The Venice Cheat Sheet 

With the Venice Biennale, the granddaddy of all contemporary art exhibitions, taking place from May 11-November 24, now is the time to book your ticket to Italy’s surreal floating city.  

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HIGHLIGHTS OF A WEEKEND IN PHILADELPHIA: WHERE TO STAY, EAT, AND THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN THE CITY OF BROTHERLY LOVE

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No one seemed excited when we told them we were going to Philly for the weekend, in fact, we got a few whys, and a sarcastic have fun. But all those naysayers are missing out on the reemergence of America's birthplace as an exciting destination with world-class art, a red hot food scene, and historical sights that remind us, in these stressful political times the essence of who we are as Americans and the lofty aspirations of our founding fathers. Three days was hardly enough time to see and do everything, and we can’t wait to return, this time in warmer weather! 

Sleep: Our first choice the recently renovated Rittenhouse Hotel was sold out, so we divided our stay between the city’s two Kimpton properties, first checking into downtowns Hotel Palomar, housed in a former 1920s Art Deco building just a few blocks from Rittenhouse Square. The location was very convenient, but a tad busy, especially on the weekend though we did enjoy having Dizengoff and a branch of Federal Donuts right around the corner. Our group much preferred the vibe, design and the location of its quieter sister spot, the Hotel Monaco, with an excellent position in the old city directly across from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. We loved the colorful interiors, quirky décor, and the spacious rooms. (Much larger than at the Palomar) The Monaco might be a little further from the center of downtown, but everything is only a quick cab ride away, including close by Fishtown.) 

Art Meca: Rocky made the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s steps famous, but this is one of the most visited museums in the world thanks to an impressive collection of European, American and Asian art.  And things are going to get even better by 2020 with the help of world-renowned architect Frank Gehry who is redesigning the interior, expect more public spaces and more room for the art itself. And yes, be sure to go outside and take in Rocky’s Steps for awesome views of the city of Philadelphia from the east entrance of the building.  

Hip Neighborhood: Locals told us that years ago no one ventured into Fishtown, but that has certainly changed. Frankford Ave is now a trendy street with boutiques, restaurants, and cafes. We had lunch at Cheu Fishtown where you must order the brisket ramen with matzoth ball and kimchi in a red chili broth. Whoever thought of this combination-- we thank you. One brunch we had a fantastic array of Lebanese mezes and flatbreads in the beautiful sprawling space of Suraya. With a large back garden and a front of house all-day market and café, if we lived here, we’d be regulars. (The dinner menu looked equally appealing and is a difficult reservation to secure) Allow time for a coffee after at La Colombe’s flagship, a vast industrial space of high design with not just coffee but also a food menu, it’s a must see!  Other Fishtown restaurants that have the town buzzing include Frankford Hall, Wm. Mulherin’s Sons, Kensington Quarters and Stock.  

More Eats: Good luck getting a reservation at Zahav, Philly's acclaimed Israeli restaurant from Chef Michael Solomonov, we have never had any success, even trying weeks in advance. We did pat ourselves on the back for securing at a table at Vernick Food and Drink and our meal was a home run –start with one of the toasts and go crazy from there. We dined another night very happily at Friday, Saturday, Sunday—a small intimate restaurant near Rittenhouse Square serving inventive new American cuisine washed down with excellent craft cocktails. Other top tables on our to go list include Abe Fisher, Vetri Cucina, Vedge, High Street on Market, Sampan, and Palizzi Social Club.  

Old City: If you haven't visited the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall since your kids' school trip to Philly, it may be time for a repeat visit, but if you’re short on time we’d suggest the nearby National Constitution Center.  It’s an engaging, informative and surprisingly stirring museum devoted to the U.S. Constitution. Kids will love it as there are tons of interactive exhibits, but we admit we teared up at the 20-minute show called Freedom Rising. A perfect one-two punch, you can walk over after to the year-old Museum of the American Revolution for a full history immersion.  Other landmarks in the old city include Elfreth’s Alley one of America’s prettiest streets with homes built in the 18th century and The Betsy Ross House.  

