Travel Review: Lisbon, Portugal 🇵🇹

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Hey folks:

In this review I will talk about my time in Lisbon, Portugal.

Where we stayed:

Republica Bed and Breakfast for 2 nights. The total cost was $128.31 for the 2 nights. The bed and breakfast was centrally located in the Campo Pequeno area of Lisbon with a metro station right outside of its door. Since it was a B&B we had the option for a continental breakfast each morning as well. The staff was super nice and the place was very clean.

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What we did:

We made our way to Lisbon after leaving Lagos by bus. We took a cab from the Rede Expressions bus station to our Bed and Breakfast. The check-in process was very smooth.

After settling in, we decided to catch the metro to explore Lison. We headed toward the main tourist area near Rua Augusta which is home to lots of shops, restaurants, and cafes.

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The main goal for the day was to see Castelo de St. Jorge or the Castle of St. George. The journey to the castle definitely allowed us to see why Lisbon is known as the city of 7 hills. It was at the very top of several steep cobblestone roads, and yes we walked the whole way up. Talk about a leg workout.

We finally made our way to the entrance of the castle. There was an entrance fee to enter the grounds of the castle, it was about 8-10 Euros.

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Before reaching the inside of the castle, you are able to take in one of the best views in Lisbon. However the actual castle was a disappointment. It was literally just the structure of the old castle with no rooms or replicas of what it used to be. From what I heard you can catch the same view plus see the castle from other areas at no cost. I suggest going that route.

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After taking a few pictures around the castle, we took a tram back down to the bottom of the hill. We decided to walk around the main streets and catch some of the stores before they closed. Most of the commercial stores in that area close around 7-8pm. I was able to browse in a few stores before closing time. At that point, we decided to just take the metro back to our B&B for the night.

After sleeping in a little the next day, we decided to take a day trip out to Sintra. It’s a small town about 40 minutes outside of Lisbon by train. We were able to buy a roundtrip ticket to Sintra for 4.30 Euros. The train ride was very smooth and let us off right in the heart of Sintra.

Once in Sintra, we caught the hop on hop off bus that takes you to a few of the main attractions, including Castle of the Moors. The bus was 5.25 euros and allowed you to take one full trip around the loop.

We stopped at one palace (which I don’t remember the name for) and then took the very steep and curvy ride up to the Castle of the Moors. Once you are let off of the bus, you head to the ticket window to pay the entrance fee to see the outside of the castle. There was an additional fee to see the inside. Once you pay, you can take a tram or take a very steep walk uphill to get to the castle. (I walked) There were lots of people of all shapes and sizes taking the trek as well. It was only a 5 minute walk up.

Unlike the castle the day before, this castle did not disappoint at all! It was amazing and full of color. Since we waited until the afternoon to go, it was pretty crowded so it was hard to get that perfect picture. However, there are lots of little hidden vantage points to get your perfect shot. There is a little café on the grounds in case you want a snack or need to get water.

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Now, the hard part was getting back down to the bottom of the hill. The hop on hop off bus fills up quick at this stop since everyone tries to get here so be prepared to wait. If you don’t have patience, there are little tuk tuks that will take you down for 5 euros per person. We waited it out and headed back down to catch our train back to Lisbon.

After finding some food, I decided to head back out to see what was once deemed as Europe’s largest mall. I took the train out to Colombo mall which is in the north west part of the city and has a direct train stop. When I walked in, I was overwhelmed. I could see why it was given the accolades that it had. It was 3 levels of stores upon stores and the largest food court I’d ever seen. The real crazy part to me was that it didn’t close until 2am!!! (WHAAAATTTTT) I walked around until about midnight and even picked up an couple things in the process. Yet that still wasn’t enough time to really take it all in. (My feet were hurting so I didn’t have a choice)

After the short train ride back to our B&B, we prepared to head to our last and final Portuguese city the next morning.

Lisbon is a city full of culture and life. Although I wish I had a little more time to explore the nightlife I was still able to see a lot of what it did offer. Lisbon is a very diverse city and all cultures and races are present. If you are ever in Portugal, you must plan to stay here at least 4 days!

