The Wheels on the Bus

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Please enjoy part three of my Dubai adventures, adapted from emails sent in October 2016.

Monday morning, October 10th was our first morning in Dubai. We arrived at night, hadn’t gone anywhere but our hotel and we were bears looking for food in the winter hungry. We needed food/coffee before things got ugly. So what did we do? We went to the Dubai Mall. Not to be confused with the Mall of the Emirates (more on that later).

Yeah, I hear you saying to yourself she’s in mother f*ing Dubai, and she’s going to the MALL?!? But this my friends, is not just any mall. This is a combination of EVERY famous brand from around the world AND an aquarium and ice rink, all rolled into one hugely massive building. Guys, they have everything you could ever want. Including Ben’s Cookies! It’s phenomenal.

But let’s face it, we are American, (and why pretend to be someone else, when it’s just who you are) so we had some Caribou Coffee for breakfast. Yes, we did, and I’m not even ashamed. I did burn my tongue though, I hate that. As we were about to leave, I noticed a group of moms with their kids over in the corner. One had two children, both dressed in Ohio State gear, so I obviously had to say something to her. I learned the whole group is married to Emirates Pilots, and they are all living in Dubai. This lady of course was actually from Michigan, but her husband was from Ohio. The world is really so small.

You are probably wondering now what the weather is like. So I’m in the desert. But it’s a tropical desert. What the what does that even mean?!? Well it means it’s hot as F, but also humid as F. Fantastic. There is literally NO way to look good and be outdoors. Not possible.

So to continue on our path of being tourists/westerners, we got a ticket for the Big Bus tour. You know, the double-decker kind that go all over the place. Ruby was our sales lady and she cut us the best deal (right) for a week-long ticket. We got our headphones, free water (SCORE) and headed up to the top to see how long we’d last before actually turning into sand.

Not going to lie, this was a great choice. Dubai is SO spread out that it’s impossible to get a feel for the city before you come here, trust me we tried.
There are three lines to take, so we did one on Monday and ended back at the Dubai Mall. This is also where the Burj Khalifa is and the famous fountains. Think Bellagio in Vegas, but bigger. And they do two shows an hour. One set to traditional music and one set to a pop-song. Our first experience was a Celine and Andrea Bocelli duet, it was magical.
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And guys, I’m pretty sure we had Texas Roadhouse for dinner ‘merica!

Until the next time!

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Are We There Yet?

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Oh Hey There. For those DYING for the continuation from my last post (the infamous major airport meltdown on the way to Dubai), here is the next installment. As a reminder, this series is a set of emails that have been adapted from a trip I took in October of 2016. Enjoy!

Good morning Zurich! Sadly I only got to see your airport and really only one terminal, but it seemed nice. One day I’ll actually make it a destination…just like everywhere else.

We had about an hour and a half to grab a bite to eat and get to our next Swiss Air flight. One thing I have always appreciated about Europe is the ability everyone has to queue without needing to be told every five minutes what to do. Everyone quietly lined up to board the flight with no fuss. It was delightful. Zurich was freezing, so I got a 45 second taste of winter to hold me over for a few months.

Sadly on this flight my friend and I were not sitting together, but I lucked out with bulkhead seating, score! Our flight was so easy it was just long. With about three and a half hours left, I was way over being on a plane with nowhere to go but to hang out with the crew in the back. Which we did, for a few minutes chugging water.

The craziest thing was our flight path. We flew over Turkey, a bit of Syria, and then down the border of Iraq and Iran. But we landed early and made our way to the passport control area. I’m so used to flying into the UK or Europe, that I was prepared for any questions they might have asked. The guy hardly even looked at me, stamped my passport and sent me on my way. Our bags were already waiting for us at baggage claim, so we got some Dirham (cash) and made it to the taxi line. 20 minutes later we arrived at our hotel, good ole Radisson Blu Downtown Dubai. Our goal was to make it to the hotel and have a drink at the rooftop bar. Despite being extremely exhausted, we had some Cosmos and they were super yummy! Expensive, but yummy.

Side note: the Dirham’s are impossible to figure out. Just not worth even trying. I have no concept really of what stuff costs, just that it’s more than what I want to spend on a sandwich.

Anyway, after 28+ hours of travel, we were BEAT. Shower, sleep, exploration in the morning.

Zzzzzzzz…..

Delays, Beers and Tears, Oh My!

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This next series of posts I plan to publish, are emails that I sent to a few friends and family members when I was traveling in October 2016. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them!