Quirky Attraction: The Mutter Museum whose tagline is “disturbingly informative” is not your ordinary museum, located inside the headquarters of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. It’s not for the faint of heart showcasing medical oddities, and after looking at all the diseased lungs and kidneys, you might want to embark on a juice fast after your visit.  With everything from the remains of Einstein’s brain, conjoined twin skeletons, shocking wax models showing the effects of syphilis and preserved human fetuses it’s no surprise children are discouraged from visiting. Fascinating! 

See This: Another unique attraction, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is a walk on the wild side, an indoor and outdoor space from local mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar. It’s a surreal, dreamlike experience that’s spread across three city lots-- a mash-up of colorful tiles, glass bottles, and objects reminiscent of Gaudi’s works and Fusterlandia in Havana. You don’t need much time; I'd set aside an hour and a bit especially if you want to watch the interesting short film that interviews Zagar playing on a loop.   

Mangia: Don’t miss wandering around South Philadelphia’s Italian Market where vegetable vendors, butcher shops, fresh seafood and Italian goodies of all kinds can be found in this legendary district, a cross between the Bronx’s Arthur Avenue and NYC’s Little Italy.  The neighborhood market stretches down some ten city blocks on Ninth Street.  Don’t miss Philly’s beloved Di Bruno Bros. where locals come to stock up on meat and cheeses. In the last few years the area has seen an influx of Mexican and Vietnamese run businesses and none more famous than South Philly Barboca, considered to have some of the best slow cooked lamb tacos in the country. There's bound to be a line, but it moves fast, and yes we waited, and yes it was well worth the wait. Note: it’s only open on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays so plan accordingly.

Public Art: Philadelphia has been called the city of murals thanks to the city’s Mural Arts Program,  one of the US’s largest urban arts programs. Be on the lookout, and you’ll see many murals in your travels throughout the city, but if you want to delve further there are walking, trolley and train tours plus maps for self-guided experiences. High on our list is the Love Letters Train tour, read all about it here. 

Foodie Nirvana: The Reading Terminal Market is a city landmark and a must-see, even if you don’t go for a meal, go for a morning stroll and a cup of Old City Coffee or an afternoon snack.  A large, bustling old school food hall that dates back to 1893 it’s filled with neon lights and a maze of some 70+ food vendors, plus flower stalls, kitchenware, cookbooks, even jewelry and craft merchants—a visual feast! Try some apple dumplings at Dutch Eating Place, roast pork sandwiches at DiNic's, fried oysters at Pearl’s, pretzels at Miller’s Twist, salmon curry at Little Thai Market  or ice cream at legendary Bassett's Ice Cream just to name a few local favorites, but expect crowds--the market attracts more than 6 million visitors a year—only the Liberty Bell has more tourists! 

Until Next Time: We ran out of time and were bummed to miss the Barnes Foundation to see Dr. Albert C. Barnes’s once private collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and early modern paintings. We had also hoped to squeeze in a visit to the Rodin Museum and the American Museum of American Jewish History.  






Warsaw: Walking Back in Time

Daytripper’s favorite English writer is back, and this time he takes us to Warsaw, exploring the horrors of its Nazi past and its reemergence as a thriving Eastern European city.

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Spotlight Stockholm: Why You Should Go to Stockholm Now

On a recent visit to Stockholm, we didn’t hit the ATM once, a first when traveling, as Stockholm is proud to be a mostly cashless city. It’s also an elegant and scenic city; built around parks, islands, and endless waterways, with some of Scandinavia’s most respected museums and most lauded restaurants. - A Daytripper365 itinerary

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The Best of Vietnam

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From the colonial, French-influenced Hanoi to the white sand beaches of Hoi Ann to the frenetic pace of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam is a fascinating country that’s exotic and captivating and will make your head spin. A country with a long history, today’s Vietnam is a mix of old and new, juxtaposing modern cities and ancient temples, with some of the best food in Asia. There’s a lot to do and see in one trip, and a good itinerary is your best friend. Just back from a two-week journey we are lucky a well- traveled friend was willing to share her detailed itinerary with Daytripper365, designed for her family by ASIA TRANSPACIFIC JOURNEYS.

