My best friend Stephanie always calls me her little gypsy soul, and I’m known among my friends as the girl that can’t stay in one place for too long. Perhaps I was a gypsy in a past-life or perhaps I have travel A.D.D that has gone undiagnosed or maybe, just maybe I’m so passionate about travel I refuse to live my life any other way. Anyway that is neither here nor there, my point is I’m a girl who loves to travel at every chance possible. My inbox is inundated with messages asking about my travels; “how do you afford it?”, “I’m going to Europe next year, where should I go?”, “What’s your favorite city?”, and the most frequent “can I come with you?”. I love seeing these messages, I am happy to talk to you until your ears bleed or write you an email the length of the bible when it comes to travel. In fact I recall someone I had known for about 15 minutes telling me I’m “the travel encyclopedia”—a crown I’m happy to wear.
Since I get asked so many of the same questions I’ve decided to start answering them via blog posts. I’m not going to tell you what you should and shouldn’t see or do. If that’s what you’re looking for then all you have to do is Google “things to do in London” and you’ll get a million sites with these suggestions. As an amateur traveler I used to make a list of things I had to see while visiting a new place and my whole trip was planned down to the minute. Quite frankly this is the most boring way to see a new city, my philosophy now is to write down a few places I would like to see but when I wake up each morning I assess how I feel and let my mood inspire my day. I can’t emphasize enough how much more enjoyable and memorable your trip will be when you don’t handcuff yourself to an itinerary. I’ve found that some of my most amazing experiences were the outcomes of my decision to just allow myself to “wander”. Listed below are my recommendations of the best places for Europe first-timers and why I love these places and think you will too. Cue the drum roll please…….
(in no particular order)
I love London for many reasons, and yes my infatuation with the English accent certainly played a role in making the list. London is one of those places where you instantly want to live. There is so much culture in such a concentrated area; it’s the New York of Europe. London is one the few cities that actually embraces it’s stereotypes; British style taxi cabs, double-decker buses, red telephone booths, pubs on every corner offering ‘bangers and mash’ and of course the gloomy weather. Everyone is so friendly & approachable and if you’ve ever watched ‘The Office’ then you’ll understand the love for British humor. London is like no other city you will ever visit in Europe and that’s what I enjoy most about it. It’s a gateway city for someone who has never been to Europe. Everyone speaks English and yet it’s distinct from any other English-speaking country. Although London can be quite expensive there’s an added bonus if you make it your first stop; everywhere else on your trip will seem that much less expensive. CLICK HERE FOR LONDON TIPS
- Paris or as the locals say “Par-ee”
I think Paris is on everyone’s list, even the lists of people who have been one or forty times. Although my trip to Paris was less than 24 hours it was enough to make me smitten. It’s the city of romance where every street corner and every bridge and every little quaint Parisian café is picture perfect. Not only is it a beautiful city but it is also a historical city with Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. I mean come on, who doesn’t want a picture in front of the Eiffel Tower? And to see it lit up at night—magnifique! I don’t know if it’s the ornate buildings, the grandeur of the Eiffel Tower or the fact that it was raining, cold and I happened to stumble upon thee cutest café serving thee most delicious French onion soup I’ve ever had in my life but I’m in love with Paris and everything it stands for. Oui Oui
To be in Rome for a week is simply not long enough to comprehend the history and ancient ruins that make Rome the popular city it is today. With that being said, a year probably wouldn’t be a long enough visit either. One of the most historical cities in the world, it’s’ constantly being excavated by archaeologists who, to this day, continue to uncover newly discovered ruins. I have been to Rome twice and I wouldn’t say it’s a picturesque city in terms of scenery. On the contrary, the Colosseum has taken by breath away on both visits by the utter vastness and thought that it was built purely by hand. In between visiting monuments I snuck in a scoop or two of gelato and I’m pretty sure I saw over 20 historical sights…you do the math, that’s a lot of gelato! Needless to say once I got tired of gelato and sightseeing I was guaranteed to find a local café with a cute little Italian man speaking broken English serving homemade pizza and pasta. The Italians are passionately friendly and make it their duty to embrace strangers, there is nothing like going to a foreign country and feeling like you’re right at home.
