The Art of Asking Someone Else to Take Your Photo

Perfect_London_Pic^^ A perfectly framed London pic … because it was taken by someone else!

If you are anything like myself and Chris, there are many, many times in your traveling life where you’ll be forced to do one of three things:

  1. Ask someone to take a photo of you and your traveling partner.
  2. Take a selfie of yourself and your traveling partner.
  3. Use a camera timer to take a picture of you and your traveling partner.

For a long time, Chris and I avoided all three of these options and just switched off taking photos of each other in the places we were visiting, but I soon came to realize … that blows! I wanted both of us in these photos, so I was going to have to suck it up and figure out the best way to go about that.

Having tried all three, I have to say that asking someone else, however awkward and annoying you might feel about it, is absolutely the best way to go about it … with some etiquette caveats, of course. Selfies, particularly if your traveling partner is much taller than you are (as mine usually is), can sometimes come out like this:



FullSizeRender (71)

Hmmmm … definitely not our best. And camera self-timers are great in a pinch, but it generally takes quite a few shots before you get everything lined up right and have everyone smiling with their eyes open at the exact second the camera takes the photo — let’s just say it can be a bit time consuming.

So, that leaves you with the dreaded travelers conundrum — asking someone else to take your photo.  However, if you don’t want your awesome photo to end up like this:

Machu_Picchu Fail^^ Thanks, lady who took our photo directly in front of the Machu Picchu ruins after we had hiked Huayna Picchu. It’s not like you could have told us we needed to move over to the right a bit in order to get the full effect …

… there are some caveats I would always follow.

The Travelers’ Guide to Asking Someone Else to Take Your Photo

1. Don’t be hasty. There’s really no rush. Take your time to scope out the crowd and see who seems to be taking the most thoughtful, well-placed photos themselves. If they’re careful about the shots they have on their own camera, they’re more likely to be careful with your shots, as well.

2. Be polite. I’ve never actually encountered someone who wasn’t happy to take our photo, although there usually is a bit of nerves that can come along with it. (Hey, it’s a big deal to take a photo for people in a place they may never, ever be again!) Don’t crowd people while they’re busy first experiencing a site, don’t ask the single mom chasing after her kids and don’t ask the couple that you’ve noticed bickering all throughout your tour. I’ve found that apologizing for the interruption tends to go a long way, too, as in: “I’m so sorry to bother you, but would you mind taking our photo quickly?”

3. Show them how to use your camera.  Don’t wait until you check the photos someone has taken to realize they didn’t know how to use your zoom — give them all the important intel up front to avoid any confusion. Make sure the camera is already on and ready (sometimes ours goes into hibernation mode when it’s on and hasn’t been used in a while, and it takes a couple seconds to reboot, which tends to confuse people. I’m aware of this now, and try to make sure the person taking the picture doesn’t have to worry about that) and tell them any and everything they need to know about the flash and your zoom.

4. Be very clear about what you want. This is perhaps the most important part of asking anyone to take your photo — what is it exactly that you want? Perhaps if I had thought of this before having that woman take our photo in front of Machu Picchu, I would have remembered to clarify that we wanted the entire ruins in the picture … not just the trail off to the side. Sigh. Do you want your picture horizontal or vertical, or both? What specifically in the background do you want captured, and where do you want to be in comparison to that background? Does it kill you when people cut your feet off in photos? It doesn’t hurt to ask them to take a couple shots, too, just to avoid the inevitable blink or weird smile that can ruin a photo. Politely inform your snapper of how you want the picture to look, and that will help them frame the perfect shot. Believe me, people want to do a good job, so as long as you’re friendly here, people won’t mind a little direction.

5. Don’t be embarrassed to check it. Most people will offer this anyway, but don’t be afraid to really check the photo after it’s taken. If it’s not exactly what you had in mind, just say: “Oh these are great! But would you actually mind just taking one more quick one that gets that waterfall in the background?” If that’s too embarrassing, wait for that person to leave and start over again with someone else.

6. Always reciprocate. It’s just common traveling courtesy to reciprocate the offer back to someone who has just taken a photo of you. Of course if they accept, be sure to go through all the caveats in reverse so that you can be sure you’re snapping exactly what they want, as well. An even better idea — ask them first if they’d like you to take a picture for them. After you’ve already helped them out, they might feel more inclined to do the same for you.

It may seem like a lot to go through to get one photo, but at the end of the day, if you really don’t think you’ll be making it back to that once-in-a-lifetime place, it’s totally worth it.

Do you guys have any additional tips of your own when it comes to asking people to take your photo for you when traveling?

Bis bald, friends — and happy travels!

Ecuador Part I: Quito and the Amazon

Hi friends,

So after our adventures in Peru, Chris and I packed up our belongings and headed to the airport to fly a bit up the continent to Ecuador, where we would be taking part in the second, third and fourth parts of our South American adventure: Quito, the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands.

A note about this part of the trip, before I get into it. We booked everything in this section of the trip with a company called Southern Explorations, which I would highly recommend to anyone looking to book an adventure in South America (they have many different trip options). Here’s what was included in our trip package:

  • Our hotel during the nights we’d be staying in Quito
  • A half-day tour of Quito
  • Our trip to the Amazon
  • Our trip to the Galapagos
  • Transfers to and from the airport for each and every one of those trips
  • Meals for everything except the days we were in Quito

Here’s the thing about booking the trip this way — it was pricey. Honestly, I’m sure we could have put the puzzle pieces together ourselves and paid less, but at the end of the day, it was so incredibly nice to know that we were being taken care of (and that we wouldn’t need to even think about little details like where and when to bring our passports, how much the Galapagos Park entrance fee was, etc., because they reminded us of everything along the way), that we didn’t mind paying a little extra for that sense of comfort. The hotel Southern Explorations booked us at in Quito (called La Rabida) actually turned out to be one of our favorite hotels of the trip, too. The breakfast was always stellar (and we ate dinner here one night, too, and it was super tasty), there was always a fire burning in the fireplace at night and plenty of books to read about Ecuador, and there was even an adorable little fat brown bunny that lived in the garden of the hotel, named Brownie, that you just know Chris and I became obsessed with. Oh, and the coffee!? Amazing.

Here’s a bit of what we saw during our stay in Quito (which was three days before we flew out to the Amazon, then one half day/night between the Amazon and the Galapagos and one more night again before flying out to Costa Rica):

_DSC8207^^ This statue was a gift to the city, but its back faces towards the more poor area, and the people who live there unfortunately took that to be a bit of a slight.

_DSC8234^^ The Old Town section of Quito is beautiful during the day, but our tour guide warned us that it can be a bit desolate, and even dangerous, at night. If you make it here, however, be sure to NOT MISS the Iglesia de La Compania de Jesus church. Unfortunately we couldn’t take photos inside, but I’ve never been to a more beautiful church, and it’s absolutely not to be missed when you’re checking out this part of Quito.

