Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Another Kind of Cenote

The Yucatan is known for the Mayan ruins that blanket the region but cenotes, or underground freshwater pools,are another hallmark that I particularly love. I remember being dazzled by the sunbeams playing off the water at X-keken cenote near Chichen Itza so I was excited about exploring another one in Merida. The darkness of  the surrounding caverns and the Mayan belief that cenotes are the entrance to the underworld really make it a special experience.  So you can imagine my surprise when I saw the cenote topped by lily pads, above. Located right next to the stunning Mayan archaeological site of Uxmal,, I thought it was just a local pond. But I learned that there are actually three types of cenotes--open, closed and semi-closed. Each supplies a different kind of experience. I climbed down the rocks into the open pool and realized immediately that it was indeed different than my previous cenote dip. Tiny fish clung to my feet, nibbling at the dry skin! No matter where I moved, the fish followed. I know that some people pay money to get these "fish pedicures" in parts of Asia and big cities everywhere but  that's not what I was there for. It felt weird to have the fish nuzzling my feet, like somewhere between a tickle and a rub. After 20 minutes of this, I climbed out of the water and admired the cenote from a nearby rock instead. My feet were smooth and I felt like I had learned an important lesson about just how different cenotes can be.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Next Stop: Merida, Yucatan Peninsula

One of my favorite regions of Mexico is the Yucatan Peninsula,which is brimming with vibrant history and a rich culture that's on display on every level, from the food, to the language and traditions. I'm excited to finally be visiting La Ciudad Blanca or the White City, as Merida is called because of the white limestone buildings. I'll be exploring the archeological sites of Dzibilchaltun, called the Temple of The Seven Dolls and one of the oldest Maya sites, dating from 300 BC and Uxmal, a Mayan town founded in A.D. 700 and declared a World Heritage Site. I'll also be dipping into a cenote or underground pool,which is a hallmark of the region and they always supply a magical experience. Of course, I'll sample the traditional food, music and fashion so look out for some interesting posts in during the next couple of weeks!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

5 Airport Hacks For Easier Travel

What happens when you are stuck in a long TSA line.

Airline travel has developed into a harrowing list of indignities and stupid regulations but no area holds more opportunities for agony than the airport security line. The lines are guaranteed to be long whenever you’re late for a flight. The TSA agents can be surly. You will most likely get stuck behind a family with five kids and multiple strollers. The possibilities are endless. But there are a few things that you can do to make the process easier. Here are my ultimate tips for a breezier airport security experience:

Start The Process Before You Arrive at The Airport
I really don’t understand why some people wait until they get to the airport to check in, print flight tickets and  discover flight and gate status.  They might as well bring  a sleeping bag for a long nap because that’s how long all that unnecessary maneuvering requires. All of these things can be done on a laptop or phone beforehand. Airlines now have apps that allow you to have electronic tickets and gate info at your fingertips on your phone. Or you can just check in online and send the ticket to your phone. These can save a lot of time that will be better spent powering through security lines.

And about those long lines: download apps like Miflight and WhatsBusy to learn security wait times before you hit the door. That way, you can plan your arrival accordingly. And for those who must get in line to check bags, you are creating more hassle for yourself on both ends. You wait in line to check bags, you wait for your bag at baggage claim. Of course, that’s assuming that your bag even arrives. Carry on, it saves money, time and worry. That’s is the most basic airline hack.
What happens when you don't check in before you arrive at the airport.

Consider Your Shoes
This seems like a no brainer but I continue to witness people unlace, unbuckle and squat on the floor to wrench off airline unfriendly shoes. The key is to wear shoes that easily slip on and off. And I’m not talking about flip flops because bare feet on grungy airport floors is just nasty. Stow your chic, complicated shoes in your carry on for after you land. Go for something that slides on or can be fastened in a second for an easier time in security.

Think About Accessories
Many travelers forget that the details of their attire can totally affect their TSA experience. Avoid wearing belts, bulky sweaters, zippered tops or too much jewelry unless you don’t mind spending extra time taking them off. Hair style is also an accessory so please re-consider towering updos and metal barrettes. I’m the queen of accessories and have lots of hair but I have learned the hard way to streamline my airport look. I leave off metal hoop earrings and pull my hair back with an elastic instead of a metal clip for quick security checks.
The necessary liquid you will need, in the form of a strong mimosa, when you miss your flight because of TSA lines.

