TWA Hotel - New York, USA

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A red carpet, the ultimate symbol of status, is rolled out for you the moment you enter the TWA Hotel. Literally. The carpet that covers the entrance corridors and part of the lounge areas is bright red, after the original colors of the airline. But it’s not only the carpet that makes a big impression.

I took the elevator from JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at John F. Kennedy International Airport and in a few seconds was transported in time. It was the 60s and this was the jetset lifestyle. 

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A makeshift office welcomes you next to a futuristic tunnel that will lead you to the hotel. Before walking through the tunnel, I couldn’t help but explore the MadMen-style desk, wooden decor and full bar (all props left there for you to take some cool antique snaps).

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Inside the hotel, the celebration to this precious era of aviation continues. A monochromatic sunken lounge, a departure board with split-flaps that switches with the iconic clicks and clacks, and a wing displaying vintage flight personnel uniforms bring to life what the TWA Terminal was like back in 1962.

1962 is the year this terminal originally opened its doors. The building, known as the headhouse of the terminal, was designed by Finish architect Eero Saarinen. The design itself is considered to touch a few different styles, including Futurism, Neo-Futurism and Googee styles.

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Today, the terminal is the anchor between the three buildings that make the TWA Hotel. Additional to 512 rooms, there is also a rooftop infinity pool that overlooks the active JFK runway. It’s an amazing sight and one of my favorite parts of the hotel.

If you’re feeling peckish, try one of the many food options: a restaurant by Jean Georges called Paris Café, the Pool Bar, The Sunken Lounge or the Connie Cocktail Lounge (a lounge inside a vintage airplane!)

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Good to know:

Rooms:

Average per night is around USD$ 250 depending on how far in advance you book.

But you can book a room for 4 hrs to rest between layovers for $150.

Pool:

You can get access to the pool by staying at the hotel or by reserving a table at the Pool Bar.

Website: https://www.twahotel.com

Address:Terminal 5, 6 Central Terminal Area, Jamaica, NY 11430

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Fisherman's Bastion - Budapest, Hungary

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White stone towers line the Castle hill overlooking the Danube River. You can imagine Rapunzel letting down her luscious locks for her prince to climb up from any of them. The Fisherman’s Bastion is a place where fairy tales crossover to reality. But this terrace didn’t come from the imagination of Walt Disney.

The neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque structure was built on the design of Hungarian architecture Frigyes Schulek. It took 7 years to complete and was finished in 1902. Seven is a key number for this magnificent destination. There are 7 small towers, or turrets, that encompass it. Each of the towers representing one of the 7 Hungarian tribes that founded the country. 

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Fisherman’s Bastion is a translation from the original Hungarian name, Halaszbastya. There are many theories of where the name comes from, but most agree that it comes from the fisherman’s guild who were the early protectors of the Castle walls. 

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The Bastion was almost destroyed during World War II, and it was Fridgyes Schulek’s son, János Schulek, who led the restoration to bring it back to its original splendor in 1948. 

A statue of the first king of Hungary, Stephen I, stands on the terrace.

The Fisherman’s Bastion was originally built as part of the celebration of the 1,000th birthday of Hungary as a decorative lookout tower from which the locals could enjoy panoramic views of the city. Today this unique structure continues to be one of the most iconic sights on the Buda bank from where you can get the best panoramic views of Budapest. 

 

Entry:
The terrace and many of the balconies are free. However, you can choose to get a deeper look.
Upper observation deck: $1000 Hungarian Forint

Website:
http://www.budavar.hu/halaszbastya-belepodijai

Address:
Budapest, Szentháromság tér, 1014 Hungary

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Gellért Thermal Baths - Budapest, Hungary

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Magnesium, calcium, zinc, fluoride ions and sodium. I’m not just listing random portions of the periodic table, these are some of the elements found in the hot spring waters of the Gellért hills. Hungary’s rich geothermal waters have been popular since Roman times. The Romans were followed by the Turkish who built more baths for both enjoyment and medicinal purposes. 

By 1920, Budapest had an established reputation as a city of spas. Today, the city’s reputation continues on with estimates of nearly 1,000 sources of spring waters filling countless baths in the city. Therefore, when I visited the city I knew I needed to stop by a local bath. 

