Oui, Paris

I must say, I didn’t have the Paris experience that most people come back talking about. Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely glad I went and had the chance to indulge in the French culture, but three days there was MORE than enough.

We stayed right downtown in the hustle and bustle at the Paris France Hotel. They were very nice and it was centrally located. It was extremely old and, well, small.

The Notre Dame Cathedral is beautiful, not air conditioned and REQUIRES you to leave your passport with the old lady volunteers in exchange for your audio guide. Shawls are available at the mart down the street – because as of the day right before we were there in Summer 2017, shoulders must now be covered to enter. Also, buy in advance through Get Your Guide, and skip the hour wait in line.

I wake up salivating from dreaming about the crepes at Au P’tit Grec. It was worth taking the Metro 45 minutes out and getting lost on the way through the stone-street alleyways. This street food puts street food out of business. Must. Go. Back.

Hey! The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. You’re welcome. Not to fret, everything looks the same inside and she is about 8.5 x 11 that you can go within 15 feet of. We walked in 15 minutes before it closed, went right to Mona, pushed our way through selfie sticks to get a look of her behind a foggy piece of plastic and walked out with 5 minutes to closing. Boom. Efficiency is my middle name.

Through the previously mentioned Get Your Guide, you can get a three-in-one pass and skip the lines at the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Siene Cruise – which was so extremely worth it in dat summer heat.

Speaking of the tower…the guides all make fun of all the tourists because it was just a prop for the International Exposition, or World’s Fair of 1889, which was to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. The French wanted a monument to be built to celebrate the greatness of France. Alas, we just keep going back. And paying a pretty penny to see it in fact. If I have one word of advice it is: stairs. Take the stairs down, do not wait for the lift. You will be waiting a week to get back down.

Naturally I was le thirsty after the climb down, so grabbing a beer at an outdoor café with a tower view was in order.

The beggar and peddler game is strong around town. It was rather aggressive and irritating, they actual touch you, put a bracelet on you forcefully then scream at you telling you you now owe them money. Dislike. Be careful.

The River Siene is so peaceful and I encourage you to take a tour through it. You can even use it as a taxi service if you want. I fell asleep on the back of the boat at one point it was that smooth and quiet. I took a run along the river one morning and that made the trip worth it. Until I tried to get back to the hotel and almost got hit by two cars, a scooter and burned by someone smoking a cigarette al fresco on the 3-inch wide sidewalks they have all over Paris.

I tried to speak French when ordering food at restaurants and the locals were so rude to us it was not even worth the attempt to be respectful. Apparently they don’t like the money that tourism brings in.

I would for sure say go to Paris, at least once, and experience this for yourself. But next time I get the chance to go to France (hey, that rhymes!), it will be elsewhere.

Friendly reminder that the middle seat gets both armrests.

Sweet Savannah Georgia

So we heard this random tidbit that Savannah, Georgia (of all places) was one of the most attended and exciting locations to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the United States. Alas, challenge accepted.

We stayed right downtown in the Historic District at the Double Tree – it was walking distance to everything! They have a really nice pool, too. And free cookies, obviously.

Vic’s on the River was super yummy with a great view for a nice dinner out if you are down to try something fancy – and I mean white tablecloth and pianist fancy.

Because it was St. Patrick’s Day, there was tons going on along the riverfront on River Street at all the bars and restaurants. The Fiddler’s Irish pub had a really nice vibe jiving. Also, Wet Willy’s if you want to get drunk off boozie slushies that don’t taste like booze. (consider this my warning)

If you can (and it is warm enough) I would do a river boat tour. It is just a fun way to get an outdoor activity in.

Paula Deen’s The Lady & Son’s restaurant is. a. must. eat. at. Make a reso though, otherwise it will be a longggg wait. We did the brunch.

The night time haunted ghost tour was legit! And they drive you around in a hearse.

There are a ton of walking tours for historical stuff on the civil war and things you can find on tripadvisor.

