Barcelona with Nabeeda

IMG_1910

I just got back from my first visit to Barcelona! I went with a hand luggage filled with excitement and a diary filled with plans. The city of wonders was at my feet and I was ready to go.

Upon arrival, I remember quickly leaving my stuff at my hostel and being ready to explore the city. I started the day with a walking tour of the Gothic City area. I am glad I went on the tour because I managed to make friends (surprises me too).

After the tour, I went to grab some lunch from the main market in Barcelona (La Boqueria). The market was amazing; my food choice was terrible.

After sneaking in a quick nap and charging my phone (the struggle of team iPhone), I left to tour the city on foot with my new friend. We visited the following locations:

  1. Barcelona Cathedral: entrance was free after 5PM so it was worth a visit as we did a quick tour and lit some candles.
  2. Parc de la Ciutadella: This park was amazing and some of the funniest things happened to us here; a strange man came up to me and my friend and said ‘Barcelona is so beautiful but dirty’ and then he cleaned the floor in front of us with a cloth and said have a good day and walked off. Didn’t ask for money or anything. So, for a laugh and to see a mixed range of people, this park is a must do.
  3. Las Ramblas: the main street and the busiest one as we walked along with beautiful sights all around us. It was amazing to see how engrossed people were in their worlds. Each living their own story and life.

Exploration continued late into the night but we did not find many remarkable sights. We just immersed ourselves into the Spanish culture rather than just being a tourist. You always learn more when you let the traveller/tourist label go. The next day was even more exciting as I started the day off alone with a quick breakfast and a bit of getting lost.

  1. Park Guell: A stop I am glad I made as I saw some of Antoni Gaudi’s work and some beautiful sights surrounding it.

IMG_2002

  1. Bunker del Carmel: This was on my list forever as I had seen many people post breathtakingly amazing pictures of this place. Due to my struggle with maps and directions, I ended up getting lost for an hour! One bus and a taxi ride later, I managed to get to this place. Trust me, the view left me speechless. It was one of those moments that made me realize what a little part of this big world I am.
  2. Barcelona Castellenos: This was an interesting stop. Not many people know but in Barcelona they have a competition where people create people towers to beat the world record. I managed to get to the place where they were having a practice run and it was amazing to see how high they managed to get. I was slightly worrying for the little girl on top.
  3. La Sagrada Familia: now this is a well-known sight and the one I was really looking forward to. I went with one of my friends and it was as beautiful as they say. Tip: book your ticket in advance because otherwise you will never get a chance to go in. I learnt from my mistake and unfortunately I couldn’t go in but the outside was enough to leave my mouth wide open.

IMG_1889

  1. Last and final stop; which was the reason I went to Barcelona was the Ed Sheeran concert. All I can say is one of the best nights of my life.

IMG_2151

Over 72 hours with 5 hours of sleep, I had an amazing experience of Barcelona. I missed some things but I will definitely be going again because Barcelona makes you fall in love and you can’t get enough.

 

To follow my journey and trips, follow my blog at https://worldofnabeeda.com.

My Ultimate New Zealand Bucket List – North Island

My recent trip to New Zealand was literally the trip of a lifetime. I planned it start to finish based on reading blogs and travel websites to ensure I was getting the best of New Zealand. In the process, I learned a lot about the history, people, and just what New Zealand is known for. Along the way, I found some hidden gems and even some areas to avoid. I’ve always been a planner but this trip took my love for travel and planning to a whole new level. I planned thirteen full days start to finish, which included the flights, hotels, transportation, activities, road stops. I know I sound like I am bragging and it’s because I totally am; a lot of love, frustration, planning and re-planning went into this trip to make sure it was perfect.

fullsizeoutput_549.jpeg

In 13 days, we saw so many beautiful places and did so many incredible things. There were things that I never thought I could do just based on the fact I have limited myself so much on past travels. I came up with the list of things that you must do while in New Zealand, which could be an activity, visiting a place, or just something you can’t miss. When you go to New Zealand, none of these things should disappoint. With New Zealand having so much to offer, I will be dedicating one post to the North Island and one post to the South Island. This post will be about the North Island and everything it has to offer.

Hahei, Coromandel

fullsizeoutput_567

Hahei is locate on the Coromandel Peninsula is located just a short 2.5 hours away from Auckland and the perfect beach paradise. White sand beaches, incredibly pleasant people, and beautiful weather will make sure that Coromandel will not disappoint. We spent an entire day exploring Hahei, one of the most popular towns on the peninsula.

