Random Sunday: Travel

A side benefit of having a blog is that I can use it to gather advice from you, our fearless readers, right?  Hence today’s topic.

It has become screamingly obvious to me and the people who have to live with me that I need to take a trip or three in 2009.  In the past few years I’ve managed to get to Italy, Austria, various parts of the UK, Thailand, Cambodia, France, as well as several U.S. cities, and that’s not a bad track record.

In 2009, we have a trip to Maine in July.   Also a possibly to-be-arranged trip to L.A. if I can nag Patty into it, since I hate to drive and we both want to go there.  Also (possibly) a trip to one or more of Canada’s larger cities, a topic for another post.

And so… where else?  I’ll be honest, these are lean times for us and I am budget-conscious.  This is not going to be the year of the 21-day Europe tour, although I hear it’s cheaper now than any other time I went.  Unless I score a screaming deal to an individual city (and a friend pointed out to me that last week I could fly to Prague cheaper than Albuquerque) it probably needs to be a U.S. destination.

I remember reading in a travel book once that there is a word in French (or maybe Italian?) that equates to “the pleasurable sensation of finding oneself in unfamiliar surroundings.”  That is a concept that resonates deeply with me.  I like my home too, but I like it even better when I’ve been somewhere else.

But where else?  At this stage in my life I am almost totally uninterested in Our Natural Outdoor Scenic Wonders.  The Grand Canyon/Pacific coast/Rocky Mountains?  Meh.  I am an urban tourist.  I like cities and towns I can fly into, take public transportation from the airport, and spend the rest of my time wandering on foot or using (again) public transportation.  I am interested in museums, people watching, boat tours, people watching, the local cuisine, walking around in interesting neighborhoods, public markets, cafe sitting, flea markets, window shopping, and looking at people.  Perfume is optional.   The pleasure for me of these trips is centered around the exploration of new surroundings at my own pace, unencumbered (I’m being honest here) by the needs, desires and agendas of anyone else, specifically young children.   Nightlife is nonessential, but (relatively) safe night-time walking is deeply desired.  Some of my fondest memories in all of my vacations are solitary evening prowls of Venice, Florence, Vienna, Bangkok and Paris without worrying about getting mugged.

US cities I have enjoyed using the above parameters:  New York, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Saint Louis, New Orleans, Portland ME, Baltimore, Boston.

If you have a suggestion for a city I should visit, maybe with a recommended month/season/local event (e.g. May, the Tulip Festival) I should be there for, please comment.  If you want to lobby for Prague or whatever, go ahead.  One of my most fun adventures was an impromptu bargain-sale trip to Vienna, about which I knew next to nothing, and which turned out to be an interesting, navigable city with lots to do and plenty to eat and drink – as some of you remember I was there in October during Sturm season and spent much of my trip pleasurably lubricated.

I will end with my own plug — New Mexico is one of the few places you can visit in the continental U.S. and really feel like you have entered another country.  Fly into Albuquerque, rent a car, maybe take the scenic route up to Santa Fe, the folks at the airport can direct you.  If you are from a big, surly city, take a moment to savor how nice and friendly the people are.  Eat as much green chile as you can.  Have a breakfast burrito and enchiladas for lunch.  Smell the air.  Don’t forget your water bottles and sunscreen.  My personal favorite times to go: around Memorial Day, when the Russian olives are perfuming the air; the weekend of the Fiestas de Santa Fe (early September), when you can see the burning of Zozobra and the Desfile de los Ninos; and around Christmas, when (if you are lucky) it will snow, and the air is scented with pinon, and you can walk Canyon Road and admire the farolitos.

  • Vivian, VIA's virtual tour guide says:

    I may be biased about this – but why not a train excursion across several Canadian cities? A shopping getaway through Toronto-Montreal-Qc City. Or a museum trek through Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal. These cities never disappoint – no matter what time of year – and the train is a convenient way to travel.

    No parking. No long taxi rides from the airport. No traffic.

    http://www.viarail.ca/getaways/en_index.html

  • karin says:

    OK There’s just WAY too much talk about Portland, OR. Time for me to plug Portland, Maine! Fantastic restaurants (555, Fore St, Emilitsa, Caiola’s, Bresca, Evangeline…the list is endless), art galleries, fun shops, great local music venues, etc. No, it’s not all about LL Bean and lobster! And don’t forget Mount Desert Island. I’d stay away from it in the summer – too touristy – but the spring and fall are gorgeous. Where will you be in Maine, March? Will you be spending time in Portland? If so and you want some tips, let me know. 🙂

    As to other cities, I recommend Quebec City (as mentioned above), Bergen, Norway, and Varenna, Italy!

    • March says:

      Hon, I love Portland ME! We go through there in the summer, and have been there twice as a destination on its own merits. I have a close friend who has family there. I don’t think I could hack the winter, but the rest of the time it’s gorgeous. @};-

      • karin says:

        Now that’s two votes for Portland, ME. 🙂 The rest of y’all should come visit!

        Re: Norway, it’s probably one of the least popular destinations when it comes to vacations…but it’s gorgeous. We went in June of 2007 when the days are long. Incredible. And Bergen is a really fun city to walk around in. Oslo, too. Lots of great shops and restaurants, people watching, historic sites, etc. And ferry rides down the fjords are breathtakingly beautiful!!!

