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Archive for the ‘Travel experiences’ Category

Downtown Houston

Downtown Houston by telwink, on Flickr

When picking a new travel assignment, you can compare the “cool” factor of cities across the country.  Forbes ranked 65 American cities based on how cool a place they are to live. Cities with abundant entertainment and recreational opportunities, large number of restaurants and pubs (excluding chains), young diverse population, significant migration into the city, and low unemployment rate were the factors used to compile the list.

Houston’s strong economy has spurred its enviable growth. Residents and visitors enjoy world-class arts, pro sports teams, award-winning cuisine and loads of shopping in the nation’s fourth largest city.

WHAT TO SEE

  • •Buy a $2 METRORail ticket and go explore Houston’s Museum District. With 19 museums and a 50-acre zoo, the intellectually curious will find a range of satisfying topics from the Holocaust to postmodern art.
  • •Bike or hike on trails inside the 10.4 acre downtown Sesquicentennial Park or kayak through Buffalo Bayou during a four hour urban excursion.
  • •Play at the number #1 ranked children’s museum in the country or take the kids to the Health Museum—it’s part of the world renowned Texas Medical Center.
  • •Shopaholics can spend days in the Galleria with more than 375 stores. Take a break at the indoor ice skating rink.
  • •Spend an evening at the 17-block Theater District. Reserve a seat at the Alley Theater, the Houston Grand Opera, or Houston Symphony.
  • •Sports fans can back their favorite pro team. H-town has its own football, baseball, basketball, soccer, and hockey teams.

TOP TEN

The top ten coolest cities in America are:

Houston, Texas

Washington, D.C.

Los Angeles, California

Dallas, Texas

Seattle, Washington

San Diego, California

Boston, Massachusetts

Orange County, California

San Francisco, California

New York, New York

Jim Twardowski, BSN, RN, CMSRN, is a travel writer based in Louisiana. His work has been featured in AAA Home & AwayGlobal Traveler, and QUEST magazines.

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Florida vacation & June 08-45

Flordia vacation & June 08-45 by juliawhite1115, on Flickr

For years, my family has spent summer vacations soaking up the sun on different Gulf Coast beaches. It is one of my favorite ways to relax.

In July, we drove to Florida’s Navarre Beach. Situated between Pensacola and Destin, its welcome sign reads, “Florida’s Best Kept Secret.” I have to agree. If you are on assignment in northwest Florida or just looking for a place to rejuvenate, Navarre Beach is a narrow strip of heaven on earth.   

WHAT TO SEE AND DO

  • Playing in the sugar white sand and clear, emerald green waters is the number one reason to visit Navarre. Beach umbrellas and lounge chairs can be rented for $25 per day.
  • Walk or fish on the new Navarre Beach Fishing Pier, the longest of any piers in the Gulf of Mexico and a short stroll from our condo. Visitors pay $1 each to walk the 1,545-foot pier and $7 to fish. On weekends, live music plays at the adjacent Pier Restaurant.
  • Bike along the National Seashore–an eight-mile stretch of undeveloped shoreline protected by the federal government. Only ten coastal areas in the U.S. have received this recognition. Take a camera to snap photos of nesting sea turtles or the towering dunes.
  • Hang out at Juana’s Pagodas (look for the thatched roofs) beside the Navarre Bridge.  The complex includes a restaurant, bakery, and pub. You may also rent jet skis, a sailboat, boogie board, stand-up paddleboard, bike, and/or a surfboard.

WHERE TO STAY

If you are within driving distance but too far for a day trip, you may opt to stay overnight. My family and I stayed at the new high-rise condominium, Beach Colony West. Our 1,700-square-foot unit had three bedrooms and three bathrooms. A large picture window and sliding glass door in the living room provided views of the water. The best spot to enjoy morning coffee was the outdoor, circular porch with a table for four. This complex boasts the largest swimming pool in Navarre.

Condos are an affordable option for multiple families or couples who want to share the cost. Contact Gulf Blue Vacations (gulftbluevacations.com for information. Rates vary by season. (The condo, for example, rents for $2,420 per week in July.) After September 15, the weekly rate is half that amount. Taxes and cleaning fees are additional.

MORE INFORMATION

Visit floridabeachestorivers.com for tips on planning a laidback beach getaway.

Jim Twardowski, BSN, RN, CMSRN, is a travel writer based in Louisiana. His work has been featured in AAA Home & AwayGlobal Traveler, and QUEST magazines.

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On September 10, 2001, as I crossed the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, I looked to my right for a final glimpse of the cityscape. Since I’d moved away, the Manhattan skyline had become synonymous with “home.” From an eastbound viewpoint, it signified that I was almost there. And any time I traveled the bridge to return to Maryland, it represented the loved ones and lifestyle I would soon miss again.

