Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Countdown Continues: Travel Writing Gnomes

As loyal readers know, I frequently beef about the current state of travel writing. Too many people are hanging up a 'travel writer' shingle without knowing how to write...and in some cases...not really knowing how to travel. 

Looking for clues as to whether someone is a decent writer? If an article, blog post, and press release is packed with phrases like hidden gems, winter wonderland or the dreaded something for everyone....run away....fast.   

Tusk, Tusk: Elephants Never Forget Trite Writing
For those seeking to become better writers, or for those looking for a laugh, please take a peek at these popular posts, which cumulatively come in at #4 on my Top 9 Posts countdown list.  

The best of the worst: http://dailysuitcase.blogspot.com/2013/10/9-gnomes-about-travel-writing.html

Mr. Bill says, "Oh, nooooo...
not another travel cliche." 

Objecting to Bad Spelling and Improper Direct Objects: http://dailysuitcase.blogspot.com/2013/09/9-more-gnomes-about-travel-writing.html

On redundancies, cliches and something for everyone:

Don't be a horse's......
Hightail it to the dictionary,
your 'mane" source for spelling and homonyms


Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Top 9 Countdown Continues: Happy Sheep Year!

Given that this is The Year of the Sheep, it is somewhat fitting that my pun-filled homage to Idaho's Trailing of the Sheep Festival gets retold today. In fact, the Hemingwayesque tale is among the most popular yarns ever spun on this blog. In fact, as we count down the Top 9 Daily Suitcase posts to date, Idaho entries rank at numbers 6 and 5. Read up and you'll understand why the state should be famous for more than potatoes alone. 

6.  A Farewell to Yarns:  An ode to one of the country's top festivals.

5. Nine Things You Didn't Know About Idaho: Idaho doesn't get a whole lotta love from the rest of the country. Certainly, when most people think of the state, if they think of it at all, images of potato fields and a blue football field come to mind. But Idaho has so much more to offer, including shimmering lakes, spectacular mountains, and quirky museums. I write about the state frequently, but this particular post piqued the most interest.

Payette Lake in McCall

Sun Valley

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Top 9 Posts: The Runner-Ups

I've written hundreds of posts during the five years Daily Suitcase has been in existence. But certain topics always seem to resonate with my dear readers. They include accounts of exotic excursions; my infatuation with Idaho;  my proclivity for punning; and rants against hackneyed travel writing. But by far the most popular post ever...and this is the naked truth...is the tale of going au naturel at a German spa.

But that's just a tease, because I am going to do my Top 9 countdown in reverse, in threesomes. Today, you get numbers seven, eight, and nine.

9. A Trans-Siberian Postscript: An account of  my adventures on the Russian rails.

Riding the Trans-Siberian Route
Along the Shores of Lake Baikal

Me in Front of the World's Largest
Lenin Head in Ulan Ude

St. Basil's Cathedral, Moscow

8. It's Just Another Manic Punday: Although I have recently started a #ManicPunday gabfest on Twitter (every other Monday from 12:30-1:00 PM EST....please join in), this success of this early quip of the same name astounds me. If you don't feel like clicking the link, below is the post in its entirety. 


I have been staying at the Peabody Hotel in Orlando the past few days for a speaking gig at a travel industry conference. Inspired by the ducks that march through the lobby here on a daily basis, I present this week's Punday entry. Hope it quacks you up.

A duck walks into a bar.
He orders a Wild Turkey.
He asks the wader to put it on his bill.

7. Go Directly to Jail:: I've been collecting international versions of Monopoly for 25 years. I have nearly 50 boards, but.those bought in Communist countries are my pride and joy. Yes, I have authentic 1980s versions of the game that celebrates capitalism at its most unscrupulous from Yugoslavia, Poland, and Romania. This post recounts tales of the chance discoveries.

One of Two Games Purchased
in Romania. Note the presidential
caricatures on the money.
In the next post, we shall move up the food chain. Expect stories from the Spud State 
and my beefs with bad travel writing.
To be continued ...

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Russia Tourism Outlook 2015

If political correctness doesn't affect your travel choices, Russia might be an excellent option for long-haul travel in 2015. The declining ruble makes the place a bargain for anyone spending dollars, euros or pounds.  My story for CNN gauges the travel forecast there.

To read the full story, please go to


Monday, February 2, 2015

50 Shades of Wildlife: An R-Rated Valentine's Day Story

Kudos to Sara Widness and Dave Wiggins of  Widness and Wiggins PR for coming up with this sweetheart of a press release.     I've added a few comments of my own in  pink.

