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Remember that cruise I went on? A year ago? Well, those photos I promised are finally here. Forgive me; I tend to prefer photos to remain in the cushy confines of my camera. Because exposing them to the light of day can be so…so…we’ll think of something later.

So in January 2012, I cruised to the Caribbino. I didn’t drown, as previously feared. It was a wonderful time, my first experience on the water, and my lovely passport was released from its Fort Knox-like prison (I protect that thing like gold) and enjoyed a bit of ocean air.

Alas, after all the good times that have happening on the water lately, you’ll sooner find me in the Arctic with a bathing suit on than on a cruise (convincing me otherwise is futile, dear friends), but it’s nice to reminisce and remember…

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Photo details: me and my pal, Em, en route to the cruise (I’m the one with the shades and interesting fedora on); the behemoth boat; lovely view of the water; our nice room; Caribbean waters 1 and 2 (did I mention that it was freezing cold in Nassau?); Enchantment of the Seas; me and Em in a jewelry shop on the island; our amazing excursion to the incredible Atlantis Hotel, where we ran around like squealing ants and tried to find celebrities; my relaxed and happy Passport; a shot from and on deck with yours truly; and the awesome ship performers take a now after a week of entertaining us to no end.

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She’s alive! After many moons away (no excuses; I’ve been suuper lazy lately, and not necessarily embarking on many travels), it’s time to talk travel. Again, I haven’t had the time or the Benjamins to do much traveling lately, although I was in Atlanta last May for a nice, refreshing weekender. Not much exploring, though, unless if you count a yummy sandwich from a Subway minutes from my hotel. And since I maintain that no one has used the term “yummy” to describe Subway, this was pretty notable.

I digress. I sincerely hope 2013 brings a lot in the way of travel and exploring for me. Which brings me to the subject at hand.

Weekenders are awesome; local travel is wonderful; but what if, like me, your wallet coughs up dust and tumbleweeds and can’t afford those things at present?

Enter historical homes! I’ve mentioned before about touring the breathtaking mansions of the Gilded Age when I visited Newport, RI. To date, I still reminisce about walking the hallways and rooms that once held the Astors and the Vanderbilts and others from that time in history. That said, I decided at the beginning of this year to make use of the many historical estates in my area, i.e., the estates of many of America’s former Presidents, Founding Fathers and others. (I should mention that I am one proud, giant history nerd.) One terrific plus about living in VA is that history is simply a car ride away. But what do historical homes and estates have to do with traveling? Plenty. I think they encompass the very essence of travel. Entering the space of different landscapes; delving into the sights and scenes related to these places; leaving your home, even for a few hours here and there. To me, this is travel, wherever you are. And what better way to travel than to tour and peer into the residences of individuals that shaped history?

I recently visited Monticello, the sprawling estate of Thomas Jefferson, located in Charlottesville, VA. Having long been intrigued by Jefferson and that time in history, I jumped into the car with a friend and headed 3 hours down the highway toward the estate. What a treat. It was fascinating, sobering, and absolutely gave my friend and I plenty to discuss on the way home. And it cost no less than $25. It’s my plan to visit other homes, such as Mount Vernon (the home of George Washington); Gunston Hall (home of George Mason, the namesake of the college I attended, so naturally, right?); and so many more. Dusty wallet or no, we will travel!

Check out a few photos from the Monticello trip below (no cameras were allowed inside the estate, but plenty where allowed for the grounds):

The mighty Monticello. Looks familiar? It's on the back of your nickel, says the history nerd!

The mighty Monticello. Looks familiar? It’s on the back of your nickel, says the history nerd!

The estate, beyond the trees.

The estate, beyond the trees.

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A collage: me, my pal, and miscellaneous Monticello sights.

A collage: me, my pal, and miscellaneous Monticello sights.

It has been quite some time, no? Well, briefly, please be aware that—

The Passport took a cleansing breath, shook the dust bunnies off its pages, and embarked on a whirlwind trip to Montréal a week ago! Yes, yes, not only did we travel, but we left the country! It was everything you would likely imagine for a four-day trip out of the country: fun, crazy, quite an adventure.

There’s more to tell, lots of photos to share (really, I will this time; ignore the fact that I still haven’t shared photos or stories from my 4-month old cruise), and the next post will take care of all that. I promise.

For now, though: Passport Usage! Yeah!

First off, it’s been quite a while, hasn’t it? Following the cruise (updates will come, oh, sometime this century), the Passport was kind of quiet. Well, quiet and nursing a weird, painful ache in my ear post-cruise (no idea what it was; it’s gone now, thank goodness. Guessing it was an ear infection of some sort) and getting back into the swing of things.

