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Anecdotes, Ambiance & Adventure
From Capital Cities All Over The Map
I was raised to believe that travel is truly the best education. I took my first solo flight at age 5. Since then, I've been to 4 continents, 25 countries, 48 capital cities...and counting! My wanderlust has taken me to the center of political power in various countries; my career in government relations has taken me to U.S. state capitals near and far. And sometimes, I just want to go to the beach. (Bonus when ocean-front resorts just happen to be located in capital cities!)
From Albany to Athens...from Lincoln to London...from Springfield to Stockholm, I've learned that every capital city offers travelers a unique glimpse into the culture and quirks of a particular state or country.
So...come along with me as I recollect journeys and report on new explorations via Capital Pixie Travels...
The Fine Pixie Print: Capital Pixie Travels... reviews are comprised of personal recommendations by a 40-something, moderately adventurous, single female tourist and have NOT been recently verified for any closures, changes of address, hours of operation, good or bad fashion trends, weather phenomena, political dust-ups, or any other logistically important data points. Trust, but verify. Safe travels!
When GPS is a POS, Streetwise series laminated maps will come to your rescue again and again. Forget the giant paper map that never folds up the correct way and marks you quite noticeably as a tourist/lost fool. Streetwise, now owned by Michelin, offers nearly four dozen cities/countries (capitals and other) plus a few major city transit maps. Laminated, accordion-style folded maps measure 4" x 8.5" and are double-sided. Perfect to discreetly consult and easy to carry. Features include magnified city center, points of attraction, street name index, and metro/subway maps. Purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers/etailers.
Go-to resource for stylish women travelers of all ages, sizes and budgets who value packing fashionably and efficiently. Website provides packing look books of wardrobe capsules organized by world-wide destinations and seasons, plus "best of" sections for a variety of apparel and gear. Major time-saver: you can shop the suggestions via links on the site AND download printable packing lists for popular tourist destinations. Blog topics provide packing tips on everything from voltage converters to packing cubes to a plethora of info on the Holy Grail: comfortable-yet-stylish travel shoes! (Good news: apparently they do exist.) Special sections provide tips for Plus Size and Over 50 travelers. The TFG Facebook page is a terrific crowdsourcing forum for packing/wardrobe topics.
Matt Kepnes (aka "Nomadic Matt"), a travel expert and contributor to NYT, CNN, Nat Geo, and WSJ, uses the tagline "Travel smarter, cheaper, longer." This robust blog/website is a fantastic resource for travelers ranging from hostel-seeking college kids to sophisticated grown ups who still enjoy saving a buck while seeing the world. Easy to navigate, this site is searchable by destination or by topics such as travel insurance, travel tech, and ahead-of-the-curve trends like traveling via the "sharing economy." Plus, Nomadic Matt sponsors $10 Happy Hours in major US cities as a way to create community amongst those with a passion for travel.
If you travel enough that you have a 90% or higher success rate in matching cities to airport codes, you'll appreciate these throw pillows from Airportag.com. Commemorate a special vacation or simply display hometown pride. Custom "boarding pass" throw pillows printed with your name and to & from city airport codes are also available; perfect for frequent commuters, away-from-home students or long-distance couples.
The cool kid's Pandora. Modern yet classic destination-themed travel jewelry souvenirs in premium metals at $ - $$$ price points. My personal favorite? The nostalgic charm bracelet adorned with mixed metal charms in the shape of passport stamps. (Been to Kazakhstan? Jet Set Candy has a charm for that! Seriously.) Search by continent or country. Start your own collection now - many options to build your custom piece - or gift to your favorite new or experienced world traveler.
An elevated version of VRBO and Air B-n-B, Plum Guide uses a proprietary algorithm to scan major booking sites to identify highly rated properties in 10 (so far) major European cities (plus LA and NYC). Then, Plum Guide takes the next step for you: sending an actual human ("home critic") to vet the host, location, and home to determine if it's actually a "plum" find. The company claims 1/100 homes pass Plum Guide scrutiny. Blog posts dive deep into details of destinations, and unique rental homes like houseboats or villas are featured.
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It's like Rent the Runway...but for snow & ski gear for adults, teens & children. Why? So you can carry on to your winter destination without worrying about how to pack a parka, bibs/pants, goggles, etc. And it's shipped directly to your resort or ski condo...with an envelope for you to ship back at the end of your vacation. BRILLIANT! (I've ordered the same exact outfit two winters in a row; I mean, it's basically in my closet.) Economical choice for first-time/occasional skiers and/or growing kids. Current fashion; well-known brands. Order early. And don't forget the Sunbum Lip Balm!
NOTE: CapitalPixieTravels is pleased to provide blog readers with an exclusive 10% discount on a full order!
Use code: Pixieskis10 at checkout.