Lisbon wasn’t even on my radar until my fifth time to Europe, a decision I regretted the moment I stepped foot on the cobble-stoned streets. What I love most about this city is that there is so much to explore and see yet it’s so easily accessible and even walkable. There are several miradouros, or viewpoints, scattered around the city where one can view Lisbon from hilltops all with different perspectives. Cable cars go up and down the main streets of the city with stops at the most popular tourist attractions. The nightlife is another highlight of the city. Whether you’re looking for a hostel, turned brothel, turned trendy bar or an indoor night market with food from restaurants owned by Portugal’s top chefs everything is in the palm of your hand. It’s a very safe city and there is always something to do or some kind of event. Lisbon is also the central hub for day trips to Sintra, a small town with multiple castles or Cascais , a coastal town known for its fresh seafood. Even though I only spent three days in Lisbon I was able to see three very different towns all within 20 miles of each other, something that is perfect for first-timers wanting to get the most out of one stop.
Whenever I go on a trip with multiple stops I like to give myself a variety of cities. I’ll do one city with lots of walking or history and then I’ll do a city where I can relax and sights-see at my leisure. Barcelona is a place that has some very interesting architecture, like Sagrada Familia and The Gaudi house. It also has beautiful beaches if getting a tan is on your agenda. It’s a great escape from the city atmosphere and the nightlife is known for being one of the best in Europe. If you want to party until 7:00 a.m. or if you simply want to have a more conservative night watching a Flamenco show and eating paella Barcelona provides both.
Welcome ladies and gentlemen to my blog, the place for all your curiosities about travel. I know what you’re thinking, “why is she so credible, different, entertaining, interesting or informative when it comes to travel?” Well I’ll give you a brief run-down; My travel obsession started when I was 20. I moved to New York completely alone for a summer, made amazing friends and memories and I haven’t been able to kill the travel bug since. I’ve visited 26 countries on 4 continents with no intention of stopping (even when I’m an old lady in a wheel chair, I’ll find a way). I’ve traveled alone, with friends, family, a boyfriend, strangers, and small groups. I’ve slept in 5 star, luxe hotels and I’ve slept on airport floors. I’ve traveled with everything planned to the minute and with nothing planned more than a minute in advance. While I can’t say I’ve “done it all”–no one really has– I can say I’ve covered a pretty broad range of the travel spectrum. Want to know how to pack? I can help. Want to know how to plan? I’m your girl! Want to know how to save? Please, you’re talking to the queen of saving. Do you just want to stay at home, in your comfy bed with your cat curled up next to you and live vicariously through someone else’s adventures? Welcome, darling, I’ve been expecting you!
Here’s a little taste of how my travel itch started and a story from my recent summer adventures. Oh, did I mention this story was published in my local newspaper? I try to act all nonchalant about my very first publication, but I pretty much danced around my room for 5 minutes to “I’m too sexy for my shirt” when I found out I was being published. Anyway, hope you enjoy….
I have a bit of a love affair with New York City. We don’t see each other often but when we do there’s always chemistry. New York is one of those places you either love or hate almost instantly. I instantly fell head over heels in love! The city that never sleeps, the hustle and bustle, the cafes on every corner each one offering different cuisine and a different ambiance, the amazingly fashionable people that grace the streets, taxi’s honking and zipping by, the land of opportunities and the world’s melting pot; it was where I belonged. I had been to New York in 2006 and 2007 with my family; once as a week-long trip and the other as 3-day-stop-over on our way to Bermuda, this is when my fascination with travel began. In 2008 I was 20 years old and on the verge of adulthood itching to go explore on my own. I ended up finding a summer program through New York University that allowed me to stay in the dorms while taking a course about New York theater. Being that I had never really been away from home longer than a week on my own I didn’t know what to expect going alone, but I was fearless. It turned out to be one of the best summers of my life and as far as traveling goes I haven’t looked back since.