Nevertheless, a few weekends ago, I did travel! A friend and I embarked on a weekender in Raleigh, North Carolina. We were mainly there for a party with some other friends, so we spent more time breakfasting and lunching at the nearby Panera Bread (sweet, sweet bread) more than anything else, plus there wasn’t enough time to explore the city. But it was a weekender all the same, and you know how I feel about those.

Since the NC trip officially inaugurated the Weekenders of 2012, here are a few other local places I’d like to visit this year (and hopefully with enough time to explore; take pictures; etc.). I mentioned some of these places before, and still have yet to go, so 2012 will simply have to be the year:

 

 

 

 

San Francisco. I’ve been here before, folks. Yes. I was about 6 years old, and my mother tells me that I was so jet-lagged and tired from the trip that I fell asleep while we were walking on the Golden Gate Bridge. (So, uh, not much has changed since then.) But that was many moons ago. It’s time to return to that bridge, wide awake, to see those views, as well as taking in the long and winding roads and the SF culture. 

 

 

 

 

Tucson, AZ. This is a sure thing, this forthcoming trip, being that–still so surreal to say this–Ms. Oprah Winfrey gifted us with a complimentary two-night stay at the Miraval Spa and Resort when we visited her show. Remember that O Adventure with me and the bestie? Miraval is located in Tucson, and I have a feeling that after some R&R at the spa, the bestie and I will be exploring the city. Ideally, I’d like to plan it so that from Tucson, I head to San Fran. We shall see. But we plan on heading there in August, so yay! (And Ms. O gave us an airplane credit, as well, when booking our tickets for Tucson! Ok, I’ll stop now.)

 

 

 

 

Charleston, SC. In my research for this city that I so long to visit, it strikes me as being very similar to Savannah, GA, a place I fell in love with and highly enjoyed. Natually beautiful, right on the Atlantic coast, quaint and lovely all at the same time. Can’t you picture me in the back of a horse-drawn carriage as we slowly traipse down streets flanked by historic homes, trees slightly bending in the breeze, and smiling faces? I can…

Definitely the top 3 places I’d like to take in for local color. But we’re only in month 2 of 2012, so it’s by no means an exclusive, exhaustive list.

Oh, the places I will go…

 

On the street, where I stood. From the Passport Private Files.

So I’m going on a Caribbean cruise.

And my Passport, wiped clean of its dust and all of its lonely tears, will be with me. It’s almost too overwhelming to consider. As mentioned before, the last, real, out-of-the-country trip I took was in 2004. When my pal was filling out the traveler information form and asked if I had a passport, I had to temper the desire to find a rooftop and shout out my affirmation. (And the very public rescue of yours truly from a rooftop wouldn’t have been pretty, believe me.)

Even more interesting to consider (and also potentially involving some sort of  public rescue), is the fact that this is my first cruise. Ever. And I’m currently terrified. Terror, you wonder? From the lover of travel?

A Few Reasons for My Terror

  • Look to your right. That ship isn’t gliding on hard earth. That’s water. Where people drown.
  • I once got dizzy and vomitous on the Staten Island Ferry. Which was taking us to a destination less than 15 minutes away. This cruise will be a week long.
  • I also got dizzy and vomitous on a dinner cruise. Which was moving like molasses.
  • I have this, uh, fear of water thing. So anything on the water, related to the water, rhymes with water (um, squatter?) inspires fear and the requisite sweaty, shaky palms.

Nevertheless, my intent is to triumph over this cruise-related terror. A few words of wisdom from friends of mine who have cruised many times before:

  • You won’t drown.
  • You can’t feel the water.
  • Bring Dramamine for the nausea.
  • There’s lots of food (no explanation needed there. The implication being that the tons of food will make me forget my fear. I look forward to testing out the theory.)
  • Have fun! You’re going to the Caribbean!

All good tips. With a little pre-trip research and some reflexive breathing, I think I’ll be ok.

Passport:Soon to Travel!

First, yes, it’s been a while. Imagine a lady gazing forlornly out of a window (make it rain-soaked, just to amp up the melodrama), her eyes directed toward the heavens, wishing that she was drifting above a sea of clouds in a shiny airplane. Got it? Well, that’s me. I long to go away. My last trip was to New York, and…yeah. Nevertheless, there are plans afoot. Tuscon, San Francisco, and then for my poor, dusty passport: Italy and Spain next year. Hoping these trips happen.

For now, let’s appreciate.

