Greg Alexander


Serious Shopping in Singapore

Just Say Go, June 17, 2009

I have to admit that the only things I knew about Singapore were that they take their shopping seriously and the infamous case of Michael Peter Fay, the American who was caned in Singapore in 1994, for theft and vandalism. So, when we were planning a trip to Vietnam and wanted to make the most out of our frequent flyer miles and add on a side trip, we chose Singapore, knowing that it was probably not somewhere that we would travel to on its own.

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Elegance in Hanoi

Just Say Go, June 12, 2009

Walking the streets of Hanoi is like traveling back in time to several countries all at once. The historic city is an mélange of different cultures and outside influences, especially the French, who ruled Hanoi from the 1850s to the 1950s. French architecture abounds, and French wine dominates the wine lists at most restaurants. Wide, tree-lined streets, enormous palaces in the French Quarter and an Opera House that mimics its Parisian counterpart make you feel as though you are walking the streets of Paris.

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More than Just Angkor

Just Say Go, June 15, 2009

When we were planning our trip recently to Vietnam, I decided that if I was going to be that close to one of the significant archaeological sites in the world – Angkor, a UNESCO World Heritage site – that a side trip to Cambodia would have to fit into the itinerary. I did some quick research, and most of the guide books all said the same thing: allow 1-2 days maximum, see Angkor and leave, as there is not much else to see in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I heeded their advice and added on two days to the itinerary, got a Cambodian visa and booked the necessary flights.

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Side Trips from Hanoi: Halong Bay and Sapa

Just Say Go, June 15, 2009

Visiting Hanoi is a trip in itself with its French architecture, warm people and delicious culinary options. However, one of the best things about Hanoi is its strategic location and opportunities to visit the water and the mountains via two easy side trips.

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Combine Big City with the Beach

Just Say Go, June 16, 2009

When planning our trip to Vietnam, we encountered the same dilemma that all travelers do to this long and skinny country – do we travel north to south or vice versa? We decided that – since the north is cooler – we’d end our trip up there since we knew we’d be returning to cool temperatures when we returned home to Baltimore in early March. So, our journey started in Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon), and besides the pleasure of warm temperatures, we found that this exciting, cosmopolitan city is the perfect point of entry to Vietnam with its fast-paced environment and important role in history.

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Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

Mason-Dixon Arrive, June 1, 2009

I love baseball. And while I am not a statistical maven, I love the simplicity of the game, the ability to be outdoors enjoying a cold beer in the bleachers and the passion displayed by players and fans alike. Even though I grew up in the football-crazed South and graduated from the University of Georgia where football is considered a legitimate religion, my Mom brainwashed me early to be a Chicago Cubs fan (she was raised in Evanston, Ill.), despite knowing that the Cubs would break my heart every year.

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Dizzy D.C. Circles Life Around Dupont Circle and Logan Circle

Mason-Dixon Arrive, May 2009

I remember the first time I drove to Washington, D.C. I was heading to 17th Street for dinner, and I had directions from a co-worker who lived in D.C. She had warned me about the confusing circles – Logan, Dupont, Thomas and Scott – especially at night. I brushed off her warning, as I was used to driving in cities; however, the moment I entered Dupont Circle, I knew the impetus for her warning. Streets shot off in all different directions like bicycle spokes, all with last-minute signs pointing the way to different streets – Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, P Street – and if you are in the wrong lane and need to exit the circle, forget about it; no one’s letting you over, so you might as well circle around and around in a dizzying manner.

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Hit the Trail and Celebrate Winter

Baltimore Sun, December 7, 2008

Winter. When some people hear the word, they think of the headaches – rising heating bills, shoveling snow, walking the dog in icy conditions, tough driving conditions and unfashionable bulky coats. However, winter is an amazingly beautiful season, a white-capped winter wonderland when even the City gets quiet and the sky crystal clear.

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Be a Tourist in Your Own City

Mason-Dixon Arrive, December 2008

Our editorial mantra here at Mason-Dixon ARRIVE has always been “Go See Something!” It’s our attempt to encourage readers to put aside an afternoon and go explore something new in our wonderful region, or simply rediscover somewhere you haven’t been in a while. Typically, we take you on BackRoads for a day to tucked away gems or to regional destinations for a weekend stay. As December is one of the craziest months for our readers – with holiday parties, shopping, visiting Grandma and entertaining on the docket – I thought it prudent to instead take advantage of what we have right here in our back yard – Baltimore City. Hundreds of thousands of tourists descend on the Inner Harbor each year, while locals tend to avoid it unless family is in town or heading there for a Ravens game or the New Year’s Eve fireworks.

