Thursday, March 31, 2011

More Reviews for All You Travel Lovers

Well...I've got some more reviews for all of you to check out! For those of you who don't know, I have a list of movies and books that I'm wanting to watch and read; all travel-related in some way. Please give me your recommendations as I love to hear them!


Roman Holiday: So many of you mentioned that this movie was without a doubt, a must-not-miss for travel lovers such as myself. Well, I took your advice and let Audrey and Gregory take me through the beautiful and amazing city of Rome. Having visited this lovely city, I found myself reflecting back to my time spent there. Although it was only three days, I frequently sighed and “awed” when they arrived at the Mouth of Truth, when they sped past the Colosseum, and when Audrey ate her gelato on the Spanish Steps. Although I am not one for sappy love stories, I couldn’t help but find myself wishing that these two would remain together at the end of the movie. Mr. Peck was quite a handsome man and of course, we all know how beautiful Mrs. Hepburn was during her time…it’s no wonder he ended up falling for her. To spend a day seeing and experiencing the city of Rome, I can relate to Audrey in that Rome is a wonderful place to break away from the norm and open your eyes to an incredible world.

Before Sunrise: I watched this movie just the other day and as much as I love Ethan Hawke, I was a bit disappointed in this movie. I have yet to watch its sequel, Before Sunset, but this movie left me with a “Seriously?” reaction when it was over. Meeting on a train, Ethan Hawke convinces Julie Delpy to get off the train with him in Vienna, delaying her arrival to Paris. Spending an entire day (and night) going, doing, and seeing the sights of the Vienna, the attraction they felt on the train grows stronger and it becomes more difficult to come to terms with the inevitable sunrise that will rise in just hours. When they must part ways the next day, they promise to meet at the same spot six months from that time. Unfortunately, since I have yet to watch the sequel, I am unsure as to how this plays out. As much as I didn’t care for the storyline, I must say, seeing the sights of Vienna, I desperately want to visit this city. The architecture, the parks, the customs and traditions…all of it drew me in.

A Good Year: I literally just finished watching this movie and I’m still a bit unsure as to how I feel about it. For those of you who are unaware of this movie, it features Russell Crowe, Albert Finney, Marion Cotillard, and Abbie Cornish. Crowe is big in the investment brokerage business, in London, and comes to inherit his uncle’s vineyard in Provence, France. Now, as much of a jerk as he is in the film, you find something charming about Mr. Crowe. Aside from that though, the chateau and vineyard that you see throughout most of the movie is absolutely breathtaking. If I could sit out on that large patio and have the sight rows upon rows of grapevines staring back at me…I’d be one happy woman. You don’t get to see much of Provence itself, except for a few pieces here and there; however, as I said before, the chateau and vineyard makes up for it. I would recommend you to see this movie and form your own conclusions. If anything, it made me want to grab a glass of wine, a great book, a pair of shades, and close my eyes and imagine I’m in Provence.


Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach: For anyone who wants to just throw caution to the wind, who has paid their dues in the working world, and who has put everyone before themselves in life, you will definitely relate to Alice Steinbach. This woman works as a journalist in Baltimore and spends much of her life interviewing others and learning about their lives (much like me). Somewhere along the way, she feels she has lost herself and decides to take a sabbatical from work. Traveling to France, Italy, and the UK, she gets the experience of a lifetime. Not only does she visit places that she believes to be important to her and vital to see, but she meets a man who makes a strong impact on her and you find yourself rooting for them to have a long lasting relationship. She takes dancing lessons in the UK, spends many of her days sipping coffee and taking in the sights of Paris, and visits vineyards and elegant shops in Italy…she finds herself again, all while getting the experience of a lifetime as an independent woman.

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes: I’ve decided that in regards to this book, I actually favored the movie over the book. The movie provides I believe a look into a woman who is truly discovering herself and what she is able to accomplish independently. Stepping away from an American life and the ho-hum routine of everyday life, she creates a new life for herself in Tuscany (Bramasole). In the book, the storyline is COMPLETELY different. Ninety percent of the book is about the renovations Frances and her husband deal with in regards to their new home. As much as I love reading about the Tuscan hillside and olive groves, it was a bit boring at times. However, I would never go as far as to say it was a boring book over all, just not as “lively” as the film adaptation.

