Tag Archive | vacation

UK Holiday: UK rules for personal foodstuffs less strict than USA rules

The count down is on for my flight and the excitement is building.  I am making my food shopping list, checking it twice, and going to find out who is naughty and nice! (Couldn’t help the pun).


You can’t bring the beef jerky into the UK nor bring UK origin beef jerky into the USA. The trail mix is fine going into the UK, but must be declared at customs returning to the USA.

Time to really look at government websites and see what is and is not allowed.  Fortunately my post from yesterday seems to be spot-on with regards to what you can bring into the United Kingdom from outside of Europe.  As specified on gov.uk, the main restrictions relate to meat and dairy.  If you go through the page, HM government is very detailed and very explicit on the matter — which is good because no one wants problems at customs.  You can consume meat and dairy to your heart’s content on your flight from USA to UK — at long as you throw away the leftovers before you land.

The USA is apparently much more strict about food coming home from another country.  Looking at the US Customs and Border Protection site and their FAQ for travelers you cannot bring ANY fresh food of any type into the United States.  Anything you do bring with you (aka you didn’t throw away before you disembark from your plane into the USA) must be declared OR YOU FACE a $10,000 FINE.

$10,000 for not saying “I have some crackers in my bag.”


These apricots are allowed into the UK without any issues. But if I don’t eat them while on holiday and try to bring them back into the USA, I must declare them at customs — or face a $10,000 fine!

Absolutely NO fresh food is allowed into the USA at all.  According to the FAQ, most dried fruits and nuts ARE allowed — as long as you declare them.  Likewise, as long as you tell them, it’s not an issue if you save your pretzels from your flight to eat while you are waiting to change planes.

But it is a bit telling.  I really never expected the flight back to the USA to be more risky than the flight to the United Kingdom.

Well, maybe this is just the universe’s way of telling me something I already know about myself — and where I am happiest!

The 3 Best Walking Tours for Your Vacation/staycation

May 23rd, 2012

One of the advantages of living in six states across my adult life is the amount of travel it’s allowed me to pursue. In total, I have traveled through, over, or in over 22 states and seen both the Atlantic Ocean (in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts) and Pacific Ocean (in California). With my bachelors in psychology and history, I favor historical sites and tours and enjoy the exercise of walking tours in particular. Here are three of my favorite walking tours I’ve personally taken:

The Battle for New York tour (New York City). Spanning Brooklyn, Manhattan, and beyond, this walking tour by Barnet Schecter is found in his book “The Battle for New York” is a combination step-by- step walking tour and guide to New York City’s role in the American War for Independence (the better term for “the American Revolution” since the war was a civil war between Americans even more than it was a conflict between the Crown and the Patriots). Look for the walking tour online at http://www.thebattlefornewyork.com/walking_tour.php or just buy Barnet’s book at your favorite book retailer. Cost of the book is around $30 for hardcover. The cost of the tour itself is just what you spend in bus/subway fare for the sections of this comprehensive “revolutionary” war experience, making it an economical New York City vacation option.

Honorable mention: Big Onion Tours features a very good walking tour of Revolutionary WarManhattan for $18 per person along with dozens of other New York City historical and neighborhood walking tours also available. See http://www.bigonion.com for more information.

The Freedom Trail (Boston). A costumed guided tour of Boston’s most significant “revolutionary” war sites, the Freedom Trail is an exploration of Boston’s 17th and 18th century history and its role in the War for Independence. The classic tour is the “Walk into History Tour” which departs on the hour from Boston Commons (see schedule athttp://www.thefreedomtrail.org/tickets/tours.html). Tickets currently range from $11 for adults to $5 for children and are purchased on a per person basis. Tours last about 50 minutes.

Allegany-Portage Railroad Museum (Gallitzin, PA). Pennsylvania is famous for its railroads and its role in the evolution of transportation in the United States. Among its most famous railroads was the Allegany-Portage line which ran from Hollidaysburg in Blair County to Johnstown in Cambria County. From 1834 to 1854 the Allegeny-Portage served as a vital rail link connecting the water route between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg which only ran in two sections: Pittsburgh to Johnstown and Hollidaysburg to Harrisburg. Covering 1249 acres and run by the National Park Service, visitors enjoy a free self-guided walking tour using their cell phones and typing in the location code along each stop. Don’t feel like walking all day? Check out the park’s history museum for just $4 per person (http://www.nps.gov/alpo/index.htm).

A Boston Fourth to Remember

In honor of Independence Day, here’s a look at my recollections of my Fourth of July 2008 trip to Boston, Massachusetts USA


A Boston Fourth to Remember

 June 18th, 2012
Taken July 3rd, 2008 in the heart of Old Boston

Taken July 3rd, 2008 in the heart of Old Boston

It started with my first Amtrak trip. My companion and I took the subway from Midwood, Brooklyn to New York Penn Station, retrieved our tickets from the kiosk, and boarded Amtrak’s Acela headed for Boston. For those who live on or can readily connect to the Washington DC to Boston Acela route, I must heartedly recommend it; as our nation’s high speed rail route, it is much faster than driving – and without the traffic or fuel expense – and much more comfortable than either driving or flying!

From the Boston Amtrak station, we took Boston’s subway to Old Boston; our hotel reservation was with the famous Omni Parker House just off School Street. Omni Parker is famous for inventing the Boston Crème Pie, which we tried! But the rooms are very small, even to a New Yorker, and very expensive with none of the amenities that you’ll find at mid-priced hotels like Comfort Inn.

With our room secured, we were ready to explore Boston over our three day Fourth of July vacation. We started with Boston’s Duck tour around the city and into the Charles River, seeing some of Boston and Cambridge’s most famous landmarks. After the tour, we explored the nearby pedestrian mall and encountered the Middlesex County Volunteer drum-fife corp performing in front of Borders. Then it was off for dinner on Beacon Hill. There’s a terrific Irish pub there with truly authentic Irish cuisine for a modest price. The next morning, July 3rd, we walked down to Boston Commons (less than six blocks from the Omni Parker hotel) to take the “Freedom Trail” tour (tickets available at a kiosk in Boston Commons) where we explored many Old Boston historical sites, including the Old State House where the Declaration was read for the first time in 1776 and every year since from the same balcony. Our guide was dressed in the uniform of a French officer, adding to our experience. With the tour over, we walked down to Faneuil Hall and market place, one of the stops on our Freedom Trail tour, for some shopping, dinner, and night life. There are several lovely cafes there that should be a must-visit for anyone interested in Old Boston.

The morning of the 4th was the best of all. For me, it started with a walk down to the Old State House to hear the Declaration of Independence in full. After the reading, as I walked back to Omni Parker House (my companion was the “sleep late” sort of person) I heard drums. Following the parade to a courtyard, I watched grenadiers representing Crown troops demonstrate the drills practiced during the War for Independence. Gathering my companion after the parade and performances, we explored near the hotel in greater detail; there are many very old buildings clustered together in Old Boston.

With our train back scheduled for 11am, I found myself wishing for one more day. As we prepared to leave, we noticed Kings Chapel, the first Unitarian church in America. As a Unitarian myself, I was intrigued and we asked to see the church. Unfortunately for us, services were going to begin in less than hour and with our train leaving in about an hour from that time, we could not stay; but the usher let us walk into the sanctuary for two minutes and gave a rushed primer on what we were seeing. I told him about being UU myself and a fascinating discussion went on for about ten minutes about the forming of Unitarianism in America and King’s Chapel’s role in it.

With another smooth train trip home, we were sad to leave. It was a wonderful 4th of July.