Tag Archives: destination

Why Russians aren’t smiling

29 Apr

A lot of Americans that come home from a quick trip to Russia ask me why Russians are so mean. I always respond that Russians aren’t mean at all, and, in fact, they are some of the kindest people that I know. What makes Russians seem mean is simply a cultural difference in what facial expressions are appropriate and when.

I came across this blog post about why Russians don’t smile like Americans do, and I couldn’t have said it better myself. Anyone who is planning a trip to Russia would be wise to read this blog post about why Russians don’t smile.

A Stalin era poster. "Be vigilant. Even walls are listening nowadays. Chat and gossip are not far from high treason. DO NOT CHAT!"

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Travel tips from Stef!

14 Mar

Check out this interview with world traveler, Stef!

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What is your favorite place you have traveled to?

My favorite place to travel to was Santorini, Greece. I first saw it on a calendar and then on Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I knew I wanted to go there. I found a picture online that I loved of Santorini and I put it as my wallpaper on my computer. It was so awesome to go to that exact place and take my own picture. It was so amazing to be where I had always dreamed of being. I have since chosen another number one, because it was such a great experience.

What is your favorite travel memory?

One of my favorite travel memories was in Instanbul, Turkey. We went on a boat with all the teams from my Folk Festival. Teams from Belgium, Taiwan, England, Portugal, etc. We rode down the Bosphorus Strait. On one side was Instanbul in Asia and on the other side was Instanbul in Europe. We had a dance party with music blasting and the most amazing view of Turkey and its big buildings and mosques.

What is your worst travel memory?

My worst travel memory ever was one I am glad I lived to tell the story. My team and I went to the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain. However, we did it the totally wrong way, have learned from our mistake, and would advise friends to do it differently. We were dropped off at 8PM with nowhere to stay. The Running of the Bulls is a party all night with food, music, fireworks, carnival rides, dancing in the streets with everyone, but when you don’t drink, there is only so much you can do. At about 2:00/3:00ish we were sooooo tired. You could not enter the stadium until around 6:00 AM the next morning. (We were going to watch everyone run into the arena because we were not allowed to run with the bulls since we were on tour dancing). So, we literally found cardboard boxes and slept on them until 6:00 AM . We really felt homeless. It was awful. The worst was finding one of our directors, an older man in his 60s, curled up in a ball on some stairs. We all felt homeless and it was bad. It was so cool when the actual Running of the Bulls happened at 8:00 AM. We recommend people to go at night and do the fun activities and get a hotel room and then go at 6:00 to the arena.

What are some travel tips you would offer to other travelers?

Travel tips: some of my favorite moments are when I have stayed at hostels. In New York City, we had roommates from all countries. We even spent the day with our roommate from Germany. She was alone and spent the day with us, went to church with us, dinner with us, etc. It was a memorable day. She was living in DC at the time doing an internship. We were able to meet her there and she showed us around our own capital.  Our hostel in Lisbon, Portugal was a trek to get to. Up lots of hills, dragging our luggage, but when we entered our room it was the most BEAUTIFUL view!

I Reek of Russia and I Love it!

12 Mar

Time for a little throwback travel post. I found this journal post about my 3rd visit to Russia, and it gave me the giggles. This was back in 2009.

Highlights from Russia so far:

1. Told everyone in Tula I was coming to visit them on Saturday…Jeni and I BOTH thought it was Friday (freaking time change), so I managed to accidentally ditch the Russian friends I haven’t seen since 2007, while having a nice gulyat’ (stroll) in Moscow.

2. Saw Faberzhe egg special collection at the Pushkin Museum. AWESOME. I want one for my birthday.

3. Asked someone to take my picture on Red Square and it turned out to be Alice Cooper’s band. They got flirty with us and asked us to come to their concert. Alice Cooper is a bit scary, so we’ll have to see about that.

Jeni and Ashley on Red Square

Most people take pics of Alice Cooper’s Band. No, Jeni and I ask them to take pics of us.