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The first bath we tried to attend was the well-known Széchenyi Baths, but as a typical summer afternoon, the baths were packed and the line was so long we gave up after about an hour of waiting. But I wasn’t going to give up, even though our departure from Budapest was scheduled for 11 a.m. the next morning. 

We were staying in Buda and within walking distance from the Hotel Gellért, so I felt that visiting the unique baths housed within the hotel was meant to be. We arrived at 6 a.m., careful to get in before the crowds of tourists started to flock it. Luckily, it was only us and the locals there so early. 

If only I could start every day by bathing in 40° C healing waters.

We arrived wired with the energy of trying to rush through it prior to our departure, but once we took a dip in the first warm pool, it was impossible not to relax. The beautiful Art Nouveau decor of carefully constructed blue tile work transported us back in time. 

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Inside, it was like playing inside a relaxation labyrinth. Every turn led to a new pool, a new massage wing, a different sauna. 

The Gellért Thermal Baths are comprised of 13 pools. In addition to the multiple hot spring pools, an open air pool generates artificial waves every 30 minutes and another indoor swimming pool is filled with effervescent water. There are also Finnish saunas and cold water pools that accompany them. You can also schedule a massage or other treatments. Many locals come with prescriptions for specific therapies that are applied by the medical department within the Gellért Thermal Baths. 

The effervescent pool is one of the most iconic potions of the Art Nouveau spa with columns that flank the perimeter of the pool and a sky light. 

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The Gellért Thermal Baths are the perfect place to spend a whole day. It’s fun to discover new sections while allowing the local waters to heal you. They are also not as crowded as other baths so it’s easier to get a more authentic experience. 

You can choose to rent a locker or a private cabin to change. Also, don’t forget to grab a map, you’ll need it to move around. 

 

Ticket with locker:
Weekdays: $6,200 Hungarian Forint 
Weekends: $6,400 Hungarian Forint

Hours:
6 a.m. - 8 p.m. Daily

Website: http://www.gellertfurdo.hu/

Address: 
Budapest, Kelenhegyi út 4, 1118 Hungary

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Uluru - Northern Territory, Australia

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4am. I woke up with a start in a hotel room with my closest childhood friend (a.k.a. “best friend 4 eva”). We were thousands of miles away from home in Australia. The trip was a joint celebration of our 30th birthdays. The alarm had gone off to signal us it was time to go. 

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We were staying at the Sails in the Desert hotel just outside the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and we had signed up for a sunrise viewing of Uluru. We packed ourselves into the tour bus half asleep. It was still dark when we arrived at the viewing area and our guide set up a table with hot chocolate and tea. It was a chilly morning and the hot chocolate felt like a warm hug from within. 

We hiked up to a plateau where we stood a few kilometers away from the rock. The darkness was starting to shift and dashes of pink began to splash across the dark blue sky. Any sleepiness we had arrived with was suddenly replaced by a rush of energy and excitement. There is no more beautiful sight on this planet than the iconic landscape of UIuru as the night gives way to the day.

It was not only the beauty of it that overtook me, but the energy. There is an electrifying peace that rises from the bright red ground at this location. It’s a palpable vibrancy that made me feel more connected to the earth than ever.

Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, is one of Australia’s most iconic natural landmarks. It is located near the center of the country in the Northern Territory region. The red sandstone monolith stands tall at 1,142 ft high on the flat Australian desert, making for a breathtaking scene. 

The local aboriginal people, the Anangu, are the traditional owners of Uluru and Kata Tjuta rock formations as well as the land that surrounds them. But it wasn’t until 1985 that Australia’s government returned ownership of the land. Today, the park is managed by the Anangu traditional owners and Parks Australia. It is also recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

It’s important to note that Uluru is a sacred place for the local community. Due to its spiritual significance climbing Uluru is disrespectful to the aboriginal culture and traditions. I chose not to climb Uluru out of respect as a guest in Anangu land and because I believe it’s important to preserve the sacred meaning of the location and protect the Anangu traditions. 

As of October 26, 2019 climbing Uluru will be officially banned. 34 years after the land was returned to its rightful owners. 

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Instead of climbing, a way to honor and enjoy this sight is walking around the perimeter and watching the spectacular sunrise. I chose to stand barefoot at one of the viewing points back at the Resort, in a sort of standing meditation also known as Earthing. 