_DSC8288^^ We were in the old section on a Monday, so we were lucky enough to catch the changing of the guard at the Presedential Palace, which really is quite the show.

_DSC8354^^ We also visited the part of Quito where the lines of latitude and longitude are zero, which was fascinating. (There are actually two of these places. The first was the one the French thought was zero latitude, but the Ecuadorian army later scientifically determined the actual spot to be about 200 meters away. Still, that’s not bad for an educated guess!) Anyway, the equator line is so weird! This is me, trying to balance an egg on its end (which our tour guide and someone else in our group successfully managed to do), and you have practically zero strength on the line as well. It’s also incredibly hard to walk in a straight line when you’re directly on the equator (as demonstrated by Chris, below), and the water really does flush in different directions to either side of the line. So cool!


I feel as though I would be wrong to ignore something that came up a lot while we were in Quito — which is safety. We didn’t do a ton of research on the area before heading there, since it was part of our package anyway, and we’d be spending so few days there, but as it turns out, there’s quite a bit of noise on the internet about the safety of tourists in the area. While I think a lot of this has changed in recent years, I think it doesn’t hurt to be on high alert if traveling to this area. (Of course I think it doesn’t hurt to be on high alert when you travel to any area, but perhaps a bit more so in this particular one.) I wouldn’t walk at night anywhere (cabs are readily available, although you need to be sure to get in legitimate cabs with meters, and make sure the cab drivers actually turn on the meters, because they will try to stiff you), and don’t be flamboyant about things that call you out as a tourist — like carrying ginormous cameras or stopping to look at a map every couple of feet. The first day we arrived in Quito it happened to be a holiday, and we found the city to be pretty empty and a bit desolate, which to be honest made it a bit creepy. But after the city filled with people again, and when we roamed around during broad daylight, we found the people to be friendly and helpful, and nothing was scary at all.

We also had some of our favorite meals here in Quito. Our tour guide (Gorge, who was one of our favorite tour guides of the whole trip), suggested one little restaurant called Mama Clorinda, where we ate empanadas, potato soup, shrimp and rice and lamb stew (Chris, not me), that was all totally delicious. Chris also really enjoyed the steak at La Casa de mi Abuela.

After our three days in Quito, we headed back to the airport with Gorge to catch our flight to the Amazon, which was a pretty surreal experience in and of itself. We stayed at Sacha Lodge, which we really loved. The food here was pretty amazing, especially considering the fact that it was buffet style made for dozens of people all at once, and the lodges themselves were gorgeous, wooden cabins with big, bright hammocks on open porches directly in the rainforest.

_DSC8447^^ These little leaf cutter ants were so amazing! They were one of the first signs of life we saw when we arrived, and there was a whole big stream of them running across the path we had to walk to get to our lodge, busy carrying those little leaves to their new destination.

_DSC8459^^ To get to the lodge, we had to fly to another city from Quito, take a 2.5 hour motorized canoe ride, walk a mile through the rainforest, then take another 15-20 minute canoe ride to the lodge itself.


_DSC8539^^ Sunset over the Sacha Lodge lake was pretty epic every night.

_DSC8612^^ The very first night we were there we went on a night hike and saw all kinds of creepy crawlies. You’d think that seeing creatures like this would freak me out, but honestly it didn’t — it was all fascinating.

_DSC8622^^ Baby tarantulas! We would see very many of these during our stay at the Amazon, most of them a whole heck of a lot bigger than this one.

_DSC8641^^ Look at this little cutie patootie!

_DSC8654^^ These parrots fascinated me. They come to the clay lick to eat the clay, which helps neutralize the acid in their stomachs from eating berries and such. Such smart parrots.

_DSC8697^^ One of my two favorite moments in the Amazon occured while I was in the shower. Like I mentioned, our cabins were pretty awesome, and the bathrooms were the absolute best. The back of the shower was just a screen, which looked out directly into the rainforest. So one day while I’m showering, I happen to notice some movement in the woods, and it was this little monkey, along with about five or six of his friends! Monkeys — just chillin’ in the rainforest — which I could watch all to myself while I took a shower. Once in a lifetime experience, for sure.

_DSC8698^^ Another shower monkey!

_DSC8726^^ How cute are these cabins!?

_DSC8764^^ One day we went into the butterfly house, which housed hundreds of amazing, beautifully colored butterflies, along with one nasty, huge tarantula that had moved in and just occasionally snacks on the butterflies.

_DSC8794^^ We took a lot of canopy walks high above the trees, where we saw tons of birds like Toucans and Hummingbirds and even a King Vulture!

_DSC8852^^ This snake, which we happened upon on one of our hikes, is referred to as the Venti Quatro, because once bitten by it, you’ll die within 24 hours. Nice, right? And he was thisclose to us on the hike. This was also right before a tree branch broke and Chris was showered with fire ants that bit him all over his arm. While he was in pain for about nine hours after it happened, he now thinks this is pretty bad ass. I mean, if you’re going to be in the Amazon, you might as well have a story to tell, right?

_DSC8880^^ We went piranha fishing, and I was the first person to catch one! It was so crazy. You put some meat at the end of a fishing pole, and when you throw the line in, you can’t even see the piranha attacking it, you just see the meat moving around in the water as they snip at it. This is a red-bellied kind.

_DSC8882^^ Look at those teeth!

Amazon_Hammock^^ Amazing Amazon hammock views.

The thing that makes both Chris and myself a little sad is that our camera didn’t have a better zoom, because some of the birds we saw were absolutely amazing, and our camera just wasn’t cutting it in terms of capturing their essence. But we spent four days in the Amazon, and it was both terrifying, beautiful and exhilarating. We did a lot of activities during the days, but we also had some time to relax, which was highly welcome.

After our Amazonian adventure, we packed ourselves back up, headed back out on the canoe rides and hikes that would eventually get us to the airport, and flew back to Quito, where we would have a half day before flying back out the next morning to … THE GALAPAGOS!

Guys, if you know me at all, you’ll know that making it to the Galapagos has been a dream of mine since my freshman year of college (so, you know, for a little while now!). Once we got there, it was more than I ever could hoped for. I can’t wait to share that experience with you tomorrow!

Bis bald for now, my friends!

Back to Machu Picchu, and the Hike That Practically Killed Me …


Okay — to say that the 7-hour, 9.5.-mile hike we did of the Inca trail almost killed me would probably be a bit of an exaggeration … but let’s be honest friends — that schiz is hard! I honestly don’t know how people do the full, 4-day trek, with camping and stuff. They’re pretty awesome, that’s for sure!

