Tag Archives: destination

Hello Seattle!

29 Sep

For those of you who don’t know, I have a really rad husband. And, I’m talking rad. He cooks all the time. He’s really funny and sweet. And, he’s a drummer for a living. Straight up drummer. Like gets paid to drum. And it’s disgusting how good he is at drumming. That being said, sometimes we get to travel around for fun drum stuff. This weekend, we went to Seattle for a drum competition.

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This is Brandon setting up to rock!

Well, he pretty much rocked it and won this electronic drum pad something or other, and I was proud, and it was fun, and that brings me to the rest of Seattle.

The competition was in Belleview, so we meet up with some friends there, and they took us to this place called Din Tai Fung, and IT. WAS. SO. GOOD. It was the heaven of dim sum. They had a bunch of people working non-stop making dumplings from scratch. Basically, we were so in love with it, we almost went there 2 nights in a row. We didn’t end up doing that, though, because we were afraid that we would miss out on another Seattle treasure. But, the fact that we ALMOST went there was awesome.

Day 2 in Seattle was Sunday, so we spent the day walking around Pike’s Place Market and walking around the wharf. So much fun.

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Look how cute we are! Awww.

I don’t know what it is about Pike’s Place, but I love that place. It’s so peaceful and all the flowers are so pretty, and the food is delicious. Basically, we ate fish, shrimp cocktail, fresh fruit…um..we ate a lot of stuff, so I’m going to stop there, so as to not be embarrassing.

If you go to Pike’s Place Market, here are some MUSTS:

1. Washington Berries – Get some, eat them. It will change your life.

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Do you know how good these taste?

4. Fish throwing. Watching the famous fish throw is surprisingly entertaining. Eat some shrimp cocktail while you are there too. Nom Nom Nom.3. Flowers. Flowers are stupid cheap, and so beautiful. Need I say more?

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The fish throwers in Seattle!

5. Relax. Seattle is all about relaxing, even if there are a hundred bums asking you for money so they can go buy pot.

 

Okay, that ’bout sums it up for now.

Oh Berlin, I’ll see you again soon!

20 Aug

I can clearly remember my first urge to travel abroad. For whatever reason, I’ve been obsessed with Germany since I was a little kid. It may have to do with the fact that I had two German Au Pairs when I was a kid. Maybe it has to do with my candy obsession and a secret desire to be Gretel, and shove the witch in the oven and eat her delicious candy house all up. I’m not sure exactly why I was obsessed with Germany, but it prompted me to take German all throughout Junior high, high school and college (only to move to Russia and learn Russian instead), and to dream of going there some day.

Well, I finally got the chance to go on the European trip of a lifetime and to see the city I’d been waiting for so long to see–Berlin. Oh yeah. Berlin. My Au Pairs would be so proud. Frau Bills (Jr. High German teacher, and favorite teach of life, consequently) would be so proud. Ashley was living her perfect dream of seeing Berlin. And this is how it went.

First things first. I was really hoping to whip out my German skills and solidify years and years of book study with impressive dialogue. Basically, this is what happened.

Attempt One

Me: “Wo ist…wo ist…die Bushaltestelle?”

German Lady: Blank stare. “I speak English. If you get off at this stop and turn right, you’ll see the bus station.”

Attempt Two

Me (best German accent I can produce): Ich mochte Bratwurst, bitte.

Waiter: Great! I’ll bring it out to you, and what would your friend like to eat?

Friend: I’ll have one too.

Unfortunately, I realized that everyone pretty much speaks English, and that my attempts to speak German only prompted people to speak back to me in English. Well, except for the people who work at the hospital…

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By day .5 of being in Berlin, I got uber (high five self for using a German word) sick. I’m talking stuck in the hostel for 2 days straight sick, busy thinking of ways to put myself out of my misery sick, instead of waltzing around Berlin getting my passport stamped at Checkpoint Charlie, and taking pictures by the Berlin wall. Finally, my friend, Jeni, made me go to the hospital which is where I learned socialized medicine is actually kind of a bummer, especially when you’re a foreigner, and I also learned that my German isn’t all that good.

I went to the ER and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited (insert the word waited for about 2 hours more of reading) for someone to help me. Once I FINALLY got someone to help me, I realized that unlike everyone I had encountered before, the hospital Germans didn’t speak English. Turns out that playing “Ich spreche Deutsch ” is not as fun when you’re bleeding out your ears (side note: that was a drastic over exaggeration…I do that when I’m sick, and I’ll continue to do it till I have the right blanket, the right amount of attention, and chicken noodle soup, okay? I’m a bit of a diva when I’m sick).