As we closed our day inside the national park, we saw the sun set over the rock. My friend and I made a pact to return here to celebrate our 80th birthdays. 

 

Ayers Rock Resort Information
& Sails in the Desert Hotel 

Website:
www.ayersrockresort.com.au

Address:
163 Yulara Dr, Yulara NT 0872, Australia

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The Best Plants for Travelers

Photo taken at Sprout Home - Brooklyn, NY

The other day, as I walked down Grand Street in Brooklyn, I came across a little shop that stopped me in my tracks. This shop was Sprout Home, a florist and plant nursery, bursting with all sorts of luscious greenery. 

I had to walk in.

The mustardy yellow wall near the front door offered the perfect contrast to the green cacti welcoming me inside. It was impossible to resist the urge to snap as many photos as I could manage. And while I looked for the perfect angles for each little succulent that got in my way, I realized that I wanted a plant. But could I keep it alive?

Photo taken at Sprout Home - Brooklyn, NY

As a frequent traveler, sometimes I’m abroad for weeks at a time and I figured that not many plants would be able to survive going thirsty for that long. But it turns out there are a few that could.

I’ve been doing a lot of asking around and searching online, and it looks like these five plants could be my safest bets:

1. Succulents

This may seem like an obvious one, after all they look like cacti. (Did you know that cacti are a type of succulent?) Why are they good for frequent travelers? Succulents store water in their stems, roots, and leaves, so they can survive longer without being watered. In fact, they may wilt if you over-water them. They also come in an assortment of shapes, colors and sizes, so you’re sure to find one to your heart’s desire. 

Photo taken at Sprout Home - Brooklyn, NY

2. Snake plants

Snake plants are a succulent, but they don’t look like it! (It’s their secret identity! haha). These plants are famous for their air purifying ability and their ease of care. I have two of these, so I can confidently say that they don’t need that much attention to grow and prosper. Why are they good for frequent travelers? They only require watering every two weeks or so, they also don’t require much light. Snake plants thrives in medium to bright indirect light, but can stay healthy in low lights, too. 

3. Pothos

Pothos have wide leaves and tend to grow in width rather than height. They also come in a few different colors: Marble Pothos have a green and ivory colored leaves, while Jade Pothos have deep green leaves and Neon Pothos have lighter green leaves. Why are they good for frequent travelers? They require to be watered slightly more often than succulents, but weekly watering is enough. They can also thrive in low light so they are good if you live in a small space without many windows. 

4. Zanzibar gem

Also known as a ZZ plant, the Zamioculcas zamiifolia is a tropical plant originating in Africa. It’s glossy leaves are chubby stems make for a beautiful bundle. However, this plant is not good for a home with pets. The Zanzibar gem is toxic and poisonous if consumed. Why are they good for frequent travelers? Like succulents, the Zanzibar gem’s chubby stems collect water, so you don’t have to water them often. They are also good air purifiers. 

5. Philodendron

These plants have really wide green leaves and a super tropical feel. (I may need to get one now that I found out what they are called!) They have a really lush and shiny look that makes them look like they need a lot of upkeep. However, they don’t need as much care as you’d think. Why are they good for frequent travelers? They are known as a nearly impossible to kill and they grow really fast. The only downfall is that these are also poisonous for pets, so you’ll need to keep them out of their reach or choose a different variety. Many people put them in hanging pots. 

Photo taken at Sprout Home - Brooklyn, NY

Photo taken at Sprout Home - Brooklyn, NY

Going on a long vacation doesn’t always mean you’ll come home to a dead plant. There are a lot of tools you can use to create a makeshift watering system that can keep them moist while you’re away. Like these small Aqua Globes that can keep plants watered for up to 2 weeks. 

If you have a pet, make sure to check with your local nursery before buying a plant to make sure they’re not poisonous to your little buddy.

 

Sprout Home
All the suggestions and tips on this post are based on my personal research and unrelated to Sprout Home.

Hours:
Daily 10:00am to 7:00pm

Website: www.sprouthome.com

Address: 
59 Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY 11249

Photo taken at Sprout Home - Brooklyn, NY

Photo taken at Sprout Home - Brooklyn, NY

Photo taken at Sprout Home - Brooklyn, NY

Photo taken at Sprout Home - Brooklyn, NY

Extraordinary Libraries: The Morgan Library & Museum

Think of 34th street in Manhattan. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? If you live in NYC, you probably thought of the busy streets of Herald Square. If you’ve visited the city, you probably thought of the massive Macy’s department store and the Empire State Building. In any case, your first thought most likely had nothing to do with a library. And yet, just a few blocks east of Macy’s, you’ll discover an extraordinary book collection.