I've been a "scrapbooker" for as long as I can remember. From saving childhood circus tickets and swim team ribbons in leather-bound hardbacks, to the "puffy" fabric glue-gunned sorority photo album, to the early aught's "scrapbooking with wine" trend: been there/done that/loved it. I lament that today we're suffering from an over-reliance on social media channels for storing "photo albums" and are losing the value of hand-me-down, tactile, generational memory keepers. Enter Mixbook! Hands down the easiest way to "download" and share your travel memories. Simply choose theme/cover, upload photos from your phone or from Facebook, and order/ship. The creator can make the process as involved or as simple as he/she/they wish by inserting photos/captions/graphic embellishments one-by-one OR by taking advantage of the "auto" feature that - boom! - inserts photos randomly and completes your book in less than five minutes. (I've done both.) The Mixbook arrival is an exciting event in our family household; a special one that allows kids and grown-ups to sit down together to relive those "Oooh! Remember when we...?" conversations over an over. Priceless.
Anthony Bourdain (RIP) meets the "sharing economy" = Eat With: a website that facilitates unique social dining experiences (aka Air B-n-B of Dining). Available in 130 cities, this site allows you to book an authentic local meal with verified hosts - often in the comfort of their own homes. Forgo the tourist trap restaurants and dine hygge-style in a cozy Scandinavian home, on a scenic patio in Tuscany, or even atop a Parisian roof! For those who prefer a full culinary experience, Eat With also offers cooking class & dine options PLUS food walks/market tours led by a local host. (Cheese crawl, anyone?) Eat With offers US city locations so you can try it stateside first to see if social dining is your jam.
The Lonely Planet second edition “Cities” publication is everything a good coffee table book should be: stylish, substantive, starter of interesting conversations. The hardback black finish with pastel metallic ink is downright sexy, but don’t just judge this book by its cover: the inside content is pretty awesome, too. The editors deliver a tight, two-page travel overview of selected cities from multiple continents, along with honest “Pros” and “Cons” commentary. This book covers typical tourist destinations (Paris and Amsterdam, we're looking at you) while also introducing a few cities that you likely haven’t heard of (and ones that I definitely can't spell), which makes it a useful tool in creating your travel “bucket list.” It also functions as an excellent catalyst for a G-rated game of “Would you rather…” Trust me: If you’re on Bumble, buy this book and display it prominently. At worst, you’ll kill time when the conversation lags; at best, you’ll discover a uniquely weird shared desire to visit Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi. Two first-class tickets, please!
I have many dream jobs and near the top of that list is “Nail Color Namer” for OPI, a salon-quality nail polish line known for using clever puns to describe its lacquers. It was a real gut-punch when the company asked Kerry Washington aka "Olivia Pope" to help name its DC 2016 Fall/Winter Collection. I mean, did SHE come up with “Monumental Metal,” a perfect shade of silver? Or the no-brainer: “Rose Garden?” At any rate, each season OPI introduces a new destination-based collection with colors named after a city, country or even continent. For example, in 2019 the “Scotland” (e.g.: “Good Girl Gone Plaid”) and “Tokyo” (e.g. “Rice, Rice Baby”) collections debuted. Many colors in OPI’s destination-based collections have become cult classics. (“Lincoln Park After Dark” and “Big Apple Red” each have legions of devotees.) The names and colors evoke mood, and are perfect for getting into a stylish spirit pre-vacation or as a low-cost way to recapture favorite travel memories. (After all, indulging in a spa mani-pedi is much more affordable than trans-Atlantic airfare.) Visit OPI.com to view current collections; request at your local nail salon or purchase online to BYOB. And if you can’t decide on just one color, WalMart.com sells each entire 12 bottle collection as a set for $79.95.
Back in Pixie Pop's early career days as a traveling CPA, he unwittingly started a "Teddy Bear Collection" for me by bringing back an airport bargain bin stuffy from each city he visited. (Or so I was told. I'm guessing there were a more than a few metropolitan areas omitted from the display shelf in my bedroom.) I dutifully named each bear after its home city and then proceeded to look up information about said city in a red, leather-bound encyclopedia. (Kids: Google "encyclopedia.") My personal favorites were "twin bears" in identical red plaid overalls named "Pittsburgh" and "Philadelphia." (Kudos to Pixie Pop for spinning the "twin" storyline vs admitting he'd bought the same bear twice. Hook; line; sinker.) By using a toy/teddy bear, I was immediately engaged to learn more about its origin, which prompted discussions about geography, climate, Six Flags locations and other key data points.
Little Passports, an award-winning monthly subscription box, arrives via postal mail and expands greatly on the basic concept of hooking a kid's curiosity about travel through tiny "souvenir" toys, crafts, stickers and postcards. Each month, the lucky child receives a themed box to build upon the initial gift of a lunchbox-sized "suitcase" that includes a passport booklet and a very large paper world map (which Pixie Niece EC now carries in the backseat of the car so she "won't get bored.") Questions about culture, cuisine (Paris has "great bread"), landmarks, mineral resources (the "amethyst" from the Brazil box was a major hit), Coronavirus (thank you, Japan box; Pixie Niece EC loves a good medical drama), and more spill out of the mouths of the babes who are fortunate enough to subscribe to this series. Little Passports offers developmentally-appropriate subscriptions, starting with concepts like oceans and animals (Early Explorers, ages 3-5) and moving onto the World Edition (ages 6-10 and USA Edition (ages 7-12) activity-based boxes. Gift subscriptions in 1, 6 and 12 month installments are available.