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.

Sweet & Smoky Kansas City

Step 1. Confirm we are both on the same page here talking about Kansas City, Missouri, not Kansas City, Kansas. (I did cross over the border once to go on the world’s tallest waterslide (Verruckt) at Schlitterbahn Waterpark, but it is now closed, and for a really really sad reason.)

Step 2. If you don’t like BBQ you are going to hate this post, so carry on, wayward son.

Kansas City is such a fun little town – you can knock this out in a long weekend. Follow my lead:

  1. Stay in an airbnb – most the hotels are full of convention folk and your price is higher to make up for that discounted room they took.
  2. Eat all the BBQ. Especially Oklahoma Joe’s (aka Joe’s KC BBQ). Don’t be alarmed, it is in a gas station.
  3. Drink all the beer. Especially Boulevard Brewing Company – they have a fun tour.
  4. Watch all the sports. The Chief’s and the Royals are hella far away from downtown, but since you spend half the day at a game anyway, oh well. Pro-tip: Royals stadium has an AC’d bar in right field.
  5. Dance to all the music. Kansas City Live in the Power & Light District is this little neighborhood, fenced in, with a live music stage, shopping, bars, food and fun. It is really a great time and most everyone is in good spirits there. They also have spirits inside of them. 2 for 1 shots at the dueling piano bar.
  6. See all the things. There are tons of museums, a zoo, tours etc. tripadvisor.com planned my weekend out.

One thing to note about Kansas City – if you are not a walker, rent a car. The streets are super hilly, and I mean SUPER hilly. They also have lyft (use my code for a free ride) if you plan to have a few adult beverages.

Every time I go to Kansas City I feel like I mainly run into tourists – does anyone actually live in this town? Never the less, everyone has been super nice. The event venue right downtown was fun and organized for a Mumford and Sons concert, and the convention center was easy to navigate.

The downtown is dead during the day on the weekends. Most restaurants are not even open! The buses to the stadiums on the weekends run so sporadic, if you don’t have a car, you can ring up a hefty lyft bill, like yours truly.

Lick your fingers clean of that sweet and smoky BBQ sauce.

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Friendly reminder that the middle seat gets both armrests.

!Hola¡ from Peru

I had not used my Spanish in a few years so I was excited to begin planning this trip to get back in the swing of things. I know Peru is on most everyone’s travel bucket list. Listen to me when I say how easy it is to make this a reality.

For the U.S. – same time zone, quick flight, most American carriers go there, better value dollar to sol etc. The most expensive thing was our flight.

U.S. + for the resttripadvisor.com on point, natural wonder of the world must-see, can go for one week or go for three – tons of stuff to see and explore.

I got lucky with a sister and her family who lived their temporarily and constantly stalked Trip Advisor, a brother-in-law who spoke Spanish fluently who met us at the airport, and a group of two males and two females as travel companions. Now YOU are getting lucky as I share all that insider Gringo info.

I went to the sauna, I mean Peru, in March, which is aich. oh. tee. Good news is that it really was not that humid in Lima. Lima was a lovely city with tons of culture and a great coast. We didn’t see much of an actual beach, but the rocks/ocean scene were on point. It is a nice walking city and we felt pretty safe there. I was happy that I spoke Spanish though, it was used quite a bit to get around.

We stayed at the Hotel Santa Cruz. It was nice and centrally located. Just um…be sure you upgrade for the room with the air conditioning. While we are on a ‘learning from my mistakes’ kick, a few more –

  1. Don’t drink the water
  2. Don’t flush the toilet paper
  3. Don’t convert money at the bank, you will get a better deal on the street
  4. Don’t take the first offer for souvenirs, barter your way to town
  5. Don’t go with someone who always has to be ‘connected’, if you know what I mean

DO DRINK ALL THE PISCO SOURS! This was my favorite drink and I continue to drink this drink at Peruvian restaurants in Chicago, or when my friend Eric has a game night.

Machu Picchu is actually a bit a ways away from Lima, but totally worth it. Plane, train and bus got us to the beautiful, rainy ruins. And before you go getting all nervous about organizing that yourself, I got a guy.

Memo Gutierres originally showed my bro-in-law around, organized through his school, and was then referred on to me. It was seamless. Memo secures airport transit once you touchdown in Cusco to get you to the train station that takes you through the country to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu). An English-speaking guide met us and took us through the ruins and beautiful sights and back to our hostel that evening – you will want to stay overnight in town. It was completely worth using Memo and his services just for peace of mind. Pizza after a long day in the ruins: Chez Maggy

You will definitely want to spend some time in Cusco – one of the highest elevation spots in the world! (Don’t forget to visit your dr. before and snag some meds.) Cusco has some funny business going on, so wear a fannypack and keep your belongings close. I don’t know about you, but elevation makes me hungry. More pizza: La Bodega 138. Memo also booked a walking tour and guide (churches, structures etc) for us here in Cusco (him!) We stayed at a lovely hotel called Taypikala. Call ahead to make sure there is no construction taking place in the room next to yours. If you are anything like me you hunt down an Irish pub everywhere you go – so wah lah – look no further than Paddy’s! THE HIGHEST IRISH-OWNED PUB ON THE PLANET (11,156 ft).

