The Short of It: Small Layovers and Trips – CARDIFF, WALES

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Third time’s the charm, and from this experience, I can tell you this sentiment especially rings true when one gets their nose pierced.

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The first time, I was a freshmen in college taking advantage of “free piercing week.” Free is so for me that I also went back to get a lip ring. Flash forward to my mother giving me 24 hours notice that she would be visiting me, and my room-mate is pouring me vodka shots to numb the pain of her boyfriend pulling my two part lip ring out in time for mom’s arrival. The nose ring, I kept until I got a job as a teacher. Both sad and symbolic for me, my nose ring represented my care free days of my college years. Pulling it out wound up being a waste of effort, as my school is awesome and cares not that teachers have piercings and tattoos.

The second time, I got the nose piercing done RIGHT before traveling to south east Asia. I swam in dirty water in Thailand and neglected to clean my piercing entirely before it became infected and I had to eventually yank it out in Laos.

Why would the third time be different? Well, I was in an altered state of mind, and the spirit of revolution and rebellion burned within me.

I sat in front of a questionnaire and warning sheet that I barely took the time to read. Are you under the influence of alcohol? Yes, very much, but I’ll circle no. Are you pregnant? I actually WAS, but had no idea at the time, so I circled no. Some minutes later an extremely painful pinching/yanking pain of a giant needle stabbing through my thin nostril raged on, and VOILA, nose piercing #3 in all places….WALES was complete. My cousin went next, which is bad-ass considering she watched my body thrash around on the table while I got mine!(Then again she’s suffered the pain of countless tattoos and rides motorcycles – so I shouldn’t be surprised!)

So, how the fuck did I wind up here?

“Let’s do a day trip somewhere,”

“I’m diggin’ it, where to?”

“I don’t know…somewhere fuckin’ unique…What about Wales?”

“Yeah, let’s do that.”

Was exactly how I think the conversation went. We booked our bus tickets in advance, slept through a four hour journey, and arrived in the dreamy city on a random Wednesday in August. We would be documenting just how awesome Wales – and in particular the city of Cardiff could be for a day trip.

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“Do you consider Wales a country?” was the question I, and my travel companion repeatedly (and tipsily) asked every native Welsh person we met on our day long journey to Cardiff. The answer, as you can imagine, was confusing at best. One person would passionately shout that Wales was indeed its own country as one could describe themselves as Welsh. Less than five feet away, a person would disagree stating that Wales was not an independent and autonomous country, but technically under the control of the United Kingdom. Nina and I jokingly decided that we would do our best to rouse a spirit of rebellion among the citizens, to break away from the UK and incite a spirit of Independence! Here’s us doing that:

Turns out, we had little work to do as a fierce spirit of Welsh pride is already abysmal. All who participated in the question of Wales being a country agreed that no matter what side of the debate one falls on, Welsh pride is abundant. The culture and language of Wales is without a doubt unique to the (I’ll call it) country. It’s a point of pride to know and speak the language. I agree that anyone who is comfortably fluent in this language should inherently feel pride in being so, more so than any other language. Wales has had it rough considering their letter combinations are largely the ones that no one else in the world wanted (presumably.) Take a look and tell me I’m lying:

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(I am lying.)

We only had one day in the city, and wanted to see as much as possible. I’m not a fan in any capacity of walking a lot, so we opted for the big, red, tour bus as our means of transport. Normally, you can ride a sheep around Cardiff, but the Queen of England was in town when we visited, and her as well as her Calvary were using all of them for a grand parade later that day. If you follow this blog, you’re probably my mom, and besides that, you probably know that I’m absolutely terrible with directions. Taking the bus around eliminated the fear of not being able to see all of the city.

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Cardiff Castle is worth the visit, even if it’s the only thing you do all day. It is exactly how I picture most of Wales to be. Rolling green hills with a piece of history built right in the middle still standing after thousands (2000 in this case) faithfully. Visitors are free to climb, marvel at, and explore. Cardiff Castle is reminiscent of any decent medieval fairy tale, and allows one the feeling of stepping right into the story. It is tranquil and spacious enough that it gives every visitor the opportunity to feel that he or she is discovering something unique, untouched, and all their own. As I always do, I looked out from the windows of the castle and wondered what early people must have felt when looking out those same windows a thousand years ago. I daydreamed looking among the green fields and thought it amazing that such a castle stands in the middle of a major city. I wondered and pondered dreamily, until someone shouted, “GET THE FOOK OUT OF THE WINDOW, YOU’RE HOLDING UP THE LINE.” No one said that, but it would be absolutely amazing if they did.

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The interior of the castle is even more of an immersive experience. It looks largely untouched and identical to all the images that the mind conjures when we think of medieval fairy tales. It looked as though the residents of the castle had simply left for an outing and would return home soon. Spoiler alert, the residents are the three little bears. “SOMEONE HAS BEEN DRINKING OUT OF MY CHALICE!” exclaimed King Arthur bear.

The castle offers guided tours, none of which we took because I like to immerse myself in the culture and try to read the local language. So far, I’ve learned “gehguwrgurhwiuhfwun” which means “hi.” There are also movies shown on the castle ground which is a highly unique experience, one I’m sure all of the ancient royals enjoyed thousands of years ago. But, really. How many opportunities do you get to attend a movie on castle grounds?! I didn’t get to partake, but if you ever go…please do this for me! (And tag me in a picture!)

Time traveling is difficult work, and thus, a stroll through Castle Quarter Arcades to find food. A fair amount of options are available within the arcades, which by the way is a term used to describe a building with many shops. We settled on waffles for breakfast which didn’t thrill me initially because…typical choice. When they arrived I realized just how wrong I was. Enter…the pop banofee and strawberry sundae waffles! A filling and cozy breakfast alongside a giant mug of coffee with booze was the perfect way to settle into a cozy, rainy, vibe of a day in Cardiff.

I can’t overstate enough that the red bus was a fantastic way to see the city. Not only does it stop at the castle, it also stops at the National Museum of Wales and Cardiff Bay. The Roald Dahl plaza named after the famed Welsh author is a performing arts center which also hosts outdoor events in the summer.

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I should mention that the bar scene in Cardiff is incredible. The watering holes in the city are right there with the best of them. We spent the better part of the afternoon throwing back fancy infused drinks and talking about life in a secluded section of a sexy and artistic lounge. Who knows how many beverages later, we enlisted the help of the bartender to pose in our #WhatAboutWales photo series. We had a good laugh about it afterwards, and made good friends with both him and another bartender about the autonomy of Wales, the Russian language (don’t ask), and life in Cardiff.

Returning to the exposition of the story, Cardiff is littered with piercing salons. The sheer volume of piercing pagodas next to an equally high number of bars nearly begs visitors to get something…anything studded after a quality day of drinking. Through a booze fueled haze, we pressed forward with our #WhatAboutWales photo series. This was becoming more and more entertaining, and more and more ridiculous as the day continued.

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Freshly punctured, what better way to numb the pain other than more imbibing? We ducked into a spacious, casual bar for some giant ciders, Welsh cakes, and fooseball. We were having such a great adventure that we couldn’t remember how to find the bus to get back to London. You know the feeling of everything seeming like a good idea when you’re intoxicated? Well, we came frighteningly close to saying, “screw the bus” and staying over night in Cardiff with no accommodation whatsoever. Not to mention, we would be leaving my husband and his best friend who were working during the day in London. Literally as we were excitedly talking about what a grand plan this was, the bus to London pulled up right in front of the castle. A sign.

Four plus hours later, we groggily got off the bus and rushed to a dinner reservation to meet the guys. Hungover and noses pierced, we sat at the booth exhausted. I would have a lot of explaining to do.

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What I Learned Is: I saw a lot less of London in the week that I was there because I took an entire day to visit Wales. Sometimes, the long road around is worth it. In this case, I feel that it was entirely worth it. Wales, and Cardiff especially is not England. I was fortunate enough to get a sampling of the culture, history, and language of Wales and to intimately meet the Welsh people who show a fierce love and pride for their country. Nearly everyone I met in Cardiff had a manner which made me feel as though I were the only person who mattered in that moment and at that time. They are skilled in story telling, incredibly helpful, and skilled in the art of meaningful conversation. Cardiff is ethereal and comfortable. I feel as though I may have found the only city that is not frenzied, bitter, and chaotic. A day in Cardiff spreads out before the adventurer in a slow and tranquil manner. It is a place that one can explore at a relaxed pace with plenty of time to lounge in the pubs and watering holes before, in between, and after a day of delving.

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Trip Tales: BUDAPEST

“…coffee and cake can become a habit…”

– A random Trip Advisor review

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I’m not what you’d call…cinematic-ally adventurous. Nothing too violent, but if it’s true to, or based on history (Narcos, Vikings, war movies,) I’ll watch it. I don’t like violence for the sake of violence. I hate romance movies and even worse romantic comedies, that genre feels like it’s made for people who don’t like thinking. I don’t like anything that’s going to make me cry or feel emotions deeply, I already do too much of that in my time as it stands. And for fuck’s sake I will never watch a movie of ANY type with my parents again. The number of times we’ve been surprised by a random sex scene that I’ve had to endure watching in their company has created more trauma than can even scratch the surface in my therapy sessions. I’ll not be burned by those moments ever again.

No – I like films which transport me to places. I’m incredibly appreciative of a director and writer who can capture an entire era, destination, and zeitgeist in words and film – that type of genius is not lost on me. Therefore, when I saw The Grand Budapest Hotel, for one in a handful of times in my life, I fell in love.

The film captured the magical, whimsical – yet hearty and stern essence of Budapest – if not central Europe entirely. Thus, a new item crept onto my bucket list WAY before the hype over Budapest took off. Despite my desire to visit simmering long before the Buda-movement, I was only able to get around to going last summer. I was on the hunt for the Budapest of my dreams, the Budapest of one of my favorite films, that Budapest. I imagined eating pastries and goulash, riding the funicular, lounging in the baths which haven’t changed since the World Wars, and strolling around art museums. I wanted quirky. I wanted artsy. I wanted historical. But, would I get it?

Well, here’s a photograph from day one.

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Some people can jump right into the vibe of a city – I can’t.  I am always thrilled the first day, but also terrifyingly aware that I am a small fish in a big pond. In every aspect of my life, it’s usually the opposite, well not when visiting a new destination – cities in-particular. In this case, as my readers will know, my type A, over thinking, over anticipating mind got the best of me. I looked forward to seeing the version of Budapest I had fallen in love with from a fictional film instead of seeing Budapest for what it was – a city which wound up being even better than I hoped once I let it show me who it was.

