Why You Have to Visit the Toledo Botanical Gardens More Than Once.

171003_TBG_mum_butterfly1

When I arrived at the Toledo Botanical Gardens I saw buildings that looked like little houses and my first thought was, “I would totally live in a botanical garden!” It turns out, they are for the resident organizations. There are 19 independent associations housed in the gardens focusing on the arts, horticulture and conservation.

Then I was thrilled to find out that I was visiting the Toledo Botanical Gardens during ZimSculpt exhibition. According to the website, ZimSculpt is a Harare Zimbabwe – based organization that “showcases the creative and cultural work of local sculptors in exclusive exhibitions around the world”. I try to find something artsy in every city I visit. So, honestly, I was surprised at how moved I was by this exhibit. It was very special for me, to see African Art brought to the Americas in an exhibit and the artists appreciated not exploited. Plus many of the sculptures reminded me of the full-figured renaissance images. In a world of double zero models and mannequin-like shapes it was nice to see these real-life size figures. One section seemed to be devoted to women with names like “Creation” depicting a pregnant woman, “Widow” and “My Beautiful Children” There was also abstract art. My favorite piece was “Change of Plan”.

There were several artists in residence. One of the artists was there working on a piece when I arrived. There are also pieces available for sale benefiting both the artists and Toledo GROWs. The exhibit runs from September 2 – October 30, 2017. The exhibit travels. If you miss it at the botanical gardens check their website for the next location: https://zimsculpt.com/

171003_TBG_art_banner

Photo courtesy of Toledo Botanical Gardens website

171003_TBG_map

171003_TBG_mybeautifulchildren

“My Beautiful Children”  Artist: Jim Sephani

171003_TBG_art_change of plan2

“Change of Plan” Artist: Lincon Muteta

As I walked further into the 66-acre property I realized how easy I could be to get lost. It seemed like there were gardens with in gardens. At one point, I felt like I was in a maze and then I come across these sculptures that appeared to be floating on water. It took me a minute to see the base on which they were resting. The pieces were delicate, quite lovely and I suddenly I was not worried about whether I was lost or not I was just enjoying the moment (in all honesty I think getting lost is half the fun, but if you don’t they have maps).

171003_TBG_art on water

Art on the water.

171003_TBG_ducks

171003_TBG_tree

171003_TBG_water fall

There is gazebo on the grounds and it is no surprise that while looking through the website I learned that the gardens are available as a wedding venue and event rental. Near the gazebo is the Grand Allee which was installed in 1995. These trees surround a large grassy area on the south side of the garden that ends at the gazebo.

171003_TBD_gazebo

171003_TBD_allee

The Grand Allee – Gazebo in the distance

I liked that there were signs to identify most of the plant life. Some of the names were fun, like the “double knock out” rose (roses are my favorite, of course). Unfortunately, those roses were not blooming on the day I visited. October may not the ideal time of year to see everything in bloom. It looked like things had trimmed back for the winter, which made me a little sad, but then I come across some beautiful mums and these awesome Monarch butterflies. The Monarchs migrate from Canada to Mexico every winter and back north in the spring. I love flowers and butterflies, especially Monarchs, so seeing them together made my day!

171003_TBG_mum_butterfly2

171003_TBG_DJ butterfly

So close I could have kissed the butterfly!

171003_TBG_mum

171003_TBG_bee

Do you see the busy bee?

As of this post the Toledo Botanical Gardens are open daily and FREE to the public, you can’t beat that! The gardens include:

  • a visitor center
  • public sculpture park
  • water fountain
  • a rose garden
  • a community garden
  • a research and demonstration green house

There are also a variety of activities available such as art and environmental classes, concerts and family oriented weekend activities. The annual Crosby Festival of the Arts is Ohio’s oldest (over 50 years) outdoor juried art festival. The two day fine art show takes place in June.

I am not sure if you could see everything the gardens have to offer in one day. I certainly could not cover the whole park in the few hours I was there. I think you could visit over and over and each experience would be unique.

Harrison Franklin would certainly agree. I met Harrison while I was taking pictures of the mums and the butterflies. He has been photographing the gardens for 43 years and he’s taken over 100,000 pictures. When he saw my excitement over the butterflies, he stopped to tell me about another place he thought I would enjoy, The Butterfly House. Part of Wheeler Farms, The Butterfly House is located about 20 miles away in Whitehouse, OH. As it turns out it does not fit into my itinerary for this trip, but it’s one to add to the list if I come through the Toledo area again. Since Harrison was using a digital camera, he also shared some of his favorite images of the day, which were beautiful. I love chatting with locals. It’s always interesting to meet new people. They often have suggestions for places to visit that I would not have thought to look for on my own.