The following morning—around 8:30 am on 9/11—I chatted breezily with my Healthcare Traveler colleagues about the John Mellencamp concert I’d attended at Jones Beach on September 9th. Not more than 20 minutes later, one of them abruptly swept back into my cubicle.

“Bobbi!” said Carolyn. “The news is on in the conference room. A plane just crashed into one of the buildings at the World Trade Center!”

I followed her to the area where a number of our coworkers had already congregated. As we stood there watching the live coverage, I wondered how the jet could have gotten so horribly off course. And I felt sick when I thought about the people on the affected floors of the tower who, like us, had just started their workday.

Then the second plane hit.

Oh, no, I thought in stunned silence, trying to process it all. This is deliberate.

I felt a sense of urgency in wanting to be near family and friends so I drove back to New York on September 14th. As I crossed the bridge into Brooklyn and looked at the skyline, I had to catch my breath. There was a large plume of white smoke hugging the area where the towers once stood. And while the vista still signified home, it was one of the most heartbreaking sights I’d ever seen.

I interviewed an RN and a CST who had been on assignment at two different New York City hospitals on that tragic day. Like so many in the New York metropolitan area, they wanted to do more.

Cover of the Nov/Dec 2001 issue of Healthcare Traveler

Dee, the nurse, donated blood and walked around the city for 9 hours handing out food, water, gloves, and masks with a colleague. Jason, the surgical technologist, volunteered at Chelsea Pier — where a triage center and ORs had been set up — and participated in a “bucket brigade” at Ground Zero.

Every year, in addition to remembering those lost on 9/11, I think about Dee and Jason—as well as the firefighters, police officers, paramedics, civilians, and other clinicians—who went above and beyond to help those directly affected by the unforgettable tragedy. Compassionate and dedicated, these exceptional healthcare travelers were a shining example of the inherent goodness in most people. And their selfless acts, along with those of countless others, provided a sense of comfort and community during a time of shock and overwhelming sadness.

***

As we honor the memory of those who lost their lives and those who volunteered their support and skills, we invite you to share your thoughts and comments here on our blog or via Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest.

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Photo: Parka81 via Flickr.com

If you happen to find yourself near San Diego this weekend, you should drop by the San Diego Convention Center. Comic-Con, one of the largest and most original conventions of the year, starts today and lasts through Sunday.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that everyone has to dress up as superheroes, and that going in with “normal” clothes would put you out of place. That may have been true in the past, but Comic-Con has evolved into more of a meet-n-greet between comic aficionados, movie fans, and A-list celebrities.

Don’t expect a stuffy experience like other typical conventions either. Comic-Con is all about interaction, such as Q&As with the stars from summer blockbusters like “The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Expendables 2.”

Not an avid moviegoer? There’s still plenty to see at the hundreds of booths and smaller events for popular book series like George R.R. Martin‘s “A Song of Ice and Fire” or Seth Grahame-Smith’s popular novel “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”.

Photo: Parka81 via Flickr.com

But if you’re one of those aforementioned comic-book nerds, and you’re concerned that Comic-Con has lost its roots and become another glamorous, red-carpet Hollywood affair, you need not worry. Comic-Con is still a haven for those who avidly follow Spider-man, Batman, and even Aquaman. Whichever do-gooder (or evil nemesis) is your favorite, there will likely be a plethora of merchandise devoted to the classic comic book character. If you feel like going the extra mile to finally make your public appearance as Wonder Woman or Superman, this would be the place to do it. In fact, you’ll blend right in.

So whether out of simple curiosity, or because you love movies, books, shows, or just plain “nerding out” as the obscure Storm Trooper mentioned in issue #12 of “Star Wars“, you’re almost guaranteed to find something to enjoy—and interesting stories to tell your family and friends—at this one-of-a-kind gathering of unique-minded people.

Anne Baye Ericksen is a professional writer who has contributed to Healthcare Traveler since 1996. She resides with her family in Simi Valley, Calif.

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Asian Cuisine

Getty Images/Wojciech Wisniewski

As a self-proclaimed foodie, I cherish any opportunity to treat my taste buds to regional fare. From California cuisine to Southern comfort cooking, Tennessee BBQ to Midwest meat and potatoes, each region is known for a certain flavor palate.

As healthcare travelers, you’re the lucky one’s who get to eat your way through the country, one assignment at a time.

Of course, you could watch shows like “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” to get the low down on a city’s top places to eat; or use the many apps out there that suggest restaurants when you’re in a new community (try Urbanspoon, LocalEats, and Zagat); but the most surefire way to find good local grub is through word of mouth.

Surely your new co-workers, or even patients, have offered their two cents on where to find the best burgers, fine dining, and Asian cuisine. After all, who better to know where the tasty treasures lie than the people who eat there regularly?

