5 Things to do in Canada’s Cultural Capital, Ville de Montreal

Montreal is a vibrant mega city full of art, culture, architectural masterpieces and good food. The city is well planned and laid out, with a highly efficient public transportation system and a network of bike routes, giving Montreal a more European flavor than the rest of Canada. There’s so much to do here, this article won’t be enough to cover all the magnificent activities and attractions this great city has to offer. So, let’s get started!

1. Head up to Mont Royal

When you’re in Montreal, be sure to include a trip to Mont Royal, the 760-ft. high hill Montreal was named after. Parc du Mont-Royal was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, co-creator of New York’s Central Park. The park offers spectacular views of the entire city, with the Chalet du Mont Royal serving as a wonderful lookout spot. The park is famous for its diverse flora and fauna, and is one of Montreal’s best known and best loved spots.

2. Step back in time and visit Old Montreal

I’m a sucker for all things vintage, and Old Montreal is one fine glimpse into the past. Vieux- Montréal is the site of the original city of Montreal and is a cultural mecca, being the hub and hive of all things artsy. Cobblestone streets, sidewalk cafes and horse-drawn carriages will greet you as you set foot in this beautiful part of the city seemingly untouched by time.

Have a drink at one of the many cafes overlooking the river, or enjoy some performance art in the summertime. Most notable is the Hôtel de Ville or the old Town Hall, with its grand architecture and historic past.

3. Say a prayer at Montreal’s grand basilicas

Your Montreal trip wouldn’t be complete without dropping by the Basilique Notre-Dame, one of the city’s most visited attractions. The iconic church is home to a 7,000 pipe organ that’s estimated to be a hundred years old and is located at the rear chapel. It also houses the gigantic 11-ton Jean-Baptiste bell. When you hear those bells toll, better head on inside the church to see the beautiful ornate wood carvings, stained glass windows, centuries old statues and high vaulted ceilings.

There’s also the Basilique-Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde (Mary Queen of the World Cathedral), which is a small scale replica of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Don’t let the word “small scale” fool you, because this church sits proudly right smack in the middle of towering skyscrapers and can hold its own due to the 294 ft. high dome.

4. Experience Nature in the City

If you’re a nature lover or if you want your kids to experience nature up close and personal, go to the Montreal Biodome for a fun nature adventure. The Biodome is split into four ecosystems: a tropical rainforest, a Laurentian forest, a polar environment and the St. Lawrence marine habitat. The most awesome part of this adventure is you get to experience the changes in temperatures as you stroll through the entirety of the Biodome and enter each separate ecosystem. There are monkeys, bats, capybaras, puffins, marine wildlife and penguins!

Located next to the Biodome is the 185-acre Botanical Gardens, which is home to more than 26,000 species of flora thanks to 10 massive greenhouses each tailored to a specific theme, like the tranquil Japanese Zen garden that showcases bonsai trees and the Chinese Garden which features designs from the 14th to 17th century Ming Dynasty. Don’t touch any plants in the popular poisonous plant section though, unless you want a trip to the emergency room.

5. Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Being the art and cultural capital of Canada, Montreal is home to a lot of museums. The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montreal is the city’s most prestigious museum and has been building its collection of fine arts from renowned artists like Picasso, Rembrandt, Cézanne, El Greco and Renoir. The museum is also home to many Canadian and international masterpieces, plus a collection of artifacts from World War I.

Honorable Mention

As I said, we were bound to run out of real estate when talking about all the amazing things you can do in Montreal. A list like this should be 10x long! Anyway, other places you can go to that are worth mentioning are:

· Plateau – you should spend a day or more here. Go to every shop, every café and talk to everyone!

· Stroll the Underground – There’s a network of underground shops, restaurants and even movie theatres for when winter rolls in. A must see.

· The Food – I have to say, Montreal is a foodies’ paradise. Prepare to gain a few pounds when you visit. Don’t forget to try the smoked meat, the Montreal Bagel and their famous poutine.

· The Beer – There are tons of micro-breweries and if you love beer like the people of Montreal do, be sure to go to a few of them.