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Thanks for reading and Happy Traveling.

 

Tuesday Travel Review: Lagos, Portugal 🇵🇹

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Hey folks:

It’s Tuesday and I’m finally back and adjusted from my trip. Today’s review will detail my time in the beautiful town of Lagos, Portugal.

LAGOS! LAGOS! LAGOS! Oh how I love thee.

After an overnight in Lisbon, we took a bus to Lagos. We booked our bus ticket online with the Rede Express Bus company that services most all of Portugal. The roundtrip ticket was about $30 only because we waited so late to purchase. You can likely get the ticket for a lot less by purchasing at least 5 days in advance.

The bus ride from Lisbon to Lagos was about 3.75-4 hours. Luckily the bus had wifi so I was able to stay busy.

Once we arrived, we were met by our bed and breakfast host at the bus station. We stayed at Uptown Bed and Breakfast in Lagos. I found the place through booking.com.

It was a 3 level home with multiple rooms on each level. It was very clean and the location was convenient.

After getting settled in, we took our host up on his suggestion to try a local restaurant called Calhou. It was a cute little restaurant with traditional Portuguese décor. The suggestion was to try a local dish called Cataplana. It was an assortment of fresh local fish, prawns, potatoes, and veggies all cooked together in this dome shaped copper dish over a fire. The dish was served still boiling and almost like a stew. The fish was so fresh and the veggies and potatoes were cooked to perfection.

After dinner, we walked down to the center city to see what the night had in store. The Lagos center city was made up of long cobblestone alleys filled with shops, bars, and restaurants. Lagos was definitely a drinkers town, they had happy hour every night from 7-midnight.

After a few hours of taking in the sites and sounds, we headed back to our B&B for the night.

The next morning we had a light breakfast on the rooftop of the house with an amazing view.

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The plan for the day, was to spend as much time near the water as we could. Our host told us about a fun boat tour that took you to see some of the water caves. We signed up for that as it was only 15 Euros.

The tour lasted about an hour and a half and we drove along the coast while going in and out of different caves along the way. From there we ate a quick lunch at the city center before heading to the actual beach. We wanted to rent scooters for the day, however all of the shops shut down for lunch from 1pm-3pm. UGH!

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Instead, we took a taxi out to Praia do Camilo, which is one of the most beautiful beaches in Lagos.

After driving up a few hills and to the top of a cliff, we arrived at the entrance for the beach. As soon as I looked over the cliff, I was totally blown away. The beauty was out of this world. (And I have been fortunate to see some of the world’s most beautiful beaches in my travels)

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We made the walk down the stairs onto the beach. It wasn’t a large beach but it was perfect in size. I laid out my towel and proceeded to enjoy the scenery.

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After some much needed fun in the sun, we made the 25 minute walk back toward our B&B for showers and then dinner.

We decided on dinner in the city center this night. We stopped at a little outdoor restaurant and had spaghetti with prawns. It was decent. (Not the best thing I’ve had but decent) Since this was our last night in Lagos, we chose to look in the shops for any souvenirs that we may have wanted and then enjoy the Lagos Happy Hour crowd.

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The next morning we had breakfast then headed back to the bus station to make the trek back to Lisbon.

All in all, Lagos is a small city with big heart. If you are ever in Portugal, this is worth the 4 hour ride from Lisbon. I honestly could have done another day or 2 in Lagos to see some of the other beaches or to even do a tour to see some other caves further out.

My time here was super short, but it gave me just what I came for…a BEAUTIFUL beach.

As always, thank you for reading. Happy Traveling! ✈️

10 Tips for successfully navigating abroad!

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Hey folks:

Here are my top 10 tips for a successful trip abroad:

1. Always keep your passport on you: I know this sounds obvious but you would be surprised how many people leave their passport in their room or suitcase while going out to explore. While abroad, your passport is literally your lifeline. You will need to show it for the simplest things at times, such as buying a bus ticket. So always be sure to keep it in your purse or book bag.

