December 2011 archive

My Travel ABC’s and End of Year Awesomeness

So I know it’s been at least a century since I’ve last posted, but there is plenty good reason for it. You just have to wait until the end of the post. *cue dramatic music*

Last week, I was tagged not once, but twice, by Monica from The Travel Hack and Jaime from Breakaway Backpacker for the Travel Blogger ABC’s. I thought it would be a nice way to recap this previous year, share some awesome photos (all the photos will be from my current trip!) and relive some memories. So without further ado:

A: Age you went on your first international trip:
I took my first international trip when I was 20 years old to study abroad in London. Still one of the more memorable flight experiences, as it was the first time I could legally drink under the age of 21. And you better believe I took advantage!

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where:
I love all types of beer, but I’m quite partial to cider actually. On my current trip to Europe, I had the most DELICIOUS cider ever called Rekorderlig. It was strawberry-lime flavored and tasted like juice. Love!

C: Cuisine (favorite):
I think anyone that knows me knows that Mexican food is hands down my favorite type of cuisine, ever. Tacos, tortillas, fresh salsa, guacamole, burritos, carne asada, tequila…yeah. Give me all of that. I seriously crave tacos on almost a daily bases, and have splurged and bought avocados while I’ve been in Europe. Italian food comes by in a close second, but give me tacos everyday and I’m the happiest person in the world.


D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why:
My favorite destination has to be Paris. There is just something so magical and electric about this city. Everyday, I find a new cafe, new vintage store, candy store, stationary store that just blows me away. And contrary to popular belief, I’ve met some of the nicest, warmest, people in Paris. Then there’s the fact I can walk outside and get a fresh crepe, baguette, chocolate, wine, etc. And the Eiffel Tower is the most gorgeous monument EVER. I never get tired of it. And everytime I see it, I have to take a picture. I swear I probably have about 300 pictures of the Eiffel Tower alone…and it still never gets old.

My least favorite destination has to be Athens. There was just something about that city that turned me off completely. I don’t know if it was the gross men clicking their tongues at me and my friend constantly, all of the dogs, the prostitutes. I will say that the food and shopping was AMAZING…but the overall vibe of the city was disappointing. I’m still eager to give Athens another shot though.

E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:
I think watching the sunset on the Greek island of Santorini has been my most amazing travel moment to date. I just stood there in awe…and to this day I look at my pictures and can’t believe I went somewhere so beautiful. I’m dying to go back.

A close second would have to be anytime I see the Eiffel Tower sparking at night. It completely takes my breath away every. single. time.


F: Favorite mode of transportation
:
I’m going to be the first to say that I’m completely obsessed with metro systems. I don’t know what it is about it, but I love the maps, the metro stations, seeing all the different types of trains, the people on the trains, the sometimes entertainment on the trains. The metro system is Paris is so freaking efficient that I sort of want to marry it.

The only problem with the metro is that you’re underground and can’t really see the city. But, I also LOVE taking the bus. Each time you get on a bus, it’s sort of like a mini tour of the city. But I’m obsessed with metros…everywhere!


G: Greatest feeling while traveling:
Sometimes, I have to take a step back and realize that what I’m doing now isn’t the norm. That walking out of my apartment every morning for fresh pain au chocolats isn’t something I can do back in Los Angeles. I’m constantly reminding myself how amazing this world is, and how blessed I am that I am able to see all of the things I’ve seen.

When Johnny and I are walking around at night (our favorite thing to do), we tell each other the 5 things we’ve done that have been awesome. From grabbing gelato in Rome, to late night drinks by the river, the feeling of being so incredible blessed has to be the greatest feeling while traveling.

H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to:
Sadly, I have only traveled to places in the winter (i.e. NYC in March, Studying abroad in London in the winter, this current trip in the winter). So I haven’t been anywhere hot, but I’ve been to NYC when it was about -5 and I cried because it was so cold. It was from then on I realized I don’t know if I could live somewhere as cold as NYC. And yes, Paris is FREEZING, but I think I could still do it…lol!


I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where:
When I was in London for my 21st birthday, A small Mexican restaurant went above and BEYOND for my party. I was under the assumption that they would just set up an area for us, and that was that, but they actually closed the entire restaurant, decorated it, gave us CRAZY amounts of food and discounted our drinks. It was way more than I imagined, and to this day the best birthday party I’ve ever had.

J: Journey that took the longest:
My plane ride from LAX to London was the longest journey I’ve taken so far. 10. long. hours. And I didn’t stand up the whole time which resulted in my feet swelling to the size where they could barely fit. I know now to stand up and take small breaks.

K: Keepsake from your travels:
Being the avid shopper that I am, I have a lot of momentos from each city I’ve visited. To date, my leather jacket from Turkey and gold jewelry from Athens have been my priciest purchases, but I also like to buy small trinkets. On this trip, I’ve started a travel journal where I’ve kept all of my bus tickets, grocery store receipts, museum tickets, etc, and written little notes about each of them. I’ve been having so much fun collecting everything!


L: Let-down sight, why and where:
ehh..I don’t know if I’ve ever had a let me down site. Everything that I’ve experienced so far has been pretty awesome.