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Don’t Be Afraid – Hit the Slopes

Baltimore Sun, November 9, 2008

Swooshing down the slopes, the wind in your hair, darting back and forth while admiring the picturesque mountains and the powdery snow … skiing and snowboarding can be relaxing, therapeutic and exhilarating – all at the same time. However, if you are a first-timer or someone who hasn’t hit the slopes in a few years, it can also be a terrifying and nerve-rattling experience.

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Wine Tunes: Summer Music at the Vineyards

Mason-Dixon Arrive, July 2008

Summer’s here, and quite possibly the hardest decisions every weekend seems to be what fun event or festival to attend, as the Mason-Dixon region really packs the calendar offerings in July. Do you head to a fair and see the adorable animals or attend one of the many ethnic festivals during the summer and expand your horizons? Well, this month, I’ve decided to combine two of my favorite things in life to help give our readers some ideas – wine and music.

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Sweet Caroline: Hidden Gem on the Eastern Shore

Mason-Dixon Arrive, May 2008

As the temperature begins to rise and summer beckons in the distance, the call of the Bay Bridge begins, urging us to head south, cross the bridge and explore the Eastern Shore. And while hot spots such as Ocean City, St. Michaels, Rehoboth and Easton may seem like natural ports of call across the Bay Bridge, there’s another destination that should be on your itinerary, a more rural, quieter location where you’re urged to slow down, yet still packs enough attractions in its boundaries to keep you busy for days. Denton, located along the Choptank River, and the surrounding towns in Caroline County, is this aforementioned place, located just 60 miles from Baltimore and perfect for a day – or weekend – trip.

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Old-Fashioned Fun in PA Dutch Country

Baltimore Sun, April 13, 2008

In today’s hectic world, Americans always seem to be on the go, and even when we are standing still, we’re connected to the world via Blackberries, iPhones, e-mail, cell phones … you name it. Wouldn’t it be nice to escape for a few days and return to an old-fashioned way of life, where you’re encouraged to slow down a bit? Well, you can, and the good news is that this magical place is only a short drive away from Baltimore – the Pennsylvania Dutch Country.

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Gaming on the Gulf

Baltimore Sun, March 23, 2008

In 2005, we all witnessed the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and the slow response by the federal government, which just added to the anguish for the people of the Gulf regions of Louisiana and Mississippi. However, one positive outcome of Katrina did shine through – the stalwart determination of the people there to proclaim that the region would bounce back. And while some viewed parts of the rebuilding effort a gamble, there is one sure bet in these two states – warm hospitality, wonderful local cuisine and endless fun, including the many gaming institutions.

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Sweet Retreat: Hershey, Pa.

Mason-Dixon Arrive, February 2008

There’s just nothing sweeter than chocolate, and this month as Valentine’s Day urges everyone to be sweet to a loved one, for many, chocolate is the recipe for romance. So, if you love chocolate (who doesn’t?), head to “The Sweetest Place on Earth,” Hershey, Pa., home to the four-diamond Hershey Hotel, a quaint downtown, an amusement park, world-class spa and, of course, the Hershey Company. And, like everything in Hershey, a trip here is all about the chocolate.

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Sailors Invade Annapolis!

Mason-Dixon Arrive, September 2007

Annapolis is known for a lot of things – the U.S. Naval Academy, charming shops, Colonial and Federal architecture and world-class seafood. However, one of the state capital’s proudest distinctions is its international reputation as the epicenter of sailing. No matter where you go worldwide, mention Annapolis in sailing circles, and sailors know immediately what city you are talking about, so it’s no wonder that the United States Sailboat Show has been held in this Colonial port for the past 37 years.