After spending four days in Cusco getting acclimated to the altitude and checking out some of the other sites, we woke up around 6 a.m. on a Friday to head three hours on the train with our tour guide, Michael, to the spot on the Inca trail where we would be starting our trek.

Anyway, I have a ton of photos from this trek, and it was all hard — but at the end of it what I can seriously say is that I was so incredibly proud of both myself and Chris for having finished it (although let’s be honest — it was much harder for me than for Chris!)

Here’s a bit of what we saw on that hike:



























One little tale about the trek that I’d like to share was a sort of adorable one about my lunch. The night before we left it occurred to me that I should probably remind the B&B where we were staying (which was booked in conjunction with our entire Inca Trail/Machu Picchu hike) that I am a vegetarian, since they were packing our lunch for the next day. “Sure no problem!” they said.

Cut to our lunch on this intense hike the next day (you can probably see where I’m going with this). Our guide seemed really nervous about the lunch and kept saying, “Oh I really hope they packed your vegetarian!” He was eager for me to open my lunch so he could make sure it was the right stuff, and when I did he was so relieved. “Oh good, they did pack you a vegetarian!”

“Absolutely, looks great!” I assured him, even though what I was looking at was fried rice with ham.

It was really no biggie — I just ate around it. I figure in circumstances like this, when you’re traveling in different parts of the world and trying to be thoughtful of their own customs and traditions, it’s best to go with the flow as much as possible. Lucky for me, big pieces of ham are easy to eat around ;)

Anyway … after about seven hours of ups and (very few) downs and stairs and switchbacks, I was ready to be done! And thankfully we had quite the amazing payoff at the end of the hike, too:




Not bad — am I right?! When you book the 2-day trek (at least when you book with Cusi Travel), what happens is you hike the Inca Trail all day, ending up at Machu Picchu late in the afternoon. You then take the bus (the crazy bus down the side of the hill where there is barely enough room for one vehicle, let alone the two that sometimes squeeze by each other!) down into Aguas Calientes — the town below Machu Picchu — to spend the night. We then got up super early the next morning to stand in line to catch the bus back to Machu Picchu for a tour with our guide, and we had decided to hike Huayna Picchu as well, so we’d be doing that without our guide around 10 a.m. the following day after our Inca Trail hike.





A word now about the Huayna Picchu hike (before I share some of the absolutely stunning photos) — it’s terrifying. And when I saw terrifying, I mean terrifying! First off, it’s sometimes referred to as the “hike of death,” so you know, there’s that. See that tall-ass mountain that sticks straight up into the sky in the photo above? The one directly to the right of Machu Picchu. That is Huayna Picchu, my friends, and that is what we hiked the day after our Inca Trail hike. It’s 8,920 ft high, with barely any handrails or cover of any kind, and only 400 people are allowed to climb it every day in order to keep it from being too crowded. (If you want to learn more about the hike itself, if you’re considering it, I would read this, which has some really good info to prepare you before you decide either way.)

I’m going to be honest — I didn’t do any reading about the hike before we took it on. I had a friend who had done it a few years earlier and she recommended adding it to our Machu Picchu visit before our tour guide even recommended it to us (you have to sign up way in advance, since like I said before, only 400 people a day get to climb), so I took her lack of “Oh by the way it’s seriously scary and hard” conversation as proof that, you know, it wasn’t seriously scary or hard.

That was obviously my bad. (I will definitely be asking you for more info the next time you recommend anything travel related to me, Faye!)

Anyway, I’m now so incredibly glad that I didn’t do any reading about the hike ahead of time, because it may have scared me away from actually doing the hike, in which case I would have been robbed of an amazing feeling of accomplishment, not to mention these amazing, once-in-a-lifetime views:







I mean … you can see why people chomp-at-the-bit and laugh at the potential of death to do this hike, right? Still — don’t say I didn’t warn ya!

And that, my friends, was pretty much our 2-day Macchu Picchu and Inca trail tour! Of course there is a ton that I’m leaving out about Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail itself (I mean we spent two full days at these places, so obviously there’s a lot to take in here), but if you’re interested in learning more about the amazing history of the place, I would suggest checking out this History Channel stuff about it, because they’ll do a much better job at describing it than I ever could hope to.

After Huayna Picchu, we caught the bus back into Aguas Calientes to grab a bite and do some shopping, then we caught the train back into Cusco to spend one last night at the Cusco B&B and in town before catching our flight to Ecuador early the next morning to start the second phase of our adventure — Quito, the Amazon and … drum roll please … the Galapagos Islands!

In honor of my favorite holiday, though (oh hey, Thanksgiving!), I’m going to go ahead and give the blog a break for the rest of the week. I’ll be back next week with the rest of our adventure, though — so for now everyone … enjoy your time with friends and family and loved ones on Thursday — I know I will!

Bis bald!




Spring Break Day 3: Breckenridge, Colorado

On our third day into our trip to Colorado last week, we loaded back into the car in Boulder and headed on the two hour ride to Breckenridge. (Thank you for always saying that you would drive, Brian! I absolutely did not love driving that tank of a car we got from the rental place!)

Anyway, the road into Breckenridge is a long, windy, at times hazardous one, and we’ve been told by the locals that during peak seasons, the traffic can get pretty backed up.

Which makes sense, because Breckenridge is amazing! Simply put — it’s gorgeous. And quaint. And if you love snowboarding or skiing (which both Chris and my sister’s boyfriend do), then there’s almost nowhere better for that.

We checked into our hotel —the DoubleTree by Hilton … I love how they give you warm cookies when you check in! — and immediately turned the humidifier on in our room.

So a note about Breckenridge — it’s high up in the air, friends. At 9,600 feet above sea level, lots of people (my sister included) tend to get altitude sickness here. You may get a headache or feel lightheaded. It could be difficult for you to catch your breathe, you might feel like you’re breathing through a straw or your mouth and nose could get dry. Steph’s altitude sickness wasn’t too bad (just general tiredness and a headache), so that was lucky, and none of the rest of us seemed to feel it at all, which is great, because I was worried. Chris and I are heading off to climb Machu Picchu in the fall, so I was using this as a sort of test for how I might do in those high altitudes.

So far so good, friends. Phew!

Anyway, as the boys headed to the mountains (they could ski there directly from our hotel!), Steph and I hit up the outdoor hot tub at the hotel, then headed into the town (there was a free shuttle service both to and from our hotel as well, although it really wasn’t all that much of a walk to get into town, anyway), for lunch and a little shopping.

01^^ So cute — and look at those mountains in the distance!



03A^^ Meanwhile, the boys were here …

03B^^ Gorgeous views.