· Visit the Markets – A trip to Montreal wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Atwater market and Jean-Talon market.

There you have it folks! This list is far from complete because there are a whole lot more activities, events and festivals in Montreal you just have to experience for yourself. If you want to be near the action at all times, you can opt to stay in the many hotels or condos in the heart of Montreal, so you don’t ever miss out.

Get in The Game With The Kia Trail’ster! #KiaTrailster

Kia Trailster

Kia Trailster – photo courtesy the Chicago Auto Show


Travel consideration provided.

Last week, Kia unveiled their Kia Trail’ster concept at the Chicago Auto Show. This vehicle gives us a peek at how the Kia Soul could evolve in the coming years, with a sporty, electric all-wheel-drive system to help you deal with a wide variety of terrain, from trailheads, to mud, to snow – definitely the kind of vehicle that would fit right in the Pacific Northwest! The Trail’ster is sleek and modern, packing SUV capability into a more compact vehicle. With its “Through-the-Road” hybrid system that doesn’t need a mechanical link between the engine and the motor, this is one futuristic car!

The Kia Trail’ster is all about getting in the game and being ready for any adventure. Since Chicago is home to the Chicago Bulls, a team which Kia proudly sponsors, they decided to celebrate the unveiling of the Trail’ster concept by going out to a Bulls game later that night, and taking a group of bloggers with them to help root on the team. We got on a bus headed to United Center and got ready to cheer on the Bulls!

Taking in a game with Kia

We had amazing seats in a penthouse suite overlooking the game, complete with a chef whipping up custom pasta dishes and an amazing dessert table.

Food in the penthouse suite

The Bulls were facing off against the Cleveland Cavaliers, so we settled in for an exciting game.

Chicago Bulls vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Let's Go Bulls!

Chicago Bulls in Action

Bulls play the Cavaliers

While we watched the game, the Chicago LuvaBulls stopped by to say hi!

Chicago LuvaBulls

Chicago LuvaBulls perform

Our night culminated with the Bulls winning – yeah!!!

Bulls Win!

Between the reveal of the futuristic Trail’ster and watching Chicago’s own Bulls earn another victory in their hometown, I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing and memorable day in the Windy City!

Are you a Bulls fan? Do you think you’d drive a Trail’ster to take in a basketball game?

7 Things You Must do at The Chicago Auto Show

Chicago Auto Show

Travel consideration provided.

Last week, I headed to Illinois for the kickoff off the Chicago Auto Show. This is my second time at the show, and like last year, I had a fantastic time. This auto show is the nation’s largest, covering 1 million square feet; two days before the show opened to the public, it had already sold 250,000 tickets. The atmosphere is like none other and truly an event that is not to be missed – and because there is so much to do, it’s a good idea to make a plan for what you want to see and do before you get there. Here are 7 family-friendly activities that you can’t miss while you’re there:

See The Cars:

Porsche
Well, duh. But if this is your first time at the auto show, you might be surprised by the variety of cars on offer. This isn’t just walking into a room and staring at a bunch of standard vehicles – even if you’re not a big “Car person”, I think you’ll be fascinated by what’s on display.

2.6 million Bugatti
SpongeBob Minivan

From vehicles you might want to buy to concept cars, there is a little bit of everything here. Where else could you find a 2.6 million dollar Bugatti and a SpongeBob minivan in the same building?

Pink car, pink hair

Pink cars, blue cars, old cars, new cars – no, it’s not a Dr. Seuss rhyme, it’s the Chicago Auto Show!

Check Out The Giveaways & Goodies:

Edmunds.com

I’m all about contests and swag, and the Chicago Auto Show has plenty of opportunity to find both. You can provide app feedback at the Edmunds.com booth and pick a prize, Instagram a photo to claim goodies from the Scion Swag Machine, pick up tote bags from different car manufacturers, spin the Nissan and Shell prize wheels, and much more.

Shell prize wheel

If you’re into entering contests like I am, you’ll also have your pick of giveaways: From Ford’s raffle for giant stuffed penguins to car giveaways, there are plenty of opportunities to test your luck!

Play a Game:

Mustang pinball

From pinball to video games, there are a number of fun diversions for the young and young-at-heart!

Take a Ride:

There multiple exciting test drive and track opportunities available at the Chicago Auto Show, such as the exciting Camp Jeep course shown above, where a professional driver takes you through a course that has more in common with a roller coaster than your typical driving track! Several car manufacturers have test tracks at the show – there is even a special Ford Power Wheels F-150 course just for kids.

Create a Souvenir:

Subaru Adventure

All through the auto show, you’ll see opportunities to take fun souvenir videos and photos. Want to create your own Kia hamster dance video, or take refuge from a dinosaur and bigfoot in a Subaru? You can do all of these things and more to commemorate your visit!

Catch an Appearance:

Haley Reinhart

During First Look For Charity, the Chicago Auto Show’s opening night charity gala, we were treated to a performance from American Idol alum Haley Reinhart. During the show, there are several appearances and autograph sessions from athletes, actors and even cartoon characters – click here to view the event schedule for information on appearance times.

Relax:

Infiniti Lounge

The Chicago Auto Show draws a huge crowd, which creates an exciting atmosphere – but it can get a little overwhelming, so make sure you plan breaks to sit down, rest your feet, and grab a bite to eat or something to drink. The Infiniti Lounge provides an oasis from the crowd with a nice place to sit down and take 5!

Experience the Chicago Auto Show

There really is so much to see at the Chicago Auto Show – I highly recommend checking out their list of interactive displays before you go, so that you can make a general plan of what you’d like to hit up while you’re there.

Ticket Information:

Adults: $12
Children ages 7 through 12 & seniors ages 62+: $6
Children under 6: Free when accompanied by an adult family member.
For information about discounts, this year’s food drive, and special reduced price days, click here.
Tickets can be purchased at the show or ordered online here.

Hours & Dates:

Show runs from February 14th through February 22nd – open 9 AM to 10 PM except for Sunday the 22nd, when the show closes at 8 PM.
Event schedule available here.

Location:

McCormick Place
2301 South Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, Illinois 60616

Follow the Chicago Auto Show on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest and get more info at ChicagoAutoShow.com.

Four Romantic Getaway Spots From Wyndham

 

Wyndham Hotel Group, the world’s largest hotel company, is playing cupid and has rounded up the best romantic getaways to get cozy with your special someone this Valentine’s Day.  Check out a few of Wyndham Hotel Group properties in a few romantic destinations below.

· Savannah, GA – When you need a break from your hectic schedule and want to slow things down, head south to Savannah to enjoy some R&R at Days Hotel Savannah at Ellis Square. Check out the four-block area of shops and restaurants of City Market where you can stroll among galleries, horse-drawn carriages and outdoor cafes. Need a date idea? Enjoy dinner and an unforgettable tour of the city on a Savannah Riverboat Cruise!

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· Chicago, IL – Head to the Windy City and get swept away with love! You’ll want to cozy up with your special someone at the Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront to see breathtaking views of the Chicago skyline. Plus, with ideal location just steps from The Loop – Chicago’s theatre and cultural district – there are endless date night possibilities!

· Boston, MA – Walk the charming cobblestone streets hand in hand as you make your way to Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill. Visit the Copley branch of the Boston Public Library with your sweetheart and peruse the artwork on display, admire the beauty of the architecture, and then warm up over tea at the library’s Courtyard Restaurant.

· Napa, CA –  Located in scenic Napa and just minutes from California’s famous world-class wineries, Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Napa Valley hotel is the perfect choice for a romantic getaway. Take the Napa Valley Wine Train, less than a mile away, for a meal, gorgeous views of February mustard blooms and a one-of-a-kind experience.

The Family Friendly Malta

 

The small island nation of Malta offers visitors endless days of sunshine combined with rich culture and beautiful beaches. People who are looking for activities that the whole family can enjoy during their Malta holidays will really be spoiled for choice, kids will be amused and entertained while their parents unwind in style.

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Mellieha Bay

This stunning area of Malta is a great place for families to use as a base while exploring. Mellieha Bay boasts a beautiful beach where you take part in a range of water sports. The town offers plenty of family friendly accommodation options, while nearby Popeye Village was the set of the 1980 film and offers lots of activities that little ones will love.