Every summer I plan some sort of trip to get away from my everyday life and feed the travel bug that lives within me. This summer I planned a six week trip to Europe and decided to add a two week stop in New York city. My friend Tina who I met while living in Australia now lives in the West Village area of Manhattan and I usually stay at her place when I’m in town. For the first five days in New York I had Amber, a friend from home, join me in the ‘Big Apple’. We did all of the tourist spots: New York Library, Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge and the9/11 Memorial site. Although I had been to all of these attractions before New York is one of the few places I’ve visited where I don’t mind seeing the same things. It’s sort of like looking at a piece of art over and over. Each time you look at it you notice more details, different brush strokes, or simply something you may have overlooked the first time. This is one of the many reasons I love New York, you can visit the city a million times and still every time is a unique experience. Another great quality about NYC is the diversity of people, very rarely do you meet people who were born and raised in Manhattan. Most people are from other states in America, but there are also numerous foreigners who flock here for work or simply the allure of living in the big city. After Amber headed back to Los Angeles I was hit with a nasty virus that I later found out was making its way around the city. I was bed ridden for two days trying to fight whatever bug I had so I would be healthy enough for the next leg of my journey. Half way into the first day of my sickness I was not only feeling physically sick but I was also feeling homesick. I started to question whether I should even be going on the rest of my trip. All I wanted was my own bed in my own home with all the things I’m used to. I finally started feeling better after sleeping the entire two days and taking more medicine than I could keep track of, but the homesickness lingered. Doubt settled in and I couldn’t even find an inkling of excitement within myself for my upcoming adventure to Europe.
On my last weekend in New York Tina organized a nice dinner in the city with some friends. The five of us ordered a couple dishes each and shared, allowing everyone a tasting of multiple items. I had never met Tina’s friends that were dining with us so there was so much to talk about over dinner, not to mention we were all from different countries adding more topics for conversation. Sitting around our table were a French, an Australian, a Canadian and two Americans. There was never a moment of silence during dinner, as we were all so interested in learning about each other’s cultures and how we all ended up sitting at this table together in New York City. It was at this table that my feelings of home sickness vanished as if they never even existed. One of the people at our table energetically told us stories about his climb on Mount Everest. Another told us how he trekked Africa for a month. I shared stories of my trip last summer exploring Europe all on my own. The next thing we knew we were the last few diners at the restaurant. We were all so intrigued by each others lives that time became irrelevant. It was the stories I heard and the stories I shared that reminded me why I loved traveling so much and sparked the excitement in me for the next part of my journey. I realized that the people you meet and the experiences you encounter while traveling, whether it’s near or far, long or short are invaluable and inspire something within that nothing else can. I follow my heart, reinvent myself at every destination, explore the unfamiliar, and search for questions not answers. As a popular Chinese proverb goes, “It is better to travel 10,000 miles than to read 10,000 books” I say it is better to travel just 1,000 miles than to read 1 million books! Get out, go travel and take advantage of all that this world has to offer.
Nicole is a lover of life, an unconventional free spirit with a hint of rebellion and suspects she was a gypsy in a past life. She is an outgoing, bubbly, intelligent, witty and positive person. Nicole is a 25-year-old aspiring writer and is also the author behind an amateur travel blog, hence the reason she is getting her degree in journalism at California State University, Dominguez Hills She has been to 19 countries and with every trip she takes her hunger for exploring the world becomes more insatiable. Of the 19 countries Nicole has visited, she has also lived in two of them; Spain and Australia. She lived in Spain for one month while studying Spanish and although her Spanish is good enough to get by, she learned more so how to party like the Spaniards than really learn the language like she had hoped. Two years after her time in Spain, Nicole moved to Australia for a year, working, making new friends and learning about the culture. This is Nicole’s favorite country and if it wasn’t a 13-hour plane ride she would probably move there. There are only two real passions Nicole has in life, writing and traveling. She hopes to one day incorporate her love for travel with her career in journalism.