HANOI

Stay: The Metropole Hanoi is Vietnam's finest hotel, located in the heart of Hanoi near Hoan Kiem Lake and the magnificent Opera House. Boasting a classical white façade, green shutters, original wrought iron detail and a lush courtyard, the hotel is one of the region's few remaining French-colonial structures. Elegant architecture and sophisticated service combine for an unparalleled experience.

Morning: Begin by learning of Vietnam's greatest hero Ho Chi Minh, visiting his simple stilted house. Continue to the Confucian Temple of Literature, site of the first university in Vietnam and a serene and beautiful place in the midst of this bustling city. Other highlights today include tours to a local market, the Beaux Arts-style Opera House, the One Pillar Pagoda, and lovely Quan Thanh Temple.

Lunch: Venture to Quan An Ngon Restaurant for a street food lunch. Quan An Ngon is designed with seating in a spacious courtyard surrounding a giant central tree, with food stalls on all four sides cooking food to order. Prices are quite reasonable, so feel free to sample and try a variety of dishes. The stalls are organized into categories of food, such as noodle soups, dry noodles, salads and wraps.

Tour: After lunch, tour the city's Old Quarter aboard an electric car. In this part of town, each colorful street is devoted to a particular craft or ware. You will be pedaled amongst the quaint French buildings along Shoe Street, Silk Street and Art Street (to name just a few). Your tour of the Old Quarter will end at historic Hoan Kiem Lake, the social center of Hanoi. Here, attend a water puppet performance. Water puppets are an ancient form of entertainment enabling the puppeteers to control their active marionettes by levers hidden under the water. Water puppet skits generally enact ancient folklore and legends that are rural in origin, and the theme of water is often present, as it defines so much of Vietnam's landscape. The show is also accompanied by beautiful and traditional Vietnamese music. After the performance, enjoy a "behind the scenes" experience and go back stage to meet the artists and learn more about the puppets and performers.

HANOI / HALONG BAY

Fly: Take a seaplane to Halong Bay. Flying allows you to avoid the long four-hour drive while also enjoying spectacular views of the Red River Valley and a 15-minute scenic flight over the bay itself, another of Vietnam's UNESCO World Heritage sites. You'll be exploring Halong Bay in style and privacy aboard the Bhaya Legend, luxury Chinese-style sailing junks designed exclusively for private charters. The ships have spacious ensuite and air-conditioned guest suites designed in classic Eastern style and offering luxury fit for Imperial Royalty. Onboard you'll receive attentive personalized service, an ideal option for couples, friends or families wishing for a private, customized charter cruise on Halong Bay.

Boat: Savor a delicious fresh seafood lunch onboard before continuing to Vung Vieng, a fishing village nestled among the limestone islands. Visit the village by kayak or small row boat to see the daily lives of locals up close. You'll then have the option to swim and kayak the turquoise waters off uninhabited islands with pristine white sandy beaches. Back onboard as dusk falls, watch the sunset over enchanting Halong Bay while cruising to your overnight anchorage. Enjoy a set-dinner this evening followed by an evening of leisure, or join the crew for some night fishing.

Sleep: Overnight on board the Bhaya Legend Boat.

HALONG BAY/ DA NANG/ HOI AN

Awake: Drive about one hour to the city of Haiphong, the north's largest port and former administrative center for the French. You will then transfer to the airport for your short flight to Da Nang.

Tour: Upon arrival in Da Nang, meet your private guide, and depart on the 20-30 minute drive to the Marble Mountains, where five craggy marble outcrops are situated atop a hill across from China Beach. Climb the stone-paved path up the mountain to visit the numerous caves containing ancient Buddhist shrines. There are also a couple of wonderful pagodas to visit. (This excursion takes about two hours.)

Sleep: Four Seasons

HOI AN/ DA NANG

Drive south to Hoi An, one of Vietnam's great artistic gems. For hundreds of years, until it was superseded by Da Nang, this was the most flourishing port in the country and attracted traders (and influences) from China, Japan and Europe. Miraculously, the town has remained intact and it's still possible to wander here and imagine oneself in another age. 