Comino

Take a day trip to explore this tiny island, which has an enchanting sleepy feel. There is just one hotel on the island, so if you’re planning on spending the night you’ll want to make sure to book in advance. Children and adults can have fun together snorkelling in the island’s sheltered bays before taking a trip to Mosta to explore the enormous Roman church that features an impressive unsupported dome.

Cottonera

Kids will love this atmospheric island and parents will be impressed by the Folk Museum. It is housed in the fascinating Inquisitor’s Palace—one of the few of its kind that has survived—and features dungeons and torture chambers and a look into the religious history of Malta. The Hypogeum is the perfect place to really let your imagination run wild, as it features an ancient underground network of tunnels, rooms and caves, all of which have been carved out of the natural rock and are just waiting to be explored.

Valletta

Head to the tip of the northeast coast of Malta to explore this 16th century walled city. There are plenty of surprises just waiting to be discovered in the narrow winding streets that run through the city centre, including magnificent buildings such as the Auberge de Castille and the Fort St Elmo where the guides are dressed as knights. The kids can then let off a little steam in the Upper Barrakka Gardens, which offer magnificent views of the Cottonera and Grand Harbour.

Of course, these are just a few of the things that you can enjoy during when visiting. If you have young children, hiring a car is an excellent option here, as it will give you a chance to explore the island at your own pace. Malta is a beautiful country that shares the relaxed attitude to life that most countries off of the Mediterranean are known for, it is a perfect destination for a family wanting to spend some time together.

Oscar Nominated Movies & Their Travel Destination

The nominees are out! It’s Awards season again, and everyone is booking their favorite spot on the couch for a front-row seat to watch.  While it may be one thing to watch your favorite movies and celebs at the awards, what if you could actually experience some of this year’s nominees firsthand?

Before the big night on February 22nd, Booking.com is back at it, showing their respects in the best way they can – with a list of the greatest nominated movie-inspired accommodations. From Whiplash’s instrumental theme on the nightstand, to The Grand Budapest Hotel’s International destinations, Planet Earth’s number one accommodation site has scoured their database of over 580,000 properties to find the best room for this year’s blockbuster hits.

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Whiplash

Hotel da Música (Porto, Portugal)

Damien Chazelle’s drama follows the story of Andrew Neiman, a 19-year-old jazz drummer who is living his dream at Shaffer Conservatory, the best music school in the U.S. Portugal’s Hotel da Música is adorned from entrance to bed with musical notes and classical instruments. Even the lamps in this 4-star hotel will have you thinking soft melodies. So, while you can’t learn a new instrument overnight, there are hotels that will give visitors sweet sounding dreams.

· Part of Mercado do Bom Sucesso building, the design Hotel da Música offers a 24-hour reception 400 metres from Casa da Música Metro Station.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Emmerich Hotel Görlitz (Görlitz, Germany)

The drama, set between the first and second World Wars, follows the adventures of legendary concierge, Gustave H, and lobby boy, Zero Moustafa, at the famous Grand Budapest Hotel. While the movie is set in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka, much of the filming took place in Görlitz, Germany.  Located in the charming Görlitz Old Town, the Emmerich Hotel Görlitz will provide visitors with an authentic Zubrowka experience. 

· The hotel is just 200 metres from the Altstadtbrücke, which crosses the Polish border to the town of Zgorzelec.

The Theory of Everything

Hotel Maison Boutique (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

The romantic drama tells the life story of Physicist Stephen Hawking, from his whirlwind relationship with Jane Wilde, to his theories of black holes, and his debilitating ALS diagnosis. The Hotel Maison Boutique’s “Mission to the Mars” room allows visitors to feel as if they’re floating through space and time – maybe this is exactly what they need to understand the space-time continuum!

· The hotel is within a 20-minute walk of shopping malls Pavilion and Fahrenheit 88.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

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The Pearl hotel (New York City, United States)

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s dark comedy stars Michael Keaton playing Riggan Thomson, a Hollywood actor trying to reinvent himself as the lead in a Broadway adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story. NYC’s The Pearl hotel provides visitors with the true NYC, Times Square experience, similar to Riggan’s. 