171003_tbd_harrison.jpg

Mr Harrison Franklin

The Toledo Botanical gardens continue to grow, no pun intended, and evolve. This year, 2017, they created The Garden’s Discovery Trail. Per the website, “the Trail invites children and their families to explore the garden through ‘playable places’ and playable moments.’ Using natural materials and the garden’s everchanging landscape, emphasis is on encouraging hands-on-experiences and discovery through play.” I went to many hands-on kid friendly exhibits when I was growing up. It was one of the things that developed my curiosity and appreciation for art and science. So, I think this is a great addition and the gardens are definitely worth going to see the next time you are in the area.

For more information on the Toledo Botanical Garden check out their website: http://www.toledogarden.org/

171003_tbg_dj-toledo.jpg

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Three Reasons To Visit The Lan Su Chinese Gardens Next Time You Are In Portland.

chinese gardens 3

1. The gardens are beautiful. The Lu San Chinese Garden, located in Portland, features rare plants native to China, Koi ponds and decorative stonework. The koi are beautiful. They come in a variety sizes, colors and patterns. Formerly known as the Portland Classical Chinese Garden, the property is walled off enclosing a full city block. The gardens are authentic, modeled after the Ming Dynasty gardens of China. According to their website one of the best times to visit is when it’s raining (which happens a lot in Portland). Here are 8 reasons to visit Lan Su in the rain. As you might expect this place is very peaceful. So, in addition to being a wonder tourist destination, it is also a lovely place to just sit and think or meditate. If you are looking for a place to disconnect from the world and just “be” – this is it (of course that will work better if you turn off your cell phone or at least put it on airplane mode).

chinese gardens 1

chinese gardens 2

chinese-gardens-5.png

2. There is more to do here than you might think. They host events celebrating important holidays on the Chinese calendar, tours, classes and demonstrations. During my visit upcoming workshops included Chinese paper cutting, calligraphy and photography. Sadly I was here a couple of weeks to early to attend the Autumn Moon Festival which this year will be held Saturday, September 30th and Sunday, October 1st. Lan Su also hosts several artists each year. Exhibitions of their work are shown in the pavilions of the garden. They also have a cute shop with nice gift options at decent prices.

mid-autumn-web__page-header-gallery

Photo courtesy of the Lu San Chinese Gardens website

3. Tea. Portland based tea company The Tao of Tea operates a teahouse in the Tower of Cosmic Reflections. Here you can relax while sipping tea with a view of the garden. Traditional Chinese tea serving styles are observed as are their tea selections which include: white, green, oolong, pu-er, black and herbal teas. I had Jasmine Pearl tea, Red Beans Mooncake and Taoist Delight noodles with firebird (roasted turkey). My food was served in a timely manner. The noodle dish was well seasoned and the moomcake was lovely. I typically add sugar to my tea, but no sugar was needed with the Jasmine Pearl tea. It has this lovely hint of sweetness that was just perfect on it’s own.

chinese gardens_tea 2

chinese gardens_tea 1

chinese gardens_tea 3

The Lan Su Chinese Gardens are located in Portland, Oregon (USA). For more information including hours, ticket prices, location and a full schedule of events visit their website: http://www.lansugarden.org/

Additional reviews of tourist spots and restaurants can also be found here on my blog on google.
chinese-gardens-4.jpg

2017 Liebster Award Nomination

Liebster_bohemianwanderland

Travel, Tea and Me has been nominated for the 2017 Liebster Award. Nominations for Liebster Award come from other bloggers. I’m very thankful to have received this recognition from the blogging community.

Liebster in German means my favorite, dearest, or beloved. This award was originally for blogs with less than 2,000 followers and dates back to 2011. It recognizes and inspires new blogs / bloggers. The Liebster Award provides these blogs with exposure on the internet. It is also a great way for them to connect with and support the blogging community.

For more information on the Liebster Award go to:

My thanks to fellow travel bloggers Cath and Ian from Possess the World for nominating Travel, Tea and Me for the 2017 Liebster Award. I originally connected with them on twitter. They take their blog name from a quote by American Traveler and writer Elias Burton Holmes, “to travel is to possess the world.” Cath and Ian feel that “experiencing destinations slowly is more enjoyable than running from city to city to see the sites” and you see that reflected in their blog. Together they have visited 25 countries. They share their travel tales, tips and information at: http://www.possesstheworld.com; Twitter: @possesstheworld; Instagram: @possesstheworld

Favorite Blog:

One of my favorite blogs is Hello Jetlag. She loves drinking and travel. I love her pictures – so stink’n cute! I have been reading her blog for several months. I was scrolling through my twitter (@HelloJetlag) and her pictures of London really stood out. It was her pictures that got me and then I started reading her blog posts. She has a great post on afternoon tea at Pink Restaurant in London. She’s just doing her things (as a freelance make-up artist) and sharing her journey with the world. I feel like she keeps it simple, real and I like that.