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Day One Disaster:

My best friend and I allow each other each a “cranky day.” We are each allowed one day to be cranky, annoyed, frustrated, tired, but that is it. Today was my day. I’ll chalk some of this up to the heat wave sweeping central Europe, some up to my impending period, but mostly, my aforementioned impossible expectations. Much like an ungrateful spouse or parent, I wanted my version of Budapest, and while I enjoyed what I saw, it didn’t match the movie in my mind. Oh yeah, and all of this happened:

Another city, another day of having no idea how their public transportation works and using precious time trying to understand it. A heat wave blasted through central Europe at this time and we were drenched with sweat before accomplishing anything for the day. To make matters worse, we functioned on the littlest bit of sleep imaginable. When we finally DID figure the tram out, we took it in the opposite direction of where we intended to go. We wanted to take it to see the highly rated Buda castle, and eventually, we did make it there, only to find out that it was closed as it was a Monday. This was after waiting ridiculously long to ride the funicular, to the castle. I threw myself into the grass and declared my utter frustration before re-grouping and taking some selfies which underscore that I should never be considered petite.

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The trek was not a total waste, as the universe aligned to bring me something up my alley, an exhibit on Frida Khalo. Frida and I are kindred spirits I like to think. We both, at times, walk the line between creative genius and utterly insane. We both feel things deeply and are drawn to chaos and madness. We both see ourselves in everything we produce, creatively and otherwise. We both don’t wax our eyebrows ever (screw the haters.) Amanda is not such a huge fan of Frida, but patiently waited on the bench while I read every little description of each of her work and uttered, “oh wow” after each one.

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After, we decided to head over to Fisherman’s Bastion. A mecca for selfies and photograph taking with little else to do, as I saw it anyway. It was beautiful, picturesque, but overall a tic on an Instagram driven to-do list. While we were able to snap some pretty decent photos, let’s be real. It was a bajillion degrees out and besides taking photos, the only other option is to look out over the water and stare, wishing you were submerged into it. It was getting to be that time, booze o’clock, when I remembered the underground wine labyrinth suggested to me by a friend. We agreed that would hit the spot and as I goggled the location, I could not believe my luck, the place was within walking distance! We walked in the heat searching feverishly, yearning for the cool darkness of a wine cave and the lighthearted conversation and relaxation that polishing off a bottle of vino brings. Our GPS told us we had arrived, but the cave was nowhere to be found. We wandered up and down the street for a solid 45 minutes before realizing the cave was inside of a hotel. After searching the entire hotel for an additional 45 minutes, we were told the wine cave was closed for the season. Enter, two incredibly frustrated, annoyed, and worst of all, sober travelers.

We headed back to the hotel and decided to “nap it out.” We agreed that we would wake up refreshed and laugh about all of this over a delicious Hungarian dinner and cold drinks.

Except later on that night, everything was closed. We couldn’t find a single place near us to enjoy dinner. If you know me, you know I deal with frustration and disappointment extremely well. Except I’m obviously fucking kidding. I’m a miserable beast when faced with even the slightest, minor, inconvenience or deviation from my plans or dreams. And as you can see, this was way more than a minor deviation. We’re talking about not eating dinner for fuck’s sake!

Then, like a shining beacon of hope, the bridge shone and stood out. We decided to head that-a-way. On reaching the bridge, tons of young people were hanging out ON the bridge itself. It looked edgy, it looked fun, it looked like I’d never be able to haul my ass up there as per my complete lack of arm strength. That is where my love affair with Budapest begins.

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Young people apparently hang out on the bridge and drink, chat, and just relax as traffic whizzes by. A group of women we met there suggested crossing over it and we would find a wealth of restaurants and bars. Before departing in search of sustenance, I vowed I would return and I would too chill upon the bridge at some point.

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Finally. Budapest delivered. We enjoyed one of my most memorable meals to date – the infamous chicken paprikash. A perfectly cooked piece of chicken smothered in a creamy paprika sauce and served with Hungarian gnocchi. As if that weren’t enough, a cream sauce is served on top to even out the spice. This definitely makes its way into the top five meals I’ve ever had while traveling. Sheer perfection.

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New York Palace Cafe: Bougie in Budapest. Frequented in days ago by writers well known and never known, the cafe as of 2006 has been fully restored to its original splendor. Some call it, “the most beautiful cafe in the world” and I’d be hard pressed to find a counter argument. I had an incredible experience here soaking in the decadence and opulence of a Budapest stuck in time. A string quarter serenades diners as they sip coffee, enjoy a delicious lunch, and of course nosh on renowned pastries and cakes. Of course we ordered Hungarian goulash (no better place to try it!) and finished with an assortment of desserts to satisfy the devil which was what my impending menstruation.

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Nightlife: Budapest’s nightlife scene is insane. To start, the ruin bars/pubs are unique to Budapest and a must hit. Ruin pubs/bars are so called seemingly due to their appearance. Usually housed in some form of shanty building with random decor and lawn ornaments which give it a look of an elevated trailer park meets garage sale, yet aesthetically somehow works marvelously as each one gives an outdoor art museum vibe. We didn’t want to wait on line for hours, so we hit a random one and had several beers while musing over how good life could be. The beer was cold, the people were interesting, the decor was unique. What wasn’t to love?

With every intention of heading home afterwards, we stopped in a more typical pub after for one last beer of the night. Sitting next to a window which opened up to the street, we met a group of travelers (who themselves had just met) from Scotland and Ireland. They were incredibly friendly, fun, and suggested coming with them to a nightclub, and so we did.

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Woah. Instant-Fogas was PACKED. Laying in a tin can with sardines would have felt more spacious. One of our new Scottish friends was able to get us in the door quickly where we immediately proceeded to the nearest bar. In fact, this night club mega club has several bars, all themed. All difficult to get to because again…PACKED. Due to the spontaneity that drinking a lot brings, Amanda and I found a bar, ordered some red-bull and vodkas, and found our way onto the dance floor practicing our coolest (not cool) new moves. The crowd definitely felt like it had a college/just graduated college vibe and so we kept each other entertained and tuned all the children around us out. Possibly one of the greatest moments was getting asked to dance/hit on by someone who had to be no older than 21. When I flashed my wedding ring at him, he stumbled back as though shocked. “You’re married and everything? That’s crazy.” Yeah, bro, trust me, I know. I sent him on his way and realized that the friends who were our own age and older, well, we’d probably never see again. We enjoyed each other’s company and complete ridiculous-ness as we continued to tear up the dance floor, sip red-bull and vodkas, and disappoint an unusually high number of frat bros that we were in fact married and off the market.

Upon leaving the club sometime in the early morning, we passed a restaurant which serves fried chicken in a waffle cone. Genius. Alas, it was closed, and so I practiced my incredible dance moves right there in front of the storefront for no apparent reason at all.

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Hotel Gellert and Baths: At this point, I should mention that we were staying at the famed Hotel Gellert and Baths. It was truly, the closest imaginable place to the hotel in my favorite movie. I found it. A scene out of the Budapest of my dreams. Old worldly and yet refined, Hotel Gellert stands luxuriously and is in itself, a sight to behold. Although it lacked air conditioning, it was a welcomed stay after roughing it in hostels in the cities prior. There is no greater amenity than a private bathroom.

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The day after our evening of dancing til dawn, we decided to relax in the Gellert baths located within the hotel. To start, we ventured outside and cooled off in the giant pool. Luckily, every hour the giant pool becomes a wave pool and you get to participate in trying not to drown and the collective whooping of, “WoooAAAhhhh” that people from all places and backgrounds all manage to scream unanimously. When the waves were at their highest, it literally looked like a scene out of the Titanic. A small girl clinging to the side of the pool was ripped out to sea (her dad laughed), strangers were thrown about and smashed into each other, people tumbled up on “shore.” I’ve never laughed so hard in my life. I’d worked my abs out enough from giggling and we bathed in the outdoor hot tubs.

After the fun of watching humanity in peril at the wave pool, we “sampled” each and every bath indoors. The indoor baths look exactly as though they could easily fit right into The Grand Budapest hotel. The baths have done a great job of preserving the beautiful look of antiquity made up from the tile and stone work. It feels exactly as though one has been transported to another era, perhaps the second World War.

Wine River Cruise: How do I even begin to describe the amazing-ness of this experience? It was one of the greatest nights of my travels.

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As the heading suggests, we embarked on the classic wine river cruise around Budapest at night. Included was live string instrument music performance, some snacks, and 8-10 tastings (pretty much full glasses) of wine. Luckily, we were sat with the most incredible group of fun loving travelers ever who became our friends for the night.

We had entirely too much fun getting to know each other, feeling good from the wine, singing, dancing, and sneaking glasses of champagne from the floor above us. The sites were a wonder to see from the boat, and we were able to get some pretty memorable photographs.

Our tickets included transportation back to our hotel, which we said “hell no” to and asked the driver to drop us off at another location. Two of our new friends wanted to come, but didn’t pay for round trip transportation. So, in solidarity, we each took a piece of our yellow wrist band (which indicates we paid for transport) and made two full size bracelets for our friends to board the van with us to…

Street Food Karavan I’m not a food truck fanatic. I hate standing and eating. Eating is synonymous with relaxation and therefore needs to be done sitting. HOWEVER, run, don’t walk to Street Food Karavan. Seemingly endless amount of choices of food trucks serving many of the Hungarian treats on our “eat it list” including:

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Langos – deep fried dough with cheese, sour cream, and an endless possibility of choices of toppings on top, probably much bigger than your head (not mine, I have the biggest one in the known universe)

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Kolbice – The ULTIMATE drunk or comfort snack. I’m rolling my eyes in this pic because I didn’t want to stop eating it to take the picture. A bread cone filled with mini sausages or hot dogs topped with roasted onion and tons of cheese sauce. This is not a drill…it’s everything girls like me dream about.