Vagabonding by Rolf Potts: I just finished this book and all I can say is that it is by far, one of the best travel books I’ve ever read. Rolf Potts is a genius when it comes to travel. Not only does he provide you tips and advice on the best ways to fund your ventures, but he provides insight and personal stories as to the best ways to really get something out of your adventure. As a vagabond, a person must really see the world instead of just seeing the sights and moving on. It’s all about finding yourself out on the open road and seeing the world for what it really is. The best thing I took away from reading this book is to quit making excuses. You can go wherever you want; money shouldn’t matter. If you want to make it happen and if you want to travel, you have to make some sacrifices.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Old Town Market in Nice, France

Visiting the French Riviera this past summer, I was officially in awe of the things I saw. Nice was full of incredible people, breathtaking sights, and plenty of places to relax. Only getting to spend a day and a half in this lovely city, my sister and I made sure to take in as much of it as we possibly could.

Nice, France

Since I don’t want to give away all of the things we did during our short stay, I must tell you one of my favorite things about Nice was the Old Town Market that we passed through. Deciding what the events of our day would entail, hitting the Old Town Market was a must.

The second it came into view, I was blown away by the smells, the colors, and the freshness of everything. Women and men were speaking as fast as they could, trying to sell and bargain for what lie on the selling tables.

Old Town Market

My eyes were drawn to practically everything, including the fresh cut flowers, the enormously red tomatoes, and the slabs of cheese that make you gain 10 pounds just looking at all of the different kinds. Vibrant colors of lavender stood out among the flowers and I struggled to restrain myself from buying my own personal bouquet.

The vegetables called out to me with their reds, greens, and yellows, all while the meats and cheeses enticed me with their savory/sweet tastes, making my mouth water repeatedly. My sister and I looked at each other, unable to register all of the items we were seeing. Fresh calzones sat under a window, filling the air with a scent that could draw you in from a mile away.

Somehow, we managed to hold our restraint and continue our way through the market; that is until we came to the tea leaves, soaps, and candies. Our mother loves tea, so imagine our faces when we spotted small bags of loose tea leaves just waiting to be picked. Smelling the aroma of each type, I was captivated by each and wishing I had enough money to buy them all. Settling on a flowery scent, we paid for our tea and decided that whether or not our mom drank this, it would forever be a reminder to her that it came from Nice.

I spotted a few small tins that held caramel candies in them, each tin decorated with an old-timey picture of a woman in a large hat. Opting to buy one for myself, I also got one for my best friend who loves these kinds of things.

With our purchases in hand, we finished our trip through the Old Town Market, only wishing we could turn back around and experience it all over again. It is a place where tourists and locals come together to appreciate and observe the beauties of Nice. I assure you, if you ever travel to Nice, the Old Town Market is something you MUST see. By the time you are finished, you’ll want to turn around and start all over again.
My sister and I at a little restaurant in Nice

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Why Others Don’t Travel

I was having a discussion today with one of my closest friends. He and I are practically brother and sister and we have quite a bit in common, except the topic of traveling. I, an avid traveler who would love nothing more than to spend my days traveling and seeing as much of the world as humanly possible, cannot understand why others simply express disgust when mentioning the word “travel.”

He and his family have lived in numerous states across the country; however, he has absolutely fallen in love with the state of Arkansas. Spending much of his teen years here, he has grown quite close to many of his friends and looks forward to coming back “home” whenever he can. He believes that there is nothing to see that is worth seeing unless it is within the Arkansas state lines.

Don’t get me wrong, Arkansas is a beautiful state. Yes, we have portions that are nothing but flatlands and old cotton fields, but the northwest portion of the state especially, it has hills, beautiful land, and not to mention, three of the biggest businesses in the world; Tyson, Wal-Mart, and J.B. Hunt Trucking. There is a lot to love about Arkansas, but having grown up in this great state all of my life, a girl needs to get out and see the world.