I also like Planes, Trains and Champagne – Christine blogs about her passion for traveling and fashion. Two of my favorite things. Twitter: @PTandChampagne

Ten Random Facts About Myself: 

  • I love boots (especially combat boots). I wear them with everything: pants, dresses, skirts, shorts…
  • I’m artsy. I have worked several mediums (acrylic paint, water colors, clay, fabric), but drawing with sharpies is probably my favorite. I always have paper and several sharpies in different colors with me.
  • I’m short (5 foot ¾ inches tall) but I ran hurdles and pole-vaulted in high school.
  • I did not like tea until I did a semester abroad in London.
  • I like K-Pop (Korean pop music).
  • My favorite poet is Edgar Allen Poe.
  • I worked for Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus.
  • I cut my own hair once and it has never grown back as long (but I wish it would).
  • My favorite show is Dr Who.
  • I’m fascinated by string theory.

Who / What Inspires you to travel?

My mom inspired me to travel. She grew up moving every year or two. I grew up in the same city and for most of my life the same house. One day I was talking to someone in my home town who did not like to travel. As we talked I realized that I did not want to stay in the same city my whole life. I wanted to go on a planes and trains. I wanted to see Washington DC and New York City. My mom told me about a trip we took to Washington DC when I was one years old. Of course I could not remember anything about the experience. What good was that. I wanted to go on every school trip. I even joined choir, not because I liked to sing, but because I knew they were going on an out-of-state trip. We went to Chicago and it was fantastic. After a semester abroad in college I was really hooked. I wanted to see everything – the whole world. So, I started making a list of places to visit and thinking about jobs that would allow me to travel. Then an opportunity to work for Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. Two days later I flew out to North Carolina to meet up with the circus train and I’ve been traveling every since.

How has traveling changed your life.

I have always liked learning about other cultures, but traveling has made me more considerate of others. You cannot really understand what it is like for immigrants in the US until you go to another country and try to make your way around without knowing the language, culture, rules or just day-to-day basics of how they do things. While I would not say I know exactly what it’s like to move your family to another country I do have some insight and more importantly empathy.

My eating habits certainly changed. I hated tea before staying in London and came back a fan. Also I was a staving college student in London. I cooked more and ate less processed / fast food. My portion sizes decreased and my activity level increased. I walked everywhere while I was in England and when I traveled to France and Italy. I felt great!

Traveling has also made it really hard to stay still. If I’m in the same place for 2-3 months that wanderlust kicks in and I get the feeling that I need to go somewhere – do something. The more I travel … the more I want to travel.

Do you prefer the country or the city? Why?

I love the hustle and bustle of the city – everyone one smooshed together. I like being able to experience different cultures in one place – like New York City. You can find a restaurant open 24/7. There is always some place to go and something to do. I prefer a hotel rooms to a tents. That said, I do enjoy the outdoors. I love going to the beaches in Southern California or driving down the Pacific Coast Highway. Central Park in New York is one of my favorite places and I try to visit a park in every city I go to. Yosemite National Park is very special and I go there once a year with my family when my schedule allows. If I was not traveling and had to pick some place to live it would definitely be the city, but I would still visit the country.

Who are the 3 people you would invite to dinner if it could be anyone? And why?

This is a hard question to narrow down – fictional or real? Living or dead? If we are talking fiction – the 11th Doctor. In real life (living or dead) my choices would be the following:

  • Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) – Author of “Oh, The places you’ll go.” I can’t read it without crying. My elementary school teacher Mrs. Semrick gave me a copy when I graduated from high school. Dr. Seuss made me love books from a very young age.
  • JK Rowling – all of the Harry Potter books. I went through a time in school where I hated reading and then the Harry Potter Series came out. I started listening to them on tape, but my mom made me follow along in the book too and soon I was reading again. By the time I got to book 5 I had ditched the tapes.
  • David Attenborough – If my life was a movie I would want him to be the narrator.

What do you think of the selfie stick?

I think it’s helpful when you are taking a group picture. It can also be dangerous.  I have seen people  trying to take it places where it doesn’t belong like roller coasters. I like taking pictures at different angles. I’m short and it helps me take pictures at different angles when I’m traveling alone. As a matter-of-fact a need a new one.

My Liebster Award nominations (show these bloggers some love):

Nominees, please review the official 2017 Liebster Award rules listed here: (https://theglobalaussie.com/blog/liebster-award-2017/) and answer the five questions below in post on your blog:

1) If you could go anywhere in the world for a day where would you go and why?

2) Who are the 3 people you would invite to dinner if it could be anyone? And why?

3) Who/What inspires you to travel?

4) If you could be any animal mythical or real which one would you be? Would your significant other be the same animal or a different one?

5) How has traveling changed your life?

Liebster_alternativesunnydays

Why You Should Visit Yosemite This Summer and at Least Once Each Season

header_IMG_6200

I love standing on the bridge at the base of Yosemite falls surrounded by the mist generated from the force of the water hitting the rocks below. I hike up there with my family almost every time we go to the park, but this year was the most intense.

