Ten Places In The United States That I Have Been To And Will Return

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Ten Places In The United States That I Have Been To And Will Return

“America ….. is the land of the richness of life, of the fullness of every hour in the day, the country which gives you the sense of carrying out a huge amount of activity, even though in fact you achieve very little, the country where solitude is impossible.” Italo Calvino

America is big and there is so much to see in the land of the free and home of the brave. The geography, climate, wildlife and people are extremely diverse. We have a brief history compared to Europe and the UK but it is interesting. Here are ten places in no particular order that I love to visit.

Washington DC is the capital of the country and our political center. That might not sound like the place to be be right now but it’s beautiful in the spring with the cherry blossoms in bloom, and in the fall with the leaves changing color. DC is a walkable city if you stay downtown.You have to do the basics. First there are the monuments – Lincoln, Washington, Martin Luther King, Jefferson and WWll. You can see them at night as well. Get your Capitol and White House Tour tickets before you come. It’s fun to just walk down the National Mall and see all the museums and monuments. The Smithsonian Institution has 19 museums all over the city. I also like Newseum, the Holocaust Museum, National Portrait Gallery and my favorite the National Gallery Of Art. Union Market has an amazing food scene and the food in DC is eclectic and delicious. If you have kids, the FBI and the Mint are fun to see.

People from Los Angeles love San Francisco. Their rich people are techies not Hollywood types. It is geographically tiny and you can walk everywhere.  Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge is cool.  Riding the cable car is an excellent way to see the city.  Taking the ferry to Alcatraz Island is interesting.  You can walk along Fisherman’s Wharf which is really touristy. I dont recommend eating there.  Swan Oyster Depot is better for seafood. San Francisco is a foodie city so there are many  great restaurants. Go to the largest Chinatown in the US for dim sum and Japantown for sushi. The Ferry Building which has been converted to a market and food court is a great place for lunch. I love the newly renovated San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art. There are many interesting neighborhoods with walking tours. Bring a jacket- even in summer.

Amelia Island is a quiet barrier island, located in the Northernmost portion of Florida, not too far from the Georgia border. The island is one of the Sea Islands, a chain of coastal barrier islands stretching from Northeast Florida to South Carolina. It is great place to relax with southern hospitality. Amelia Island offers 13 miles of quiet, secluded beaches. The setting is quaint and beautiful, with many historical inns, beautiful seaside homes, hiking trails and a few resorts.The weather is mild year-round with an average winter temperature in the 60’s. You will find that the area is not overdeveloped, but rather reminiscent of the old days in Florida.

Chicago, Illinois has the the hospitality of a midwestern city with the  famous architecture and multiculturalism of New York. The food in Chicago is first class and the Art Institute is one of my favorite museums. The elevated Bloomingdale Trail and the Lake Michigan bike paths are fun when the weather is nice. I also liked the Architecture Cruise given by the Architectural Foundation which is a fun way to see the famous buildings. Chicago is home to the comedy club Second City (think SNL) and Steppenwolf Theatre Company (think Broadway). The best time to visit is spring and fall. 

The Big Island is also called Hawaii. I love the Kona side with its volcanic landscape and black sand beaches. The Hilo side has a lush tropical landscape and is definitely a day trip. Yes Hawaii is expensive because it is an island and everything has to be shipped in. If you have never seen an active volcano, go to Hawaii Volcano National Park. Stay after dark to see the glow from the Caldera. I usually never leave the black sand beach.

 As an ex New Yorker, when I visit New York City, I want to see and do it all. It’s a frantic schedule even for a New Yorker. It’s impossible to see it in one visit and you have to resign yourself to see and do what you can. The lines for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Empire State Building are long so get there early. If you are interested in the World Trade Memorial, get your tickets before you go.Times Square is always crowded with tourists. Get tickets for you shows in advance or go to TKTS booth in Times Square for discount tickets to day of shows. See a concert or ballet at Lincoln Center. There are walking tours in every neighborhood so pick neighborhoods that interest you. I grew up in Central Park in Manhattan and Prospect Park in Brooklyn and recommend both as a way to relax in the city. The HIghline is an urban walking park which runs from 34th Street to the Meatpacking District, built on old elevated train tracks, is lovely on a nice day. NY is filled with excellent museums so budget some time for those. The Met is one of the biggest museums in the world and  has something for everyone so I recommend that. I love the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim. Food is a whole blog. NYC is filled with amazing restaurants and many different immigrant cultures who bring along great food. When I return, I must have pizza and egg rolls from any family run place, cannoli from Venero’s, bagels from Ess A Bagel and a hot dog from Grey’s Papaya . NYC was my last plane trip in the old world so I am particularly nostalgic. 

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Plan to be amazed by the intense color of the red rocks and the night skies filled with stars. There is a magical , spiritual quality to Sedona, Arizona . Sedona has a moderate climate and though it is hotter in summer and snowy in winter, you can really visit anytime. The natural beauty and energy vortexes make hiking, dining, spa and  personal growth experiences even better.

Boston, Massachusetts is one of the most historic cities in the United States. I have been there many times and love the food, museums and the fact that is a slower paced city than New York.The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile walk through historic Boston. It takes you through all the major sites and monuments relating to the city’s founding and the Revolutionary War. The trail passes through Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall so plan to stop for lunch.There are beautiful neighborhoods with their own vibe and history to walk through. I love the North End which is the heart of Boston’s Italian community. It involves waiting on a line for cannoli at MIke’s Pastry. You might also want to see a Red Sox game or visit Harvard. Museums in Boston are free to students which is another thing I love about the city.

