Saturday, March 21, 2015

I Have a New Website, and It's Awesome!

I have created a new travel website; it's a mix between a blog and a magazine! If you enjoy reading my posts and articles here at, then please head over to The Wayfarer and read many great travel stories, travel poems, and view some amazing travel photography! We appreciate your support :) Travel on. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

London on a Budget: The "I can too!" Guide to traveling on the cheap

London is a expensive city in its own right, but for Americans and our weak, weak US dollar, everything is literally twice as expensive. That does not mean that you can't or shouldn't make a trip to Londontown as there are lots of budget friendly things to do and places to eat. I'm here to tell you where to go and what to do on a budget because as a flight attendant, I'm pretty experienced at traveling and making the most of it even when I'm skint (British for broke). Here are some ideas, recommendations, and explanations for enjoying this awesome city without blowing your budget.

Getting Around: 
1. Oyster Card
Purchase an Oyster Card if you are staying in London more than two days. An Oyster Card will be your best friend when it comes to traveling around the city. It's accepted city-wide on buses, boats, and on "the tube" or the London Underground. Money can be added to these cards and discounts are given for using it especially on the tube. The tube is my favorite way to get around, and it runs frequently from 6 a.m. until 1 a.m.


2. Biking 
For 30 minute intervals, you can rent a bicycle from a Barclays docking station and ride around the city. There are over 700 docking stations all around London, so finding one is quick and easy. Unlimited rides for 30 minutes or less cost just two pounds for 24 hours! Or if you plan on keeping the bike for longer than half an hour, it costs one pound for one hour or six pounds for two hours.


3. Walking 
London is one of the most "walkable" cities in the world, so pack some tennis shoes and go on a self-guided walking tour through the city! See the House of Parliament, Big Ben, and the National Gallery on the Westminster Walk, or see the London Eye, Tate Modern, and the National Theatre on The Queen's Walk. is a great website to plan your walk about London.


Good Eats: 
1. Grab Lunch at a Grocery Store
Supermarkets are your best friend when it comes to eating on a budget. Tesco offers a great deal on a sandwich, chips (crisps), and a drink for about three pounds. 

2. Hit up a sandwich shop: 
Located throughout the city are sandwich shops like Benjy's and Pret A Manger that offer pre-packaged sandwiches for a pound or two. 

3. Eat on the Street 
Bistro style dishes, gourmet Scotch eggs, and Indian spiced burgers await in moving street vendors all around London.


What to do: 
1. Museums 
So many free museums in London! The British museum, Tate Modern art museum, Grant Museum of Zoology, the National Portrait Gallery, Museum of London, Science Museum, and the Natural History Museum name just a few! Though it's not free, I really enjoyed the Clink Prison Museum, which costs about seven pounds. Use your Oyster Card to get from museum to museum on a rainy, London day.


2. The Scoop
Though museums are mostly free in London, live theatre and performing arts usually come at a price. This is where The Scoop comes in. Located near the Tower Bridge, The Scoop is an amphitheatre that holds about 800 people and offers free music, theatre performances, and films. 


3. Parks
Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, St. James Park, Victoria Park, and Greenwich Park are just a few of London's park scene. My favorite parks are Hyde Park and Holland Park. Pick up a sandwich from Sainsbury's and have a picnic in a park! Many include free plays and live music during the warmer months. 


4. Free Music and Festivals 
The 'More London Free Festival', the iTunes Festival, and Hyderdub Tenth Anniversary are all free music festivals that offer performances from major music players such as Tony Bennett and Calvin Harris! 


5. Culture 
Check out the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, see the Tower Bridge, the London Bridge, and walk across the Millennium Bridge. If you can plan in advance, BBC offers free tickets to show tapings for both television and radio. 

6. And drinks, of course!
Nectar Bar and Club offers two-for-one cocktails and free admission Sunday-Thursday. Some of the best happy hours can be found at the London Cocktail Club, Southsider Cocktail Club, and Electric Social.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Squeezing the Last Bit of Summer Out of Switzerland

Zurich, Switzerland is one my most favorite cities in the world (it's also one of the most expensive, but that's another article). The chocolate is great, the people are friendly, and the summers are the best. The Swiss are proud of their natural elements, as they should be. There's hiking (trekking), and biking, and swimming, and boating, and May through August provide the optimal weather to enjoy all the outdoor activities Switzerland has to offer. I got to visit a few times this month, and my favorite thing I did was jump off a bridge into the Limmat river! If you're planning on a trip next spring or summer, I highly recommend you make it to Switzerland! 

That bridge was made for jumping! Cool water, warm air, good times. 

Love locks. Such a sweet tradition <3

Lake Zurich, great for paddle boating, paddle boarding, and ferry riding!

I <3 Zurich 

Zurich has over 1,000 fresh water fountains spread all over the city! 

Sunshine Summer Storm 

Float down the river for a unique view of the city! 

