You’ll Never Want to Leave: Downtown Napa

Located on the banks of the Napa River, downtown Napa has evolved from a small, sleepy town into a vibrant community full of upscale hotels, wine tasting rooms, and restaurants to meet every palate preference. There are downtown parks, outdoor art installations and art walks, markets full of local fare, and some of the friendliest Californians you’ll ever run into. And they do it all with a casual flair that feels down-home rather than pretentious. I spent some time in downtown Napa with some gal pals, soaking up some of the best it had to offer and had such a great time that I never wanted to leave. In fact, I’ve decided to plan a return trip, this time taking Tony along, as I know it’s the type of getaway he enjoys. I think you’ll enjoy it too! Note: This trip […]

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The Bikini Has a Birthday

July is a month of birthdays:  Canada (July 1st), the United States (July 4th), me (July 31st), and on July 5th, 2018, the bikini turns 72 years old. For most women, the selection of the perfect bikini begins well before its time to hit the beach during vacation, and it may very well be the first to-do item on a vacation preparation list.  For many women, there is no greater vacation angst than finding the right swimsuit – bikini or otherwise. Archaeologists date the existence of a scanty swimsuit back to 1600 BC., but the modern world was shocked with the debut of this new swimsuit in 1946. Designers Jacques Heim and Louis Reard are credited with changing the landscape of the beach forever. They were competitors – Heim selling the world’s smallest swimsuit at a beach shop in , […]

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Adventure Cruise: Discover Pure Panama with UnCruise Adventures

Last fall we sailed on UnCruise Adventures’ Safari Voyager on their Pure Panama: Cultures, Coasts, and Canal itinerary. It was our first small ship adventure cruise and we’re excited to review the ship and itinerary, as well as share our tips and with you. Cruise information is historically the most searched for information on our site during the month of June, so we expect that this information is hitting you right at the time you’re making your plans and reservations for your cruise. Discover Pure Panama with us. And UnCruise Adventures. Is an adventure cruise right for you? Like all vacations, the decision to take an adventure cruise is a big one – you’ll want to research thoroughly to see if the experience and itinerary fit your cruise style. We think the following are important considerations in deciding if an adventure […]

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You’ll Never Want to Leave: Opryland, Tennessee

It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to check off a visit to a new state, so heading off to was something I was looking forward to. We packed our bags, grabbed a guidebook, and headed off for a long weekend at Opryland. Opryland once referred to the Opryland USA, a theme park beloved by locals, some of whom claim to this day that it is their all-time favorite. The theme park closed in 1997 and was demolished. Today the phrase Opryland refers to the larger geographical area that includes the Opryland Resort & Convention Center, the Opry Mills shopping mall, and the Grand Ole Opry House. Our weekend at Opryland was a feast of music, food, and drink with a little relaxation thrown in. We had such a great time that we never wanted to leave. This is part […]

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18 Off the Beaten Path Places to Find Great Barbecue

As summer approaches, my mind turns to barbecue. For me, the thought of great barbecue brings to mind a plate of beef or pork that’s been slow cooked all day with a dry rub, then mounded on my plate with a spicy tomato-based sauce on the side. A few side dishes round out the meal, maybe corn on the cob, green beans, cole slaw, or a macaroni salad. Add is some iced tea or a cold beer and I’m in barbecue heaven. But the history and evolution of barbecue is far more complicated and includes techniques like smoking, roasting, baking, braising, and grilling beef, pork, chicken, or lamb. Seasonings may be as simple as salt and pepper or a more complicated blend or herbs and spices to make a dry rub. Sauces further define the type of barbecue, with fans […]

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You’ll Never Want to Leave: Universal Orlando Resort

When I think about traveling in March and April, I immediately think of Spring Break and family travel. For many families in traditional school environments, school breaks are the only time the family can get away. While I generally tend to avoid travel during school breaks and the summer, there are occasions when there simply are no other choices. If you’re braving the crowds for your family vacation, we recommend spending time at Universal Orlando Resort. With two theme parks, one water park, CityWalk entertainment district, and on-site hotels that provide numerous park perks, once you check in you’ll never have to leave. And you’ll never want to leave either. This is another edition or our monthly themed feature talking about places we’ve stayed and never wanted to leave. This post, along with all the others in the series, may […]

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It’s a Whole New World

Welcome – I’m glad you’re here! Last week I celebrated my 12-year anniversary of blogging. Today, I’m excited to roll out the new look here on Traveling with MJ. It’s been a long time since I’ve changed the theme and narrowed in on the focus of the site, and it was long past due. Here are some of the changes, new features you’ll find here, along with some tips to help navigate the site: I deleted close to 1,200 old posts that date back to 2006. It was tough letting go of those old archives, but the reality was that they weren’t serving anyone. My writing style and focus have evolved over the years and many of those posts don’t represent my focus any longer; they don’t represent my best work and don’t serve you – so they’re gone. Some […]

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It’s My Blog Anniversary!

On March 17, 2006, I wrote my first blog post ever on my travel blog then named Flyaway Cafe. You can read that first post here. And for those who don’t know my “why story” you can find that here. I knew nothing about blogging or the technology involved. Social media was practically non-existent – the first tweet was sent four days later and Facebook wouldn’t be available to everyone for another six months. Those colleagues who I started blogging with back then were looking for a way to turn a love of their subject matter into a paying gig, and it wasn’t always clear that it could be done. I look back on those wild west days of blogging and often shake my head and the things we did. Travel blogging has changed a lot. I’ve learned enough about […]

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Visiting the Ruins of Pompeii: From Tragedy to Tourism

  The ruins of Pompeii have become one of Italy’s most visited sites. On August 24th, 79 A.D., erupted in a violent two-day display that destroyed the city of Pompeii, Italy, and the surrounding area. It is one of history’s largest recorded volcanic eruptions, and a tragedy by any measure. The city was buried under ash and pumice for nearly 1700 years and was presumed lost until its accidental rediscovery in the mid-1700s.   The subsequent excavation of the ruins of Pompeii provided a peek at what life was like during the height of the Roman Empire. Rising out of the ash and lava over a thousand years later, the ruins of Pompeii turned a horrible tragedy into a tourism opportunity. Millions of visitors a year now visit this UNESCO World Heritage site located not far from Naples, along with its […]

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You’ll Never Want to Leave: Hilton Union Square, San Francisco

It seems like everyone thinks about romance in February, but once Valentine’s Day passes, romance gets short shrift. One way to celebrate romantic memories all year long is to re-visit places that have a special meaning for you, that have played a starring role in your life together, and that makes you smile when you think about past visits. For us, that destination is San Francisco, California. San Francisco was the first place we vacationed in when we were dating. We spent some time there on our honeymoon. We’ve flown there for baseball games, conferences, getaway weekends, and other special events. We “get” San Francisco because San Francisco “gets” us. For a celebratory getaway, we wanted to stay downtown in the Union Square area – it’s the area of the city where we stayed on our first visit – and […]

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