Mexico City isn’t scary, it’s amazing

When planning for my trip to Mexico I was met with much concern from friends and family. Mainly because I was not going straight to the touristy beaches of Puerto Vallarta and Cancun. I started my trip in Mexico city. As a woman traveling alone (I met up with a group later) I was warned to stay vigilant, cary pepper spray, don’t stray from the beaten path, ect. Honestly I was nervous about Mexico City. Recently the news has been flooded with horror stories about kidnappings and murders in Mexico. So entering the city I was certainly on guard.

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Mexico city view from my hotel

But from the moment I touched down in MEX I felt nothing but compassion and kindness from the citizens I encountered. I quickly found that residents of Mexico city want to erase the stigma surrounding their historical, cultural and vibrant home. I felt safe walking around. I easily navigated the well kept streets and was helped by several friendly people. I also noticed there was a large police presence. Knowing around every block I could find a blue light or standing police officer eased my nerves.

Before traveling to Mexico I made friends with two others from my tour. We made plans to meet up for dinner. The three of us wandered through the city center and found an amazing Mexican Seafood restaurant called Chuchito Perez Roma. After struggling a bit with the language barriers we managed to order Mojitos, beers and lots of tacos! I sampled duck, chorizo and steak tacos. The food was so fresh and colorful. The waiters were hilarious and very patient with our terrible Spanish.

After dinner we explored the city a little more before heading to the rooftop of our hotel for a night cap.

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Where did I stay?

Best Western Royal Zona

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Where did I eat?

Chuchito Perez Roma

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Drinking around the World

No matter how different every city in the world may be, in each city you can find yourself at home with the comfort of a cool drink and the company of an old friend or some new.

Most cultures have their own traditional alcoholic beverages. When traveling I think sampling local spirits can connect you to the new city.

I enjoy sipping wine in a cafe, tubing with a beer in hand, body shots and posh cock tails. Drinking can be both relaxing or energizing. I become more open to meeting new people, trying new things and communicating. Through my travels a single glass of wine has led to philosophical revelations, beers at a pub led to a new flame and mixers at a club led to leading a street dance party. Drinking has certainly influenced and shaped many of my most cherished memories.

Drinking responsibly has led to a majority of positive experiences. So I have decided to compile a list of my favorite beverages from cities around the world.

Richmond, Virginia USA: Angry Balls

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Angry Balls is my choice drink for camping, tail gates and country line dancing. This is my #MERICA drink. I don’t like beer so my go to pub drink is Hard Apple Cider. The Angry Balls cocktail is a combination of Angry Orchid Cider and Fireball Whiskey. It is spicy, full of flavor and is sure to heat your night up.

Orlando, Florida USA: John Daly

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The best way to cool off in the shade of a Florida palm tree is sipping a traditional Arnold Palmer. An Arnold Palmer is a nonalcoholic mix of Sweet Tea and Lemonade. When you add a splash of vodka the drink becomes a John Daly! This cool and refreshing drink is a deep South staple. Best served in a mason jar.

Waikiki, Hawaii USA: Sex on the Beach

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It was hard to choose just one drink when thinking about Hawaii. Runners up included Bahama Mama, Pina Colada and Blue Hawaiian. All go to staples for tropical vacations. But the ultimate partner for surf and sand is the Sex on the Beach. A mix of vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice, and cranberry juice. The bright colors are reminiscent of sunsets over Mauna Kea.

Bangkok, Thailand: Singapore Sling

I was first introduced to the Singapore Sling on the flight from Singapore to Thailand. After traveling for nearly 36 hours I desperately needed some liquid energy so I ordered this pretty pink concoction. I was hooked. I tried Singapore Slings at each bar I went to throughout Thailand. The best one? From a place called Hippie Bar in downtown Bangkok.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Fish Bowl

Big Fish Bowl

Big Fish Bowl

Nothing says fun like a large literal fish bowl full of unknown spirits, blue syrup and cherries! The Fish Bowl style drink is meant to be shared with friends. In my experience you don’t need to purchase your own. Just wander around the bar with your own straw and people will offer you a sample of theirs! Several fish bowls, insane heat and loud music led to me starting a massive dance party on the main bar street in Phnom Penh!