  • Kim says:

    Vancouver is great in the spring (May) – rainy but everything is blooming and the cherry trees and rhodos are gorgeous. Or else August – no rain, beaches are great, mostly sunny. It is a very cosmopolitan city with some good perfume shopping. A side trip to Victoria and Vancouver Island is worth it for a taste of the ocean. Another side trip to Whistler, while expensive, is worth it to get into the mountains – we are talking major mountains. Also, en route to Whistler, stop at Squamish if you are there in the spring/summer. Major bald eagle nesting area and it is really impressive to see multiple bald eagles.

    Otherwise, my other favourite is London – you will never run out of things to see there, people watching is amazing, shopping is great! what more can one ask for?!

  • dleep says:

    Atlanta, GA for sure. Go in the Spring during the Dogwood Festival. It is beautiful then. Lots of shopping, lots of wonderful restaurants. Happy traveling!!

  • helenviolette says:

    Best to visit Austin in the spring or fall- unless you like it hot! In the summer, Austin offers Barton Springs for cooling off-a gorgeous spring fed pool in Zilker Park. (bars are smoke free in Austin as well)

    I got to visit Portland a few years ago, and it was a beautiful city- visited Mt. St. Helen’s (I wasnt that interested in going, but my sis drug me out there and it was spectacular)

    Have always wanted to go to Charleston/Savannah- sounds like you can’t go wrong with any of these.

  • LindaB says:

    I wish I had time to read all the other comments, but it seems everyone has a lot to say on this topic and I’m at work. 🙁
    My suggestions would be Amsterdam in June–take the touristy wine and cheese canal tour at the beginning of your trip–it is really worth it and helps you navigate and decide where you want to go for the remainder of your stay.
    Also, I was pleasantly surprised by Cleveland OH. I took a cab to a wonderful art gallery and found lots of interesting shops and different places to eat. It was early summetime and the sky was bluer than any other sky I’ve ever seen.

    Good luck and keep us posted on your travel plans–I need to live vicariously through you this year.

    Linda

    • AWench says:

      Amsterdam is brilliant – (and those tulips!) but my husband liked the Sex Museum just a little bit too much:-?

  • Aparatchick says:

    Seconding Portland, Oregon (you’ve already been to Seattle, right?). The great thing about Portland (and many cities in the Pacific NW) is that you can have a very urban experience and then after a 30 (well 45 minute nowdays) drive, you can be in a wonderful rural environment (and has anyone mentioned the Willamette valley wine area? Or the spectacular Oregon coast?). As a 5th generation Northwesterner, however, I’d recommend going there July through September. Spring, not as much.

    Spring, however, says Savannah and/or Charleston to to me (I live a few hours away from Savannah and visit both every couple of years). Both cities have much to offer; I always think of Charleston as an “indoor city” (it has spectacular historic homes and if you go, don’t miss Drayton Hall, a short drive out of town) and Savannah as an “outdoor city” with its wonderful squares and parks which are beautiful any time of year but especially so in the spring.

    Let me throw out another suggestion – Vancouver BC. Cosmopolitan, beautiful scenery, lots to do.

  • Zoe says:

    Gawd. I should NOT have opened this post, now I’m pining for a nice holiday in the US. Which for me *does* happen to be across the Atlantic. I’ve only ever been to Oklahoma (Ponca City, don’t ask)and that having been the huge disappointment it was tourism-wise (to be fair, I liked the Art Deco cinema and the OKC Zoo)I had conveniently written off the US as a destination.
    I should extoll the virtues of destinations near me to ease the pain. Antwerp! Berlin! Groningen! Munich! Kopenhagen! Köln! Trier! There’s an idea – I *would* like to visit Trier again. Ah. Feeling much better now. Have fun traveling!

    • Aparatchick says:

      Hey Zoe, I thought the OKC Zoo was great, too. Loved their big cat exhibit. But the US is definitely more than that, so come back and see the rest of us sometime. :d

      • Zoe says:

        Oh, don’t get me wrong, I *know* there’s plenty to be seen. I just took it as a convenient excuse to put all those things out of my mind – transatlantic flights can get a bit spendy. This post and its comments are just totally wreaking havoc with my ignoring the fun touristy things over there. :-w
        I liked the native Midwestern species exhibit best, I hear it’s a new addition. Worth a visit if you haven’t seen that part yet!

  • hvs says:

    I recommend Berlin, of course, and would gladly meet you in Europe or in Tokyo! Happy New Year…

    • March says:

      Happy New Year to you! I’m not seeing this as the year I escape the US, except maybe to Canada, but ya never know, passport at the ready.

  • Louise says:

    Well, I do not know about March, but this post has me seriously considering a move back home, home still being Portland after, oh, 30 or so years away. Maybe we can go home again after all 😕

    Growing up in Portland, I certainly appreciated the big-town, small city benefits. People were marvelous, the surrounds stunning…the rain not so much 🙁

    Maybe a meet-up with all you lovely posters is the ticket…with March as the guest Sniffer :d ?

    • Aparatchick says:

      Louise, my grandparents owned a house on NW 23rd back in the day when it was a working-class area – would they ever be shocked to see the place now!