All the World Loves a Lover -
Wild Planet Adventures Delivers
Week’s Worth of Animal World Courtship
In Honor of Valentine’s Day

“All the world loves a lover,” mused American thinker, Ralph Waldo Emerson.  That being said, with Valentine’s Day around the corner, here’s a week’s worth of romantic courtship rituals of the wild kingdom.

Wild Planet Adventures, the recognized experts in viewing wildlife through habitat-sustaining practices, call these rituals “Animal Valentines.” Following are founder Josh Cohen’s personal favorites.

1) Gibbons: Nature’s Great Crooners: For these tree-top swingers, marital harmony begins with sonic harmony. Each morning, males and females of these Asian apes sing love duets to each other as the mist burns off the rainforest. The duet is repeated in such precise sequences that it often takes newlyweds many months to learn to make beautiful music together. In a duet between a male and a female, the female's part is a long, rising series of notes that end in a fast "twitter". The male's song is less complicated. He grunts, squeals and whistles in delight. (Sounds familiar) 

And the best place to see Gibbons in the wild: From an exotic treehouse in Thailand. Wild Planet Adventures suggested trip:Thailand - Ultimate Wildlife 15-Day EcoTour starting at $4,498 per person double.

2) Tarsiers – Tiny Tenors: These tiny, uber-cute, wide-eyed primates use sound as part of their courtship rituals, performed by the male. During courting, potential partners often chase each other around while making distinctive soft sounds. The male, if aroused, will escalate his sound within five minutes of merely looking at an attractive female. The female, if receptive, will display her genitals invitingly; however, if she is not sufficiently wooed, she’ll emit an antagonistic call, often followed by biting and pushing the male away. Ironically, when mating begins, they maintain complete silence. Once bonded, Tarsiers are extremely vocal and make loud shrieks with their partners. In fact, they call in harmony, with each partner making its own distinct sounds. (I got nothing here--I'm still stuck on the female openly displaying her genitals)

Best place to see Tarsiers in the wild: Borneo.  Wild Planet Adventures arranges nocturnal expeditions to see both Tarsiers and Slow Loris on Borneo - Weird & Wonderful Wildlife 12-Day EcoTour at $6,496 per person double.

3) Resplendent Quetzal: Beauty with Equality: Perhaps the most beautiful of all birds, the resplendent quetzal sports gorgeous two-foot-long green tail feathers, a red breast, blue sides and green crown. In February, just in time for Valentine’s Day, males begin an elaborate courtship ritual to entice females. In a dazzling display of color and sensuality, they circle in the sky with their long tails dancing behind them, then dive down to the cloud forest treetops in hopes of attracting females. By March, once a mate has been selected and the mating process is underway, males can easily be seen sharing nesting duties with females, alternating guarding the eggs every half hour, including sitting on them (the male quetzal is an excellent role model, IMHO) 

Best places to see Quetzals: Monteverde Cloudforest on Wild Planet Adventures Costa Rica - Ultimate Wildlife 14-Day EcoTour (also 10.5 and 9-day tours) starting at $4,998 per person double. 

4) Tigress – Saving Herself for True Love? Female tigers distinguish between true love and “friends with benefits”. Normally tigers take as long as a full day to develop mutual confidence, through ritualized purring, playing and moving their tails left to right with spring in their steps.  Once the tigress has developed confidence, she will roll over on her back in a playful manner, rub her face, and move closer to the male tiger, who will mount her. Their climax is signaled by a loud roar. Then the tigress turns her head and takes a swipe at the tiger with her foreleg. The tiger instinctively takes evasive action. The tigress then rolls over her back to facilitate insemination. However, if the tiger is a transient male just passing through the area and its dominance is not clearly established, the tigress will treat him like a “friend with benefits”, engaging in “false mating”, but not rolling over on her back.
(I don't know--nookie after only a "full day" of courtship still seems rather slutty to me. Plus, that transient male --seems to me he's getting all the upside without getting kicked in the face)

Best places to see Tigers in the wild:  Bardia National Park in Nepal is a great destination for tiger viewing. Untamed India & Nepal 19-Day Wildlife Safariis the trip to take.