It was a little rainy and chilly that day, but it was August, I swear! 

The Old City 

Early morning in Zurich 

View from my hotel room

Limmat River

Wait for it...

My fearless friend Sharon jumped and swam with me! 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

One (Nearly) Perfect Day in Paris.

I believe there is magic in Paris. What else would explain how quickly I fell in love with this city? Of course being there on a warm, sunny, spring day didn't create much of a counter argument. After staying awake on a red eye from Newark to Paris, I immediately fell asleep in the cab riding from the airport to my hotel and missed the spectacular, welcoming view this city offers its visitors. It was my first time to this city, and I only had the day there, so I made up for it that afternoon. 

After getting myself set up in my room, I walked the block over from my hotel to the Eiffel Tower. It truly is a sight to see, and though it is an iconic staple on t-shirts and jewelry, the beauty of the tower in person cannot be reproduced. There's a dark, ominous feel that undermines its structural beauty and gives it both a romantic yet Gothic feel . An intriguing combination of elements that no doubt lends to its fame and still sparks fascination. 

The next stop of my tour de Paris was, unsurprising to those who know me, a french patisserie to pick up some coffee and a croissant for my walk to the Louvre. Paris is a pedestrian-friendly city, so the 3.8 km walk along the river from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre was an efficient way to enjoy the weather and see the city sites. Walking or biking are my favorites ways to get around on layovers. 

The rest of my afternoon was spent sightseeing around the city and working up an appetite for french food, which truthfully, took hardly any effort. A crew member of mine, versed in french and french cuisine, brought me to a traditional french restaurant (I can't remember the name!). I ordered a steak cooked medium, which is France is pretty much rare (so be mindful of that), and I'm actually a bit embarrassed to say that it came with french fries. But they were delicious because they were french, so I'm not complaining. Dessert, the best  and most exciting part of a meal in my book, was creme brulee, which was brought out and flambeed right in front of me! Well... it was supposed to be. My amazing sense of timing sent me to the toilets about a minute before the chef came out and performed a spectacular flame display that the entire restaurant was raving about when I came back from the restroom. Despite having missed the show, the creme brulee was hands down the best ever. I'm thinking I could probably live on it. 

So my first and, so far, only day in Paris was nearly perfect...and that's perfect enough for me!  

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Little Limerick

About midway down the west coast of Ireland is the picturesque town of Limerick. With landmarks like Saint John's Cathedral, King John's Castle, and the River Shannon, it's a simple and beautiful city to navigate. Though there are a number of historical attractions, the city was founded in 812 A.D. after all, it's also worth coming for the culture. Limerick was recently named Ireland's first National City of Culture for 2014 by the Minister for Arts, so this is the year to visit. There are many events planned in celebration and information is posted at 'Limerick City of Culture.' 

In comparison to France or Italy, Ireland is not necessarily known for its upscale cuisine, but I can't get enough traditional Irish food, and one of the best and most traditional places to eat (and drink) in Limerick is the Locke Bar and Oyster House. The Locke Bar is a staple of the city and boasts traditional dishes such as bangers and mash, beer battered fish and chips, and Guinness Irish stew. Surprisingly, the hot wings are one of the most popular items on the menu. My first time at The Locke Bar, I enjoyed the bangers and mash and a glass (or three) of Guinness. After dinner and drinks, it's not uncommon in Ireland to go out for more drinks, and one of the best places to do this is a bar called Nancy Blake's. 

Located on Denmark Street, Nancy Blake's is Limerick's most popular pub. Open until 2 a.m. seven nights a week, Nancy's has a place for any visitor's preference. The front bar has a more traditional look and feel with low lighting and a fire place. The back area has a covered courtyard where smokers can smoke and dancers can dance. And both are typically filled with music as it is an integral part of Irish culture. It's common to hear live music in most pubs around town. 

Johnny Rahman, a Bengali transplant turned Limerick local, provided insight and advice on enjoying the best of the city. Rahman moved to Ireland from Bangladesh seven years ago to study at Griffith College Limerick. "When I first came to Limerick, I liked it right away because the people were quite friendly and the scenery was so nice," Rahman said. He recommends travelers visit King John's Castle, Adare Castle, and Saint John's Cathedral for some local history. For pubs and restaurants he suggests the Locke Bar (of course!), Flannerys Bar, and Smyths Bar, which is also on Denmark Street. As for nightlife, Icon nightclub is his favorite place to go dance. It is located right on top of Smyths, which has more of a pub feel. 

If you are renting a car while in Ireland, a drive up to Galway and the Cliffs of Moher is highly recommended by locals, Rahman included. The natural beauty is breathtaking.

With its friendly, authentic, and traditional atmosphere, Limerick should be on the top of your travel list!