We caught a rugby match at a nearby stretch of fields, seems like there is constant rugby or gaelic football tournaments happening there to check out.

The only meh thing is getting there. Not all airlines fly to Savannah, so you do pay a pretty penny. From Chicago half of us flew into Atlanta, the other Jacksonville.

Savannah is southern hospitality, hot weather and plenty of not-too-expensive watering holes. For St. Patrick’s Day, they did not disappoint, even the schools close down when it is mid-week. I would say the town is a good 4-day trip.

Friendly reminder that the middle seat gets both armrests.

Feeling Lucky in Ireland

Ah, the homeland (well half of me anyway). I’ve gone to Ireland twice now, and glad I did because it takes a few weeks to see and do everything. If you think you will only go once in your lifetime, go for about two weeks and familiarize yourself with driving on the other side of the road. I was lucky enough to have a native the second time around who had the whole ‘stick shift on hills’ thing mastered.

While we can’t all be welcomed by Gaelic-speaking locals who will make you eggs, sausage and potatoes for breakfast every morning like I did, below is a must-see itinerary to check Ireland off your list whilst a Guinness foam stache on your upper lip. Side note: this list does not include Northern Ireland – it is different than the Republic of Ireland. (Not making that up, read this.)

Pro-tip: Indulge in the Older than Ireland documentary before you go.

Both times I flew in and out of Dublin, no complaints on the airport at all. I do have one simple request though, can a girl get handed a Harp while waiting in the customs line please? Sláinte!

Dublin is fantastic – full of booze, culture, booze and more booze. Turns out the locals can’t tell the difference between a well-trained Irish dancer, and well, me. I made everything up from a few moves my childhood friends taught me and welcomed the rest of the nights’ free drinks that moment forward.

Some fun activities I did beyond the obvious pints at all pubs:

Pro-tip: invest in an aran wool sweater and a knot back claddagh ring – I get tons of use out of both.

Most folks are overly friendly and very hospitable. I didn’t run into one irritated soul. They have a cheery demeanor and a dry sense of humor. The Irish like visitors and love to show tourists a good time. Prepare for a bit of departure from technology – minimal-to-no wifi, old school ticketing processes, cash-only places, cobble roads and tons of fish ‘n chips.

I enjoy a good ode to my heritage wherever I am, but having it fresh and pouring it myself just can’t be beat.

<insert Irish goodbye here>

Friendly reminder that the middle seat gets both armrests.

 

Los Angeles AKA La La Land

I’ve been to the City of Angels quite a few times, but only once have I done it tourist-style. Pay close attention or you will end up disappointed and broke. For starters, fly into LAX but STAY in the Santa Monica area.

The Santa Monica area has the seagull pooped-in ocean waves, the booshie crossfit people and the overrated brunch spots – but it also has the Santa Monica Pier, view-worthy hiking trails and some really yummy Ma and Pa cafes (Literati Cafe – get the salmon avocado toast). And the end (in my case) or the beginning of Route 66! Downtown Santa Monica is chok-full of some great places like Barney’s Beanery and Westside Comedy. The entire third street promenade is where it is at. Not to mention the nearby Venice Beach, formerly the home to the Freak Show (RIP ’17). Venice Beach has murals by talented artists, Muscle Beach competitions, skate parks and some fun spots to stop and grab a cocktail.

Hollywood is different than downtown Los Angeles, but most tourists don’t realize this. It is true what they say (and coming from Chicago this means a lot) yes, traffic is a biatch. Hollywood has been super crowded the multiple times I have been there with no exceptions – there is usually some kind of movie release or filming taking place so Hollywood Blvd. is shut down – and therefor so are your plans for the day.

The Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory hikes are fun and worth it. It is not difficult and any fitness level can likely accomplish it – pace yourself, finish times will vary. View is great once your turn in line allows for a Hollywood sign selfie.