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After we met some random girl who invited us back to her hostel to use the toilet (I think she even came into the bathroom with me???) We headed to the…

Erzsebet Square – Prior to arriving our new friends and us stopped at a late night convenience store for more snacks and even more drinks. I will never…NEVER forget sitting with our feet in the water on the edge of the giant pool which overlooks the Budapest eye. We shared snacks, jokes, and personal stories about our lives back home as though we had always been friends. One of the guys and I jumped into the pool (it’s ankle deep) and raced from one end to the other which we found hysterical, but the police guarding the area did not. (We go off with a warning, naturally I’m pretty sure I did it again anyway…damn heatwave)

After Party on the Bridge – Wrapping up the night in proper fashion, what better way to say goodbye to such an amazing city other than drinking champagne and sitting on the bridge overlooking the gorgeous view in our pajamas? We hung out for hours.

A little over 48 hours was up, and it was time to move onto Berlin. I wish so desperately that we stayed longer as Budapest is one of my favorite places in the world to have visited.

My Little Melbourne: I have to give a shout-out to this adorable breakfast and coffee spot. Not only for the epic and random street fight I witnessed on the way there at 8:00 in the morning, but because their iced latte was literally perfection. Sweet (not too much so), creamy, and energizing. It was quite possibly, the perfect iced coffee!

What I Learned:  I learned that Rome wasn’t conquered in an instant…so neither would be Budapest. I was so desperate for the city to stand at attention and reveal itself to me from the moment I landed, and I had to accept that the city is not that way, most places outside of London and New York City are not that way. The treasures are hidden within and take some time to discover, but once I found them, I finally found the Budapest of my dreams. Budapest was not an instantaneous love for me, but it became a genuine, deep, love nonetheless. It is a work of beautiful sculpture left over from days gone by. In so many ways it does embody the opulence of the past while surprisingly modern in areas. The nightclub I visited could rival any of that in New York City. It doesn’t serve me to have a grand expectation of what a city will “be like.” Rather, I would like to work on visiting a new place and enjoying it for what is truly is. Our next stop is Montreal and Quebec City. As much as images of maple syrup shacks, moose, and French speaking folks carrying baguettes laden my mind…I’m inclined to reserve my expectations.

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The Short of It: Small Layovers & Trips – OSLO

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Oslo. A deep, thumping, primal, desire to visit thumped within me. It could be the 0.3% of Scandinavian blood in my hereditary line, or it could be my obsession with the Viking era (and mostly the characters from the show on the History Channel) which compelled me to visit.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Iceland – where the price of just about anything froze me in my tracks way more than chilling temps, but I loved it something fierce all the same. I didn’t know when I would be able to afford another full length adventure to Scandinavia – my assumption was probably never. However, my husband and I embarked on a 12 hour layover on the way home from our honeymoon to the capital city of Norway as a compromise.

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I knew that the summer of 2018 would mean the end of long summers of international travels for a while, as we anticipated moving forward with doing things like increasing our savings account and starting a family. Ending our trip with such a bucket list destination, helped put me at peace with such a major shift in my life. In fact, being able to add many bucket list destinations in the form of long layovers has actually helped me feel more than comfortable with reducing the rate at which I will be traveling in a grandiose fashion for a while. I’ve been able to see a lot of place in the world that would have otherwise only been dreams filed under “someday.”

Viking Ship Museum: I’m obsessed with all things Viking. I won’t lie to you, this was largely instigated by History Channel’s show, Vikings. For sure the story line and the sex appeal of so many of the characters draws me in, but it’s not just that. It’s their true to life entire way of life, their government, their clothing, and especially their religious beliefs and culture that fascinates me. Every winter I re-read a book of Norse sagas and stories, and whenever there is a thunderstorm outside, I give a little wink to the small statue of Thor that I have in my room. (Image of me creepily winking unavailable, check back later) I’ve read books on the Vikings and seen many of the documentaries available, and I’m enamored to say the least; I’m hooked. I’d love to be able to time travel to one of their holy ceremonies, or to witness the building of one of their massive ships.

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While I can’t literally time travel, the Viking Ship museum provided the second best way to take a look into the past at this civilization. From taking off in Santorini to actually arriving at the museum, I was FULL of energy and the phrase, “when the fuck are we going to get there!” definitely left my mouth more than once. Upon arriving, I pushed wide eyed children and the elderly out of my way as I RAN to the entrance. Don’t judge me, as I was showing an appreciation for the Viking culture. Do you think the Vikings were polite and would just allow slow moving people to stand in the way of their endeavors? No, and I wasn’t about to either. It’s called cultural immersion, sweetie.

The museum was everything I’d hoped it would be. My first mission was to see the famed Viking ships, one of which is the Oseberg ship. This ship is one of the most well preserved and was discovered nearly in its entirety within a burial mound. There were two female skeletons on board dressed in luxury garments indicating that at least one of the women was of high importance in society. Many commodities found on board the ship also support the theory. I cannot imagine the shock and awe of uncovering an entire and massive Viking ship during an excavation, but the thought makes me want to pee my pants, if only a little.

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Upon the ships entering my line of vision, I ran away from my map getting, logic using, plan having, husband who was moving too slowly, I couldn’t have any dead weight holding me back on this mission and thought it was best to leave him behind entirely whatever the cost. There are two staircases which lead you up to a platform where you can see the actual, resurrected Viking ships in their entirety. I noticed that people who were engaged in full on chatter upon entering the museum were stunned into silence upon viewing the ships. Although I didn’t cry, I did become teary eyed. The realization that I was actually seeing something that has been on my bucket list was humbling. You might not see the big deal if it’s not on your list, but any traveler who has seen one of their “must sees” in real life knows this feeling. I’m a big believer that God makes most if not all opportunities possible for me, and the fact that He consistently thinks I’m worthy of seeing so many unimaginably remarkable experiences on my travels fills me with such gratitude, that it absolutely felt appropriate to become filled with tears at that moment. It’s incomparable. I let myself become lost in my imagination. I imagined the Vikings walking back and forth across the ship. I thought about their painted shields hanging off the sides of the boat, and I pictured their loved ones saying goodbye before an arduous journey. I envisioned the excitement they faced on their adventures and if they felt the same thumping in their heart as I did flying to Oslo to visit this very ship. I spent a good amount of time walking around the ships themselves, and I nearly had to be pried away to move onto the rest of the museum. I came back several times smiling stupidly at the ship, like I do at the cheeses in the cheese aisle when I’m on a diet. “Funny seeing you here again…”

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The rest of the museum displayed various artifacts from within the ships such as grave gifts, religious pieces, and ordinary items such as cooking utensils. You can also see an immersive film about the Viking way of life three times every hour at the museum. I had waited so long to see this place, anticipating everything from my emotions at seeing the ships to which souvenirs I would buy and I’m so entirely grateful that I had the experience.

Polar Fram Museum: I’m a trip-tator, I admit it. I do not “roll with the punches.” I have little to no interest in hearing about how my travel buddies would do things if they conflict with how I would do things on our trip, but I’m working on it. My husband said, “How about this place” and I instantaneously felt myself panic as it wasn’t chiseled into my tediously planned agenda for the day. This was one of those museums that I really had zero interest in visiting, but left the experience thinking, “Thank GOD I didn’t miss that one.” I’m a fan of immersive museums, and I can’t think of a better experience in that than this place! You could spend at least half, if not an entire day at the Polar Fram Museum. Hell, I could live in the Polar Fram Museum – it’s that cool. (No pun intended.) The museum tells the story of Norwegian polar exploration and it’s impossible not to find it fascinating. The interior of the Fram is entirely intact and you can explore the whole thing – and it is HUGE. You start by climbing on the deck of the ship and you’re free to check out every single nook and cranny within – from the bedrooms to the kitchen to the engine room and beyond. We spent so much time on board and the ship and museum is decorated in such a painstakingly detailed manner than I actually felt as though we were transported to the arctic. There are SO many artifacts scattered about that it’s honestly dizzying, and you wind up spending so much time within that boat that you get a complete feel and understanding for how the explorers lived for months on end. Outside the polar ship, you can explore what the polar region is like by venturing inside a model igloo and coming face to face with taxidermy wildlife. Around every corner of the museum there is something to climb, jump over, pull, push, and marvel at. This museum is way more than I expected and I cannot recommend it enough! A MUST experience if there ever was one!

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City Walk (free): If you’ve been keeping up with this blog (SO much more fun and disturbing than keeping up with the Kardouchians) than you know some of the dynamic between my husband and I. He LOVES walking tours, and I believe has taken some form of one in every place he’s ever visited and is proud of this. I like food tours and just eating food in general. I’m proud to say I’ve eaten a lot of food in every place I’ve ever visited. Well, there was no food on this tour, not even a snack, so it’s already not a ten star experience as you might imagine. I’ll keep it brief since there’s no, I want to reiterate, no food involved. The tour was free of cost and the guide was very knowledgeable and friendly. We definitely got a better feel for the layout of the city and a lot of information on the culture and history of Oslo.

There were a lot of highlights such as walking down by the water to check out the boats and seeing the Oslo Opera House which rises out of the water like an iceberg. I walked away from the lecture momentarily to throw my arms around the Henrik Ibsen statue and take selfies, much to the embarrassment of my husband and dismay of our guide. (English nerd, me, not him) I really liked visiting city hall because there is an amazing mural depicting scenes from the Norse sagas outside, it was fun to read the descriptions and give kudos to the artistry. We also passed the Nobel Peace Center and it was interesting to hear much of the history about it. Obviously not interesting enough to remember any of it, as I haven’t written anything that I learned, but I remember in the moment, being very interested and I don’t actually mean that sarcastically. Does this happen to anyone else on walking tours? As you’re hearing the guide you’re like THIS IS ALL AMAZING, YESSSS! As soon as you return home, you can’t remember a single thing he or she has taught you?

Let’s pause here to note that it was excruciatingly hot on this particular day, and we decided that walking to all places was a good idea, and even better, we had not slept in over 24 hours. On our arduous journey back to the center where we began, we passed a supermarket and hung out in the walk-in fridge for 20 minutes pretending that we were looking at prices of meat. It’s one of my favorite memories…ever. I NEVER miss an opportunity to be corny and laugh with my hubs!

0708-2019-0643179123571678697874Folk Museum: By the time we’d gotten to this museum, it had been OVER 24 hours since we last slept. My love of history and culture was getting me through just fine, my husband, however, was coming down with a vicious case of the “sleepies.” Be prepared that if you are to visit this museum, you can spend an entire day here, probably two days, there is a massive amount to see. The Folk Museum is a HUGE open air-museum which was perfect for summer and enjoying the great weather. Visiting in the summer offers the opportunity to see many of the animals, like horses and pigs. There are over 100 historical buildings and houses that you can visit and tour the inside of, and there are some costumed actors that walk around. With costumed actors, it’s sometimes fun to play “ghost, or real person?”

