Having just returned from a long overdue revisit, I would agree with most of Jason's and Tyler's recommendations and observations. Paris is a work of art (veering on cliché) best explored on foot and by Metro.
It only took six years, but I am pleased to report I am one state away from visiting all fifty United States, a long-standing box to be checked on the bucket list.
Again, SG came through and arranged for a weekend excursion to nearby Little Rock, Arkansas. Unlike our surprise getaway to Omaha, Nebraska eight years ago, we had a couple of extra travelers in tow this time, which definitely put a different spin on things (note to self: next time, fly). We all agreed the River Rail Streetcar was a highlight. Other recommended destinations include the William J. Clinton Presidential Library, Little Rock Central High School and National Historic Site, and the Arkansas State Capitol Building. While the boys were a bit young to fully appreciate the significance of LRCHS in the history of African-American civil rights, the visit was a good learning opportunity for all of us.
With tornadoes forecasted, we decided to head back home early on Sunday. Waking Monday morning, I was surprised to hear how much damage had occurred; my thoughts are with those who lost loved ones to the storms.
SG and I recently returned from a trip to Hawaii. It turned out to be one of the best vacations we’ve ever had. We spent time relaxing on the beach and swimming in the ocean, exploring up country and Haleakala Crater (at 10,000+ feet), and driving the north coast along the famous road to Hana. The food was great too (I enjoyed plenty of Wahoo/Ono, a long-time favorite since spending summers on Cape Hattaras as a kid) and we met some interesting people too.
If only booking the flight had been as pleasant. Readers take note: after years of flying with United Airlines, I’ve pretty much given up on them. Customer service was off-the-chart bad, mostly because company policies were never communicated consistently and no one was empowered to make amends for the difficulties these miscommunications caused. It is a lesson for all businesses: keep your policies simple, easy to understand, and make sure that all of your employees are talking from the same page. It will save you money and keep your customers loyal.
There is a silver lining though. Early during the flight between SFO and Maui, the attendants announced “Halfway to Hawaii.” With this contest, passengers are asked to calculate (or guess, as in our case) when the plane will pass over the exact half-way distance to their Hawaiian destination based on important data like take-off time, estimated time of arrival, headwind speed, etc. SG shrugged, did a few guesstimations in her head and scribbled 5:07PM Pacific Time on her ballot. She was exactly 5 seconds off and received first prize!
Another Three Down, Three to Go
Earlier this year, as a surprise birthday gift, SG organized an all expenses paid weekend excursion to none other than Omaha, Nebraska . . . Omaha?? you might say . . . well, in fact, the gift was more selfless than you might imagine, since SG and I are competing to see who can visit all fifty U.S. states first, and Nebraska was on my list. So there you go. It was a great birthday weekend. We had fun exploring the downtown, historic area, catching a poetry reading, and visiting the famous zoo. Omaha proved to be an interesting town with its own special character and style. It’s one of those emerging smaller cities that deliver on culture and the arts and a good quality of life while avoiding some of the drawbacks of larger cities.
This summer, we were able to tick off another two states too, Kansas and Oklahoma, while driving from Chicago to Austin. Now I am officially down to three remaining states: North Dakota, Hawaii, and Arkansas, so let me know if you see any good fares to Fargo.