  • Gemstone Bay – Rent some snorkel gear from Cathedral Cove Dive & Snorkel and head down to the Gemstone Bay to have a chance at seeing some of the sea creatures of New Zealand! We unfortunately did not see much but we were able to spot some sea urchins. It was still Spring so the chance of it being too cold for a lot of the sea life is increased.
  • Stingray Bay – Spot some stingrays swimming near the shore and enjoy the beautiful beach that is secluded from the rest of the attractions.

fullsizeoutput_568

  • Visit Cathedral Cove – A rock formation that looks like…you guessed it!… a cathedral! The beautiful spot makes for some dramatic photos and a place you just can’t miss if you visit Coromandel. It is quite the walk/hike as it takes about 40 minutes from the car park but I promise it is totally worth it. Pack a snack and water!

fullsizeoutput_56cfullsizeoutput_1dfullsizeoutput_56d

  • Hot Water Beach – Rent or buy a spade and head over to Hot Water Beach on either side of low tide. The rule of thumb is 2 hours prior or after the low tide time. You can find that information online. You dig a hole in the sand and feel the naturally hot water. It is like a hot tub without the bubbles! Be sure to have good timing as it gets crowded and you also don’t want to miss the opportunity to soak up all the heat! In addition to the hot sand baths, the views from the beach are beautiful.

fullsizeoutput_562fullsizeoutput_55d

  • Stay at Tahiti Lodge – the perfect accommodations for those staying a night or a week. The woman who owns the lodge also takes really great care of it. She keeps everything very clean and perfect and from what her staff was saying, she would not accept anything less! They have mostly 2 bedroom accommodations, which are great for couples or friends traveling together. They also provide a spade to use at Hot Water Beach!
  • Eat at The Pour House Bar & the Coromandel Brewing Co. – They brew their own beer and they have magnificent food. We ate here our first night in New Zealand and it was fantastic.
  • Grab Breakfast at Colenso. It is a family owned café with the most delicious food and the cutest gift shop. If you are one that cannot disconnect from the world while traveling, they offer complimentary WiFi too!

fullsizeoutput_4ecfullsizeoutput_4f0fullsizeoutput_4f1

Hobbiton

fullsizeoutput_4f5.jpeg

For any Lord of the Rings fan, this is a must do. I am not a huge fan as I watched the trilogy weeks before we left (should I even admit to this?) but Hobbiton was incredible. If you just close your eyes, you can imagine the scenes being brought back to life and you are standing right there. Who wouldn’t want to visit “Middle Earth”?!

  • Take a movie set tour – it is the only way you get access to Hobbiton as it’s protected by the tour guides and there are strict rules about where you can and cannot go. Whether you are a big fan of the movies or not, the tour is really interesting. This movie set is so well done and permanent! They have real plants that sometimes need to be replaced on a regular basis during seasons when those plants can’t survive. They want the set looking just like it does in the movie and you can see the amount of care and time they spend to do just that.
  • Have a drink at the Green Dragon Inn – Included with your admission ticket is a drink from the Green Dragon. They brew their own beer and have some delicious apple cider. If you aren’t a drinker, don’t worry! They have a non-alcoholic ginger beer.

fullsizeoutput_576

  • Take a picture with/of Bilbao Baggin’s House – You can’t go on this tour and not take a picture with the infamous green door. Since you are with a tour everyone else wants their picture taken too, so just be patient… Your turn will come!

fullsizeoutput_515

Waitomo

waitomo-glowworm-caves-1
Photo Credit: Around de Globe
I do not have a whole list of things to do in Waitomo, but you can’t miss what is available.

  • Book a Glowworm Cave Tour – We booked the Black Labyrinth tour, which was 3 hours long and involved tubing through a cave. We got all geared up in super smelly wetsuits with squishy shoes and then got into a van that brought us to our tubing location. You MUST be in decent shape to do this particular tour. You also must be okay with tight spaces and listen to the tour guides as parts of the tour can be dangerous. With this being said, this was one of the highlights of our two week trip. These glowworms illuminate the caves and it’s breathtaking. Not to mention the tour is a lot of fun; you get to jump over waterfalls and tube through a cave. The tour is well worth the time and the money. For those who want to see the glowworms and do not want to tube and walk through the caves, you can take a little boat and see the glowworms without much work.
  • Buy the photos taken by your guide – Don’t plan on bringing any type of camera with you as you will more than likely lose it. They take photos for you that you can buy at the end.

Rotorua

fullsizeoutput_59b.jpeg

You can do and see so much in Rotorua. Culture, education, and adventure awaits you. Rotorua is a city you could spend days doing all there is to offer.