Fish Bowl Induced Street Dance Party

Fish Bowl Induced Street Dance Party

Capri, Italy: Limoncello

Limoncello is a lemon liqueur from Southern Italy. It is bitter, sour and an acquired taste. I absolutely loved it. It reminded me of sucking on Lemonhead sour candies as a kid. The liqueur is severed typically as a shot between and after meals. I had a blast on my tour of Southern Italy because most people in my group didn’t like the flavor, so after each meal they gave me theirs! Shots, Shots, Shots!

Venice, Italy: Bellini

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Probably one of my favorite drinks from my travels is the Peach Bellini. First of all it combines two of my favorite things Prosecco sparkling wine and peach (purée or nectar). Try sipping a Bellini as you float through Venice on a romantic gondola.

Dublin, Ireland: Pear Cider

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When in Ireland I tried Guinness, of course. But I don’t like beer so for most of my trip I stuck to Hard Cider. I tried Pear Cider for the first time in Dublin and got hooked. There’s nothing like a few pints of cider in a dark Irish pub.

London, England: Apple Cider

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Drinking Cider at a graveyard pub

Throughout England I sampled local Hard Ciders whenever possible. It’s interesting to see the variations in color, crispness, and overall taste.

Paris, France: Rosé wine

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Wine tasting

Complex to produce and steeped in tradition Rosé wine is a must have in Paris. Not to sweet and not to dry Rosé wine is perfect to sip in a sunny cafe or take on a garden picnic. I’ve never been able to replicate the Rosé I found in Paris.

Denver, Colorado USA: Moscow Mule

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I first heard about the Moscow Mule from Cosmopolitan Magazine. They suggested that every refined lady should have “Go-To” drink. Something that you can order at a bar and show how refined and classy you are. So I decided my drink of choice would be the Moscow Mule. It’s made from Vodka, Ginger Beer and Lime Juice. Cold, spicy and strong this drink sure stands out in a crowd. The best I’ve had? Came from a restaurant in Denver called The Yard House.

A History of My Libations:

Conclusion: 

You can travel the world and you’ll never sample all, but at least you’ve tasted life. 

Wine Tasting in Tuscany

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 3.05.13 PMOn the way to Rome we stopped for a wine tasting in the Chianti region of Tuscany. Our wine tasting was at a charming 16th century Tuscan winery called Castello Il Palagio. We came during their off season so I think the winery was understaffed. Instead of having a tour and getting to learn about the wine we were just sat down and basically told to “Chow down”. So it wasn’t really a wine tasting…more like a wine devouring. We got to taste several aged red wines and feast on amazing bread and fresh olive oil. While people were still drinking I explored the vineyard on my own. I found rows of aged cyprus trees, aromatic orchids and a adorable cat family!

Charming Cinque Terre

This morning we headed south toward La Spezia and the Cinque Terre region of Italy. The Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage sites famous for its coastal villages, scenic vistas, rugged cliffs and colorful villages.

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Today we had the whole day free to ourselves so it quickly became my favorite days of the trip. I hung out with two super fun guys. We had a great time drinking tons of wine, eating delicious food and exploring the quiet streets of the different Cinque Terre towns.

We started our food tour of the Cinque Terre with pesto focaccia pizza. We chowed down before exploring a breathtaking castle in La Spezia. At the top of the castle there was a harp player! 10906113_10152893621355813_7806844916176866695_n

Afterwards we checked into our tiny hotel.

