Tag Archives: Travel the World

Fantastic Fun in Philly

As I usually do each summer, I recently went on a road trip to the United States, and while at the beginning of the summer I went to the western part of Pennsylvania, this time I headed east. We went to Philadelphia, but on the way I took my daughter to visit Hershey Park and Hershey’s Chocolate World (I can’t lie, I was more interested in visiting Hershey!).

In Hershey, there are three main attractions, one of which is Hershey Park. If you love roller-coasters, they have a dozen to choose from, and they also have a great water park to cool off in.

When you’re finished with the thrill rides,  there’s Hershey’s Chocolate World, where there are tours, chocolate tasting, photo studios, and a create-your-own-candy-bar factory….a fun time for both young and old.

If you’re into history, there’s also the Hershey museum, where you can walk through and learn about the family, the company, and the city.

Since my wife isn’t into roller-coasters, on the day that I went to the park, her and a friend decided to check out some other attractions in the city, of which there are several.  My wife started the day by being adventurous, by going spelunking and exploring the caves at Indian Echo Caverns.  After working up an appetite, she then visited Tröegs Brewery, where she took a tour to get a firsthand glimpse into the work that goes into the production process, tried several beers, and enjoyed some great food.

After we spent a couple days at Hershey’s we set off for Philadelphia, and I wasn’t sure of what to expect, but it’s a really interesting place with a lot of history.  Most people know the city as the home of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where both the United States Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were signed, but there is so much more to Philly!

Down the street from the Liberty Bell are two cool buildings you must see: one one side of the street is the mint, where coins are made, and on the other side of the street is the federal reserve where they destroy money.  Both buildings offer free tours, and you can pick up some spiffy souvenirs…but no free samples.

Another historical site is the Betsy Ross House, where Betsy Ross lived when she sewed the first American flag.  Lastly, for those into history, a short drive from Philadelphia is Valley Forge, the encampment for George Washington’s Continental Army spent the winter.  An interesting fact that I learned on the trip is contrary to public belief, no fighting took place at Valley Forge…it was actually where they prepared for upcoming battles.

Of course, when you’re in Philadelphia no trip would be complete without a run up the Rocky Steps: 72 stone steps before the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  The museum is one of many in the area, all of which are interesting and have their own quirks.  As an example, you can walk through a human heart in The Franklin Institute.

There are many other sites to check out in the city, including the waterfront area where they have The Rail Park– it’s a green park stretching three miles across Philadelphia on an old rail line.

If you like sports there’s the major league baseball Philadelphia Phillies, the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team, the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team, and the Supberbowl champion, Philadelphia Eagles football team.

As everyone knows, one of my favourite pastimes is food, and one must-visit place is the Reading (pronounced redding) Terminal Market, where it’s a combination of a farmer’s market and food kiosks.  Drop by and pick up anything from a deli sandwich to chicken wings, to a philly cheese steak. I highly recommend visiting Beiler’s Bakery at the market, for specialty donuts such as the pumpkin pecan maple donut, the key lime pie donut, and the caramel latte donut.

If you’re up for trying something a bit different, there’s Pho 75, where you can get a combination of noodles, protein and veggies in soup for under $12.00 a person.  Lastly, there’s John’s Roast Pork, which has a great pork sandwich but is famous for it’s Philly cheese steak.  Be prepared to line up…. it’s that popular!

Finally, when it comes to food, take a trip down memory lane and visit The Franklin Fountain, an old-style soda shop that serves ice cream, malts, and sundaes. They’re known for they’re spectacular Root Beer floats which have been featured on a number of television shows.

Lastly, one thing that I often find very useful for city trips is to take the hop-on-hop-off tours.  We took ours with Big Bus Tours and the tour guides were extremely knowledgeable and the route featured almost 30 stops to well….hop on and off as you please.

I highly recommend visiting Philadelphia if you get the chance. It’s a beautiful city with lots to offer.

 

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Help Us Help Your Favourites!

I hope that all is well and that your summer is off to a great start!

Over the next few weeks, we’re interested in hearing from you as we want to continue highlighting outstanding businesses around the world.