We did the celebrity homes tour through Ultimate Hollywood Tours. The staff was extremely nice and accommodating – our first date got rained out and they were quick to contact us for a reschedule. The tour guide was fun and it was cool to be a stalker for two hours. We saw the Biebs and Jennifer Aniston’s houses!

Speaking of stalking, basically no one films on Friday’s at any of the studios in the LA area, but you know who does? WHEEL. OF. FORTUNE! So that was exciting. Tickets are here. Stalk this site until they release your date. We filmed two episodes in one seating. It was fun. It was amazing. She is even prettier in person. He tells Dad jokes in real life.

In and Out burger, fries and a 55 minute wait. Worth it.

Madame Tussauds wax museum was one of the creepiest places ever. Try to go intoxicated if you can, it might help with the terrified feeling that they are going to come to life while taking your selfie.

Outside the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater are all the hand prints and stars – geek out. Just don’t stop in the middle of walking traffic and bend over for a pic, you might tabletop someone. So I hear.

PSA: Do NOT eat at the famous Sur or Pump. The food was not anything to write home about. The ambiance is coo (l left off on purpose), so just go grab a $50 drink instead.

Cheaper and more fun drinks that don’t judge what you are wearing can be found at The Roger Room around the corner.

We attempted an organized bar crawl in Hollywood and ended up at a club that had naked women in glass eggs hanging from the ceiling throwing out dolla bills. I wish I was making this up.

Next time I go I will do all the fun artsy and classy food places in downtown Los Angeles. Stay tuned for part two of this post.

Friendly reminder that the middle seat gets both armrests.

Damnnn, Amsterdam

I did Amsterdam sin hookers and drugs, and I can’t wait to go back! This experience was like no other. The city just has some kind of chill factor- sadly I will never be that cool.

We stayed in an airbnb right in city center, it was perfect for walking to and fro. ‘Twas a bit chilly/rainy in October when I was there, but if you can join the other 881,000 bikes on the streets of Amsterdam, do it up! (proof I didn’t make that number up)

The best advice I can give you is to book your tickets in advance for the following tourist traps attractions (all of which were really exciting and I would recommend):

  1. Van Gogh Museum
  2. Heineken Experience
  3. The Anne Frank House
  4. Canal Boat Tour (we went at night!)

Without booking in advance, you will wait for at least an hour outside in a line at each location, says the people not traveling with me that got mad when we walked right past them.

Cheese is amazing and there are cheese stores on every corner. Like giant wheels of cheese. Also samples. Lots and lots of cheese samples.

I have salivating dreams to this day about the poffertjes a la mode with whipped cream and fruit from De Carrousel. It is a literal carousel surrounded by a restaurant. And it is literally amazing. I don’t think I have ever tasted something so sweet and luxurious in my life.

Until I walked to the Albert Cuyp street market the next morning and found my future husband, Mr. waffle maker. He doesn’t know we are getting married yet, but when he finds out, we shall celebrate with a chocolate drizzled, strawberry-topped waffle. Maybe two. The street market is adorable – got all my souvenirs there, amazing people watching, yummy food, cute clothes/scarves, and of course, my future waffle-making husband.

If you can help it, don’t get sick, it is…errr, an interesting adventure finding a doctor on the fly. Also, none of their medicine really ‘translates’ to American meds – no such thing as acetaminophen.

You have to pay for the bathrooms – and they take euro only, no credit card. I tried and got laughed at. Rude.

I would write a blog post about my trip to Copenhagen, but uhhh, it is just a more expensive Amsterdam with a moldy mermaid rock and some castles. Just keeping it real – please don’t be mad, Danish people.

Should have bought that pillow.

Friendly reminder that the middle seat gets both armrests.