His argument to me was, “how can you go and appreciate the places of the world if you don’t understand and appreciate your own.” I can answer that…I took Arkansas history my 8th grade year, I’ve grown up in Arkansas my whole life, I have traveled to many areas within my state, and after all of that, I can say 100% that I appreciate where I come from and understand that it really is a great place to live. HOWEVER, I also know there is a bigger world out there and it’s just waiting for me to come see all of it.

After talking with my friend, I started thinking though….why don’t other people like to travel? Is it because they are scared? Are they too comfortable where they are that the thought of actually planning a trip is exhausting? Are they scared of what they might encounter or find on their travels? Or are they just too close-minded to believe that there is anything worth seeing that lies outside their comfort zone?

I have always told myself that whoever I marry or end up with in life, they must enjoy traveling. It is one of my few pieces of criteria that I look for in the opposite sex. I don’t require much, just that you love traveling. As far as I am concerned, life isn’t worth living if you don’t have God, family, friends, pets, and a need to travel.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pray for Japan

Although I have never visited what I have heard is a beautiful and wonderful country, my heart goes out to those effected by the most recent earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan a few days ago. As humans, we should reach out to those in need and offer our assistance and aid during these trying times.

Unfortunately, not everyone feels that way. Just the other day, I was reading an article about the situation in Japan and read a comment made by someone who was obviously, anti-Japan and anti-Japanese. The person mentioned that they wished ill-will towards the people of Japan because of the atrocities of their past. Blaming the generations of today for the mistakes of those in the 1930s is absolutely ridiculous.

For those who do not know, in the 1937, Japanese forces marched into Nanking, China and massacred hundreds of thousands of people, as well as raping nearly 20,000 women. If you know nothing of this event, it is called “The Nanking Massacre.” What occurred back then though has absolutely nothing to do with the people who live in Japan today. Why should they be responsible for the atrocities committed by their ancestors? That is like blaming me, a 25 year old, for what my ancestors did to Native Americans or for events that took place during the Civil Rights Movement.

Those who harbor these kinds of feelings wouldn’t give 2 cents to help their fellow man. I remember when the country reached out to those in Haiti and people remarked that we should be donating our money towards those in the U.S. and not in Haiti.

Wake up people! Does anyone NOT remember Hurricane Katrina? People opened their wallets and donated their time to help those in New Orleans. You can argue all you want about governmental issues, etc…but I’m talking about downright human decency. The people of the United States are some of the most charitable people in the world and will do as much as they can to help others in need.

I’m deeply saddened by what has happened in Japan and am grateful that a close friend of ours, who lives in Tokyo, was not in the country when all of this occurred. However, those who have experienced this destruction, whose family members have died or are lost, who have lost everything they own, I pray that they find peace during this difficult time. As a religious person, I trust that God will provide solace and peace to those in Japan and to those effected by these recent events.

According to ABC News, there are various organizations that are helping to aid in the relief effort. The Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, International Medical Corps, as well as Save the Children and the Salvation Army are just a few organizations that are taking donations. I encourage you to donate whatever you can. You hear people say that no matter what the dollar amount, it helps. They are right…it does.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hard Rocks Around the World

If you noticed in my last post, I mentioned that it is a tradition for my sister and me, to find a Hard Rock Café wherever we travel. Whether we are in Dallas, Texas; Maui, Hawaii; Destin, Florida; or Rome, Italy, we always find the Hard Rock.

Hard Rock Cafe in Rome

You see, after stepping into the Hard Rock Café in Orlando, Florida, many, many years ago, we both sort of fell in love with the atmosphere and food. The chance to see some of the music industry’s most amazing pieces of memorabilia is something we thoroughly enjoy. No matter what Hard Rock you go into, you’ll always find something that makes you go, “Wow, look at that!” Whether it was a pink Cadillac that hung over the bar in Maui or the gondolas “parked” outside the one in Venice, each Hard Rock Café provides its own uniqueness that keeps tourists coming back for more.