A new England summer vacation had never occurred to me until my daughter went to camp in Maine. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts is not actually a place to lie out on the beach for eight hours with a drink in hand.The weather can be iffy. There are great restaurants especially if you are a fan of lobster and sea food. The Vineyard is divided into six towns each with their personal vibe, so explore them all, by foot, bike or if it’s raining –  car. If you bring a car, make sure to have a car reservation for the ferry in advance or purchased from a resident. 

I love skiing in Park City, Utah. Growing up as an East Coast skier, the incredible Utah powder is so wonderful. Whatever your level of skiing, you will find runs in Park City. I love Deer Valley. The resort is consistently ranked at the top when it comes to grooming, service, access, on-mountain food, lodging, dining, and kid friendliness. Park City was founded in 1884 after the silver boom of the 1860s, and its mining heritage plays a strong role in defining the Western flavor of the charming little downtown scene. There is an abundance of restaurants and bars to choose from. It is also the host of the world famous Sundance Film Festival which takes place in January every year. 

Sty safe,

JAZ

Things That I Have Learned In Krakow, Poland

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Things That  I Have Learned In Krakow, Poland

“Cities were always like people, showing their varying personalities to the traveler. Depending on the city and on the traveler, there might begin a mutual love, or dislike, friendship, or enmity. Where one city will rise a certain individual to glory, it will destroy another who is not suited to its personality. Only through travel can we know where we belong or not, where we are loved and where we are rejected.” Roman Payne

Perched on Wawel Hill in Krakow, Wawel Castle is one of the most important structures in Poland. It was the residence of Polish kings for centuries before being converted into a museum and extensive art gallery in 1930.

The ornately decorated cathedral (no photos please)  and the royal staterooms are good to include in your visit.

The castle represents nearly every European architectural style, including Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque and consists of a number of structures situated around the Italianish main courtyard.

As in other countries, it is good to be the king.

In Wawel Castle, there is an exhibition of one painting. It is an original painting by Leonardo da Vinci “Lady with an Ermine.” Only five other cities in the world can boast a painting by da Vinci, so don’t miss it. The painting was bought in 1800 by Adam Czartoryski, a Polish prince. It was moved to Paris in 1836 and returned to the Czartoryski Museum in 1876. Hidden from the Nazis in 1939, the painting was found and formed part of Hitler’s Berlin collection before ending up in Waiwei as the property of Krakow’s Nazi commandant, Hans Frank. With Soviet troops getting close, the painting was rushed back to Germany. American soldiers finally confiscated it and returned it home to Kraków in 1946. The painting has since become one of the city’s most loved treasures.

Krąków’s Jagiellonian University was established by King Casimir III the Great in 1364 and is the oldest university in Poland and second oldest in Central Europe.

Krakow is an old town of young people. The twenty-eight Krakow institutions of higher education have over 200,000 students attending them. The population of Krakow is 760,000 thousand. 

St. Mary’s Trumpet Call can be heard playing hourly from the tower of St. Mary’s Basilica – a major symbol of Kraków. The melody always stops short, which symbolizes the legend of a trumpeter who, in 1240, wanted to warn the locals of an approaching enemy, but was killed by an arrow.

Krakow is a city of churches, which is especially visible in its historical center.

In the Middle Ages, the inhabitants of the city willingly gave themselves into the hands of the Saints, who would protect them and help them with all life problems.

Krakow is one of those European cities that takes pride in having a cold cut produced and branded there -like Parma. Kielbasa Krakowska  or Kielbasa Lisiecka are the products whose taste has been synonymous with Polish sausage.

Another specialty of Krakow is the famous bagel (obwarzanek krakowski). The ring-shaped braid of bread covered with poppy seeds is sold on every corner in the city.

It was baked in Krakow since the Middle Ages and popularized by the Jewish community who emigrated throughout the world. 

MOCAK is a very interesting and thought-provoking contemporary art museum.(art makes you free)

The museum has a wide range of contemporary art and sculpture, all well presented and explained in a spacious modern building.

There were some excellent pieces challenging nationalism, globalization and war.

There are both Polish and International contemporary artists represented.

Many European cities have an Old Town, but Kraków definitely has one of the best.

The medieval architecture is especially fascinating and it’s big enough that you can spend all day walking around it.

Kraków’s Market Square is the largest medieval commercial square in Europe (each of its sides is 200 m long).

It is forbidden to feed pigeons in Krakow. The locals hate them. (a few hungry pigeons)

There is a lot of weird sculpture in Poland. The big head in Rynek Square is one of them. It is a good meeting point because every tourist can find it. The head is Eros, the God of Love. Why the blindfold? Because love is blind?

The Vistula River, Poland’s longest, runs through Kraków just outside of the Old Town and Jewish District. There are more locals than tourists enjoying it.

The riverfront is long and wide and goes along both sides. It’s lined with a sidewalk, grass, parks, and a few boat restaurants.

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During World War ll, the Nazis occupied beautiful Krakow. Hans Frank looked over the terror from his office on Wawei Hill which is why Krakow was not destroyed.

Krakow is one of the most charming cities. it is hard to believe there was so much death and darkness in such a peaceful place with all those churches. 

I would like to thank Jo Fisher and Aryeh Maidenbaum of Jewish Heritage Travel for putting together such an interesting, well thought out trip through Poland. I have learned so much of the history and complexities of Poland and appreciated the thoughtful intelligent guides and of course, the great hotels.  Hope to travel with you again, some day.

Fly safe,

JAZ