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. 

Plus Size Packing for Tropical Mexico

Mexico

I absolutely love packing. Invite me over, I’ll pack your bags. I guess that’s why I’ve already started pack for my trip that is several months away. This winter I’ll be celebrating the New Year in Cancun, Mexico!

thiiiiiiiAs a plus size girl sometimes packing for the tropics can be daunting. When traveling I want to be cute and comfortable! The biggest discomforts I face traveling are chub rub and proper skin care. So I’ve compiled some of my favorite skin care products that are literal life savers when I travel!

Fight Chub Rub: 

Silky Underwear Dusting Powder 1. Silky Underwear Dusting from Lush

Dust this smooth, sensual jasmine scented powder between your thighs, under your chest, anywhere and instantly feel like a Victorian goddess! Helps prevent chafing, absorbs moisture and deodorizes.

BodyGlide For Her - Dick's Sporting Goods

2. BodyGlide for Her

This was my godsend during my month in South East Asia! I went through two sticks!! Glide this stick between your thighs and it acts as a skin lubricant to reduce irritation. Non-greasy, fragrance free, sweat and water-resistant.

Get yourself a pair of bike shorts with built-in rash guards.

3. Undersummers Rash Guard Panty Shorts

These babies are perfect to wear under that adorable summer dress. They are light weight, breathable, comfortable and come in a variety of colors.

Skin Care: 

I have super sensitive skin. So chemical free and organic products are very important to me. Below are some of my favorite products!

Biore Pore Penetrating Charcoal Bar- 3.77 oz

1. Biore Charcoal Bar

Ever since I began using the Biore Charcoal line my skin has been transformed. It feels smoother, less oily and tighter. I use the bar and gel facial wash.

Colorescience Colorescience Sunforgettable SPF 30 .23 fl oz (TAN)

2. Colorescience Sunforgettable SPF 30

This is powdered sunscreen that is waterproof and works immediately upon application. Brush it on your face throughout the day over or under makeup.

3. COOLA Mineral Sport SPF 35

In my opinion this is the best smelling sunscreen around! Organic, mineral enriched, highly effective sunscreen.

African Paradise

4. African Paradise by Lush

After playing in the sun all day your skin will need some serious therapy. Apply this rich body conditioner and heel yourself. Full of Aloe, Shea butter and more your feel and smell good enough to eat.

Boots Botanics Organic Rosewater Toning Spritz - 5.0 oz5. Boots Botanics Rose Water Spritz

I think I’ve written about this product more than anything else in my blog! Keep this in your carry on bag and spritz this throughout your flight. It will refresh and rejuvenate your skin!

Clothes:

Lately I’ve been into the minimalist look. For Mexico I’m feeling a color palate of royal blue, crisp white, black and some pops of coral. I’m looking to incorporate Mexican culture by adding details like stitching, beading and patterns. Since I’m only going for a week I can pack super light. Hopefully putting everything in a carry on bag.

Where do I shop?

My NUMBER ONE shopping spot for plus size clothes is Maurices.com. They have a great selection of girly, bohemian and trendy plus size pieces. I absolutely love this store.

I’ve also discovered that Forever 21 now has a pretty decent Plus Size section. I love their options for shorts and basics. Plus I dig that they have high-waisted bikinis and crop tops in my size!

My Trip:

Contiki Yucatan Highlights

Tour Map

End Notes:

Since I’m not leaving for a couple a months I’ll continue to update this page! Check back for more tips later.

Traveling Solo with Contiki

The benefits of traveling alone are countless. But for many traveling solo seems intimidating and lonely. That’s when traveling with a group becomes an ideal situation. With Companies like Contiki you may be traveling alone but you are never truly on your own. You always have the option to be with a group of other like-minded travelers. .

Contiki tour groups vary in size from 30-50 people. I guarantee you will not be the only person traveling alone. On both on my trips there were a majority of singles, a few couples and a few friend groups. Nearly everyone you meet is willing to open-up and be friends!

