bay and flights departed from the airport as the marine layer hugged San Diego in the morning.

Sportcar Vintage Racing Association grid at Coronado Speed Festival

Group 9 – “Wings & Slicks” open-wheel race cars as raced from 1973 – 2008 – on the grid with San Diego Bay and San Diego to the north in the background.

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Heading from the grid

Coronado Speed Festival Sportscar Vintage Racing Association

Heading from the grid for Group 7

Other Activities at the Base

Unfortunately while we were watching groups 8 and 10 race, we missed the pit crew challenge. Active duty military personnel competed in a pit crew time trial with NASCAR cars and equipment.

We were treated to some of the Naval Seahawk helicopters flying over the racetrack while we were in the stands, and we also saw some F-18s take off (they were a bit too fast to take a picture).

Naval seahawk helicopters at Coronado Speed Festival

Naval Seakhawk helicopters flew over the track during the races

During the noon lunch break, I was fortunate to take a selfie with actor Gary Sinise. Gary and his Lt. Dan Band performed on Saturday at the fest. He was the Grand Marshall for the races. I thanked him for all that he does to support our military with the Gary Sinise Foundation.

Coronado Speed Festival actor Gary Sinise

Meeting Actor and Coronado Speed Festival Grand Marshall Gary Sinise (note my hand-carried can of sunscreen!)

I realized too late that while the racing paused for a lunch time breaks that hot laps were offered – spectators were being driven around as passengers in some of the cars. By the time I realized this and got in line, it was too late. Something I definitely would like to do next year!

After grabbing lunch, we stood in line to test drive Jaguars. Jaguar is a sponsor of the event and had professional drivers there to tell us about their vehicles. We had the option of either being driven around the short course on the field or driving the cars ourselves. The line to test drive the Jaguars was long, not surprising, and I wish we stood in line for the test drive when we first arrived – the line was shorter and the sun was still hiding behind the marine layer. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the drive and accelerating these beautiful vehicles on the track. I first drove the XE and then after getting a feel for the track switched to the F-type, with much more horse power and sportier styling. Both beautiful cars, and I liked their power!

The groups all raced again in the afternoon, and while we planned to leave early, we ended up staying to watch my favorite group, the pre-war cars. Since there was only one race after that, we decided to remain for that as well, Group 10b, and I’m glad we did. The 1998 Ford/Penske Taurus Stock Car and 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Winston Cup traded places the entire race, and as we could see all of the track from near the start/finish line, it was fun to watch them battle on track for position with one car being better in the turns while another caught up on the straights. All of the cars that raced by group are listed on the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association website, as are the results from each of the qualifying sessions (from Saturday) and races.

Pre-war cars race for the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association at Coronado Speed Festival

Pre-war cars race at Coronado Speed Festival

Pre-war cars race Sportscar Vintage Racing Association at Coronado Speed Festival

The Pre-War race featured this National with two drivers.

The last race of the day proved to be quite exciting.

csw-mustang-race-closecsw-mustang-racecsw-snapon-race

These two cars traded positions the entire race. Eventually the white car barely edged out the black car at the finish line.

Coronado Speed Festival Sportscar Vintage Racing Association

This Ford/Penske Taurus Stock car and Oldsmobile Cutlass Winston fought for first place the entire race.

Coronado Speed Festival Race at the Base Vintage Car racing

In this photo, the Oldsmobile is in the lead.

Learning About Naval Helicopters

Once the racing concluded, we walked out past the helicopters that lined the entrance to the event. The pilots allowed us to peak inside and tell us about their aircraft. We saw MH-60R and MH-60S Seahawk helicopters with different configurations depending on the mission of each. It was amazing to see these machines up close, and even more amazing that they are able to leave the ground and fly.

MH-60 Seahawk Naval Helicopters at Naval Base Coronado

MH-60 Seahawk Helicopters parked at Naval Air Station North Island

Naval seahawk helicopters parked at Naval Base Coronado

MH-60 Seahawk Helicopters parked at Naval Air Station North Island

cockpit of naval helicopter MH-60 Seahawk on Naval Base Coronado during Fleet Week San Diego

The cockpit of one of the MH-60 Seahawks on display

Naval helicopter at Naval Base Coronado during Fleet Week San Diego

MH-60 Seahawk Naval Helicopter on display for the Coronado Speed Festival

While we didn’t beat the traffic leaving the base, the delays were not onerous as we sat in some traffic on Coronado Island heading to the Coronado Bay Bridge.

Overall, it was a fun day. While there are a good number of cars to see, there weren’t so many that it was exhausting. We were able to walk up and down each of the paddock lanes a few times each and see everything. Because we were only there on the one day though, we didn’t allow time for touring of the ships that were open or for touring the base.

