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Category: ‘Out of the Suitcase’

Taking Time to Remember

Posted: September 8th, 2011 by


This year marks the 10-year anniversary of the world-changing event that has become known simply as 9-11.  As our country continues the healing process, communities all across the nation will take time this September 11th, to commemorate the personal stories of tragedy, and in many instances triumph, in the face of overwhelming circumstances. We remember those who lost their lives and loved ones, as well as those who risked their lives as first responders. Check with your local officials for events in your area. These are some events taking place in the NYC area.

* Remembrance at Trinity Church

On Sunday, Sept. 11, the historic Trinity Church, at Broadway and Wall Streets near the ground zero site, will ring the Bell of Hope at 8:46 a.m. In the afternoon, at 1:30 p.m., the church will ring the tower bells for an hour of remembrance. At 2:30 p.m., a special service will be held in remembrance of the 9/11 volunteers, first responders, and recovery workers. At 7:14 p.m., an interfaith ringing of the Bell of Hope will again honor the memory of those killed. Admission is free.

* Hand in Hand Remembrance

On Saturday, Sept. 10, thousands of people will join hands to form a human chain along the waterfront in lower Manhattan. The event begins at 8:46 a.m., the time the first plane hit the World Trade Center on 9/11. Afterward, participants may post a message on the Wall of Remembrance at Battery Park. Participation in the hand-holding ceremony is free, but pre-registration is required. Sign up on the event’s website. Organizers will contact you with information on your starting location.

* Opening of the National 9/11 Memorial

The 9/11 Memorial, on the ground zero site, contains two giant waterfalls and two reflecting pools in the footprints of the twin towers, surrounded by the names of the people who died inscribed in bronze panels. The Memorial will be open to the public starting on Monday, Sept. 12. Admission is free, but advance reservations are required. You can reserve a pass on the 9/11 Memorial’s website. Enter at the intersection of Albany and Greenwich streets.

* World Trade Center Memorial Floating Lantern Ceremony

On the evening of Sept. 11, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the Interfaith Center of New York will host a floating lantern ceremony on the south side of Pier 40 on the Hudson River. Participants will write loved one’s names and messages of peace on paper lanterns and release them into the river. The ceremony includes interfaith prayer, meditation, and musical performances. Admission is free.

I Resolve To . . .

Posted: January 10th, 2011 by

We can thank Janus, a mythical king of early Rome (153 B.C.) for what some consider the beginning of the tradition of new year’s resolutions.  Fact is, the Romans named the first calendar month after Janus, the god of beginnings and the guardian of doors and entrances.  Thus, Janus was always depicted with two faces, where the one on the front of the head was always looking forward, and the one on the back of the head was looking backward at the same time.

New Year’s resolutions can be traced back 4,000 years to ancient Babylonians, when they might have resolved to return borrowed farm equipment.

 Along with resolutions there are other traditions associated with the new year, such as food.  Greens, like cabbage or collards depict money where black eyed peas are said to bring good luck, and hog jowls or ham signify luck or prosperity.  Italians might eat lasagna, while Austrians may serve green peppermint ice cream in the shape of a cloverleaf.  Almost every culture has some type of food they traditionally serve on New Year’s day.

Non edible traditions vary as well.  For instance, in Wales, at the first toll of midnight the back door is opened and closed to release the old year and lock out bad luck; whereas at the twelfth stroke of the clock, the front door is opened to welcome in the new year and shepherd in good luck.  In Japan, homes are decorated in tribute to lucky gods.

Toasting in the new year in Paris - Flickr photo by viZZZual

There is also the new-year toast, which can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans who shared wine from a common pitcher where the host drank first to ensure the wine was not poisoned.  Champagne has since become the toast of choice in the modern world.

Music has played its part in new year celebrations as well, and the song Auld Lang Syne became the song of the day after it was published in 1796, although there were several variations of Auld Lang Syne all the way back to the early 1700’s.