Coming back from the bridge by Yosemite Falls – really cold, but it felt awesome!

A post shared by Rose Jones (@travelteaandme) on

After five years of drought California experienced its wettest winter in 122 years during the 2016/2017 season leading to a record snow pack. Officially there are 21 named falls in Yosemite but, right now there are hundreds of active falls in the park including some that have been dried up for years. They are so loud you can hear them from the Wawona Tunnel view to the top of Glacier Point. The views are stunning. While the falls are naturally at their fullest when the snow is melting in April and May it’s still worth going, but get there as soon as you can because they naturally dry up from the heat of the summer. By August some of them may have dried up again.

Waterfalls in Yosemite

Waterfall

Thanks to photographers like Ansel Adams there are many iconic photos of Yosemite, but like most things in nature pictures cannot do it justice. You have to see it in person. National Parks are a living breathing place. The views change as the trees grow and seasons change. To get a real feel for Yosemite, I recommend you visit at least once during each season. It is like seeing a different park each time. Even though most of the trees are ever green in the fall you will still see a few trees with leaves changing – yellows fading into orange, scarlet, burnt sienna, golden rod. Artists have been inspired by Yosemite for years. The Yosemite Art Center offers classes from March through October.

In the winter there is snow and frozen lakes. Chains may be required and some of the back roads are closed but as I said it is worth going during each season at least once. If you stay at the Tenaya Lodge in the winter they have sledding and ice skating but also an indoor swimming pool.

Due to allergies I’m not a fan of spring anywhere, but it is a beautiful time to see Yosemite in bloom and maybe catch sight of a baby deer. Also this is when the falls are at their fullest.

You will have the best access to the park in the summer. It is my favorite time to visit. One of my most memorable visits was summer 2015 during the drought. We were able to hike up to the base of the lowers falls and jump off of rocks into the water. During this year’s visit we did not not hike up to the swimming hole, but the lower falls were so full I’m not even sure those rocks were visible (below there are pictures from 2015 and 2017 so you can the difference).

Yosemite_2015_lower falls1

Yosemite Falls – the lower falls swimming hole in June 2015

Yosemite_2015_lower falls2

Yosemite Falls – the lower falls swimming hole in June 2015

Waterfall_Yosemite

Yosemite Falls – upper and lower falls (June 2017)

Waterfall_Yosemite close up

Yosemite Falls – lower falls (June 2017)

If you’re going for the first time I recommend you stop at the historic Pioneer Village right after you enter the park. It’s crazy to look back at a time when people traveled to Yosemite by carriages and on horseback.

Pioneer Village_microPioneer Village

Then drive up to Glacier Point to see more of the park, a birds eye view of the valley and a closer view of half dome.

Glacier Point_IMG_6201

Glacier Point_gummy bear

Glacier Point girls

With my sisters in front of half dome

Glacier Point_yosmite falls

View of Yosemite Falls from Glacier Point

From there you should drive down to the valley stopping at the vista point to the left as you exit the Wawona tunnel. If you skip Glacier Point, this is where you get your first view of Half Dome, Bridal Veil Falls and the valley below. It is one of the most famous view points in Yosemite.

landscape

Wawona Tunnel vista point

From there you can continue down to Yosemite village, park and take a shuttle to the trail that leads to the bridge at the bottom of Yosemite falls. Make sure you get pictures of Yosemite falls and Half Dome from the each location and different angles.

Another great way to travel through the park is on bicycles. I did that one year with my parents and siblings. We parked at Yosemite village and rode around on our bikes instead of taking the shuttles. Once again it gives you a chance to see the park in a different way. You’re not seeing the park through windows and it’s easy to stop at any minute if you see wildlife and want to get a picture. It was one of our best trips.

Yosemite is a special place for me filled with fond memories of family adventures. My dad worked there as a teenager and tells the same stories every year that some how never get old. There are parts of the park where you cannot get phone reception and that break from the world is a great time to reconnect with family, friends and nature. People from all over the world come see the wonders of this National Park. You’ll hear multiple languages being spoken, but no one arguing. Everyone always seems to get along. I would encourage you to go and make some special memories of your own.

For more information on Yosemite National Park including entry fees and lodging check out their website.

Visit this link for more information about lodging and dining within the park.

Girls on log

Walking on log_DJ

Glacier Point

landscape_IMG_6203

The Last Train Run To Uniondale And How The Circus Took a Piece Of My Heart

20170508_135335

The final Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey show is over and I’m waiting for the circus goers to file out of the arena. Many of them will decide they need one more souvenir and stop by my table before they leave. I can hear Johnathan Lee Iverson, the ringmaster, speaking to the audience one last time. I have seen the show in its entirety from the stands as a spectator before I joined the tour. I have worked at the last 100 shows. This is not his normal farewell to the crowd It is his final farewell to them, to the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, to a way of life that has existed for 146 years. He reminds us that Ringling Brothers has been around longer than Coke or Major League Baseball and it’s not just a job it’s a community. Circus is family. I didn’t break down, I wasn’t in tears at my table, but I did leave a little piece of my heart with the circus that night.