However, not every town can be a gourmet destination. Some may be five star worthy, while others are more home style — both delicious depending on what you’re craving. Then again, some communities are known best for certain ingredients: think seafood in Seattle or New Orleans, ranch-fresh beef in Texas or Oklahoma, and juicy citrus in Florida and California.

It makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

So here’s your chance to share your culinary POV. Are there certain restaurants that you go back to time and time again when returning somewhere on repeat assignments?

Where did you have the most unique dishes?

What cities were food-centric?

Tell us about your favorite on-the-road eats by sending your restaurant review to nikobuns@roadrunner.com, or simply leaving a comment below.

Be sure to include the establishment’s name, city, state, and why you think it ranks among the best around. Then check out the August issue of Healthcare Traveler to see if your favorites made the cut.

Bon Appétit!

Anne Baye Ericksen is a professional writer who has contributed to Healthcare Traveler since 1996. She resides with her family in Simi Valley, Calif.

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Photo: JoeyBLS Photography via Flickr.com

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be blind? The exhibit Dialog in the Dark takes participants on a one-hour journey through the streets of New York City in a completely dark environment.

Led by guides who are blind or visually impaired, participants’ senses are heightened as they haltingly navigate across busy, simulated streets, to a subway station, and into Times Square.

Open Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Dialog in the Dark is located at the South Street Seaport next to BODIES the Exhibition. Adult tickets are $23.50 and can be purchased at the exhibit box office, on Ticketmaster.com, or by calling 1-888-926-3437.

More than 15 million people worldwide have experienced BODIES the Exhibition, currently open to the public in New York City, Atlanta, and Las Vegas. BODIES the Exhibition features real human bodies, preserved using mortuary science, standing in an array of athletic poses. Unlike idealized models, the more than 200 respectfully displayed specimens provide a far more accurate understanding of anatomy.

Open seven days a week in NYC, adult tickets are sold on Ticketmaster.com for $28.50.

Where to Stay

Seven New York City hotels are offering buy one get one free admission to Dialog in the Dark.  The hotels participating in this promotion include:

  • Hilton Times Square
  • Hilton New York Fashion District
  • DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Times Square
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Metropolitan Hotel
  • Hampton Inn Manhattan Times Square North
  • Hilton Garden Inn New York/West 35th Street
  • Hilton Garden Inn Times Square

The NY Super Sale Package includes a reduced rate accommodation, buy one/get one free admission to Dialog in the Dark, and a $5 off coupon to Madame Tussauds from now through December 31, 2012.  Use code NX or NX1 at the Hilton online, or mention it when calling 1-800-HILTONS.

Jim Twardowski, BSN, RN, CMSRN, is a travel writer based in Louisiana. His work has been featured in AAA Home & AwayGlobal Traveler, and QUEST magazines.

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Photo: Jim Twardowski

Each year, as soon as spring has sprung, I head to the local garden center. This year, I find a flower bed filled with bright red impatiens, a manicured front lawn, and a backyard filled with blooming azaleas, gardenias, agapanthas, and hydrangeas.

When I travel, I enjoy spending time in lushly landscaped gardens. Walking amongst the blooming plants provides inspiration for my own yard.

You, too, can find public gardens by visiting the American Public Gardens Association website. Featuring information on public gardens in all 50 states, track down and learn about gardens ranging from sculpture and topiary to aviary and Japanese. Use the “Garden Search” tool to locate one in your state, and here is a sample of what you might find:

Pennsylvania

The Brandywine Conservancy preserves art and the environment in Pennsylvania. American art is exhibited in the Brandywine River Museum — a 19th-century grist mill. Surrounded by wildflower and native plant gardens, providing a variety of blooms from early spring until the first frost, the museum houses a collection of works by Andrew, Jamie and N.C. Wyeth, as well as American illustrations, still life, and landscape paintings.

Idaho

Hundreds of gardens are located on college and university campuses across the country, but the 63-acre University of Idaho Arboretum and Botanical Garden sits in a valley with the rolling Palouse hills as a backdrop. Geographically arranged, visitors will see Asian, European, Eastern, and Western North American plant groupings.

Georgia

The American Camellia Society is based at Massee Lane Gardens and hosts the Festival of Camellia’s every February. The 100-acre botanical garden is located in the middle of Georgia, and a nine-acre section contains over 1,000 varieties of camellias.

National Public Gardens Day is on May 11 and Better Homes and Gardens is providing free admission to participating gardens. Simply visit the BHG website and download the voucher.

Even if you don’t have a green thumb, visiting a public garden is a relaxing way to enjoy nature. And, you might just gain a greater appreciation for your own backyard!

Jim Twardowski, BSN, RN, CMSRN, is a travel writer based in Louisiana. His work has been featured in AAA Home & Away, Global Traveler, and QUEST magazines.

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