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Enjoy the Great Outdoors in Virginia Beach

Baltimore Sun, July 15, 2007

Virginia Beach. Myrtle Beach. Rehoboth Beach. What do these all have in common? Obviously, the “beach,” but what if you are not a “sit-and-read-a-book” type of beach person? Well, then head to Virginia Beach where outdoor activities go well beyond the beach, and there is bound to be something for everyone to enjoy in your group. Yes, Virginia Beach – which attracts three million annual overnight visitors – is famous for its historic Boardwalk, but the resort town is also home to more than 18,600 acres of state parks and wildlife refuges, offering outdoor activities galore.

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Bachelor Party 101: A Primer for Men

My Day, Summer 2007

Bachelor parties used to be basic drinkfests, with little imagination or effort involved in planning. Not anymore – today’s parties for the groom-to-be and his friends involve a far more classy approach. Think recreation. Think destination. And yes, think beer – only this time it’s the brewing that matters, rather than simply imbibing. Limited only by your imagination, a bachelor party involves some serious guy-time, just the ticket for a memorable bash with best buds.

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As Good as Gold, June 19, 2007

Thailand is a country rich in cultural and geographic diversity, and yet most Americans are familiar with only Phuket (due to the devastating tsunami in 2004) and Bangkok (thanks to a certain ‘80s pop song and a few poorly made Hollywood movies about the dangers of drugs in Bangkok). However, Thailand is more than just the cosmopolitan city of Bangkok and the picturesque beaches in Phuket. Up north lies an undiscovered section of the country where visitors can view three countries at once – the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Myanmar and Laos come together to form an amazing mélange of cultures, language and attitudes.

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Hong Kong: A Shopper's Paradise

Baltimore Sun, March 2007

When it comes to shopping, there’s nothing quite like finding a bargain. Whether it’s via a clip-out coupon from the newspaper, a holiday sale or an annual sale, there’s a certain rush about finding something you want for less (how else can you explain the throngs of people who head out at 6 a.m., the day after Thanksgiving?). However, after you get home, take a look at the “Made In” label on your clothes. Chances are, many of them will say China. So, if you want to experience real savings, why not cut out the middleman and head to the Far East for a once-in-a-lifetime shopping experience?

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Shoppers enjoy a variety of options in Virginia

Baltimore Sun, May 6, 2007

The Commonwealth of Virginia is known for a lot of things –Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown’s 400th birthday celebration this year, small college towns, Busch Gardens and fine seafood on the Chesapeake Bay. However, a tourism component that may get overlooked amidst all of Virginia’s rich history is the commonwealth’s varied shopping opportunities – everything from mega-outlets, shopping malls and quaint historic towns lined with antique shops and boutiques.

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Four Fabulous Dream Vacations

Baltimore Sun, April 8, 2007


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Back to the Beach!

Baltimore Sun, March 25, 2007

They say that a bad day at the beach is still better than a good day at the office (although I still have a hard time figuring out how you can have a bad time at the beach). In any event, there’s nothing like spending the day at the beach, allowing the pounding of the surf to hypnotize you into a deep sleep. The only question is: Which beach to choose? Ocean City, Md., and Rehoboth, Del., lie just over the Bay Bridge; however, this year, head south and discover the beaches of the Southeast, each one distinctly beautiful.

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Family Fun at The Cape!

Baltimore Sun, March 11, 2007

With spring just around the corner, the temperatures will be rising, making for perfect weather to head to the beach. Marylanders are fortunate to have several resort towns to choose from in the mid-Atlantic, and there’s no need to wait until summer to head to the shore. Spring is an excellent time of year to go, and with the array of events, great dining and fun activities, New Jersey’s Cape May and The Wildwoods – rated by the readers of FamilyFun magazine, published by the Walt Disney Publications, as the top tourist area in the Northeast – are the perfect destination for families. Whether your family’s interests are fishing, camping, amusement rides, music or simply strolling along the famed boardwalks, these two resort areas are the places to be.

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Washington’s Proud Neighborhoods: Walking Through Culture and History

Mason-Dixon Arrive, March 2007

Tourists flock from all over the world to Washington, D.C., to sightsee around the National Mall’s iconic museums, monuments and memorials, and learn more about our nation’s history and government. At the end of this month, thousands will converge on D.C., for one of the most popular events in the Nation’s Capital – the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which commemorates the original gift of the 3,000 cherry trees from the city of Tokyo to the people of Washington, D.C. Sure, seeing the new World War II Memorial, touring the Smithsonian Museums or climbing up the gigantic marble staircase to Abraham Lincoln are rites of passage for all Americans. Having done that, the next time you visit Washington, D.C., take one of the many self-guided Heritage Trails tours that will take you away from the throngs of tour buses and deep into D.C.’s unique and fascinating neighborhoods. Discover what few tourists learn – that D.C., is truly a city of neighborhoods, each worth exploring in their own right.

