Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Traveling Is Good For You!

I'll admit that I'm not the world's most outstanding health fanatic; I love sweets far too much. However, I do try to make decisions that are good for me and, as it turns out, traveling is healthy! For now let's ignore the terrifying reports you hear about strange parasites and kidnappings. We're talking about the act of going places and the effect it has on health.

The Los Angeles Times points out some interesting statistics on the issue:

  • Women who vacationed every six years or less had a significantly higher risk of developing a heart attack or coronary death compared with women who vacationed at least twice a year.
  • Men who did not take an annual vacation were shown to have a 20% higher risk of death and about a 30% greater risk of death from heart disease.
  • Benefits of travel are almost immediate. After only a day or two, 89% of respondents saw significant drops in stress.
  • The study also noted that 59% of Americans dream of traveling during their retirement, and that the most impactful trips are those spent with family and friends.
I'm quite broke at the moment, but I definitely planning on exploring the world (and hopefully it won't wait until I retire). I have my sights set on Asia. I'm going for my health--and for other reasons, too, of course!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sweet Seattle Views

Seattle is a gorgeous city if you can see past the seemingly perpetual gray. It boasts the breathtaking beauty of the nearby mountains, the sparkling if somewhat polluted waters of Puget Sound, no shortage of greenery, and a character-rich skyline. When I first moved to the Seattle area a couple of years ago, I lived in Seatac. Every time I hopped in my car and made my way to the big scary city, I couldn't help but smile when downtown came into view. Because it is just that good-looking (from a distance, that is. Up close, downtown is a tad on the terrifying side but still fun). What are some of the best places to soak up a city view?

Kerry Park

There isn't a lot to Kerry Park. It's a small neighborhood park in Queen Anne that has a bland statue, some kids' play equipment, and a few other nonremarkable amenities. What really sets Kerry Park apart is the view. I've only been there in the fog, as evidenced by the photograph below, but I was still impressed by the view. The other photograph is from Flickr. Kerry Park address: 211 W Highland Drive Seattle, WA 98119.

image via Flickr by tiffany98101

The Alaskan Way Viaduct

While I recognize that I should keep my eyes on the road and not goggle at the city while I'm driving, sometimes it's hard to resist. If you're heading north, this stretch of Highway 99 gives you a great look at the Great Wheel, Eliot Bay, and the mountains on the left while downtown's architecture towers above you on the right.

I'm a little sad that the Alaskan Way Viaduct is in its waning days, soon to be replaced by a dreary and depressing tunnel. That is, if they ever finish building the tunnel. We'll see.

Ursula Judkins Viewpoint

I drive by this one almost every day (another reason to get distracted--yikes!). The view takes in the water as well as downtown. While it isn't the best-beyond-best view of the city, it still has a touch of that essential breathtaking quality. I want to get a picture from here, but by the time I remember, I'm usually way beyond my opportunity to pull over. It's on W Galer Street just off the Magnolia Bridge.

West Seattle

West Seattle has a quirky vibe all its own, but one of its best traits is the scenery. Whether you stop at Admiral Viewpoint, Hamilton Viewpoint Park, or Jack Block Park, you're in for a treat. Alki Beach also gives an unforgettable perspective on the Seattle skyline.

Sky View Observatory

The observation deck of the Columbia Center in downtown is the highest public observation deck west of the Mississippi River. Personally, this does not appeal to me as much as admiring Seattle architecture from afar, but I think it's worth a go (of course, when I wanted to go, it was foggy out so I didn't bother to spend the money. But someday...)

Seattle is a treat to see and explore. Know of any good places from which to take in the view? Please share!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Travel Throwback: NYC

New York City is dirty, noisy, crowded, and overwhelming. But I love it! The thriving metropolis is far from perfect, but its charm is in its energy, its architecture, and that undefinable feeling you get when you're standing in the middle of Times Square. I haven't said hello in person to NYC in a few years, but I keep dreaming of going back. Here are some of the highlights from my last trip.

Times Square

Times Square is the perfect place to soak up the sensations of New York. Breathe deep of the polluted air, be blinded by a barrage of advertisements, and get your kicks while you watch the people roam about.

Times Square has some practical value, too. The myriad of merchants that haunt the area sell everything you might need and tons of stuff that you might buy just because it's there. There are grocery stores, toy stores, clothing stores, candy stores, and tons more. Plus, there are several banks that offer currency exchange services so foreign visitors aren't left out of the loop.