While in town Steph and I stumbled into one store in particular with a salesman who I can really truly only describe as curmudgeon-ey. He was an older gentleman — perhaps in his late 70s, early 80s — and when we told him we were from New York (he asked!), he proceeded to regale us with stories about how you can die from altitude sickness within 24 hours, and how the local doctor recommends drinking 8 ounces of water every hour, and how we really, really needed to be careful because it’s actually quite scary ….

Thanks, Mr. Curmudgeon. We didn’t actually ask you for that info … but thanks for sharing?

Anyway, it was pretty much right after that store that Steph decided she had had enough of the town and wanted to head back to the hotel to rest.

Coincidence? I think maybe not ;)

Anyway, I was happy to oblige. So off we went, back in the free shuttle (same driver. He was a young kid just out of college who had spent a semester traveling around Africa and his first winter break as a college graduate working the slopes at Breckenridge. His next plan was to move to Florida for the summer and get his license to work as a deckhand. Nice life, buddy!) to the hotel, where we chilled in the swampy, humidifed air until the boys came back. (With beers, of course!)

That night we headed back into the town to the Breckenridge Brewery, sans Stephanie, for dinner and drinks. The brewery was very chill, totally relaxed, and exactly as we had by now come to expect from the plethora of Colorado breweries.



We didn’t hang out too long in town after dinner, since Steph was back at the hotel, but we did manage to talk the little one into coming back down to the hot tubs to hang out with us for the evening, which turned out to be quite lovely.

An outdoor hot tub. The setting sun. Some Colorado beer and your hubby. It’s a pretty happy scene — am I right?!

The next morning we were checking out to make the approximately 90 minute drive to Denver, but first we headed to the Blue Moose Restaurant for breakfast. (And Bloody Mary’s and coffee, of course!)

And that, my friends, was our Breckenridge experience. It was short, but oh so very sweet! (For those of us who didn’t feel sick, of course. I think it’s safe to say Steph may never be going back …)

Tomorrow it’s on to Denver, my friends! Bis bald!


In the News: A Deadly Metro North Accident

^^Views from the Metro North train from Grand Central to Poughkeepsie^^Views from the Metro North train from Grand Central to Poughkeepsie

I’ve taken the Metro North Hudson Line train from Grand Central to Beacon and back more times than I could ever hope to count. This train takes me from my home in New York City to birthdays, Thanksgivings, Christmases and much more at my mom’s house in upstate NY. I was on it last Tuesday, actually, as I traveled home for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Yesterday, the 5:54 a.m. train from Poughkeepsie flew off its tracks in the Bronx, killing four people and injuring dozens more. It’s the first time in the history of Metro-North that a passenger was killed in a crash.

Today, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is saying that it appeared that the train was traveling too fast as it hit a curve in the tracks, which likely caused it to tip over.

When things like this happen, it only makes sense to look for something — anything — to blame. A faulty break. An err in conductor judgement. An electrical issue. As someone who travels via mass transit practically daily — whether it’s on a train, subway, bus or plane — I try hard to never think about what could go wrong. Of course buses have crashed. Trains have derailed. Planes have gone down. As a mass transit traveler, you’re putting your life in the hands of someone else every single time you step on that train, bus, subway, etc.

And sometimes, accidents happen.

My heart and prayers go out to all the victims and their families. In life, we don’t get to pick  when our time is up. I can only hope that for those who lost their lives, they were able to spend a truly fantastic holiday with everyone they loved the most over Thanksgiving.

July 4 2013: Charlotte, N.C. and Arizona

View from our hike on our last day.

View from our hike on our last day.

Hi friends!

The few days since Chris and I got back from our trip have been a bit crazy, but I really wanted to take some time to post thoughts from our trip as soon as possible. So without further adieu, last Wednesday Chris and I were in a cab and off to La Guardia to catch our flight …

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Arizona In Instagram Pics

Hi friends!

Hope everyone had a fabulous holiday weekend! For reasons that I will go into in more detail in my full trip post, I ended up taking the majority of my photos on this trip with my iPhone … which of course meant posting them directly to Instagram.

So I figured I’d just post a quick preview of things to come in my full-on post by uploading all of the Instagram pics here. But before I do that, just some highlights from our trip:

  • We spent 12 hours in Charlotte after missing our connecting flight to Phoenix because of rain delays, but that’s okay because we got to eat a wonderful brunch and check out the downtown area because of it.
  • We went on amazing hikes, ate delicious food and drank lots of tequila.
  • I experienced a slight case of heat exhaustion … not fun, my friends! And after all that research I did to avoid it!
  • We did lots of swimming in my friend’s pool.
  • We were randomly, and for reasons still unknown to us, upgraded to first class seats on our flight back from Phoenix. Not too shabby!

Here’s a taste of what’s to come …

^^Rain made things pretty, but is not optimal for flying.

^^Rain made things pretty, but is not optimal for flying.

^^Bloody Mary's in Charlotte on our pit stop to Phoenix.

^^Bloody Mary’s in Charlotte on our pit stop to Phoenix.

^^Biscuits and grits. This is Charlotte.

^^Biscuits and grits. This is Charlotte.

^^Shrimp tacos=heavenly.

^^Shrimp tacos=heavenly.

^^Catching up with the person who is probably my oldest friend.

^^Catching up with the person who is probably my oldest friend.

^^Welcome to Sedona!!

^^Welcome to Sedona!!

^^Porous shoes on a 7-mile hike = lots of stopping to empty them out.

^^Porous shoes on a 7-mile hike = lots of stopping to empty them out.

^^Sedona hike--unbelievable.

^^Sedona hike–unbelievable.

^^Man and wilderness.

^^Man and wilderness.

^^Downtown Sedona.

^^Downtown Sedona.

^^Canyon Breeze views.

^^Canyon Breeze views.

^^Spinach enchilada with a mango margarita.

^^Spinach enchilada with a mango margarita.

^^Bye-bye Sedona. It's been real.

^^Bye-bye Sedona. It’s been real.

^^Gilbert Farmer's Market.

^^Gilbert Farmer’s Market.

^^Vegan quinoa breakfast bowl with strawberry scone and iced coffee.

^^Vegan quinoa breakfast bowl with strawberry scone and iced coffee.

^^99 degrees? Check. I will be hiking to the top of this mountain. Wish me luck. (Hint: this is where the heat exhaustion came into play... duh duh duhhhh!)

^^99 degrees? Check. I will be hiking to the top of this mountain. Wish me luck. (Hint: this is where the heat exhaustion came into play… duh duh duhhhh!)

^^View from about 1/4 mile up Cholla Hike, Scottsdale.

^^View from about 1/4 mile up Cholla Hike, Scottsdale.

^^Cheers to you, Arizona!

^^Cheers to you, Arizona!

^^Who got a free upgrade to first class on the way home? This guy! (And the gal he was with!)