Where did I stay? Hotel Firenze Continentale

Then we took the train to Monterosso al Mare where the boys and I decided to sit back, relax and treat ourselves to wine and aperitifs. 10407261_10152893619320813_8236156655788437128_n

Afterwards we traveled to Manarola. There we saw the Befana! The Befana is a witch who delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve (the night of January 5). It was so neat to see the old woman parading down the street with hoards of children following and singing. What a special time to be in Italy! After the celebration I grabbed gelato and strolled down to the coast where I watched the sunset. 10922616_10152893619450813_6628597561072186127_n

Then we traveled to Riomaggiore for dinner. Our group filled a tiny restaurant. I tried pesto pasta and we had two bottles of local wine! Feeling happy we caught the train back to La Spezia where we hung out at the hotel bar and chatted the night away.

I truly had an amazing, cinematic, life-affirming day today. I will cherish the Cinque Terre for the rest of my life.

Caio, Florence

Our group decided to start late because of the New Years Eve celebrations so we set out at 11AM today.

I found out that some people did stay out and party last night. So I am kind of bummed that I didn’t find them. It would have been fun to party with other people.

After a long coach ride we arrived in Florence. Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 12.59.27 PM

Where did I stay? Hotel Raffaello Florence 

We went to dinner and then to a karaoke bar where I sang Grease with this guy named Russel. Everyone said we did really good! DSC00833

The next day we started bright and early.

Our first stop was Leonardo’s Leather for a leather demonstration. Honestly there wasn’t much demonstrating. It wasn’t very informative. I think it was a waste of time. A lot of people spent a ton of money there and I don’t really see the appeal. I found things there to be over priced. But what ever floats your boat…DSC00837

Afterwards we met by the David replica and began a walking tour of Florence. We saw Ponte Vecchio, the Medici Palace and more. It was more talking then walking and I couldn’t really hear our guide. Some how I ended up loosing everyone. Then as I was standing on a bridge trying to figure out what to do I spotted Mollie!

The rest of the day Mollie and I wandered aimlessly around Florence. We had a great time laughing, chatting, gossiping and making fun of ourselves and everyone around us. We had lunch right outside of the Duomo. We hung out, I sipped wine and we devoured our amazing lunches.

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 12.59.37 PMI think that Mollie and I walked around the whole city. We saw tons of beautiful buildings, fascinating people, and lovely churches.

We even had delicious Gelato in a piazza where a lady was singing opera. It was very cinematic. 10915323_10152891603040813_6201928678578607055_n

Afterwards we went back to the hotel for naps before our big night out. I no longer have a roommate. Alex has decided to move in with a guy from our tour. So now I’ve been upgraded from a triple share to a single room. It’s nice to have more space and not worry about other people’s needs, but it is also kind of lonely.

Tonight we went to Space Electronic Disco. I had a great time dancing and had a few to many drinks. All was going well until I somehow wound up in charge of a very drunk guy on our tour. I had to wrestle him into a cab and get him back to the hotel. Before that I ended up having to pay for his lost drink and coat check cards and then apologize to everyone at the club on his behalf. Once in the cab he began acting strange and then he vomited everywhere! Our taxi driver was furious! He didn’t speak english but he just started reaming me in Italian. He was very intimidating. I finally convinced us to take us all the way to the hotel. Once there he continued to yell at me while my new friend was drunkenly slumped over in the hotel lobby. I ended up having to pay 200 Euro for trip and vomit. He yelled at me so much I started crying. The situation was awful but also kind of hilarious. I went to bed in tears but giggling. What a weird night.

Under the Vietnamese sun

Today was one of the best days of my life. Early in the morning we boarded a boat and sailed to an island of the coast of Nha Trang. On the way there we sang and basked in the beauty of the South China Sea.

Our first stopped was snorkeling off the island of Hon Mun.

The water was turquoise and clear. There were little reefs right off of the beach so it was very easy to see the corals and fish. There were tiny colorful fish and big strange-looking ones too. I snorkeled nearly the whole time while others sun bathed and started drinking.