Hidden in plain sight, on the corner of Madison Avenue and 36th Streets is the Morgan Library & Museum. Though many have never heard of it, it’s been standing in the same place for over a century. 

It’s a stunning place to explore. This library has nothing to envy major national libraries. The extraordinary collection includes the scraps of paper on which Bob Dylan wrote “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “It Ain’t Me Babe”; autographed and annotated libretti from Beethoven, Chopin and Mozart; and manuscripts of Charlotte Brontë, Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott’s novel “Ivanhoe”. 

Most notable amongst the books inside are the Gutenberg Bibles. As of 2009, only 49 copies of this bible survive and only 21 of those are complete. While the most prominent libraries around the world have 1 or 2 copies of it, the Morgan Library is the only library to house 3 copies. Even the Vatican Library only holds 2 incomplete volumes. You can view a digital copy of one of the bibles here

Morgan’s Study

But it’s not only the collection that’s impressive. The interior design of the building is just as amazing. There’s a rotunda with a domed ceiling with painted murals inspired by Raphael. Another breathtaking room is Morgan’s study. A dark room with rich scarlet upholstery that covers the walls, as well as a matching red carpet. The furniture are all antique pieces that draw a picture of what it would have been like to visit this library back in the day. 

A bit of history

The library was founded by John Pierpont Morgan, Sr. in 1906 to home his personal collection. JP Morgan was one of the most prominent financiers and bankers of his time, and his name is still synonymous with banking and investments today. He was also an avid collector, buying books, pictures, drawings, paintings and other art objects. He loaned many of these to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, of which he was the president. Many others were kept at this library. After his passing, the library was made a public institution in 1924 by his son J.P. Morgan, Jr.

 

Museum entry:
$22 Adults 
$14 Seniors (65 and over)
$13 Students (with current ID)

*Free to members and children 12 and under (must be accompanied by an adult)

**Admission is free on Fridays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Hours:
Tuesday through Thursday: 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Closed Monday, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.

Website: www.themorgan.org

Address: 
225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street
New York, NY 10016

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Biosphère - Montréal, Canada

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We saw it from across the river. It was a fresh summer day and we decided to go for an early morning run in the Old Port. As we traversed the piers, we passed cruises, restaurants and shops and as we got closer to the Clock Tower we saw it:

A giant iron dome across the river. 

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We immediately knew we had to go there. It took a quick Google search to find out that a ferry from the pier would take us across to Parc Jean-Drapeau on St. Helen’s Island. 

The Biosphere was built in 1967 by architect Buckminster Fuller for the International and Universal Exposition that same year, also known as Expo 67. The original structure was covered with acrylic cells that sheltered the building inside. However on May 20, 1976 the building caught fire during renovations melting the acrylic cells and leaving behind only the steel skeleton of the structure.

It wasn’t until 1990 that the building was taken over by Environment Canada and restored. It opened its doors once again in 1995 and today stands as the only museum dedicated to the environment in all of North America.

Inside we found countless interactive exhibits, like a rain room that explained different weather patterns while fans blew wind and speakers recreated the sounds of the storms all around you. We also saw a 4D film, in which climate change was brought to life with actual raindrops, snow and icicles falling on you as the scientists explained the phenomenon.

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Useful info:
To get there we took the Montreal, QC - St. Helene, QC ferry from Jaques-Cartier Pier on Old Montréal Port to the Parc Jean-Drapeau, then we walked 5 minutes in the park to the Biosphere. It’s a short walk that takes you through a more local side of Montréal.

 

Ferry price: CAD $4.25 per person

Museum Entry: 
Adults: CAD $16
Seniors (65 years and over): CAD $12
Students (18 years and over): CAD $10
17 and under: Free

Hours:
10AM to 5PM daily, except national holidays
*Museum admission ends at 4:15pm.