  • Whakarewarewa Forest – A redwood forest offering a few different trails that you can hike. The trail you choose should depend on your activity level and time. We chose a moderate trail that was expected to take about 3 hours. We ended up finding some shortcuts as the forest turned into a mountain bike trail and looked like a dead forest. There are aspects of the forest that are breathtaking and worth the visit. If you have time to kill and want to get some hiking or mountain biking in, this is your place, but if you are there just to see the trees, you don’t need to go far once entering.

fullsizeoutput_596
Photo Credit: Mallory Van Ness
fullsizeoutput_1c

  • Skyline Luge – SO MUCH FUN. This is one way to get in some excitement without too much work. You have to buy a lift ticket and then a luge ticket based on the number of times you would like to ride down the mountain. We did 3 and felt like it was not enough but time was also limited. I don’t want to say too much because this is something you would need to experience for yourself, but just know it’s a lot of fun by yourself or with friends.

fullsizeoutput_59c

  • Visit a Geothermal Park – This is why the city smells like rotten eggs (or Sulfur). There are multiple parks throughout the city but the one that will be most convenient is Kuirau Park, which is located right in the city center. You will be able to get your fix of bubbling mud. You can also visit Waimango Volcanic Valley. I personally did not visit a park with thermal activity as we already experienced a lot of it while visiting Iceland! If you have never seen it, I highly recommend you take the time to visit a park.
  • Go Whitewater Rafting with Rotorua Rafting – The crew was excellent and the fun was never ending. Never in a million years did I see myself whitewater rafting, but it was such a great experience. You even get to raft down the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world! You can purchase photos taken by professionals at the end of the tour that capture some of the best moments of your time on the raft.

IMG_0057
All Photos were taken by Rotorua Rafting

  • Tamaki Maori Village – This is a must-do if you are interested in learning about the Maori culture and history. While the Tamaki Maori Village is a bit touristy, they could not do a better job of educating you on everything there is to know while giving you the Hangi Dinner experience that is so important to their culture. They do a traditional dance and song performance, teach you the games kids played, and tell you the meaning behind their tattoos that cover their faces & bodies.
  • Eat at Terrace Kitchen – We had the best breakfast and dinner here. It was close to our hotel, which is how we stumbled upon it, but the food was also amazing. The acai breakfast bowl was incredible and had so many flavors; I am still craving it 4 months later! For dinner, we each got something different and we all enjoyed what we ordered (the french-fries are delicious!).

Auckland

  • Devonport – Take the ferry from Downtown Auckland and walk the streets of the quaint coastal town. From cute little cafés to independently owned shops, it makes the perfect day trip on a beautiful day. You also get the perfect skyline shot of Auckland from a distance, and unfortunately it happened to be foggy and ready to rain when I was able to capture this shot.
devonport
Photo Credit: Visit Devonport
  • Queen St – Walk the main street in the city and check out the shops and restaurants. You will find a lot of the country’s chain stores that you won’t find in most others.
  • Stroll on the North Wharf – Create a relaxing aspect of your day by admiring the beautiful boats in the harbor and eating at one of the best restaurants in the city. Not to mention you get to eat with a view of the water.
  • Visit the Sky Tower – Auckland’s tallest building that you can suit up and jump off! We already had quite our adrenaline rush in Queenstown so we did not take part in this but it is one of the top attractions. If you do not feel like jumping, they also have the SkyWalk where you walk around the outer room and see all of Auckland below your feet. If you make reservations ahead of time, you can even dine in the rotating restaurants towards the top.
  • Eat at Depot – Known for the oysters but has delicious food in general. They offer small plates to be shared with friends or family. This works out for those who want to try different things off the menu. You really cannot go wrong with anything you order as everything was delicious. The staff was efficient and super friendly. Make sure you get there earlier rather than later as they do not take reservations.

Depot
Photo Credit: Heart of the City
I wish I had the opportunity to spend some time in Wellington and to hike Tongariro National Park, but with New Zealand, you have so much do and so little time. The North Island had so much to offer and soon you will see what the South Island brought to the table. Stay tuned for part 2 for all must-do’s on the South Island!

Top 5 Trip-Planning Tips

I have planned two incredible trips in the past six months. One to New Zealand for 13 days (posts Coming Soon!) and one to Spain & Portugal for 10 days for a family friend. I started planning trips when I was studying abroad and I have since advanced in learning what works (and doesn’t work) when planning a trip. A lot of my family and friends always question how I know what to do and how overwhelmed they would be if they had to plan a trip. Now, I can’t give away all my secrets but let me give you a few tips to get you started.