The Race at the Base is a fun weekend event, something the entire family can enjoy. Where else can you see classic cars racing on a live naval runway with the beautiful waters of San Diego Bay surrounding you  and the skyline of San Diego to the east?

San Diego as seen from Coronado Speed Festival

View of downtown San Diego from Naval Air Station North Island and the Coronado Speed Festival

For more information on the other activities during Fleet Week San Diego, visit their website.

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Remembering at the 9/11 Memorial

Today, September 11, 2016, marks fifteen years since the terrorist attacks on the United States.

Today, we remember all those innocent people who lost their lives on that day.

I lived in New York City for three years, but at the time of the attacks, I was living in California. My uncle and I visited Ground Zero in the months after the attacks when it was unrecognizable. It is amazing to see the transformation of this part of Manhattan.

I was fortunate to visit the 9/11 Memorial twice – in November, 2014, and then recently a few weeks ago in August. I found the Memorial site to be beautiful, haunting, moving.

Here are some images of the site.

Photos from my visit in November, 2014.

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I heard that a white rose is placed at the name of each victim on their birth day.

I heard that a white rose is placed at the name of each victim on their birth day.

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From my visit a few weeks ago.

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One World Trade Center is the building behind the memorial on the left.

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Looking towards the new WTC Transit Hub, otherwise known as Oculus.

While visiting the 9/11 Memorial with my parents and a family friend, my dad told us about the sons of one of his former bosses, from many years ago. They both worked at Cantor Fitzgerald and died in the attacks. We searched for their names on one of the information kiosks and found their place on the memorial.

 

9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center in New York City

We ran our hands over their names. We paused. We reflected. We prayed. We cried. We remembered that horrible day. We will never forget.

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Travel Tips: Storing Makeup in a Contact Lens Case

I have a love-hate relationship with traveling with only carry-on bags. On the one hand, I like to bring several different wardrobe outfits, along with matching shoe and purse choices, and checking a bag while flying enables me to bring those varied options along with me. On the other hand, I worry about lost and damaged baggage, and it is so much easier once I land to simply walk off the plane with everything I need for my trip. No time lost waiting for bags, no worries about my bags fitting inside a car trunk, and no worries about lugging a huge and heavy suitcase onto a subway, train or bus.

One of the biggest frustrations with taking a carry-on bag only, besides being limited in how many pairs of shoes I can bring, is not being able to take liquids on the flight. Between contact solution, sunscreen, conditioner (because no matter how fancy the hotel, the conditioner always disappoints), and toothpaste, there is little to no room in the allowed quart-sized plastic bag for makeup. Somehow, I make do within the limits, but it is always a struggle to make everything fit.

The Travel Tip

I remember a tip from Rachel Rudwall that I saw some time ago about a great way to travel with makeup: use a contact lens case as a container. At the time I saw it, I thought, interesting, but contact cases are so small! How could I possibly fit enough makeup in one?

Flash-forward to my makeup tube (Clinique CC cream) being close to empty. As I squeezed as much out of the tube that I could, I decided this would be the perfect time to try Rachel’s tip.

This Clinique CC cream is my current favorite foundation. I do not like the thick feeling of foundation, and this cream does not feel thick, or greasy, or like I am wearing any foundation at all. It provides good coverage, is moisturizing and includes SPF30 sun protection (sun protection is a must for me in all my skin-care products).

I hate wasting product, and with makeup especially, there is always a little bit extra left in the tube once you finish squeezing. I discovered this makeup spatula (Every Drop Beauty Spatula) a few years ago, and it is amazing how much product you can extract from the tube or bottle using this tool when you think there is none left inside.

Preparing the Makeup

I opened my Clinique tube by cutting across at the top of the tube. Inside I could see a good amount of product still inside the tube.

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Using the makeup spatula, I started scraping product from the sides of the tube. In the photo below you can see the upper sides of the tube scraped clean with only a small trace of product remaining.

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Look at the amount of product I was able to extract from the tube with the spatula!

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Once I scraped the makeup out of the tube, I transferred it to one side of a contact lens case.

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Testing the Travel Tip

For my next trip, to Greece, I did check a bag, but I brought along my little contact lens case with my Clinique CC cream on the plane in my plastic liquids bag instead of checking a full tube of the cream in my luggage.

While I did not wear the CC cream on every day of my trip, I had more than enough product in my contact lens case for the days that I used it. For a trip of a few days, or even a week, a contact lens case full of makeup would be more than enough to use daily.

Since there are two sides to a contact lens case, I will use the other side in the future to store night cream – another product that does not come in small packages.

Even if I had a full tube of makeup, squeezing a generous amount into the contact lens case would save so much space in the plastic liquid bags that I bring on the plane with me. Plus, it is much easier than traveling with a full tube of makeup, especially for a short trip. I am sold on this travel tip!

