Business Travel, City Breaks, Cruise Travel, Featured, Foodie Travel, Photo Essay, Travel Narrative

2014: The Best Places I Failed to Mention

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It’s the end of the year, and that can only mean one thing: a barrage of Best of 2014 posts. From bloggers sharing their top 12 posts of the year to everyone else sharing their Top Facebook Moments (guilty) it is truly The Unofficial Week-of-Looking-Back. So turn your head around with me, if you will…

2014 was a year of victories and failures for me. On the victory front, it was the first full calendar year during which I was entirely (technically) self-employed. And I survived. In fact, professionally, I’d give this past year a solid Not Bad. Which is several clicks below Amazing and far below Slam-Bang. But it was my first year, so I’m going to go ahead and pat myself on the back. Way to not entirely suck, me.

But on the failure front, this poor blog has suffered a bit. I’ve already written about that (here). What I’ve not written about: many, many, MANY of the pretty awesome places I visited this year, both for work and not-work. And so, to celebrate the close of 2014, I bring to you my Best of 2014 post…

The 12 Best Places I Visited That I Completely Failed to Write About

That’s right. I’m writing about the places that I didn’t write about. When I came up with this idea, I was concerned that I’d not be able to come up with a full dozen–one for every month of the year. Umm…yeah. I came up with nineteen. Here are my Top 12 picks, in order of appearance in the year (ish), with a list of honorable mentions below.

1. Iowa (Sioux City and some little town nearby)

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I was not looking forward to going to middle-of-nowhere Iowa last January. But it turned out to be a pretty amazing–if short–trip. I flew into Sioux City, where I got to make fun of the airport code (SUX) by checking in on Facebook and saying something like ‘ha ha. Flying SUX’. I had an amazing day of work in a tiny, tiny farming community about an hour away, where I had the honor of working with some of the most kind, sincere, and friendly people I’ve ever met. I then enjoyed a lovely twilight commute back to Sioux City (pictured above) before returning to my Missouri River adjacent hotel room for the night before flying out (of SUX, of course) the following day. I even found some really good delivery Vietnamese food (I located the name and phone number of the place online, though there was no menu. I called and said ‘bring me something spicy, I’m staying at the Marriott’. And they did. And it was good.)

2. The Florida Keys

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To call this a trip is almost inaccurate. I had a free day in Miami during the week of the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. I also had my favorite rental car–a Dodge Challenger. And I had Jimmy Buffett on Spotify. So I drove to Key West and back in a day, just because I could. And while Key West itself was entirely a bust (there was not one single parking spot anywhere on the island), the drive was lovely. I stopped all along the way to take photos, walk on beaches, peruse tacky tourist shops, and to have one meal at a tiny little seafood shack that was built entirely from plywood and hope. I also stuck my left arm out of the window the entire time–driving south (with the rising sun to my left) on the way down and north (with the setting sun again to my left) on the way back. Most lopsided sunburn ever.

3. The Eastern Caribbean

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Remember that time you went on a week-long cruise and completely forgot to write about it on your travel blog? Yeah. It’s been that kind of year. So yeah–I went on a week-long Eastern Caribbean cruise back in March. It was spring break, and for some reason we found a really super amazing deal on a Holland America cruise to San Juan, St. Thomas. Grand Turk, and a private island. So we went. And it was great. While the private island was beyond meh, we had a lovely time snorkeling and eating freshly-caught conch in Grand Turk (and also made a brief stop at Margaritaville, because Jimmy buffett and tequila), spent a restful day on Magen’s Bay beach on St. Thomas (best day ever), and ran around San Juan taking photos and exploring forts and waterfront promenades (I am going back to PR as soon as humanly possible). But best part by far was meeting an awesome couple who are now legitimately our friends (as evidenced by the fact that they actually agreed to travel with me again later in the year, when we visited Seattle and Portland together.) Because travel isn’t just about the places you see, it is about the people you meet (and then the places you will all see together on future travels. Really, it’s a vicious circle.)

4. The Hudson Valley

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I’ve written about my time at the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, but until now have failed to write about the also-amazing time I had during my non cooking school hours. The Hudson Valley is amazing, and I will be writing about it at length in the near future. For now, just let me leave you with this: I went maple syrup tasting. Oh yes. I did.

5. Wilmington, North Carolina

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I don’t know what kind of cosmic lottery I won when work sent me to Wilmington, North Carolina for the better part of a week in (I think) late May. I’d never been to coastal North Carolina, and man. I understand why so many people from where I live (in Eastern Pa) move down there. It is fabulous. As I believe UNC was out for the year already, it was quieter than I assume it usually is. But come on–a college town on a river, twenty minutes from the beach? So much yes. Also: oysters (which I ate in a month not containing an ‘r’ and did not die) and sunsets and live music and more of the friendliest people I’ve met. Oh, and I also accidentally met Scott Eastwood at a bar. But I’m going to skip that story, because it is embarrassing (guess who did not know who Scott Eastwood was? Me.)