  1. Know the general time frame you want to travel. The more flexibility you have, the more options that you will be presented with. If you have strict travel dates then you may be limited but it will take a lot of guess work out of your whereabouts.
  2. Determine your budget. You may have all these tours and activities you may want to complete but you need to make sure you are not going to break the bank. Once you have a budget, STICK TO IT. You do not want to find yourself in tons of debt when you get back. With this being said, keep an open mind because you do not want to give up something you were really looking forward to because you went $20 over. Track ever dollar you spend.
  3. Book your flights first. A lot people think this is obvious but you wouldn’t believe the number of people that book their hotels first. Once you book your flights, you know the dates of travel and can plan anything and everything from there. If you book something else first, you are confining yourself to that date, in that specific place. I recommend watching travel deal websites for flight deals (which will also help with your budget).
  4. Use Pinterest and travel blogs to research where you are traveling. You will get firsthand accounts of people who already traveled to this region or locals who may have some insider tips. The big travel tip companies are great but those tend to lead you towards the most touristy things possible. Thousands of people are reading the same thing which means you are not the only one to have this “idea”. Obviously visiting the major landmarks is part of a trip but you can still get into a local mindset and find hidden gems by avoiding these sites. Make a Pinterest board for each trip to keep everything in one place and allow you go back if you need to for more information.
  5. Plan the bare bones of your itinerary before booking hotels and activities. Make sure you are seeing the most important things before allocating your time to the next stop on your trip. You do not want to travel to a specific city or country and not see the one thing you went there for in the first place all due to bad planning (or lack of).

This is just a start to all the tips that go along with planning a trip. It can be as easy or as hard as you make it. Your trip can be as planned out or as bare boned as you make it. Traveling is a passion, a way of life. Everyone has a different way of preparing for a trip but knowing the steps to make the most of your time is extremely important.

Booking your next trip and still need help? Contact me here and I will be happy to assist. I can plan an entire tour start to finish or fill in the blanks and make sure nothing was missed.

10 Things to Do & See in Iceland

Iceland is the most naturally beautiful place I have ever been. You have volcanoes, black sand beaches, fjords, geysers, and glaciers. You have the opportunity to experience the Northern Lights or Midnight Sun. If you are reading this post, I really hope you have already booked or are at least considering a trip to Iceland soon!

One of the biggest discussion around Iceland is how much time you can spend in Iceland and see what you need to see. I spent about 5 days there and that was enough. With those 5 days, I want to share with you the top 10 things to do and see that I recommend based on personal experience.

1. Visit Seljalandfoss Waterfall

13161875_10153364707452574_9063047029956274330_o

This was my favorite place in Iceland as it is something you would only think is from a fairy tale. The water falls so perfectly and being able to walk behind it makes this waterfall the best one in my opinion (it is actually one of the best rated waterfalls in Iceland). Not to mention it is right off of route one which makes it super convenient.

img_6205

The magic does not stop here! Make sure once you are done walking behind the waterfall that you walk ALL the way to the end before returning to your car. There is a hidden waterfall in a cave which you can access by walking through the cave opening and jumping from rock to rock in a stream. You may get a little wet (especially if you miss a rock like I did) so make sure to wear proper footwear for this visit!

2. Visit Vik & surrounding areas

13064634_10153366361607574_112969617245465996_o

Vik is cute little town at the southernmost point in the country. It is great location to stop overnight while still being  a part of civilization. I recommend staying somewhere you can cook or already have food prepared because there isn’t much to choose from. We made the mistake of not having anything for breakfast and the food store was not open until 10am.

Just down the road you can visit Reynisfjara (Black Sand Beach). The beach has so many sights to offer which is hard to believe considering its not that big. First of all, you have the black sand which is really neat by itself.

img_5922

You then have the basalt columns which are so cool! (I know I sound like a complete child right now but it really was awesome).

IMG_5956.JPG

IMG_5954.JPG

In addition to the sand and the columns, you also have the rocks jutting out of the water. I sat there for a minimum of 10 minutes watching the waves crash against them while also watching the birds come and go from the rock formations. Just a quiet and peaceful experience.

IMG_5975.JPG

Drive just a little bit further and you will find yourself above the black sand beach where you can take pictures from a different angle. The best part about this spot is the crashing waves you get to experience. It was such an adrenaline rush being in the presence of something so powerful.