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The vast variety of sites to see ensures that you are not standing shoulder to shoulder with many other tourists and makes for a peaceful day of self exploration.The highlight, for me, was the 1200 year old stave church, as a matter of fact I literally ran uphill (which you all know I’d never do under any other circumstances – there is a Viking connection here) to get to is faster. Stave churches are not ornate and elegant, but rather, wooden and harken back to the medieval days. It is believed that Stave churches were old Viking places of worship turned into Christian churches, and some also believe that they are constructed out of pieces of Viking ships as per their winged roofs. The one we visited reminded me a lot of an episode from Vikings (SEASON ONE, EPISODE EIGHT TO BE EXACT) While there were Christian images all around, I kept imagining tall wooden statues of Odin and Thor. (Because I have an unhealthy obsession and I can’t just let things go and accept that this was a church and not a Viking pagan temple. I’m sure my Italian – Catholic mother will be thrilled to read that.) Following the Stave church, we sat and watched a performance of traditional folk song and dance. The lead performer stressed how important this type of art was to their culture and that it goes back hundreds of years. Naturally, Arthur took this seriously as he fell asleep several times and did his best impression of bobbing for apples with his eyes closed. I can’t tell you how happy I am that we were in the front row where the performers could all see this. Super. fucking. thrilled.

Egon restaurant: The restaurant so nice (and reasonably located and cheapest in price) we ate here twice. We spent both breakfast and lunch at the Egon restaurant near the main rail station. Food and drink in Oslo is expensive, it’s not a secret. The all you can eat breakfast included a HUGE variety including smoothies. There was a mix of both traditional Norwegian and common breakfast foods and eating so much definitely kept me full throughout the day. I don’t usually give out “tips” but I’d say in coming here for breakfast – you get your bang for your buck. Egon offers both indoor and outdoor seating and during both meals the wait was not long at all. To me, smoked salmon is the quintessential Norwegian food. I wanted to like it so bad, I put it on my plate, onto my fork, onto my tongue and EVERYTHING…I just couldn’t enjoy it. I like fish…I like sushi…I like smokey flavors…why not smoked salmon? I guess I’ll never know. Anyone have an opinion on smoked salmon? Also, where do we stand on lox?

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What I Learned:

I was extremely sad to see our honeymoon ending, but knowing that we were off to see another country – even just on a layover before stopping home provided a way to “ease into” ending our once in a lifetime adventure. I highly suggest adding shorter layovers to your journey as a way to get the most out of your trip by seeing more of the world! Tired as I may have been, I learned that adding a small layover is a cost effective way of seeing more of what the world has to offer.

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Oslo holds tight to its history, while being one of the most forward thinking and progressive cities I’ve ever visited. It’s clean, efficient, and friendly. It feels safe and there is no shortage of things to learn and see. While incredibly expensive, it’s a city that I felt definitely lives up to its “hype” and to all of my expectations. Oslo is a city where even I felt confident navigating (and I’m THE WORST at navigating) and to boot I felt more than safe, it’s not a terrible large city and nature is easily accessible. One of my favorite moments was strolling by the seemingly endless fjord very early in the morning.

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Looking back, I feel bad that I made such a big deal about the importance of sticking to my plan when my husband suggested the walking tour and visiting the Polar Fram museum, because at least one of them wound up being an opportunity I’m incredibly grateful to have had. I panic about following my schedule because the likelihood of me ever returning to a place like Oslo is very slim, and I want to make sure I do it right in the little time I have, and see everything I want to see. In order to make that happen, I still think it’s important to be well organized, planned, and scheduled. However, I’m learning that it’s important to allow other people to have a voice on trips and to be open to new ideas, the ideas of others which you never would have considered. Traveling as a couple or group means it is everyone’s experience, it is everyone’s one shot at checking items off a bucket list, it is everyone’s chance to make memories that are meaningful. Sometimes the old adage is right, at the end of our comfort zone lies our greatest opportunity for growth, or in my case new opportunities I would have never had.

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Excursions & Expeditions: Savannah’s Prohibition Museum

First of all, shout out to my followers who indulged me in my #picklegate challenge! A huge thank you to The Travel Architect, as well as Divya from TravelSavingsAddict for participating. I often participate in blog sharing sites where members are supposed to THOROUGHLY read and comment on each other’s posts. I know that barely anyone actually reads mine. This is annoying because after taking the time to read the posts of others, I often receive comments on my work which show no evidence of having read my writing. “Glad you enjoyed the taco place” when I actually wrote that I hated it. To prove my point I wrote a random section which has nothing to do with anything, within this section I requested that those who saw it should comment #picklegate under my post for a shout out. The only people to clearly have read my post in its entirety are the two bloggers/followers above! 

Second, sorry for the lack of posts! On April 29th I left for the hospital to deliver my 1st child and on May 1st he was born! Welcome to the world Henry Marius! We are so excited to take him on trips to anywhere and everywhere. Now that a month has passed, I’m finally getting into a routine and hopefully blogging more will be a possibility!

Without further tarrying…The Prohibition museum!

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If I could travel back in time, I’d want to visit the 1920’s in the United States. Jazz, the Charleston, the Harlem Renaissance, the Cotton Club, the Lost Generation Writers, Al Capone, Speakeasies, Flappers…I’m here for all of it. I wasn’t expecting to travel back in time when I visited Savannah, Georgia, but that is nearly what happened. I visited the Prohibition Museum and engaged in a fully immersive experience on a time in our nation’s history when the purchase and manufacturing of alcohol was illegal. (A thought which shakes me to my CORE) The museum does an excellent job of displaying all of the different ways that Prohibition influenced the country, I hope you enjoy this post nearly as much as I enjoyed visiting!

The Temperance Movement was made mostly of women who criticized alcohol and the consumption thereof. These women claimed alcohol was immoral and was responsible for the destruction of the family unit, as well as the poor physical and emotional treatment of women at the hands of their drunken spouses. The movement lead to Prohibition which lasted from 1920 to 1933. While the movement may seem noble in some regards, it also pried on the fear of Americans by scapegoating new immigrants to the country. Bars were portrayed as harbors of safety for immigrants who got drunk and took money from the government and were dangerous to the public.

One woman, was particularly passionate about the Temperance Movement and Prohibition. Her name was Carrie Nation, and she was considered to be especially radical in her beliefs. Her claim to fame was attacking institutions which sold alcohol with a hatchet, normally by smashing all of the bottles behind the bar. She famously was almost always dressed in conservative all black clothing. Her husband was an alcoholic and this inspired her to become involved in the temperance movement and to such lengths. She often drew an audience by holding public lectures and called those who followed her, “Home Defenders.”

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Those who worked at breweries and alcohol manufacturing plants soon found themselves out of business and unable to feed their families. Some of the most famous breweries in our country began selling ice cream, soft drinks, cheese, nearly anything to make money. Soda Fountains opened up and those who worked behind the counter tried to create zany ice cream and soda based beverages that were delicious, visually appealing, and would keep customers coming back. Soda jerks did tricks and tried to create “performance” behind the bar similar to what a bartender might do.

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Some people who had lost their jobs in alcohol manufacturing decided to use Prohibition as an opportunity. These people distilled alcohol in their backyards or out in the woods and used their own recipes and equipment. Since they worked by the light of the moon, they were called Moonshiners and their products were called moonshine. Since ingredients were obviously not regulated by the government, it was not unusual for people to become sick, paralyzed, or even dead from consuming moonshine.

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Prohibition also ushered in a new era of organized crime. Famous gangsters such as Bugsy Siegel, Lucky Luciano, and of course, Al Capone made their fortunes by peddling in the sale and distribution of alcohol. The field for alcohol was extremely competitive and thus there was a lot of violence and murder happening during this time. While some mobsters stayed in the shadows to safely be able to continue their operations, Al Capone enjoyed the spotlight and nearly always made himself available for photographs and press reports.

It was not unusual for common people to create their own booze within the safety of their own homes. There were tips, tools, and recipes shared all around the nation between neighbors and friends.

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Doctors got away with selling booze under the guise of using it for “medicinal purposes.” The government usually did not second guess or interfere with a doctor prescribing alcohol as medicine. Thus, people began obtaining alcohol as a means for dealing with various ailments – everything from a twisted ankle to the common cold.

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At the museum, facets of life in the 1920’s are pervasive, but there is a section dedicated solely to culture. You are able to see artifacts from the 1920’s such as clothing worn by people during this time. You’re able to see actual flapper outfits and try on some clothing yourself. Charleston music plays through the speakers in this part of the museum, and you can follow the footprints on the floor to learn how to do a proper Charleston!

The reward for having made it through the museum is giving the password to a mysterious man at “the door” and walking into a 1920’s speakeasy! Here you can order authentic cocktails from the 1920’s and 1930’s, and if you’re pregnant, the bartender might give you some popcorn to go with your sparkling water. There is live entertainment in the evenings, and the speakeasy also offers classes in how to make some of its cocktails.

Trip Tales: SAVANNAH

“Lots and lots and lots of Spanish moss”

— A Random TripAdvisor Review

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Big Fan (I Liked These Things!):

Ghost City Tour – If you do one thing in Savannah…let it be this, particularly the “Beyond the Good and Evil” tour. This ranks up there with the top three best tours I’ve ever taken; it was the perfect amount of unsettling and comedic. For starters, I happened to be having a bad bit of anxiety and was extremely uneasy about taking this tour. Hearing about death and murder usually makes anxiety worse. After hemming and hawing about if I should cut my losses and skip the tour, I could not have been more relieved and thankful that I decided to go ahead with my original plans. Our tour guide was an Aussie, and as such, had an incredible sense of humor and a lovable and sarcastic style. We were doubled over in laughter within the first five minutes of meeting him. He was theatrical, immersive, and kept the attention of our entire group the whole tour, I had tears in my eyes too many times from laughing so hard. Our guide brought us to several sites, including the Mercer House, and explained the fascinating and intense horror-filled history of each place, but laced jokes and humor into every story. The history of one house scared me a lot, a scene where nearly every family who moved in has experienced a mysterious death in the house. I felt really unsettled by hearing the stories and it bothered me to even look at the house, I felt my anxiety coming on again. However, our guide finished the tale with a story about there actually being a nice family moving in recently, and putting up a Christmas tree in their window in December and them loving the house entirely. He joked that for the month of December, his credibility in bringing guests there to hear about the terror was not as effective. To be honest, I’m not sure how much truth there was to ANY of the stories he told, but I enjoyed every moment of this tour. The guide’s ability to work impromptu, on the spot occurrences that unexpectedly happened throughout the night into his bit as comedy was nothing short of genius. Savannah is known for its pervasive haunted history and spooky vibe, and I felt I had the best opportunity to see so much of that, and in a unique way on this tour.