Where do I even start…let’s begin with this keyboard and where I actually am. Currently I am in the business center of the Sofitel on Palm Island in Dubai. Go ahead and google this hotel, yes it’s far too nice for me. My friend who I am traveling with is here for a wedding, so I have tonight and tomorrow night to entertain myself. Right, so this keyboard. It not only has keys that are super far away from one another, but the shift, enter and apostrophe aren’t quite in the right places. Add to that, the average number of symbols present on each key is 3. Yes 3 Thankfully it is set up in “American” so I don’t have to try and figure out how to actually use this thing.
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Currently it’s Friday night, but here in Dubai, Friday is actually Saturday, meaning it’s halfway through the weekend. It is a bit odd to have the weekend be Friday and Saturday but it works.

So I think I will start this from the beginning, to get everyone up to speed.

Follow me back to the week of October 8, 2016. In Florida, we were bracing for a hurricane as I was preparing to travel about halfway around the world. I was a wreck all week worrying about the path of the storm. Thankfully it never got as bad as was feared. However, it still affected my flights when I left, even though it was a very nice day at home.

I was dropped off at the airport with ample time to check-in, get through security (holler pre-check) and relax. But that is not what happened. Immediately I learned my flight was delayed, thus making me miss my connection in Atlanta. I was meeting my friend in Newark to fly to Zurich and on to Dubai.

Here’s A LONGGGGG story, short-ish. I was put on standby for the first flight to Atlanta and I didn’t get on. It was too late to get my bag off the plane, so I had to get to Newark. I cried when I didn’t get on the plane (this is a theme for the day) because I was frustrated and worried about my connections. I did get on the second flight to Atlanta and was going to have 36 minutes to make my connection. You can stop laughing, I know this is a nearly impossible task in that airport. When the plane door opened I RAN LIKE FORREST through the airport to my next gate. As I was running up an escalator, the guy in front of me drops his passport and does not realize it. I now have no choice but to run after him and scream down the terminal, “SIR, YOUR PASSPORT!!!” He said thanks and I continued on at a full sprint. When I got to the gate, it was closed and my world was shattered. I had a full-fledged completely irrational meltdown right there at the gate. I had been running so hard that when I started to cry I was actually hyperventilating and I couldn’t catch my breath.

There is also ZERO privacy in an airport terminal and I was too distraught to think I should go into the bathroom. So I slid right into my meltdown and just completely lost it. We are talking two airport employees asked if I was okay and one even brought me napkins for my tears and dignity. Eventually I made it to the service desk to be re-booked. My next concern was getting into Newark two hours later than originally planned and having to get my luggage, (it made it onto my standby flight and was just chillin with it’s other luggage friends in Newark) re-check it, and make it through security. Oh and I hadn’t checked into my international flight yet because it was through Swiss Air and I couldn’t ever find my reservation. My mom, the wizard, figured that one out (thanks Mom) and got me checked in at least. Now after all this I still had over an hour in Atlanta and needed, nay, deserved, at least one drink.

I found a sports bar to watch some football and have a beer. Sat down at the bar and ordered an Oktoberfest. The guy next to me kept looking at me (he was reading a book in a bar…) and I finally asked where he was traveling to. I learned wayyyyyy more than I wanted about him and then he asked me this…”were you in the terminal a little while ago crying?” Yes, yes sir I was. He asked me if everything was okay and I told him my story which I’m sure he didn’t care a lick about, but hey you asked. And then I chugged my beer, leaving my last bits of dignity at the bar.

Happily I made it to Newark, got my bag, checked in, and made it through security with little to no issue. The lady at the check-in desk did freak me out when asking if I had a visa, but she had zero clue and it was not a problem.

HUGE shout out to those that helped me through that day…you know who you are!

I’m not sure if it was the lack of sleep I got the night before I left, or the hysterical crying, but I slept pretty well on that flight to Zurich. Oh and in case you were wondering, I was in the LAST row of the plane, folded like origami into my seat. Peachy.

Wheels down in Zurich….

To be continued.

Bars, Baths, and Beautiful Budapest

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This European trip was all about trains. So naturally we took the train from Salzburg to Budapest. I will warn you that figuring things out once you are in Budapest is very different. Hungarian is an impossible language, and even though we knew it was going to be Eastern Europe, it was still overwhelming. We ended up getting directions from a really nice guy and found our way to our apartment via the subway system. The apartment we stayed at was great, and we would recommend it for sure…but it was tough to find. You cant check out more information here. After we settled in, we had the front desk make a dinner reservation at a great spot on the river at a restaurant called Dunacorso. Go there, it’s delicious.

Our Dinner View

Our Dinner View

Our first full day in Budapest we scheduled a walking tour. I personally have always been a fan of walking tours, and I still feel like they are the best way to learn the pulse of a city.

Prior to our arrival in Budapest, we found a gelato place that serves gelato in the shape of a rose; Gelarto Rosa. It is located right on the edge of the plaza by St. Stephen’s Basilica. Our entire group would recommend making this a priority while in Budapest. So much so that it’s possible we had two in one day…

Gelato

Gelato

After walking all day we were starving. Luckily near our apartment there was an entire restaurant area with plenty to choose from. We ended up eating at Yiddishe Mama Mia and it was fantastic.