Drum roll please…

For those of you who don’t mind the possibility of dying in your sleep by rolling down a mountain in a glass pod – this adventure is for you. I had the most amazing time and will never forget about 2 hours of scaling a mountain, only to get a four-course meal in the air (with wine), sleep* in the glass pod attached to the side of the mountain, wake up, eat breakfast, then zipline down the next day. You usually don’t ever know anyone who has actually done these things, but alas, here I am. I can’t believe it either! Now it is a bit pricier and they have added more pods, but in 2016 it was new and cheap and they had openings three months out. Skylodge Adventure Suites is a memory for a lifetime. Plan ahead!

Peru was fabulous, very friendly, extremely welcoming of tourists and just so much culture and history.

Warning: You will fall in love with a llama.

*Sleep = watched the glass pod shake from left to right during the storm while clenching my pillow for dear life.

Friendly reminder that the middle seat gets both armrests.

Honky Tonkin’ in Nashville

In honor of my birthday today, I share with you a place very special to my heart – NashVegas. I have spent multiple birthdays here, along with New Years Eve’s, Bachelorette parties and on and on. And that is just the premise of my post – how much Nashville has changed over the years…wah wah.

Back in 2011 I was featured in the Toronto Star (read it! read it!). I had nothing bad to say about Nashville, it was my second home. I loved it so much I would come back on average 6 times a year. Those were the days…

It is only an hour flight from Chicago. Or an 8 hour drive – which in that case, you can hit up Dinosaur World on I65. It is so easy to get to/from there, that apparently everyone and their grandma soon figured it out and now they have paved paradise and put up a parking lot. Literally.

My favorite alley is now a hotel and a parking garage. My friends lost their jobs at The Dog House and Stiddle and Feel (aka Fiddle and Steel), my fav karaoke spot, Lonnie’s, had to move from their historic spot. It was just a sad moment in history. Three story bars started going up on Broadway and all of a sudden there was a crying bride-to-be everywhere you looked. Prices of beer went up $2 a bottle and they started charging you to just walk in to the Honky Tonks to hear music. Music City turned into a hockey-loving, we hate the Blackhawks town and before you know it, airlines were charging us double.

One thing will never change though, and that is the generous Southern hospitality. The artists and bartenders alike know and appreciate the value of a dollar. Tourists took over their town, yet they continue to welcome us with open arms. Some preserved country history, and for that, I call them out:

Karaoke:
Bars:
Winners or Losers in the Gulch
Food:
Pinewood Social (also have a pool, bowling etc.)
Fin and Pearl (brunch in the Gulch)
Line Dancing Lessons:
Buy cowboy boots:
Boot Country (3 for the price of 1)
Stay classy country, Nashville.
Friendly reminder that the middle seat gets both armrests.

Smashing Time in London

Stop 1 of a magnificent Europe tour and London did not disappoint. While very similar to the U.S. it does have a unique ‘olden time’ charm that led me to go back less than a year later…for the royal wedding (peasant on the street, not in the pew).

Things I learned from round 1:

  1. Three movies and a mediocre airplane meal and you are there! This is an easy flight and most major carriers go there – just look for the best deal. I set up alerts on the hopper app and got my round-trip for $600 on American Airlines.
  2. There are two airports in London, pay close attention when booking your travels. My friends* learned the hard way.
  3. Super easy to get around with the public trans (tube), but be ok with the idea that your death might be caused by over heating in the summer or frostbit in the winter – there is no temperature control on those tin cans.
  4. I geeked out at Wimbledon and am not afraid to admit that. I will also admit that there is always some train route under construction with a detour, so if you end up on the air-conditioned with free wifi, five-star train, you are on the wrong one. Two hours later…
  5. The Making of Harry Potter is cool and a must-see for all HP fanatics, so long as you are willing to go to Timbuktu. It is no where near the downtown tourist area and will cost you $120 in uber fees and two hours of your life you will never get back. They have shuttles, but then you have to come and go on their watch. Why can’t the Hogwarts Express pick us up right from our hotels?
  6. The same view of the city can be seen from the London Eye, Tower Bridge, the Fire Monument and the Shard. Do not waste money on doing all of these things – choose one. One = The Fire Monument.
  7. Speaking of the Fire Monument – this is not for the height scaredy cats, or anyone who is physically out of shape. I wish I was kidding. It is the coolest place to see the city, but you lose your breath and personal space climbing those itty bitty stairs.
  8. Be aware that your medium-sized luggage will not fit through the hotel room doorway. And neither will you, actually.
  9. Eat everything.
  10. Drink everything.
*I
Friendly reminder that the middle seat gets both armrests.