Some of the Hard Rock Café’s we’ve visited are:

Rome, Italy
Venice, Italy
Paris, France
Orlando, Florida
Turks & Caicos
Destin, Florida
Maui & Oahu, Hawaii
Washington, D.C.
Baltimore, Maryland
Dallas, Texas
St. Louis, Missouri
Memphis, Tennessee
Nassau, Bahamas
Grand Cayman
San Juan, Puerto Rico
St. Maarten

Gondolas outside the Hard Rock in Venice
Providing their customers with an array of food ranging from deliciously, mouthwatering cheeseburgers to a mountain of nachos piled high with cheese, jalapenos, and beans…it is rare that anyone ever leave feeling hungry.
Of course, after eating, we tend to make our way towards the souvenir shop where our tradition takes effect. When we visit some place new, it isn’t always about eating there, but instead, buying something so that we may add to our collection. I can’t count how many Hard Rock t-shirts I own, but I would say no less than 20. (Many have come from the same place…just visited multiple times)

This is just one of the quirks we will always do when we travel and I will continue to add to my collection in my future travels. I am curious though; do you have any travel traditions? Certain places you have to go? Things you must see? I love hearing about people’s traditions!
Paris Hard Rock Cafe

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Place: Turks & Caicos, Mission: To completely relax at Margaritaville

Arriving in Turks & Caicos, one cannot help but breathe in the fresh air and feel eager to experience an island that is visited by so many each year. Celebrities often vacation here and to be honest, I was keeping my eyes peeled.

Stepping off the boat, my family and I spotted what looked like the entryway to what we hoped would be paradise on the other side. Walking along, we entered an area full of small, private shops; the owners just waiting to lure you in with their shiny jewelry and colorful pieces of cloth. Curious as I am, I couldn’t help but take a peek into a few of these hidden jewels (a.k.a. tourist traps). Luckily for me, and my wallet, I opted to forgo the shiny enticements and instead, decided to rejoin the family before making our way to the excursion we had planned.

Now, anyone who knows me knows just how much I love snorkeling. Hand me a pair of flippers and a snorkel and I’m ready to go. This snorkeling excursion in Grand Turk was no different. I was excited and ready to see the wonders that Trunk Bay had to offer. You can imagine my disappointment when I was strapped and ready to go and all I wound up seeing was a big, black tire. The moment I spotted the monstrosity, I heard that “wha whaaaaaa” sound. Aside from that, the water was murky, something that I highly dislike when swimming in the ocean. Personally, I like to be able to see what is beneath me.

Deciding that this little snorkeling adventure was a bust, the family and I hailed the next trolley and made our way back to the cruise ship loading area. This doesn’t mean that we went back to the ship…no way; we still had plenty of time left on the island. So, what did we do? Well, after spotting the large blue flip flop, we decided that spending the rest of our day in Grand Turk, at Margaritaville, would hit the spot.

Loud music was playing as tourists and locals moved around and through the tables, all in their board shorts and bikinis. A small pool sat off to the side, giving those who wanted to take a quick dip, a chance to “beat the heat.” Spotting an open table, my family and I agreed that food was in order, so what did we order? Nachos! And boy, were those good nachos.

You’re probably wondering where the mention of drinks have gone. Like I would go to Margaritaville and not get a drink. The wonderful picture below showcases my mom, my sister and I enjoying a nice, relaxing drink. I opted for a strawberry margarita and in that little tube; that would be a rum shot…a bit too potent for my liking.
As the hours began to wind down for us, I decided that spending a day at Margaritaville definitely made up for the snorkeling bust earlier that day. Before we left however, I had to buy myself a t-shirt. It is tradition for my sister and me, every time we visit a Margaritaville, to buy a souvenir. I believe the shirt I bought said it all and is something I often wish for when sitting at my desk at work… “It’s Five O’ Clock Somewhere.”