Perhaps the most famous New Year's Eve celebration is in Times Square in New York - Flickr photo by Paul Mannix

New Years is also the oldest holiday celebration and the only holiday celebrating the passage of time, as well as associated with making new year resolutions. 

I resolve to go white water rafting in West Virginia with my teen-aged son, as well as go horseback riding in the Virginia mountains and catch some major site-seeing in new York City.   One of my colleagues has stated she resolves to take a cruise to the Caribbean, Cayman Islands and Cozumel, while another wants to visit at least one small seemingly unknown tourist venue and one major tourist attraction in 2011.  

Flckr photo by katerha

Resolutions are not necessarily all about diets, or losing weight, quit smoking, etc, but can include fun things like seeing the beauty of nature, travelling throughout America and experiencing what the World has to offer in a variety of ways.  

What do you resolve to do in 2011?

[polldaddy poll=4365504]

Another Type of Tourism . . .

Posted: November 29th, 2010 by

Escanaba in Da Moonlight - Flickr photo by Elizabeth-table4five - photo also seen in the Michigan Historical Museum

Apparently hunting season marks the beginning of scruffy looking men with scraggly beards, or so it may seem.  This is especially true when deer season rolls around, no matter the locale.  One might assume it might be a form of camouflage or that it helps retain warmth on a cold drizzly day; often the case in November and December when hunters are traipsing about the woods.

Regardless of the scruffy looking folks, from a tourism standpoint hunting could mean an increase in business; albeit short lived, especially at a time when travel is slow.  Although many hunters may not require overnight lodging or they may opt to rent a hunting lodge in a known hunting area, hunting season does spell additional tourism dollars.

I looked up the Hunting Top 10 and learned that Ripley, West Virginia might be your go to place for turkey hunting or further south in Snow Hill, North Carolina you could easily bag a wild boar or black bear, and in Ahoskie, North Carolina spring turkey and duck are hunting specialties.  How about trophy white tail deer, with some bucks reaching up to 300 lbs.?  You might want to travel to Johannesburg, Michigan for this opportunity.

Flickr photo, wild turkey, black_throated_green_warbler

There’s plenty of duck hunting in Boswell, Oklahoma and Pike County, Illinois is known for its trophy whitetail deer and turkey hunts.  Elk, Mule Deer and Exotics can be found in Albuquerque, New Mexico, while Georgetown, Kentucky is well known for its water fowl in this central Kentucky area.

Jackson County Courthouse in Ripley, WV - Flickr photo by puroticorico

Tourism comes in many forms, and hunting is one of them.  No matter the reason you visit an area it still gains exposure and often times you might visit for one reason but return for another.  In the case of Ripley, West Virginia; here is an area steeped in civil war history, so while some might hunt deer, others might hunt the past.

How about the North Carolina area, which abounds in natural beauty where more people travel to this part of the country for pure nature than to hunt.   Although the photo of the flight of ducks was actually taken in Granville Island, Vancouver, BC, this could be a site seen in Bowsell, Oklahoma.  This small Midwestern town not only offers a duck hunting paradise, but a bit of serenity as well. 

Duck Hunt, Flickr photo by Icon Photopraphy School

While we might not understand why the Grizzly Adams look is typical for some at this time of year, perhaps Escanaba in Da Moonlight, termed as the “funniest play ever written about Deer hunters in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula” might explain it all. 

All we ask is that you come back for a visit when the hunt is over!

Happenings in Your Own Back Yard . . .

Posted: June 18th, 2010 by

Every year, normally between the months of March and October, there is something going on in your home state.  Most every town has something it is know for, so there’s a festival for it, like the Slug Queen Festival in Eugene, Oregon, or the Wiregrass Festival of Murals in Dothan, Alabama.  How about the  Gasparilla Pirate Festival in Tampa, Florida and the Syracuse Polish Festival in Syracuse, New York?  If you’re into cultural festivals then the 9th Street Italian Market Festival in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania might be the ticket, or why not try the Jacksonville Caribbean Carnival, Street Parade & Festival in Jacksonville, Florida. 