· Public transportation is 2 blocks away at the 49th Street Subway Station which offers easy access to area attractions.

· South Central Park and Rockefeller Center are within a 10-minute walk from the New York Pearl Hotel.

What You Need To Know About Gold Coast Car Rental

The great coastal city that is located in the southeastern part of Queensland, the Gold Coast, is based on the eastern Australian coast. It is about 94km from Brisbane, and is a very elegant city. Besides the beautiful city, The Gold Coast also has a number of opportunities. You might be visiting for business reasons, and would like to explore the area in your free time, or maybe you are in town just to have some fun, explore somewhere new and partake in a few different activities, such as exploring the area, visiting the beach and perhaps even trying some water sports. With such a huge city, you will need to have a reliable transport system in order to get around. Here is a guide on Gold Coast car rental to ensure that you get exactly what you need;

Insured Cars

The most recommended, and flexible means of transport are Gold Coast car rentals. When you are choosing a car for renting, you will need to keep in mind that it must be insured. The insurance will be charged differently, according to the car rental provider. All in all, ensure that you pick a car that is insured, and ensure you look at local road rules too, to make sure you don’t get in any trouble.

Dual Transmission

In the Gold Coast, and Australia in general, you will find cars with different transmissions, and surprisingly you will find most of the automatic cars will be slightly cheaper than the manual cars. However, in some cases, they will be about the same price. Consider what sort of driving you’re likely to do, and how you feel most comfortable driving before you choose.

The Age Limit

In Australia, there are different companies that offer cars for rentals. DifferentGold Coast car rentalcompanies have varied age limits. Some will have the age limit of 25, while others will have an age limit of between 21 and 25. But for the age limit of 21 years, the cars offered are the smaller ones, with less power. The type and size of the car are what determines the age limit. You will rarely find a 21 year old with a heavy car like a Campervan. However, having a smaller car does have advantages. This is because most of the cars under this age limit are cheaper to rent.

One-way Car Hire

Gold Coast car rentals sometimes allow for the one-way system. Here, you will be able to pick a car from one location, then drop it off to a different location. However, these services must be confirmed before you drop the car off at a different location. Since this service is extremely convenient for travelers, it might require that they pay a little more for it but it is well worth considering. It also comes in handy when you need to hire a car when you are heading to the airport. You can pick them from the company’s office, and leave it at the airport, then the company will take it back to the premises.

There are multiple Gold Coast car rental cars available, and they range from big cars to normal saloon cars. They also have different specs- some are the four-wheel-drives, some are campervans and there are many different cars in between Whichever car you decide to go for, considering the insurance, the return of the car once you’ve finished with it and the different charges that car rental providers charge, will ensure you plan your car hire well and get the best car for your own individual needs. Enjoy your trip!

Eating Like Elvis: Dining at The Arcade Restaurant in Memphis

Arcade Restaurant

Travel & dining provided.

While I was in Memphis, Tennessee touring St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, I had a chance to eat at the oldest restaurant in town: The Arcade Restaurant. The establishment, which is just a short walk from The Lorraine Motel, has been around since 1919 and now has a historical marker in front of it. Elvis was apparently a regular, and you can even order his favorite Fried Peanut Butter ‘N Banana sandwich:

Fried Peanut Butter 'N Banana Sandwich

I seriously considered ordering this so that I could say that I ate what Elvis got, but we were there for breakfast and for some reason, eating peanut butter first thing in the morning just makes me feel gross – I guess that’s a culinary quirk of mine! Fortunately, one of my pals ordered this and let me take a photo of hers! You know you’re dining with bloggers when several people are standing around taking photos of a sandwich. ;)

Eggs Redneck

I ended up ordered the “Eggs Redneck”, because I love biscuits and gravy. It did not disappoint!

Beignets

Another friend shared her Beignets and they, too, were delicious! If you’re going to Memphis, you won’t want to miss eating here.

