Thursday, December 10, 2015

A to Z Travel

Inspired by fellow blogger acquaintance, Erin from TexErin-in-Sydneyland.

A) AGE I was when I went on my first international trip: 18. I went to Niagara Falls, Canada with my dad, stepmom, and stepbrother in the dead of winter! It was pretty, but man, was it cold!

B) BEST foreign beer I've had and where:  Hoegaarden in Belgium.

C) CUISINE (favorite): In terms of traveling, I don't really have one.  I will admit, however, that regardless of where I am, I'm always a fan of pizza.
My favorite NY style pizza - Grimaldi's, Brooklyn, NYC

D) DESTINATION.  Favorite, least favorite, and why? I've been blessed to travel to so many fabulous places, there is no way I can pick just one favorite.  Choosing a least favorite is by far easier, it's hands down - Paris.  It was dirty, smelled of urine, and the streets and sidewalks were covered in cigarette butts.  That, along with the experience of fending off the gypsies at Sacre Coeur, left a sour taste in my mouth.

E) EVENT you experienced abroad that made me say "WOW!":  I've been fortunate enough to have had several of these moments when traveling.  For the sake of brevity, I distinctly remember saying "Wow..." out loud once we reached the summit of the Sydney Harbour Bridge (Bridge Climb).  The view of the harbour, the city, and the opera house was a definite WOW! moment.

F) FAVORITE mode of transportation while traveling: I don't really think I have one.  I've taken flights, cruises, road trips in cars, and crossed several bodies of water via ferries.  The one form of transportation I've not taken, excluding subways, is a train.  

G) GREATEST FEELING while traveling:  This is a hard prompt to answer, for I don't know if I can describe the feeling.  I guess the best description is the feeling of breaking out of my life, out of my routine for a while and indulging my adventurous, free spirited side that doesn't always get come out in my day to day life.

H) HOTTEST PLACE I've ever been to:  Either Las Vegas, Belize, or Mexico.  

I) INCREDIBLE SERVICE I've experienced and where:  Emeril's NOLA restaurant in New Orleans.

J) JOURNEY that took the longest:  Sydney to Los Angeles (14 hours), L.A. to Atlanta (4 hours), Atlanta to Louisville (1 hour).  That time doesn't include layovers, clearing customs, and taxiing to/from the gates.  It was a LONG ass travel day, let me tell ya..

K) KEEPSAKE from my travels:  I don't really have a consistent go-to keepsake that I always get when I'm traveling.  I like variety.  Here's a small, random sampling of some of the keepsakes I have:  a silver coated maple leaf Christmas ornament from Canada, a wall hanging featuring my wedding date depicted in Mayan symbols from Mexico, an adorable photo of me holding a koala in Australia, a Maori jade necklace from New Zealand, and a replacement filling in an upper bicuspid that I acquired in Ireland.

L) LET DOWN sight.  Where and why?  The Mona Lisa, located in The Louvre in Paris.  Why?  Well, given that the Mona Lisa is arguably one of the most famous and easily recognized pieces of art in the world, one would expect it to be big. It's not. It's only 30x21 inches, which isn't even poster size!  And, given that people were packed in front of it at least 12 bodies deep, it was impossible to get close enough to actually see any details.  It was a huge disappointment. 
My view of the Mona Lisa with the zoom...

M) MOMENT when you fell in love with traveling: When I was around 10 years old. My aunt subscribed to a travel magazine and I vividly remember looking at the glossy photos of foreign places I couldn't even locate on a globe yet. I remember thinking, "I can't wait to see all these amazing places one day."

N) NICEST HOTEL I've stayed at: The Moon Palace Golf and Spa Resort, Cancun, Mexico.

O) OBSESSION. What am I obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling:  I don't think I'm obsessed with any one thing in particular, I just try to document a little bit of everything in order to keep the memories more vivid.

P) PASSPORT STAMPS.  How many and from where are they: My current passport has 2 lonely, little stamps - one from the Bahamas and the other from Canada.  My expired passport contains stamps from Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Great Britain, France, The Netherlands, Mexico, and Japan.

Q) QUIRKIEST attraction I've visited:  New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum.

R) REALLY FRIGHTENING.  A place I visited in which I felt unsafe or uneasy:  Last summer, my best friend and I were walking back to our hotel in Philadelphia one evening at dusk after seeing the LOVE statue.  There were many bold, brazen, and perhaps mentally unstable panhandlers and/or homeless men that we had to walk past.  Although I hate to admit it, I was very uneasy.  Had they not been so brazen and assertive (there were a few that followed us), then it would've been a different experience.

S) SPLURGE. Something I have no trouble spending money on while traveling:  Experiences.  Now, I know I can't go completely hog wild because I usually am traveling on a budget, but I am more than happy to skimp on other things in order to have more money for tours, admission, and excursions.  Case in point, although touristy and very pricey, I loved the day my husband and I spent at Discovery Cove in 2014.  Yes, swimming with dolphins may be one of the biggest money rackets in the history of man, but the experience was still super cool.

T) TOURISTY thing I've done:  I've done all kinds of touristy things and feel absolutely no shame about doing them either!  For the sake of answering the question, I'll give two examples.  The earliest touristy thing I can remember doing is going to Disney World in 1979.  The most recent touristy thing I've done is visit the Bacardi Distillery in Puerto Rico.  