Anway, try two went like this:

Me: Ich bin krank…

Dr.: Germangerman german krank?

Me: Ich habe Halsschmerzen. Ich fühle mich nicht gut…Um, do you speak English? Does anyone speak English? I don’t know how to explain what is wrong with me, other than Ich bin krank.

Dr.: Germangermangerman Warten Sie hier, bitte. Germangermangerrmangerman…Wir haben einen Arzt, der Englisch spricht. Warten Sie hier. germangerman. blahhhhhh. ?!?!?!!?????????!!!!!!!!

Anyway, I paid 150 Euros and waited for 6 hours to finally get a doctor that spoke English, only to find out I had a viral infection that was only treatable by Root Beer medicine. Now I get why Germans don’t like Root Beer.

The unsweetened Root Beer they gave me made me feel good enough to go wander the streets for a day, or two and I got to see some amazing things including: The Berlin Wall, East Germany, Check Point Charlie, Potsdamer Platz, Brandenburg Gate, and I saw some really cool underground art. I’ll have to blog about that separately.

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I’m sick and happy. And, I don’t know what I’m wearing either.

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Berlin Wall, sick Ashley, nasty outfit, happy girl!

Needless to say, as sick as I was, Berlin was still a dream, especially because I was walking around in a daze most of the time. I’m excited to return and will drink all the Root Beer in the world to prepare immune system for German diseases, so I don’t get sick.

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Outfit was better and I was feeling better too.

For real, though, when you travel, make sure you bring some familiar medicine from home and make sure not to get in the way of anyone else’s germs!

Need a place to stay for free on your trip? Try the awesomeness of couchsurfing.org.

9 Aug

I decided to backpack across Europe right after the movie “Taken” was released. As a result, everyone I knew chastised me and told me to be careful to not get kidnapped and sold into sex slavery. I promised them that I would be smart and safe and reassured them that even if I was captured, my father, who is a very talented and successful graphic designer, would come rescue me for sure. Thanks, Dad. Big card for you on Father’s Day! That being said, I utilized a service that may sound nuts, but happened to be the most awesome thing of life. I urge everyone who likes traveling to give it a whirl.

Instead of paying to stay in hotels and hostels in my favorite destinations, I used couchsurfing.org. Couchsurfing.org is an organization that connects other travels. Basically, you sign up and create a profile, and offer your couch for travelers.  In return, people in cool locations offer their couch to you. I cannot begin to tell you about the awesomeness of this service.

First, it is a great way to meet new friends who also love traveling. I met great people in France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and I also met people from other countries who were staying with us at the same time. It was fun to talk about travel and hear about the best places to go from other avid travelers.

Couchsurfing.org is also unique in that you are staying with people who live in the area. That means you have a primary source on where to go, what to do, and what to eat.  I saved a ton of time I would have wasted researching on the internet and looking at maps by just asking my kind host. I also had some great experiences with food, which is sort of my specialty. Get this. One of my Italian hosts invited his chef friend over, and he cooked the most amazing Italian meal. It was the best meal I’ve ever had in my life. Straight up delicious. I also attended a wonderful picnic in France on Bastille Day.  I saw fireworks erupt all over Paris—an experience, I wouldn’t have had if I’d been left to my own devices.

While couchsurfing.org is amazing, there are a few good things to know/do.

  1. Make sure to bring a cool treat for your host. They are offering their house, time and energy to host you, so bring something special and unique to share with them.
  2. Learn how to make something delicious. A great way to bond and to show your appreciation is to cook an amazing meal for them.
  3. Make sure to read recommendations on their profile. Staying with a stranger can be nerve wracking, but couchsurfing.org offers recommendations. This means, people who have stayed there before write a little review on the host. This way you can guarantee a personality fit and your safety. Don’t stay with anyone who has negative reviews, or no reviews. Simple as that.
  4. Travel with a friend if you can. Traveling with a friend is a lot more fun, and also safer.
  5. Make sure to open your house to travelers as well.

If you have plans to stay somewhere else, you can also use couchsurfing.org for recommendations and to just meet cool people. When I was in Berlin, I met up with a couple people from couchsurfing.org, and they showed me a bunch of cool outsider art, graffiti and an underground culture that only Berliner’s typically visit.