      I’m thinking you’re right – a meet-up would be fun! I need to go home this summer to see the family …… 😕

  • Flora says:

    Wow, Lotta Portland love on here, glad to see that so many other Bridgetown boosters read this blog! I wonder how many of you I have run into at The Perfume House over the years? I would live here if only for that, but the other stuff is good too, It’s not perfect – no city is – but it’s small enough to be friendly and big enough so you never run out of things to do. I am not a native, but I have lived here for a long time and it’s really home to me. If nothing else, you can get a bacon-maple bar 24/7 at the downtown Voodoo Doughnut location – what more do you need? 😡

    • Pikake says:

      Maybe we need to plan a Portland meet up….for real?!?!

      • Pikake says:

        Did you know that at the Fez Studio in The Pearl (haven’t been there yet) they carry MPG, Andy Tauer, and CB Experience I Hate Perfume? Another reason to come visit P-Town, or at least coordinate some kind of meet-up for those of us who do live here.:-?

    • March says:

      Well, if Canada falls through, my backup plan is Portland. There are perfumes (and perfume people) there; wouldn’t that be fun?

  • Magpie says:

    Another vote for Austin–thoroughly wonderful town. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone mention Nashville–great small city, great music, great vibe– you must go to the pancake house (no, really). But my BIG vote is for Portland, OR. We’re planning a late June pilgrimage out there (driving from VA—anyone need a lift?) to visit The Perfume House and all the other scented retail wonders, and the roses. We’ve been down-scaling the travel too this year and thinking state-side more than usual, and honestly, I am truly excited about Portland. ::chants PortlandPortlandPortland::

  • DianaWR says:

    I have lived in both Austin, TX and Portland, OR, and the second is VASTLY superior on the public transportation for tourists front. Seriously, if you want to come into a funky little burb that caters to the non-driver, PDX is the way to go — our light rail goes straight from the airport into the heart of downtown. Portland is beautiful in June/July and even late May and the roses are all in bloom then. Summer is a bonus b/c there is, literally, some sort of waterfront festival every weekend. Also if you like beer AT ALL, the Portland Summer Brew Fest is one of best in the country — microbrewers from all over the country/world come here to sport their wares. The Rose Festival is fun.

    Also, Portland, OR has been featured a couple of times in the NYT in their “36 Hours in…” series a couple of times in the last year, which will provide some more ideas.

    Come to Portland — you won’t regret it!

  • Cheezwiz says:

    Hi March! It’s been ages since I’ve dropped by, but I will happily plug my home country of Canada as a potential travel destination. In the mood for ocean & mountains? you may want to check out my hometown of Vancouver. Nice times to visit are in mid to late April, when the city explodes with cherry blossoms (however, you may be used to those being from the D.C. region). Any time during summer should work – though there is always the possibility of rain. Early September can be especially sunny and lovely.

    Easy transportation & lots of cheap eating. Accommodations are unfortunately pricey in summer, but the difference in our dollar might make that easier to swallow. Recommended places: Granville Island Market (similar to Pike Place Market in Seattle), Stanley Park, Queen Elizabeth Park, lots o’ shopping all over the place. You can also have a nice visit with Naz at the Perfume Shoppe downtown!

    If you can’t come West, I would also recommend taking a trip to Canada’s East Coast Maritime provinces in summer. Haven’t been myself, but would love to go. They are by all accounts stunning – Nova Scotia & Prince Edward Island especially. I’ve always wanted to visit this part of Canada, but the irony is that for Canadians, travel within our own country is prohibitively expensive. We do not have the selection of discount airlines that exist in the states. Believe it or not, it is cheaper for a Vancouverite to fly to Europe than eastern Canada. Sad huh?

    Good luck with your travel plans! I love hearing about people’s travel plans!

  • sweetlife says:

    Ooh, ooh, and just one more! (Um, not that I spend a lot of time fantasizing about these sorts of trips or anything…)

    One of the best, most healing solitary road trips I’ve ever taken was down (and up) Highway 1. I started in San Francisco and went, very slowly, down to Santa Barbara, then back up through the wine country. [email protected]!-believable country. You can also go North, to Mendocino and back.

    And for years now, I’ve been planning a similar trip up the Oregon coast, which is said to be one of the most gorgeous, and underappreciated landscapes around.

    • March says:

      I’m skipping down, smiling, reading these before I run an errand and then I will be back. I had to respond to yours. We did this exact trip when I was pregnant with Diva (our first child) as one of those swan songs to childlessness. I, first time pregnant, had underestimated my capacity for morning sickness. So The Big Cheese drove those narrow windy roads, we did San Francisco, Malibu, Big Sur, etc., back UP through the wine country, and I spent the entire time vomiting or ravenous, sometimes both simultaneously (too much information?) The body is a strange machine… a testament to his love for me that he didn’t leave me by the side of the road, retching, before I could beg him to take me somewhere to eat. :”>

      • sweetlife says:

        Oh no! (and LOL!) That’s just terrible, March, but I can totally see how it could happen. Darn.

        I thought of yet another trip while I was offline for half and hour: Seattle, with FERRIES! to the San Juan islands and/or Victoria, British Columbia. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous, and Victoria is one of the most beautiful, clean, safe, charming cities I’ve ever been to. I haven’t been in a very long time, though, so I can’t tell you about public transit and the like. But I can say that if you go must have Tea at The Empress.

        • March says:

          Oh, no — I should have explained better — it was WONDERFUL. I mean, it was full of joy and humor and gorgeous, gorgeous places (I loved the otters… where is that? the aquarium? Monterey Bay!! We stayed a whole extra day there, I was so entranced.) And I ate like a pig, I couldn’t get enough to eat. I didn’t mean it to sound so gross or depressing, we thought it was funny at the time. Well, most of the time. Finding a place to pull off the road on some of those cliffsides so I could puke got to be tricky.