After several hours on the beach we got back on the boat  and the party started! Everyone was drinking and singing. I started downing my personal bottle of vodka! The boat really started “rocking”. We had a party break and were provided a monstrous feast. After stuffing ourselves our ship pulled up beside two others and then we hopped the ship to have a group karaoke party and music show. Our local guides were hilarious. They sang cover songs and even made some of the guests get up and sing! It was a great time.

10420205_10152771305925813_4724614631742022969_nThen we stumbled back onto our own ship where we took shots before jumping into the water from the roof of the boat! They threw us tubes and then we hung out in the stunning bay. They even set up a floating bar for us to swim to!

Eventually it was time to head back to shore. So settled back into the boat. I put on my headphones, hung my feet off the side of the ship and reflected as we sailed back to Nha Trang. It was magical, beautiful and life-affirming.  10309170_10152771305880813_4727700327185685849_n

By the time we got back to Nha Trang most people (including myself) were extremely intoxicated. We didn’t want the party to stop so we headed to our hotel pool and continued hanging out. I fell asleep (okay passed out) and when I woke up it was night-time.

We went back to the Sailing Club for dinner where we reminisced about the adventures of the day. I loved every second of the day. It was truly amazing. I think it may be one of the best days of my life!

Angkor Wat and Dance Parties

10689473_10152743606790813_5136321079821951256_nToday we woke early to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat. It was pretty surreal. Then headed back to the hotel for breakfast. Our guide said that leaving and then coming back we would beat the crowds. I think he was right. Because when we went back it defiantly was as busy. We were able to properly climb and explore enchanting temple. It was like we were true explorers because everything seemed untouched and authentic. Angkor Wat only opened to tourism a decade ago so it’s still very new and un-abused. I think in another 10 years you won’t be able to climb and venture through as much as we did.

I was most astounded by the sheer size of the temples. The buildings are gigantic. Some reach 16 stories high. These were built around the time of the pyramids. How on earth did they do it? Simply mind-blowing.

There are hundreds of temples in Angkor Wat and we explore five of the most famous ones. It was an amazing day full of adventure, trekking and tuk-tuks!

Tonight was the last night for many of my tour mates who were not continuing on to Vietnam. So of course we had a huge party. We went out to the main bar street and to put it simply…got wasted. I drunk from many people’s Fish Bowls, danced in an insanely hot club and then helped start a massive dance party in the street. It was one of the best nights of my life.

Group selfie!

Group selfie!

8AM is perfect for drunk kayaking

Up bright and early after an insane binder last night at Kangaroo Sunset.

We were picked up by two tuk-tuks blaring old school hip hop music. As soon as we piled into the tuk-tuks we were all handed Lao Beers (it was 8am).

After a 30 min drive we arrived at the river for cave river tubing. By that point many people had already down 3 or 4 beers. While we waited for a cave tour to begin we downed more drinks. While we were shot-gunning I noticed the other tours around us were sitting quietly, while ours was dancing and laughing. The other tour groups also had helmets and life-vests. We did not.

Finally it was our turn to hop into tubes and pull ourselves through the cave river. Many intoxicated 20 somethings were led into a dark and ominous cave. Where we sung show tunes very loudly, people floated into dark crevasse and kept hitting their heads on the low hanging cave. I don’t think they let us go all the way through because at one point we just suddenly had to turn around. It was probably a wise decision.

Then we walked to a riverside bar where we were blessed with shots and drank wine coolers before kayaking. Our guides managed to put amps in their kayaks so we cruised down the river blaring old-school jams. One team of drunk kayakers flipped their kayak immediately. Ayal ended up dislocating his shoulder and having to paddle the rest of the way, while same passed out drunk in front. It was an amazing spectacle. Kayaking through the Laotian countryside and monstrous mountains was breath-taking. Being buzzed and listening to rap as we paddled through the Mekong was straight out of a movie. Best day of my life so far.