^^Who got a free upgrade to first class on the way home? This guy! (And the gal he was with!)

So that’s it for now, my friends! I’ll be back soon with the full details of our (amazing and very hot!) trip.

Bis bald!

A Slight Change in Plans …


As Chris and I get ready to head to Arizona tomorrow, our travel plans are slightly dampened by the news that 19 firefighters died in Arizona on Sunday while fighting a fierce fire outside of Yarnell. As the NY Times reported, the loss of these heroic men was the greatest for firefighters in a single disaster since September 11.

It’s so sad.

Fire is a fact of life in dry, arid climates like Arizona, as Chris and I are coming to learn in the days leading up to our trip. If I wasn’t already slightly worried about the fact that we’re heading to Arizona in what may very well be one of the hottest weeks they’ve seen in a long time (yikes excessive heat warning and 100 degree + temps!!!), a text from my friend who we’ll be visiting put me ever-so-slightly-more on edge:

“They’ve closed fossil creek due to extreme fire hazards. It’s hot and hasn’t rained in a while. I’m going to look into a couple of other hiking areas in the Sedona area.”

She followed up quickly with a note that we’ll try heading to Oak Creek Canyon and Slide Rock, but I’m already on full alert. I’m still looking forward to the trip, don’t get me wrong, but I just thought it wise to perhaps do a bit of research ahead of time regarding staying hydrated and healthy while exercising (aka hiking) in 100 degree + heat. Here’s some of what I’ve found:

  • For starters, it’s important to know and be able to recognize signs of heat exhaustion, which include general fatigue, weakness, nausea, dizziness, muscle cramps and an increase in body temps. As WebMD reports, temps above 104, combined with an inability to sweat, acute respiratory distress and loss of consciousness can be signs of heat stroke, which is much more serious than heat exhaustion.
  • Experts suggest drinking 20 ounces of water two hours before exercising, at least 8 ounces of water shortly before going outside in the heat, and gulping water every 15 to 20 minutes during the exercise. You should also be sure to drink fluids throughout the day as a precaution.
  • Perhaps most importantly (and something I will continue to convey to Chris) is it’s important to be okay with being slower when temps get this high.
  • Wear lightweight fabrics that wick away sweat, and wear light colors that reflect the sun, not attract it. If you’ll be wearing a helmet (or in our case, a hat), remove it during times of rest to allow your head to breathe and cool off.

My friend’s already told us she’s taken care of the sunscreen and the bladders, and she’s a seasoned hiker in the Arizona heat who I trust to keep us safe while we’re en route.

But trust me, I’ll be on guard the whole time we’re at it … it only makes sense to be as smart as possible when it comes to heat and your health.

Okay friends–wish us luck! It’ll be an adventure (and quite interesting!) for sure! I’ll be back next week with what I’m sure will be amazing photos.

Bis bald!

Back In the Borough: The Hurricane’s A Comin’!

Hurricane Sandy

Hey guys,

So we’re back from our Virginia weekend, and it was awesome! Seriously–the cabin was amazing, the game was so fun, tailgating was fantastic…it was all great.

So I’m going to do a big update on the awesomeness of Virginia, and this cabin, ASAP, but for now, we’re pretty much just getting ready for the biggest news of the day–Hurricane Sandy. We drove back yesterday from Virginia and didn’t get in until around 6 p.m., at which point the stores were pretty much cleaned out. We were able to get some water and pasta and cat food and toilet paper though … so let’s hope that holds out!

Wish us luck–and I’ll be back after the storm!

Bis bald, friends!

A Quick Newburgh Catch-Up

How could a town so beautiful be so crime-ridden?

Hi friends,

So I don’t have a ton of time, but I just wanted to give ever-the-quickest of updates as to the weekends’ activities.

If I’m being totally honest here, I would have to say that the town where I spent most of my young adult life growing up is, as they say, a bit rough around the edges. Newburgh, New York, has seen its fair share of crime (I mean, New York magazine had an in-depth profile on it almost exactly one year ago entitled ‘Welcome to Newburgh, Murder Capital of New York.’)

What I can say in all honesty, from having grown up in Newburgh and having spent four years attending high school there, is that this town is what you make of it. My friends, for the most part, were awesome, amazing people who, on occasion, managed to find trouble, sure–but what high schooler doesn’t?

Then, of course, there was the other side of Newburgh–the gangs and high school drop outs and high poverty rates. These were part of the side of Newburgh that I tried not to get to know too intimately.

Now, having not fully lived in Newburgh for more than 11 years, what I can say is that every time I go back, I’m impressed by all the improvements that it seems like the city is really trying to make–especially when those improvements are in and around the city of Newburgh, where the crime is at its worst.

And that, my friends, is really the point of this post. Yesterday was my younger sister’s birthday, and so Chris and I hopped the train to Beacon yesterday afternoon (after having stopped off for a late lunch at Junior’s because, let me tell you friends, I still maintain that they have the absolute best veggie sandwich in the world, and I love, love, love the free bowl of pickles, beets and cole slaw that you get) to hang out with Steph and her boyfriend.

Since both of them have been around Newburgh a lot longer than I have, and more recently, they tend to know the new, best places to hang. And so, the first place we went to celebrate Steph’s 24th year of life was to the Newburgh Brewing Company.

The Brewing Company can be found on the outskirts of the city of Newburgh, in what I’m pretty sure must have been an old factory building. It’s got those great tall, beamed ceilings, and ample open space for a live band (which we were privy to when we arrived) and some game tables.

A note from the founders on the site reads:

“Honor. You’ll find a good deal of it in everything we do here at the Newburgh Brewing Company. We honor the natural goodness of our ingredients, by working hard to make them shine through in every sip. We honor the rich history of Newburgh, a tough-minded town that’s still as hardscrabble as it was when General George Washington stationed his army here more than 200 years ago. That earnest, pull yourself up by your bootstraps energy still abounds in Newburgh and it’s reflected in the simple, honest flavors you’ll find in our beer. People have been brewing beer in Newburgh since before America was America – it’s a tradition we’re proud to be a part of. Most important, we honor you. We love making beer. We pour our passion into this brewery every day and we are deeply honored each time you choose to enjoy the fruits of our labor.”

Should you find yourself in Newburgh sometime in the near future, might I suggest a trip to the Newburgh Brewing Company, where I would highly suggest the Saison beer, especially if light, wheat ale beers are your schtick.

After the Brewing Company, we had dinner at Il Cenacolo, an adorable little Tuscan restaurant on South Plank Road. There we shared two bottles of red wine, stuffed mushrooms and tomato and mozzarella appetizers. Then I had the Farfelle alla pumate for dinner, which was pretty awesome, too.

