Help! I Need Travel Ideas for the New Year

The Open Suitcase needs travel ideas for the new year. Where’d you go in 2016? What did you love? Or hate? Leave your suggestions for places to visit, foods to eat, and things to do, or not do, in the comments section for a chance to win some travel inspiration.

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The calendar flips in a few days and I need travel ideas for the new year. It’s how I survive winter.

I’m inviting you to play a round of show and tell. Continue reading

Visiting Grand Rapids: Beer, Art, Beer, Repeat

Tell people you’re visiting Grand Rapids and you’re likely to get a confused look. This city of 200,000, located in Western Michigan, is still an under the radar travel destination, but it won’t be for long. It’s easy to navigate, features a premier art destination, and has a lively craft beer scene. It’s easy to sample during a quick weekend getaway, but, once you get a taste, you’ll want to return for a second helping.

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The dominant sculpture in the garden is American Horse by Nina Akamu. Photo: Cathy Bennett Kopf/The Open Suitcase LLC

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What’s Shutter Speed Got to Do With It? How to Take Better Photos.

Want to take better photos? The key is practice, practice, practice. And, if you get the chance to practice in the company of a pro, do it! Taking a photo tour with a legit photographer gives you the chance to ask all kinds of dumb questions and to correct one or two things that will immediately improve your shots.

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Wandering around the Donaldson Farm, I kept waiting for the big tractors to talk to me as if I was in a Disney cartoon. Photo: The Open Suitcase LLC

Getting the chance to bum around with a professional photographer with an all access pass is a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. And you don’t have to have tons of equipment or years of experience to have a great time and to learn to take better photos. I self-identify as a beginner-intermediate when it comes to using my DSLR camera, meaning I still have to think really, really hard about whether the aperture needs to be big or small to get a crisply focused background. Continue reading

Nun for a Weekend: Quebec City’s Le Monastere des Augustines

Looking for a hotel in Quebec City for a weekend getaway? Traditional options abound but if you want a unique experience, consider a stay at Le Monastere des Augustines, a renovated historical monastery with a wellness mission. I embraced its quiet elegance, artfully designed to soothe the mind and ignite the soul.

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The renovation of Le Monastere thoughtfully combined the old with the new. Photo: Cathy Bennett Kopf/The Open Suitcase LLC

Fear of the Unknown

I didn’t know what to expect when I checked into a monastery for a weekend getaway in Quebec City. Would a gaggle of nuns circle me in the lobby and start singing, “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Cathy?” as in the Sound of Music. Or, worse, would I be stripped naked and escorted to my room in a shameful walk of atonement like Cersei in Game of Thrones? Continue reading

Lonely Planet Book Review: “You Only Live Once”

Looking for a great gift for someone who needs a little inspiration? Or maybe that someone is you. “You Only Live Once: A Lifetime of Experiences for the Explorer in All of Us” is a new publication from Lonely Planet. It’s not a traditional travel guide. Instead, through a series of photographs, brief essays, and infographics, it introduces readers to a world of enriching experiences. It should come with a warning because you’ll want to walk out your front door and never look back.


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The book features stunning photographs of people, places, and things to stimulate your wanderlust. Photo: You Only Live Once: A Lifetime of Experiences for the Explorer in All of Us. © Lonely Planet 2016

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