IMG_6019.JPG

IMG_6070.JPG

3. Snorkel or Dive in Silfra Fissure

GOPR0394.JPG

Who can turn down the opportunity to swim in the water that connects two continents? I most certainly could not. Silfra is known to have some of the most pure and clear water in the world due to the type of water that runs into this area of Þingvellir National Park. Let me also mention that this will be some of the coldest water you will ever swim in. Silfra is the rift between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates that started out attached and over time has moved further and further apart. The earth is literally ripping apart. Every year, the plates move 9mm apart, creating a larger gap.

I will say that while snorkeling sounds normal, doing it here is far from it. We used Dive.is as the tour/gear provider and they were so great. You can tell the employees really enjoy their jobs and for such an incredible experience, it cost 17900 ISK per person ($155 USD). You have to get geared up in so much equipment due to the super cold waters. You have a sleeping bag/snowsuit thing that you put on over your thermals (no regular clothes allowed) and then you put on on a dry suit to ensure your body does not get wet. You have special cloves, headgear, boots and goggles too! Even with all of this, your hands, feet, and face become so cold you think you wont have them when you get out of the water.

The cold and the pain are totally worth it as you get to see things like this…

13221161_10153361745292574_2154144222515475576_o

Since you are physically not able to take great pictures, your guide will give you the option to buy all the pictures they took from your tour for about $30 USD and they e-mail you a Dropbox account. TOTALLY WORTH IT. Just a friendly reminder, make sure you download those pictures ASAP as they are deleted after one month!

Another thing to keep in mind is the tour takes about 3 hours not including transit time.

4. Go on a Glacial Hike on Vatnajökull Glacier

GOPR0538.JPG

Vatnajökull Glacier is the largest glacier in Iceland. It take up about 14% of the country and is the biggest in Europe. It costs 10900 ISK per person ($95 USD) per person and lasts about 2.5 hours. Anyone can do this as long as you can learn to pick your feet up so you don’t trip on your crampons.

GOPR0531.JPG

Such a great experience being a part of something that is so massive.

IMG_5766.JPG

I recommend bringing your own lunch with you as they do not have much to purchase in the store and you will be hungry after the drive. The drive alone makes going on this glacier hike even better. You get to see Southern Iceland which is beautiful in early May. You have green mountains and little lambs while driving along the coast.

5. Drive the Golden Circle

Yes, everybody does it but its because its so incredible! We drove counterclockwise by starting in Þingvellir National Park and ending at Gullfoss Falls.

This is an easy drive from Reykjavik and depending on how much time you want to take, its an easy day trip. You could technically do it in 3.5 hours and that is if you spend a little time here and there. I recommend just making a day trip out of it so you can explore each of the stops as well as take in the beauty of Iceland and the pull-off stops to take pictures.

The drive is one of the prettiest and you literally stop every 2-10 minutes to take a picture. Here are just a few at “picture” stops:

GOPR0201.JPG

IMG_5551.JPG

IMG_5493.JPG

Þingvellir National Park was our first stop. This park is something you cannot miss if you take a trip to Iceland. It is a great way to really get a feel for what the country has to offer. Crystal clear blue waters, rolling hills, and snow capped mountains. Not to mention if you are a Game of Thrones fan, you may notice this place looks a little familiar.

13217194_10153359149197574_4471093006967601754_o

IMG_5528.JPG

IMG_5510.JPG

Geysir is the second stop on the way in which you need to see Stokkur. The geyser erupts every 10-15 minutes and shoots up about 10-20 meters each time. It is worth watching once or twice as it is the most active geyser in Iceland.

IMG_5591.jpg

While you are there, you can also see The Great Geysir which is currently “inactive” and is believed to remain that way until something like an earthquake wakes this massive geysir from its sleep.

IMG_5600.JPG

The last and final stop on the Golden Circle is Gulfoss Falls which generates more energy than Niagara Falls in Canada/USA. It’s bursting with rainbows and well…gushing falls. This was probably my favorite stop on the day trip as it is something so simple that is so beautiful.

_MG_2156.jpg

IMG_5659.JPG

6. Spend at least half a day exploring Reykjavik

Reykjavik is this chill, artsy, small city that you can easily explore without public transportation. There are a variety of different places to eat and a few great things to see and do. The best part about Reykjavik is just being there. You don’t have to visit every museum or take every tour there is. It is one of those cities that is what it is.

FullSizeRender-10.jpg

FullSizeRender-11.jpg

For food, I highly recommend you have at least one good Icelandic Hot Dog. I am not sure what is different about the hot dogs there versus the USA but they are not the same.

