Beaches, Beaches, Beaches

So, like I probably mentioned in an earlier post, I love the beach. It is my ultimate happy place, and the destination I think about when someone asks me “where do you want to go?” Nothing beats the beach. Sand, surf, sun, and fresh seafood. For me, the beach is synonymous with r&r.  Here are of my top 3 favorite places around the world:

Venezuela

Venezuela: I might be biased, but these are the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to in my life… hands down. The sand is snow white. The water is crystal clear and just the right temperature. There’s tons of tiny little untouched islands everywhere off the coast, and you can pay a fisherman to take you out to them for the day. These islands are bare and theres nothing but just you and nature. These beaches are my kind of heaven. Most of my childhood memories from Venezuela are from the beach and our beach house in Higuerote. Margarita Island is also fun and a little more commercial and full of hotels. Chichiriviche is also a great destination. Also, Los Roques is supposed to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. These are the best kinds of beaches for someone that just needs to get away and unwind.

Molokini Island

 

 

Maui: You just can’t go wrong with Hawaii. I preferred Maui to Honolulu because it’s less commercial and more laid back. We stayed at the Marriott Maui Ocean Club, and our accommodations were amazing.  The pool is nice but just forget it because a sandy paradise is just a couple more steps from your room. The only reason I went to the pool was to get a plate of fresh pineapple for  breakfast at the pool restaurant every morning (heaven!).  I remember the chef at the hotel being fantastic as well. We went snorkeling at Molokini Island, and it was one of the best snorkel trips I’ve ever taken. We saw tons of sea life  in these reefs and even some sea turtles. Lahaina was the biggest town close by and its packed with great stores and restaurants and also offers a front row to the best sunset in Maui. I also suggest going on the roadtrip to see the waterfalls on the way to Hana. While the road is windy and at times scary the sights are worth it: Beautiful jungles and waterfalls and also you can go to some black sand beaches that will take your breath away. Watchout though: some of these beaches have extremely strong currents and undertow and can be dangerous. My only gripe is that Pacific beaches are at times a little too cold for my taste, but they’re beautiful nonetheless.

 

Nice, France

French Riviera: I studied abroad in Nice for 4 weeks one summer and fell in love with the Riviera. Again, these tend to be somewhat colder beaches unless you go in August. In Nice, the beaches are also stone beaches so I recommend buying padded beach pads or beach chairs. The cities of the French Riviera are not only beach destinations but fun sightseeing cities as well. Vieux Nice is the older part of town and is inhabited by lovely boutiques and enticing and delicious gelaterias. Two of my favorite museums I’ve ever visited were in Nice: the Musee d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (MAMAC) (where I fell in love with Yves Klein) and Musee Matisse De Nice (he’s one of my favorite artists so I probably spent a good 3 hours here). One of my favorite things to do in Nice was to walk the Promenade Des Angles along the beach and then climb the stairs up to the viewing deck and then continue to the park . Another great thing about the Riviera is that  the other towns are 20 minutes away or less by train or bus. Each has its own character and beautiful beaches. I recommend Antibes, Cannes (in late May  you can see the town set up for the festival…very fun), St. Tropez (furthest away, takes about 2 hours, have to take a train then a bus), Villefranche Sur Mer, and Monaco. All these other beahes are sand beaches, and you can walk around the towns and see everything in a day pretty much. Monaco is a great day trip but a little harder to get around by foot so I recommend buying a pass on those tours that you can jump on and off. If you make it to Montecarlo, you must see the palace, go to the Jacques Cousteau Museum and go inside the Montecarlo Casion. You’ll need some identification to show you are over 18 and they let you right in during the day. I forget if you have to pay a fee at all but even if you do… YOU MUST GO INSIDE. It is best to go during the day because at night they enforce a black tie dress code.

These are my top three, but I also recommend anywhere on the Caribbean (love the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico), Cancun, Florida (Destin, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami), and Martha’s Vineyard (cold but beautiful).

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Holiday Travel Tips

This is my first Thanksgiving that I’m not going home. Sad! I have to stay in Boston and study for my comprehensive exams to finish my program. Plus, I knew if I went home I wouldn’t be studying because I’d be playing with my dog or going shopping with my mom or going to the movies with my dad or going out with friends… anything but studying.

