2014 was a pretty good year for me travel wise. This, of course, had to do with the fact that I fulfilled a lifelong dream which was to visit Machu Picchu. But lest this turn into an “all about Peru” post (since it would be very easy to do), I’ll stop right there and backtrack just a tiny bit.
Although I certainly didn’t mind the “no jet lag” this year (Peru is only an hour behind my local time zone), I did find it somewhat funny that all of my travels this year were somewhat on top of each in a sense-Georgia, Florida, Bahamas, Peru. I’m hoping next year’s travels will be somewhat more diverse geographically speaking. Peru was obviously my favorite trip from this year, which was to be expected, and yet every place that I visited offered a special unique charm.
While (as always) I wish I could do more traveling, a limited time off from work (and to a lesser extent, money) prevent me from doing so. But as I’ve been doing for years now, I make do with what I have and more importantly (in terms of my individual travel style), I don’t scrimp. If there’s a hotel or restaurant I want to either stay or dine at, I do. And I think my travels this year definitely reflected that. So here’s a 2014 wrap up in a nutshell.
Save for my study abroad days which were now eons ago, I generally don’t travel in January. I attribute this to the fact that it’s so soon after Christmas (i.e. recovering from the holiday spending season) and living in Pittsburgh, with limited direct flights as well as winter weather, I hate the idea of chancing it by having to mess with connecting flights. So in a sense, it’s easier to stay home. However, I did get to finally visit the strikingly beautiful and historic Homewood Cemetery, as well as indulge in some fantastic offerings through Pittsburgh’s Winter Restaurant Week celebrations.
After having survived the Polar Vortex that hit most of the United States in January, a warm weather getaway seemed just what the doctor ordered and that’s exactly what I did in February. For Presidents’ Day weekend, we took our second Disney cruise. While it was the same itinerary as our previous one on the Dream ship (a 3 night Bahamian getaway), it was on a different ship (the Magic) which offered a different experience. Nothing beat being able to swim in the Caribbean Sea in February and just enjoy daily highs in the 80s. Oh, and having an extra special Valentine’s Day dinner at the ship’s adults only restaurant was the cherry on top.
No travel this month but I did get to explore Bloomfield, Pittsburgh’s own Little Italy, with my camera one bright Saturday. It’s a neighborhood full of unique restaurants and small locally owned businesses. It’s very much a community oriented and proud neighborhood, I wish more in Pittsburgh were like that. My parents visited later that month and we checked out the Carnegie Museums of Art and History, where I hadn’t been in years.
Short distance travel this month. At the beginning of the month I ventured across the state line into neighboring Ohio and had a perfectly charming stay in the quaint town of Chagrin Falls. One thing to say about this particular small town is that it’s anything but boring or generic. I journeyed to my hometown of Philadelphia and got to play the part of the tourist. I was able to catch a traveling exhibit on Korean treasures at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, take some beautiful photos of the city’s colonial section, and have a terrific meal at the Cuban restaurant Rosa Blanca. Oh, and I also got to celebrate Easter with my family, which I hadn’t done since 2003 if you can believe.
Finally, some plane travel! For Memorial Day weekend I went to Atlanta, Georgia. While I had passed through the ever bustling airport numerous times, I had never before left said airport. While it was hot and muggy the entire time, it was a really cool city. I played the part of the tourist by checking out Olympic Centennial Park, got to see a Braves game at Turner Field, paid my respects to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through visits to his final resting place and boyhood home, and was in Gone With the Wind Glory when I visited the Margaret Mitchell house. I also came to the conclusion that the city’s Oakland Cemetery is one of the prettiest places ever (who doesn’t love magnolia trees?). Not to mention, every single meal I had in Atlanta was downright terrific. Being the South, it was an incredible foodie city. I also wrote my first book, Full Circle: Tales of Travel & Self-Discovery from Around the World which is available in print and for Kindle. Publishing it was one of my proudest accomplishments. (And if you haven’t bought yourself a copy, you really should-make it your New Year’s resolution 🙂
I turned 29…enough on that.
Since the Fourth of July fell over a weekend, I wanted to do something. If only I had thought out my choices better. I learned the hard lesson that paying a hotel’s holiday rate is definitely not always worth it. Pretty scenery but a very disappointing stay at the Stonewall Resort in West Virginia. Touring a fascinating former asylum and feasting on barbecue somewhat made up for the disappointing hotel part.
I was basically gearing up for my trip to Peru late in the month, between visits to the travel medicine doctor and REI for all the bare necessities. Before I left I did get to cross an item off of my Pittsburgh Bucket list which was to tour the Carrie Blast Furnaces. I highly recommend visiting here. And then there was Peru-the trip of a lifetime in so many ways. It still seems surreal that I was actually there. Machu Picchu was of course amazing as I expected it to be, but so were the agricultural terraces, the salt pools, and the ever gorgeous Andes Mountains. I planned everything myself and the fact that the entire trip was basically perfect is just another reason why I loved it so.
For the first week of September I was still living it up (tiredly) in Peru. Once I returned home, I was majorly sad, as it was hard to get a destination as incredible as Peru out of my mind, but a trip to a Peruvian restaurant called Chicken Latino here in Pittsburgh certainly helped in alleviating the melancholia.
I flew home to Philadelphia for something of an impromptu visit. I got to see my grandparents and also thoroughly enjoyed trying out two new restaurants-an authentic Moroccan spot that offered the traditional seven courses and a Stephen Starr Mexican eatery. Both were fabulous, by the way. I also visited a destination I didn’t know even existed until earlier this year-the Magic Gardens. If you think art is boring, you’ll never think that again after a stop there. Back in Pittsburgh I was invited to a “meet the chef” at a local restaurant, which was cool since it was just open to bloggers and media and I definitely felt a tad special. The delicious food wasn’t half bad either. I also spent the day at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a most lovely spot to visit during fall. The colors are beyond spectacular.
Since Peru was such an active, high velocity trip, I figured a more relaxing, warm weather escape was needed. I settled on Miami Beach since from a logistical standpoint it made sense to go there. While I had a terrific time basically eating my heart out between my hole in the wall ethnic eateries, my South Beach food tour, and my memorable meal at the Mandarin Oriental, the weather was such a letdown. Gray skies, off and on rain, and fierce winds the entire weekend-yes, this in Miami when there wasn’t a hurricane.
While I had hoped to make it to Quebec City this month to not only see this gorgeous looking spot but also see it in all of its holiday glory, things just didn’t turn out. Maybe next year. I did get to go on a new food tour here in Pittsburgh, one that was different from others I had been on but was exactly the reason why I had liked it so much, and also went to Cleveland for the day, with the best part being a mini shopping spree at the terrific Westside Market (a foodie’s paradise).
While nothing for 2015 is booked (yet), I have plenty of ideas that I hope will be actualized very soon. So stay tuned!
What was your favorite trip in 2014? Any disappointments?