Lenin's tomb

By 2009, I had been to Red Square DOZENS of times and had not seen Lenin. I finally saw him in 2011 when I returned with my sweetie, Brandon. It was both creepy and cool.

4. Sloshed through barf on the metro. I feel asleep for like one station and I got up in a panic and as it turns out…someone else had a panic and managed to barf right on my standing place, and I literally had slippery throw up feet. Was wearing flip flops. Had to pay 39 rubles for “gas water” that Jeni poured on my feet while I winced in grossed-out-edness.

5. Meet up with my friend, Larisa, and some grossies tried to pick up on us. One of them pinched Jeni’s butt. I punched him in the shin.

6. Missed the last bus to Rosinka (a place no one in Russia knows about)–missed it NOT because we weren’t there on time, but probably because we were not on the correct side of the street. Yeah, then we sat and twirled our hair and smiled at boys who naturally asked us if we wanted a ride. Turns out they were from Georgia (country, not state) and their dads were in another car giving us the mafia/creepster look. We didn’t know the address (totally RUSSIAN SELO type of place where it’s just Rosinka and a house number…no address), so we call the emergency number and find out it’s close to a place called Mitino. We pray in our hearts. God sends Russian guardian angel driver, who doesn’t know where Rosinka is either, but finds it and doesn’t charge us anything for the ride, because it was so “priyatno” (nice) for him to be with us. Wow! I love being cute.

7. I smell like chimney just from being here. No really…I do.

Scuba Diving in Cozumel, Mexico

25 Feb

First things first, Mexico is not my favorite place for vacationing for one major icky reason: Montezuma’s Revenge. You can read more about THAT from my post about my honeymoon in Cancun. Anyway, when traveling to Mexico, it’s important not to be too cavalier about where you eat. Here are some guidelines I recommend following:

  • Skip the street food.
  • Stay at a decent resort and only eat at the resort.
  • Pack your own snacks.
  • Pack your own bottled water.
  • Don’t drink soda from a bottle; drink it from a can. Also, wipe off any can you will be opening with a Clorox wipe before partaking of your cool beverage.
  • If you want to go on a vacation and eat good food, then go to Italy, not Mexico. Mexico is about Pray and Love, but not Eat. MmmKay?  Mmmkay!

While this may seem extreme, I promise you will be thanking me when you are not spending every waking moment with the toilet moaning “why me, why-oh-why?” between barfs and poops. You’re welcome.

That being said, let’s get onto the good stuff.  Cozumel, Mexico has some of the best diving ever. If you’re even thinking about getting into scuba diving, you MUST visit Cozumel. If you’re worried about getting sick (can you tell my experience with getting sick in Mexico affected me just a tiny bit?!?!), then consider taking a cruise that stops off in Mexico and spending your day in Cozumel under the sea with a professional dive master. If you’re not too concerned, then seek out a decent resort and a hook up from one of the dive shops around, and dive your guts out.

Some of my friends and I got a great deal on a decent resort in Cozumel, and a great diving deal with Papa Hogs in Cozumel. We pretty much spent the entire time diving awesome ship wrecks, reefs, and some of us experienced our first ever night dives!

Scuba Diving in Mexico

Diving in Cozumel, Mexico

If you’re new to diving, you must go on a night dive. Make sure you have a great flashlight, so you can see the night sea creatures. Prepare yourself for some wild lobster, crab, and octopodes. It’s awesome to see what sea creatures come out during the night.

scuba diving in Cozumel, Mexico

Getting ready for our first dive in Cozumel, Mexico

Not only is Mexico beautiful under the water, but there are some awesome things above the water. Julie and I rented scooters and visited different beaches around the island and even found a fun festival with live music, a cool market, and Mexican food (again, don’t eat it). While we were exploring the island, the rest of our group took a day trip across the island to Tulum and Chichen Itza. If you’re into amazing beaches and wonders of the world, this is a great option. If you’re not into that, you’re weird, and probably hate fun, or hate getting up early…one of the two.

Enjoy your trip to Mexico! Don’t get the runs!

Hello Nashville! Hello Music City!