          • sweetlife says:

            Still giggling over here. Well I’m glad you could appreciate the scenery while you were, um, leaning over the edge. And at least there was plenty of good food to eat in between!

            Do think about the ferries. So nice.

          • sweetlife says:

            P.S. I am a little obsessed with sea otters. An animal that loves to play and spends most of its time floating on its back eating shellfish. What’s not to love/identify with?

  • Shelley says:

    Oy, I was going to post last night, and now all is covered…the southern charm of the SE coast, the treasures of the other Portland, and the interests of Austin. I’m Googling like a maniac trying to get numbers on various tulip festivals…8-} …nobody yet has mentioned Holland, Michigan, which draws tourists, would put you near flea market and antique nirvana, the charms of the longest stretch of (swimmable) freshwater beach in the world–and a hop/skip/jump from the frag counters in Chicago.

    That said…
    SXSW (South by Southwest) Festival is in Austin March 13-21 this year. I know people who go just for the films, others just for the music…it’s crazy, but you can check in as you please, and retreat to Musette’s spa otherwise. But it has gotten crazy, and I see you have mentioned you are not fond of crowds. If you know somebody there, they could guide you to minimize that factor. Or, you could note those dates and stay the h#!! away.

    If I were going to Portland, I’d hit primo garden time, early summer, when all their famous roses are out. Louise? There’s Powell’s, where you can spend a day wandering among books, it’s that big. And when I needed a time out from people…I’m that type…I took a train ride in the zoo. It’s nice that way; culture when you want it; peace and nature when you need that.

    Oh, Canada…Montreal or Toronto? Toronto or Montreal???

    • March says:

      I’m going to have to make a decision about Canada, right? And I’m interested to see on here that the number of places listed is pretty darn consistent, not some ginormous, random thing. So even places I don’t hit this year I can keep on file for future reference. 😡

  • Calypso says:

    Be sure to get in touch if you do an Austin-Houston trip for bluebonnets and other wild flowers. February can be a beautiful month around here, also lots of azaleas. I live in walking distance from the Menil Museum and Rothko Chapel and I have a guest room (if you don’t mind cats). Houston has all the big stores in the Galleria (Saks, Neiman’s, etc.) and also Kuhl-Linscomb, a great place for niche perfumes.

    • March says:

      Oh, you are so sweet! I will keep you in mind. I am allergic to cats 🙁 but it sort of depends how many, and other factors. Generally when I stay with cat-friends I just take my Zyrtec and don’t do a lot of petting. Of the cats. Or the friends.

  • sweetlife says:

    And one more! The biggest tulip festival outside of Holland is just outside of Seattle in the amazingly gorgeous Skagit valley. I went once, when I was feeling…restless…and I was not sorry. That’s in April I think.

    • March says:

      Huh. A am guessing this travel thing really resonates with you too, huh? 8-|

      • sweetlife says:

        Hee, hee! :”>

        Yes, I’ve had my share of travel fantasies. But it’s funny, I’m really a complete homebody, totally bound up in and supported by my routines. Still, sometimes I want to feel what it’s like to be beholden to NO ONE. And travel, even slightly lonely travel, seems to be the best way for that.

  • sweetlife says:

    But just in case you can find a cheap ticket…I’m putting in a vote for Portugal, a relatively inexpensive European country that is so small and so diverse you can go from castles in the mountains, to the gorgeous old city of Lisbon, to the beach, in one fell swoop. And at every cafe, the minute you stop they will put bread and olives and tuna pate (much better than it sounds) on the table. How can you not love that?

    • March says:

      Actually, I think tuna pate sounds delish although I’ve not tried it. And Portugal is definitely on my list of places to visit. 😡

  • sweetlife says:

    Wow! Glad to see my beloved adopted hometown getting so much love on the board today! Miss March, I am an unofficial Austin booster. If you decide you want to come, shoot me an email and I’ll give you all the goods. Spring is a gorgeous time to come, though there are advantages to braving the heat, too.

    I will warn, though, that you’ll have to adjust your parameters a bit. There are bits of Austin that are walkable, but you’ll definitely want and need a car. And since you do, why not make it a road-tripping kind of trip? Every spring (March-ish) I try to drive through the hill country to see all the wildflowers. It’s an especially nice trip to go from Austin down to Houston by the back roads, stop to see some of the wonderful museums there, and then back home again. But you could stretch it out a bit and do San Antonio, too. Great bed and breakfast spots in the Williamsburg district. So you get art, hipster streets in Austin, wildflowers, a bit of pampering, and the feeling of the open road. Heck, maybe I should be planning that trip for myself, doesn’t it sound great? 😡

  • Louise says:

    March, I got to chime in and endorse all the votes for Portland, my hometown. It has it all, and if you need a tour guide, just lemme know.

    My follow-up vote goes to Montreal, another home for me for a time. Euroupe, US, Canada rolled into one.

    As for best time…Portland is always unpredictable, but summer is dryer> Montreal-anytime after the thaw :d/

    But, if you want to the Prague plus trip with a buddy, I’m packed :d

    • March says:

      But dude, when IS the thaw in Montreal? July?

      My ignorance of Canada is as vast as … Canada. Which part is trying to secede? Montreal or Quebec? Or, wait, Quebec’s the province? :”> What a dummass.