Next time you are traveling, consider using couchsurfing.org to met new friends and find a great place to stay.

If you have any cool travel tips, I would love to publish a post about them. Here’s how to submit. Also, feel free to follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Ever thought of checking out Belarus?

31 Jul

I recently wrote a post about Russia, but I would feel extremely guilty if I didn’t show some love to White Russia (aka Belarus). Belarus is a beautiful country, and if you’re headed to Russia, you may as well hit up Belarus too! After all, it’s another stamp in your passport, right? Here are some things to know/do.

1. You need a visa for Belarus. While it’s possible to buy a train ticket from Belarusskiy Vogzal in Moscow without showing your Belorussian visa, and it’s even possible to get into the country of Belarus (by train) without a visa, you won’t be able to relax in the event a Belorussian official asks you for your visa. So, unless you want to risk some old fashioned jail time (and remember Belarus is still a dictatorship), do yourself a favor and get a visa. Sneaky-sneaky is not the best idea in old Soviet countries.

2. Remember! Remembering is a great thing to do in the country of Belarus and the architecture will constantly remind you of historical events. Sadly, most of Belarus was obliterated in WWII, and all that stands as original buildings is a small section of Minsk. As a result, much of the country has been rebuilt and there are manymanymany memorials built in remembrance of  WWII.  Touring Belarus is a heartwarming way to learn about WWII and honor those who died in the war. I would recommend visiting the city of Brest (right next to Poland) and also Khatyn. Prepare yourself for a lot of respect and reverence as you experience the atrocities of WWII.

3. Go to Minsk. Minsk is the largest city in Belarus and it’s happening, especially during the summer city festival. There are a lot of awesome art and history museums, great places to eat (seriously), and cool churches and sites.  I would especially recommend any Marc Chagall exhibits. Belorussians are proud of Marc Chagall, and, as such, they have amazing collections. Also, eat at Cafe Fresci. It’s “Italian” food. Well, it’s not really Italian, but it’s freaking good. It’s located  just behind October Square (Ploschad Oktyabrskaya). Save room for an ice cream sunday, because they are delicious.

4. Speaking of Marc Chagall. If you are into art, there is a little Marc Chagall Museum in Vitibsk, the city in Belarus where Chagall is from. I love Chagall, so to me, this is the definition of uh-mazing.

Marc Chagall Museum in Vitebsk

5. Don’t be lame and eat some Belorussian cuisine. Try borsch, cold borsch, pelmeni, pirogi, vareniki, oliveye, etc. I realized this probably won’t make much sense, so just go to Cafe Bistro Lido, and try what looks good. You won’t be disappointed, and if you are, sue me!

Belarus is beautiful. There are gorgeous dachas and green hills everywhere. It’s calm and the country is filled with beautiful memorials, reminding everyone of history. Go there. Love it.

Thaiglish

27 Jul

Not only is Thailand an adventure full of history and beauty, but it is also a complete hilarity for someone who studied language acquisition.

Exhibit A: Phonetics

Exhibit B: Morphology

Exhibit C: Syntax

I’d like to bear my testimony that my Master’s of Arts matters. Amen.

Russia Russian of Russianness!

27 Jul

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I found myself dreaming in Russian last night. When I lived in Russia, this was a daily occurrence, but Russian dreaming only happens every once in a while these days (and no, contrary to popular movie culture, Russian doesn’t pop up in my subconsciousness only when I’m dreaming about a mysterious villain).

Anyway, it got me thinking about one of my favorite places on earth–Moscow. While I think everyone should visit Moscow, there are a few things you ought to know before spending $200 on a visa and hoping over to Moscow for the trip of a lifetime. Here goes:

1. Moscow really is as cold as they say it is. Really, it is. Take the coldest you’ve ever been and times it by a lot colder, and then get your head wet, and stick it in a freezer for 45 minutes. Only come out when your nose buggers and eyeballs start to freeze.  That’s how cold it is.  That being said, don’t go to Russia anytime from October-March, especially not January and February. Russia has lovely summers, so go to Russia in June. Unless, you feel like killing a bear, skinning it, and using its coat for protection against the elements.

2. To an outsider, Russian sounds like someone is talking about something really important, or like they are plotting your death. At least that’s how it sounded to me before I learned the language. Chances are, people are just talking about something trivial like their dog or cat. I don’t know why you should know this, but I think it’s helpful.