This week, my enduring crush, Matt Lauer, has embarked on his enviable, awesome Where in the World is Matt Lauer feature for the Today Show. In short, it’s Matt globetrotting around the, uh, globe, giving clues as to where he’s going next and showing up in said place each fascinating morning. It’s been two long years since we last saw Mr. Lauer galivanting around the world, but thankfully, he’s back! This morning, Day 4, Matt arrived at the Jungfraujoch Observatory located in the Swiss Alps, and it was utterly, overwhelmingly magnificent. (And a lovely reminder of my sojourn to Switzerland a million years ago.) So far this week, Matt’s been to Namibia, Madrid, and Kuala Lumpur. Sigh. There are several reasons why I enjoy his adventures, most of them pretty obvious for this travel lover. Guess what, though? Obvious or not, here are a few!

  • Keeping an Open Mind. Namibia? Kuala Lumpur? All the other exotic locales Matt has been? It forces the viewer to think outside the travel box. Rather than the usual places we all long to go, I think the feature does a great service in pulling us out of our comfort zones and presenting a different array of choices on the travel platter. And I love that.
  • Thinking Caps, On. Some of the clues Matt has provided this week:
    • It conjures up thoughts of a child’s worst fright, but there are no people to scare in this skier’s delight (Skeleton Coast, Namibia)
    • Don Pardo might say it is a ‘Pin in Earth in blue sea.’ Its cup runneth over, high in the sky, where the best things can be free! (Madrid, Spain)
    • It may seem a bit unlucky, but we’ve moved ahead without you as we take an “L” to welcome you to this bridge over dry land. (Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Yep, say it with me: huh? The clues force your poor, tired brain to actually get to work. Or at least get to work through Google. Pretty cool. For the record, though, I’ve never guessed correctly. And I think I stopped guessing in the early 2000s. I just wanted to open my eyes at 7am Eastern time and see what Matt had in store for us. Oh, and to simply see Matt. (Enduring crush, remember?)

  • Give Me Your Job. Seriously, Give It to Me. I want to do this for a living. I’ve said it before, when it had to do with Samantha Brown and maybe attacking her in an alley somewhere. Matt is a journalist, yes, but for five days out of the year (apart from the strictly on-the-job-and-reporting travels), he essentially gives us video travelogues. He is a travelogue for those five days. It’s intoxicating and I want it.
  • Honorable Mentions:
    • The local tour guides that meet Matt and take him around are always super cute and informative. A good tour guide is intrinsic.
    • Seeing Matt’s fellow anchors amusingly attempting to guess his location is another personal favorite. I could do without Ann Curry interrupting everyone to let us know her guesses and general thoughts, but we won’t get into the Ann Curry discussion. Not on Lonely Passport anyway. That’s for Kitten Heel Marvel…
    • This.  Cute or what?

Welcome back, Where in the World Is Matt Lauer! Lonely Passports everywhere thank you for the continuing adventure.

The Lonely Passport loves to hear the stories, escapades, and anecdotes of fellow travel lovers. As such, beginning today, we have a new feature: Travel Lover Interviews!

Our very first interviewee is a good friend, utterly awesome, and loves to use her Passport.

Introducing…Miss H!

So, obviously, you’re a lover of travel. Tell us all the places you’ve been internationally!

You’re right I love to travel! I’ve been to London, Paris, Belize, Costa Maya and Grand Cayman.

What did you enjoy about these places?

I love the difference of culture and the local cuisine.

Any local travel that you’ve really enjoyed? Why?

I always enjoy going to Bushkill, PA in the Pocono Mountains. The scenery is amazing and the air is crisp. When the leaves start changing in autumn, it makes for a beautiful drive.

What are your travel planning habits? Do you research the places you’re going to and plan your future activities there accordingly? Or Do you allow spontaneity to rule the day when you arrive? Tell, tell.

First I usually find a travel buddy. I check out RCI.com and Costco.com for any special travel deals, because my family has a timeshare and membership…might as well see what discounts you can get first 🙂:-) I usually have an idea of what I want to do, but I never really like having a structured itinerary…I rather just go with the flow when I get there. Meet some locals and check out the underground scene. I’m into art, dance and music…so I’m always up for something new and different.

What is the best hotel you’ve stayed at? What made it the best?

Rubens Hotel (London). It’ was a top notch 5 star hotel. Wonderful service and great location.

Any crazy airplane stories?

On the flight back from Paris to DC a Persian lady asked me to watch her sleeping baby. Yeah it was asleep when she was there, but as soon as she left the ‘sleeping giant’ awoke from his slumber! I’ve been a baby sitter on the ground and also 50,000 feet in air…can I get an award for that? 🙂:-)

Name the Top Five places (passport required) that you’re dying to visit and why.

