• Fiona the Hippo

    Fiona the Hippo lives at the Cincinnati Zoo and has become an internet sensation upon arrival. Her story is the feel-good story of the year for Cincinnati. She was born six weeks pre-mature and became the smallest hippo to survive born in captivity. She currently lives in the Hippo Habitat at the zoo with her mom Bibi. Sadly, her father Henry passed away in October.

    I finally got the chance to go and meet Fiona at the zoo last weekend and was not disappointed.  It was adorable to see children line up to see the hippos in the habitat and learn about one of the great animals from the African continent.

    The zoo has also had a major financial boost from Fiona. Attendance is up 22% last year largely due to the interest to see Baby Fiona. Zoo fundraising is also way up as donors reach out from all over the world to help provide supplies to care for the zoo animals.

  • American Sign Museum

    Sometimes it’s fun to be a tourist in your own city. I visited the American Sign Museum in downtown Cincinnati in the historic district of Camp Washington.  The museum is dedicated to the art of signs and takes visitors on a journey through a 100-year journey of sign making.

    The museum is housed in a 20,000 square foot space so it’s perfect to visit year round. It is the largest public sign museum in the United States. They also offer space for parties and private events in a super unique atmosphere.

    The signage brought back fond memories from my childhood with the giant McDonald’s and Howard Johnson signage.

  • LGBTQ Rainbow Flag

    The LGBTQ flag was invented in 1978 by Gilbert Baker, a gay rights activist, army veteran, artist, and self-declared “gay Betsy Ross.”

    He created the flag for the 1978 Gay Freedom Pride Parade in San Francisco, at the request of Harvey Milk, a gay local politician who was assassinated later that year.

    The original flag had eight colors, each carrying a specific meaning. In 1979, the palette was condensed to six colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet). The rainbow is the perfect representation of celebrating diversity, community, acceptance, and tolerance.

    Cincinnati Pride started in 1973 and formed out of a political protest in Fountain Square and celebrated its 45th year on Saturday at Sawyer Point.  Over 90,000 people now partake in the day’s festivities including a parade and all-day festival.

     

  • Cincinnati Pride Festival

    June is Pride month when cities across America show support for LGBTQ rights, culture and community. It is a month-long celebration, protest and political activism in almost every major city in the U.S.

    The history of Pride dates back to the late 1960s at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in NYC. The venue was known as the rare spot where same-sex patrons could dance with each other without the fear of harassment. 

    At the time, it was fairly common for police to raid gay bars and nightclubs, especially in big cities like New York City and Los Angeles. Sometimes these raids would result in violence on behalf of officers.

    In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, the police raided Stonewall, but this time, the patrons fought back. Marsha P. Johnson, a black trans woman celebrating her 25th birthday at the time, is credited with starting the uprising.  The Stonewall Riots consisted of thousands of people and lasted for six days.  It was a tipping point in history where everything changed for the LGBTQ community. In 2016, President Obama declared the Stonewall Inn a national landmark.

    The 45th annual Cincinnati Pride Parade and Festival took place at Sawyer Point on the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati on Saturday. It was so much fun to attend and see the atmosphere full of music, dancing and all around positivity.

  • Cleveland Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

    At least once a year I make a trip to the Rock Hall in Cleveland. Maybe it is because I have been a rock photographer for the past decade but I also love seeing the new and special displays. In past years I have seen exhibits on Women in Rock, Summer U.S. Festivals and the Rolling Stones. The current special exhibit at the Hall of Fame is Summer of Love Turns 50.

    The museum receives over 500,000 visitors but many come from out of the area.
    It is awesome that the entrance to the Hall of Fame will now be free to Cleveland residents to allow locals to experience everything the hall has to offer.

  • Beyoncé and Jay Z Takeover the Louvre

    Beyoncé and Jay Z broke the internet with the release of their video for their new song “Apeshit” off of their collaboration album Everything Is Love. The setting of the entire video was the Louvre, the largest art museum in the world located in Paris.

    Throughout the video Beyoncé and her dancers are swaying and strutting around the museum, upstaging a lot of the artworks behind them.  “I was thinking a lot about how people – especially white people, European and American people – go to really romanticize empire, to think about genealogies of white male artists, and then we have Beyoncé, a black woman, and her husband, dancing around in the Louvre,”art historian Alexandra Thomas told TIME Magazine. She went on to call this juxtaposition “an embodied intervention of Western art.”

    There’s also some representation of black art in the video. Their commentary on black wealth resonates in the Louvre’s Egyptian galleries, where Beyoncé raps in front of the Great Sphinx of Tanis. At the end of the video shows the two in front of the Mona Lisa, with Beyoncé conveying a similar facial expression to the famous artwork.

    Personally, I love the Louvre and I can stare hours at the Mona Lisa….some call it small but I think it is an amazing masterpiece from DaVinci. I go and visit her every time I visit Paris.