      • Hannah says:

        Quebec is a city and a province, so that could be what’s confusing you. Montreal is part of Quebec (the province) which is trying to secede, and that’s what confuses me.:-

        The thaw in Montreal is another understandable point of confusion. May is usually a safe bet, all though once every few years it snows just a teensy bit during the first few weeks. Coming in April or March… er, do you like blizzards at Easter?:d It might be beautiful, but then the snow melt is messy, but it might also be cold and snowy/rainy/sleety. So yeah, mid-May through the first week of October would be the “safe” period.

        • March says:

          So it would be all right in the fall? I don’t want to come now. If I go to LA in March …. and Maine in July … can I come to Canada in the fall if I keep it early enough? Like September?

    • Shelley says:

      Did someone say Prague???

      I would find things to sell…

  • Lara says:

    I suggest San Antonio, Tx. There is plenty to do and see in the immediate area (Riverwalk, Alamo/Mission Trail, Zoo…) and it is about an hour from Austin.

  • Patty says:

    I’m going to add to suggesting the south, Savannah, Charleston. Lovely people, relaxed, beautiful, history, and you can get your Southern Lady on with hats and flowery dresses. It’s lovely.

  • Olfacta says:

    I like totally second Charleston. I lived there for awhile as a kid and have been back as a visitor and travel writer several times in recent years. It’s compact — if you stay in the downtown area you’ll hardly need a car — and Colonial. Beautiful architecture, really deep history, its own cuisine which features the amazing seafood, great restaurants, nice people, very little crime, great beaches and sea islands which are close, gardens and old plantations — and this is the time to go, as it’s not humid and the walking is best at this time of year. They have a great visitors’ center and they cater to visitors, though not in an obvious way. Wonderful flea markets too, although they’re not right downtown (that’s more about antique shopping.) I’m not sure if they have a free-standing perfume store, but they do have upscale shopping at a big downtown hotel. Anyway,if you decide to go, pm me at pborow at comcast dot net; I have a lot of info.

    Good luck!

    • March says:

      Charleston sounds really low key and lovely in a way I’d like, and it’s the most geographically convenient for me, since I am on the east coast. It strikes me as a no-brainer trip I could squeeze in without too much effort. When do you think is the nicest time to go?

      Clarifying: I actually am not wild for huge crowds. I would almost rather visit these places *not* during the jazz fest or whatever, just when the weather’s apt to be nicest.

      • Olfacta says:

        Well, we always go to Charleston during winter, oyster season. They have a big festival in March and the Spoleto Festival in May; both are crowded, and the prices go way up. IMHO Dec. and January/Feb are best. I personally hate sweating through your clothes while traveling! Since Charleston has a semitropical climate, winter wins with me every time.

        The Convention & Visitors Bureau has a great website which will tell you when the festivals are.

        If you can find it, “Hoppin’ John’s Lowcountry Cooking” (yes, a cookbook)by John Martin is the best description of Charleston’s culture I’ve seen.

        Savannah’s nice too, but not nearly as compact, and more urban. There’s another, smaller town between them, Beaufort (pronounced Bew-fert) that is where much of “The Prince of Tides” was filmed. But I don’t think there’s nearly as much to do there.

        • Vasily says:

          Another vote for Savannah and Charleston … Beaufort has nice bed & breakfasts, great place for a weekend romantic getaway … this time of year, I miss the Carolinas and lowland cooking here in frozen Illinois. If you go, have a plate of shrimp and grits for me. 🙂

          • mollypenny says:

            Yeah, Charleston gets my vote as well. I used to live in Wilmington (kind of like a small Charleston). The Carolinas are just gorgeous. I have a feeling you could really indulge and spoil yourself there.

          • March says:

            Wait. Wilmington NC? I desperately wanted to move there years ago, based on … not really anything I can remember other than I thought it looked like heaven. Isn’t there some TV show filmed there now?

          • mollypenny says:

            There probably is a TV show based there, there is a filming studio there so lots of movies are (or at least were) made in Wilmington. Beautiful old houses (not as many fancy ones as Charleston of course) and the beach AND the river. Cool little place. Too small for me to have stayed there, I was about to move to Raleigh-Durham or Savanah but New Mexico was calling me back. I know you understand.

          • March says:

            The dichotomy. 🙁 The yin-yang or however you’d put it. I want Maine and New Mexico at the same time. I will definitely have to get to Wilmington some day.

          • MattS says:

            One Tree Hill(?) is filmed in Wilmington, as was Dawson’s Creek. It’s charming and laid back and has the added attraction of being 40 minutes away from MattS so any and all are encouraged to come on down for a visit.:)

          • March says:

            How far are you from Charleston?

          • March says:

            Dude, you might have to start another thread. /:)

        • March says:

          hee hee! going off to look for that, who doesn’t love culture in a southern cookbook?!?! Thanks. Hm. P and I are working on LA in March. Wonder if I can squeeze in a quickie to Charleston in Jan/Feb without anyone noticing I’d left? At this pt they’d probably be relieved… 😕

  • rosarita says:

    Another vote for Austin. First place to jump into my head. Late February/early March is a nice time to go, the weather’s beautiful. Or fly into Houston and take the time to go to Miss Ima Hogg’s mansion for the azaela tour (the grounds are open only that weekend, and it’s amazingly beautiful) then rent a car and drive to Austin. I’d have to check to see when the bluebells are blooming but I think it’s around that time. Or skip Houston (although it’s a very cool city) and do what Musette suggested and get to San Antonio along with Austin. And also agree w/Matt S. about Charleston. Happy planning!