(you can still watch the last performance in it’s entirety on on YouTube – link below)

I am not an overly sentimental person. The fact is I laughed through several scenes of Les Miserable that not are not traditionally thought of as funny (don’t judge). While most women are naturally comforting, I am probably not the best person for you to come to if you just broke up with your boyfriend /girlfriend or your dog just died. I have experienced heartbreak, but I would rather eat a pint of ice cream and go see a movie than feel those feelings. Besides I arrived at the circus after they announced it was closing down in May. So, I did not think it would affect me at all.  I came for the last hurrah, the final adventure, one last opportunity to peek behind the curtain of the “Greatest Show on Earth”. The people down on the floor with the ringmaster that last night hugging friends and kissing loved ones had spent a lifetime with the circus. They had been saying good bye to fans for months and now they were saying good bye to their friends, their neighbors, their community, and their way of life. Earlier that evening my mom sent a picture of a letter she received from RBBB the year I was born. It came with a ticket they could use anytime (and did) to take me to my first performance. I was doing well until then, but when I saw that letter that started “the feels” and our Ringmaster words delivered the final blow.

Blog 4_letter

Truthfully these feelings may have had their start in my youth. My dad likes animals and the circus. He grew up with both and thought we should too. So, he brought home dogs, bunnies, chickens, fish, a cockatiel, a quail… We did not see the circus perform ever year but we went to multiple performances and he always took the four of us to watch the parade of animals as they made their way from the train to the arena (that was his favorite part). Mind you we had a membership to the zoo and saw animals there all the time, but the circus was different. Everything was pageantry. Everything was a show. Seeing elephants march by on a warm summer day in central California felt like a once in a life time experience – every time. At some point school interfered with this tradition, but those images and the experience are ingrained in my memory.

Then again they may have started shortly after I started working with the circus and began to hear everyone’s stories: performers who were 3rd, 4th, 5th generation circus; some who continued on with the show in different roles once they performance days were over to stay with their circus family; staff who had been here 30, 40, 50 years now planning to retire; the girl who came to the circus after she served in the military and two years in told her dad to sell her house because she had found her home.

20170509_195739

It might have been the last train run for the final performances in Uniondale, NY. Most traveling shows get from place to place on charter buses and planes, but once again, Ringling is unique. They are the only circus with a private train. This city on wheels carrying tiny homes within the train cars (for people and animals), the pie car (for dinning), costumes and equipment. I have traveled by train many times, all over the world, but nothing compares to the experience of a RBBB train run. I had never been able to poke my head out the car and feel the wind in my hair or have the experience of a club atmosphere complete with a DJ as the train traveled down the tracks.  As with everything Ringling, even the train just passing through a town brings a since of wonder and awe. People stopped at the train crossing get out of their cars to watch the famous circus train. In cities parents camped out with their kids and in rural areas they stood out on the front porch or their backyards. Photographers chased the circus train for miles in every city, every state. Fans made signs to show their love and everyone waved including the circus folk. It did not matter if they had been with the circus for a few years or generations they still took the time to marvel at the beautiful view of our country and wave back to the people.

Blog 4_train fans

It’s impossible really to put into words the “Ringling” experience – even if you are only there a few months. The veterans told me stories about the “old” circus. I found out the best shows were early morning practices in the arena and in the train yard at night. I thought it would be an adventure and the opportunity to be part of history. It was all that, but if I’m being honest it was also life changing. I’ve always been a little quirky. I’m too nerdy for the cool kids. I’m interested in string theory. I like watching Nova. I listen to NPR on the Radio and Korean pop on my iPod. I’m not geeky enough for the nerds. I wear all black. I like to pair lace ruffled skirts with combat boots. I struggled in school, but I can put things together without reading the directions. I played sports and performed with color guard. I was too sporty for the guard girls and too artsy for the athletes. Then I came to the circus and I for the first time I really felt like I belonged. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all rainbows and roses. You can’t put 100 plus people on a train who are around each other 24 /7 and be drama free. Plus the circus is a close family – a tight knit community. So, I’m pretty sure I got the newbie treatment, but I also experienced kindness and helping hands. I felt I fit in here, in a way I had not anywhere else. I found myself wishing that I could continue to live in the city with no zip code. The circus life, just like the show, draws you in and you never want it to end.