Juliette Gordon Low House – From a young age, my mother knew it was her job to help me develop into a strong and independent individual and woman. Although she’s consistently horrified at my sense of humor, salty language, and running after her in the supermarket with a pouch marked “cock soup” and shouting “MOM, IT’S YOUR FAVORITE, COCK SOUP” as strangers look at her, I think she’s proud of who I am as a woman. She enrolled me at five years old into a local girl scout troop, and I have genuinely good memories of being a Girl Scout. Although it was something I only did for a few years, I feel that my experiences really helped me develop into a person I’m proud to be. I grew up an only child, and I remember screaming and crying at my first girl scout meeting because I had to sit in a different room from my mother, I had to sit with all the other girls and I was not used to making new friends. Plus, the other little girls were basic bitches, and I knew from the moment I saw them we had nothing in common. (Joking. About some of them.) On that day and from that day forward however, I learned how to interact with others, initiate conversations, to rely on myself when I need to, and to be brave. The rest of my days in Girl Scouts taught me similar lessons, and I have many happy memories of creating, exploring, and learning. I also have memories of needing to draw a scene of a jungle on Poster Board, my mom drawing the most ridiculous looking elephant in an attempt to help me out, and then making me tell me troop friends and leader that I had drawn the elephant myself, with his mighty penis looking nose. If she reads this she’s going to say it’s not true, BUT IT’S 100 PERCENT TRUE, GUYS.

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Maybe it’s the pregnancy hormones, but I was touched during our tour. Our tour guide asked who had been a former girl scout and four women including myself raised our hands, and she announced, “Well, welcome home then.” Sobs uncontrollably. The guide was so kind, so many memories were resurrected, and the former scouts on the tour had permanent looks of nostalgia and excitement. Our tour guide required the use of canes to walk due to a physical disability, but she was so proud of the work that the organization was doing to help girls with disabilities integrate more seamlessly into the program, and her part in all of the endeavors which would help these girl scouts. Our guide was funny, thoughtful, and kind. She offered me special accommodations (such as taking the elevator) for me as I was pregnant, and for others who had difficulty with aspects of the house, such as narrow stairs. All of this served as a good reminder of the overall compassionate and inspirational spirit of the organization. It was an honor to learn about Juliette Gordon Low, and how she paved the way for so many women. She was strong minded and brave in a time when it wasn’t in vogue for women to break the mold and think independently. To learn her story by visiting this house, is to learn so much about how far women have come in society and how much we owe to the women who came before us. If you’re looking for a glimmer of happiness, hope, and history, please visit!

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The Squares – If you’re from the 1960’s then a square is a bad thing. If you’re not from the 1960’s and you’re in Savannah, you know all the reasons why squares are an awesome thing. The city is divided up into very small parks, or, squares, and there are 22 squares in all. Normally, walking around a city can be exhausting and at times, un-enjoyable, especially if you are lost, or just low on energy. I can’t tell you how nice it was to have a little piece of pristine nature to sit and relax in after every few blocks or so of walking. In many parts of the world and in my own country, parks, while relaxing, can be somewhat dangerous at night. Unfortunately, some big parks in my city are the places of rape, assault, and violence once the sun sets. I felt safe hanging out in the squares at night because you can see all parts of it at all times. Due to the high variance of them, it really beautifies the city and I love the idea of nature and respite in a “bite sized” version!

Old Town Trolley – If you’ve been reading my blog, you know by now, that exercise is among my least favorite activities. Savannah was hot, and it was humid, and I was with child (as so many of the locals liked to point out.) Not all heroes are human, sometimes, they come in the form of transportation. Trolley Tours Save Lives and Preserve Morale. While the city, even by by own admission, is definitely walk-able, the trolley was a pleasant way to see the city from a different angle, as well as hear about the history of the squares and landmarks. It’s a great way to preserve energy on a hot day!

Dueling Pianos: I’ve been to a few of these around our great nation, but this one is indeed the best. I’d like to give a HUGE shout out (on this blog that only a few people read) to the insane amount of talent radiating from the professionals behind the keys! I was floored by the musical ability of the performers; songs such as Bohemian Rhapsody and Jolene were performed with perfection. Due to the drink selection being dizzying, and babies in utero allegedly not caring for alcohol, I stuck with club soda for the night, but the bar was HUGE and I’m sure, promising. If you’ve been to Dueling Pianos, what’s different about this one is that you can “send a message” with your request, and the pianist writes your message on a giant mirror behind them. If you’ve never been to Dueling Pianos, it’s where two musicians beat the shit out of each other in the middle of the stage while also running back to their pianos to churn out requested songs. It’s wrestle-mania meets symphony. You’ll love it.

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Tybee Island – In being from Long Island originally, the beach has been a huge part of my life. When I travel, my roots seek out a beach wherever I may go. Tybee Island felt like home. It was a 35 minute drive from central Savannah and it’s a classic east coast beach community. We enjoyed the sea life center and seeing small, baby, turtles which will be released once they are old enough. There’s a touch tank in the center which was cool until some random older woman kept daring me to touch the things inside, I got scared and walked away. “Touch it…no really…why won’t you touch it…just touch it.” Maybe I misunderstood and she was just impersonating Harvey Weinstein for her own entertainment, and it had nothing to do with me. Really though, the center does a great job of showing their efforts to preserve the beach and the life that inhabits it. The beach itself is beautiful and vast, and there is a boardwalk where fishing and lounging in the sun takes place. Seafood and fried food are the meal to get at any of the restaurants on Tybee Island and there’s not shortage of places to eat and get hammered. I’m sure the woman who fell off her stool at the restaurant we ate in would absolutely agree. I’m inserting the phrase ‘pickle gate’ into this article for no reason whatsoever, because most people don’t even read the whole thing. They just find a few sentences and say, “Wow! I’m so glad you enjoyed ______. If you happen to find this bit of rambling, please comment and use #picklegate in your comment. I will shout you out in my next blog post. We only had a few hours here, but I’m already excited about visiting for a long weekend once our baby arrives! I love little seaside communities, and I’d imagine Tybee Island is a great place to have fun in the summer, it was even pretty popular in February!

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Prohibition Museum – One of my most favorite places in this beautiful, small, city! I am a HUGE fan of the 1920’s and if you are too, or just a fan of fun times, you must check this out. I’m in the middle of doing an entire post on this place, so I’ll keep it relatively brief. This is the least boring museum you will ever visit. Whereas most museums are meant to be passive experiences, here you really are thrust into history and given ample opportunity to learn, using every sense, about such an edgy and exciting time in our past. The museum is dedicated to an unthinkable time in our nation’s history, a time when alcohol (the manufacturing, sale, and distribution of) was illegal. I feel faint just thinking about such blights on our nation’s timeline, but I’ll try to be brave and persevere. In each room there is a separate “scene” which tells you, as a visitor, about a particular aspect of the prohibition era. Of special interest were rooms entirely devoted to the crime which arose during this period (a re-creation of a shoot out by notorious Al Capone and the like), a dark room which shows how moonshine operations were run, and a temperance movement protest set-up. Each room was filled with life like wax figurines, full sized cars, and a magnitude of decor which went above and beyond in surrounding the visitor in immersive scenes. I loved it so much. I was extremely impressed with the ambiance of the museum, in both its ability to transport you back and time and its extensive collection of artifacts from the 1920’s. At the end, there is a 1920’s era speak easy where you can both indulge in the drinks of the day, as well as take lessons from a bartender! You even have to make sure you say the correct password at the door to get in. There are so many hands on opportunities, photo ops, and laughs to be had!

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Forsyth Park – I’m ashamed to say that I found myself originally not caring if we saw this at all. I’ve seen parks, I’ve seen a lot of parks. Who cares if I don’t see this one? Well, I’m glad my outdoors loving husband decided that HE cared if we did. Forsyth Park is immaculately manicured and exudes old world beauty, reminding me so much of Central Park. It’s a great place to relax and take in the sun. It’s also a great place to pick up a free bible by a person who I’m sure is definitely mentally stable, or to pay $300 for a painting (albeit beautiful) created by an artist who draws inspiration from the park. The Spanish moss trees create a wonderful, romantic ambiance and it’s a fantastic spot for people watching as there is always something happening, even if it’s just pick up frisbee. Also, there were a few people filming there. If a new released film taking place in the park comes out, be on the lookout for me and all my baby weight!

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Bonaventure Cemetery: One of the most beautiful cemeteries in the nation, a peaceful place that is more like an open air museum than anything else!

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Not a Fan (I Did NOT Like These Things:

Southern Conversation – There wasn’t much fault that I could find with Savannah. It was one of those rare cities that I loved instantly, and by the end of our stay, loved entirely. I’m usually a fan of southern charm, but too much “let me come right up and talk to you” makes me anxious. Where I’m from, that is not the norm. If someone DOES try to talk to you deeply in New York, they are trying to sell you tickets to something or they need money. On more than one occasion in Savannah, locals (presumably, due to the molasses like accent) felt the need to ask me personal questions about my being pregnant and make comments about my weight moonlighting as concern for my health. My favorite included, asking me how far along I was (seven months at the time) and then telling me I’m lying and that I MUST be carrying twins. After I said that I WASN’T, being asked several more times if I was sure. Again, in New York this would be met with a “fuck off” if the conversation even got this far, and that’s a big if. Here, I felt people thought they were pretty much entitled to say whatever they please.

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Food for Thought – Where I Ate:

The Collins Quarter – The CUTEST and most delicious stop for coffee and brunch! The menu is delicious and most importantly, they offer cocktails. CQ is Australian based and that means that the coffee is on point. Especially delicious are the spiced lavender mocha and Vietnamese ice coffee. Fun fact, I’ve never laughed harder than trying to get my husband to take a decent photo of me enjoying my coffee. Coffees can also be made decaf!