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Face your fears in the Poconos

Baltimore Sun, January 7, 2007

“Snowplow! Snowplow! Snowplow!” As a kid learning how to ski, I remember having that screamed at me the first time I tried snow skiing on a icy mountain in North Carolina, not known for its excellent skiing, especially for beginners. And while learning how to properly snowplow will hopefully keep you from breaking a leg – or worse – there’s more to learning how to ski than simply turning your skis inward to slow your forward momentum.

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Sotterley: A Riverbank Treasure

Mason-Dixon Arrive, December 2006

When Americans look to hit the road to visit a historic home museum, the names Monticello and Mount Vernon immediately may pop to mind. Monticello, the grand mountaintop mansion that was home to Thomas Jefferson, and Mount Vernon, George and Martha Washington’s home for 40 years, are American icons. However, if you’re looking to step back in time and explore a grand estate that actually predates both Monticello and Mount Vernon, head south to Sotterley Mansion, a National Historic Landmark located in St. Mary’s County, less than 15 miles from historic St. Mary’s City, the site of the founding of the Colony of Maryland in 1634.

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Main Street, Carroll County

Mason-Dixon Arrive, November 2006

Ahh … the holidays. A special time in America dedicated to conspicuous consumption! This holiday season, resist the temptation to rush out to a nearby mall to tackle your entire shopping list in one day. Instead, discover the special gifts found off the beaten path on an old-fashioned “Main Street.” Sample Carroll County’s small towns, stroll downtown shops, sample local cuisine and stop to enjoy the view along the way. With the countryside dotted with old barns and Civil War markers, by the time you’ve completed your journey, you’ll know why so many people have recently moved to the towns of this pleasant county.

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Gettysburg – Beyond the Battlefield

Baltimore Sun, September 10, 2006

Gettysburg. The word alone can send chills up your spine, as you close your eyes and visualize the three-day battle that resulted in over 50,000 casualties. Gettysburg was the turning point in the Civil War, and it was here that more men fought – and died – than in any other battle before or since on American soil. This three-day bloody battle is one of the major reasons that the Gettysburg National Military Park is one of America’s most frequently visited sites; however, there is more to Gettysburg than the battlefield.

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Honeymoons in your element

Baltimore Sun, February 19, 2006

Remember in junior high science class when you learned about the four basic elements? Well, in case junior high was more years ago than you’d like to admit, here’s a refresher course: The Greek philosopher Empedocles asserted that matter consists of four elements – earth, air, fire and water – a theory that was later supported and embellished upon by the famous philosopher, Aristotle. So, what’s this have to do with wedding planning? Well, actually most – if not all – travel destinations can fall into one of these categories, including your honeymoon destination, so when you’re trying to decide on the type of honeymoon you want, let you junior high science teacher help you out.

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Time to hit the beach!

Baltimore Sun, September 2005

Looking to head to the beach and enjoy sitting in a beach chair, soaking up some rays and maybe even tiptoe into the surf? Well, if you aren’t willing – or able – to fly south to the Caribbean, you may think your choices are limited. Think again. Just a short, half-day car drive away lies Virginia Beach, offering warm temperatures, attractions galore and enough recreational activities and special events to keep you busy for days.

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Let freedom – to shop – ring

Baltimore Sun, September 2005

Philadelphia – a town synonymous with Benjamin Franklin, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Betsy Ross and even Rocky Balboa. However, there’s more to the City of Brotherly Love than American and cinematic history. Not merely the birthplace of much of American history, Philadelphia also is the birthplace of other important names – Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Lagos, a high-end jewelry line, all of which were founded in Philadelphia. Yes, Philadelphia is a shopaholic’s dream, offering everything from “Big Box” chain stores and high-end department stores to quaint boutiques, brand-name retail stores and antiques galore. And, in case you needed any more excuses to shop, remember – there is no sales tax on clothing in Pennsylvania.

