Tourist in Your Hometown: Philadelphia

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 | Stamp in My Passport| | 2 Comments

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

This week Kendall is sharing about life in the City of Brotherly Love. After reading her recommendations, I now know there is much more to Philadelphia than the liberty bell or a boxing legend. Plus, there is a Rodin museum, which I think is worth a trip in itself since a plane ticket to Paris might be seen as a little extreme.

Hello! I'm Kendall and I write about personal style, travel, and everything in between over at buttons and blossoms. I'm so happy to be here on Stamp in My Passport to share some great places in one of my favorite cities: Philadelphia. I am a born and bred Jersey girl but I've always been in love with the big city. My hometown is smack dab between two major northeast cities: New York City and Philadelphia. I grew up taking the train to New York City to the north but didn't really appreciate Philly to my south until I met my fiance. He grew up in the city before moving to the suburbs but his big family still lives in many of the diverse neighborhoods. We fell in love exploring this city of history and fell in love here. Now there's rarely a weekend that passes by without us heading in to one of our favorite spots. If you know anything about Philadelphia, it's probably either it's status as one of America's most historic cities or home to Rocky. Yes, you can run up "the Rocky steps" at Philly's world famous art museum and pose with the statue at the bottom. You can also see the liberty bell up close or stand in the place where the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. But there is so much more to Philadelphia than what you read in history books or see in the movies. 
Philly in Photos IMG_03762 Philly's neighborhoods: Like most major cities, Philadelphia is made up of many different neighborhoods and each has it's own unique flavor. Most tourists spend their time in Old City, where the historic sites are, and Center City, where there's lots of restaurants and shopping. But Philly is the fifth largest city based on population and those people are spread out all over the city. One of my favorite neighborhoods to take a stroll through is Society Hill. This neighborhood is made up of tree-lined streets, brick rowhomes, and hidden cobblestone alleys; it's the real history of Philadelphia. My engagement photos were even taken there! Another neighborhood worth exploring is South Philly. Philly doesn't need a dedicated "Little Italy" because Italian food is a way of life here. You can find great Italian food all over the city but South Philly is where it's most authentic. The Italian Market on Ninth Street is a great place to wander and find great food products, especially cheese. My favorite South Philly spot is Termini Brothers Bakery on 8th and 15th. There are many great Italian bakeries peddling cannolis and amaretti cookies but if you go at just the right time there will be a small string band of Italian grandpas and uncles playing in the corner and you can get your cannolis filled on the spot.
  day in philly's museumsRodin Museum: Philly isn't known for it's museums like New York or L.A. but the city's museums are top-notch. If you have kids, there's the Please Touch Museum where kids use their imagination in a "supermarket" complete with a checkout line. Love science? You need to climb through the giant heart at the Franklin Institute (yes, adults are allowed to). But one of my favorite museums that's pretty hidden is the Rodin Museum. This museum dedicated to the work of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin and features his most amazing work, the Gates of Hell, which took him almost 40 years to complete. The museum itself is a gorgeous piece of architecture with gardens that you can enjoy even now in the dead of winter.
  IMG_3734Eastern State Penitentiary: Ever wanted to go to prison without committing a crime? Then Philly's the place for you. Philadelphia is home to the Eastern State Penitentiary, a former prison in the middle of the city that was home to Al Capone for eight months. Depending on when you go it can be eerily quiet and calm and a great place to take creepy pictures. If you happen to be visiting around Halloween, you can get scared one night at their Terror Behind the Walls program. I prefer to watch the screaming line outside the prison walls while having a drink at the bars across the street.
  IMG_4209Victory Brewery's bar Grab a drink: My love of craft beer emerged from the great beer scene here in Philadelphia. Even if you're not really into beer, taking a brewery tour (or two) is a fun way to spend the day in the city. You'll meet people who are passionate about beer and many times there is a great story behind the brewery location. My personal favorites are Philadelphia Brewing Company, Yards, and Victory (which is just outside of the city in Downingtown). Even having lived near and played in Philadelphia for so many years, I'm still finding new things to do every weekend. Have you ever visited Philly?