2. Try to carry a book bag over a purse: I’ve learned that having a book bag is much easier to keep controlled. I have a bookbag that goes everywhere now when I travel. It may not be the most fashionable option but it’s the safest. You’ll want to carry and have on you certain things at all times and a bookbag is the way to ensure that. Also depending on the country, carry your backpack to the front to protect against pick pocketing.

3. Try to consolidate to 1 large piece of luggage: If you plan to city hop, the last thing you want is to carry a bunch of luggage around. You’ll want to be able to move faster and there won’t always be room on public transportation for lots of luggage. Also try to roll your clothes or even air vacuum then to save room in your luggage.

4. Always carry essentials: foreign hotels and foreign countries in general may not have the same hygiene as you so be sure to carry extra essentials. Some that I feel are vital are: wet wipes, hand sanitizer, small packs of tissue, bath towel, face towel, shower shoes, and soap. Public restrooms in foreign countries typically don’t have tissue or charge a small fee for it. So it’s better to be prepared than not.

5. Public transportation will cut down on costs: I know it sounds scary, but if the country/city you’re in has a metro or bus system…USE IT! Yea cabs and private cars are convenient, but after a while they add up. Public transportation is usually pretty cheap and very efficient in getting you around.

6. Street/local food won’t kill you: I know we hear horror stories about people getting sick in foreign countries or we have preconceived notions about food safety in other places, but it’s not that bad! Street food, much like public transportation, can be very easy on the pockets. You’ll pay almost next to nothing for a full meal if you let go of your fears. If you’re still not sure maybe pack some stomach meds just in case. Don’t get me wrong, experiencing a nice restaurant while on a trip is great, but paying for overpriced food at each meal will kill your pockets. Food is more expensive and less authentic in tourist areas, so venture out and try something with the locals.

7. You must have thick skin: People in other counties may not follow your same customs. For instance, I’ve found that in most Arabic and even Asian countries, the concept of personal space is nonexistent. People will literally breath on your neck or stand so close to you they’re touching you. So simply say excuse me or just take it. But getting mad really won’t solve anything. They’re not being rude, it’s just what they’re used to. Another thing I’ve found is the concept of standing and waiting in line is foreign to some countries. People will come up to the counter and start talking while you’re still being helped. Again, just say excuse me or just try to be patient.

8.  Don’t expect everyone to know or speak English: I still struggle with this. We as Americans tend to think that everyone should cater to us, especially when it comes to language barriers. But I’ve found that not every country pushes the need to learn English. So depending on where you’re going, try to learn a few key phrases to help at least get around and to order food.

9. Buy bus/train tickets in advance:  if you plan to city hop, I suggest buying the tickets in advance. Companies typically offer significant discounts the earlier you buy. This will take planning though in knowing your travel schedule and researching the routes in the country. But the later you wait, the more you’ll pay!

10. Try to get currency in advance: a lot of foreign countries don’t accept debit cards at every place, so you’ll need to have local currency on you. This is especially true in markets and smaller food places. While on the subject of markets and/or souks, always bargain on the amount you pay. The price that is listed is never really the final price. Also, be confident in your negotiations. If you seem timid, they can pick up on that and try to overcharge. Try to have a set budget ahead of time so that way you know what you’re working with to spend. Lastly, keep your money hidden and always turn away from the merchant when pulling money out to count. The last thing you want them to know is how much money you have in your possession.

Use these tips and you’re sure to have a great trip abroad.

As always, thanks for reading and happy Traveling! ✈️

 

Tuesday Travel Review: Marrakech, Morocco 🇲🇦

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Hey folks:

Although I’m still galavanting around the world, I decided to go ahead and drop my Marrakech review while I sit on this bus back to Lisbon from Lagos for 4 hours!

The background:

This trip became a thing after I came across a 2-for-1 flight deal. The deal started out of JFK airport in New York flew to Casablanca, Morocco then Lisbon, Portugal. It goes back to Casablanca for a day then back to JFK. The total price for the flight was…$400! Yes $400 for a 2 continent flight. The flight was on a Moroccan based airline called Royal Air Maroc. Ok, enough of the boring stuff…here’s what I did while in Marrakech.