The Funky Brunch Cafe – A brightly colored, pop art, restaurant known for its creative take on breakfast. The cafe’s highlight is a griddle in the middle of each table where you are free to make your own pancakes with any toppings and in any shape that you want! Fun fact, your waitress might NOT think its wholesome to draw your pancake in the shape of a penis. While the pancakes were decent and you definitely get your money’s worth, we actually found the other breakfast items we ordered (such as sausage gravy & biscuits) to be of much better quality. The fresh squeezed orange juice is a must. Be prepared to roll out of here, the food is filling.

Leopold’s Ice Cream – If you don’t think Leopold’s has the best ice cream, your opinion on anything should never be trusted. There’s always a line out the door (don’t worry it moves quickly) and for good reason. The ice cream – for starters – is of the best quality and homemade. In particular, the rose flavored ice cream was refreshing in the heat. The shop itself feels vintage and from an older and simpler time, when kids in the south used to hang out in the sodey-pop shop giving each other hickeys and twerk by the jukebox to Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons. Be prepared to step into another world and don’t feel guilty about ordering more than once cone!

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Boar’s Head Grill and Tavern – A restaurant located in a restored warehouse from the 1800’s on the bank of the charming riverside of the city. The rough wooden interior makes you feel as though a gaggle of old time-y sailors might come pouring out from behind the kitchen doors. After walking the picturesque riverside, this is a great place to come for some she crab soup and delicious seafood.

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The Ordinary Pub – Confession, I’m a meticulous planner when I travel. I could completely see how this gets annoying to the people with whom I travel. I’m mostly this way when it comes to food – it irks me when I feel I’ve “wasted” one of my meals, and to avoid that-  I won’t just eat anywhere. Our first night in Savannah, we arrived kind of late, and a lot of the restaurants I wanted to eat at were closed. I pouted and shrugged off every restaurant suggestion made by my husband, Arthur, until he persuaded me that we should eat at the Ordinary Pub. Corny writer’s joke…the Ordinary Pub is anything but ordinary. It’s an underground bar meets restaurant with live music and a metallic/artsy innovative decor and vibe. The place is spacious, loud, and a fun place to get the party started. It offers classic southern comfort food and dishes with a modern twist. I was looking for an old school southern dining experience, and was not willing to budge on that experience. I ate at a restaurant that was everything opposite of that – new and innovative – and felt that it was my best meal in Savannah! I couldn’t partake in diving head first into alcohol like I nearly always do, BUT, the food was off the fucking hook and they are open late! I HIGHLY recommend! Get the mac and cheese, your organs will be sorry – but your spirit will not.

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Digs – Where I Stayed:

Planter’s Inn Reynolds Square – Quintessential Savannah! I’m a common New Yawka, and I truly wasn’t use to the finery of this hotel. We decided to splurge on this part of our baby-moon, and this hotel really helped us step into the feel of the city. The hotel unequivocally carried the essence of old world Southern charm, elegance, and grace. Our room was incredibly spacious and featured an adorable four poster bed. The room was so immaculately clean that I felt trashy wheeling my suitcase onto the pristine carpet! I’M NOT USED TO SUCH NICETIES IN LIFE. Every evening, after a long day of sightseeing, the hotel offers complimentary wine and cheese accompanied by a live pianist. It was the perfect touch to such a sophisticated stay, and a romantic way to unwind while the hot sun set over the city.

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What I Learned: I felt the vibe of Savannah the minute we stepped out of our car. It was the low country, swampy, “born on the bayou” type of vibe that I’d always loved about the gulf, such as in places like New Orleans. It’s unmistakably southern, but in a funky, Gothic, spooky way. It’s the kind of place that charms the hell out of you in the day, and makes you a little jumpy walking around at night – not because it is dangerous, but because it’s impossible not to feel the spirits and spooks of the hundreds of years of haunted history here. Savannah holds its own in terms of identity and nearly rivals my love for New Orleans. When do I get to come back!?

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Tuesday Tirade: Know Your Strengths, and Lack-There-Of.

Trigger warning: Feelings of self-realization and having to be honest about your intentions and abilities may occur. If the shoe fits…wear it.

I’m not interested in showing you how to “quit your 9-5” or “live your best life.” I’m a practical, independent, hard working woman from New York. Those sound like personal problems, and I stand to gain nothing from helping you out with all that. I have a family to help support, dreams of my own, and bills to pay. All of which require hard work.

I’m a story teller. I’m a teacher. I’m a writer. I have both degrees in English literature and literacy (reading and writing effectively.) There’s a lot of things I suck at, but I’m a damn good writer. It’s a talent I’ve been given praise on since as long as I can remember. I’ve been inducted into academic honor societies for it, and I’ve won contests for it. Writing essays, stories, posts, is not difficult for me at all. Articulating my ideas and being persuasive in what I say through writing is not difficult for me at all. Writing is my joy, my passion, and my talent. If writing is difficult for you, then you are not a writer.

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Some days, being a teacher is the worst job. But, 85% of the time, I love my job. On any given day at my job, my role is to inspire children who have otherwise lost hope in themselves and in society. I’m immensely fulfilled knowing that I provide (hopefully) an environment where my students re-build their confidence, learn more about the world in a fun way, and at least for 40 minutes of the day, feel safe and valued. I take pride that my honest and consistent hard work allows me to contribute to my relationship financially, gives us health insurance, and allows me to make money for travel and leisure. Do I dream of running off to some island where life is simpler? Sure. But, I know that some things are more important than running off to live on some island, like making sure my family has reliable health insurance and making sure I have a life insurance plan that takes the burden off of my family should anything happen to me. It’s important that I have a pension so I don’t have to work until I’m 80 and it’s important that I have a savings in case of emergency. So, no. I don’t think I should quit my job, run off to St. Croix, and become a “digital nomad.” My blog is something I write for fun, I don’t need anyone to sponsor my trips for me, I can do it on my own, and that is something I’m proud to have achieved. ‘

My blog isn’t polished and it isn’t perfect, and I don’t care. However, I’m more than certain that if I put legitimate effort into it, stopped using salty and less than lady like language, and stopped dropping my metaphorical balls on everything I write with the force of a sledgehammer, I could make it as a “travel blogger.” However, who knows? Because it’s becoming apparent that travel blogging has less to do with one’s ability to actually write, and more to do with “how freaking adorbs” their blog page looks. There is more time spent on “cute-if-ying” blog pages than worrying about quality of writing, and it’s sickening.

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While many a “travel bloggers” use “swirly teal, pink and white girly font” like it’s going out of style (and trust me, it is) I write everything in bold faced black. While the average “travel blogger” is petite and blonde, I’m curvy and dark haired. The typical “travel blogger” LOVES yoga, smoothies, beaches, and positivity. Most of my travels stories focus on my battles with anxiety, drinking with interesting characters, making questionable choices, not getting enough sleep, and never feeling like I have my shit together. I’ll take a coconut margarita over coconut water any day. I’ll take an entire plate of cheese fries to the face over chia smoothies any day. I will take dancing until I’m a sweaty mess on the dance floor with my friends over real exercise any day. I’m not anti yoga, I like it, and Lord knows I meditate every day, but because it actually helps me get my life together, not because it’s “super ‘grammable.” While most writers use a style that is neutral and like VERY encouraging and lovable, I write how I speak. I’m interested in sharing my stories, and if they resonate with you, great. If they don’t…I don’t care. The biggest praise for me is when I get told that I’m “witty” or “authentic.” Witty and assertive in one’s beliefs is something you can’t copy or fake. You either ARE that way, or you are not.

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Speaking of copying, take a look at every travel Instagram and blog. I’d wager 90% of them, for the most part, looks exactly the same. It looks like a valley girl ate a shit ton of cotton candy, glitter, and magic and then ejaculated all over the place. No one can stray away from “the ultimate guide” either. Bloggers are even too afraid to use a word other than “ultimate” GOD FORBID it’s labeled as the “definitive” guide. By the way, another pet peeve… “life style coach?” Move over Barbara Corcoran, we’ve got a 24 year old Insta model who can do your job now! Years of experience? Who needs it? She got 40 thousand followers, a draw string bikini from Baby Gap, and a coconut in her hand!

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As an English teacher, of course I think everyone of every ability should write. Writing is fun, it is trans-formative, and it heals. The ability to use words in a multitude of ways to express ourselves is what separates us from the animals. Anyone and everyone should write and even publicize their writing. But, make no mistake, your having a blog does not inherently make you a writer.

Like photography (a skill I don’t have), writing is a skill. The more “blogs” I read (some of which are actually great, and far better than mine) the more I’m personally insulted at having read them. I was writing for fun before it was cool, and before the thought of publishing anything on the internet ever crossed my mind. Why? I like it and I’m good at it. Sickeningly, it’s becoming so obvious that there are people not blogging for fun, or because it is their talent, but because just HAVING a blog MIGHT make them super famous and they might get to take free trips and be an “influencer”.

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What ever happened to knowing your strengths? My Instagram description reads, “shitty photos.” You know why? Because I’m not trying to insult people’s intelligence and I own who I am. I suck at taking photos, I don’t sit and edit my photos all day, because I have a life, so I post what I have. If you suck at writing, how do you have the balls to call yourself a “travel writer?” The complete lack of self awareness is unbelievable, and the problem is becoming pervasive. I don’t call myself a musician just because I sing in the shower, and I don’t call myself an artist just because I color sometimes. Telling me via your blog that, “the food was delicious and the bar was super fun” doesn’t make you the next Julia Alvarez or Gillian Flynn, sorry. Let me guess, the water was also wet at the beach? Sand dry? Thanks for the info.

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Not. everyone. can. be. a. writer. There is a difference between enjoying writing as a hobby and being a writer. Writing a shopping list of what you did in Los Angeles does not make you a writer.

My point in all of this, is the next time I read a comment of, “How do I grow my blog following” the answer is going to be, “Learn how to write.”

The Short of It: Small Layovers & Trips – BERLIN

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Grittiness. Alternative Scenes. Art. I love big cities for some of these reasons, and these reasons are also why I was so amped to visit Berlin. My bestie informed me that we’d have 24 hours on our summer trip where we could squeeze one final city in, and asked how I felt about Berlin. I practically jumped through the phone, “YES!” In all fairness, I realize I probably needed way more time to properly explore the city, but this is a tale of what was and not what I wish had been!