U) UNFORGETTABLE travel memory:  Again, too many to count.  So, I will share an early travel memory.  I will never forget the first time I saw the New York City skyline.  I was 19 years old and on a bus.  I was so excited that I could barely contain myself.  It was getting dark and I could see the lights and the skyline of the city in the distance.  As we continued to get closer to NYC, the buildings kept getting bigger and the lights brighter.  It was like nothing I had ever seen before.  (You must keep in mind that I hail from a little town in West Virginia that had less than two thousand residents.  Even the city where I attended college only had 50,000 residents.  I couldn't even begin to imagine the size and scope of a metropolis as large as NYC.)

V) VISAS.  How many and for where?  Honestly, I don't know.  I think something was required for Australia when I traveled there, but it was taken care of in advance by the organization I was traveling with.

W) WINE.  Best glass I've had while traveling: I'm not a wine drinker, so I can't answer this question.

X) eXCELLENT view and from where:  I've had so many, that it's truly hard to pick just one.  I'll use the most recent excellent view I've seen - the harbor at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Y) YEARS spent traveling: Despite being raised on my parents' meager school teacher salaries (they made enough to meet our needs and we were considered middle class in comparison to many other families in our little town, but there wasn't much left over), my mother did the best she could to expose me to sites of historical significance.  We took road trips to see Washington D.C., Gettysburg, Monte Cello, historical Williamsburg, the Biltmore Estate, and Atlanta.  Having said that, if I use the date of our first educational road trip, I've been traveling for 30 years.

Z) ZEALOUS sport fans and from where: I'm not a zealous fan of any sport.  During my travels, my path has crossed with a few zealous groups.  The group that stands out the most in my mind are the fans of the New Zealand rugby team the All Blacks, whom I encountered while crossing the Cooke Straight (NZ) via ferry.  They were watching their beloved All Blacks play on the ferry's TV during the crossing and their passion was sometimes quite scary!

Please feel free to share some of your A to Zs of Traveling.  Pick a letter and answer the prompt - easy peasy!  Thanks for stopping by!


  1. The All Blacks is a great example of zealous sports fans. I love that you "stole" this from me (that I stole from someone else). You don't say a lot about Japan. How was that? It's somewhere I've never been and am interested in seeing.

    1. If there had a been a “Greatest Unexpected Travel Surprise” prompt, I definitely would have listed Japan.

      A little backstory - before I visited Japan in 2008, I had never and I mean NEVER considered going there. Not sure why, but I hadn’t. For several years, I traveled with a group called People to People Student Ambassadors and I served as a teacher leader (chaperone) for these student groups. When I first learned that I had been assigned to the group going to Japan, I wasn’t enthused. But, after much soul searching, I decided to accept the assignment and to view it as an opportunity to go somewhere for free that I would never would go otherwise.

      The people of Japan made the trip such a pleasant surprise for me. They are, without a doubt, the most gracious and respectful culture I have ever encountered during my travels. My interactions with them was the highlight of the trip and even now, 7 years later, when I remember that trip, I remember the people first and the sights second.

      What made the trip hard for me was the humidity (I swear my hair never dried completely until I boarded the plane to come home) and the food. I’m not a fan of seafood and seafood is a HUGE staple in the Japanese diet. I don’t recall a meal, other than at the Hard Rock Cafe in Tokyo, in which seafood wasn’t present to some degree. The hotels we stayed at were nice and usually had big, nice breakfast buffets with a lot of variety that including traditional Japanese options as well as western options like eggs, sausage, cereals, etc. Even when eating the western options, though, due to the abundance of seafood options sitting in close proximity and the ever present fishy smell, every thing had a fishy taste to it. Needless to say, I didn’t eat much that trip. I have said before that the only reason I survived that trip was due to the two weeks worth of Clif Bars I brought with me and rice, which was available at every meal. That’s basically what I lived on for two weeks.

      Tokyo was big and busy. Nagasaki was European looking, not what I expected it to look like. The Nagasaki Peach Park, hypocenter, and Atomic Bomb museum were surreal. Kyoto was my favorite of the cities, for it had that old, traditional Japanese look to it.

      My favorite experience was when I stayed in a little fishing village for 3 or 4 days while the students had their home stay experiences. I stayed in a little B&B owned and operated by a couple who were also hosting 2 or 3 of our boys. It was so interesting to see common, ordinary people and their traditions, the interior of their houses, and everyday Japanese life far, far from the metropolis of Tokyo.

      It turned out to be a very valuable and worthwhile trip. Although not my favorite, I am very grateful to have had to opportunity to go. It is so unlike any place that I've visited.

  2. SO FUN! I Looooooooveee to travel... like A LOT! So this was super fun to read! :) I have only been places in the US and then to Canada on 4 occasions. Very happy with this, but would certainly like to do more international travel as well!! I also love to do a mix of touristy and non-touristy things. I think that gives you a great travel experience! I tend to pick up TOO many travel souvenirs... luckily they are all things I'll use (cute mugs, books related to the places, post cards to frame etc.). XO -Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

    1. Thank you! It was a fun piece to work on, for it brought back a lot of memories as I composed it.

  3. girl i feel you on the sydney to louisville flights... takes about 24 hours total including layovers. brutal!! i have done it so many times but KC has only done it twice and he's like 'please don't make me do that again' haha. i cannot wait to go back in 2017, if we have enough money i might do the bridge climb.. even though i make fun of it all the time, why the heck not?! i'm like half local, half tourist. we'll see.


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