Day 1:

As I said above, our plane flew into Casablanca airport. The plan was to take a short commuter train at the airport to the main train station in Casablanca then take a longer train into Marrakech. We made it onto the commuter train with no issue. But…we ended up getting onto the wrong train at the main station. We ended going the complete opposite way of where we needed to go! (Insert Jordan crying face) We met a very nice lady on our wrong train who helped to get us on a bus to Marrakech. Had we waited to take the train back we would have literally wasted our whole day.

After the 3.25 hour bus ride and an interesting “taxi” ride in a touk touk we finally made it to our beautiful Riad in the heart of the Medina. We were staying at Riad Alnadine. A Riad is a traditional Moroccan bed and breakfast. Our host and the owner, Nadine was from France and was the best!

We were given a tour of the Riad and then shown our room.

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Once we were settled. Nadine walked us to a cute little restaurant just a few steps from the Riad. I ordered the Tajin with tuna. Tajin is a popular blend of Moroccan spices often used on various meats and cooked with vegetables in a clay pot. Most restaurants will also serve bread and marinated olives with each meal.

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After dinner, we decided to just head back to the Riad to prepare for an adventurous day 2!

Day 2:

We started our morning with breakfast prepared by Nadine and served on the beautiful terrace of the Riad.

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We were set to take part in a full day tour beginning at 10am. We booked through a company called Get Your Guide before we went to Morocco. The tour consisted of a camel trek, ATV ride, and finished out with a full treatment at a Hammam. (a Moroccan spa) The price of all of this was only $107 per person.

The tour company sent a van to pick us up from our Riad. We made the drive first to the area for the camel trek.

When we arrived we were served Moroccan mint tea (the best tea ever and I’m bringing some back) then dressed in a traditional style outfit complete with head wrap. We were assigned to our camels and off we went. The trek lasted an hour (wayyyyy to long if you ask me). We literally just rode the camels through a desert like area. The guide would stop ever so often to take pictures for us. It wasn’t terrible but they definitely can shorten it by half the time in my opinion.

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After the trek, we hopped back in our van and took a short ride to our next stop where we would start our ATV ride! (Yesssss)

Once we arrived, we were given a quick tutorial of the bikes and given our helmets then we were out! The ride last about 45 minutes with a stop in a village for more tea (winning) We rode through dunes and even over some nice hills. It was a blast. We did get pretty dirty though so be prepared for that.

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We loaded up once again and drove toward Jemma el-Fna (or The Square) where our Hammam would await.

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We had no idea what to expect before getting to the Hammam. We thought we would simply take a quick shower then receive a watered down version of a massage. Boy were we wrong. We literally received the royal treatment.

We were taken to a room where we undressed and were given plush robes and slippers.  From there we went into this large sauna room made of ceramic and marble. Overhead was the largest rainforest shower I’ve ever seen.

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The staff lady told us to rinse off then lay down on the cushioned bench. We were then lathered in some kind of body scrub from head to toe and told to rinse off again. Next we were scrubbed with these exfoliating hand gloves from head to toe and told to lay down for about 5-10 minutes in the sauna heat. We rinsed off yet again before being rubbed down in yet another body cream. We layed down once more before the final rinse down. We were robbed and taken upstairs to a massage room where two new ladies greeted us.

Next came one of the best Swedish massages I had ever had. The massage lasted about 30-45 minutes and it was heavenly. I literally didn’t want to get up after.

We were taken to a cute little sitting area and served more tea. (You literally get tea everywhere.) We changed clothes and met our driver who took us back to the Riad.

Once back at our Riad, we relaxed for a little before getting dress to head back to the square for an evening of shopping at the souks, eating, and taking in the sights and sounds.

Jemma el-Fna is the main attraction area for traditional Marrakech. It’s a maze of narrow streets filled with souks (Arabic shops) complete with literally anything someone would need. There are lots of restaurants, street food, and fresh squeezed juice stands all around too.