6. St. Louis

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On my way to southern Missouri, I flew into St. Louis super early in the morning (like I left my house at 3am) just so I’d have time to check out the arch and have some BBQ before continuing on to almost-Arkansas. The verdict: totally worth it. After much debate, I ended up having lunch at Bogart’s Smokehouse, and I can honestly say it was one of the top ten meals I’ve ever had. I then got to drive three hours south through the Mark Twain National Forest, which was a drive I’d been dreading for weeks. Except that the drive turned out to be entirely lovely, and was made better by my rental Camaro. Not a bad day, I’d say. Oh–and the next night, after driving back north to St. Louis for my flight home–I discovered something else that St. Louis has: beer. Oh yes. St. Louis, I’m a fan of you.

7. Durango, Colorado

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So…yeah. I’ve written very little about my Colorado trip in general. Which is a shame, because it was a fabulous trip. But more is coming soon (ish), I promise. Including but not limited to several stories about the amazing time we had in Durango. From find dining to an epic train trip to a morning spent horseback in the mountains, Durango was everything I’d hoped Colorado would be and then some. The ‘then some’ being ‘ancho-dusted seared scallops over butternut squash risotto’. Oh dear god.

8. Baton Rouge

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You guys–I had an amazing time in Louisiana outside of New Orleans! And in August! That’s right. This past summer, I traveled to Lake Charles for TMS (ok, by way of New Orleans, because I have issues) and then back to Baton Rouge to spend a couple of days checking out Louisiana’s capitol. And while my heart will always belong to New Orleans, Baton Rouge is somewhere I’d actually consider living. That is, if not for the giant, hand-sized spiders.

9. Roswell

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When I learned I was going to Roswell for work and subsequently shared this news with several friends and relatives, they all said something along the lines of ‘oh I’ve always wanted to go there!’ After my first visit, my response was: why? Roswell is not super thrilling. But it is something that I love: over-the-top cheesy. And of course I went to the UFO museum. How could I not?

10. Kent Island, MD

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This is another one of those ‘who knew?’ kind of places. The eastern shore of Maryland is so my speed (that is: slow). And it is, like, less than three hours from my house. While I visited this past late-fall for work, I will absolutely be returning. And I will stay at the exact same bayside hotel, and eat at the exact same bayside restaurant and listen to live music at exactly the same bayside dive bar (both of which were conveniently adjacent to the bayside hotel). Please observe view of said bayside dive bar from the balcony of said bayside hotel room, above. Aside from the bayside part, a bit east of Kent Island you will find a sleepy/artsy little town that looks more New England-y than New England. Again–who knew?

11. Baltimore

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I spent a lot of time in the Baltimore area this year. I even managed to make it into Baltimore proper a few times. Baltimore is (well, was) the one east coast city I’d never really explored. I had less-than-fond memories of elementary school field trips to the aquarium, and since I don’t really care about the Orioles or the Ravens (sorry, Baltimore friends), I had no other reason to visit. But there are cute parts of Baltimore. While the Inner Harbor area is a nice place for a stroll, and yes, there’s an aquarium (and a lot of chain restaurants), walking a bit east (or hopping on the water taxi) will take you to Fells Point. Where I assure you, you want to go. Because it is cobblestoned and glorious, and contains the Thames Street Oyster House. And I promise, you want to go to the Thames Street Oyster House. Go there. Go there now.

12. Chicago

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My last trip of the year was a long-ish stint in Chicago. In late December. Where, thank all of the gods, the weather was not unpleasant. And honestly, say what you will about Christmas in New York City and Rockefeller Center and 5th Ave and Bryant Park, but Chicago knows how to do the holiday season. The whole damn city twinkled, there were carols playing in the street, and there was an honest-to-goodness german Christmas market where one could purchase a $7 mug of hot spiced wine and wander around shopping for crafty and (somewhat) unique holiday gifts. They even put Christmas trees in the museums. During my time in Chicago, I worked my butt off, became physically sick for the first time in over a year and a half, and still managed to super enjoy myself. Sorry New York, but I love Chicago.

Honorable Mentions

While it is shocking that I managed to come up with a dozen places-I-failed-to-write-about: wait! There’s more! I also did not write about:

Claremont, California, which is a cute little town in the foothills of the San Bernadino Mountains, about an hour west of LA.

-Washington, DC, which I’ve written about at length in the past, but spent a good deal of time in during 2014. Also I discovered Little Serow (best Thai restaurant ever) and the up-and-coming Navy Yard neighborhood (and the Korean version of Chipotle. Really, it’s all about the food.)

-Disney World. Oh yeah. I spent a week in Disney this year, too. Man, I’m tired.

-Newport, RI. The Cliff Walk is lovely, even half-closed. And I finally got to see The Breakers.

-Boston. Here there be (more) oysters.

-Brooklyn. A rooftop work meeting and a brisket sandwich on potato ‘buns’. Because both of those things are totally normal.

So there you have it, folks. Everything I failed to tell you about all year long. You’re welcome. And Happy (soon-to-be) New Year. Wishing you a 2015 full of travel, adventure, and Instagram-worthy sunsets.

 

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