Bonnaroo Music & Crafts Festival in Manchester, TN. Flickr Photo by rocknroll_guitar

Let’s not forget those music festivals like Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee or the Bamboozle in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  While we’re at it, let’s take in the Austin Reggae Festival in Austin, Texas, and why not the Lollapalooza, currently held in Chicago, Illinois or the Shamy Bash in Pataskala, Ohio.


Lollapalooza sign as seen in Chicago in 2006. Flickr photo by Tammylo

Vintage 1992 Lollapalooza tour poster. Flickr photo by Joe Madonna

While many of these festivals and events are local; oftentimes they are promoted regionally, and we can’t forget those festivals that people from all over your home state and beyond its borders do attend.  Or maybe your town has a special attraction, like an amusement park or huge water park, or even a natural forest with hiking, fishing and the like. 

Want to know where to look for these events?  Check out these sites: 







You get the picture – why not get out and have fun this summer.  Attend an arts & crafts or music festival; get a little color in your cheeks, slurp a snow cone, gum some cotton candy, spread a quilt and eat some cold chicken, toss a Frisbee or two, scream at the top of your lungs while riding that dare-devil amusement park ride, marvel at the fireworks display that will surely follow whatever event you’ve taken in as dark finally settles, and when all is said and done, you will have filled your memory basket and now you’re ready for a good night’s sleep.

More than the 8th Wonder of the World

Posted: March 29th, 2010 by


Taj Majal

I had some clue of what to expect going to a third world country such as India. I have been exposed to the culture, here in the states, for most of my life working with the hospitality industry. Needless to say, I was still in shock and in awe. One cannot really prepare themselves the way I thought I did by just absorbing information from people who have lived there. I saw a Hindu funeral, explored the vegetable markets, rode the streets on the back of a motorcycle, visited Temples, shopped, relaxed on front porch swings all day, visited a beautiful farm in the country, ate great, authentic Indian Food as well as food I don’t wish to eat again, saw poverty as I never seen before and met people who I consider as my new extended family that I will keep in touch with always. 

Hill Society Family

  I was so ready to get there by the time I had flown over19 hours and gone through umpteen time zones. I didn’t realize that I still had a 6 hour car ride to go from Mumbai. We arrived to the Hill Society in Navasari, at the home of Harshad and Roshni Patel, at about 6:00 am on December 17th. For the record, I flew out of Dallas on December 15th. It took a few days to adjust to the extreme jet lag but it took even longer to adjust to my new surroundings. The Hill society is quiet, peaceful and all of the homes are open to all of the families that live there. It is actually pretty amazing when you see the family bond between everyone. I felt at home with them immediately. We ventured into Navasari, which is a fairly large city.  A city filled with pollution, dust, slum areas, motor bikes, rickshaws and people everywhere. Did I mention there are no traffic lights, stop signs or driving laws? There are also restaurants, parks, schools and a wide variety of food vendors lining up and down the roads. The food on the side of the road is supposed to be the best and it was.  I was fortunate enough to stay with friends who told me what was okay to eat and where it was ok to eat from.

Although I did get sick at the end of the trip, it was well worth it. On our way to Dheli and Agra, I was able to visit Hindu Temples and Muslim Mosques in numerous cities such as, Ambaji, Ajmer and Boroda (which is where I saw the first traffic stop light of the whole trip). We visited the Swaminarayan Akshradam in Dheli. This Temple should have made the Wonders of the World list with the Taj Majal. It was fascinating.  After a very long journey via van of six people, we reached the Taj Majal in Agra. It was as breathtaking as I imagined even on the rainy, foggy day that we arrived. A ride on a camel cart up to the entrance made it sink in that I was definitely across the world. Speaking of animals, they are everywhere: Cows, bulls, goats, hogs, wild dogs and even an elephant crossing the road.  One village was filled with monkeys mingling with all of the people and of course trying to take everyone’s hats, glasses or loose articles. That was definitely a different feeling than waving at them in a cage at the zoo, but they were very friendly.  