With so many readers from across the globe, we’re looking to you, our readers, for your input. In particular, we’re looking for exceptional businesses including your favourite:

  • Pizza place
  • Restaurant
  • Brunch spot
  • Retailer
  • Local merchant (small business)
  • Tourism destination
  • Hotel/resort
  • Clothing store
  • Grocery store
  • And any hidden gems that you are willing to share!

In addition to the name of the business, we’d also like to know why you’re nominating them. Did you have a memorable experience there? Did they go above and beyond the call of customer service duty? We’d like to know!

Please email your favourites to davidL@sqm.ca

In the weeks ahead, we will share your suggestions and recommendations, and rest assured you will be mentioned in any blogs that feature the business.

SQM is looking forward to hearing from you all, and as always… thanks for reading SQM Picks!

 

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A Taste of Pittsburgh

Since my wife is in charge of meal planning for all of our trips, I wasn’t sure what to expect food-wise but I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of amazing restaurants in Pittsburgh. Highlights included:

Primanti Bros: Whenever I asked about Pittsburgh, people have told me that I have to visit Primanti Bros. The place has been around for about 80 years. It started out as a small sandwich shop in the Strip District and because most of the clientele were truckers, they started designing their sandwiches with french fries and coleslaw right on the sandwich itself….for ease of eating while driving. The four elements that make up most of the sandwiches….. the bread, meat, french fries, and coleslaw…were all delicious. The sandwiches were all big, solid, excellent sandwiches. Whether it’s for breakfast, lunch, or a late-night bite, I definitely agree that Primanti Bros. is worth a stop. Or maybe more than one….

Gaucho Parrilla Argentina: This unique hotspot is open for lunch and dinner, and they cook right on open wood! Whether you’re looking for chicken, lamb, steak, or sausages, this place has it all. The restaurant works a little differently than many other restaurants, as you line up, almost like a fast-food joint, if you will, and they only take your order once there’s a table available. After you place your order, you then sit down, and they deliver your food right to you, like regular table service. When it gets later in the dinner period and they won’t be able to seat anyone else, they give the last person a t-shirt that says “end of the line” and that person’s responsibility is to inform anyone else who shows up that they will have to come back another time. The service is amazing, and the staff are extremely friendly…in fact, once they learned we were from out of town, they accommodated us even though the person in front of us had the “end of the line” t-shirt. On top of that, they were kind enough to gift us with our own t-shirt after I was joking around with them. It’s a terrific place with great décor and service, topped with delicious food. If you’re ever in the area, it’s well worth standing in line for. Also, this local joint is BYOB!

Kaya Island Cuisine: This restaurant is in the Strip District and serves up some hot and tasty Caribbean food. Near the end of my trip, I was a little fooded out, and wanted something a little different. Although we hadn’t planned on going to this restaurant, we changed our plans given that the menu had so many unique dishes. We actually ended up sharing the food, as they had a lot of appetizers that all looked amazing, including conch fritters, baby back ribs, Jamaican jerk wings, a spectacular salad known as the Caribbean rainbow salad, crispy fish tacos, and pulled pork quesadillas. All of the food came out very hot and fresh, very nicely presented, and we were pleasantly surprised to learn that it was big portion sizes, big enough to share among three people. The service was very good, and the atmosphere was fun, lively, and vibrant. It was the perfect meal to end our trip. It seems that, despite the popularity of the Strip District, most of the area closes down earlier on Sunday nights and Kaya was one of the few restaurants that stayed open. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Peace, Love, & Little Donuts: This is a small donut shop found in the Strip District, and I guess appropriately, they serve small donuts…about half the size of a regular donut. They actually take a plain donut and jazz it up with different toppings, which you choose off of their extensive menu. We tried the apple pie, banana split, s’mores, and the strawberry french toast, but you can choose from almost one hundred more. We stopped by after brunch one day and it was the perfect ending to our meal, with the four of us sharing six donuts. Although there is a little bit of a wait while they prepare each donut, it’s well worth the extra time, and they ended up being an awesome sweet treat.

The Church Brew Works: This is a microbrewery located in a very large, old church. The food is good pub food, all designed to go with beer. The atmosphere was truly amazing and certainly worth visiting. They also conduct tours of the brewery two or three times a day.

Whether it’s sandwich shops, pizza joints, or even some chain restaurants, there is certainly no shortage of great food in the Pittsburgh area. Happy eating!

