Sunday, February 28, 2016

ABCs of Travel

Hello, hello! I ran into my friend Christina last night after a couple of years, and she lamented that I have not posted in a while. That was the inspiration I needed, and here I am! So shoutout to you, Christina. :)

I borrowed this ABCs of Travel game from We Took The Road Less Traveled, and I'm really excited to share my answers with you. Some of them won't surprise you, but others may--a LOT. Here we go! (P.S.--some parts are NSFW. Heads up!)

A) Age you went on your first international trip:
Not counting the time my dad drove me to Windsor, Canada, for the day when I was 8, it was France at age 13! That's what sparked my interest in French language and culture. The rest is history.

B) Best foreign beer you've had and where:

Without a doubt the house cherry beer at Delirium Café in Brussels! I'm not even sure I can find it on their site, and don't remember what exactly it was, but it was GOOD. And I even got video footage of the bartender pouring it. (P.S. how cute is that beer glass? I ended up buying it!)

C) Cuisine (favorite):
ITALIAN. Is there any question here? Keep an eye out for an Italian food porn post coming soon!

D) Destinations--favorite, least favorite, and why?:

I don't count France since it's like another home to me, so I'd have to say that Vienna, Florence, and Morocco are my favorite destinations. Vienna and Florence are filled with so much culture and history, and every time I visit I feel more refined. Morocco, on the other hand, has such a different culture--it's NOTHING like the U.S. or Europe, and Moroccans are so excited to share their culture with you. My least favorite was probably Prague. I found the tourist crowd to be more interested in partying than learning, and frankly, I just didn't have a great experience. I'd give it another shot, but under different circumstances.

E) Event you've experienced abroad that made you say "wow":
It was in Paris last January when I marched in solidarity against terrorism, following the Charlie Hebdo attacks, among nearly 4 million others. It was completely awe-inducing to see that many people join together for a common cause, and it's something that I haven't even experienced in my own country. You can read about my thoughts and experience here and here.

F) Favorite mode of transportation:
Trains! There's often room to spread out, you can lounge, look at some nice scenery, and even get your nails done.

G) Greatest feeling while traveling:

Simply being in awe of everything new around you. Seeing sights with virgin eyes. Most of all for me, though, is when I can speak their language (or at least somewhat communicate in it, like Arabic).

H) Hottest place you've ever traveled to:
The first time I went to Morocco, it was between 105-110˚F! It wasn't terrible, though, because it was dry heat. When I was in Israel last May, it was a little cooler at around 100˚F, but I was doing lots of hiking and outdoor activities which made it feel worse.

I) Incredible service you've experienced and where?:

HA. This is tough, coming from the flashpacking world. But I'll never forget when I had to catch a train from Toulouse to Montpellier with two suitcases, a backpack, and a tote bag, and it was pouring rain. A nice man from my hostel booked me an Über--and paid for it. It was only 4€, but I appreciated it so much.

J) Journey that took the longest:

The first time I went to Israel, I had three flights. Pretty normal, except one of my layovers was 12 hours, so it was 26 hours start-to-finish.

K) Keepsake from your travels:

Anything home-related! I have a coffee set from Turkey, teapot and tea glasses from Morocco, porcelain from Poland, a hamsa wall art from Israel, a cheese-knife set from the Gruyères region of Switzerland...

L) Let-down sight, where and why?:

Venice. It was musty and made my allergies act up, and WAY more touristy than I ever would have liked. Also, much more expensive than the other big cities in Italy, it seemed.

M) Moment where you fell in love with traveling:
I always loved traveling, but I really fell in love with it in the summer of 2013 when I did an internship in Tours, France. For the first time ever, I was able to plan weekend getaways and longer trips, and I got addicted. The wanderlust bug bit me HARD.

N) Nicest hotel you've stayed in:

Not counting our family trips to Chicago when we stayed at The Drake, it was definitely Hotel Neptuno in Calella de Mar, Catalunya, Spain! Luxurious rooms, amazing meals, and just a couple blocks away from the beach.

O) Obsession--what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?:
I'm really into capturing the tops of buildings against the sky--I'm sure there's a more eloquent way to put that, but I'll let the photos do the talking.

P) Passport stamps--how many and from where?:

I have 22 total stamps. They include a slew of French airports, Israel (back before they stopped stamping passports), Morocco, Turkey, the U.K., Spain, Italy...and counting. :) Plus my French work visa and residency verification, both of which come in sticker form!

Q) Quirkiest attraction you've visited and where?:

The Museum of Eroticism in Paris, right down the street from the Moulin Rouge. My friend and I couldn't stop laughing--and, as inappropriate as they are, I've included some photos below so you can laugh as well. However, I have a feeling that the Icelandic Phallological Museum will beat that out when I visit in July.

R) Really frightening: where's one place you've visited where you felt unsafe or uneasy?
Istanbul. My friend Vanessa and I got followed by these two young, well-dressed men all day. We'd go into a museum, come out two hours later, and there they'd be behind us. All. Day. We were terrified.

S) Splurge--something you have no problem spending money on while traveling:

Trying a really good version of a regional dish or drink. Within reason, of course--to me, 25€/$30 is still an expensive meal. :)

T) Touristy thing you've done:
By far and large, I never felt more touristy than when I visited Niagara Falls over the New Year.

U) Unforgettable travel memory:
Hiking the Erg Chebbi dunes at nighttime and stargazing and playing games at the top.

V) Visas--how many and for where?:
Two visas! One long-stay work visa for France (I worked there last year), and one tourist visa for Turkey.

W) Wine--best glass while traveling:
The best wine I ever tried was a Sauternes in Bordeaux. I wish I knew the name of the winery! Otherwise, I always try to stop by Domaine Marc Brédif when I'm in the Loire Valley. They make my favorite Vouvray, and I'm always down to take their 6€ tour!

X) eXcellent view and from where?:
I think the Galata Tower in Istanbul offered the best view. The silhouettes of the mosques look so beautiful next to the glistening Bosphorus, especially since they're juxtaposed with the city.

Y) Years spent traveling:

In my life total? Approximately one year. Longest time spent out of the U.S. at one point? Eight months. Longest time TRAVELING without a home base? Five weeks.

Z) Zealous sports fans and where?:
France! That Paris Saint-Germain/Marseille rivalry...

Leave me a comment if you've done a similar tag post, or just with your answers! I'd love to read them all.