Tagged: travel

Father and Son Time in Philly!

Over Memorial Day weekend, my father and I set out on trip to Philadelphia. We flew out of Detroit Metro (and scored the new Motor City Badge). After an extra hour delay once we boarded the plane (they couldn’t have figured that out 10 minutes earlier so we didn’t have to sit on the plane?), we made our way to Philly.

The whole reason for the trip was for my dad to check out a 2002 Ford Thunderbird he had been eyeing online. He’s long been a T-Bird guy and even still owns his first new car, a 1978 navy blue T-Bird. He recently decided getting the “new” Thunderbird would be a lot less hassle for a mechanically challenged individual like himself than picking up a classic 55 version. I always thought this was a hypothetical, but a couple weeks prior I got a phone call asking if I wanted to go to New Jersey (where the car was, but just over the border) with him. After a little bit of planning we found a flight to Philadelphia, set up a hotel and reserved a rental car.

After arriving Friday morning, we got our rental car and headed to New Jersey (Side note: Chrysler 200s are a much better car than I had ever thought). We arrived at the dealership and took the T-Bird for a spin. The car was in incredible shape. I expected it to be nice, but this was almost brand new nice. The low mileage, decent price, perfect color and all the loaded features made this the right car for my dad. As I told him when he asked me what I thought he should do, if that is the car you’re looking for, you’ll never find it like this again. So, obviously, he went for it. It’s currently traveling back to Michigan as we speak.

The weather was pretty crappy that first day. It was raining and a bit chilly (hence the earlier mentioned plane delay). We left New Jersey and headed back to Philadelphia to check into our hotel. On the way we figured we could stop for a bite to eat, but apparently New Jersey has barely any place to stop. We ended up driving way out of our way to track down a McDonald’s.

By the time we made it to the hotel, it had been an extremely long day already. We settled in a bit and with the weather the way it was and being so exhausted we opted not to try and attempt any touristy things that night. I used Foursquare to pull up some dining options. I found a Penrose Diner not far away so we headed over. Their menu was massive! I went with a cheese steak, because, well, it was Philadelphia after all.

Independence Hall from across the mall.

IMG_1320Saturday was our day to do stuff. I knew I couldn’t miss the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, despite how truly touristy they are. They’re still big parts of American history. I can honestly say both my dad and I were incredibly impressed at the tour of Independence Hall and neighboring Congress Hall. They have such deep history, even more so than I had though/remembered from school. Definitely worth checking out if you find yourself in Philly. The bell was cool to see, since you hear about it so much. Unfortunately it was rather well guarded so I wasn’t able to sneak in a lick and see if it tasted like freedom. I guess I’ll just take your word for it, Ted Moesby.

While at the visitor center, we noticed an ad for a Supremes exhibit nearby. My father is a HUGE Supremes fan so he had to go, even if we were the only white dudes at the African American History Museum. It was pretty entertaining though. Some of those costumes they wore were absolutely crazy in detail and color. It was also fun to hear my dad reminisce about seeing the Supremes where certain outfits on TV and concerts he had attended.

Next up was the art museum. I had heard a lot about it. It’s huge, the steps are extremely famous if you’ve ever seen a little move called “Rocky” and we decided as two former art majors, we should give it a look. It really is huge. It was a little difficult getting to the appropriate lanes sometimes on the way there, but in the end we saw a lot of good stuff.

Originally I had planned to play the only disc golf course in the city, but due to weather (rain, wind, extreme wind) it did not happen. I also was interested in the Franklin Institute but we just ran out of time.

Sunday ended up just being an airport day as we didn’t have enough time to do much in the morning and the weather wasn’t great anyway. Overall, I’d like to go back and explore more. I barely got to experience any of the cuisine and there were a few other stops I’m sad to have missed out on. It was a great trip though, and I’m glad I could share in it with my dad. It was also a great trip for Foursquare badges. I ended up with four, and I think I narrowly missed out on a fifth. They’re below.

Motor City badgeHistorian level 2 badgeBET Say it Loud badge Phanatic badge

 

Review: Gogobot

Gogobot

Gogobot bills itself as a social travel site. It is part reviews, part recommendations and part passport of your travels. I’ve been using it for almost a couple years now, and I love it. It is full of terrific information that seems much realer than Yelp or similar services.