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel:
To be honest, I traveled while I studied abroad, but I don’t think I understood the true magnitude of travel until I was depressed. Looking at all of the travel blogs, photos, and encouraging stories of people fulfilling their dreams pulled me out of the mud and let me know that travel is exactly what I want to do with my life.


N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in
:
The nicest hotel I’ve stayed in has to be Hotel Ocean on Ocean Drive in South Beach, Miami. The shower was the size of a bedroom! It was rustic and modern at the same time, really comfortable, and had an amazing view of South Beach. I’ve been dying to go back.

O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling:
Like I said before, I am obsessed with taking pictures of Metro stations. That, and all the different types of architecture. The buildings in Europe are SO amazing. I have a so many pictures from Paris and Rome alone of apartment buildings and their doors. Love!

P: Passport stamps, how many and from where?
Well, I have less stamps than I should because you don’t get stamped in every country once you’re in Europe. So I have stamps exiting and entering London, Amsterdam, and Greece. But I’ve been to France and Italy, and I will be going to Spain and Portugal.

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where:
Whenever I would drive home from Tallahassee to Alabama when I was in college, I’d always stop by those kitschy little roadside attractions. My favorite one was this giant rooster made from pots and pans.


R: Recommended sight, event or experience:
Eiffel Tower, any time of day. The Vatican Museums, drinking in pubs in London, drinking champagne by the Seine.

S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling:
FOOD. FOOOOOOOD. FOOOOOOD.
I have no problems whatsoever spending money on good food and wine. In Italy, I damn near lost my mind eating so much. And it was MORE than worth it.

T: Touristy thing you’ve done:
I don’t really know what “touristy” means, especially since I think we’re all tourists. So I would consider going to any major attraction (ex: Vatican, Eiffel Tower, inside of the Colloseum, etc.) to be “touristy”.


U: Unforgettable travel memory:
I will never forget what it was like to step off of the plane for the first time in London. Seeing all of the red phone booths, double decker buses, Big Ben, the London Eye…I’ll never forget that feeling ever in my life. I LOVE the feeling of being somewhere completely new.

V: Visas, how many and for where?
None yet…But I will have one soon! *dramatic drum roll*

W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?
I’m in the land of wine (aka Europe aka France and Italy), so, it’s really hard to choose when they are ALL amazing. I’m currently drinking an amazing glass of Bordeaux!

X: eXcellent view and from where?:
Santorini, Greece. It’s just breathtaking in every sense of the word. The sunset there completely blew me away.

Y: Years spent traveling?:
I haven’t spent years…Just 5 months in London, 2.5 months currently…and then… *dramatic drumroll* (wait for the end of the post)

Z: Zealous sports fans and where?:
Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. Tailgating, keg stands, beer pong, flip cup with vodka…yeah. Enough said. (GO NOLES!)


2011 has been a year of crazy ups, downs, ups and downs again. I quit my job, saved money, and decided to travel. My sister is having a baby girl and I was the maid of honor in her wedding. I beat the battle of depression and started to live life my own way. I cried, laughed, cried a lot more, ate a whole lot, then lost a lot of weight. And then I got on a plane to London. I met travel bloggers that I now call friends, (Oneika the Traveler, Toni, Jaime, Ayngelina, Kent and Caanan, Erica and Shaun, Amy and Kieron). Johnny and I celebrated 5 years together. I turned 25. And I’m currently eating chocolate, drinking wine and dancing to Juvenile’s ‘Back that Thang Up’ in the most amazing city in the world (Paris).

Toni, Me, and Oneika in London

And…I have some other amazing news to share with you.

Remember that time I said I was going to teach in S. Korea?

Well…yesterday I officially signed my contract to teach English in South Korea, starting April 5, 2012! I’m moving abroad! It’s all really happening!

The past few weeks have been a big ball of stress. I’ve had to scan documents, make YouTube videos, scan more documents, do Skype interviews…but it finally all worked out. I’m going to be placed in a city about 45 minutes outside of Seoul, and I seriously could not be happier. 2012 is going to be the most amazing year yet! I’m already planning my vacation time.

Thank you all for reading along this past year, following me on this journey and being so supportive. You all helped me when I needed it the most.

Let’s kick off 2012 with a bang! I wish each and every one of you an amazing New Year. 2012 is going to be the start of something fabulous and fierce, and I can’t wait for it!

Seasons Greetings!

Random assorted Christmas pictures from London and Paris. Surprisingly, Rome didn’t have many Christmas decorations…or maybe I just missed them all?  Even though I’m in one of the most amazing cities ever (and even more amazing during the holidays), it still doesn’t feel like Christmas to me. Anyone else have that problem?

I guess that’s the tough part about being a traveler. Either way, Paris is GORGEOUS this time of year. If you’ve never been during the holidays, make sure to come. You won’t regret it. And there’s enough vin chaud for everyone!

Christmas Day, Johnny and I are going to go ice skating at the Eiffel Tower, make dinner, drink champagne, and watch cheesy Christmas movies.