Explore: On arrival, depart on a walking tour through the old town which will include landmarks like the Japanese Covered Bridge, Tang Ky House and the Fukhien Association. Also visit the active local produce market and perhaps browse the wares inside the town's numerous art galleries. 

Vespa: This afternoon, enjoy a private Vespa tour of the countryside outside of Hoi An. Setting off from Café Zoom in Hoi An, head out west along the banks of the Thu Bon River, first stopping at a bustling local fish market before heading into the rice paddy rich countryside and local villages, stopping to meet a local family producing local rice crackers. Crossing a bridge over the Thu Bon River will take you through more quiet villages and then into beautiful farmlands, where you'll take a break for a local picnic lunch while surrounded by seasonal vegetables in the picturesque fields of corn, eggplants, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, and herbs. 

As the sun starts to go down, you'll set off through the rice paddies, passing duck farms, visit a local mat weaving family and then ride along by the prawn farms and over the river to visit a charming family home where they produce the local and potent favorite brew – rice wine. It's then a short ride over the Cam Kim Bridge into Hoi An as the sun begins to set on this beautiful heritage town.

Sleep: Four Seasons

HOI AN / DA NANG

Cycle: Go on a cycling tour of Cam Kim Island. Laid back and rural in character, the island of Cam Kim is perfect for exploration by bicycle. Crossing the Thu Bon River by private wooden boat, your adventure begins with a visit to the island's busy fishing port before heading further into the lush interior. Cycling around the island is a real treat. Paddy fields, out-of-the-way settlements, stunning coastline and even the odd precarious-looking bamboo bridge to ride across all add to the appeal of this little-visited island. There will be plenty of opportunities to stop and interact with the local communities during your leisurely cycle ride: observe local farming methods, learn about the art of mat weaving and see how bamboo basket boats are made. Experience all this and more before making the return trip to Hoi An. 

Float: Then, board bamboo basket boats and float down the river. Disembark and head to the 4th-century Cham religious sanctuary of My Son. Arriving here later in the afternoon will help avoid the morning crowds of tourists at this small site and also provide wonderful, soft light for photography. 

My Son, recently classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, is located in a beautiful, green valley surrounded by impressive mountains. While a small site, the ruins at My Son are the largest and most intact remaining in Vietnam. It is also the home of the Museum of Cham Sculpture, which records the development of the culture and history of the Cham people through their elaborate sculptures and carvings. Fly out the next morning.

DA NANG / CON DAO

Stay: Six Senses Con Dao presents elegantly designed modern accommodations offering generous personal space with lush tropical mangrove vegetation and breathtaking views. There are 50 spacious villas, each have their own private infinity pool and unobstructed views of the East Vietnam Sea. Styles range from single-level to duplex and offer one, three and four bedrooms, with indoor-outdoor bathrooms. The efficient design style reduces air conditioned spaces whilst providing additional natural ventilation. 

CON DAO / SAIGON

Upon arrival in Saigon, meet your private guide and driver and immediately depart on the one hour drive outside of the city to the Viet Cong stronghold at Cu Chi. The hundreds of miles of tunnels here often confounded American troops fighting in a very foreign land. Sections are open to tourists where one can climb in and get a feel for the harsh conditions faced by the thousands of Vietnamese who lived and fought in these tunnels. 

Back in Saigon continue to the touching War Remnants Museum containing reminders of the war in graphic detail. Continue to the Reunification Hall, historically known as Independence Palace, the former nerve center of the war for South Vietnam. Still largely maintaining its 1970s décor, the palace rooms are surprisingly spartan. The dank, reinforced basement has large-scale maps, communications equipment and tunnels. 

Finish up the day with a walk through lively Cholon market, Saigon's Chinatown and a hub of activity. Haggle for unusual produce, interesting trinkets and beautifully made handicrafts. Stop by Saigon's most celebrated Buddhist shrine, the Thien Hau Pagoda

Return to the city late this afternoon where you will have a chance to relax and freshen up before ending your day with a special performance at the Saigon Opera House of the A Oi Show which combines traditional Vietnamese imagery and themes with 'Cirque de Soleil' acrobatics and showmanship. 