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Pure exhaustion. After sleeping in sweaty hostels and pulling all nighters, we cancelled our reservation at yet another hostel and splurged on a sky rise hotel room which was pure heaven. The bathroom was spacious and it was nice to have some privacy and not have to share the shower and toilet with others! The room was SPOTLESS and modern. The bed was one where you literally sink into, and we spent about an hour laying in it contemplating just snoozing through out entire “layover.” Looking back, I can recognize that this was a massive waste of time, but all travelers know this level of exhaustion! Our brains hurt both from too much drinking and museum-seeing, our bodies were aching from walking all over three cities prior, and a nap sounded incredibly delicious. However, we begrudgingly peeled ourselves out of bed and trekked down to reception to start our day. I realize that this is the laziest part of my post, but that’s because I REALLY want you to get a feel for how lazy and useless I felt in the moments which took place in this section. Do you feel it? No, really. Do. You. Feel. It.

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On the Prowl – AKA – Uncomfortable Wiener Jokes Galore

*A Runner Up for Academy Award for Best Plot in an Action Film: Not Without My Weenie (see below)

I’ll be honest, I had one mission, and it was food, I’m sure you’re all shocked. Whenever I travel, I NEED to try the food specialties of the land, and when inquiring about Berlin, I’d heard about Currywurst repeatedly, an exotic weenie that would allegedly emit magic into my life. How could I claimed to have been to Berlin and not tried some? Well, that almost was the case. Would you believe me if I said it took us decent looking ladies at least six hours to get some sausage from off the street? Sadly, this is factual information and really put me in a bad mood.

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To start, we had only a few hours to utilize the bus tour passes we had just bought. We hadn’t eaten, but found a CurryWurst stand right by our hotel. Unfortunately, it was closed and not opening until later at night. We didn’t want to spend the afternoon only looking for satisfying sausages, even though this WAS a girl’s trip. So, we settled for Mexican food before our bus tour. While the burrito bowl was pretty legit, I just felt like I was cornered into this option and that I wasn’t making the best food choice. Mexican food can be found everywhere, I wanted the real. local. deal.

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The bus tour wound up being one of those hop on/hop off deals, and at each stop we DID find a Currywurst stand. Big disappointment, NONE OF THEM TOOK CREDIT CARDS! Seriously, it felt like nowhere in Berlin took credit! Every stop became a rush of excitement, followed by a huge let down. I pleaded with the final stand owner that we came across. “Please, please tell me that you take credit cards and that I can have your promising sausage.” Even though I’d made the funniest wiener joke in history, he wouldn’t oblige me. “No, cash only.” I saw red –  as red as the ketchup I’d seen pictured on Currywurst. Visions of flipping his food truck over and dumping curry powder on his head and drowning him in condiments filled my mind.

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What the actual fuck? Fine, I’ll play along. At one point we walked in the sweltering sun ten minutes to an ATM to retrieve cash. I was hype. Any minute now, I would be gnoshing on sausages. Upon arriving at the ATM, we both realized we had left our debit cards at the hotel. If you’ve ever seen a toddler having a meltdown, then I need not describe my reaction. I was PISSED. Eventually, after walking all the way back to our hotel from the Berlin Wall, we finally hit the Currywurst stand by our hotel right as it opened. We put in two orders and I shifted anxiously from foot to foot waiting for my food. I practically stuck my head in the window of the food truck at one point as I breathed heavily and awkwardly awaiting. The man hurried along and threw our food onto the ledge. There it was…Currywurst. I quickly snapped a photo (hence the shitty quality of the photo) and dove in. We made the realization, and I want you all to know, that currywurst is a hot dog in curry powder with some ketchup on top. HOWEVER, I love hot dogs and therefore was not disappointed in the least.

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I Like Big Bus, I Cannot Lie. ‘Specially When It’s Hot Outside.

We asked the receptionist at our hotel the best way to see the city quickly and she suggested the bus tour. It took a long time to find the stop closest to our hotel, but once we did, the tour was enjoyable for the most part. Each stop was centrally located to a major site and we were able to see quite a lot in our short time. If you’ve ever done the hop on/off bus tour, it comes equipped with earbuds which allow you to learn more about each stop. The only hiccups were that there was one instance where we had to wait over 20 minutes for the bus to come pick us up, we went into a cafe to buy sodas and snacks while we waited and SURPRISE, they didn’t take credit. Berlin really takes the idea of “living history” to heart evidenced by the fact that everyone acted as though a credit card machine were some new-fangled piece of equipment from the future. It was almost as annoying as when you visit a historical restoration in any part of the US and the people there all really act like we’re in the 1800’s, like when you ask them to take a photo of you. “Oh, what is this device here? I’ve never seen one before.” WELP I handed you sixty dollars to get into this fucking settlement and you didn’t bat an eye even though since it’s the 1800’s it should only cost me a nickel to get in this place. We also missed the last bus back which sucked big time.

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We were having such a great time at the Berlin Wall that we had to walk from the Wall all the way back to our hotel. It was a heat wave outside and each step felt more and more impossible considering how exhausted we already were. Public transportation was nearly impossible to figure out and catch, and every cab that we tried to flag down ignored us. We tried to ask locals for help, all of whom also ignored us. At this point, I was pretty sure that I disliked Berlin. The people for the most part were cold, and Berlin overall just didn’t seem like an intuitive or comprehensive city. It felt icy and everything felt distant. We both became immensely frustrated and couldn’t fathom that we still had SO much further to walk.

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Finally, an off duty driver pulled into a home driveway right near us. We begged him to give us a hand, and while he seemed reluctant, thank GOD his wife met him in the driveway and ordered him to take us to our hotel. While he at first seemed annoyed, reminding us at least 25 times that he was off duty and that he shouldn’t be doing this, he eventually warmed up which in Berlin is speaking a little bit about a topic other than how we’re ruining his life. We had to pay through a ride sharing app once we reached the hotel, and since there was no WI-FI in the car, Amanda had to go inside, download the app, figure it out, and pay, all while I sat hostage in the car.

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Check Point Charlie: Sure it was touristy, but if one could squint there eyes a bit, it was pretty cool to see a small glimpse into what history looked like. I’d been really excited to see this, and I definitely nerded out for a while and enjoyed my time here! Check Point Charlie was the most frequented crossing point at the Berlin Wall between East and West Berlin. It became deeply symbolic of the Cold War. Today, you can take photos with the acting guards there and imagine what is must have been like to have to cross from one side to the other. We didn’t pay to get our photos with the guards, but we watched as other people did. The guards seemed to be really funny and enjoy interacting with guests. Allegedly you can get your passport stamped for an addition fee, but if this is true, I’d imagine it might become problematic and confusing when other countries see the stamp. Oh this stamp? It’s from a fake country called Check Point Charlie.

Brandenburg Gate: One of the most iconic landmarks of the city! It has seen so much of history and it’s hard not to be impressed by its sheer stature alone.

Berlin Wall: Probably the best part of my short visit! How does one describe the East Side Gallery? How does one describe the feeling of seeing the STILL difference between East and West Berlin from the top of a bus? Eerie? Grateful? Surreal? All of this. Our tour told us of stories of people jumping over the wall at the eleventh hour to escape what they felt would be the impending horrors of communism. We learned about the politics of both sides of the spectrum. Normally when I think of heartbreak and devastation, my mind goes to the developing countries I’ve visited. I felt that here, hearing about the stories of real people from very recently. The East Side Gallery was everything I had hoped Berlin as a whole would be. The art is imaginative, captivating, provocative, and utterly beautiful and edgy. It embodied all of the things I love about creativity and is a pure testament to the power and importance of artistry’s ability to impact politics and society. I could have and we did spend many hours here both taking photos, and taking in the history around us.

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Bar Crawl: All I’d heard about was Berlin’s incredible nightlife scene. So, where then, was the nightlife? I realize we didn’t examine the entire city, it’s far too large, but nearly every bar we walked past was closed! I kept imagining edgy basement bars with a leather clad crowd who held out since the Studio 54 days. I imagined bars entirely devoted to themes like the Roaring 20’s. We wound up visiting two spots which kept frequenting the “must see” bars list, and these, while thankfully open, were both nearly empty. First, we visited the Stagger Lee with which I fell passionately in love. Stagger Lee does the 1920’s in a truly authentic, and not at all kitschy way. If you’ve ever seen Boardwalk Empire, you would think you have wondered onto the set, it’s that well decorated. It unequivocally and completely takes you back in time. The drink menu is extensive and expensive, but I need all readers to know, that this is where I’ve had the best drinks of my lifetime ever, period. The cocktails are imaginative and top notch, every drink I threw back was pure perfection and artistry in a glass. To wrap up the evening we had a night-cap at the N.N. Train Cocktail Bar. It’s definitely one of the more unique cocktail houses I’ve ever visited as the bar is literally an old train car! The ambiance is vintage, sexy, and definitely not to be missed, and drinks were very reasonable as well. We were able to sit comfortably on Adirondack chairs outside as we enjoyed our last cocktail of our last big girls trip. That memory will always mean so much to me. Amanda and I have traveled the world from Denver to Mexico to Central America and to Europe.

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We’ve seen so much of the world, and I can’t explain to you how much our lives have been changed by all of the traveling we have done together. We both got married several months before, and while very hard to admit, we just knew that this was going to be our last ever big girl’s trip. One month later I was pregnant, expecting my baby in a month’s time, and she is saving up for a house on Long Island, and those are our priorities right now, and that’s OK because we did everything we wanted to for so long prior. I didn’t want the night to end, as exhausted as I was, and we spent a long time both equally talking about all the good memories around the world, and sitting in silence quietly contemplating what the future will bring. In some ways, it never mattered where we were all these time that we traveled. It didn’t matter that our experience in Berlin was less than desirable, because the memories will always be fond and that’s because we had each other’s company.

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What I Learned Is: I’m glad I got to see Berlin. I’m a history fanatic and I’m so grateful that I got to see some pieces of history that are otherwise only available in textbooks and documentaries to most people. I’m glad that I can say that yes, I’ve seen some of Germany and got a basic feel for the zeitgeist of city.

I DESPERATELY and STILL DO want to love Berlin.