While I miss my parents and home terribly so this Thanksgiving, the one thing I won’t miss is holiday travel. Traffic on the highways… overcrowded planes… chaotic airports. Ugh, airports during the holidays are probably my least favorite place on earth EVER. But, I have come up with some tips to make your life easier.

1. If you’re in the city, book a towncar or taxi at least a day before you leave. Last Thanksgiving, when I was going home I ended up letting 2 other people into my towncar to Logan because they could not get a cab.

2. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport because traffic going to the airport tends to back up during the holidays. Also, the lines at security are extra long. I would try to get there at least 2 hours before my flight.

3. Make your life easier when you’re going through security and put your plastic baggie of liquids somewhere easy to reach. Wear shoes easy to slip off and on (check here for more tips on what to wear). Try not to wear a belt or too much jewelry that you’d have to take off.

4. If traveling by car or bus, take something to entertain you in traffic like a book on tape or a fun playlist. Don’t let traffic put you in a bad mood.

5. BREATHE… even though you’re more likely to get easily frustrated while traveling during the holidays just know that everyone around you just wants to get home too. So take it easy, you’ll get there.

Here are some more tips I found useful.

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Oh, The Places I Want To Go To

I’ve truly been blessed that my parents are such jetsetters. From Paris to Maui, I have seen a lot. Yet, there is always a longing in me to keep traveling and keep exploring. It also doesn’t help when one of my favorite books is 1,000 Places to see Before You Die (which also now has a blog you can check out here ). So for a couple of years I have been developing my list of places I am dying to go to, and here are my top 5.

1. Tahiti – I am a total beach person. It is my ultimate go-to destination and my happy place. Ever since I was 13, I’ve been begging and pleading with my parents to take me to Tahiti. Something about Tahiti has always appealed to me as so serene, exotic, and soothing. When I make it over there, my dream is to stay in a bungalow over  the water and never leave. Ah… serenity now.

2. Australia– In elementary school, our mascot was a koala, and my third grade teacher was from Australia. Hence, this is where my interest in Australia partly comes from. There is just so much to do and see in Australia. I dream of the day that I get to see the Sydney Opera House in person. I imagine it just kinda takes your breath away kind of like the first time you see the Eiffel Tower or your first time in New York. I’d love to visit the Australia Zoo and perhaps get to pet a real koala or hug a kangaroo (yea… I know that’s probably dangerous). I’d also be totally down for scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef and perhaps see a shark or two.

3. Kenya and Tanzania– Who doesn’t have a wild fantasy to go to Africa? I’m a huge animal lover so one of my dreams has always been to go on an African safari. And, because I watch too many movies I also think it’d be really cool to spend the night with an African tribe. Maybe I’d hike Kilimanjaro or maybe see it from afar and wave to it. In undergrad, one of my best friends went on a medical mission trip to Tanzania, and her stories and pictures just make me want to go even more. So, mark my words, because one day I will go to Africa.

4. Spain– Dude… I’m half Spanish, and I’ve never been to the motherland. Everything about Spain intrigues me. From Madrid to Granada to Toledo to Barcelona, I want to see everything. I want to experience my roots and my culture first-hand. And, not gonna lie… my Spanish grandmother is an amazing cook so I’m sure the food is magic. I’d love to go to Pamplona for the Festival of San Fermin and watch the running of the bulls (from a safe distance), or go to La Tomatina in Bruñol for the huge tomato food fight. Maybe, spend a night in Sevilla and watch some Flamenco. Oh Spain… one day we’ll finally meet.

5. Brazil– So, even though I lived in South America for eight years, I never visited any other countries. I’ve always felt some type of pull towards Brazil for some reason though. Not only am I a big fan of soccer and beaches but the culture looks so fun-loving and welcoming. Sure I’d love to go and experience the madness that is Carnival but I’d also be down for bringing in the New Year on a Brazilian beach decked in all white with other locals. I’d also love to go trek into the rainforest… as long as it’s not spider season.

So there’s my list. What are some of your dream destinations?

