Are We There Yet?

Standard

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…..

Bars, Baths, and Beautiful Budapest

Standard

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

Standard

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

Standard

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!

Today: The Natural World

Standard

This photo is from my favorite travel experience so far. Last year I was fortunate enough to travel to Marrakech and take a three day camel trek. This particular picture was taken in the morning after we spent the night in tents in the desert. On our way out, we stopped to watch the sunrise, and during my photo session with my camel this shot was taken. Camels are very interesting animals, and it still amazes me that people really use them in their everyday lives.

Camel in the Sahara Desert

Camel in the Sahara Desert

6 Reasons I look Forward to Traveling

Standard

It’s hard to imagine that in six weeks I’ll be embarking on my next European adventure! With that said, I felt like it was time to share some of my favorite things about traveling. So here are six reasons I look forward to traveling:

1. The Challenge. This might seem odd, but I find that some of the most rewarding experiences often come from the challenge of it all. From booking international flights, to in-country transportation, to lodging, to tours and everything in-between, the challenge of figuring it all out is exhilarating to me. I also think you grow the most when you are challenged and you learn a lot about your own limits which is invaluable.

boarding

2. Time Off. I’m a huge advocate of taking time off of work. As an HR professional I understand the value of detaching from your job and actually taking the time to relax and get away. You always come back refreshed and ultimately your work is better. I especially like traveling abroad with my time off because it also gives me a chance to un-plug. We are so hyper-connected these days that it is refreshing not to turn on a TV, or be attached to your phone 24/7 for a couple of weeks every year.

phone

3. Making Memories. I love the memories made with each new and different experience I have. In my mind, traveling makes the best memories. Both good and sometimes bad. Nothing brings people closer than shared travel memories. I try my hardest to document everything like the paparazzi and take pride in creating movies or photo books of my experiences, but the memory is something I know I’ll have forever and that means the world to me.

NY

Brooklyn Bridge

4. Passport Stamps. Yes, it’s shallow I understand that, but let me try and explain how much joy it brings me to go through customs or passport control…As I approach the somewhat scary passport agent, and they ask me all of the questions on their checklist, I stand in intense anticipation for that moment where they’ve decided to grant me access into their country. When they grab for the stamp and get ready place a new permanent fixture in my passport, my heart races and I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. Getting a stamp in my passport is like ripping the paper off that gift you’ve wanted all year long. In that moment I feel pure elation and what could be better than that?!?

pass

Passport

5. Exploring new Places. Don’t get me wrong, I have favorite destinations, but I LOVE the thrill and excitement of being somewhere new and unfamiliar. Somehow I feel more alive and awake, almost like I’m seeing everyday things for the first time. Maybe this relates back to being un-plugged, who knows. But whatever the reason, new cities and places inspire me!

beer

Castle Tour Outside Munich

6. Learning. Even if you don’t travel with the intention to learn, ultimately you will pick up a few things here and there. I enjoy learning simple things, but I also like to learn what the heartbeat of a place is and what makes the destination unique. If you don’t travel with an open mind you won’t learn and frankly you shouldn’t travel. But if you do have an open mind I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised what you’ll learn on your next trip!

Traveling fuels my soul and I have no doubt that I will continue to do it as long as I am able.

quote

Quote from KLM

My 4th of July Holiday Weekend in South Carolina

Standard

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!

5 Reasons Research is Important When Planning a Trip

Standard

Now that you’ve gone through the 5 Tips for Picking a Perfect Itinerary, here are 5 reasons research is important.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Research is the single most important tool you can arm yourself with when traveling.

Because research is such a vital part of travel, and people often forget its value, here are five quick and simple reasons why research is so important.

1. Culture. When you travel abroad it is extremely critical to learn about the culture where you will be staying. Take Italy for instance. Many of the churches require you to cover your shoulders to enter, even in the dead of summer when it’s sweltering outside, while other countries have laws about words you can and can’t say. Learning about the culture of your destination will help you immensely. And respecting the culture of other countries is an important aspect of helping to maintain the integrity of traveling and also to make sure you don’t put yourself in an unwelcome situation.

2. Itinerary Activities. After you’ve planned your itinerary, how do you figure out what to do when you get there? Research! If you don’t research your destination you won’t know if there are any local festivals, holiday celebrations or must see attractions. How sad would it be if you left Rome without seeing the Vatican? Or you missed the Mona Lisa in Paris? And if you don’t do a little bit of research you may not know that Oktoberfest actually starts in September.

IMG_1289

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Immunizations. When traveling abroad there are many foreign things you can encounter. An easy way to make sure nothing compromises your adventure is by arming yourself with proper vaccines. Just go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find out what exactly is needed or recommended before traveling. Some vaccines are not carried at your regular general practitioner, but it is generally pretty easy to find a travel doctor in your area and it is well worth the time and potential expense!

4 & 5. Language and Currency. Knowing simple things like what language is spoken, or what currency is used where you will be traveling is also important. Some currencies are closed, meaning you can’t get them until you are physically in the country, while other places may accept multiple currencies. It is also helpful to know what the primary language is in each of your destinations. And it doesn’t hurt to learn a couple of quick phrases in that language. People are always more willing to help you if they hear their native tongue. Bonjour, Ciao, Hola and Guten Tag can go a long way.

Euros

There are many, many, many more reasons it is important to research where you will be traveling, but these are just a few quick and simple reasons why I am so passionate about research. Even if you take 10 minutes to do some last minute googling in the airport, knowledge is power!

Stay tuned for more tips and tricks about how to plan your next adventure!