  • Korea – DMZ

    Korea is a country with rich history and one of my favorite countries in Asia to visit because of its unique culture and the warmth of its people. I have visited the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and Joint Security Area (JSA) several times over the past 10 years. It’s a popular tourist destination and has an extreme waiver that participants must sign to visit the area. The waiver says that the government cannot guarantee the safety of visitors from hostile acts and not to make any gestures toward the North Korean soldiers at the border.

    One of the most interesting parts of the visit is entering the conference room in the blue building, where half of the room is in North Korea and half of the room is in South Korea. This is the room where the two countries have come together for meetings.

    For many in South Korea, President Trump’s recent historic meeting with Kim Jong Un in Singapore last week was seen as an opportunity instead of a failure. In a Gallup survey, more than 1,000 people two days after the summit, two-thirds of the population said they think the Kim/Trump meeting was a success. Only one in 10 thought it a failure.

    When we entered the building the back door of the building was closed and South Korean soldiers stood guard as we walked around the table to North Korea. The photo above shows the Republic of Korea (South Korea) soldiers standing guard at the JSA in between North Korea and South Korea in the village of Panmunjom.

    My hope is that these two countries can be united in the future with peace and families can be reunited through a peaceful negotiation process over time.

  • Top 10 airports in the world

    The Travel Addict rated the world’s airports based on shopping, food options and ease of transfer in the list is below. This is limited to airports I have actually visited all over the globe so some of my travel issues may have changed the rankings in a positive and negative way. I have flown over 2 million miles through countless airports. A lot of my experiences are based on how helpful the staff working is at each airport and how happy they are to help you out when you really need it.

    #1 Seoul Incheon International Airport, Korea (ICN)

    Everyone working there is gracious and super helpful. This airport is a joyous place, to say the least.

    This airport has some of the world’s best shopping with all of the popular and luxurious brands including Chanel, LV, Gucci, Hermes etc. You can also participate in the Korea Heritage Center arts and crafts where you can learn the art of origami or paint a traditional fan.

    There are also two of my favorite travel snacks, Mr. Donut for their specialty Pon De Ring and Smoothie King for a liquid pick me up between flights.

    #2 Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok Thailand (BKK)

    This airport is fairly new, it opened in 2006 and is the ninth busiest airport in Asia. For the adventurous foodie, there’s everything from Thai dishes and ramen to sushi, pizza, pub food and much more. It has amazing people and shops, even a Tiffany & Co., in the airport.

    Despite being built over an old graveyard, Suvarnabhumi is Sanskrit and means “Land of Gold.” The architecture of the building was designed by Helmut Jahn and is stunning. The airport is on what has been known as Nong Nguhao, also called Cobra Swamp.

    #3 Dubai International Airport, United Arab Emirates (DXB)

    Everything is modern and state of the art and probably the cleanest airport I have visited. In my opinion, Dubai has some of the best airline lounges in the world and that’s what sets it apart. You can literally have almost anything you desire in the Emirates Lounge.

    I was stranded in Dubai airport for 24 hours once and I was able to get a massage, fantastic meals and they somehow found a strawberry milkshake for me at 2 am once without me leaving the lounge. They also have a secret way to board your plane without entering general population from the lounge.

    They have dedicated people working there and an efficient a bus system that takes you to different terminals at a rapid pace. Not to mention it’s the world’s busiest airport for international travelers.

    #4 Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson Airport, Georgia (ATL)

    My top pick in the US. I am a very dedicated Delta customer and ATL is the heart of the Delta team and they are always willing to help as needed. I find their train system extremely quick and easy to navigate

    ATL has Minute Suites near Gate B16. The company offers snug rooms available to rent by the hour for long layovers where you can take a nap on their daybeds, catch up on work in a quiet room with high-speed internet that actually works or watch TV on the giant flat screen in every room.

    Also, ATL often has live musicians playing in several terminals. It can be a live piano performance in the International terminal or smooth jazz saxophone on the domestic side of the airport.

    If I am going to be stranded in any airport in the states, this is the place I’d rather be stuck at.

    #5 Tokyo Narita Airport, Japan (NRT)

    It is quiet…maybe the quietest airport in the world. Japanese people and culture are known for their politeness and attention to detail. Everything is clearly marked, the staff is very helpful and did I mention it is so quiet? After you leave the pandemonium of Tokyo which is one of the most bustling more populated cities and it’s a nice change of pace to relax and wait for your flight.

    They also probably have the best restrooms in any airport. The cleanliness is impeccable. They think of everything in these bathrooms from the Toto toilets with the heated seats to places to rest your purse while you use the facilities inside the stalls.

    As a side note, I’m not a huge fan of Japanese food so this airport boasts the best tasting McDonalds in the world.