I was originally drawn to Gogobot just before I left for Switzerland. I read about this new startup that was hooking up social and travel in compelling ways and thought it might be useful. One of the cool social features is its integration with Foursquare. I hooked up my account and now it auto imports places I’ve been right into Gogobot. On occasion, I go back through and look at my recent imports. This gives me a good place to start when I want to post reviews of recent places I’ve been.

You do not have to be a Foursquare user to take advantage of Gogobot. You can add other places via their website or mobile app. I went through and added a lot of trips I took before ever having Foursquare. After you have added a few places you have been, you start building your digital passport. It gives you a nice breakdown of the countries, cities and individual places you’ve been. Sometimes I find myself just browsing it to relive old memories.

Screenshot of a Gogobot passport page.

Like many other travel sites, reviews are part of Gogobot. You can add a star rating, a short text review and/or photos to any place on Gogobot. It is pretty standard stuff, but when combined with the other site features, it becomes quite handy.

One of the coolest features, and one that sets it apart from the pack, is letting users ask questions to the community. Let’s say I’m headed to Toronto for a weekend and want to know the best places to eat or how to spend my Saturday afternoon. I can head over to Gogobot and post a question. Anyone who has been to Toronto (or my friends) would automatically see my question show up in their feed. If my friends so choose, they can add places I should check out.

Something that makes Gogobot fun to use is its gamification. There are a number of badges you can earn for various things like adding photos or reviews and having other people like your reviews. Each time you do an action (even visiting the site once a day) you earn points. There is a site-wide leaderboard that you can compete to be on top of (I used to be in the top 100, but as the site grew and I explored the world less, I’m in the 300s now. Each year Gogobot chooses members with outstanding contributions and badges them as pros. I was a 2012 pro, and it was pretty cool to have that little badge on my avatar throughout the site. There are even pro meetups in major cities (SF, NYC, Chicago), but I could never attend one. Maybe next year.

I’ve watched Gogobot really grow in the last couple of years. When I first started using it, there was not a lot of content outside of some major cities, and there were not a lot of users. It has since really blossomed, and now contains a wealth of information. The site itself has added many new features like making reservations for hotels and restaurants right on the site. Overall I’m extremely pleased with it. I find it quite useful for planning trips, or even discovering cool places I want to visit someday.

Honeymoonin’

Well I’m back. It was so great to take a break from “real life” and spend some quality time with my new wife among some of Michigan’s most beautiful landscapes. We spent our time near the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore in Empire. We took lots of little trips around the area doing various fun things like kayaking and even a little disc golf (yes, my wife rocks). There were lots of great wineries and food to be had. Here’s a quick glance at some of the highlights. It’s a little hard to get back to the everyday grind of things after such a wonderful trip but such is life.

 

funny picture of Christopher and Abby at the beach

sunset at Empire Beach

the happy couple posing next to lake michigan

Cherry Pie at The Cherry Hut

shadow of Abby and Christopher overlooking Lake Michigan

teeing off at the disc golf course

 

Anniversary of my Great Swiss Adventure

At this time a year ago I was packed and on my way to the adventure of a lifetime. I was taking my first overseas trip to join my fiance and start a three-month long internship at ICON Worldwide. I can’t believe it’s already been a year. It also happened to be Mother’s Day and my family came over to Kalamazoo to send me off (and thankfully drive me to a shuttle bus in Indiana headed for O’Hare).

I remember being slightly sick and extremely busy the couple of weeks beforehand. I was trying to finish up projects and pack and prepare frantically before my May 8 deadline. But it was here now and all that stood in the way of Switzerland was two planes and a train.

I finally finished the longest leg of the trip to Amsterdam and by that point had lost all sense of what time it was or even what day it was. From Schiphol I took a comparatively tiny flight over to Zurich (apparently I missed that check-in) and then nervously hopped a train to St. Gallen. I say nervously because I was so tired and very worried I was going to get on the wrong train.

The whole experience in Switzerland was surreal. I sometimes think it was all an elaborate dream, especially when I look back at pictures of the beautiful mountains and surroundings. I’m going to make another post that goes into details about some of my experiences in Europe and at the internship but for now, enjoy these scenes of Switzerland.