Montgomery, Alabama: Historic Landmarks & Filming of “Selma”

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and I’m reflecting on another trip I took last year. A month after I visited The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, I traveled to Montgomery, Alabama for an event with Hyundai. Because of the timing with my flight arrival, I was lucky enough to have almost an entire day to myself before my work event began. My hotel was within walking distance of so many important historical sites and museums, so I took full advantage of my opportunity to see all that I could.

My hotel happened to be right across the street from the Montgomery Visitor Center, so I popped over there first to catch the trolley. There, they mentioned to me that some roads were closed that day because Oprah was in town filming the movie Selma, which is now finished and hit theaters earlier this month:

Sure enough, when I got to the Alabama State Capitol, the road was closed to traffic and looked a little like a ghost town. I later heard rumors that Oprah and Niecy Nash were staying the same hotel I was at, but no, I didn’t run into either of them while I was there. ;)

Alabama State Capitol

These steps are where the third Selma to Montgomery March ended.

I got some snapshots of the Capitol building and began walking down the street – the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church is located right down from the Capitol.

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church

I was promptly caught in a downpour of rain, so I stood under the eaves of a building across the street for a minute until it passed.

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church closeup

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church Sign

Dr. King was the pastor of this church and organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott from his office in the basement.

Rosa Parks landmark

I had intended to visit the Rosa Parks Library & Museum, but it was also closed in connection with the movie filming. However, there is a landmark sign right in front of the museum, denoting the bus stop where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, and it’s pretty incredible to think about standing on the same spot. History comes alive in a special way when you get the opportunity to explore landmarks in person, so I was very fortunate to have this opportunity to visit Montgomery!

Remembering Dr. King: A Visit to The National Civil Rights Museum at The Lorraine Motel

National Civil Rights Museum

Travel consideration provided.

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I wanted to share my experience visiting The National Civil Rights Museum at The Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee last year. I was in Memphis to tour St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and as part of our experience, we were brought to this museum.

St. Jude played its own role in the civil rights movement. Founder Danny Thomas was motivated to create the hospital after hearing of a senseless tragedy: A young boy was hit by a car in Mississippi, and when the driver picked up the boy in order to get him help, he took him to three different hospitals and was turned away from each one because the boy was African American. By the time he arrived at a hospital that would treat him, the boy had already died. Danny Thomas was so heartbroken to hear this story that he vowed to create a hospital where no child would ever be refused for their race, religion, or ability to pay. When St. Jude was opened in 1962, it was groundbreaking in many ways: By admitting patients of all races, they became the first integrated hospital in the region, and were also an inspiration for integration in many Memphis hotels, as anyone working with St. Jude to provide patient housing were not allowed to discriminate. Noted African American architect Paul Revere Williams donated his services in designing the original St. Jude hospital building.

By touring the National Civil Rights Museum, we were able to further explore this history. The museum is housed in The Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was assassinated on April 4th, 1968. The museum begins by exploring the start of slavery in the US and winds through time, taking us through Jim Crow law and onwards to the modern-day civil rights movement.

Standing up by Sitting Down

Standing up by Sitting Down

I Am a Man

I Am a Man

The museum is hands-on and full of interactive exhibits, such as a replica of the bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. As you sit on the bus looking at her statue, an angry recorded voice shouts, “Move to the back”.

Rosa Parks Statue

I really appreciated how the museum pulled no punches, nor attempted to “Gloss over” the atrocities of racism. As you wind through the museum and watch Dr. King’s historic final speech, you feel a sense of dread knowing what comes next.

Room 306

There are many differing opinions on whether or not the site of Dr. King’s assassination should be up for public consumption in this way, and it is certainly understandable. As I did my own research for this piece and read more of the origin of how the Lorraine Motel became a museum, I have even more to think about.

One thing I can say is that I, personally, feel it is important that we do not forget the horrific parts of history. I feel there is a tendency for many to think back to all of the inspiring moments of the civil rights movement, while skimming over the fact that Dr. King was brutally murdered for his work and the fact that racism is still a huge problem in the world. As we reflect on the past, we can’t forget what was given up by those who stood their ground for what was right.

The Lorraine Motel