Tourist in Your Hometown: Glendale, CA

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 | Stamp in My Passport| | 1 Comment

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hey there! I’m Erika, the blogger behind a quiet girl in a noisy city, where I blog about my life living and working in the Los Angeles area. My husband and I live in the city of Glendale, which is north-east of Los Angeles proper – close enough to experience the excitement of the city, but separate enough to be interesting in its own right. While dozens of guides to Los Angeles exist all over the internet, there are significantly fewer guides to Glendale, so I jumped at the chance to write an entry in Jess’ Tourist in Your Hometown Series about the city I call home.

Glendale is a beautiful city – it’s safe, green, pedestrian-friendly, and relatively inexpensive to live in. It has everything from big malls to mom-and-pop stores, grocery stores to small markets, and chain restaurants to taco stands. You could live your whole life here without ever venturing into neighboring Los Angeles. Here are just a few of my favorite places in Glendale.

Porto’s Bakery & Café is the perfect place to start your day. This authentic Cuban bakery serves a variety of breakfast sandwiches, pastries, breads, and cakes. If you’d rather wait until lunch, they also serve a large selection of lunch plates, sandwiches, soups, and salads. Some of their more popular items include stuffed potato balls, cheese rolls (a tasty cheese-filled pastry), and the Cubano sandwich. It’s one of the most popular places in Glendale, so be sure to arrive early. You’ll likely have to wait a while in line, but it’s so worth it!

Brand Park is a beautiful little park at the north end of Glendale. I’ve only done a bit of exploring here so far, but would love to return for more, as it’s one of my favorite discoveries in town. This park is home to a number of hiking trails, picnic areas, and other unique sights, such as the Brand Library, the Whispering Pine Tea House, and the Doctor’s House Museum. The Brand Library was closed for renovations on my last visit, but currently houses a variety of art galleries and live music events, and is open Tuesdays through Saturdays. The Tea House is open by reservation only, though the adjacent Friendship Garden is open weekdays and offers a beautiful, peaceful place for an afternoon stroll. The Doctor’s House is the former home of silent movie star Nell Shipman and is open for tours on Sunday afternoons. Even if you visit the park on a day when these attractions are all closed, it’s still a beautiful place for a walk through the thirty-one acres of trails.

For lunch, I highly recommend a stop by Glendale’s own Golden Road Brewery. Opened in 2011, Golden Road’s beers have already swept through Southern California, and it all started right here in Glendale. My personal favorite is the Golden Road Hefeweizen, though they also offer a large selection of ales, lagers, and other specialty beers. In addition to great, locally-brewed beer, their menu also boasts some truly delicious food options, many of which cater to vegan and vegetarian tastes. I enjoy the spicy pulled pork sandwich (there’s a vegan version if you prefer) and the rosemary roasted turkey melt. With sweet potato fries, of course. Golden Road is also a great dinner stop, though it’s gotten quite popular in recent years, which is why I prefer to stop by for lunch.

A trip to Glendale wouldn’t be complete without mention of the Glendale Galleria and the Americana at Brand. Two shopping malls, directly across the street from one another, take up a good ten city blocks in the center of Glendale. You could literally spend all day here, and people do – they come from all over Los Angeles to do their shopping. The Galleria was built first, and is an entirely indoor shopping center that includes a Target, Macy’s, Bloomingdales, and JC Penney. It houses all kinds of boutique stores, from Coach to Guess to Charlotte Russe.

And if you can’t find what you’re looking for at the Galleria, you’ll likely find it at the Americana. The Americana, an outdoor mall with a central park that’s complete with a fountain, tends to house pricier brands (with the exceptions of H&M and Forever XXI). Here you’ll find Nordstrom, Barnes & Noble, Banana Republic, and Urban Outfitters, amongst many others. If you’re looking for an Apple Store, there’s one in each mall. Crazy, right? Like I said, you could spend all day here. I’m lucky enough to live within walking distance of the shopping center, and often stroll over for a day of window shopping and people watching. 

To finish off your day, be sure to grab dinner at Kim’s Kitchen. It may not look like much from the outside, but Kim’s Kitchen is by far one of my favorite restaurants here in Glendale. This tiny shack is home to some of the best Korean BBQ outside of Korea. The owners are incredibly kind, and the food is simply fantastic. You’ll often catch me eating the spicy pork bulgogi or the dol soht bibim bap, both of which I highly recommend. Each meal includes a variety of side dishes, soup, and rice. As an added bonus, the prices are quite cheap, making a stop here an absolute must.