5) Giraffes – Nature’s Great Neckers: Male giraffes will establish dominance by swinging their heads and necks at each other, followed by a longer period where they will caress one another with their necks and then actually have sex, including reaching climax. Interested females also rub their necks against potential mates as part of their courtship. Recently, researchers also observed adolescent giraffes performing a complicated, prancing, dance-like step that some observers have compared to the fox-trot.  Could giraffes be nature’s greatest romantics? (I'm confused--are these male giraffes gay?...not that there's anything wrong with that)

Best place to see Giraffes in the wild: Zambia.  The trip: Zambia - Ultimate Wildlife 18-Day Safari (also 15, 12 and 10-day programs) at $13,998 per person double and less. You can see giraffes right from your luxury tent, and perhaps view a live birth on a unique walking safari.

6) Waved Albatross – Kissing Fools: The complex and expressive courtship ritual of the waved albatross includes extensive kissing and bill-fencing, in which the partners bend, face each other in an exaggerated upright posture, open their bills wide and shut them with a loud clap, often alternating with rapidly clattering their bills or slapping them back and forth. If that isn’t strange enough, they will also bow and circle each another while swaying their heads from side to side in an exaggerated manner.  The newer the pair, the longer and more elaborate the dance. (New reality show on Animal Planet: Dancing with the Albatrosses)

Best place to see Waved Albatross: Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. The trip: Galapagos - Ultimate Wildlife Cruise - M/Y Eric, Letty and Flamingo at $4,100 per person double.

For detailed itineraries, visit http://www.wildplanetadventures.com/ or call 1-800-990-4376.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Mid-Atlantic Getaways for Beating the Winter Blues

Let it snow. And when it does, where better to weather a storm than at a cozy resort?

In light of Snowmageddon, WTOP Radio in Washington, DC asked me how to select the perfect mid-winter getaway. Here's  the reporter's write-up of our chat.

WASHINGTON — By now you’ve seen the signs:  frigid air, salty sidewalks, cracked skin. We’re officially smack dab in the middle of winter — a time of year when the sun seems to hibernate and warm weather is a distant memory.

If you’re looking for a way to beat the winter blues but don’t have the time or cash to fly to the Caribbean, plenty of local destinations and activities can take your mind off the seasonal grind.
The D.C. area is home to several famous luxury resorts — from The Inn at Perry Cabin to the Salamander Resort and Spa, but travel expert and blogger Laura Powell says you don’t need to go all-out to escape and recharge.

“I sometimes like to go to some of these resorts that are not necessarily off the beaten track, but they’re certainly not as well-known as [some of the others],” she says.

Regardless of which destination you choose, Powell offers one important tip:  Book a place that has a fireplace, an indoor pool or a spa.

“If you can find one with all three of the above, you’re going to be assured that you’re going to have a nice, relaxing winter weekend,” she says.

One of Powell’s favorite winter destinations is the Omni Bedford Springs in Bedford, Pennsylvania. The destination is only two hours from the Washington area and checks off all three boxes on Powell’s winter wish list.

“It’s a beautiful, historic property, so you’ve got your fireplaces, you’ve got a fabulous spa,. , and it's one of the few spas in the country that utilizes natural spring water for all of their treatments.”
And guests don’t have to worry about getting bored, as the resort offers a variety of amenities and activities to keep them entertained, including an indoor pool and tours of the historic property. When it’s warm enough, guests can cook s’mores over an open fire or take a hike in the surrounding mountains.

Powell also recommends Poplar Springs Inn and Spa, in Warrenton, Virginia, just one hour outside the city. The hotel went through bankruptcy about a year ago, but the property, which sits on about 100 acres, is open for business again. Powell says the hotel’s restaurant, Manor House, is one of the resort’s highlights. And every Thursday night during the winter, Poplar Springs offers free tastings of local beers and wines.

Poplar Springs Inn is also close to several wineries: “If you go into Virginia wine country, a lot of the wineries are still open, even though they’re not necessarily in production, so you could do wine tasting.”

Can’t make it out of town for the weekend, but still want to relax and recharge? The spa at The Four Seasons in Georgetown offers a variety of services, including massages, aromatherapy and facials. And for $50 extra, you can use the spa’s gym, pool, sauna, steam room and more for the entire day. After you’re done being pampered, slip outside the spa to the patio at Bourbon Steak. Grab a seat by one of their fire pits and enjoy a glass of wine and a bite to eat.

Similarly, the spa at the Mandarin Oriental makes its heat and water facilities (showers, a steam room and a vitality pool) and its relaxation room available to spa guests for the whole day, with a service appointment.   ---By Rachel Nania

Follow @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

Saturday, January 24, 2015