Side Note: Our food in Budapest was the best food of our trip.*

Once our bellies were full, we decided to stop back at the apartment before heading out to the ruin bars (also very close to our location). These bars are made up of random mismatched furniture, indoor and outdoor seating space, and cheap drinks. Some of them offer food as well. We had an absolute blast ruin bar hopping and only wished we had another night to experience more of them.

One of the Famous Ruin Bars

One of the Famous Ruin Bars

Our last day in Budapest half of our group went to the Szecenyi Thermal Baths in the morning. I would HIGHLY recommend this experience to anyone traveling through Budapest. It was amazing (I plan to write a detailed post about our experience and how we went about tickets, etc. because it can be confusing. So check back for more information on this day). We even had a fish pedicure!

The Baths

The Baths

That afternoon we did a peddle bar tour with our entire group. This wasn’t the best experience, but we made the most of it. Unfortunately our bike bar didn’t have any power, so we were manually peddling the entire thing. Our beer was also very tough to pour without a ton of foam and there were only four peddles to use and one of them didn’t work most of our tour. In the end we can agree that you can skip this activity.

Our last night in Budapest we had more rose gelato, another good meal and some drinks. The group consensus was that we LOVED Budapest and did not want to leave!

The Salzburg Adventure

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After our time in Munich, we hopped on a local train and made our way to Salzburg. We did not purchase our tickets in advance, since the trains run between the destinations regularly. What we did do, was board the train a bit earlier than normal, which turned out to be a great idea since we were able to get seats with tables. The train ride was easy and we made it to Salzburg with no issues. Our next task was to navigate to our hotel via the bus system. Salzburg isn’t very big, and the busses are great, but we did have a tough time figuring it out. Eventually we did and made it to our hotel. We stayed at the Star Inn and it was awesome. It has some of the biggest rooms I’ve seen in a hotel abroad. And with full rooms it was great to have the extra space. The shower and toilet were also separate from each other which was awesome when sharing a room with four people.

Star Inn

Star Inn

After dinner that night, we went exploring and enjoyed getting lost in the beautiful twists and alleyways that make Salzburg so enchanting.

The next day we rented cars to take a day trip to Hallstatt. That morning we caught the bus to the airport to rent our vehicles. They were manual transmission, so only thee of our group could drive, myself being one of them. In the end we split into a boys car and a girls car.

The Girls Car

The Girls Car

On our way to Hallstatt we stopped at a few places of interest and really enjoyed the scenery and having the freedom of our own cars. No one we were with had ever done that before, and I know all of us would do it again. Once we made it to Hallstatt we parked and walked into town to get some food. It is quite possibly the cutest town ever. We were there in October so sadly the ferry was not running but it didn’t impact us at all.

Hallstatt

Hallstatt

The one piece of advice I will give you is if you plan to go to the lookout point and the salt mines, do that first thing. We tried to do it at the end of the day but they close down the cable car much earlier than we had thought. Even without that, the day was fantastic. Driving through the mountains and just enjoying the country was something we will always remember.

While in Salzburg we also did the Sound of Music tour. Even if you don’t care about the movie, you get a great sense of the city.

I am 16 going on 17

I am 16 going on 17

The one strange part of the tour for us was when we were in this little town to see the church where Maria and the Captain got married. The air raid sirens went off. Supposedly they test them every so often, but it was truly terrifying.

Overall we had a lovely time in Salzburg, and the Austrian countryside was amazingly beautiful. We can’t wait to go back!

My time in Munich

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This past September I traveled to Munich for Oktoberfest with seven other people. Yes SEVEN. We stayed for about four days. This is my story.

Munich was the first leg of our two week adventure.

On our first evening we found dinner near Marienplatz, and per the suggestion of our server we decided to go down to Oktoberfest that night, since it was Sunday (Sunday’s are typically really good days to try and get in to Oktoberfest). Even though we were beyond exhausted, we threw our logic and reasoning out the window and went anyway.

Sure enough we found a table pretty easily in the Paulaner tent.

Welcome to Oktoberfest

Welcome to Oktoberfest

The Paulaner Tent

The Paulaner Tent

View From Our First Table

View From Our First Table

We had an absolute blast at that tent and after a while we began to wonder if we should find another table in a new tent. The problem was we weren’t guaranteed entry. The group decided to give it a try and sure enough we got in! Our second table was in the Löwenbräu tent.

Our View Inside Löwenbräu

Our View Inside Löwenbräu

Ultimately, we ended up making friends with the people around us and had a blast. One of the best things about Oktoberfest is making friends with everyone and meeting people from all over the world.