There is a famous quote from Dr Suess. “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” Right now it’s hard to feel that way, but I’m young and I have some wonderful opportunities ahead of me. That said, life is really about two things and neither of them can be bought at the store. It’s about the experiences you have and the people you meet along the way. I have met people working for the Ringling Brothers circus from all over the world who lived together and worked together to create something which will never be duplicated. A few months here has given me a lifetime of experiences. I will forever be grateful.

Three Restaurants to Try This Week in Amsterdam

pexels-photo-60247

Photo Credit: https://www.pexels.com/

I recently connected with Kevin Renes sous-chef at Elvi  in Utrecht.

Kevin R

(Photo provided by Kevin Renes)

He enjoys food and wine (obviously) and I normally enjoy his “foodie” pics on Instagram, but this weeks post was  in honor of Dodenherdenking. I saw several posts on social media including Kevin’s, but was not familiar with the history of the region. As Kevin shared with me “the 4th of May we remember people who sacrificed their lives in war for our freedom.” During this time the Netherlands pay their respects to the victims and fallen soldiers of World War II. They remember, they honor and then on the 5th of May they celebrate – Liberation Day. While I enjoy seeing the sites, travel also affords a great opportunity to learn about the history of the region first hand. You can find more information on Dodenherdenking and Liberation Day at www.iamsterdam.com

There are little festivals all over the country during Liberation Day and of course food is a part of the celebrations. If you find yourself in Amsterdam this week or anytime soon, Kevin recommends the following restaurants:

Red Tournedos & Kreeft if you want to eat a good tenderloin or lobster or both!

Red 1

(photo credit: Red website)

Red 2

(photo credit: Red website)

Daalder Amsterdam is a new restaurant in Amsterdam – just really good food and wine.

dallder 3

(photo credit:  Daalder website)

Rijsel – Great restaurant, very classic, Bib Gourmand rating ( the Bib Gourmand rating means the restaurant is an inspector’s favorite for good value – source: Michelin).

rijsel 2

photo credit: Rijsel website

rijsel 1

photo credit: Rijsel website

Lastly Kevin recommends door 74 for the best cocktails in Amsterdam!

For more delightful food, wine and travel photos you can follow Kevin on twitter @Chef_KevinRenes and Instagram @chef_kevin_renes.

Getting Things Done and Happy Accidents

The circus train’s next stop after Raleigh NC was Philadelphia; home of Independence Hallthe Liberty Bell, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

I didn’t get to see any it because we had a schedule that didn’t really allow for sight seeing like I had hoped. Getting things done on the job comes first. Sometime things do not go as planned and you just have to accept it and move on. I did, however, manage to take in not one but two authentic Philly Cheesesteaks. I tried one from Pat’s King of Steaks and one from Geno’s Steaks. I am not comparing the two, it’s just a fact. Everyone one tells you if a cheese steak is not from Philly they are not real cheese steaks – they are right. I thought I knew what Cheese Whiz was and I was not a fan. You know the stuff you spray out of a can on crackers. Somehow the Cheese Whiz in Philly tastes different, better and I dare say amazing when combined with the grilled onions and meat. I am normally a bit of a foodie, but I make exception for this combination. I wish I could include a picture of the actual sandwich, but I went taste testing with a friend and one we unwrapped them they were devoured before a picture could be snapped. Since experiencing the local cuisine is as important to me as seeing the sights, Philly was not a total bust.

170200_Philly Cheesesteak

It’s my last day in Philadelphia, I’m listening to electric violinist Lindsey Stirling and thinking our next show location — Brooklyn.  The train will be parked in Newark for three weeks so I will definitely have a few days off to explore New York City. I do not want a repeat of Philly. Part of my whole reason in taking the job was to see the sites, visit new cities or go to places I had not been during previous visits.

170200_leaving philly

Last Day in Philly. Brooklyn here we come! (the circus train)

One of the nice things about the job has been opportunity to hang out with a friend from high school named Paul. He is also working for the circus and helped me to get a job too. Our first chance to go into New York we took the subway, but got off on the wrong stop just before the bridge instead after like we planned. So we ended up walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. At first I was upset, but it turned out to be one of many happy accidents. It was a wonderful way to see the city skyline. There is actually a walking tour if you have the time and interest. The view from the bridge is amazing and I would have missed that underground on the subway. There is also a tie-in with my current circus life. When the bridge was first opened it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. Since several suspension bridges had collapsed,  P.T. Barnum let 21 elephants over the Brooklyn Bridge in 1884 to prove that it was safe. Things do not always go as planned. Sometimes you have to get over it. Sometimes they turn out better.

170222_DJ brooklyn bridge

Walking over the Brooklyn Bridge

 

Once we got into the city, we went to Rockefeller center. Few cities have more iconic spots than New York City, and Rockefeller Center is one of them. I love ice skating. Paul had never been before. To have your first time ice skating be at Rockefeller center is pretty extraordinary. If I am being honest, Paul was not excited about the idea and took a little convincing, but, he ended up having a great time and that is a big part of travel. You have to be open to trying something new. You have to be open to venturing out of your comfort zone. That is what travel is all about. Those are the experiences that change your life and make lasting memories.

170227_DJ rockefeller center

Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center.

— You have to be open to venturing out of your comfort zone. That is what travel is all about. Those are the experiences that change your life and make lasting memories. —

170200_heart in times square

One of the things I love about New York City is that art is everywhere not just in museums. This piece was  in the middle of Time’s Square.

Getting things done is part of my off days too: laundry, store runs, other personal errands. Touring with the circus a lifestyle not a vacation. While the circus train was parked in Newark, NJ, I finally had time to find a FedEx store and ship back those steel toe boots from my first blog post. Paul and I once again headed into the city on a mission to find FedEx office. We passed several things we knew we wanted to see so once they were shipped we had some time to be tourists.

Paul wanted to see the 9/11 memorial. I had been there a few years ago, but I did not mind making another trip for him. The first time I went was during a high school trip with chaperones and a tour guide. This time I was able to go where ever I wanted and Paul and I ended up wandering over to O’Hara’s Restaurant and Pub after. We sat down and ordered burgers and fries. We started to get the feeling while we were there that this was a famous restaurant, but had no idea until weeks later the significance. On 9/11 O’Hara’s was one of the places where locals were gathered together and witnessed the horrors of the day. Later it would be a place where emergency workers came to rest. Today tourists wander in (like we did) and workers from the rebuilt World Trade Center meet at the end of the day. Once again we unknowingly stumbled across something that turned out to be special. Something we will always remember.

170227_oharas fb pic

Photo credit: O’hara’s Pub & Restaurant

Hello Charlotte and Why You Should Always Check Your Purchases

It’s day one in Charlotte, NC – my first day of work with the circus. I go to put on my brand new steel toe boots and I have two right boots. Ugh! The sales girl put them back in the wrong box (I promise you I had a left and a right when I tried them on).

The lesson here: You should always check your purchases before you leave the store, especially when they are for travel or you are traveling. It seems like anytime you do not “inspect what you expect” things are more likely to go wrong and that’s especially challenging when you are on the road. That said, if you travel enough you are going to hit some pot holes and seasoned travelers learn to roll with the punches.

I’m in no position to go back and exchange them since I’m in North Carolina and I bought the boots in California. They also do not have any retail locations in North Carolina. I cannot order anything online, because I live … on … a … train. So, I don’t have a permanent address were my purchase can be shipped (on this upside this will cut down on the Amazon shopping habit I seemed to have acquired over the last year). I’m not sure how I’m going to find another pair of steel toe boots or how this will affect my first day. At least I have my combat boots.

2/3/2017: It’s Friday and I had to be on the bus that takes us from the train to the arena at 6:00 am for the 10:00 am show (did I mention that I’m not a morning person). Most of the vendors carry a pole with 40 bags on it, but at  5’ ¾’ I’m finding this more than a little challenging. That said, I used to run hurdles and pole vault. So, the athlete in me says, “Challenge accepted.” It’s just a matter of time. By the way tying cotton candy bags “fast” is not as easy as it looks (I’m just saying).

170201_DJ first day as RBBB vendor

First day!

Walmart carries steel toe boots. Thank goodness! Like I said in my first post, you don’t have to pack everything. Most of the places you visit will have a store and you will be able to find what you need. Now, I need to find a FedEx office so I can ship the two two right boots home and have them returned – at least I kept the receipt.

2/4/2017: It’s 6:30 am and it’s 27 °F. I’m pretty sure is 70 something in Southern Cal right now, but travel is more important than warmth. That said, I’m glad I picked up a new jacket before I left. It’s freak’n cold!

Feeling happy! I have been adopted into the cotton candy family. I have been given a nick name which is classified, but I’m pretty sure it means she who holds open bags (while they are filled with cotton candy).

2/9/2017: It’s our first show in Raleigh, NC. It’s warmer here that it was in Charlotte and my cotton candy bag tying skills are improving and so is my speed.

2/10/2017: I finally got a chance to check out Raleigh, NC. I stopped by the cutest little thrift shop and picked up a tea cup and saucer so that I can enjoy a proper cup while traveling. I have also picked up some English breakfast tea. All is well in my world. Traveling for work is not the same as traveling for vacation, but you can still create moments for yourself.

170210_DJ Circus_tea cup

How I Arrived at the Circus and Why I Packed Light

160119_DJ_sunken city

When I graduated from high school I moved from Fresno down to Southern California. I loved going to the beach, and hanging out in Hollywood, but I wanted to travel. So, I did a semester abroad in London and then spent a couple of weeks traveling through France and Italy doing the youth hostel thing. I returned to the U.S., lived on the east coast for a few months then headed back to California. I was getting the itch to travel again. I was thinking about getting in my car and just driving when I got the opportunity to work for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.