Halloween in Luang Prabang, Laos

Hopped back on board the boat this morning and continued sailing down the Mekong river. We stopped at Pak Ou caves. The caves are built into the side of a mountain, just above the water where the Nam Ou and Mekong Rivers join. There are thousands of Buddhas in the cave!10672411_10152735706400813_8092534399608441127_n

Then we reached Luang Prabang, a city rich in culture and left unchanged by time.

We checked into our hotel and had a little bit of free time before our bike tour. So Becky, Sam and I found a great little cafe and had watermelon juice and the best fried spring rolls ever!

Where did I stay?

VisounNam Sok Hotel

1471107_10152735601940813_7340185049767382171_nThen we took a seriously fun bike tour around the UNESCO World Heritage town. We rode down cobblestone lanes, past French style homes and shops and up a hill to Wat Xiang Thong. At the temple we saw monks praying and ringing traditional bells. We continued our tour and stopped at a roadside bar where we did shots of Snake Whiskey!

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After the bike tour our guide recommended we hike up the mountain to a temple and watch the sunset. Our guide said it “was only a couple of steps to the top”. No, it was 356 steps. To get to the top I pretended that I was on The Amazing Race. It was a struggle but in the end the view was worth it.

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Then it was time to celebrate Halloween!

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Everyone dressed up for the party. I was pretty impressed with the costumes since most people used what they brought in their suitcases. There were zombies, tiki girls, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, a couple of kittens, a rock star, Jesus and much more. I dressed as a flapper! We had a family style BBQ meal at a very fancy restaurant in town. The seats and tables were made of concrete…pretty swanky but very uncomfortable. We also started playing “The Game of Life.” A hilarious drinking game that we will play for the rest of the trip, non-stop.

Rules of The Game of Life:

  • Drink with the opposite hand
  • Don’t say Drink
  • Don’t Point
  • Don’t Say Mine

Consequences: 

  • Drink
  • Push-ups or squats

This is our bar not yours…Chiang Rai

Up early in the morning to head by bus to Chiang Rai “the old city” Thailand.

Where did I stay?

Wangcome Hotel

Accommodations: Very fancy hotel where I didn’t get much sleep because…well alcohol.

Our tour made a surprise pit stop at the Wat Rong Khun (White Temple). This stunning and unique temple is made to represent ascending from hell to heaven. It is truly a spectacle. The architecture, details and figurines all make you feel like you’re in a cartoon or fairy tale. Truly a must see in Northern Thailand.

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Once we reached Chiang Rai we headed further into the mountains to visit the Akah and Yao Hill Tribes of Northern Thailand. While the tour was very informative and interesting I did not enjoy being there. I felt like it was a zoo for humans. Everything seemed very staged and forced. I am glad the tribes can support themselves by selling and showing off to tourists but the dances and the souvenirs didn’t really seem authentic to me. I did however enjoy the hike through the jungle to get to the tribes. I loved seeing the countryside with all the water buffalo, chickens and fauna.

Cost:

  • $25
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10518710_10152725623270813_3099025716573680133_n After visiting the Hill Tribes we ventured into the night markets to sample local cuisine. I ordered a Hot Pot. Basically a create your own soup. They bring broth to your table in a clay pot with a heated stone underneath. You add what you want from a plate of selections and you have your own feast. It was very good and very hot! I also sampled some other local delicacies like crickets and worms!

Later we rushed back to the hotel to change for our themed party! The nights theme was “Shit Shirt”. I took a crappy Jack Daniels shirt bought in the market, tore it up and used red sharpey to make it look blood. Other people had tacky shirts, crappy shirts and just plain bad shirts. It was all in good fun. I don’t think many pictures were taken because there was a lot of drinking…but here’s one:

1901123_10152735719115813_606833988707091884_nWe had the tiny TINY bar all to ourselves so I was able to play DJ! We rocked out all night, had lots of cocktails and had a blast. I woke up in the morning not knowing what happened to that Jack Daniels shirt…