What do you have planned for Christmas? What’s on your Christmas list? I’ve been hinting at Johnny for a bottle of perfume…I’ll let you know the results ;)

Until next time!

Ancient Rome

I don’t know about you, but ancient ruins = my favorite. It is so amazing to finally see all the places I read about in history books. And there is just something so surreal about walking on the same grounds that ancient Romans used to.

History has always been one of my favorite subjects, and when Johnny and I planned our trip to Rome, we both knew that we had to make it to the Roman ruins. And it was breathtaking. The Colosseum in particular was mind blowing. As soon as we walked inside, Johnny and I both let out audible gasps of  awe. It’s well worth the Euros to go inside. One ticket is valid for two days, and also gets you inside the Palatine Hill and museum. Thankfully, there was no line at all, but I’ve heard during high season the line is ridiculous.

Johnny and I spent an entire day looking at all of the ruins, and now I can see why they give two day tickets. It’s almost impossible to see in a full day, and we were rushed towards the end of the day. But at the Palantine hill, there are park benches and a beautiful panoramic view of Rome. Make sure to bring a snack so you can enjoy while looking out at the view. As we headed home, pretty speechless from all of the history we just saw, we were met with the most gorgeous sunset over the ruins. Rome never ceased to amaze me.

I think the ruins are part of what makes Rome so special. Yes, there’s the food, the wine, the people, the lovers, but there’s not too many places in the world you can eat world class gelato while gazing at where an entire ancient civilization used to be.

Conquering the Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums are one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions, and rightfully so.

It’s HUGE. So be prepared. I sort of just woke up and thought “oh yea, going to a museum, see the Sistine Chapel, head home. Perfect!”

When Johnny and I set off to meet Jaime from Breakaway Backpacker, with hardly any breakfast, I didn’t think we’d be there the majority of the afternoon. And we were.

In order to conquer the Vatican Museums and not turn into a terrible, horrible, hungry person at the very end, follow my suggestions.

1. Eat a big meal before you go. TRUST ME. You’ll be there a minimum of 3 to 4 hours. By the time I made it to the Sistine Chapel my stomach was eating itself.
2. Make sure to use the restroom. There are only restrooms (that I saw) at the entrances and exits. If you are in the middle of the museums, there’s no turning back.
3. Plan ahead of time what you want to see. I only knew I wanted to see the Sistine Chapel. I had no idea about all of the other museums. Of course, you can skip everything and just head straight to the Sistine Chapel, but I’m trying to get my money’s worth! (and all of the other rooms are GORGEOUS)
4. We miraculously didn’t encounter any type of line whatsoever (my guess is because it’s winter), but be prepared. I’ve heard the lines for the museums can get up to 2 hours long. I might have passed out if we had to wait!
5. Don’t believe the crap about the Vatican Museums being too “touristy”. First of all, I don’t even know what that means, second, it’s AMAZING. Well worth your time and money.

All that being said, the Vatican Museums were hands down the most beautiful, ornate, detailed and elaborate set of museums I’ve ever been in. I was constantly in awe of the art, the ceilings, the sculptures…everything. The Sistine Chapel (while not as big as I thought), completely blew me away. I’ve never seen such a masterpiece. Michelangelo = genius.

(and thanks to Jaime for the picture of me looking outside of the window!)

Pop Champagne! My 25th Birthday in Paris

My birthday (Dec 3) in Paris was everything I wanted it to be. Brunch at a Mexican cafe called Rice and Beans, a river cruise down the Seine, champagne and crepes by the Eiffel Tower, and a drink/dancing session at La Footsie.

Highlights were:
The brunch…oh my gosh. I know I told you all that Mexican food in Europe is terrible, but Rice and Beans was incredible. There was real, FRESH salsa, and black beans. BLACK BEANS! I was in heaven. I cannot wait to go back to have dinner. The ambiance and service was awesome too.

Cruising down the Seine at Sunest. Well…the sun wasn’t out, but it was “sunset” nonetheless. It was wonderfully romantic.

Champagne and crepes at the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower is my favorite…ever. Johnny and I bought a bottle of Rosé and headed to the banks of the Seine to watch the Eiffel Tower and all of her glory. We got to see her sparkle twice! Drinking champagne while watching the Eiffel Tower is definitely a memory I’ll never forget.

Drinks at La Footsie. First things, La Footsie just may be my favorite bar of all time, and that’s saying a lot. All of the drink prices are displayed on giant LCD TV screens, and change every 4 minutes based on demand, much like how the stock market works. So when we got to the bar, Rosé was only 3EUR, but by the time we managed to find a seat, it had jumped to 6EUR. It makes a fun game, trying to beat the prices before the rise. We sat next to a lively group of young Parisians, who all sang Happy Birthday to me and dragged me to the dance floor. The DJ was amazing, playing a mix of hop hop, salsa, R&B, 80s, and everything in between. I’m definitely going back.

And maybe it’s a testament that I really am getting older, but I much preferred my low-key Parisian birthday compared to the hangover filled ones from years past. It was an absolutely perfect day, spent with the love of my life, and the most beautiful city in the world.

I’m truly blessed.

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