Sleep: Park Hyatt

SAIGON / MEKONG DELTA / DEPART

Wake & Drive: Drive south (two hours each way) into a region known as the Mekong Delta, where Southeast Asia's mightiest river splinters off into hundreds of branches before emptying into the South China Sea. The land here is some of the most fertile in the world and supports endless fields of rice and fruit orchards. 

On the Water: Upon arrival in Caibe, embark on the lovely Caibe Princess boat, where you'll be welcomed with fresh rolled cotton towels. The tour will start with the visit of Cai Be colorful floating market. You will visit some local home factories such as rice paste making, rice pop corn, coco candies and longans drying process. You will then return on boat to proceed the excursion to Dong Phu, Binh Hoa Phuoc and An Binh islands located between Vinh Long and Cai Be. These evergreen islands among the Mekong River bring about large networks of meandering rivers, criss-crossed with countless arroyos, and remaining unknown to many people. 

Add On: If you have more time, consider visiting Sapa. Take a round-trip journey to northwest Vietnam by overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai and Sapa, where you’ll spend your time hiking past rice terraces and scenic mountain valleys to local villages. 

** This itinerary was written by ASIA TRANSPACIFIC JOURNEYS | 800.642.2742 | AsiaTranspacific.com  - please feel free to contact them to arrange for drivers and guides.

 


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The Insiders Guide to Mykonos

Sometimes we haven’t been there, done that. When a friend called asking for tips on Mykonos, we couldn’t help her as our information from some 20 odd years ago (backpacking after college) was just a little out of date. Then we remembered a friend of a friend, a very chic woman who has a house on the island for over 20 years who was more than willing to help. This is what Daytripper is all about - word of mouth from trusted sources. 

Hotel Info: I steer friends to stay at three different hotels depending on what they are looking for. Santa Marina has a private beach, quite decent and there’s a large pool. It’s not far from town and it’s the most similar to a resort that we have on Mykonos. Cavo Tagoo is not on the beach, but it's across the street from the sea. Everything is very white, a design and décor that works for grown ups (I wouldn’t stay here with young kids.) There's a pool but I suggest you go to different beaches every day. It’s also pretty close to town. If you want to stay in town, there is the Belvedere Hotel; it's a small boutique hotel with a stunning Nobu restaurant. You can then go to beaches during the day and not have to drive at night, a good plus after a late night dinner and dancing.

Best Beaches: I love Agios Sostis, though it’s not organized, by which I mean there’s no umbrellas, etc. But, there’s a tiny taverna called Kiki's that doesn’t take reservations, everyone waits, EVERYONE. Lia Beach is 30 minutes from town, it’s organized with umbrellas and there’s a taverna on the beach. The water is lovely. If you’re looking for something low key, Kalafatis Beach is a great place to enjoy the water -  it’s very local with a taverna that’s just OK.

Lunchtime Beach Eats: Spilia is a restaurant on the beach in a cave. It's great-- really fab--you must book ahead of time. Definitely go. On Ftelia Beach, Alemagou is the coolest restaurant, another don’t miss. It’s not the nicest beach on the island, but people still swim there. Nammos on Psarou Beach is a complete scene...it’s like St. Tropez’s Club 55, but on steroids... totally full on. The water is beautiful and it is something to experience--at least once during your stay. On Kalo Livadi, an organized beach there is a good taverna as well. I love going to Fokos Beach; it’s a mix of locals and cool people, the closest to what Mýkonos was many years ago. There are no loungers’ or umbrellas, but there is a simple taverna that we like very much. The owners spent a lot of money refurbishing Panormos, there’s a good restaurant and you can arrange beach seating. Finally, Scorpios restaurant is very cool…almost too cool… great food, great vibe, very cool peeps, must book. Must go.