3. Eat Russian food. It’s best if you can make friends with a Russian babushka and trick her into thinking you are her grandchild. If so, your tummy will be full of deliciousness.  If you do not have this luxury, don’t worry, you can find plenty of other delicious food there. If you eat at McDonald’s while in Russia, you are officially lame. Try borsch. Try pelmeni. Try verekni. Galuptsi. Pirozhki. Try it all. If you’re brave, try kvas (non-alcoholic wheat drink…or something like that) and kholodetz (jello-ed meat). I don’t recommend the later of the two, because, well…it’s jello-ed meat, folks.

4. Moscow is about culture, architecture and kick ass sightseeing. If you feel like going to the beach and lounging about, then head to the Bahamas, or maybe Sochi, or Yalta, but not Moscow. That being said, strap on your walking shoes, and check out the following: Red Square (obviously), Victory Park, Moscow University,  Old Arbat Street, The Church of Christ Our Savior, and more. If you’re serious about going to Moscow, e-mail me, and I will give more info on where to go.

5. Remember how I said you have to spend $200 on a visa? Here’s the deal. You can get a double entry visa for the same price. That means, you can leave the country and come back in again all for the same price of one entry. If you have time, go to Kiev, or Lithuania, or Estonia, or Latvia, or Finland, or Belarus (you need a visa for Belarus), and see another great place.

6. Use the metro. It’s rad. Everything is written in Russian, so it’s like a fun puzzle to figure out. Even if you get lost, the metro is really beautiful, so you’ll still have fun.

7. If you need to speak English, find someone that looks like they are in college. Old people (I hope that’s not discrimination) don’t really speak English there.

8. If you speak any Russian, give it a whirl. Unlike the French, Russians think it’s awesome when people try to speak their language. If you throw in some innocent slang (nothing vulgar), they will think you are super cute, love you forever and take you home to their grandma, so you can accomplish #3 on this list.

9. Register your visa. If you stay in any one place for longer than 3 days, you must register your visa. You can do this at the hotel where you stay. The only person who should touch your passport are the people at the front desk registering your visa.If you plan to hop from city-to-city, you can do this, but keep all proof of travel. If you don’t have your visa registered, these tickets will show proof of consistent travel, and then you will be a-okay.

10. If military or police confiscate your camera, it’s code for they are stealing your camera. Act natural and run away with your camera. That’s a specific scenario, but it’s also kind of a metaphor. Don’t let people take advantage of you, or mess with you. If you feel weird about something, trust your gut.

Okay, enjoy your trip!

US Airways Gets an F-

19 Jul

I’ve done a lot of traveling in my day, which means I spend a lot of time on airplanes. I’ve flown a bunch of different Airlines and mostly have had great experiences.

The best experience I ever had was with a Bulgarian Airline on a flight from Moscow to Sophia. I got really sick right before boarding the flight and was throwing up the whole time. I was so sick, I could hardly stand. The flight attendants took me to the back made me a little bed and tended to me the entire time. I was so sick, but I felt loved, cared for, and their dedicated customer service meant a lot to me.

Conversely, the worst experience I’ve ever had was with US Airways. Being such an avid traveler, I had special plans for my honeymoon and wanted it to be the most perfect vacation ever. My husband and I flew to Cancun, and a few days into our honeymoon, we both got extremely sick. My poor husband couldn’t keep anything in his body and was extremely dehydrated, and I couldn’t stop throwing up (again). After a few days of this and even trying Mexican medication, it was time to get home to a doctor and get home as quickly as possible.

We called the Customer Service representatives at US Airways and they assured us that all we needed to do was pay $300 now and then send a doctor’s note to them and then they would refund the money. We kept our end of the deal, paid the money, flew on a miserable flight home, and promptly sent in the doctors note to US Airways. We heard nothing for a while. Then, we heard that we weren’t sick enough to get a refund. Then we heard that they had no such policy. Needless to say, we still haven’t seen a refund.

Get your story straight, US Airways!

I love to blog, and I blog about experiences both good and bad. All I know is that travelers should be treated with honesty and respect, especially when prices for flights are astronomical and there is loads of competition in the airline industry.

For my future flights, I will not be flying US Airways, and I hope you don’t ever have to deal with their horrendous customer service either.