Thursday, October 22, 2009

Go Phillies!

Last night the incomparable Philadelphia Phillies won the National League Pennant for the second year in a row. Can another World Series win be far behind?

Living just forty miles from the City of Brotherly Love, I can't help but be a fan. If you're planning on being in town for this year's World Series -- or at any other time, for that matter -- here are a couple quick picks for touristy things to do while in Philly.

1. Visit the Liberty Bell. This symbol of liberty is not just something cutesy for school kids to visit on field trips. Staring at it and its jagged crack, you can imagine the blood, sweat and tears (Sorry Winston) that went into the founding of this country.

2. Check out the Philadelphia Art Museum. OK, run up the steps like Rocky if you so desire, but the true treasures are INSIDE the museum. Personally I love the French tapestries that date to the early 1600s. And the replica of a Moorish-inspired Spanish plaza is a favorite.

3. Last but not least, you gotta visit South Philly for an authentic Philly cheesesteak. Mentally travel back in time and imagine Frankie Avalon and Fabian singing on a street corner.

Enjoy your visit!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Colombia, Gem of the Caribbean Sea

I have been having the greatest time teaching ESL to a young woman originally from Barranquilla, Colombia. I've learned much about her native country during the few weeks we've been working together.

Unfortunately Colombia has the reputation as a crummy place for Americans to travel due to the negative publicity surrounding drug trafficking. Also, when looking online for great travel destinations in the Caribbean, the north coast of Colombia never shows up on the radar. Cancun, yes. Cartagena, no.

My student has lived in the three Colombian cities of Barranquilla, Cartagena and Bogota. Here is a bit about what I've learned of these cities:

Barranquilla: a tad cooler and dryer than nearby Cartagena, but still a warm and humid spot. It's a major industrial city and boasts three quality universities. Home to singer Shakira and birthplace of renown writer Gabriel Garcia Marques. Barranquilla is the port city for Colombia's major river, the north-flowing Magdalena.

Cartegena: also on the Caribbean but about 60 miles southwest of Barranquilla. Basically it's an expensive tourist center; enormous high-rises dot the coastline. It does boast an old fort which is a World Heritage Historical Site. A great hideout for pirates in days past. Ready for a sequel, Johnny Depp?

Bogota: a big-ass city high in the northern reaches of the Andes. Its innovative mayor at the turn of the millennium did wonders to make the city's transportation accessible to even the poorest of its citizens. On Sundays, the Alameda is closed to traffic and open to pedestrians and bicyclists only.

Colombians have the distinction of speaking the best Spanish second only to Spain.

Hail, Colombia!