Perhaps the best thing about Times Square is TKTS. They sell discount tickets to Broadway shows -- and you can't say you've experienced New York unless you've seen a Broadway show (well, sort of. I didn't actually see a Broadway show when I was there, but I sure wanted to!).

The Empire State Building

I went to the top of the Empire State Building on a Sunday evening. It was crazy crowded, and it took approximately a million years to get back down from the observatory. Whew! Also, the experience is overpriced.

Despite that, I must say that I did enjoy taking in the unique view from the iconic building. However, if I ever go again, I will try to go first thing in the morning in the middle of the week; maybe then my space bubble won't feel so beaten up afterwards.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I took a tour at the famous museum, and it gave me a fascinating new perspective on Greek and Roman culture. However, I feel like the tour wasn't enough time at the museum. It's a universe of amazing artifacts. I'm not exactly an art connoisseur, but I think I could have spent days taking in The Met.

The Jersey Gardens Outlet Mall

As you may have guessed, the Jersey Gardens Outlet Mall isn't technically in New York City. It's about 20 minutes away in Elizabeth, right across the street from the hotel where I stayed during my visit. Before I went to this shopping gem, I had no idea what a real, big mall was actually like. I'm from a small town, and this place absolutely blew my mind. The best part? There is no sales tax on clothing in New Jersey. 

The People Make the Trip

I went to New York with a tour group--without anyone that I had met beforehand. I'm not averse to solo travel, but the people I met were really the highlight of my New York trip. It seems unlikely that I'll see any of those people again anytime soon, but I appreciated having some like-minded tourists to share the experience with. I felt less shy than my nature when I went to New York.

Of course, the people who actually live in New York are a tad on the scary side.

I'm a little bit dying to go to New York again, but I have other plans that have to put NYC on the back burner. Someday, though...someday...

Monday, February 2, 2015

Reasons Not to Let the Rain Stop You in Seattle

Joke as much as you want about the ever-dreary Seattle, but honestly, it isn't that bad! In fact, compared to places on the Washington coast and even Astoria, Seattle is relatively dry. The bad rap comes from skies that always seem gray. Still, if you're a fraidy cat who doesn't like our liquid sunshine, take heart! There are plenty of reasons that the rain shouldn't hold you back when you're in the Emerald City.

The Rain Is Friendlier than the People

You've heard of the "Seattle freeze?" Well, I don't think people here are really that cold, but that's beside the point. The point is that the rain isn't the sort of rain that leaves you running and crying for your mommy. The rain is usually gentle. It's almost refreshing--and everything looks absolutely gorgeous the first day after the rain goes away because the air is so clear.

Bella Umbrella

No, "Bella Umbrella" isn't some sort of weird incantation. It's an umbrella shop at Pike Place Market that has umbrellas for every taste. There are aerodynamic umbrellas (yes, that's a thing), wind-resistant umbrellas, umbrellas that you'd have to get a small personal loan to afford, cool vintage umbrellas that you can rent for any occasion, and eye-catching Pagoda umbrellas. Some of these stunning water-warders even come with a lifetime warranty.

A lot of Pacific Northwesterners choose to tough it out without an umbrella, but if you really feel the need for an umbrella when you're in Seattle, Bella Umbrella is where it's at.

Avoid the Crowds

Seattle's most fascinating places draw people from all over the place--except when it rains. Going when the weather is a degree short of ideal will give you a little extra shoulder room when you're exploring downtown and the Seattle Center attractions.


Coffee, I think, is one of the best things in the universe. I don't drink it much anymore because I like it too much, but what better excuse is there to take in a warm caffeinated beverage than that you got soaked out in the rain? There are about a gazillion coffee shops in Seattle, so there is always a place nearby where you can go inside, dry off, and listen to hipsters argue while you savor some java goodness.

Indoor Attractions

This is kind of a "duh" reason, but if you really don't want to ruin your hairstyle by venturing into the downpour, stay indoors! There is tons of cool stuff you can door without taking an outdoor shower in Seattle. Check out the Seattle Public Library, take the Underground Tour, stop by the Seattle Art Museum, or rock out at Experience Music Project.

Rain is kind of a Seattle trademark, and it shouldn't repel anyone from enjoying the charms of the city.