I hope you enjoyed this round-up of some of the best things Glendale, CA has to offer, and I hope to see you all here one day soon!

A Very Bavarian Adventure

Monday, February 23, 2015 | Stamp in My Passport| , , | 8 Comments

Monday, February 23, 2015

It's been pretty much decided that this Labor Day while everyone else is enjoying a day out on the lake, Samantha and I will be living out our dream of becoming a von Trapp. Seven days spent traipsing through the Bavarian Alps on a diet of bratzel and melted cheese is my idea of the perfect vacation. I'm still trying to come up with the perfect hashtag for the trip so said people out on their boats can follow along and realize how their vacation pales in comparison. 

To prepare for this adventure, I'm reading up on all of the Austrian Wars of Succession, and when that gets a little dull and/or confusing without the help of a timeline, I'm filling in the gaps by reading The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki. Side note: The Meet the Habsburgs promotional photoshoot Sarah and Kiel were a part of is kind of my favorite thing ever.

The week's tentative agenda will include visits to: 

Flickr Creative Commons | Rossella Di Maria
Neuschwanstein Castle - Because who doesn't want to pretend to be Cinderella for a little while? Plus, the hike up the hill to the castle will help burn off some of the calories from my strict bratzel, cheese and streusel diet. 

Munich Olympic Park - I'm obsessed with the Olympics, which more than likely stems from my severe lack of any sort of athletic ability, so I'm looking forward to exploring the site of the 1972 summer games.

Flickr Creative Commons | Christian Scheja
Dachau - In high school english, we did an extended lesson on Holocaust history, and although I know that this will be an extremely sobering experience, I think it will help to give a frame of reference to all of the books and history lessons I've read through on the subject.

Pinakothek Museum - The Pinakothek is one of the oldest art galleries in the world and houses one of the most famous collections of Old Master paintings (according to Wikipedia). I'm a master of the "stare - stand back - sigh" method of observing art and in my mind it makes me look like an art expert.

Flickr Creative Commons | amador_emmanuel34

Sound of Music tour - To fulfill my dream of being Leisel. That is all.

Mönchsberg Walk - According to Rick Steves, the Mönchsberg Walk is the "hills are alive" stroll you can enjoy in the heart of Salzburg. And who am I to argue with Rick Steves?

Flickr Creative Commons | Donald Windley

Munich Residenz - This former royal palace of the Bavarian monarchs of the House of Wittelsbach is the largest city palace in Germany. This will act as a point of comparision to the many palaces of the Habsburgs in Vienna.

Flickr Creative Commons | Iker
Everything related to the Habsburgs - Castles, artwork, more palaces, armour, musical instruments, ancient Greek statues, I want to see it all. To include, but not limited to, the Hofburg Imperial Apartments, Hofburg Treasury, Schönbrunn Palace (because everyone needs a summer palace as well) and the Hofburg New Palace Museums.

Cathedrals - Not to brag or anything, but my semester in Paris made me an expert on gothic cathedral architecture. Seriously, I could talk about apses, narthexes and naves for hours. I preferred the French and British cathedrals to the Italian (which are the Real Housewives of New Jersey of cathedrals) and I'm looking forward to compare the German style as well.


Saturday, February 21, 2015 | Stamp in My Passport| | 1 Comment

Saturday, February 21, 2015

I hope you are beginning to thaw from the beyond frigid temperatures the east coast suffered this week. Even Florida wasn't able to escape the record-breaking lows. Just in case it's still cold enough for boiling water to freeze midair (which I absolutely do not recommend, and neither does Buzzfeed), then it might be best to stay in bed with your coffee.

And while you are staying warm, take the time to plan your spring vacation. And while you're on that subject, it might not be a bad idea if you also plan how to save for it, too.

For those of you also participating in the #1800MinuteChallange, you won't want to miss Erin's 4 minute ab workout. You'll feel it the next day.

I'm in the process of creating my own washi tape gallery wall (because let's be honest, frames are kind of expensive when you have to buy a dozen of them) and enjoyed Samantha's creation out of snail mail.

I've been following Amanda's journey throughout Asia and now New Zealand. After over 1,000 days abroad, she has spot on advice.