1) Australia – I’ve always wanted to see the Great Barrier Reef.
2) Fiji/Bora Bora – It’s as close as you can get to Paradise right now.
3) Samoa – I’m interested in the people and the language.
4) Italy – I’m ready to taste some REAL pasta.
5) Greek Islands – Looks beautiful from pictures and television…I want to check it out myself!

We like nostalgia here at the Lonely Passport: when did you first get the traveling bug? What is it that you love about traveling?

In 2005 when I graduated from college. My mother’s present was a cruise vacation. After seeing beautiful places and meeting beautiful people, I knew that I just had to keep seeing the rest of the world! When I travel I get to expand my horizons and explore. I like experiencing new things and it’s always nice to spice up the hum-drum day to day life.

Thank you so much, Miss H! The Lonely Passport also loves how traveling allows for the expansion and broadening of horizons, and is always up to be the next travel buddy!

Great article on when to buy affordable airline tickets and cheapest days to fly. Pretty interesting stuff…

The Passport loves comforting her poor wallet.

Cheapest Days to Fly and Best Time to Buy Airline Tickets.

What is it about the airplane terminal that gives the Lonely Passport such a thrill? Could it be that once my feet touch that terminal floor, I consider it the official start of my vacation? Or what about the little shops and kiosks filled with different knick knacks and magazines that delight my eyes and my itchy wallet? Or is it passing my waiting-for-the-flight time by watching the intriguing lives and activities of the strangers that sit around me?

Whatever it is, the terminal can’t be beat. Following are a few Do’s and Don’ts, based on my own, humble opinions (not facts; just opinions; my attempt at a disclaimer) and a few adventures I’ve had:

  • DO get into vacation mode at the terminal. You may be still in your home city, but to me, being inside the terminal is the first step in getting away. In other words, commence with vacation brain inside that shiny place.
  • DO get to the airport on time. Most terminals are enormous and may require a tram/shuttle to get from one place (likely where you check in and get your boarding pass) to the other (your departure gate). Having only a few spare minutes to do all of that is nothing short of stressful. And who wants to see that shiny terminal floor decorated with the chunks of hair that you, Poor Stressed Out Traveler, pulled out? Get to the terminal on time! In fact…
  • DO make sure of distance. If you have a connecting flight, ensure that you have enough time to connect between gates when you arrive at the next terminal, as the gate where you arrive may not be the same one you’re departing from. This can be easily done when making flight arrangements. During my trip to Geneva, Switzerland, I once had to *RUN from one gate to the other and was close to being the last person to board. Yeah. Nearly collapsed. (*And the floor was slippery. And I don’t run. So there you go. All for you, Europe.)
  • DON’T forget that flights can easily be delayed. Prepare to get to know your lovely terminal for hours on end, as a pal and I did during a flight to Boston. Make use of the bookstores and magazine racks if you have to. Bring a laptop, if you can, and enjoy the WiFi, which is free at some places. (Oh, and no one will know you bought that fluffy tabloid. I promise.)
  • DON’T attempt to stick to a diet in a terminal. Cinnabon, Nathan’s Hot Dogs, Häagen-Dazs, etc., to name a few. Consider them sirens. Unlike this guy, you can’t win. Believe me. BELIEVE ME.
  • DO bring snacks for the airplane. As much as I love the terminal and all it has to offer, sometimes the prices are way too painful. Go to your local grocery store and build up on snacks before arriving. 
  • DON’T forget to look. All the storylines in the world seem to converge in an airport terminal. Look around you. Smile at the cute families with the well-behaved kids (in my dreams mostly, but there are some) and the old couples that are still holding hands after all these years. Take it all in. Pretty interesting stuff. (And if you’re a creative writer who just so happens to suffer weekly from writer’s block, it’s a great place for inspiration.)
  • DO pay attention while you’re sitting and waiting at your gate. Specifically, to the announcements made by the flight personnel over the public address system: gate changes; your name being called; offering your seat on the plane for vouchers, if you so please; available first class seats being offered at a discounted price. I took advantage of the latter a few times when the announcement came through that a few first class seats were available. It.was.heaven. Therefore, yes, turning down the volume on the iPod and listening to the announcements can be very rewarding. (Seriously, the amout of leg room in first class is incredible. I want to marry first class.)
  • DO watch the planes. Find a nice seat and, in between people watching, reading, listening, and eating (you’re a multi-tasker, you can do it), take time to watch the planes lift off and touch down. Gets me every time… 

Oh, Terminal. How the Passport loves you so.