At Dinner: Our favorites include: Interni Restaurant, Chez Katrins, Kalita, Nobu, Sea Satin, and Kazarma

 


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TOP THINGS TO DO IN MEXICO CITY

Be ready to hit the ground running; there’s a wealth of things to do during a stay in Mexico City, one of the world’s largest cities, home to some 23 million people. The city is a fascinating mix of modern culture and ancient heritage with world-class museums, a vibrant art scene and exciting restaurants.

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Have Camera, Will Travel: A Photo Workshop in San Miguel

Santa Fe Workshops, a renowned photography school based in New Mexico takes things on the road for three consecutive weeks to San Miguel, Mexico every fall. If you love travel, taking pictures and have a basic understanding of your SLR and Lightroom workflow then you’ll savor the chance to move beyond your fundamental skills. I enrolled in a five day workshop led by Jennifer Spelman, a documentary and editorial photographer, entitled “Photographing the People and Culture of San Miguel de Allende’’.  Not only did my photography improve, but I left with a greater understanding of the difference between ‘taking’ a photograph and ‘making’ a photograph. We learned, and practiced, what the great Jay Maisel said: “Get closer. Walk slower than your walking-stand and wait and something will happen.

The Schedule: Being in a workshop for five full days allows the time for mornings dedicated to class critiques and PowerPoint presentations on techniques, creativity and Adobe Lightroom skills. Afternoons are all about shooting at a different location each day. We shot around San Miguel, at an agave farm in the countryside, in the delightful town of Guanajuato and at the authentic Hacienda Las Trancas with live models. (Dinner at the Hacienda was a highlight) You truly live and breathe photography and have time to get to know your fellow classmates and their own unique styles and visions.

Why a Travel Workshop: On the first morning of class, we watched Jennifer’s  inspiring slideshow of her work. She then said something that encapsulates why you traveled all the way to San Miguel, rather than take a class at your local photo school. I paraphrase, but it went something like this: “For the next five days as much as possible leave everything from home behind and immerse yourself in your art—truly be an artist. Being away from it all in a vibrant and inviting place allows for the passionate discovery of what that means.

Why San Miguel: Well for one thing, this year, Travel + Leisure readers named it #3 on the list of the world’s best cities, right after Charleston and Chang Mai, and in 2014, Conde Nast Traveler readers voted San Miguel the #1 travel destination in the world. Plus there’s amazing light, vibrant colors, and countless fabulous restaurants and hotels.  The city is safe and friendly with year round consistently pleasant weather. For a detailed itinerary featuring the best things to do and see in San Miguel see our full guide here.

Stay: Santa Fe Workshops uses La Posada de la Aldea as their home base for the three weeks of consecutive workshops they offer. The location is perfect-- just blocks from San Miguel's historic central plaza and with three classrooms it doubles as an onsite school. The extensive grounds are the biggest plus with gardens, fountains, a small swimming pool, and secluded courtyards. The rooms themselves are basic and clean, though tired. Most disappointing was the food in the restaurant. Though lunch was included, I choose to eat my meals elsewhere.

Don’t Miss: Each Monday night during Santa Fe’s sessions, the three teachers from that week’s workshops give a PowerPoint presentation of their work, open to the public, in the beautiful Bellas Artes building in town. It was a fascinating look at three different photography styles and perspectives. As San Miguel is known as a haven for artists with a large expat community it was standing room only. Go early to get a good seat.  

Make Time: I highly suggest that you consider adding a day or two before (or after) your workshop. During the workshop you are busy from morning till night, and though there is some free time and two dinners on your own it is not enough time to fully explore San Miguel.

Up Next: For me, this workshop was just the beginning, lighting a fire to learn more and take my photography in new directions. I would do another Santa Fe Workshop in a second, and would love to try one of their programs at their school in the foothills of Santa Fe. (Home to legendary light and landscape) Other well respected programs with enticing workshops include the Maine Media Workshops and College based in Rockport, Maine and National Geographic Expeditions.

Don’t have time to get away? Check your local area for classes and intensive weekend workshops. In my hometown of NY, I can highly recommend The International Center of Photography (ICP). They offer photography education for every level, from courses and workshops to certificate and master's degree programs.