IMG_8398.jpg

Another recommendation is to spend a decent amount of money and go to Apotek. We did the Icelandic Tasting Menu (6 courses) and it was so good. It was also very filling.Not to mention the restaurant has a great staff and has an awesome environment.

13161759_10153361500342574_8371216029416906389_o

7. Go to the top of Hallgrimskirkja

IMG_8465.JPG

Hallgrimskirkja is the landmark for all of Reykjavik as its one of the tallest buildings in the city. It is also the largest church in Iceland. Architecturally this church is incredible and something to see while visiting the incredible city.

FullSizeRender.jpg

You MUST buy a ticket to head to the top of the tower for some amazing views and incredible pictures. We did this one the first day of our trip to get some sightseeing in while being incredibly tired since none of us slept on the flight.

8. Pet an Icelandic Horse

IMG_5577.JPG

So this may or may not something that will make you jump up and down about Iceland but I can tell you that these horses are the friendliest most down to earth creatures. Not to mention the fact they are super majestic. Just be careful, one did not care for my boyfriend and tried to bite him!

IMG_5572.JPG

9. Experience Reykjavik at sunset

We did not really get a chance to see Reykjavik at all parts of the day until our last night in Reykjavik. It was absolutely stunning. The color of the sky seemed to be so perfectly placed that it was really special. We visited Harpa (the concert hall) which has one of the most fascinating glass walls ever. They change color at night and are meant to reflect the Northern Lights. It never officially got dark when we were there so that was disappointing but still very cool.

IMG_8878.JPG

IMG_8853.JPG

You also have the Sun Voyager statue there which creates the perfect picture when taken at the right time.

IMG_8875.JPG

We found a geocache during our evening walk (9PM to be exact) hidden under a metal box while walking. Keep your eyes open. This is just another example of the hidden treasures Reykjavik offers.

IMG_8866.jpg

10. Go to Blue Lagoon on your way home

IMG_9251.JPG

After an beautiful, fun filled getaway, the perfect ending was the time spent at Blue Lagoon. It is like being in a giant hot tub without the bubbles with bars that you can swim up to. You also have the option to apply face masks which were really nice.

IMG_9299.JPG

As an American, DO NOT get freaked out by having to shower naked as most of the showers have frosted glass doors. Let’s face it, we are stuck in the days of people not accepting those for who and what they are. No one cares what you look like regardless. Just shower off and go have fun at Blue Lagoon.

Also, I recommend upgrading to the Premium Package if you have time to eat at LAVA, the restaurant at Blue Lagoon this package will help you get a reservation. You get a bathrobe and flip flops which is also super nice and just enhanced the experience.

IMG_9264.JPG

I hope these tips help you plan your trip to Iceland and more posts will follow this. If you have any questions in the meantime, please leave me a comment!

 

All the Feels of Traveling

I often find myself dreaming of my next adventure and most times even the adventure after that. I come up with a million different places I want to visit and in an instant can back up my idea with a million reasons why I want to go.

The culture. The people. The food. The natural beauty. The landmarks. The language. The unknown. The smell. The shops. The atmosphere.

Traveling is so much more than that though. It’s the planning of each adventure. From the flights, to the accommodations, to the excursions. Even where you are going to eat and mapping your day-to-day down to the hour. It’s so exciting and you learn so much about your passion for travel through the simple act of just planning.

After all of that is done, it’s the anticipation. Knowing you just spent so much time carefully choosing your flights and making sure you can do everything you want within your budget. It’s knowing you just planned the trip of a lifetime and having to wait months before it actually happens.

Then you have the stress of packing. Making sure you have everything you need but also making sure you are not over packing. You end up over packing anyway and ripping through your suitcase and having a life or death conversation with each article of clothing or accessory. Making sure your bag is not overweight is really that breaking moment, especially when packing the night before.

Then, it’s the day of departure and you’re an anxious mess. Worrying you forgot something and checking for your passport and camera a million times before leaving the house. If you’re like me, coming up with a million scenarios why you might miss your flight and causing yourself to pretty much have an anxiety attack.

Getting on the plane and realizing you are finally embarking on the adventure you had spent hours, even days planning is actually happening. Excitement and happiness flood your body.

And the best part of it all, actually exploring your destination. Experiencing all those feelings that makes you want to travel forever. Feeling like you found your place in the world when you’re in a place that is brand new. All the stress from your everyday life is lifted and replaced with a sense of peace. A sense of wanderlust.

Dos & Don’ts of Flying with WOW Airlines

 For those that are planning on flying with WOW airlines, I figured I would write a post of DOs and DONT’s. This airline is no frills and super frugal. You get what you pay for is the bottom line. Great prices=no fancy added features.