Organize Your Liquids
The liquid regulations have been in effect for years but many people still don’t seem to get it. You can not bring full size bottles of shampoo, lotion or cologne through security. And forget about trying to slip through with bottled water, you will be instructed to toss it. If you can’t find travel sized versions, buy the three ounce containers that fill drugstore and beauty supply shelves and fill them up with your choice of liquids.Store them in a quarter ounce bag in the side pocket of your suitcase so you’ll always be prepared.

Be Alert

I know that it’s a hassle to be at the airport at the crack of dawn. I know that you barely had

time to sleep and you just want to get to your destination. But please, pay attention to the

line and what you’re instructed to do. Have your ID and ticket ready, not buried in the bottom

of your bag. Take your laptop out of your bag, move your belongings on the conveyor and

move to the line that you’re directed to follow. If you don’t, you’re prolonging the process.

Just follow all the directions and you’ll be out of the security line and headed toward your


Monday, May 30, 2016

Inside Dubai

The striking structures of Dubai's cloud-topping buildings are one of the famous hallmarks of the city but I quickly discovered that the interiors are just as enthralling. Archways, geometric patterns and golden accents filled every hotel that I visited and I was captivated by the meticulous attention to detail.The cascading arches and bold colors against white walls above, was a stand out feature inside the Burj Al Arab, billed as the most luxurious hotel in the world and I have to agree with that description.

The unusual sail shape of the Burj Al Arab is reflected in the layered walls, above.

These rich golden designs adorned an elevator in the Burj Al Arab.

Inside the Madinat Jumeirah Resort, a swirl of marble staircase with finely etched gilded rails caught my eye.

I was struck by this pairing of an avant guarde lighting piece with a flowering arrangement in the Vida Downtown Dubai hotel.

And I was fascinated by this design inside of a mosque. It was the only place that displayed richly arrayed art and it was fittingly, the spot designated for the Imam to lead prayers. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Dubai Skyline

I happen to come from a city with one of the most beautiful,and architecturally striking skylines in the world so its rare that a skyline wows me. But Chicago's skyline and the rest of the world's, have nothing on Dubai. As the home of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest office building, the world's tallest hotel, the word's biggest mall and the world's tallest office building, over-the-top doesn't even begin to describe Dubai's skyline.

You don't really walk around Dubai because of the scorching desert heat but the few times I did stroll down a street, my jaws started to ache because I was gaping so much. Of course, the cloud topping Burj Khalifa dominates most views of the business district, as you can see from the above image.

But it's not just the Burj Khalifa,the distinctive sail-shaped design of the Burj Al Arab, the most luxurious hotel ever, is also an eye popper. Taking in the clusters of towering buildings felt like watching a sci fi movie. And walking by the soaring structures, there was always a construction site with another building soon to join the others. Dubai and its skyline is unlike anything I've ever seen.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Traditional Emirati Ayala Dance

Dubai is a fascinating city overflowing with larger than life sky scrapers and crammed with people from all over the globe. But Dubai is also located in the desert, with an ancient Emirati heritage that you can only glimpse if you search for it, since native Emirati's are only about 10 percent of the population. One of the liveliest demonstrations of the culture was watching the Ayala dance during a desert safari. Versions of the dance are performed by people across the Arabian Peninsula but the Emirati take involves sticks used to goad camels. Originally, the Ayala, generally known as the stick dance, was a battle dance performed with swords to celebrate repelling attackers from the camp. The formation symbolizes a battle, with the men facing each other and chanting stirring poetry. Today, the dance is performed at weddings and cultural events. A local told me that the dance requires a lot of leg strength because the steps involve flexing up and down, which you can't see under the robes. These robed men chanting and playing traditional instruments greeted me as I entered the safari camp and I found it to be an exciting display of elusive Emirati traditions.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Next Stop: Dubai

For the next week, I'll be exploring the quickly growing city of Dubai. I'm excited to learn about Dubai as well as different aspects of the business travel sector. My trip is sponsored by Dubai Tourism and the Dubai Business Travel Events team. I'll be visiting the famous buildings that dot Dubai's skyline, including the iconic Burj Khalifa, pictured above. I'll also be diving into the souks and learning about Emirati traditional dress. The highlight will probably be a desert safari and camel polo game but I'm sure the city has more adventures than I can imagine. Stay tuned for posts!