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A word to the wise, if you ever head to the souks, always bargain when buying things. Never just take the first price they offer. Marrakech can be super cheap if you do it right.

That evening, we decided on one of the street food vendors for our dinner. Although it’s street food, you are still seated at a large picnic table to eat. I had mixed meat skewers (lamb, chicken, and kefta) with veggie couscous.

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After a few hours of taking it all in, it was back to the Riad for the night.

Day 3:

This was our day to see the beautiful palaces and buildings that Marrakech is known for. Luckily, everything was still in walking distance so we didn’t have to pay for transportation.

After breakfast on the terrace, our first stop was to Ben Youssef Madrasa. It was 25 MAD to enter. (About $2) Ben Youssef Madrasa was a popular science university and mosque back in the day. The building  which still stands is very detailed with clay and brightly colored hand painted tile. It was beautiful. I literally had an entire photo shoot here.

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After spending some time at Ben Youssef, we stopped by a spice souk before heading back to the square to get a touk touk to Bahia Palace. It was 10MAD to enter (about $1)

Similar to Ben Youssef, the colors and details at Bahia palace were amazing. And yes…another photo shoot took place.

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We trekked our way back toward the square and found a cute little restaurant called Chez Brahim. I ordered the lamb couscous meal which started with a Moroccan salad and ended with fresh oranges sprinkled with cinnamon. It was delicious.

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For our last few hours we walked around the square just taking it all in for one last time.

Marrakech gave me exactly what I needed from it. Old clay buildings coupled with detailed carvings and colors. You won’t need more than 4 days or so to see everything it has to offer.

As always, thanks for reading and happy Traveling. ✈️

Today’s Deals 3/10/2017

Hey folks!

There are some great domestic flight deals popping up today, so I wanted to share. Remember these prices won’t last longer than 24-48 hours. Airport codes are listed in parentheses and you will need them to search and buy the flights on the recommended sites. Happy traveling.

 

Deal 1:

Washington, DC (DCA) to Los Angeles (LAX) for $248 roundtrip on American. This flight includes a layover in Dallas. Purchase on AA.com

Dates:

October 14-17 and September 30- October 3.

**May be other dates, but those were the only ones I saw right now.

Deal 2:

Charlotte (CLT) to NYC/NJ(EWR) for as low as $66 rountrip on United.

Departure dates: June – mid August (no Sundays)

Return: June – mis August (mostly midweek days)

** Blackout dates: June 22- July 10

 

Deal 3:

Atlanta (ATL) to Miami (MIA) nonstop on American for as low as $137 roundtrip.

Dates: now through October. Use the google.com/flights seach option to find actual dates. Lots of dates for $145.

 

Deal 4:

Washington, DC (DCA) to Dallas (DFW) nonstop on American for as low as $87 roundtrip.

Departure: Sept – Oct on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday

Return: same as above.

Use priceline.com or Momondo.com to find lowest rate

 

Deal 5:

Atlanta (ATL) to Washington, DC (not sure which airport) nonstop on United for $116 roundtrip.

Departure dates: May 24; June 6, 7, 8, 13, 14

Return: May 27, 30, 31; June 1, 2, 6, 7, 14

Use Priceline.com or Momondo.com to find lowest rate. Use WAS as airport code to search all airports in DC.

Today’s Deals 3/8/17

 

Hey folks:

I came across a few deals and wanted to share. Remember these prices are typically only valid for about 24-48 hours (if that!) so you have to be quick! I posted most of the airport codes from which you would need in the (). Also, these dates are pretty restricted. You can play around with other dates on your own, but those listed are going to pull the lowest rate. Happy Traveling.

 

Deal 1:

New York (JFK or LGA) to Grenada on Jet Blue for about $260 roundtrip

Departure dates: June 3-6, 11, or 12

Return dates: June 6,8,9,15

Use momondo.com to search for dates and to purchase at the lowest price.