Johnny Rahman at the Locke Bar

Thursday, June 12, 2014

My Escape from Alcatraz

I'm not sure if I've ever explicitly written that San Francisco is my favorite U.S. city, but it is. Each district is unique, there's something for everyone to enjoy, and of course the city itself is beautiful. But my favorite thing I did while living in the city by the bay was train for and compete in an open water swim from Alcatraz to Aquatic Park in September of 2013. 

My love for swimming was sparked at an early age, and I began competing when I was just six years old. At age 10 I joined my local year-round competitive team and swim competitively until age 24. My favorite stroke is backstroke, and I'm a natural sprinter. I was looking for a way to meet new friends and develop a connection with my new city when I moved to San Francisco, and I stumbled upon some videos of a group of swimmers swimming in the bay. I thought it looked fun and challenging (the water in the summer is a balmy 60 degrees Fahrenheit), so I bought a wet suit, joined an open water swim club, and went to the bay...with seals...and sharks. 

Open water swimming is quite different than swimming in a pool, and I had to learn new stroke and breathing techniques. I learned how to 'sight' swim. This is when a swimmer picks up his/her head every few strokes to spot their focal point so that he/she swims in a straight line. It's similar to a ballerina spotting during a pirouette. I also had to learn how to read currents and navigate swimming with them. Even with my strong background and love for swimming, it was challenging. 

There were some issues that came up during my training. Between the salty bay breeze and the salty, cold water, my face would break out in red, splotchy, and painful hives after each practice. Also, though sighting is a useful technique for navigating murky water, it also caused my wet suit to rub the back of my neck raw and bloody. But my fellow swimmers taught me a thing or two, and I covered my face with Vaseline for protection and taped up my neck to keep my suit from rubbing, and I just kept swimming. And before I knew it, it was race day!

About 450 swimmers signed up for the 1.2 mile race, and because of my strong swimming history, I was invited to be in the 'Elite' group with about 40 top swimmers including Olympic gold medalist, Aaron Peirsol! We were ferried out to "The Rock" on our own special boat, and we got to start three minutes ahead of the crowd. We started in the water and when the horn blasted, I had just one thought in my head... sharks. Great White sharks love colder water. They have been spotted swimming in the bay a few times, and I just knew today was the day I was going to see one. Every time I put my head down, I expected to see a shark swimming up at me, but this was a silly thought because most shark attack victims never even see it coming as sharks prefer to attack from behind and below. Yes, I did my research on shark's prey stalking technique while training for an open water race in an area preferred by Great White sharks. Needless to say, I was motivated to swim fast and so I did. I finished the race in the top 40 for females and was greeted by my friends and my mom (she traveled all the way from North Carolina to see me race). Aaron Peirsol begged me to take a photo with him then asked me out on a date, but I didn't want to seem to eager so I told him I had other plans (*statement may be exaggerated for entertainment purposes). Overall, both the training and the race were great experiences, and it deepened my love for swimming and San Francisco.  


Ghirardelli Square 

Aquatic Park 

Aaron Peirsol, Olympic gold medal swimmer

Aquatic Park 

Suiting up! 

Wet suit rash...ouch 


Aaron Peirsol!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Day at the Dead Sea

About a two-hour bus ride outside Jerusalem lies the Dead Sea, the fourth saltiest body of water in the world just behind Salt Lake in Utah. My good friend Jil and I decided to have an Israeli adventure for my birthday in May, and we dedicated a full day to visiting the Dead Sea. The ride was scenic with mountains on one side and the sea on the other. It's also worth noting that many public places in Israel have free WiFi, buses included. So you can take photographs during the ride and upload them instantly to any social media site, or if you're like Jil and me, look up facts and information about the Dead Sea on the ride to the Dead Sea!

The first thing you should know when entering the Dead Sea is that it's not recommended to pee or pass gas (technical terms only) in the water. It places it shouldn't burn, and that will lessen the quality of your experience. The second thing you should know is that it's pretty much impossible not to float. Floating on your back is easiest because once you flip over on your stomach, it's much harder to keep your head above water. There are no living creatures in the Dead Sea, hence the name, so there's no need to fear a fish brushing past your foot. Also, because of it's natural buoyancy you can't snorkel or scuba dive in the Dead Sea. 

Many people travel to the Dead Sea for a spa vacation. Dead Sea mud is rich in minerals and is known for its healing properties. It's a unique experience to rub black mud all over yourself then lay out for about 20 minutes in the desert sun, but many swear by its ability to heal all sorts of skin aliments. 

When you visit the Dead Sea, don't expect white, powdery sand. The ground is hard with packed, rough sand, and the sand in the water is sharp, so tough feet or water shoes are recommended. Jil and I brought puny little beach towels which were no match for the rough ground, so we mostly stayed in the sea bobbing around and trying not to pee in the bath-like water. Spending the day at the Dead Sea was one of the best, most unique experiences I've had. Next time, I'd like to visit it from the Jordan side!