19 Nov

Some highlights of my recent trip to Nashville.

1. CMAs – Woo woo! Country music is a new thing for me, and I mean v. new. I’ve never been big into country music, but I figure if I’m looking to move to music city, and since my husband drums in a country band, I should probably check out the country music scene. Turns out, I like it. Carry Underwood. Miranda Lambert. Little Big Town. Taylor Swift. The Civil Wars. Oh yeah. I can do this.

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A pic of Little Big Town taken from our seats 100 miles away!

2. Country Music Hall of Fame – This was an awesome museum. If you’re into music, you gotta come check out the scene. If you’re poor, consider going after 4:00, because tickets are 1/2 off, and it’s easy to see the whole museum in an hour.

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Country Music Hall of Fame

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Gold and Platinum records. B’s record will be here someday soon!

3. Frist — Into art? Check out the exhibits at the Frist in downtown Nashville. Right now, they are featuring Carrie Mae Weems and Brian Aflred. Not only is the art great, but they have a great center to learn how to produce art. Take your kids, or enjoy it yourself. It’s fun. Brandon and I went crazy learning all about art.

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Frist Museum in Nashville

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Art workshop at the Frist!

4. Grand Ole Opry – So, we happened to go to the Grand Ole Opry on the day it was closed. Yeah, super bummer, but the good news is it’s not closed forever. Mark it down for future fun.

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Playing the guitar at the Grand Ole Opry.

5. Broadway! Check out Broadway for fun local music.

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Brandon playing with a band at the Honky Tonk on Broadway.

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Gem #1 from Nashville

9 Nov

I don’t know about you, but a huge part of going on a vacation is finding fun places to eat. By fun places to eat, I mean delicious food, great prices, and one of a kind. If you are thinking Applebee’s, or something, then we’re not on the same page here, and I call you to food loving repentance.

My husband and I spent the last week in Nashville and we stumbled on a few excellent food finds, but the best by far was Sam’s Sushi on the corner of Church and Printer’s Alley. Holy smokes, this place is awesome, and if you go to Nashville, you have to go there.

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It’s a small, dumpy little square building, but it’s run by a cute Japanese man that is down for a good conversation. We managed to talk football, politics, and he even told us the great places to park for free, which is great advice considering parking in Nashville is an expensive beast.

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Not only is the conversation great, but the prices are amazing. It’s anywhere from $2-$4 for a roll. Yes, you heard right. That’s $2-$4 for a whole roll, and they are GINORMOUS. My husband and I will usually order 4-5 rolls to share when we go to any of the popular sushi places in Utah. These rolls were so big that we shared 3 and were stuffed!

The rolls aren’t 100% the best sushi I have ever eaten in my entire life, but they are delicious and the value is amazing.

When you go to Nashville (and you should, because it’s rad), make sure to make the trek to Printer’s Alley and eat at this wonderful place.

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Also, they had this weird drink I’d never seen before, so, naturally, I had to try it.Image

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Sometimes the best vacation is right under your nose!

3 Oct

My husband and I spent a wonderful and romantic weekend together a few weeks ago. We enjoyed a fun concert, star-gazed, spent time together enjoying the mountains, and had a delicious  homemade breakfast.  It. Was. Awesome. Guess where we were? Oak City, UT. Where? Exactly.

Often times, it seems like in order to enjoy a vacation, it requires a lot of preparation and planning. We think we have to book a hotel, find a rental car, plan meals and activities that won’t be too expensive, pack, and hop on a plane. That’s a great way to spend a vacation, but it can be costly and require a lot of time off work.

If you are looking for a fun getaway, but don’t have a lot of time to plan, time to get away from work or kids, or maybe funds are low for the month, try exploring somewhere that is near your hometown. You’ll find every area has its charm.

We live in Utah, and we have enjoyed small getaways to Oak City, Moab, Park City, Salt Lake City, Eden, and the Unitas and the Wasatch Mountains, to name a few.

All you need to have fun is good company, a couple card games, some time in nature, and a delicious meal.