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Sailing away on the Bay

Mason-Dixon Arrive, June 2005

The Chesapeake Bay’s approximately 4,000 miles of shoreline offer endless opportunities to discover quiet hideaways, exciting ports of call and sleepy, quaint towns rich in history. When the weekend rolls around, sailors look to hit the open waters for some time on the Bay. If you’re looking for a weekend trip on your sailboat, where should you go? Chesapeake City, North East, Annapolis, Baltimore, St. Michaels, Easton, Oxford, Tilghman Island … the list goes on and on. Of course, where you dock your boat and its size will determine where you can go for a two- or three-day trip. As a recent sailboat owner, I’m anxious to explore all the Bay has to offer. So, here are three popular weekend trips that encompass several ports of call.

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Romance in the Near East

Baltimore Sun, May 2005

When people think of honeymoon spots, many consider the Caribbean, Hawaii, Mexico or even Europe. However, couples planning that special romantic getaway would be wise not to overlook the U.S. East Coast – from seaside resorts to quaint inns perched in the mountains, the East Coast has it all. Although your choices are endless, here are 10 of the best destinations – up the coast from Florida all the way to Maine.

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Cruising the Pacific

Baltimore Sun, February 2005

When people think of cruising, flying south to Miami or Fort Lauderdale to catch a boat comes to mind. Cruisers traditionally have flown south to Florida for trips to the Caribbean, Key West, New Orleans and west toward the Panama Canal. However, the “left” coast also presents opportunities for cruising. The ports of San Diego, Los Angeles and Vancouver allow West Coast residents to enjoy cruising; however, East Coast residents, too, can combine a California vacation with a cruise to such exciting southern destinations as the Mexican Riviera, Costa Rica and Chile, as well as short cruises along the U.S. coastline.

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Celebrate romance

Baltimore Sun, January 2005

Obviously, planning a wedding is stressful. Despite following all the proper planning advice from friends, families and wedding planners, there are always stressful moments, and most brides and grooms feel a sense of relief when the wedding day draws to a close. Not only are they happy that every item on the “to-do list” is checked, but the couple also has a honeymoon to enjoy. So, after all the rushing around and bickering with each other on the wedding details, the happy couple gets to enjoy some time alone to begin their life together and embark on the most romantic time of their marriage. Just about anywhere will be romantic, but travel agents seem to agree that most couples still want to find romance on the islands. With that in mind, here are some especially romantic places to honeymoon on the beach, as well as stateside locales:

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Cruising today offers more than just shuffleboard

Baltimore Sun, October 2004

Ask someone who hasn’t taken a cruise in a while or someone who has never embarked on a cruise what first comes to mind regarding cruising and you’ll likely hear the same answers — relaxing by the pool, huge meals where you’re forced to sit with a group of strangers and, of course, shuffleboard. And while shuffleboard and relaxing are still found on today’s cruise ships, an array of intense fitness activities and a dizzying amount of dining options geared toward a younger demographic are commonplace.

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Paradise awaits you in Tahiti

Baltimore Sun, August 2004

Different couples have different agendas when planning a honeymoon. Some what adventure, while others strive for quiet and relaxation. Some couples want the excitement of big cities like Paris, Rome or Tokyo, while others want to explore exotic cultures in Thailand, Hawaii or South Africa. However, most couples will agree on one important element in a honeymoon – romance. And if you’re able to get away for at least a week and have a few coins in the honeymoon piggy bank, there’s simply nothing more romantic than Tahiti.

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Cruise your way closer to nature

Baltimore Sun, January 2004

Cruises have something for everyone. On board they have Las Vegas-style shows, countless restaurants and bars, dance and exercise classes, gambling and fun for the kids, while onshore excursions allow you to visit exciting ports. However, some cruise travelers are looking to discover things a little more exotic in their travels, most of which have four legs or wings.

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Las Vegas: a sure bet for a fun vacation

Baltimore Sun, December 2002

Billed as “The Entertainment Capital of the World,” Las Vegas has fought for years to counter the common stereotype that Las Vegas is a city primarily of vices — gambling, drinking and partying. While most nightclubs are still open 24 hours a day and gambling is still big business, a new, aggressive advertising campaign by the city illustrates what over 35 million visitors discover each year — there’s more to Las Vegas than slots, blackjack and roulette.

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