     #6 John F. Kennedy Airport, New York (JFK)

    Ease of connection and access to the world. JFK is located in one of my favorite cities to visit NYC and I connect through JFK a lot to get a direct flight to Europe, South America and Africa.

    It has a great selection of restaurants including mid-range price options like Marcus Samuelsson’s Uptown Brasserie and fast food spots like Shake Shack.

    The Delta Sky Club lounge is a flagship and one of the best Delta lounges in the world. In concourse B there’s an observation deck to watch planes take off and land. It provides a rare glimpse of the outside and fresh air in an airport setting.

    #7 Detroit Metro Airport, Michigan (DTW)

    When you think of Detroit you may not think of the best airport in the world but it is actually a beautiful bright space. With two main terminals and a sky train, it’s easy to navigate on flight connections. Since the merger with Northwest, DTW has many direct flights all over the US and Europe.

    You can get spa services at Be Relax or calm down from the rigors of a long travel day in the lounge area with Starbucks while watching the water feature simulating flight patterns around the world in concourse A.

    #8 Salt Lake International Airport, Utah (SLC)

    You can’t beat this beautiful view as you land at the airport.  I love an extra tourist option. The airport offers free shuttles and tours downtown of the church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints Mormon temple.

    If you decide to stay at the airport there are plenty of affordable fast food options to grab a quick bite or drink. Chef Cat Cora also has her restaurant which serves cocktails and tapas in Terminal One. While in Terminal Two Cora has her on-the-go gourmet market for more bustling travelers.

    Want to take the edge off of traveling? High West Distillery serves up Rocky Mountain Whiskey. It was Utah’s first distillery since the 1870’s, High West Distillery and Saloon offers a truly unique experience as the world’s only ski-in distillery and gastro-saloon in Park City and now explorers can experience a bit of it in the airport.

    For all of the chocoholics, you’re not forgotten. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory features locally made gourmet chocolates and candy.

    #9 Sydney Kingsford Smith International, Airport Australia (SYD)

    My experience in Sydney is somewhat crazy. I have traveled to Australia several times and sometime between my first and second trip, they changed the visa requirements to enter the country for Americans. I did not have the required visa and was somehow allowed to board the plane in Seattle to go to Sydney.

    Upon arrival, I was stuck in customs and I wasn’t sure if I was going to end up like Tom Hanks in “The Terminal.” They would not let me enter the country even though I tried to convince them the US and Australia are friends. (I used those exact words!) Usually, you have an option to get a visa when you arrive but not in Australia, you have to buy it from outside the country.

    They did however eventually take pity on me and allow me to enter the Air New Zealand business class lounge and access the internet with a very helpful staff who allowed me to rebook and transfer to a flight to New Zealand to get a visa. It was a very expensive travel mistake. I am pretty sure my luggage didn’t travel with me but when I landed in New Zealand. I was able to purchase a visa to Australia for $15. It was the longest day (two days) of travel I have experienced.

    For their hospitality and being the gateway to an extraordinary country, this airport makes the list.

    #10 Charles De Gaulle Paris Airport, France (CDG)

    This airport makes the cut solely because they have Laduree Paris macarons, simply the best cookies on the planet Earth. Macarons come in flavors such as pistachio, black-currant-and-violet, and caramel. There are also gift collections of candles, totes, and almond-scented body creams. There is no seating, there is a collectible box featuring the portrait of a Parisian pooch named Mademoiselle Fifi.

    The airport is the largest international airport in France, the second largest in Europe and the seventh busiest airport in the world. CDG has over 120 shops from Cartier to Sephora. Whether it’s fashion, chocolate or spirits you can find everything your heart desires even Mademoiselle Fifi.

  • Dr. Seuss Themed Water Park

    It’s no surprise that last year, Carnival carried approximately 5,000,000 passengers, 800,000 were children. Outside, above the lido deck of the Carnival Horizon, a 455-foot-long water tube is a part of the Dr. Seuss-themed water park, which looks like a blast for kids and adults alike. The new ship also boasts an 800-foot-long sky ride around its top deck and, on the inside, an IMAX Theater. Like other Carnival ships, Horizon has a range of other deck-top fun zones, eateries, bars and entertainment.

  • Lip Sync Battle on Carnival Ship

    The main event everyone was waiting for on the Carnival Horizon was a unique Lip Sync Battle between Queen Latifah and Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliot. First up on stage was CEO Arnold Donald and Carnival president Christine Duffy got the crowd warmed up to The Black Eyed Peas’ ‘I Got a Feeling (Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night)’.

    Elliot took the stage next with gold, glittery pants, and a colossal blonde wig as he performed Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again.” Queen Latifah took the stage next with a yellow raincoat dress as she belted out “It’s Raining Men” by The Weather Girls. Both performances were complete with enthusiasm, back up dancers and some serious outfits. Voting was done by crowd applause and Queen Latifah was the clear winner.