 

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A Party Down in Pittsburgh

As often as I can, I try to get out of town on long weekends and the recent Victoria Day long weekend was no exception. In fact, this time I turned the three day weekend into a five-day road trip and took my wife and daughter to Pittsburgh.

I haven’t been to Pittsburgh in about 25 years, but remember enjoying my last visit. Initially, we were only going to stay a day or two, go to visit Fallingwater and the Hershey factory, when I realized that Hershey was about three and a half hours in the opposite direction. So we changed our itinerary. It turns out that we had no problem finding tons of things to see and do in Pittsburgh! The city is very vibrant, home to many innovative companies, products and services, has truly fantastic restaurants and plenty of sporting events for the athletic enthusiast. I can honestly say that one out of every four people in Pittsburgh were decked out in black and yellow in an ode to the Pirates, Penguins or their beloved Steelers. This is a city that wears their love of the game on their sleeve…where everyone can see it!

Pittsburgh is a tourist friendly city! When we were trying to find a specific area of a large cemetery, to avoid having us get lost, the groundskeeper gave us an escort over to the exact location… in his cart. The next day, we stopped to ask a police officer how to find the Duquesne Brewery Clock (the largest single face clock in the world – two times the size of Big Ben!). Moments later, we found ourselves with a police escort right to its location!

Over our four day visit, some of our favourite sites included the Heinz Center, the Strip District, Randyland, and Fallingwater.

Of course, during our days of sightseeing we needed energy and found no shortage of great restaurants. For lunch and dinner, whether it was Primanti Bros., an Argentinian steakhouse, or some fun and whimsical donuts at Peace, Love and Little Donuts, you could simply eat your way through the city and walk away a happy camper.

Sports fans, don’t look any further than Pittsburgh, which has an NFL, NHL, and a major league baseball team. During my trip, the Pittsburgh Pirates were in town, and while they weren’t successful on the field, the ballpark was beautiful to see and it was a beautiful spring night for baseball.

Lastly, I have to mention a one-day excursion down to Fallingwater. Built by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, this beautiful country home is about 1.5 hours away from Pittsburgh. It is a a gorgeous drive and should not be missed.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll highlight a few of the places on my trip, but needless to say, if you’re up for a fun and adventurous road trip, Pittsburgh should be next on your list!

 

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Up, Up, and Away – Beyond Great Service at Buffalo Airport!

Buffalo Niagara International Airport

Flashback to ten or twenty years ago, and there was a long period of time where it was significantly cheaper to fly out of the US, instead of Canada, due to the difference in taxes and fees.

In fact, the cost savings were so significant, that many people found it more economically efficient to fly out of the US (driving down to the states, go about their travels, and drive back to Canada upon their return). In addition, it really wasn’t difficult to make the arrangements, so for the extra driving time, and slight inconvenience, it was well worth it.

Fast forward to present day, and although the difference in pricing isn’t as significant, I still think it’s worth it for Canadians to consider flying out of the United States.

In my case, Buffalo is an easily accessible city if traveling by car, and is one of the reasons why the Buffalo Niagara International Airport is a hotspot for traveling Canadians. My family and I passed through the airport during a recent trip, and I couldn’t help but think of several benefits for using the airport:

  1. When arriving at the airport you would have already cleared customs, as a result of driving down from the Toronto area.
  2. The airport itself has a modern, clean look to it, and while it is a large airport, it is nowhere near as busy as Pearson, meaning shorter (or no) lineups, resulting in far less stress and pressure.
  3. Getting through security seems to be far less of a hassle than in other airports.
  4. The airport has many plugs and open electronic ports to charge laptops, phones, and other devices.

In a nutshell, the airport is a modern facility that supports easy travelling, while providing a variety of features to suit the needs of every traveler.

Aside from the airport, there are an abundance of hotels nearby, with great room rates, and shuttles that take you straight to the airport…perfect for those with an early morning flight. In fact, some of the hotels are so close that you could literally walk across the street in less time then it would take to grab a shuttle. Many hotels also accept Canadian currency at par, and allow you to park your vehicle for up to 14 days.

The only potential drawback to flying out of Buffalo, would be the risk of bad weather in the winter, as there is a higher risk of flights being delayed or cancelled, compared to Toronto.