    • March says:

      Ah, see, the TIMING of Austin works really well. One of these places needs to be a sooner-rather-than-later. Maine is mid-Summer, and I’m assuming (possibly wrongly) that Canada is summer as well. Austin and Charleston are probably spring/fall places.

  • MattS says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with everyone who said Austin, TX–great food, great music, great beer, and some of the nicest people in the world you’ll ever meet.

    I also agree with Charleston, SC, noticing that your travels in the Southern U.S. seem somewhat limited. There’s history, beautiful homes, great food, a charming downtown, MILITARY CADETS >:):d, so obviously it’s a beautiful town with lots to look at. The flea market there is great and I remember the Saks had the sweetest SA who was most helpful when I made a whirlwind perfume shopping spree there after three glasses of wine. I’ll be there the end of January if you wanna meet me there.

    Also, if you wanna escape from the world to a tiny little island and do nothing, there’s Ocracoke, NC which wouldn’t be that far from you. You have to get there by ferry, cell phones don’t work there. There’s just beautiful beaches, some great restaurants (there are no chain businesses there, everything is independent; it’s amazing to visit a place with no McDonald’s, no Wal-Mart, no mall). You can get anywhere on the island on foot or bicycle; it’s really beautiful and so laid back, but after three days there, I was ready to talk on my cell phone.

    • March says:

      You are a very naughty boy. 😉

      Charleston, Austin and Portland OR are the favorites here. Obviously Charleston would be the easiest in terms of geography for me… I wonder if I could do something romantic like take the train? I bet I could.

      • March says:

        PS We had various relatives at various times in FL, and have been a lot, so don’t tell anyone I said this but FL bores me at this pt.

        • MattS says:

          Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t even really consider Florida a Southern state. Geographically speaking, yes. In terms of food, culture, and attitude, not really. Of course I’ve only been to Daytona and Miami, although Key West had a laid back charm I appreciated, but the Jimmy Buffet/Margaritaville aspect gets on my nerves after a bit. Saint Augustine was beautiful and totally charming as well, but I only spent an hour or two there.

          • Olfacta says:

            The Panhandle area of Florida is still southern. Just don’t go anywhere near Destin. Navarre Beach, St. George Island, Apalachicola are all unspoiled, but probably not for long, as I hear there’s an international airport going in somewhere near Panama City…goodbye.

          • Aparatchick says:

            Shuuush, Olfacta! Don’t tell anyone about Apalachicola. It’s our little secret. 😉

      • MattS says:

        In my mind, I’ve completely romanticized the idea of traveling by train. I assume I’d feel like Cary Grant, but people who’ve done it tell me it’s not nearly as posh as the old movies make it seem. I don’t care, I refuse to believe it’s anything but dashing, glamorous, and exciting.

        Charleston and Austin would be perfect spring/fall locations, but be warned–Austin in March has the SXSW Music Festival which has always been lots of fun but it is MASSIVE crowds. I haven’t even gone in the last few years ’cause friends have told me it keeps getting bigger and more crowded, especially since it was featured on some MTV show. There are tons of bands and musicians there and one wristband gets you into all the shows, but apparently it’s become so crowded, you have to stay at one venue each night. But the temps are always lovely. Charleston is great in the spring as well. I think I went late February last year and sat in rooftop bars having drinks with a glorious sun beaming down on me. Friends went last week for the holidays and they said it was like summertime.

        • Shelley says:

          Sorry, Matt…now I see you mentioned SXSW too…

          BUT…train travel? Absolutely. It’s a shame it’s Amtrack, but nonetheless…I’ve always wanted to go across the country on the north side, able to enjoy the scenery and crossing the mountains etcetera without the annoying practical concerns like “how do I keep the vehicle from going over the edge?” and “the falling rocks fall when?” or “will this pass be closed by a freak storm (and my last name change to Donner)?” :-ss I loved going across Scandinavia that way…

      • AWench says:

        I have wonderful memories of trains in the US – I went from Chicago to Seattle (my favourite US city ever), down the coast to San Franscisco, then through the middle via Denver and back to Chicago. What a trip – and I love those double-decker viewing carriages. So you don’t have to choose one city – take the train and get loads of them!

  • Hannah says:

    I have to plug a Canadian visit, of course. Ottawa is good in early May for the world’s largest tulip festival. The princess of the Netherlands gave Canada a gift of 100,000 tulip bulbs at the end of WW2 in thanks for housing the exiled royal family in Ottawa and for the role played by Canadian soldiers in the liberation of Holland. Millions of tulips descended from the originals bloom every spring and it is STUNNING (and a great perfume concept). Montreal is good starting in mid-May, but a great time to visit is during the huge Jazz Fest in early July, most of which is free and which is choc-full of big names. There’s plenty of perfume (Olgivy’s has the full l’Artisan collection and all the Diptyque’s and all the Serge exports, not to mention makeup galore), wonderful food and coffee, great nightlife, a 17th century Old City, funky clothing and jewelry, botanical gardens, a biodome, low crime and it’s all pedestrian friendly. (Me, biased?) From Montreal it’s an easy jaunt to Quebec City for the history and then to Charlevoix and the Saguenay for gorgeous countryside, gourmet B&Bs ad whale watching. Let’s call Quebec Europe on a shoestring.