Our last stop of the night was to Billy Joe’s Ribworks, on the water. To be fair, the Newburgh Waterfront has always been a point of interest for our little town, and within the past few years the restoration effort really picked up pace, and you can see a vast difference down there from what I remember growing up in Newburgh. It’s now home to tons of bars, restaurants, spas and salons.

Billy Joe’s itself is right on the water, with an open floor plan inside and a humongous deck outside, perfect for another live band to perform. (Nuts in a Blender. I’m not being gross. That was honestly the name of the band that performed last night. Surprisingly, they weren’t that bad.)

Anyway, all of this is to say–I’m proud of all the energy that has been put into building up Newburgh. In only a few short years, they’ve managed to really make a difference in many of the abandoned buildings and old storefronts.

Newburgh really has a lot of potential–and I think people are finally starting to put in the valiant effort needed to reach it.

Image courtesy of Umbra Newburgh

Tips for International Travel

While Chris and I get ready to head out to Palm Springs tomorrow (ummm…yay!), I have my head quasi in our trip this upcoming Fall to Berlin, Munich, Rome and Cinque Terre (which is a new destination for us, taking the place of what was formerly going to be Venice. Thanks for the heads up Libby and Allison!).

Don’t worry–once we’re in Palm Springs tomorrow I will officially have my head in the game!

Anyway, back to our Euro-trip. We have our hotels booked in Berlin, Munich and Rome, and our flights booked from NYC to Berlin, and back from Rome to NYC. Then, yesterday, we booked our flights from Berlin to Munich (turns out, that’s probably cheaper than training it…)

I came across this little diddy in the New York Times today about money tips for globe-trotters, and I’m finding it very useful. Some helpful advice includes:

  • Get a credit card with a chip
  • Tell your bank where you’re traveling
  • Learn the exchange rate before you land

Etc., etc. Anyway, just thought I’d share.

Okay, wish us luck! Tomorrow is moving day at my office, and then I’m off to catch the plane to California!

Too. Much. Fun.

Keep Safe Abroad

It’s sad but true. “Civil uprisings, earthquakes, ash clouds, terrorism warnings and violence have all disrupted travel in the past year,” this WSJ article reminds us.

That’s why it’s more important now than ever before to be smart and think ahead about what you would do should something happen when you travel. The article above offers great pointers—like the use of STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) and a site to help you find the nearest U.S. embassies and consulates.

Most importantly, like my dad always says, know your surroundings. As much as you want to be able to relax and be free on vacation, it’s always best to keep an eye on what’s going on around you.

Bis bald friends—and read the story!

In The News: Mexico Tourism Drops With Ongoing Drug Violence

Miss all this because of a drug war? Not me!

As a person who has visited Mexico twice in the past three months (first to Cancun, then Cabo), I’m saddened by all the recent headlines about the huge drop-off in tourism there. It’s not that I can’t understand why people wouldn’t necessarily chose this particular time to visit —just last October a Canadian tourist in Acapulco was found dead in his rental car, and another was shot in the leg during a firefight in Mazatlan.

And as much as a tourism company or media outlet can say over and over again that the violence isn’t, for the most part, directed at tourists, for some that reassurance simply isn’t enough.

I, for one, wasn’t the slightest bit worried when I went to Cancun and Cabo. Firstly, my own high school was a breeding ground for drug and turf “wars”—I don’t need to travel to Mexico to see that. Secondly, I live in New York City, and let’s be honest, this isn’t necessarily the safest of places in the world, either.

But  more importantly, I knew that the places I was traveling to were as safe as they possibly could have been—large tourist destinations during months where (in previous years) and lot of other tourists would be traveling as well. What exploring we did during those trips was not too far from the hotel, and always at the advice of hotel staff or other tour guides. To be honest, I felt more unsafe around the hoards of drunken American Spring Breakers than I did out and about in the town in Mexico.

Seriously, drunk kids can do stupid things sometimes.

Having said all that, I would never, ever, in a million years recommend to someone that they should travel to Mexico if they felt even the slightest bit uncomfortable or unsafe. Mexico is beautiful. And it’s fascinating and fun and exciting. You can’t experience all of that when you’re constantly looking behind you and worried about whether or not you’re going to get shot by a drug lord.

Sadly, it seems that until these senseless, disgusting acts of violence in Mexico are over, the entire place will suffer…..

P.S. Check out this sobering graph, courtesy of the WSJ, to see just how badly Mexico really is suffering:

Courtesy of WSJ

In The News: Ferris Wheel Fall Kills Young Girl

I have fond memories of Wildwood in New Jersey, but this story is just so devastating. In what is being called a “freak accident,” an 11-year-old girl died after falling from about half-way up a ride on the Giant Wheel Ferris wheel on Friday.

Authorities are unsure yet of what actually happened, but Ferris wheels have always been a bit scary to me. Not sure how this will affect Wildwood visitors for the rest of the summer season, but for now the park is closed.

Stay safe when traveling this summer.

In The News: Drunk Passenger Causes $40,000-Worth of Damage on Flight, Disrobes Seat Mate

Yowza Jason Dixon—your name should certainly be added to the list of ‘do not fly’ names after the little stunt you pulled on May 2.

According to this AOL Travel piece, 32-year-old Virgin Atlantic passenger Jason Dixon became so intoxicated on his flight from Britain to Jamaica that he somehow managed to become involved in a physical altercation with his seat mate (after she turned down his advances, of course), ripping off her clothes and yanking out her hair, and then causing nearly $40,000 in damages to the plane.

Sounds like a model passenger (and person). Really.

Bis bald, friends! In only 6-days time Steph and I will be Cabo-bound! Cannot wait!

In The News: What a Government Shutdown Means for Travel

Planning on visiting the National Zoo? Think again.

Hi friends.

If you’re already traveling, or plan on traveling in the near future, I just ran across this extremely useful article in the NY Times that runs down a bit of what the impending government shut-down could mean for travelers.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • The National Park system will close its doors, including access roads and look points, at midnight on Friday.
  • Passport offices will be closed for the acceptance of new applications.
  • The Smithsonian’s 19 museums and galleries in Washington, D.C. and New York City, and the National Zoo, will be closed to visitors. Don’t worry though, the animals will still be taken care of by zookeepers.

Sheesh. Look what drama occurs when we all can’t just play nicely.

Bis bald, friends!

Cancun, Mexico—Complete!

Hello beautiful Cancun

Well friends, we’re back! And Mexico was, I must admit, pretty much everything I thought it would be and more. The beaches were the most unbelievable blue. The people were so ridiculously friendly. Our all-inclusive hotel was, well, the epitome of all-inclusive (to include a mini bar and liquor cabinet that was refilled every two days).