 

Deal 2:

NYC(LGA or JFK) to Cayman Islands on Jetblue

Departure dates: June 1-4, 11, 12

Return dates: June 3,5,-,11-18

Use momondo.com

 

Deal 3:

Washington, DC (BWI) to San Juan, PR (SJU) on Delta for $248 roundtrip

Dates: various dates in September and October

Use momondo or Priceline to search and buy at lowest rate

 

Deal 4:

Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Turks and Caicos (PLS) on JetBlue for as low as $228 roundtrip

Departure dates: September 5,8, 19-22, 26-29; October (any Sunday or Tuesday)

Return dates: September (any Thursday thru Saturday); October (mostly midweek dates)

Use momondo or priceline to search and buy at lowest price

 

Deal 5:

Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Aruba on JetBlue for as low as $205 roundtrip

Departure date: June 6, August 23, 26, 28, 29; September 3,4, 7

Return date: June 14-16; August 31; September 7, 14

 

 

3 reasons why I prefer international over domestic travel.

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Hey folks!

If you keep up with this blog then you know I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to lots of different places, domestic and international. As I reflect back over my travels, I realize that I prefer traveling out of country over traveling to somewhere in the states.

A few months ago I posed a question on Facebook which asked why black men don’t travel as much. While the answers varied and only targeted one demographic, the response of “I haven’t seen enough places in the states yet” stuck with me. When I initially read it, I thought why, you really aren’t missing much.

My preference for international travel can be explained in the following 3 reasons:

1. The cultural experience: now don’t get me wrong, the United States is a melting pot of all types of nationalities and cultures but it’s not the same as experiencing the culture in its natural element. With every country I travel to, I try to have a convo with a local to gain  insight as to what life is like in that country on a daily. After almost every convo, I’m left with a new outlook on life and further more a greater appreciation for the life we are able to live in the states. (Although not always the most perfect life) When I travel domestically I don’t walk away with that same feeling. To see the excitement that some people get in other counties to meet someone from the states and to hear how much they admire our life here is always eye opening. Other countries see the US as the most powerful country in the world, despite all the struggle and turmoil present here. So often I hear people talk about wanting to come here for a better life. Little do they know, many of us want to come to their home country for the exact same reason.

2. It’s typically less expensive: The myth that most believe is that international travel is expensive. WRONG! From my posts, you have seen that travel deals are out there depending on where you live. But the true deals come when you actually get abroad. As you read in past posts, I’ve been able to have fresh meals in other countries for as little as $1.50. You can’t even get a full fast food meal for that price in the states. Furthermore, transportation in other countries is dirt cheap and you can always bargain. The same goes for buying gifts and other trinkets while abroad. This point especially is important to me! (Hence the name of the blog) I don’t believe that one should have to go broke while on vacation, however when vacationing in the states I often find myself leaving the Destination stressed because so much money was spent. That’s a bit counterintuitive don’t you think? It’s vacation! The point is to relax and to recharge. Not to leave feeling like sheesh, I have to work overtime now to replace what I spent.

3. International Food: this one is pretty self explanatory. Again, here in states you can find food from pretty much any country. But it’s just not the same. Often times by the time it gets to us, so much is added to it as far as chemicals, preservatives, etc. YUCK! When you taste the local foods of another country, they are prepared the same way the locals would eat them at home. Unlike when prepared here in the states, they aren’t prepared to serve people in a commercial setting. I’ll never forget going to eat at a restaurant in Cuba and actually watching the cooks take out fresh fruits and veggies, cut them up, and cook them as the orders were placed. I didn’t see anything pre cooked or taken out of a box or bag. This was even true for the drinks. I literally watched as the bartender cut and diced a fresh pineapple for a pina colada. WOW! It really doesn’t get any fresher than that.

This post was in no way to make anyone feel bad for not enjoying international travel, but to provide greater insight to the benefits of it. So if you haven’t obtained a passport, then check out the very first post on this site to see the steps needed to get one. Once you do, don’t hesitate to go see the world. Trust me you won’t be disappointed.

As always, Happy Traveling ✈️

Travel Review: Los Angeles

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Hey folks!

I know it’s been a while but I’ve been all over the place between work, getting ready for this Asia move, and just trying to stay sane. But I’m back to give you my review of my time in sunny LA.