    Ottawa is good in early May for the world’s largest tulip festival. The princess of the Netherlands gave Canada a gift of 100,000 tulip bulbs at the end of WW2 in thanks for housing the exiled royal family in Ottawa and for the role played by Canadian soldiers in the liberation of Holland. Millions of tulips descended from the originals bloom every spring and it is STUNNING (and a great perfume concept).

    I won’t pretend to be an expert on the Maritimes or the West, but Vancouver and Halifax are lots of fun, too. I think the Rockies are worth it, but if you’re not feeling outdoorsy then you might not appreciate being outnumbered by Grizzlies.

    If you can get a deal, Turkey is fascinating (and full of things to sniff). Other places to bargain hunt for: Croatia, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Athens (not during the summer), Cape Town, Prague, Budapest, Bucharest, Rome (also avoid the summer months), Berlin, Stockholm, Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Hong Kong (summer is bad here, too).

    Wow, I need to break out the old passport again, and not just because it smells like a bottle of frangipani parfum that broke in my bag in Tahiti.

    • Hannah says:

      Oops, posted Ottawa twice; how did that happen?

    • March says:

      Hah, I KNEW there had to be a tulip festival somewhere!! I have a willing travel partner for Canada. I’ve never been and I hear there are lovely cities. Canada’s enormous, obviously, so we’d need to narrow our focus, and we’re both interested in the city/cultural aspects. And the food and shopping. 😉 Bummer, Canada isn’t anywhere near as cheap as it used to be on the USD…

      • Erin T / Tigs says:

        Of course, I’m going to root for Toronto 🙂 But if you aren’t going to visit *me*, then I can safely vouch for Montreal and Vancouver, having lived in both places (and many others) – both great cities. Montreal would be cheaper, me thinks.

        • March says:

          Don’t worry, you are on my to-consult list about Canada. I have a friend (who went to Vienna with me) who would like to go to Canada, and we’d need to narrow our focus. So I’ll be bugging you about that.

      • Hannah says:

        Fortunately (for you, not me) the Canadian dollar is worth about 0.83$ USD currently; it is tied to the price of oil.

    • Vasily says:

      I spent a lovely motoring vacation in the Maritimes about ten years ago, was going to s spend a day and a half in Halifax and ended up spending four days there. I fell in love with the place.

    • karin says:

      I was gonna say Quebec City. It’s AWESOME! If you can’t get to Europe, it’s the next best thing…and only a few hours drive from Maine. 🙂

  • Flora says:

    I will chime in on Portland, OR, everything Millicent & Pikake said is true, and more. We are also very close to the finest Rose display garden in North America, Heirloom Roses. DON’T come during Rose Festival in the first 2 weeks of June, there are no hotel rooms and it’s usually raining. Later in the month it’s perfect, the roses in the “City of Roses” are all in bloom and it’s warm enough to enjoy the many parks and other sights. We have an excellent art museum (several, actually)and an amazing array of ethnic restaurants.

    If you have to go somewhere else, Austin would be great too, I want to go there myself! However, Portland is #2 to Austin’s #1 for an energetic live music scene, and we just went all smoke-free for clubs and bars on Jan. 1, whee!

    One more idea – my sister says that of all the places she has been she would most like to revisit Charleston, SC – it is so beautiful and full of old-world charm, and the gardens are world-class.

    • March says:

      Portland, Austin and Charleston — the front runners.

      I need to work a bit around Maine, which is already set. I am assuming Austin would be a spring trip (too hot in the summer?) so that works out. I need to check out the climate in each place. In my ideal world there’d be a trip in spring, summer (Maine) and fall.

  • Pikake says:

    I will second Portland, OR. Excellent perfume shopping. Not quite like NY . But we do have the Perfume House here, as well as a little boutique that carries all of the Tauers and many other boutiques that carry niche lines. We have excellent restaurants, see the following article that was in the Times:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/26/dining/26port.html?_r=1&ex=1191470400&en=d3adc9bcf2e1b611&ei=5070&emc=eta1

    The light rail will take you downtown from the airport. As Milicent mentioned there’s Powell’s, amazing gardens. The gorgeous OR coast is 1.5 hours away and the Columbia Gorge is as stunning a view as you’ll get. In the summer it never gets too not, is not muggy. No bugs. It’s awesome. Oh, and did we mention no sales tax? Saks is here, as is Nords of course. We’re not hurting for great shopping. So come here and visit!! Check out the Ace Hotel if you do come here. Stumptown coffee is right next door and both places are wonderful.

    • March says:

      I’d not forgotten about the Perfume House. Portland and Austin seem to be the front runners. I need to find out, when’s the best time of year to go to Portland, or does it matter? I’m trying to space these trips out.

      • Pikake says:

        I would come here after the beginning of July. June can be crappy weather. Overcast, gray and rainy still. After the 4th, something magical happens….July, Aug, Sept. Very nice. If you get serious and want specifics, please feel free to email me!!