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Check Flash Sale Websites for Deals on Hotels

So by now you might be familiar with online private boutique sales or flash sale websites like Rue La La, Gilt Groupe, and Groupon. Rue La La and Gilt Groupe offer private designer sales of  luxury brand merchandise at discount prices. Groupon offers city-specific coupons for restaurants, salons, stores and other services (like $30 dollars worth of food for $15). All of these sales are offered only for a  short time (1 to 3 days), and once the sale expires or sells out,  items are unavailable.

Recently, I’ve noticed that all these sites are also offering hotel deals as well, and these seem like  better deals than you’ll find elsewhere on the Internet. They’re not available all the time, but they are definitely worth a look especially for travelers who like to plan in advance or adventurous travelers who love jetting off on a whim.

Groupon– very easy to sign up for but not available in all cities. Just choose your city and you’ll receive deals on hotels close to home for great weekend getaways. All Groupons don’t have to be used right away, but they do have expiration dates. Your credit card will be charged up-front. Groupon probably offers the most affordable deals.

Rue La La– must be a member to shop. To become a member you must be invited by another member or apply for membership. People are usually approved pretty fast so don’t fret. Rue La La offers deals on more upscale hotels, so they are pricier. I like when they do destination-themed sales (like skiing or beaches) because it gives you a wide selection of places nationwide.

Jetsetter by Gilt Groupe- like Rue La La you must be a member to shop on this site but it is easy to request a membership. This site offers the crème de la crème hotels on specials. I might not be able to afford these deals for a very long time but it’s good to know they are there. This is one of the only sites that I have also seen offering international luxury destinations.

Where else do you look for hotel deals?

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Going to Salem in October? Plan Ahead

When you’re in New England in October, you must go to Salem. It was everything kitschy and stereotypical I expected it would be and a total must. It kinda reminds me of going to the renaissance festival, and it’s a great destination for a day trip.

It’s very accessible, and you can get there by car, train, or ferry.  The drive is about an hour or less depending on traffic. If you drive though, parking can be a sticky situation. Tip # 1: A lot of parking lots will try to charge you $20 for the day, but if you just drive around the town you can find regular street parking. Make sure you read the street signs so you don’t get towed though.

We arrived in Salem around noon, and Ellen and I ate lunch at Tavern in the Square, a new-ish restaurant in Salem from the same owners of Joshua Tree and Cityside Bar and Grill in Boston. It’s just ok. The clam chowder is acceptable but by no means order the crabcake sandwich. The crabcakes are over breaded and you can’t even taste any crab. I would suggest that you find another restaurant. After lunch we set out to see what Salem had to offer. Witches and Pirates and Hawthorne, oh my!

Beautiful homes in Salem

Creepy Statue of Roger Contant, the first settler of Salem.

And, as excited as we were… we found that we couldn’t do anything because all tours and admissions were sold out until 6:30 pm or 7 pm, and we had to return to Boston before then. Sad! So Tip #2: Book in advance or get there early and stand in line for tickets to the attractions you want to visit. So we ended up shopping, sightseeing and making friends with locals.

Salem is full of great attractions, but watch out because for every great museum there are 15 tourist traps. That is why I will give you a list of some recommendations from the great people at Remember Salem Gifts to avoid those dreaded tourist traps.

Tip #3: Things to do in Salem

Side of the Pirate Museum

  1. Witch Dungeon Museum
  2. New England Pirate Museum
  3. Witch History Museum
    You can find info about all three of these here.
  4. Salem Witch House
  5. House of Seven Gables (I’m a huge Hawthorne fan and was so disappointed I couldn’t check this out)
  6. Peabody Essex Museum – This is not witch or pirate themed but the director of marketing spoke in one of my classes and this museum looks gorgeous.

Old time cemetery in Salem.

Salem is tiny and great to travel by foot so forget the trolley tour. It’s totally walkable. There are also tons of haunted houses and nightly ghost tours that look really fun as well.

And, if you really want to get into the spirit you can even dress up.

Ellen and I in 20 years....

Ellen and I in 20 years...