 I spent most of my time in Navasari, Bardoli, Saroli and the surrounding

Vanita and Dheval just before wedding ceremony

 Surat area. The wedding in Bardoli was fascinating and much longer than what we are used to in the states (3 full days of events). 


Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

Posted: March 15th, 2010 by

Who is St. Patrick?  Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

Statue at St Patrick Church, Pittburgh, Photo by Joe Marinaro

 Most of us know when St. Patrick’s Day is, March 17th, but how did it become such a celebrated day? St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. He is best known for banishing all the snakes from Ireland. Is this true or false? False, the island nation was never home to any snakes; This was really a metaphor for the eradication of pagan ideology from Ireland and the triumph of Christianity.  March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day,  is his religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. For thousands of years the Irish have observed this day by attending church in the morning and celebrating in the afternoon with dance, drinking and the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place not in Ireland but in the United States, Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City on March 17, 1762. This helped the Irish soldiers reconnect with their Irish roots and other fellow Irishmen serving in the English army. Over the next 35 years many “Irish Aid” societies were formed, each group would have an annual parade. In 1848 several of the societies decided to unite their parade and form one large parade in New York City.

Today, that parade is the world’s oldest civilian parade and the largest in the United States, with over 150,000 participants. Nearly three million people line the 1.5 mile parade route, in New York City, which takes more than 5 hours. Many other city celebrate the day with parades, such as Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Savannah, involving between 10,000 and 20,000 participants. And that is how St. Patrick’s Day became to be such a celebrated day in the United States.


Remembering Black History Month

Posted: February 24th, 2010 by

February is the birthday month for many famous people including four Presidents (George Washington, William Harrison, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan).  February is also Black History Month, an annual observance in the United States honoring African-Americans.  

What began as Negro History Week, in 1926 by Historian Garter G. Woodsen, evolved into Black History Month. In 1976, under the presidency of Jimmy Carter, Negro History Week was expanded to the entire month of February and was designated Black History Month.   

Booker T. Washington

There are a number of National Parks & Historic Sites dedicated to preserving African-American history. These sites are located throughout the United States from Massachusetts to Mississippi and celebrate the achievements of notable African-Americans such as Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver and Martin Luther King Jr. Although most are familiar with these famous Black Americans , there are also sites commemorating less well-known figures.  

William Johnson House, Natchez, Mississippi

Once such site is the Natchez National Historic Park, in Natchez, Mississippi. The William Johnson House was a home and business owned by William Johnson, a free black man, whose diary tells the story of everyday life in antebellum Natchez.  

Armchair travelers may make a virtual visit to Historic Sites dedicated to preserving African-American History here.  

500 Miles of Excitement and More

Posted: February 11th, 2010 by

Since 1959, fans have gone along on the wild 500 mile ride during The Daytona 500!  No matter if you are sitting in the stands, in the middle of the infield, or glued to your TV set, if you are a NASCAR fan, the month of February signals kick off for a year of car racing competition.

For many, The Daytona 500 is considered the most important and prestigious race of the NASCAR calendar, and unlike most sports, the best is not saved for last.  The Super Bowl of stock car racing is usually held the second or third Sunday in February, the culmination of numerous activities and events held during ‘Speedweek’.

This is one of the busiest weekends for Daytona Beach.  If you are unable to find lodging near the Daytona International Speedway, you might consider nearby Ormond Beach where you can tour the Harley Davidson Showroom, or a short drive north is the oldest city in America, St. Augustine, with numerous family-type attractions, like Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum.  Many attractions are located within walking distance of one another in St. Augustine.

For more information on activities and events in the Daytona Beach area, You may want to visit the Daytona Beach Chamber of Commerce and view their calendar of events.