  • Natalie says:

    There are Japanese travel agents in New York (and possibly elsewhere) that offer insane deals on airfare to Tokyo in February. A while back I flew round-trip from NYC for about $300, and I’ve heard of even better deals. Other interesting cities you may not have thought of, in no particular order (and no idea about current prices): Palermo, Naples, Budapest, Malaga/Cordoba/Seville (southern Spain, with fabulous food and lots of amazing things to see), Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile (never been, but a friend raved about it), Havana (despite the crap food and high crime), Montreal, Vancouver, Dublin, Istanbul… Damn, now I want to go somewhere! And I’ll second the above suggestion of Vegas — great fun if you surrender yourself to the wild cheesiness of it all.

    • Natalie says:

      Oops, just read more carefully and saw the “probably U.S.” Sorry for my exotic suggestions (not sure what I was thinking — I can’t even afford bus fare to Newark these days!), but perhaps deals may be had…

      • March says:

        No no no! Open to travel abroad as well! My problem is, if I’m going that far I’d prefer company, and I know it’s hard from past experience to find a friend to go with me. Tokyo for $300 does sound pretty tempting.

        I think I’ve got a friend lined up for Canada. :)>-

  • Millicent says:

    The OTHER Portland! Portland, OR has pretty much all that you’re looking for in terms of walkable neighborhoods, cafes, great transit, people-watching, amazing food/wine/beer, plus Powell’s bookstore (used & new), which is one of our national treasures, IMHO. There are also beautiful public gardens, rose and Japanese, which may have some seasonal events that would interest you. Also, if you do feel like leaving the city, there are fun wineries in the Willamette Valley about an hour or so away. Not all of the wineries are open year round; last I heard, Memorial Day and Thanksgiving weekends are when all the wineries do a sort of coordinated open house tasting event.

    • March says:

      Austin and Portland are the front runners! I wonder when the best time is to go to Portland? How seasonal is the climate? (Obviously something I can pursue on the internet.)

      • mollypenny says:

        Best Portland weather is late Summer, no rain and gorgeous mellow climate. I lived there for a short time. Portland has a funky, hipster, eclectic vibe. Artsy, vintage, green and hippie. Somewhat quaint and charming for a larger city. But I’m sure there are pockets of glam and couture if you look hard enough. I myself would love to see the architecture of Savannah and Charleston. Sounds like you’ve already seen all the big US cities. If you have the money I would definitely go out of country. If I had the money the first place I would go for a truly big city experience is Tokyo. 2nd Hong Kong.

  • Fountaingirl says:

    Love your blog, and you have also made me crave red lipstick which is hard to do — I am a redhead!

    Fun stateside urban travel. Hrm. Washington DC has a lot of attractions (museums are top notch, decent to good shopping too). Nashville is fun, and less ‘country’ than you might imagine, I am not a country gal but still had a lot of fun in Nashville.

    OH! I know. If I could go only one place outside of the cities you have already listed (e.g., no New York, Chicago, etc.), it would be AUSTIN. Great art scene, fun stuff to do, quirky city, friends who live there love it.

    Milwaukee is also a lot more fun than it usually gets credit for.

    • Musette says:

      I second Austin and from there it’s a quick drive (like 45 minutes or an hour) to San Antonio. I used to go to Austin for work a couple of times a year and really enjoyed it, even though I was working – and decided one time to do a quick lunch visit to San Antonio – the Riverwalk was absolutely lovely. Had a great lunch, dropped in to see a potential client and was back in Austin in time for my 4:30p meeting. Obviously, if you are on holiday you won’t have to run it that quickly! And Austin has an incredible spa – the Lake Austin Spa Resort. I’m HUGE on spas – sitting in steam rooms, whirlpools, massages, more massages, a facial or two…….blissssss:x

      I haven’t been anywhere for holiday since we started the business. Hope 2009 will allow at least a teeny trip!

      • March says:

        I am so glad I did this post. Check it out. Looks like Austin, Portland OR and Charleston are looking good.

        • AngelaS says:

          If you make it to Portland, OR, darling, I expect to hear from you. I can promise entrees to all the best food, vintage clothing shops, and dive bars in town.

          • March says:

            A, I haven’t forgotten you! If Canada ends up looking like it’s not gonna happen, I think Portland is my next destination. Given the fandom on the blog, and the people already there who’d be interested in meeting, it would be great! And I would LOVE to do a vintage shopping expedition. 😡

      • March says:

        PS And I had a friend from San Antonio who loved and missed it and made it sound wonderful.

        • helenviolette says:

          Hey March! if you make it to Austin/San Antonio- let me know! We can paint our lips and the town red!

    • March says:

      The best reds I have seen on redheads (and I adore red lips on redheads, I was a fake redhead until last year) are those warm, brown-based coppery reds. There’s an auburn-haired girl at our Nordstrom who’s really working that look. If you’re a brighter red, maybe you go a little redder? I’m thinking the blue-reds would be all wrong, but not sure.

      Austin is emerging as a front runner.

  • Sherya says:

    Hi – how about Las Vegas?? Never been there myself, but am wanting to go! Heard that a certain airline had $$$ off their airfares, maybe still do.

    By the way, from reading your blog – I want *red* liptick!! Went to a local mall yesterday and came home with a “starter” red lipstick according to the SA from Clinique. I haven’t worn any lipstick/gloss/etc before. Not “the red” I really wanted, but am looking! Also have been reading your blog for about 6 months and enjoy it everyday! Thanks!

    • March says:

      You’re welcome, and thanks for de-lurking. Have fun with that red lipstick. BTW Clinique has/had this great set at Christmas, 4 lippies in a red bag for $25, it might still be on their website.