Click below to read more about my amazing birthday trip to Cancun, and my recommendations for you should your travels ever bring you there…

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Mexico on the Horizon

Well my friends, it’s almost here—only three more wake-up days until we depart for Cancun. I thought it would never come.

And yet, as the vacation I’ve waited so long for fast approaches, I’m still wary of articles like this (especially since my family keeps sending them to me). Sure, there’s a bit of a drug mess happening in Mexico right now, so Chris and I promise to keep our eyes and ears open while we’re there. Plus, in my own defense, the craziest thing I plan to do in Cancun involves a book, a drink, and a chair by the side of the pool. And I thoroughly look forward to it.

Bis bald, friends! I may or may not get to write again before I leave, but if I don’t, expect plenty of updates when we return next week.

In The News: Egypt in Distress

Nightfall over Tahrir Square in Cairo on Tuesday.

Let’s all just take a moment to pray for the people of Egypt. It’s a bit crazy what’s going on over there right, and whatever comes of the protesting, hopefully it can end peacefully, and with as few people hurt as possible.

Bis bald, friends….and keep your civil unrest…well, civil!

Photo via

In the News: Full body scans at the airport. How do you feel about it?

A security official demonstrates a full-body scan at an airport in Hamburg

It’s not a totally new story— there are now 385 full-body scanners at 70 U.S. airports, with another 1,000 scanners planned by the end of the next year. There has been an uproar. People are mad. They feel defiled. They feel like this is American and what happened to our civil liberties? I mean, you’re practically naked on those things!

I know how my dad feels. He sent the family a long email on his sentiments—and they weren’t happy.

Me, I’m not sure where I fall in this argument. I’m all for things that will make me and other people feel safe when traveling. But to be honest, I’ve been on many a plane since 9/11, and I haven’t once felt unsafe.

And that was before full-body scanners.

So what’s the impetus? What’s the point in taking such drastic measures? And now with all this backlash, the Transportation Security Administration said today that they would reconsider the policy on passenger screening, although no immediate changes will be made. So what message does that send, exactly? We think this policy is important enough to use in the first place, but now that some people are complaining about it, we take it back?

What are your thoughts on the full body scan? Will you be getting one this Wednesday, one of the busiest travel days of the year for the U.S.? Click here to read a discussion on the NY Times about it.

Bis bald, friends! I’m headed upstate for Thanksgiving day and then to Jersey the day after for second Thanksgiving. Have fun wherever you’re headed!

Photo via

In the News: How Do You Feel About Airport Security?

Heading to catch a flight? Expect to spend some time with airport security first.

There was a piece in the WSJ today about how certain European air officials are accusing the U.S. of imposing “useless and overly intrusive travel security measures.” These officials called certain practices “redundant” and “burdensome,” and even, in some cases, a violation of travelers’ privacy.

Now yes, I’ve complained about airport rules before. The lines are long. The fees are insane. The people can be rude. But the one thing that you won’t hear me complaining about is the security. Sure, it’s annoying to have to wait in a long line and take your shoes out and pull your laptop out of its case and occasionally be pulled over for a random search (yes, this has happened to me more than I care to remember), but I feel much better knowing that every single person around me is being held to the same standards of the search before boarding the same plane that I am getting on.

That’s not to say that there might not be some redundancies in the system, and that’s not to say that there isn’t ever any corruption, but at the end of the day I still say— if you’re going to give up something that’s redundant within the system, don’t make it within the security system.

In the article the British Airways chairman, Martin Broughton, is quoted as having said, “America does not do internally a lot of the things they demand that we do,” and calling on British authorities not to “kowtow to the Americans every time they want something done.” But the article doesn’t specify exactly what these “things” are that we don’t do here in the airports security-wise. We take off our shoes, too, Mr. Brougthon. We take our laptops out of our bags, Mr. Broughton. If you could be more specific, I know I’d certainly be interested to know what it is that we aren’t doing here (and if maybe we should be).

What are your thoughts?

Bis bald, friends! Tomorrow a post about the lovely upstate Shawangunk Wine Trail!

In the News: Cruise Chaos

Consumer Reports had an interesting little tidbit today about the hazards of traveling via cruise line [and no, I’m not just talking about the possibility of boarding a toilet of the sea cruise].

According to the article, “After more than a week of the company providing virtually no updates and no media interviews, on Friday visitors to the Cruise West site were told in blunt terms that all operations were ceasing as of Saturday the 18th and that only the line’s Danube Cruise, scheduled to depart on Wednesday, will operate.”

Poor sad cruise travelers. Luckily for us readers, though, we can learn something from this melodrama. So without further ado, here is the gospel according to Consumer Reports for what you can do to protect yourself if a big-ticket vacation provider such as a cruise line or tour operator suddenly goes bust:

*Book all travel purchases via credit card (good information in general, actually, as it’s ALWAYS easier to dispute a wrong charge or dropped travel plan if you purchased it on a credit card other than with debit or cash)

* Consider travel insurance for every travel purchase, especially for things like cruises. And go for the independent travel insurance companies, as opposed to the “third-party” offers that some cruise lines or tour operators offer. If that cruise line or tour operator goes bust, you coverage could go bust as well.

* Lastly, when booking something like a cruise, Consumer Reports suggests using a reliable, unbiased travel agent (you can find a good one through the American Society of Travel Agents).

Bis bald, friends! Only three more days until I’m Munich-bound!

In the News: Cranky Customers Cause Cranky Flight Attendants. And That Just Makes Everyone Cranky.

The chatty neighbor next to me on a flight makes me cranky, too—but I won't take it out on the flight attendant

Well by now it’s practically old news. Poor flight attendant Steven Slater (yes, I say poor, and I’m sticking to it!) had just about had enough of the crankiness of certain passengers when he decided to depart the JetBlue flight into Kennedy International Airport on his own terms on Monday. The story goes that after Slater asked a passenger to remain seated until the appropriate time to get his baggage, the passenger ignored him and continued to pull down his luggage, which hit Slater on the head. When Slater asked for an apology, the passenger cursed at him. So, an irate Slater took matters into his own hands. He got on the plane’s public-address system and cursed the passenger out, all but gave his resignation, then activated the inflatable evacuation slide at a service exit and slid out of sight.

He even managed to grab a beer from the beverage cart before taking off to his home in Belle Harbor, Queens, where he was later arrested.

Unfortunately, as the NY Times article points out, this is just the latest in a string of violence and hostility between airlines and passengers. In fact, a new study by the International Air Transport Association that was quoted in the story found an increase in instances of disgruntled passengers and violence on planes, with the chief cause being passengers who refuse to obey safety orders.