Website: http://www.parcjeandrapeau.com/en/biosphere-environment-museum-montreal/

Address:  160 Chemin du Tour de l'isle, Montréal, QC H3C 4G8, Canada

Shanghai Museum - Shanghai, China

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“Pearls don’t lie on the seashore. If you want one, you must dive for it.” - Chinese Proverb

When I stood outside the Shanghai Museum I couldn’t help but thinking the building looked like a flawless seashell hiding a beautiful pearl inside. I have always been fascinated by unconventional architecture and while my visit to Shanghai was packed with exciting sights, this was my favorite. 

But it’s not just the facade that makes it interesting. The inner lobby leads to an hypnotizing atrium. The stairs weave through three floors, taking the shape of a concrete braid rich in culture and art. They also provide the perfect spot to people watch. Locals and tourists continuously pouring through the front entrance and dispersing inside.

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The modern building opened to the public in 1996 when the museum relocated to the Huangpu District. It holds a collection of over 120,000 pieces, including ancient coins, writings, ceramics, furniture, gemstones and sculptures. Some of which are as old as 5,000 years!

While the architect, Xing Tonghe, was inspired by an ancient cooking vessel called a Ding to design the unique shape of the building, the structure (like a seashell) holds an incredible treasures inside.

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Hours:
9am - 5pm Daily

Address:
201 Renmin Avenue, Shanghai, China 200003

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Cenote Ik Kil - Yucatán, Mexico

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I jumped. I really did. I still can’t believe I did. But I did. I climbed the limestone steps and hopped into the 40 meter deep sinkhole called Ik Kil. And while Ik could’ve Killed me (had to do it), it didn’t.

Instead I swam with the sunlight peeking through the top of the cave. The rich turquoise waters hiding schools of fish freely going about their day. Vines reaching in from the top of the cave almost like curtains playing with the light.

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Ik Kil is one of Mexico’s best known cenotes. These incredible structures happen when the limestone gives in and collapses to reveal a deep pool of water within the cave. There are around 6,000 cenotes in the Yucatán peninsula alone.

These underground pools were used by the Mayans as a source of water, but they also considered them sacred. They often performed rituals in which they threw valuable items into the water and some tribes also practiced human sacrifices. Jewelry and human bones have been found by archeologists within Ik Kil. It is also believed that Ik Kil was the personal bath of Mayan Kings and their families.

Today this cenote is one of the most visited ones due to its proximity to Chichen Itza. So it gets pretty crowded. The trick is to arrive before the lunch-hour tour-bus rush. Early morning dips with the cenote practically to yourself will have you feeling like a Mayan king.

And when you climb those limestone steps and look into the deep, dark water below you remember…

“Those who don’t jump will never fly.”

 

Entry fees:
Adult: MXN $70
Children: MXN $35

Address:
Carretera Costera del Golfo
3 KM away from the archeological zone of Chichen Itza, Chichen Itza 97757, Mexico

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Bondi Icebergs Club - Sydney, Australia

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"Happiness comes in waves." - unknown

I was running, as usual. But this time it wasn’t the “I like to torture myself with exercise” kind of running, this was the “I only have 10 minutes to get this photo right” kind. It was my second day in Sydney and I was meant to be on a boat to Manly (a suburb just across the harbor) in less than an hour. Time was of the essence.

I ran the full kilometer from one end of Bondi Beach to the other. Sweaty and short of breath I made it to my destination with only 4  minutes to spare. 

The Bondi Icebergs Club opened its doors in 1929 as the top spot for winter swimming. Today, its famous pool still attracts visitors from all across the world. Probably more photographers and onlookers than swimmers, and with good reason. The stunning pool nested within the Tasmanian Sea commands your attention.

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As I stood just across the entrance, I understood what the big fuss was about. The waves jumped over the rocks with full strength and came crashing into the pool. One after another, after another. I felt hypnotized by the continuity. I couldn’t take my eyes off it.

There was an unspoken agreement in that moment. An agreement between mother nature and I. An agreement to always remember that no matter what happens, there is nothing bigger, nothing stronger and nothing that can’t be overcome by nature. An agreement to let things flow.

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Useful Info:
The two saltwater pools remain open year round to members and visitors alike. The main lap pool and a smaller kid’s pool have lifeguards on patrol around the clock.

Entry fees:
Adult: AUS $6.50
Children: AUS $4.50
Spectator: AUS $4.50
Towels: AUS $3.450

Address:
1 Notts Ave
Bondi Beach NSW 2026

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