Doing Durham

A simple post for a simple city. Durham, North Carolina in May was an absolute delight. This quick weekend trip is perfect for any couple, family or friends group for a mini vacay. Some favorite to-dos:

  1. Durham Farmer’s Market
  2. Burt’s Bees Cabin (watch his documentary, Burt’s Buzz before you go!)
  3. AAA baseball team, Durham Bulls
  4. Downtown Durham – history-rich factories, water system, restaurants, bars and more!
  5. A wedding at the Rickhouse
  6. Luna empanadas (wash them down with a tasty paloma)
  7. Maybelle’s pimento fried chicken biscuits (two orders, you won’t want to share)
  8. A craft beer of your choice at Mellow Mushroom

So much yummy food and a great walking city!

Friendly reminder that the middle seat gets both armrests.

Crazed about Croatia – but why?

Is Croatia absolutely gorgeous?! Yes. Is it one of the most photogenic places I have ever been? Also yes. But what is all the tourist hype about? I am not sure actually.

Sadly this is one of those ‘ok, I crossed it off the list’ trips. Croatia (Trogir/Split) didn’t do it for me. At least not enough to go back anyway. I mean it was fun and all, but there are definitely way more interesting places to spend your time/money.

  1. The airport is old and small and have minimal flights in and out each day – they started to add a new runway but ran out of money and never finished it. Super sad if you ask me.
  2. The people were very blunt that they are so poor if tourists stopped visiting during the three months of Summer they would not survive. Mostly everyone is in hospitality come June. We tipped heavily.
  3. They joined the EU in 2013 – luckily they weren’t forced to use the Euro yet because the country is just so poor, they wouldn’t be able to keep up. In Split, they have one bridge that connects you to everything – they started to build a new one but ran out of money and never finished it (I feel like I have said that before).
  4. Speaking of the one bridge connecting the town – you wait in single file line for multiple hours to cross it each day. And by hours, I actually do mean hours. They were planning on starting uber boat when I was there in Summer 2017…
  5. The food is literally the same exact thing at every. single. restaurant. It was not even good, we tried the stew and fish and all the things they were known for and it was not that appetizing.
  6. The beaches are very pretty, but there is no sand, it is all rocks and they are sharp little suckers. DO NOT FORGET WATER SHOES or you will be so uncomfortable and not even go in the water to swim. We were in pain. Until we bought the shoes. For cheap.
  7. Ah right, the water. It is saltier than Charlie in The Santa Clause when he found out there was no chocolate milk left at IHOP. It burns any open wounds or previous sunburns and dries you out like a prune. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  8. All the islands look the same. We joined a boat tour one day and rented our own boat the following day – still, all the same – each island, just the same. Exactly the same. Again, they were all the same. Been to one, you have been to them all.
  9. The popular blue lagoon they are known for is really really pretty, but the trips that go and drop you off for hours at a time – not worth it. You snorkel for 45 minutes and you are ready to leave – there are no bars or anything on the island really. Maybe one here or there, but there was just no people. It was really odd.
  10. The country is mainly Catholic, there are some really beautiful and old churches to visit. And of course we did the Game of Thrones scene when the dragons come out of the dungeon thingy, or whatever.
  11. My favorite thing was our walking tour, ending with a food and wine tasting. This was absolutely amazing, tasty and informational. The company we used is called Sol Travel.
  12. Don’t drink the water. Everything is so cheap there though, so bottled water won’t hurt the bank.
  13. Most things take cash only (Kuna), some will take the Euro. You can’t get by with a credit card.
  14. We stayed in a cozy Trogir airbnb and the host was really nice. He owns a boat so we rented it (and him as a driver) for the day. He also drove us to the airport for a small fee – really a nice family!
  15. A lot of websites will tell you to go to the Krka Waterfalls – we bought a trip there and ate the money after finding out it takes an entire day to get to/from. Plan that out accordingly with your total time in the country.
  16. They do not use clothes dryers. Prepare for your undies to be flapping in the wind in public.
  17. The only thing you need are Lane biscuits. Eat all the biscuits you can.
  18. The sunset over the water made it worth it, and I had really good company. Thanks to Chuck, Swany and Negro for making the trip with us and keeping our yummy Croatian beer Ožujsko cold, ish.

 

Friendly reminder that the middle seat gets both armrests.