I don’t completely blame Berlin for my time there. It was short, poorly planned, and I was too exhausted to put any real effort into my experience. However, the same issues I raise are reported by people who do spend an adequate amount of time there. There are many cities (New York, Paris, Chicago, Seville, Lisbon, etc) where you step right into the rhythm of the culture, hype, and reputation. For example, when New York promises tall buildings, hot night clubs, top restaurants, and history – you really don’t have to walk all over the city trying to “find” those things, it’s all around you. In Berlin, I felt that the city is so spread thin that everything falls flat. It was a lot of, “Oh, ok, here’s the one building I recognize from photos, where is everything else? Four hours later…OH ok…here’s that one bar…oh and it’s closed.”

I’m eager to return because I want to do it right before I add it to my “underwhelming destinations” list. I’m so hoping that the Berlin of my dreams is real and that I was maybe too fatigued to see it. I’m more than interested in hearing everyone else’s thoughts on Berlin!

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*Not in any way true, factual, or accurate

Excursions & Experiences: THE GULLAH LADY!

“I loved the uniqueness of the instruments and I was ready to play the shit out of my acorn squash…”

I’ve had a few passion ideas lately. As I begin to evaluate what it means to enter motherhood, I also inevitably evaluate my lifestyle. I plan on exposing my son to travel from a young age, this is a top priority for my husband and I. However, I also will not risk the health of my child for my own selfish interests. I have no plans on backpacking with my small baby to far flung corners of the earth where I cannot immediately reach adequate medical care should we need it. I’m getting used to the idea that for a while, travel might look different, it might be more domestic based, and I’m OK with that.

Looking at the news lately, all news, leaves me feeling as though I’m living in a war zone. The United States is broken in so many ways, and if you watch TV long enough, the question of, should I really leave my home today doesn’t seem so far off. I’m on a mission to see more of my own country, and to hopefully gain experiences which paint a different image from what I see in the media.

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I think part of looking at my own country means being open to new experiences and varying ways of living and thinking. This is easy to do in far flung places, but for some reason, so much harder in the United States. My objective in documenting myself seeing more of my country is to travel as a stranger in a strange land. I want to see all walks and ways of life and reaffirm my beliefs that our diversity is what makes us a great nation. I truly believe that we are far more alike than we are different.

We took a baby moon road trip down south in which we stopped in various states and cities, one of which was Charleston, South Carolina. Our trip took place in February, which also happens to be Black History Month. As such, I searched for ways that we could learn more about the culture(s) of people of color in our nation, and thus, found The Gullah Lady.

My hesitations: We’ve become so divided as a country that I had this feeling that both people and my friends both of color and those of Caucasian persuasion might roll their eyes at my endeavor. I imagined both types of folks peering deeper into my motives for learning more about a piece of the black community. Am I trying to make myself look or feel better or superior to other whites? Am I trying to be a white savior? Am I being mocking or facetious? Why would I want to do this? Why does it matter to me? Is this a show? Are my endeavors genuine?

I’m really comfortable with my reasons for my endeavor.

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I’m a culture fanatic. I just purely love learning about different cultures. I see no difference between a walking tour of Little Italy to learn more about Italian culture, visiting temples in Thailand to learn more about Buddhist practices, and spending an afternoon in Charleston with a Gullah woman learning more about a unique sector of Southern Black culture. I just like learning new things.

Inevitably, when learning about Black culture and history in the United States, the topic of slavery comes up. I don’t feel uncomfortable and don’t feel like all eyes are on me because I am white. I acknowledge and understand the history of decades long oppression, un-justness, and toil of Black America. I understand that I have white privilege and that this doesn’t make me a bad person, but it’s important to acknowledge it. There is nothing to argue about or get defensive about, it’s a part of the history of my country, and therefore I think it should be important to everyone who lives in the country. I don’t think anyone who shares their accounts of this history with me is blaming me personally or calling me a bad person. If I call myself a traveler, that means my job is to learn about the world. In order to learn, it’s important to listen and have an open mind and open heart. It’s important that when someone shares a story with us, that we hear their words clearly, and not our own words and thoughts swimming in our head.

I think that I should be able to learn about Gullah and slave history without my intentions being questioned. I think people of color should be able to walk into a museum about Irish Americans or other European Americans and not be looked at strangely. The history of the United States belongs to all of us, and we all have a responsibility to know the full and complete history of the nation we live in and in many times claim to love.

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FINALLY, A Gullah Afternoon!

I booked this excursion through AirBnB, it was my first time using the platform for booking an experience and all went well! Our guide/leader was Sharon and we met her in the Columbus Street park. As it was rainy and dreary weather, she re-located us to East Side Soul Food restaurant. I immediately liked Sharon from the get go because she was diligent, organized, and in constant communication…all things that put my anxiety while traveling at ease!

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Sharon is an exceptional story teller. Her profession, which I didn’t know existed, is literally that of a story teller, and she is one of the best. From the minute she began the day, it was impossible not to be captivated by her orating skills and enveloped by her warmth. As an aspiring writer and someone who enjoys stories and always has, I’m always in awe of people who are so gifted. She began by telling us how she first came to know about Gullah culture, her pre-conceptions, and how she has been immersing herself in the culture for years now.

Gullah is both the language spoken and way of calling the people of the culture. Gullah people live mostly on sea islands of southern Gulf states such as the Carolinas, some parts of Florida, and Georgia. The language and culture is a mix of American Southern and West African, and I’m sure some Caribbean as well. The crafts, arts, and food are all unique as well. Typically, you might see Gullah families selling sweet grass baskets around Charleston and Gullah food such as shrimp, fried fish, and greens at restaurants. I had no idea that such a unique culture was a part of my country and it thrilled me to learn more about it!

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After learning about the beginnings of Gullah culture in the United States, it was soon music time. An area which I thrive in given the right conditions (wine, a dimly lit room, more wine) and do piss poorly in given the wrong conditions (sobriety by way of pregnancy.) Sharon taught us a song popularly sung in Gullah churches and taught us how to clap along, in a very unique style, to the song. Arthur and I spent most of the rest of the car rides on the trip arguing about the rhythm of the beat as we both remember it differently. However, I remember it the right way, so the argument was pretty much futile. The song was catchy and we still walk around our home singing it and clapping like lunatics, I even sing the song to my growing baby! He’ll sometimes kick when I sing it, although probably because my voice is bringing him physical pain I’d imagine (sad face.)  We practiced singing as a group, but this was tricky. There were only seven of us and I felt we had to HIT IT for the first time. I didn’t want to over do it and make everyone else jealous, but I didn’t want to leave anyone stranded and under-do it. I thought I should over do it because, why not? Once that was over, I was semi-relieved. I was feeling kind of shy that day (unimaginable, but possible.) Then…Sharon pulled out a bag of Gullah instruments. She laid them on the table and we all had to pick one. I GRABBED THE ACORN SQUASH with gusto. I loved the uniqueness of the instruments and I was ready to play the shit out of my squash (by smacking it rhythmically.) We were given the option of just playing the instruments to the beat, or playing AND signing. Most of the group just wanted to play. However, my husband declared that we did not all come all the way to Charleston to sit on the sidelines and idly smack our squashes or clamp our cow bells, we needed to go balls to the wall. And so we did, and it was amazing, and we all laughed and definitely felt like one run through was enough, and so did the few people in the restaurant listening to us, but I’m pretty sure we wound up doing it twice. I was flushed, and shaky, because I’m awkward…but I had SO much damn fun!

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My favorite part was what came next…quilting! We learned about the art of specifically Gullah quilting. The process if not difficult, but Sharon describes it as tedious. I guess it can be, but I found it relaxing. Strips of different cloth are cut up and you use a nail to push each piece through the burlap fabric and tie it into a bow. Eventually, the entire burlap base is covered and you have a quilt! While ours was random and colorful, there are plenty of artists who create actual scenes on their quilt which I would imagine is much more difficult. Everyone who partakes in the excursion works on the same quilt and it makes the experience that much more meaningful.

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As we worked, Sharon exposed us to the language of Gullah culture by telling a story in the language, seeing how much we could understand, and then re-telling it in Standard English. She explained that she has told this story for audiences of two and audiences of hundreds. I was touched that she told us also about her personal struggles overcoming her being shy, unsure, and lacking confidence at some points in her life. In particular, she told a story of embracing her unique look when taking classes with a bunch of white women who all looked and acted different from herself. While her experience happened to be in this particular context, if one were to have an open mind, the lesson is relatable to anyone who has ever felt different or outcast. Personally, I have always been outcasted for being different (in speech, action, and mind) in my life until recently when I feel it has suddenly become cool and accepted to be oneself. Growing up, I thought and acted different from everyone around me and was ostracized immensely by my peers and even my own family and friends. Sharon’s story of not fitting in in so many ways really made me feel like I had found a kindred spirit, a person who got me.

 

Last, and most importantly for foodies, we were served samples of Gullah food. Rice and red beans, okra soup, and fried fish made their way around and I finished my food before everyone else, naturally. The experience ended shortly there after, and I left feeling so emotional as I always do when spending time with people for a short while, and feel so close to in the end. The Gullah Lady provided our best and most authentic experience of Charleston. I highly recommend!

What I Learned: Growing up was tough for me. I never felt like I fit in. My whole life I’ve been different. I’ve thought differently, acted differently and was just…well…different. I was always told I was too opinionated, too much of a dreamer, and to keep my mouth shut. I never wore the right things, and was usually shunned for not being conformist. When most people visit Charleston they do what they see other people on social media doing. I did those things too and they were great. However, I also decided to partake in something that spoke more closely to who I am, someone who does something differently. I came to The Gullah Lady wanting to learn more about her culture and people who are different from me. I wound up leaving feeling comforted that I’d learned from and about someone who is actually just the same as me. Sharon is a woman who embraced a new culture completely on her own, who took an unconventional career, and who until recently has had many experiences and instances of feeling like an outsider for doing things differently. The foods I eat, the way I worship, and the ways I build community were different than what I did on this tour. However, my fears, challenges, joys, and what I want from my life were not at all different from what Sharon and many others experience. If she ever reads this, I’d like to thank her for being fearless and breaking the mold. I’d like to thank her for reaffirming that it’s important to be unique and confident in who I am. I’d like to thank her for exposing me to playing the acorn squash, a memory that makes me smile on my dullest days. It will always be challenging to accept that I’m different, but there is truly no one else I’d rather be.

I’ve been walking this road –

A long time, a long time, a long time

I’ve been walking this road-

A long time, and I ain’t got weary yet.

– Gullah Spiritual

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