You’ve read the reviews. You’ve polled your FaceBook friends for recommendations. You’ve liked the posts on Instagram. You’ve flipped through your Lonely Planet manual. It’s official – it’s on the list of “must dos” for the trip! But then, after you’ve spent the time, money, and energy getting there, a haunting question creeps into your mind… “Was it worth it?!”
Photo by A.Reid
What’s a trip to Europe without a stop through at least one country? One of the best things about Europe, in my opinion, is the close proximity of its countries. It’s always fun to compare distances between states in the US and countries in Europe. It may take 7 hours to drive through Florida alone and, in Europe, those 7 hours would put you through at least 2 countries! On my recent trip to Ireland, I tacked on a quick visit to London. My timing was tight and the itinerary was lengthy but it was too much to resist so a whirlwind 48-hour trip to London ensued.
Long layovers are my favorite, or, at least the long layovers that allow you time to explore a cool destination. Enter Boston. While this wasn’t my first visit to Boston, it was easily my shortest visit. I enjoyed a 9-hour layover in this historic city with a few ideas in mind and an adventurous spirit. Here’s how I spent a perfect Saturday afternoon in one of the oldest cities in America.
Spain has always been on my travel shortlist but, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t sure about Barcelona. Perhaps it was because of their differing heritage and culture from the rest of Spain or their desire to break away. Whatever the reason, I was wrong! Barcelona is truly remarkable and one week was not enough!
I like to cram as many explorations as possible into a trip, often planning day trip excursions to neighboring towns as well, but on this week-long trip, I happily remained in Barcelona, soaking up everything the city has to offer. Prior to arrival, I often prep a list of potential activities in order to avoid wasting time wondering what there is to do. Of course, I will also leave room for local suggestions and try not to plan things back to back to allow time for spontaneity but I always have at least an idea of what I will do. I never accomplish all of it and, for this post, I’m sharing my planning and actual lists for your recommendation pleasure.
A carry-on & tote bag for two weeks in Italy!
Packing is one of my least favorite parts of any trip. I used to dislike it so much that I would have anxiety attacks and lash out at loved ones who got caught in my path. I am much better now – thank goodness – but much of that is due to the creation of a go-to packing list.
I first established this list in preparation for my Australia adventure. Prior to the list, I tried a few other methods that were no where near efficient. For my Italy trip, I downloaded an app that would help you plan out your outfits. In order to use it correctly though, you had to take pictures of individual wardrobe items in your closet, crop and save them in the app. It reminded me of paper dolls and Cher’s polaroid routine from Clueless. All in all, it was too much effort. I will say, however, I was quite proud of my packing for that trip!
By the time Australia rolled around, I needed a solid plan. I would be traveling for about a year and I did not want to check a bag. Checking bags is the worst! I hate the fees and I hate waiting for bags, hoping yours didn’t end up on another flight. No thanks, I’ll bring a carry-on. But carry-ons require smart planning.
Below is my go-to list that I use for each trip. Of course, depending on where I’m heading and the length of time I will be there, I modify this list. Bare in mind this was created for a year’s worth of travel, the country where I was headed is mostly warm weather, and there was the potential for work, too. Overall, most of my trips are to somewhere warm or with mild winters so my list continues to prove useful.
I chose to live in New Orleans for six glorious years. New Orleans is real, gritty, crazy, violent, and beautiful. There really is nothing like it. The people are warm and friendly, oozing with southern hospitality and the streets are filled with vibrant colors and deep potholes. It’s a place where many people go to party and a place that anyone who has ever been holds near to their heart. It is a special place and a difficult place and that is how I will always describe it. I love this city.
In the words of the late Anthony Bourdain, “In America, there might be better gastronomic destinations than New Orleans, but there is no place more uniquely wonderful. So I would say New Orleans. With the best restaurants in New York, you’ll find something similar to it in Paris or Copenhagen or Chicago. But there is no place like New Orleans. So it’s a must see city because there’s no explaining it, no describing it. You can’t compare it to anything. So, far and away New Orleans.”
I am often asked for recommendations – where to eat and what to do – for New Orleans and I am happy to share. Rather than continuing to craft a list over and over again, I am sharing my recommendations here — How to explore New Orleans like a local.
On almost every website you surf these days, someone is waiting to convince you that 2016 has been a horrible year. While I’ve experienced my fair share of challenges in 2016, I am a glass half-full kind of gal and would prefer to reflect on my BEST moments of the year instead. Here’s what I have to be grateful for this year: