Busy Busy Milan

After an amazing morning in Sirmione we entered bustling and crowded Milan. Apparently today is the equivilent of America’s “black friday”. So the streets were packed with shoppers, families and tourists. The shops were insanely crowded, torn apart and loud. The Milano fashionistas were out in drones. It was crazy!

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We navigated our way to the top of a shopping center which was basically a mad house. At the top we hung out at a stylish sky bar. Where I sipped tea and took in the impressive view of the Duomo Cathedral. Then we strolled through the beautiful food markets where I had the most amazing pretzel and cannoli!

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After chilling for a bit we ventured back into the berserk city and managed to push our way into the Duomo Cathedral.

Illegal picture!

Illegal picture!

The cathedral was extremely impressive. Dark, gothic and ominous. There were several beautiful mosaics, stained glass windows and also some creepy statues!

We spent the rest of the night browsing shops and getting lost in the busy streets. We struggled trying to find a place to eat for dinner because in Milan dinner traditionally starts around 7PM, but we had to leave the city at 845PM. After several fails we finally found a place that would serve us.

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We ate dinner at an inviting little restaurant with a charismatic older lady who we think was the owner. She didn’t speak any English and we didn’t speak any Italian. Somehow we managed to order and be served successfully! It was a meal full of laughs, mimming and love. I had delicious Buffalina Pizza made by a delectable pizza man! He was making eyes at me the whole night. :p We ended up having to rush back to the coach. I literally ran half the way! But we made it. The people I was with and I were pretty made we had to leave Milan so early. I defiantly would’ve spent several more hours exploring. But once we got the hotel I completely passed. So I guess I needed an early night in.Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 2.29.38 PM

Where did I stay? Milano Sesto B&B

This hostel is amazing! The nicest room I’ve stayed in so far! Super clean, new and modern. I also had a great view. The shower was a little strange because you had to sit and the water got everywhere. Other than that I would highly recommend.

Living life simply in Pakbeng, Laos

Waking up at 545AM is pretty rough when you partied until 2AM the night before. A lot of my tour mates are hung over but I’m fine.

Where did I say?

Phet Sok Xia Hotel

Today we made our first boarder crossing. After about three hours getting visas we finally made it safely into Laos.

Tip: Get your Visa in advance to avoid the hold up.

After a short bus ride we disembarked and then hopped onto large tuk tuks to make our way down to the river. It was a wild ride and a great way to be introduced to Laos.

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Then we boarded a boat and began our journey down the Mekong River. Cruising down the river was so relaxing and peaceful. The mountains and scenery of Laos are breath-taking. My tour mates and I played cards, charades and some ice-breaking “Get to know you” games. Time flew by and after 6 hours of cruising and two fabulous home cooked meals aboard we reached Pakbeng.10647069_10152735689670813_6311954148698961704_n

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Our first “Guest House” experience was what I expected most of our accommodations to be like. I thought we would be staying mostly in hostel like places. But until now we have been staying in five-star resorts. Phet Sok Xai was small, simple and a little old. But it was charming and authentic. My new roommate Becky and I really enjoyed it. However some of our more high maintenance tour mates were not so impressed.

Some how I pissed my roommate Laura off. So now she doesn’t like me. She wanted to trade roommates. I honestly don’t care where I sleep. It’s a bed. I’ll room with whoever. I can adjust. But luckily Becky’s roommate hates her too. She also can’t figure out why. So now she and I are roomies.

That night we had a great family style dinner that was free! Afterwards we ventured into town to find bakeries. We bought croissants and chocolate rolls for breakfast the next morning. Then we hung out on the veranda and talked about life, family and our dreams.

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View from our hotel at dusk

It was pretty fantastic.

Side note: My feet have begun swelling. I’m not sure why. I’m not isolated. Many of the others are having issues with swelling feet. All I can do it elevate them to bring the swelling down.

Exploring on my own

This morning Jenny was very sick and tired. She did not want to get out of bed so I decided to explore Paris alone. 1175478_10151783226075813_678355807_n

I made my way to Notre Dam.

Travel Tip:

  1. Avoid the lines to enter Notre Dam by taking a free guided tour! 1146608_10151783226670813_516677365_n

I arrived just in time for a English tour and was able to beat the long line of solo travelers waiting to enter the cathedral. We were taught about the exterior architecture and then led inside. Once inside I left my tour group to explore on my own. It was a very cathartic experience. My mother is home battling cancer. So I lit a candle and prayed for her recovery. I sat in a pew for awhile and just watched the church goers and tourists. It was very peaceful and moving. As I was leaving the bells of Notre Dam began tolling.

I forgot to mention that I felt very French and beautiful today. I dressed in a black dress, tights and sweater. I’m pretty sure people thought I was French. 🙂

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I tried to go to the Musee d’Orsay but it was closed. So instead I ate lunch on a park bench. I had the most amazing sandwich in the world. It was so fresh, delicious and filling.

I continued to wander around Paris aimlessly. I eventually made it to the red light district where I was propositioned by some seedy french men. That’s when I decided to call it a night. I ended my trip in Paris drinking wine and eating crepes alone in a cafe. And that was okay.

How to beat the crowds in Paris

At last we have arrive in Paris, France!

The last time I came to Paris it was with my family and for only two days. It rained the whole time, my dad made us walk everywhere and we ate the cheapest food. So I was ready to re-discover the City of Love on my own.

W993983_10200296729892158_1002056516_nhere did we stay?

St. Christopher’s Inn Hostel in Gare Du Nord

  • Accommodations: Clean and Modern.
  • Restaurant in the Hostel: Fantastic! Great food and live entertainment every night!
  • Location: A short metro ride from the city center. Right next to the major Gare Du Nord Train stop. Walking distance to the Moulin Rouge.
  • Bonus:  The hostel provided a free walking tour of Paris! We had a very charismatic and informative local guide who showed us all of the major sites and gave us some helpful tips for traversing the city.

Paris travel tips:   Screen Shot 2014-12-24 at 11.52.35 AM

  1. Beat the lines by going to the Louvre through a side entrance.
  2. If a Gypsy offers you something, don’t touch it! You touch it then you buy it!
  3. Paris in August is crazy busy. You can not avoid crowds.

After the walking tour we went to the Louvre. We entered through a side door, passing the huge lines through the main entrance. We bought our tickets from a machine vendor. After Jenny bought hers she reached in the slot to pick up her ticket and found that someone before us had left behind their ticket. So I got in for free! #win

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Had the most refreshing ice cream in the world on a park bench in Paris.

We meandered through the Louvre for a bit and then hit the streets for some more wandering. I fell in love with Paris on that walk.

Later we had several glasses of wine and some creame brule and listened to a band play at our hostel bar. It was a perfect day.

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971808_10151783219125813_828311914_nDay 2:

Saturday morning we boarded a train and headed to Versailles. Apparently every other tourist in Paris had the same idea. Disembarking the train was like entering a mass exodus. Thousands of tourists were heading the same direction as us. It was very overwhelming. 1185281_10151783200405813_1788143615_n1098005_10151783199645813_1538643809_nBy the time we reached the gates of Versailles the lines wrapped around the building. We decided it wasn’t worth it to wait and decided to walk around the gardens instead. The gardens are vast and impressive. We got lost for hours and it was glorious.

We eventually stumbled upon Petit Trianon. A small château located on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles in Versailles, France. It was Marie Antionete’s home away from home. It was charming and straight out of a storybook. I loved seeing the little french cottages and all the cute farm animals!

We had lunch at a charming and very busy outdoor cafe near the lake of Versailles and then continued to explore the gardens. We walked through the maze and far away from the mass of tourists.

1003917_10200296742532474_162100182_nThe temperature was just perfect and we were secluded and exhausted so Jenny and I laid down in the soft grass and took a nap. Laying in the greenery under the perfect French sun was one of my favorite moments of the trip and I think I’ll cherish that memory for the rest of my life.

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Napping in the gardens of Versailles.

How to find a man in a kilt.

1186026_10151783189645813_1306281738_nI wish we had allowed more than two days in Scotland. Glasgow quickly became one of my favorite cities, and it think Jenny’s least favorite?

Sometimes when you travel with a friend you get to learn more about them. I’ve learned that while Jenny and I are similar in many ways we travel very differently. I like to get up early, walk everywhere and see EVERYTHING. Jenny likes to sleep in, hang out and a move through sites a little slower.

My admiration for walking created a problem early on because Jenny had left her good walking shoes in Richmond. So she was having a lot of feet problems.

To be fair by the time we reached Glasgow we had been traveling for over a week so we were both pretty tired. But Jenny just seemed kind of over it. I wanted to walk through Glasgow university but I had to drag her along. She even fell asleep on our bus tour. But I did convince her to wake up and go to a really cool restaurant built inside an old church. She had haggis and said it was the best thing she’d ever eaten.

Where did we stay?

Euro Hostel Glasgow

Accommodations: After over a week of sharing dorm rooms we paid a little extra ($25 per night) to have our own room with a bunk bed.

Location: Excellent. Within walking distance of major streets and sites.

Service: TERRIBLE. Let me explain…

  • We booked a trip through the hostel to go to Lochness in advance. The hotel LOST our reservation. Even though I had my confirmation number and everything they said they had already sold our seats to someone else. Since it was so last min there were no other companies in town with availability. So basically we were stuck in Glasgow one more day with no plans.

I was furious. This is the second World Heritage Site I would not see on my trip (first we missed Blarney Castle). When you go to Scotland you go to Lochness… and we didn’t.

We tried to find tickets to Edinburgh but the fringe festival was going on so tickets were super expensive. 1184962_10151783191950813_1354749861_n

So we decided to try and sneak into BBC Scottland, do our laundry, go to the movies and then eat Chinese food in our room. Which actually turned out to be the rest and relaxation we needed.

601438_10151783193035813_1602812349_nAs we packed up to leave on our last morning I heard the blaring sounds of bag pipes outside my window. Low and behold there were a troop a Scotts in Kilts practicing outside by the river. Finally after three days I finally found my men in skirts. Mission accomplished.

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Did I mention I hate Leprechaun

Next stop Dublin, Ireland!

Where did we stay?

The Abbey Court Hostel 

  • Location: AMAZING. Right night to Temple Bar Street (Only the most famous district in Dublin…).
  • accommodations: Livable. We stay in a 20 bed female room for only $10 a night. So we couldn’t expect the ritz. The bathrooms were all shared (Males and Females) so that was pretty crummy. But it was really an authentic experience.
  • We met some amazing girls and convinced them to join us on a pub crawl.

Jenny and I quickly discovered that single girls from all over the world flock to Ireland. It is safe fo1176231_10151783180245813_943688137_nr solo traveling and every woman loves a ginger with a strong accent. However…there are very few available men on the island. In fact the only guy we really chatted up was on our last night and he was our bar tender.

578378_10151783179990813_1421574582_nOur first day in the city we did the bus tour. Which we decided we should do in every city. It’s an easy way to see the major sites and get your grasp on the layout of the city.

We then went to the Leprechaun museum. I hate leprechaun. I’ve always been a little suspicious of them…okay I just don’t like them! But when in Ireland…you go to the Leprechaun museum. It was actually pretty cool.

Afterwards we went on a ghost tour! It was more hilarious then scary. We learned a lot about the city and then had drinks at a grave yard! Where I determined I don’t like Guinness and drank cider for the rest of the trip.

Day 2:1174984_10151783182395813_1343917098_n

The Cliffs of Moher

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Day 3:

Our third day didn’t start off very well. After a few drinks the night before I went to bed early while Jenny stayed out. At some point that night she lost our tickets for a tour of Blarney Castle the next day.

When Jenny told me in the morning we realized that without the tickets we didn’t know where we were supposed to meet our tour or at what time.

Travel Tip: 

  • Take a picture of your tickets with your phone

So we left at 7AM and headed towards the area we thought we were supposed to meet. We searched through a ton of different buses trying to find the correct company. But you wouldn’t believe the amount of tours going to Blarney castle and believe it or not most companies have green tickets (In Ireland…who would have thought?). After a hour of searching we knew we’d missed our tour.

I was extremely upset. Blarney castle was THE THING in Ireland I wanted to see. I didn’t want to be with Jenny for the rest of the day. So I walked down the street to cool off and die a little inside.

While I was licking my wounds Jenny was convincing anot993983_10200296729892158_1002056516_nher tour to take us free of charge. Some how she had managed a really small bus to take us on their trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland!

So reluctantly I got on the bus and sat as far away from Jenny as possible. I needed alone time.

The ride to Northern Ireland was breath-taking and Belfast was pretty cool. It had only recently been opened to American Tourists so I was the first in my well-traveled family to visit Northern Ireland.

While there we visited St.Patricks Cathedral and Dundrum Castle.

Then while we were driving home through the majestic mountains we passed Game of Thrones filming on the mountain side! 993983_10151783185115813_373153701_n

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Searching for Daniel Radcliffe

We made it to London!

It’s my third time in this magnificent city, but my first time unescorted.

Here’s where we stayed:

1001738_10151783154280813_208374670_nSafestay at Elephant and Castel

  • This Hostel is fantastic! Super clean and very trendy. There are lockers, outlets and lamps for each bed. We stayed in a four bedroom female room and we had our own bathroom.
  • Very close to the Tube.
  • Semi-Safe area… definitely near some dodgy neighborhoods but just stay aware and you’ll be fine.
  • The hostel provided free internet and breakfast

Travel Tip

  • Don’t forget to adjust your cell phone plan before you head to Europe. I was charge about $500 in international roaming and data fees with in the first 6 hours of being in the UK. Luckily I was able to convince my carrier that I did call them and change my plan (a little white lie) and was able to have the charges reversed. Now when I travel I just leave my phone on airplane Mode and use Skype to call people when ever I can get free wifi.

Because Jenny had never been to London I made sure she did all the stereotypical tourist things. We saw London Bridge, The Tower of London and Big Ben. We also took the Big Red Tour Bus. Which is great for sight seeing and picture taking. 945979_10151783154890813_2126018176_n

On our second day in London we met Jenny’s local friend. It was a rare sunny day in London so we took the opportunity to rent bikes and ride through Hyde Park.

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We stumbled upon this cute little sausage stand in the middle of the park and had a cinematic picnic in the shade of a willow tree.

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The most amazing sandwich!

After riding several miles (we got a little lost) we arrived at Kensington PalacePalace-East-Front_Lg_2We had great time exploring this historic princess palace and its fun and interactive art and fashion exhibits. But my favorite was the  stunning gardens.

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Day 3:

Today really tested our travel skills.

  1. I managed to lead us onto the wrong tube. One witch brought us to the outskirts of London and to the end of the line.
  2. Once we got to the train station were pointed to the right platform but were unaware there were two different trains at the same station. We got on the wrong train. We only discovered this after our 45 min ride turned into an hour and half.
  3. The conductor informed us that “You’ve made a costly mistake ladies”. But luckily with some tears from me and Jenny’s American charm we were able to just get kicked off at the next stop free of charge.
  4. Finally while on the correct train to Watford, Hertfordshire. We realized we had missed our 11AM tour of Harry Potter Studios. When you purchase tickets it clearly states that you MUST BE PRESENT for your ticketed time otherwise you forfeit your purchase. So while I cried Jenny called the park and they were very cordial and said everything would be fine.
  5. At last we arrived at the illusive Harry Potter Studios!
  6. When we got through the main entrance line we had our tickets scanned and BEEP. No admittance. They scanned again. BEEP. “Ladies, come with me”. So we were escorted to the help desk. Where we stupidly discovered that our tickets were for…the day before. Some how we had mixed up our itinerary and come on the wrong day.
  7. Harry Potter Studios is much like Disney World. They don’t like to see unhappy people. especially a crying 24 year old. So with a small charge ($15) they let us use our old tickets and we got in.536958_10200296681850957_1901152023_n
  8. Harry Potter Studios was totally worth all the misadventure. It was magical, informative and memorizing.

Since I had just wrapped my first major TV show job (A Haunting S.6) it was really special to see how a big movie was made. I was especially interested in the props and costumes. I was cool to really see where scenes were filmed and how the stories came to life.

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NYE NYC 2012

For New Years ever 2012 Chelsea, Ariel and I decided to check the Times Square Ball Drop off our bucket lists.

How did we get there?

We took MegaBus from DC to NYC. About $45 round trip.

*Free WIFI and USB Chargers on the bus!

Where did we stay?

Jazz on the Park Hostel

  • Location: Manhattan, near all major subway and bus stations
  • Accommodations: Excellent! Ariel and I shared a room with two gentlemen from South Africa. They shared their beers and laughed at our “American Country Music” Alarms in the morning.
  • Bonus: The Hostel provided a free After NYE party. We drank, played suck-n-blow, danced and sang songs from RENT.

What did we do?

We saw the musicals Rent and Chicago!