Ghosts, Orbs & The Paranormal: Visiting Haunted Locations

One of my guilty pleasures is watching ghost hunting shows. I DVR episodes of Ghost Adventures (and previously Ghost Hunters – may the show R.I.P.) and snuggle with our dog on the bed while I listen to the EVPs and slamming doors. I’ve even gotten to the point where I can hear the spirit voices before they replay them with the subtitles. I think I like watching these shows because I’m pretty sure I used to live in a house where I had some spiritual co-inhabitants. It was a house built in 1928 on the farmland of one of the city founders. I never felt anything evil or menacing, just a occasional presence over my shoulder, watching what I was doing. There was also the times where lights I know I turned off were back on. Not just once or twice, but more like a weekly occurrence. I really noticed the difference when I moved and the feeling of being watched was gone. It was the strangest thing and it’s impossible to describe if you’ve never experienced it.

Alas, Sharon doesn’t share my enthusiasm in ghosts and the paranormal, but over the years, I’ve managed to get her to go to a number of haunted locations. Some of them because they had other appeal to her tastes and other times we were led there as part of a tour package. I didn’t care, we were going ghost hunting!

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We Flew Delta Basic Economy – Here’s What We Learned (and Will We Do It Again?)

Flying on a basic economy ticket is still a new thing to most passengers. Delta was the first airline to issue a “basic” ticket starting in 2013 but their current version took effect in February 2015. Delta started slow, only selling the tickets in a select number of markets where they were directly competing with Spirit or Frontier. It wasn’t until November of 2016 that United jumped into the basic economy pool head first with their own tickets that had way more restrictions than Delta’s. Not to be left behind, American announced their own basic economy tickets in January of 2017. With all three major carriers offering these restrictive tickets, they began to spread to flights that had no competition with the Ultra Low Cost Carriers. Basic Economy tickets are no longer a niche product but may eventually be sold on every flight.

Since all three airlines’ basic economy tickets come with different restrictions, I did my homework and looked into each of them before booking one. I didn’t want to be like the person next to me on a United flight who was booked on a basic economy ticket by her daughter and was unaware of the restrictions (no seat assignments, no carry on bag). After much deliberation, I decided that we could live with the restrictions that Delta had on their basic economy fare. Now that we’re home, here’s what I learned from our experience.

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Hotel Review: Kimpton Hotel Allegro, Chicago, IL

During our whirlwind 50 hour trip to Chicago, I decided to have us stay at the Kimpton Hotel Allegro located in the Chicago Loop. I had several reasons to stay here. The hotel was built in 1926 and I’ve written before about how we love to stay in old hotels, like the Waldorf=Astoria in New York. The Hotel Allegro is conveniently located near the  ‘L’ trains so it would be easy getting to the airports for our flights and it was also within walking distance for many of the sights that we wanted to see. Normally this would be enough for me to choose this hotel but the Kimpton Hotel Allegro had one more thing going for it that made the decision a no brainer.

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A Whirlwind 50 Hour Trip to Chicago – Day 2

This is Part 2 of our Chicago trip report. Click here to see part 1!

For the second day of our Chicago trip we got an early start. Well, at least it was an early start for us when we’re on vacation. We had a bunch of things we wanted to do, thanks to all of your wonderful suggestions. We decided the first thing we’d do was the one activity that left on a schedule – the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise. As we approached the river and Wacker Drive, the crowd increased tremendously. We then noticed marching bands and many people from all different ethnic groups gathered together. It turned out there was a parade that day to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Lions Club, who were founded in 1917 in Chicago. This also may have been the reason that hotel rooms were really expensive for the weekend. We finally made it down to the riverwalk and the dock for the boat.

Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise

We had booked our tickets the day before for the 10:30am sailing.

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Chicago Architecture River Cruise

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A Whirlwind 50 Hour Trip to Chicago – Day 1

19553905_10154511663915974_1785449452011117391_nI’m writing this on the plane going back home from a short trip to Chicago. This was a shorter trip than Sharon and I would normally take so there had to be a good reason behind it. Just like our trip to New York in January, we traveled to Chicago because Sharon used her Ticketmaster skills to get us tickets to see “Hamilton.” Getting tickets for the show in Chicago was a little easier than for New York, but not much. To make things more complicated, we needed to change the dates of our tickets due to some conflicts that came up and then we had to shorten the rescheduled trip due to other commitments. Thank goodness I booked the original airline tickets with Southwest so I didn’t have to pay to change the flights. Even with it being a short trip and all the changes we had to make, we had a blast and are so glad we went.

Knowing we had such a limited amount of time to see the city, we narrowed down what

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Getting My Cheesy Kitch On: Our Visit to South of The Border

south-of-the-border-700x209Drive up or down I-95 and after miles and miles of billboards promoting the place, just south of the North Carolina/South Carolina state line, you’ll find South of The Border (SOTB), a tourist attraction in Dillon SC, whose name is a tongue-in-cheek tip of the hat to its Mexican theming. A well worn tourist attraction since its humble beginnings as a beer stand 1949 (the just-north-of-the-border NC counties were “dry” at the time), SOTB runs on both sides of highway 501 and contains, among other things, a truck stop, a 300-room motel, several souvenir shops that sell everything from T-shirts to hats to fireworks to leather goods to beachwear and everything in between, a handful of restaurants, a 200-foot tall observation tower shaped like a sombrero, and the largest reptile exhibit in the country. Oh, and don’t forget the dozens of statues of animals such as dinosaurs, gorillas, dolphins, flamingos, etc., painted in whatever garishly beautiful color was the cheapest paint at the store that day.