In more recent times, the airport opened a Tim Horton’s inside the terminal, which tells me they know their consumer base well!

Buffalo Niagara International Airport
www.buffaloairport.com
1-877-359-2642

 

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Ja’ Makin me Happy…Patrice Bailey!

Photo of Patrice Bailey on one of her Falmouth Tours

Last year, I got to know Patrice Bailey when I began planning a day trip for my family to explore the area near the Port of Falmouth in Jamaica. Our cruise ship was docking there for the day and I wanted to plan an excursion to make the most out of our stay, since my research showed that the port was located in the middle of nowhere with nothing really around it.

While I was surfing the web for ideas, a tour guide by the name of Patrice Bailey kept coming up…and with great reviews, I decided to send her a short email. Within a few hours, I was communicating with Patrice by phone and email, and we made an arrangement to hire one of her colleagues to drive us from Falmouth to a beach in Montego Bay, since she herself was fully booked. When we arrived at the port, Patrice introduced herself with hugs all around before sending us on our way, with our tour guide. We immediately felt like family.

Our tour guide was really friendly and he even managed to give us a short tour of the area before taking us back to the ship. He also took us to a great local place for Jamaican patties, which was the icing on the cake!

Flash forward to 2017 and I gave Patrice a call when we chose a cruise revisiting Falmouth. Since we had developed more of a personal friendship over the last year, during our numerous email exchanges, I invited Patrice to lunch as a thank you for planning a great trip the year before. Patrice accepted the invitation but when we arrived, she surprised us with an entire day of fun filled activities.

Patrice took us on a tour of the area, which included the neighbourhood that Usain Bolt grew up in, as well as a couple of gorgeous lookout points. We then went to a secluded beach, where there were only a few other people nearby and you could see blue water and white sand for miles. When we were ready for lunch, we asked her about good, local jerk chicken. Patrice said, for really good jerk chicken, she would only take us to one place and that began our 45 minute drive to Scotchies… more about that in my next blog.

After our great lunch, Patrice showed us a few beach clubs that we can visit on future trips and took us back to the port where we hugged and promised to keep in touch.

Being in the hospitality industry, I typically make friends wherever I go, but I have met my match in Patrice. If you are looking for someone to make your experience in Falmouth amazing, Patrice Bailey is definitely the way to go. She is really easy to deal with, professional, reasonably priced and a barrel of fun!

Patrice Bailey Tours
1-876-509-7542
patbailey52@yahoo.com
www.patricebailey.com

 

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The Galveston Express Will Impress

Galveston Express Bus

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to begin a series of blogs about some great services and businesses I encountered during my recent vacation. As with all of my blogs, I will be highlighting both large companies and small businesses.

For many years I have gone on a number of cruises. Most of the time when I go on a cruise, I sail out of Florida ports, such as Miami or Fort Lauderdale, however, recently my family and I decided to try something different when we found a well-priced cruise sailing out of Galveston, Texas.

Unlike the Florida ports, where it only takes a short cab ride to get to the ship, the Port of Galveston is more challenging to get to since it is located about 45 minutes away from Houston Hobby Airport. After doing some research, it became clear, it was going to cost anywhere from $30.00 to $50.00 each way, per person, to get to and from the port.

With this in mind, my wife and friend found a company that was on the lower side of the price scale – The Galveston Express. Not knowing what to expect, we booked our tickets and hoped for the best. We arrived at the airport pick-up location 30 minutes before our scheduled departure time and were delighted when our shuttle arrived 15 minutes early.

The driver was very polite, professional, and organized. He helped load all of the passenger luggage into the vehicle and had a list of all the people who had a booking on this particular trip. The shuttle itself was a newer vehicle, very comfortable and well air conditioned. We had a great drive down to the port.

After our trip, once again, the driver arrived at the port 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time. I really like this business practice. It puts customers minds at ease, knowing they did not miss their shuttle.

The Galveston Express provides excellent customer service, current model vehicles, and the most reasonably priced transportation within the Houston area.

While I’m not sure I would sail out of Galveston again, because of the added expense ($180.00 for a family of three) and unpredictable weather, I would not hesitate to use the Galveston Express if I was in need of a transportation provider.

Galveston Express
409-762–4397
www.galvestonexpress.com

 

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