Here’s to hoping you have a spooky good time! (and better luck than Ellen and I did)

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You Can Dress Comfortable Yet Stylish When You Travel

I have sadly come to the realization that long gone are the days when we used to dress up for traveling. This makes me both sad and relieved at the same time. Sad, because it makes me feel as if our move toward a more casual culture has made us lose some of our glamour in style.

To this day I remember my mom’s go-to travel outfit from when I was younger. She would wear slim-fit dark jeans with a crisp white button down shirt,a pair of heels, and her classic blue blazer with gold buttons (I am still searching for a blazer just like hers, so if you’ve seen one let me know).  She would wear some long necklace and top off her look with her sunglasses. I remember just thinking that at that moment my mother just oozed with glamour and class. At the same time, she would then dress me in something nice yet itchy and uncomfortable.

So, there has to be balance between style and comfort when you travel and I don’t mean Juicy Sweat Pants and Jacket. Here is my pick:

1. A good pair of jeans or leggings (for the gals): Not only are jeans and leggings comfy and practical but they also won’t get all wrinkled like khakis or linen pants which might leave you looking like a hot mess after a long day of travel. Also, choose a dark color. Combine the two looks and you could wear jeggings!

2. Long Cotton Tee or Button Down Shirt: Some button downs are made of really thin material and might wrinkle easily so be careful.

3. Flats or Slide on Shoes: Easy to take off and put back on during security. Trust me I’ve worn boots many times and it’s so annoying especially if you tend to be a terminal runner like I am. (Terminal runner: travelers who are perpetually late and always running from security to their gate).

4. Pashmina Scarf: Whether in the summer or winter I always like to take one in case I get cold. I also like to use it like a blanket because something about airplane blankets give me the heebeegeebees.

Other things to bring with you:

– A jacket if you are going or coming from a cold climate.

– A pair of socks (if you are not wearing any) in case you get cold on the plane.

– A baggie of essentials: travel size deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, Clean and Clear Oil-Absorbing sheets, and a little make up. These are essential to freshen up after you arrive at your destination.

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Skymall Always Makes Me Smile

When I was a child, I was always so excited to go on planes. I would pack my backpack full of all my toys, books and my Sega Genesis. I would even look forward to airplane food because I loved being on planes so much. (On a side note, I’d like to mention that my palate has become a lot more refined since the days I used to think airplane food was amazing.)

However, years have passed since those days, and I have been on so many planes that to me air travel has lost some of its magic. But, there is still one thing I still look forward to and that is browsing the Skymall catalog. I used to look through every page and wish that for once my parents would get me “The World’s Largest Write on Map Mural” so I could mark all the places I’ve been with little flags. Over the years though, I have noticed that some of the products in Skymall have progressively gotten more ridiculous, and I constantly keep asking myself “Why in the world… .”

Here is a round up of some of my favorites from the Holiday 2009 edition:

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I don’t care if they call this an organized traveler’s leather hip pouch… this is a $60 glorified fanny pack.

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Why do you need to shoot a marshmallow over 30 feet?

And if you definitely need more distance you can get the marshmallow bazooka…

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Yea, I’d call this a chocking hazard but not because it has small parts.

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So, this is basically a tanning bed/box for your feet so now even your foot skin can get cancer.

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Yea, I’m just not dying to have a zombie coming out of my yard, sorry.

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I guess if you really like Harry and the Hendersons this would be a great addition to your garden.

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Hmm, if you have no trouble keeping track of the hour and date , why not just get a calendar? And, it also makes me wonder what kinds of conversations this starts.

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As if texting while driving wasn’t dangerous enough… now you can be completely distracted by your computer and printer. They should probably make “Not for use while driving” a lot bigger and bolder.

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I always wondered how much those giant monkeys at car dealerships were and now I know.

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Yep, when I’m underwater I have ALWAYS wanted to make and receive  phonecalls. I guess I don’t really see any value in this unless you’re like Jacques Cousteau or something. This might be good for sharks lurking around you though.

And as always I have saved the best for last:

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Wow… there are just no words. I’d pay $100 bucks to see the person who paid $100 bucks to buy this try to use all their brain power and teleketic energy to do this.

PS. Hey Skymall, if you’re hiring people to write your product descriptions… I’m currently looking for a job and would love to test your products

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