For most people, SOTB is just a rest stop. For me, it was a vacation destination. See, I had
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#TBT: Japan April 2005: World Expo in Aichi (Day 1)

The 2005 World Exposition in Aichi (just outside Nagoya) opened at 9:30am today so we woke up at 6:30am, got ready, and had a quick coffee and doughnut at the nearby Starbucks. I noticed that the Starbucks here was not as fastidious about recycling as they were in Kyoto…they only asked you to separate the paper vs plastic and had a garbage can that said, “Please dispose of your liquid here.” However, they also offered real  ceramic mugs if you were not “to go” and the employees helped you to empty your tray…though the latter might’ve been because they figured us foreigners didn’t know any better (grin).

The walk to the train station during the daylight (without luggage. Or rain.) gave us a much better idea of the part of Nagoya we were staying in. It seems to be a larger city than Kyoto, if not in size (not sure…haven’t checked a map), definitely in “new world modern,” as opposed to Kyoto’s traditionalism. Nagoya has MANY more stereotypical “Japanese businessmen,” as well as neon signs, restaurants open until 1 and 2 and 3 o’clock in the morning, etc. A definite change of pace from where we’ve spent the past 5 nights.


“Our” train station in Nagoya. It’s a LOT easier to negotiate the stairs without luggage!

After switching trains, we had to get on a HUGE line to get on the Linimo train, whose stations were built specifically for the Expo (but will remain a permanent part of the cities once the Expo closes its doors in September 2005).


I sure wouldn’t want to wait in THIS queue when it was filled up!

While on line the 3 of us were talking away, with our usual cynical and sarcastic senses of humor. I noticed there was an Asian-looking (and we assumed Japanese) man who seemed to understand everything that we were saying (he laughed at all the right places in our conversations). Turned out the guy was from Hawaii but was now living in Japan. It was nice to talk to someone in “unhalting” English, besides each other.


The line of people entering the fair from their tour buses. Picture taken from the Linimo train.

Finally got off the Linimo train and there was the Expo. It was HUGE!


Joe and I standing outside the Expo. Those 2 green guys are Kiccoro (the smaller, lighter green one) and Morizo (the one who is larger and darker green) the Expo’s mascots. EVERYTHING in Japan seems to have a mascot and Japan is the leader of “synergy”…Kiccoro and Morizo had their own cartoon on TV for months before the Expo started and they are EVERYWHERE a the Expo and, for that matter, in surrounding cities (i.e. department stores in Nagoya and even our hotel have racks with Kiccoro and Morizo merchandise).


The theme of the fair was Nature’s Wisdom, so the importance of “living in harmony with nature” was played on EVERYWHERE. Case in point…this recycling area outside the gates of the Expo…with spaces for paper, white plastic, clear plastic, liquid, wood, you name it. The Starbucks in Kyoto would’ve been proud!

Fortunately, we got to bypass the huge ticket line, because we had bought our tickets online. So, with tickets in hand, we went in.


Besides having to go through metal detectors before you could enter, guards checked all bags for not only dangerous items, but PET containers and any other food holders that couldn’t be recycled. THOSE had to be left behind.

The fair really is set up like Epcot, with big pavilions set up by corporations (Mitsubishi, the Shinkansen, etc) and smaller ones from dozens of countries from around the world. All of the pavilions have themes in the realm of Nature’s Wisdom (albeit sometimes with some poetic license…the U.S. Pavilion, for example, focused much more on it being Benjamin Franklin’s 300th birthday this year).

I won’t go into all of the details of all of the pavilions we went into, because we went into a LOT of ’em . Suffice to say that we went into about 6 or 8 corporate pavilions and probably a good dozen countries’ pavilions over the course of 11 or so hours. Some of the pavilions had foreign language headsets available for visitors who spoke English, Chinese or Korean, which was VERY helpful and VERY appreciated or we’d have definite problems in figuring out what was happening. The technology of some of the pavilions was just amazing, with HUGE high-def screens. And one of the hosts at the US pavilion had heard of Toxic Audio!


Joe and I were being geeks and wearing matching Toxic Audio shirts that day

We had lunch and dinner at the Expo, which, although tasty, were still pretty much “fair food.” Lunch was Japanese food:


Joe’s lunch


Steve’s lunch (Steve is a friend who traveled to Japan with us)


Sharon’s lunch (note the Kiccoro and Morizo on the…whatever it was [grin]!)

Dinners were Korean and I had my first taste of kimchee. YUCK!


Outside of the Korean restaurant. Note the international symbol for “soft serve ice cream” outside the door. The Japanese apparently love their soft serve ice cream…it’s EVERYWHERE. I’m personally not a fan of soft serve, but I’ll save my “I saw a picture advertising hard ice cream somewhere and I can’t find the store” story for a Tokyo Disneyland entry.

By 9pm or so, we were cold and tired so we retraced our route back to the hotel and went to bed. Tomorrow (Thursday) is Day Two of the World Expo.

 

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