Flight:

I purchased the flight through Southwest. It wasn’t necessarily on sale but it was the cheapest fare at that time. Overall I had a horrible experience with southwest which resulted in free drinks on the plane, a small meal voucher, and a partial flight voucher. After I use the voucher, I will likely never fly with them again.

Lodging:

Hotels in LA can be pretty pricey so we decided to go The airbnb route. The apartment I picked was perfect! We picked an apartment literally located in Hollywood and a two block walk from Runyon Canyon. It was also a less than 10 minute walk from the walk of fame. The host even provided bagels and cream cheese in the fridge. If I go back, I will likely stay in that same location.

Transportation: Uber everywhere

Sights and Sounds:

We arrived in LA later than expected due to our issue with Southwest but we were able to catch dinner at Crustaceans in Beverly Hills. I had a secret menu item that was a tofu and eggplant dish in a sweet chili sauce. My friend and I shared a plate of their famous garlic noodles. The meal was absolutely delicious. The restaurant itself is beautiful. There’s a large floor aquarium so you walk over it as you head to your table. The food in general can be pricey depending on what you order.

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After dinner, we spotted a cupcake ATM across the street. Yes! It’s exactly like it sounds. I’ve seen them on TV but never in person so I had to try it. The cupcakes are made by Sprinkles. You choose a flavor and swipe your card, then your cupcake is dispensed all packaged to go. It was pretty neat.

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Day 2:

We decided to tackle Runyon that next morning. The weather was perfect for it too. We ended up going up the right side first and ended up conquering the left side too! (if you go to Runyon you know which is which)  There were lots of people out, but not too many that you couldn’t enjoy the hike. Let’s not forget about the amazing views.

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After conquering Runyon, we headed back to our apartment to prepare for a day at the beach.

First we did some quick shopping on Santa Monica Blvd. and grabbed some smoothies. We had plans to meet a college classmate of mine out at Venice Beach. It was a super day nice (and apparently the first warm weekend in a while) so naturally there was a crowd. We were still able to find a nice spot to layout for a while.

Once we grew tired of laying out, we walked down the boardwalk to a cute rooftop bar called Barlo Kitchen and Drinks. It was obvious by the line that this was a pretty trendy spot. The food and drinks were pretty pricey($15 per drink) but it was actually really good! We hung out there until the sun went down, at which point it got really chilly really fast so we headed home for the rest fo the night.

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Day 3:

In keeping with our morning outdoor workouts, we decided to take on the Culver City stairs at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. We looked at pictures before actually going, but they didn’t compare to seeing them in person. Being the overachiever that I am, I challenged us to do the stairs two times. It wasn’t easy but we survived. (Barely!)

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Luckily, there was a fruit stand located right across the street to hold us over until we made it to our brunch spot. The fruit was super fresh and I was able to discover a new fav, Tajin. (A fruit seasoning made from chili powder and limes. YUM!)

We decided for brunch that we wanted to try The Griddle Cafe. We had passed it a few times and each time there was always a line of people waiting, so we had to see what the hype was about. After about a 20 minute wait we were seated.

OMG!!! The pancakes there are massive and come in these crazy flavors. We opted instead for the french toast which was delicious even without syrup. If you are ever in L.A. this is a must!

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We headed back to the apartment on foot to burn off some of our breakfast. After a short nap and wardrobe change, we headed down the street to see the Walk of Fame. For me, it was only BLAH! At least I can say that I saw it, but I don’t get the hype.

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I had made plans to visit my famous cousin and his wife at their home for dinner that Sunday evening. After yet another wardrobe change, we headed off for dinner at “The Smith’s” residence. We ended up staying there for the remainder of the evening.

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Day 4:

This was our sleep in morning. It was so needed after getting up early the past two mornings for our hikes. Once we finally got up and dressed, a good friend of mine text me inviting us to Disneyland. UMMMMM HECK YEA! And…IT WAS FREE!! (double win)

This was a no brainer so it was off to the happiest place on Earth for the day. But first…we had to try In and Out burger!