To say that the next morning was rough wouldn’t be saying enough. One group member did not make it to their tour and the rest of us were feeling the affects of a full night at the fest. We took it easy and went down to the grounds to get our tickets for a reservation later in the week. This also gave us a chance to explore. The last time we were in Munich we didn’t get to see all of the grounds. And let me just say, all of the tents are amazing. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Outside Spatenbräu-Festhalle

Inside of Spatenbräu-Festhalle

Inside of Spatenbräu-Festhalle

Outside Augustiner-Festhalle

Inside Augustiner-Festhalle

Inside Augustiner-Festhalle

Mind you, we did not have any drinks or food here we just looked around. This hardly even scratches the surface of tents since there are many, many more. It still blows my mind that these are all TEMPORARY structures!

Another thing we did was go to the grocery store. This trip we stayed in apartments with kitchens, and to cut cost we got breakfast food and drinks to have on hand. Our location was perfect and it was quiet which is a plus during Oktoberfest.

For dinner we enjoyed a meal at the original Hofbrauhaus. Having people with us who had never been to Munich it was a must see! I had an amazing meal. For more about my experience you can read my review here.

Our next morning we had a tour with Mike’s Bikes. It was a blast riding around the city and learning a bit about the history of Munich at the same time. A highlight for sure was the stop for beer and pretzels! That night we suited up and headed down to Oktoberfest to hunt for a table. Luck was not on our side as it was raining, and that makes getting into a tent MUCH more difficult. We powered through though and ended up finding a table at the last place we tried, making us undefeated when attempting to get a table in a tent during Oktoberfest no matter the day, time or size of the group!

Beer!

Beer!

Traditional Dirndl's

Traditional Dirndl’s

Our last full day in Munich was a rather lazy one. We wandered into the main square to look for some souvenirs and then headed back to get ready for our tent reservation. Somehow we managed to get a reservation at the Hofbrauhaus tent. Finding our table was easy and we had a great time. If you are planning to go to Oktoberfest check out my previous post for some tips and tricks!

Hofbrauhaus Tent

Hofbrauhaus Tent

Overall we really enjoyed our time in Munich. While we were there our group grew to ten which made the experience completely different than the last time we went.

After this trip I would really like to go to Munich when it’s not Oktoberfest to enjoy all of the other beer gardens and wine bars they have. I will definitely be back!

My 4th of July Holiday Weekend in South Carolina

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One of the ways I like to travel is by taking advantage of a long weekend to go visit friends or family. By doing this, I don’t have to pay for lodging! Since the 4th of July is near my birthday, I decided to go up to see my parents in South Carolina.

There is also a discount airline that runs from Florida to North or South Carolina (depending which airport I chose to fly into) with great ticket prices and direct flights. The only real downside is that they don’t offer a huge selection in terms of dates or flight times, but it’s completely worth it. Check out Allegiant Air for more information.

I arrived in Greenville on Friday afternoon with a few hours to relax before people came over for the 4th. We enjoyed a great evening grilling, drinking and hanging out.

Morning view at my parents house

Morning view at my parents house

Saturday we got up (slightly hungover) and made our way to Hendersonville. It was very clear when we got there that we needed to eat! And it was a perfect opportunity to enjoy a pint over lunch at The Black Rose, one of our favorite pubs.

Refueled, we headed over to Mast General Store to do some shopping. See, for me living in Florida is great, but we never have a really good selection of cold weather gear and that makes traveling in cooler months much more difficult sometimes. I ended up hitting the jackpot and got some great pieces on sale! Ok, ok I’ll be honest, since it was near my birthday I got some great presents and I personally didn’t buy a thing. But everything WAS on sale! Thanks mom and dad!

I’m also always searching for the next greatest travel accessory or gadget and after the disappointing performance of my last travel purse, I really wanted to find a new one. Luck was on my side and I found a great one (I hope)!

Before leaving Hendersonville we had to make a pit stop at McFarlan bakery. They have the best treats and the line is always out the door, but it’s definitely worth the wait.

McFarlan Bakery

McFarlan Bakery

On Sunday we went to brunch before making our way up to The Highlands. This was my first time visiting the area, but I can’t wait to go back. We did some shopping and walked around enjoying the weather.

Old Edward's Inn The Highlands, NC

Old Edward’s Inn The Highlands, NC

The drive to and from The Highlands is really pretty, but make sure to bring water with you! Especially since I live below sea level in Florida, the altitude really got to me this time.

Our plan Sunday night was to get pizza at one of our favorite spots back in Hendersonville, but sadly they were closed, so instead we had a dinner at Mezzaluna in town. The restaurant was packed but we had amazing service and good food!

Sunflowers in Hendersonville

Sunflowers in Hendersonville

The rest of the evening was spent on the porch watching TV and relaxing. Overall it was a great trip with beautiful and cool weather, just what I needed.

Don’t worry, I’m already scheming my next quick trip destination!