15 minutes a day to a cleaner home? Sounds a little too good to be true. Even if it doesn't happen every single day, it's a much more realistic plan than frantically cleaning right before guests are set to arrive.

I want to send this article to my office building to completely overhaul our workspaces. They are office plans for introverts, which promote creativity, because the idea of sharing a completely open work environment is our biggest nightmare.

News alert: Selfie sticks are now banned in some museums. But don't worry, this ban isn't in place at the Louve so you can still get a selfie with the Mona Lisa.

Today You Can Find Me on Little City Adventures

Thursday, February 19, 2015 | Stamp in My Passport| , | 1 Comment

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Hello everyone! Today I am guest posting on Little City Adventures while Abby is busy moving into her new home. If, like me, your home or apartment is severely lacking in space or storage, you won't want to miss these organization tips.

And the winner is...

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 | Stamp in My Passport| | 1 Comment

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The pinnacle of awards season is on Sunday night! It's the time of the year when we all rush to Redbox or the theater to watch the movies deemed best by the industry insiders (of which there has been much controversy this year.) While everyone else is paying attention to the winner give their acceptance speech thanking God, their mother, the studio, blah blah blah, I like to watch the faces of the runner-ups as outwardly they look thrilled for their colleague, but inwardly they are counting down the hours until they can drown their sorrows at the after-party. Unfortunately, some can't manage the positive expression as well as others.

I had every intention of having an Oscars best picture marathon, but that didn't happen. Since I don't have enough time to see them all, which ones do you recommend as must-sees? 

Perhaps watching actors win awards for movies you have never heard of is not your thing and the red carpet is more your scene. At the height of my Rachel Zoe obsession, I couldn't get enough of awards season. Sadly, we will no longer have Joan Rivers' witty and sometimes mostly bitting commentary on Fashion Police. 

It's time to make your predictions in anticipation of Sunday night. If you are watching with friends or roommates, make a game of it and see who can guess the most winners correctly. I've included the main categories, plus a few of my favorites, below.

Tourist in Your Hometown: Toronto

Tuesday, February 17, 2015 | Stamp in My Passport| | 2 Comments

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I am so excited to kick off the Tourist in Your Hometown series again! And I'm even more excited that Mar is getting the ball rolling for us. If you haven't checked out her blog, it's a must read. Expect beautiful photos, especially of the Alaskan frontier if you read far enough back in her archives. Also, it's not too late if you would like to participate in this series as well. Just shoot me an email at stampinmypassport(at)gmail(dot)com. 

Hi friends! My name is Mar and I can be found over at T.O. & fro. I am a small town-raised, big city-living girl meant for a simple life surrounded by Mother Nature. I blog all about life as an environmental educator, outdoor enthusiast, animal lover, photography junkie and travel addict. 

My husband and I currently call the concrete jungle of Toronto home. For those unfamiliar with T.O., it is the capital of the province of Ontario and the biggest city in Canada, home to almost 6 million people in the Greater Toronto Area and growing! Having been raised in a small town/city of 75,000 and spending three years living in the Land of the Last Frontier, Alaska, moving to Toronto has posed its challenges for me. 

One way that I have survived the hustle and bustle of big city life is by embracing the idea of being a tourist in my town. People often take for granted everything their own city has to offer - you go from work to home and back and neglect the fact that you live in a thriving city, with an abundance of activities just outside your door. Why not appreciate the place you live, and even see it in a whole new light? No matter how long you've lived there, it's always an adventure to see the city you live in through the eyes of the tourist. Not only is a staycation going to save you time, money and stress, what you find just might surprise you. 

Here are some of my favourite things to see and do in the city of Toronto, in no particular order...

Toronto downtown skyline

Get a bird's eye view of the city from atop the CN Tower.

Blue Jays baseball game

Cheer on the Blue Jays at the Roger's Centre.

ferry to Toronto Islands

Take the ferry to the Toronto Islands.

chickadee in High Park Toronto
Look for urban wildlife in High Park.

Toronto Christmas Market lights
Visit the Distillery District's Christmas Market.

CNE food building

Overindulge in treats at the Canadian National Exhibition.

There are so many things to do in this city, and these are just the tip of the iceberg. Have you ever been to Toronto?