Disneyland was everything and more for me. Yes, I rode the rides and even got a fresh pair of mouse ears to wear. (I had a pair from Disney World too) We spent the entire day going between the multiple parks.

After a full day of fun, we decided to end it with a feast at The Boiling Crab. One word…EPIC!!!!!

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All in all, L.A. has risen to being my fav domestic destination. Although things can be more expensive, there is something to do for everyone no matter their interest. If you haven’t, I highly suggest visiting at least once in life.

As always, thanks for reading and Happy Traveling. ✈️

A few Deals

Hey folks:

So the deals haven’t been that great this week in my opinion which is why I haven’t posted. However, I came across a couple today. Remember the prices normally are good for 24-48 hours, that’s not my rule that’s just how it goes with deals.

Deal 1:

Atlanta (ATL) to Cancun starting at $239 roundtrip.

Departure dates: May (any day other than Wednesday), June (any Monday or Tuesday), July (any Monday, Tuesday, or Saturday)

Return Dates: May (any Tuesday thru Saturday), June (any Tuesday thru Friday), July (any Wednesday)

Use Priceline to book for lowest rates.

Deal 2:

Washington (BWI) to San Juan, PR (SJU) for $267 on Delta.

Departure dates: September to October

Return dates: any Wednesday thru Friday in September or October.

 

Cuba part 3: The last 18 hours

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When I last left you, I was heading back from beautiful Varadero to Havana for my last night. I arrived back in Havana around 4:30pm. I was quickly met by a fast talking cab driver trying to get my business. It was raining at the time so I was solely focused on getting to my last casa.

The cabbie was a bicycle taxi and my mistake was failing to negotiate the price of the ride prior to hopping in the cart. As I mentioned previously, ALWAYS determine the price before you accept the ride. Once we arrived at the street for my casa, he tried to quote a ridiculous amount for the ride. However, being the strong willed person that I am I simply told him I didn’t have it and could only give him what I thought was fair. Sure he was mad, but it was either take it or leave it.

I found my last casa. I was staying with a lively woman named Odalys. She can also be found on airbnb.com. Her home isn’t directly in the heart of Old Havana. It’s tucked in a very authentic Cuban neighborhood about 10 minutes by car from Old Havana. Just like my first casa, the room had two double beds and super high ceilings. Odalys is super obsessed with Marilyn Monroe and can speak pretty good English as well.

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Soon after I arrived, none other than Cuban bae came to meet me to spend my last few hours in Cuba  with me and to show me around.

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We literally walked from about 6pm to midnight seeing the real Cuba. He showed me Cuban markets, we ate in a Cuban cafeteria which was in someone’s home (my whole meal was $1.50 and that included fresh guava juice. I must add it was so delicious ), we had fresh squeezed Guadapo juice(see pic below), and we even ventured back to old Havana to try some of the local’s favorite street food.

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Seeing Cuba through the eyes of a local for those last few hours, really allowed me to find a new love for the country. Everywhere we went locals of all shades and colors interacted and it was beautiful to see. Cuban bae explained to me that Cubans look out for each other. There aren’t homeless people and everyone always has somewhere to sleep at night. He also explained that everyone always has somewhere to get a meal too! So you won’t see many people begging on the street. (At least I didn’t)

I truly enjoyed my time in Cuba. Everything was very cheap and there is always something to see. If you plan to visit here are a few tips(although I’ve mentioned a lot of this before):

1. Brush up on your Spanish! This isn’t like most places where English is widely spoken.

2. Budget and take enough cash to last the duration of your trip. American credit or debit cards still aren’t accepted in Cuba. They hope to have that changed soon but there is no time frame on it yet.

3. Unplug and truly take it all in. I know we live in a society where posting everything is what’s common, but enjoy your time then post away once you return.

4. Let go of your expectations! Sure we’ve heard things about Cuba but when you go there with an open mind you will learn that none of its true. Cubans love the American people and I guarantee once you leave you’ll love them back!

I hope these posts have helped you in knowing more about Cuba. As always, happy Traveling! ✈️