Have you tried storing your makeup in a contact lens case while traveling? What tips do you have for traveling with liquids on a plane? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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A Grand Train Station: Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station

30th Street exterior 2

Does it happen to you that you live in a city, visit or pass by its landmarks often and don’t think twice about it? Then you see an Instagram photo or a blog post about your city and realize that sometimes you take its most treasured sights for granted? Or don’t stop to appreciate them more often?

I attended college in Philadelphia (at the University of Pennsylvania) and after graduating I lived in New York City and then northern Virginia for seven years, returning regularly to Philadelphia for visits back to campus or to see friends. Traveling to Philadelphia, I rode the train – NJ Transit and SEPTA to and from New York City or Amtrak to and from Washington, DC. I would get off the train at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia and hurry on my way, rarely stopping to appreciate the station itself.

Once I moved to California, I returned to Philadelphia several times a year for work, but my arrivals into Philadelphia were via the airport. I rarely visited 30th Street Station.

Last week I returned to the east coast for a wedding and to visit family and friends. We were staying with friends in New Jersey, and since I did not have a car, I rode SEPTA from Trenton, New Jersey, to visit Philadelphia for the day.

As I arrived into 30th Street Station, I stopped to wonder. The station has been refurbished in recent years, returned to its original glory, and it is truly an architectural and historical sight to see.

30th Street hall

The main hall, 30th Street Station, Philadelphia

The ceiling is so high with columns at either end of the station, lending to its stately presence.

The regional SEPTA trains do not depart from the main tracks in the central hall, but to access those tracks you must walk through this grand space.

30th Street Statue

Angel of the Resurrection (1952) by Walter Hancock honors members of the Pennsylvania Rail Road that died in World War II.

The hall below is in-between the main center hall and the area of the station with Amtrak ticket windows and rental car agencies. I like that it is kept simple and open. Passengers are lined up for one of the Amtrak tracks accessed from the main hall.

30th Street side room

The sculpture on the wall is Spirit of Transportation (1895) by Karl Bitter

The flipping train schedule board is in the center of the main hall. A few days after I visited the station, news broke that the sign would be replaced by an LED sign. I wish I had recorded video of the sign changing. As I was taking pictures, I heard the clack, clack, clack as the train departure and arrival information changed, and it made me smile.

30th Street schedule

The central train schedule in the main hall. Amtrak and Acela trains are listed on this board.

I found this video by director and producer Max Goldberg of five five collective that pays homage to the arrival board. It captures the sound of the board changing!

 

The station’s exterior is covered with scaffolding as apparently work is being completed. There is a modern sign in front that is new. Behind the flags in the photo below the awning covering the SEPTA tracks can be seen. The area inside the scaffolding features a food court. There is also a news stand and florist.

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Viewing 30th Street Station from the southeast corner.

Located across the Schuylkill River from Center City Philadelphia, 30th Street Station is a convenient hub for commuters and tourists alike to access Philadelphia. The building itself is worth a visit even if you are not taking a train into the city.

When I rushed to catch a train later that night, I did not have time to stop and take photos, but I did look around with wonder and appreciation of the architecture of this beautiful building.

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Atlanta Olympics 1996 – Watching Michael Johnson Win Gold and Set a World Record

Watching the Rio Summer Olympics last week and this week brings back memories of attending the Atlanta Summer Games in 1996. Tonight is the final of the Men’s 200M in Track and Field, and I remember watching the 200M final in 1996 when Michael Johnson broke his own world record and won the gold medal.

Track and field are my favorite events at the Olympics, and after entering the Olympic ticket lottery, I was thrilled that I received several tickets to the track and field events. I was even more excited that we were there to witness the 200M final.

It was a thrill to be in the packed stadium, watching the buildup to the start of the race.

Back in 1996, I only had a simple film camera (no digital cameras or smart phones back then), so unfortunately, the photos from that historic night are not high quality.

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Sitting in the stadium with my friends Jennifer and Ira for the track and field events.

I found this video on YouTube of the race shared by user renjithkadappoor. The commentator mentions Johnson’s top competitors including Ato Boldin of Trinidad and Tobago (now reporting at the Olympics for NBC) who won the bronze medal.

 

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My photo of the scoreboard after Johnson won

Even though my photos are blurry, I still treasure them and the memories of the night that they trigger.

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Johnson in triumph after the race. He was easy to spot on the track because of his gold shoes.

MJ scoreboard

My photo of the scoreboard after the race showing all the finishers and Johnson’s world record time of 19.32 seconds.

I still have this Sports Illustrated issue from August 12, 1996, showing Johnson on the cover.

Michael Johnson SI cover

Tonight NBC will air the 200M final from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Watching the race on TV, I will remember the historic race that I witnessed in 1996.