DO follow the luggage requirements. We watched a couple have to rearrange their checked and carry on luggage. You don’t want to be that person. I recommend getting a luggage scale. The investment is well worth it.

DON’T have high expectations. Everything is super clean. The staff is super friendly. I have never personally flown on a budget airline so this  was really different for me. The legroom is extra small, there are no included beverages or snacks, no personal TV. Keep expectations low and you’ll be perfectly fine!

DO bring your own snacks and buy a large water from the airport. Everything on board is super expensive. I brought a few granola bars with me as a start.

DON’T forget your tablet, light laptop, or book. As I stated earlier, there are not any personal TVs so it’s easy to get bored.  I brought my iPad to watch movies and read books. It is light so you do not have to worry about the weight of a laptop and it has more than one purpose.

DO try and get the emergency exit seat or the window seat behind the emergency exit row. You get tons of leg room which is nice on flights like this.

DON’T try and pull and all-nighter and then spend the day in your arrival city exploring. We departed Boston around 8:30PM and arrived in Reykjavik around 5:30AM. I fought my exhaustion the whole time and was not able to enjoy the I Heart Reykjavik walking tour as much as I wanted to.

DO bring earbuds or headphones for music and or movie-watching. I feel like I could hear everyone and everything on my flights.

Top 5 Things To Do in Beacon, NY

My grandma lives in Beacon, NY so I like to visit when the busy schedule permits. Beacon is probably one of my favorite places in my home state because it has grown into this vibrant city with so much to see and do. Being located in the Hudson Valley is also very convenient; you can take the MetroNorth train right into Grand Central Station in New York City, you can take a day trip to the state’s capital (Albany), or you can explore the city itself.

I figured I would write a “Top 5” post for those who may want a decent day trip or a city getaway to a place that is not in the middle-of-nowhere, but will give you the satisfaction of not being in the middle of a city.

Below is a list of some things I would recommend you do should you visit Beacon! There is:

  1. Walk Main Street.

Main Street is filled with local businesses, spas, and restaurants. This is a great way to interact with locals because just like any other Main Street, it is where the heart of the city is. The best time to go is second Saturday of the month as the stores are open later and tend to have some sales or deals happening! You will find antique stores, gift stores, clothing boutiques, outdoor stores, blown glass, and galleries. Each one of them unique and nothing like any other store on the street.

IMG_5359
Main Street, Beacon, NY

In general, Beacon has a lot of art scattered throughout the city but you can find a lot of it right on Main Street! It takes a minute or two to admire but all of the art really brings some color to the city.

We can’t forget about the restaurants and cafes! I have not had the chance to try even a quarter of them, but what I have had the chance to try is amazing.

For breakfast I would recommend Beacon Bagel or Beacon Falls Café. Beacon Falls Café is the perfect place for a mimosa and a formal sit down breakfast. Beacon Bagel has some of the best bagels I have ever had and you cannot go wrong with the flavor you choose!

IMG_5356
Beacon Falls, Beacon, NY

For Lunch I would recommend Poppy’s Burgers & Fries, Homespun, or Max’s on Main. Poppy’s has delicious, 100% grass fed beef burgers that go great with a beer (which they serve). Homespun has delicious sandwiches, salads, and soups, which are all homemade. Lastly, Max’s on Main is a great place to catch a sports game or grab a drink. Their food is pub food but it is delicious!

For dinner I would recommend Brother’s Trattoria hands down. This restaurant happens to be my grandma’s favorite restaurant, so anytime I am in town, this is where we go. I order a different dish every time and I have never had a bad experience. Make sure you ask for the garlic knots! (If I ever get a picture of my food, I will be sure to update…absolutely delicious)

If you thought I was done with the foodie part of me, you are WRONG. If you just want to make sure everyone is happy with the food options, head over to The Yankee Clipper. It is a family-run diner that has amazing food for any meal of the day! You are instantly brought back in time to the diner days as soon as you walk in the door. The service is great and the food is incredible. You cannot go wrong!

Yankee-Clipper-exterior
The Yankee Clipper Diner, Beacon, NY (Photo Cred: Yankee Clipper)
  1. Walk along the Hudson River at Long Dock Park.

283620_10150892642532574_1620210814_n

This is a great location to rent a kayak to head out into the historic river. The Mountain Tops Outfitters Kayak Company will help you launch your kayak and explore the area. You can find their schedule at http://www.mountaintopsoutfitters.com/pages/kayaking-on-the-hudson-river.