It was just what I wanted – a job that would allow me to travel (sure I was hoping for Europe or Asia, but I’ll take it). I found out I got the job a Saturday, January 29th, but I had to meet the circus train in North Carolina on Monday, January 31st (how’s that for fast). I was not even sure I could get a flight. “Do I go?” I wanted to go, but suddenly the reality of it was a little scary. Heart racing, I found a reasonable rate through Delta and booked the flight. “Wow, I’m doing this.” This was not my first time away from home. I’d been living with family in SoCal on and off for four years. I’d gone to the UK and Europe. Somehow this was different and it was all happening so fast. I was excited and scared and excited!

I knew I would be gone for at least four months and I didn’t have much time to pack. I considered packing like I did for my semester abroad. It was about the same amount of time. When I went to London, I took a suitcase so big I could have packed myself inside (okay so I’m only 5’ ¾” – it was still a big suit case). For that trip I wanted to make sure I had an outfit for every occasion (school, afternoon tea, going out, meeting Benedict Cumberbatch – it could have happened) and lots of shoe choices (even though I usually wear combat boots). I also wanted to take extra toiletries and hair stuff in case I could not find what I needed there (curly hair requires a lot of product).

Then I thought about the two weeks I spent traveling through France and Italy. They call it backpacking for a reason and that was all I took with me. I stored the big suitcase with a friend. It was a no frills trip, and while my friends were dragging their suitcases over cobble stones I was walking around hands free. We also traveled by train during that trip and I knew I would be living on a train while working for the circus. That meant minimal living space and almost no storage (think tiny house but smaller).

Working for the circus would not be a luxury trip. There probably would not be anywhere on the circus train to store that big suitcase. So, I opted to pack light. I took a Samsonite carry-on, a duffel bag and the trusty backpack that got me through Europe. I would be able to store the duffel bag and the backpack in the suit case if necessary.

I called the person processing new employee paperwork. She told me I needed black pants – no denim, no stretch, no skinny (um those are the only black pants I own). Steel toe boots were also required (my combat boots would not count – really). She continued on with a list of things I should have including: white t-shirts to go under my work shirts, shower shoes, towel, etc. Clearly this required a trip to the store. After that I packed the work clothes, the steel toe boots, along with  few essentials like jeans, and some cute tops. I never pack my combat boots – plus they take up to much room in my suitcase, but I recommend slide on shoes for everyone else. It’s easier to get through airport security.

I have noticed that people who travel a lot tend to pack light. Unless you have money and some to help carry your luggage I recommend you keep it simple. As long as you’re headed to a decent sized city you should be able to buy whatever you need when you get where you’re going (let’s hope the stores back east have my hair products, because I don’t have enough with me to last four months).

A few packing tips:

1) Start with the basics necessities toiletries, underwear, shirts, jeans/khakis, etc. Pack those items first.

2) Now expand from here based on your where you are going and what you are going to do (location, weather, event). It is always worth the time to plan ahead – even when you are packing in a hurry. Pick things that mix and match, that can be casual or dressy. A black t-shirt that can go with jeans, but be dressed up with a jacket or blazer. A simple dress you can dress down with flats or dress up with heels and jewelry (or combat boots – maybe that’s just me). Pack more solid colors than prints. For this trip I basically packed enough clothes for two weeks – then: WASH. RINSE. REPEAT.

3) Pack more tops than bottoms. You can wear jeans multiple times before washing, but usually tops can only be worn once. Pants also take up more room. For two weeks I would pack 10-15 tops, but only 5-6 bottoms.

4) When actually packing clothes I found prefer rolling (instead of folding) my cloth. It has always helped to more into a carry on or weekender bag.

5) Plastic bags. Plastic bags. Plastic bags. They are godsend if you pack a liquid or a solid that can leak or melt. Put it in a plastic bag that seals so they cannot ruin your clothes or any other item in your suitcase. They are also good for separating  underwear and socks while traveling – clean v. dirty.

6) If you are going to check a bag with the airlines make sure you have at least one complete change of clothes in your carry on and any thing essential with you (just in case you and your luggage don’t meet up right away).

There are some great travel hacks in the video below…

 

I left LAX (Los Angeles, CA) on Monday at 6:30 am PST and arrive at CLT (Charlotte, NC) at 4:17 pm EST. I was supposed to call as soon as I arrived to get the address to the Circus train location. My phone … had … no … signal (to say I panicked would be an understatement). Thank goodness for airport wifi, facetime and mothers (specifically mine). On the upside my luggage and I had both arrived in Charlotte (so at least there was that). Fifteen minutes later I had the address to where the train was parked, was climbing into an Uber and my phone had figured out how to find a signal on the east coast. Let the new adventure begin!

170131_DJ on Circus train

Me in my room on the circus train.