So what’s the deal, people? I’m not saying every single flight attendant I’ve ever met has been all smiles and pleasantness (although, now that I really think of it, I can’t quite remember ever meeting a toxic flight attendant), or that sitting on a crowded plane with extra fees and no more peanuts is the best fun I’ve ever had either—but is that really the flight attendant’s fault? And why wouldn’t this man just stay. in. his. seat? If everyone else has to do it, why was he so special?

To add salt to the wound, a neighbor of Slater’s said that when he was not working, Slater was usually in California caring for his sick mother, as he had also done for his father when he was dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Now listen, I know there are two sides to every story, but I gotta say—this one is looking a little lopsided.

My favorite is the last quote in the piece from Slater’s neighbor and a former flight attendant. “Enough is enough—good for him,” she said in the piece. “If he would have called me, I would have picked him up.”

Touche Ms. Bavasso, touche.

Bis bald friends! And please, behave on those flights!

Installment Three: When in Rome, day 1

A little Italian countryside on the train from Rome to Florence

Last Thursday, at around 11 p.m., Steph and I had made it to our final European destination—romantic, wonderful, beautiful Rome, and as tired (and sweaty and dirty) as we were, we were really excited to be there.

So remember that backpack that I mentioned back in Paris? The one that had all the travel documents in it? It also had detailed directions of which train to take from the airport into Rome, and walking directions from the Termini to our hotel, hotel Le Petit, which was only about an alleged 7 minute walk.

But the thing was, had our flight left on time, we were supposed to have arrived in Rome around 7:30 instead of 11 p.m., which would have made it a bit less sketchy for us to fumble our way around a foreign country, and find our way from the train station to our hotel (I can now tell you, having lived through this trip already, that it’s laughable how close our hotel was to the train station. Make a right, walk five minutes, make another right and you literally walk right into the train station. But at 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, after picking up our luggage, we had no way of knowing how easy it would be).

So as we entered the main part of the airport (no customs, no luggage check, no passport stamp. What’s up, Italy?!), I started to wonder if taking the train was really the best idea, still (despite my detailed notes….thanks to you, Chris!).

Turns out, I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it before we were approached.

“Need a ride?” a man with a thick Italian accent approach myself and my sister.

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Installment Two: A Couple Hours in Paris

Hello there, Eiffel Tower

Okay, now let’s pretend like we’re back to last Thursday, which would make it our last morning in London, before catching an 8 am. train to Paris, before flying out of Paris later that afternoon to Rome……

Steph and I had seen a concert Wednesday night and didn’t make it into bed until around 1 a.m., so we weren’t exactly sure what it would be like getting up at 5 a.m. to catch the train. With jet lag. To a new city where neither of us spoke the language.

Turns out it wasn’t too terribly awful. Must have been the excitement. We knew we would only have a couple of hours in beautiful Paris (or so we thought), so we had decided to hop on the subway from the train station and take it immediately to the Eiffel Tower. After that, we’d cop a squat at the closest cafe we could find near there and pack in all the coffee and crepes that we could….

Lucky for me (and Steph), my thoughtful boyfriend had lovingly printed out the Paris subway map for me, highlighting which stops we would need to take to get to some key places—the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre and our airport, etc. And that fantastic little map stayed tucked in my backpack with a ton of other important documents—print outs of flight confirmations, hotel address, maps of other cities, etc.

Eeeeek—subway map madness

And then, as soon as we stepped off the train and into the train station and were enveloped in “crying” women (seriously, mobs of them), asking if we spoke English and shoving pieces of paper in our faces asking for money, the subway map was promptly forgotten.

There have been very few times in my life when I’ve actually been surprised by something. I live in New York City. I’ve seen a man with a top hat traveling down 42nd street on a pogo stick. I’ve seen a boy getting mugged. I’ve seen a person literally hanging out of a 12th floor window to clean it, with nothing even remotely holding said person in place besides shear strength. I’ve stumbled upon movie sets, routinely walked past cops with machine guns in Grand Central and, every day, depart my subway stop for work to the sounds of a lovely lady who, painstakingly, takes the time to alert me that “Jesus is coming.”

I’ve seen all of this, and yet, at this train station in Paris, within 4 minutes of stepping off the platform, I was surprised. These women were swift. They were relentless. And another person, perhaps a person who has not been through the craziness of living in a city such as New York, would have been in a worser position than my sister and I were.

Still, it threw me off a bit. Then I couldn’t find the subway map. And the map that I was looking at on the wall, yeah, that one seemed a bit different than the one I had studied (seriously, studied) that was somewhere hidden in the eternal blackness of my backpack. And this, my friends, is where my sister and I got into our first (and if I remember correctly, last) traveling tiff.

Standing at the map next to my sister, not understanding what I was looking at (and becoming ever more frustrated that I couldn’t understand what I was looking at), I glance over at the little one, who is not even looking at the map.

“You’re just standing there!” I’m exasperated.

Sister looks at me, in surprise. “What?”

“You aren’t even TRYING to help me at all!”

I unleashed all of my frustration at this stupid Paris train station right then and there on the little one, and she took it like a pro. “Cheryl, I don’t know how to read these things, and I think we should just ask someone,” she said calmly.

Fine, point taken. But I’ll be damned if I asked someone how to read a subway map! So after another five minutes of studying the wall, I finally figured out where we needed to go. Then, the ticket machines were broken.

So we stood in line for another half hour waiting to buy our ticket. But that was okay, because in that line I got a chance to calm down. Take in my surroundings. Realize it’s all going to be okay? (and that it wasn’t Stephanie’s fault).

On the subway, however, we had another trying moment. After waiting for another half hour for the subway to even arrive, Steph and I jammed our way (backpacks, purses, suitcases and all), on a subway that seriously is one of the most busy ones I have ever been on. Then a woman got on with a stroller, and at the next stop, the shouting began. People couldn’t get on (because of the stroller, of course), so shoving and French yelling ensued. Of course we didn’t know what was being said, exactly, since neither one of us speaks French, but we could get the gist. And it wasn’t fun.

After that, things were uphill. Well, besides the pouring rain and three-hour delayed flight to Rome, that is. Still, figuring out the subways after that were easy-as, and we made it to the Eiffel Tower. And we found our little cafe and we ate our crepes (mine Rum soaked, Steph’s with blueberries). And all was right with the world….

At around 2:30 we made our way back to the subway so that we could get to the airport to catch our what we thought would be 5:45 p.m. plane. It was not a 5:45 plane. A strike of airport workers backed up all the flights, and so Steph and I spent a few extra hours in the airport that would have gladly been spent in another part of Paris—but it was okay. In the end we got on the plane around 8:30, and landed in Rome around 11.

It was a really, really long day, but finally, after all of that, we were in ROME!

Bis bald, and the best to come, friends!

A stormy sky couldn't keep us from hamming it up in Paris

Rum soaked crepes taste exactly as you would expect them to