Long Dock Park is also a great place to go fishing, walk a rock beach during low tide, or even capture a beautiful photo of the surrounding mountains. It almost looks like another country! I have fond memories as a kid at this park as it was relatively new and the dock was built to allow water to flow through the middle of it and create an artistic element to something so standard. Over time, people have become more and more aware of the location and it’s typically crowded with families on a fishing excursion, but nonetheless still worth a visit. It is also a great location for a jog as they have a river trail!

334157_10150920332712574_1066763334_o

  1. Hike Mount Beacon.

It is a steep but quick and easy hike. I am by no means an avid or experienced hiker, but I enjoy hiking this mountain. You just need a good pair of sneakers and a decent set of lungs! It took me about 45 minutes to get to the top so this can easily be squeezed into your day. Once you are at the top, you will have incredible photo opportunities of the Hudson Valley; you can capture images of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge or ones like pictured below.

627322_10150958730547574_1881631683_o

210802_10150958728707574_407747606_o

As a lover of food, make sure to grab a sandwich from Bob’s Corner store at the base of the mountain. Anything you order will be delicious, but I recommend the Bacon, Cheddar, and Avocado. So yummy.

This mountain is not just an ordinary mountain. During the Revolutionary War it served as an early warning and signaling system for the Continental Army. An incline was built to bring people up and down to enjoy a beautiful natural setting and a cool summer breeze. Once the incline was built, a casino and hotel followed shortly after to keep those that went to the top entertained. In the late 1920s, a fire destroyed the hotel and casino and the entertainment was gone. The casino was quickly rebuilt, but due to the Great Depression, the hotel was never rebuilt. Due to the economic crisis that would take place for the next 2 decades, the incline and casino struggled but nonetheless kept going. They had more fires and more hard times and eventually in 1983, a fire destroyed every aspect of the incline and no repairs were made. You can still see the incline from miles away where the tracks used to be and you can see the powerhouse once you reach the top of the mountain.

334011_10150958746237574_1828157698_o

  1. Visit DIA: Beacon.

The DIA Center is an Art Foundation’s art collection that has pieces from the 1960s to present. The actual building used to be a Nabisco box-printing facility that was turned into this museum! The museum features temporary exhibitions and monthly Gallery talks. They have a ton of different events each year so be sure to check out their website. Another thing you must do before visiting is to check their hours as they change often throughout the year.

http://www.diaart.org/sites/main/beacon

  1. Visit Bannerman Island.
bannermans castle pollepel island 1
Bannerman Castle (Photo Cred: Flickr User gaz)

This is such an incredible, history-filled, beautiful place. The island is only accessible by boat and there are many stories that go along with such a small piece of land.

Like Mount Beacon, there is a connection to the American Revolution. The island was set up with defense mechanisms to protect the Hudson Highlands from the British fleet in 1777, but the attempt was unsuccessful and the British still invaded.

Francis Bannerman, a Scottish-born man and ammunition dealer, bought the island in 1900 from the Taft family. His purchase was a result of New York City authorities forcing him to move his historical equipment and ammunition (his business) out of the city. He wanted a safe storage place for his stuff and built Bannerman castle as a result. The castle was not only a storage space but also a simple residence which he and his family would reside.

My papa was so involved with this little island and I had the opportunity to visit during a special event a few years ago. This island is not technically in Beacon but a guided tour departs from Beacon and you can buy tickets for $35 per person. For more information regarding the island or purchasing tickets, go to their website: http://www.bannermancastle.org/index.html

Beacon is the perfect day trip filled with history and so much to do!

 

I Finally Did It!

Hello Everyone!

I finally started a travel blog that will encompass all things travel-related. My posts will range from day trips in New England (where I currently live) to international trips all over the world.

My goal is to share all my new adventures with all of you in hopes that I can inspire some of you to travel OR if you are like me and already have the travel bug, give you some insight to help you on your own journeys.

But wait! There is more!

I love planning my adventures from start to finish. I rarely rely on a tour operator to arrange everything for me as I like to make sure I am utilizing my time with things that I would like to do. I will be available to help you, your friends, your family  (or even a complete stranger) arrange your next adventure that will encompass everything that you want to do based on YOUR budget and YOUR vacation time.

This blog has been a dream of mine for quite some time and now is as good a time as any to start!

Stay tuned, my first post will be about my day trip to Porland, Maine this past weekend. I will also be incorporating some of my posts from studying abroad to give you some insight to a few countries in Europe.

xoxo,

Amy