Isn’t it scary? How do I make friends??

Many people have asked me about traveling as a single with a Contiki group. People often ask “is it scary not knowing anyone else? Will you be the only single? How can I make friends?” So here are my tips for traveling as a single with a Contiki tour group.

1. Book a double or triple-share room

My number one tip to guarantee that you will make friends during your Contiki is to have a roommate! You will automatically have a friend on the very first day. When you have a roommate you will always know when at least one other person is going out and what’s happening that day. I am now great friends with my roommate from Contiki Asia and I had a blast in my triple-share with Contiki Italy.

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My roommate Becky and I striking a pose in Cambodia

2. Put your guard down

I’m an introvert. At home I have a close-nit group of 4 friends. I typically don’t go out of my way to meet new people. But when traveling alone you have to get out of your comfort zone. Smile, and say hello. In order to make new friends you have to be approachable.

3. Crack a joke

The first meeting and meal with Contiki can be a little awkward. Everyone is nervous, you don’t know anything or anyone. So break the ice! I have pretty spot on comedic timing so I love to crack a witty comment or two to lighten the atmosphere.

4. Alcohol helps

I’m not saying be a drunk! As an introvert I know that a little liquor helps me loosen up. So why not have a glass of wine at dinner so that you feel more at ease talking to your new friends.

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Not passed out in the hotel lobby or anything…

5. Create a Facebook Page

Contiki has their awesome “Meetup” page through the website. But I’ve found people will use a Facebook page more. So create one for your tour and post the link to your Contiki “Meetup” page. That way you can talk to people, see what they look like, share travel goals and more before your trip departs. Plus stalking people’s profiles before the trip is a great way to pass the time.

6. Bring cards!

I always bring a deck of cards with me when I travel. A game of Kings Cup, Spoons or BS always brings groups together. One of my most memorable nights in Italy was playing Kings Cup at the hotel after a long day in Florence.

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7. Offer to take a photo of someone

The first day of travel the best way to talk to new people is to offer to take a photo of them and vice versa. Comment on their cool camera, compliment her sweet scarf or interesting tattoo. Break the ice!

8. Don’t be embarrassed

The best part about traveling is discovering yourself, letting your guard down and trying new things. With Contiki you might have the chance to sing karaoke, ride a bike, flash a mountain, take a shot, ect. TRY IT! Nothing brings a group closer than shared experiences. Rock those lederhosen like a champ and laugh about it later!

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We wanted to take the cheesy picture, so we did!

Go. Buy. Now.

5products

I have complied my top five new products that I love and use daily. These products make my life easier, richer and more balanced.

1. Define bottle

The “Define Bottle” is a fruit infusing water bottle. Beautifully designed and trademarked by a 16-year-old named Carter (who I had the privilege meeting and filming for a TBA TV spot). This eco-friendly water bottle allows you to take fruit infused water with you where ever you go. “Give up your plain water habit and define what’s in your water bottle.” – Carter

Retail Cost: $29
2. Lokai braclet 

The Lokai Bracelet is an accessory with meaning. Wear it to be reminded of life’s highs and lows. Each lokai is infused with elements from the highest and lowest points on Earth. The bracelet’s white bead carries water from Mt. Everest, and its black bead contains mud from the Dead Sea. These extreme elements are a reminder to the wearer to live a balanced life- staying humble during life’s peaks and hopeful during its lows.

REtail Cost: $18
3. botanics organic rose-water toning spritz 

This is the one beauty product I swear by. I discovered rose-water spritz this past summer when I had a facial allergic reaction that caused my cheeks to become inflamed, itchy and bumpy.  A pharmacist recommended I try rose-water and now I’m addicted. This spritz soothes and calms by skin. It also cleanses, tightens and moisturizes. Use it first thing in the morning and right before bed. I also suggest traveling with it and spritzing mid-flight in order to maintain moister while flying. It’s also paraben-free, organic, and oil free.

RETAIL COST: $9
4. Rawnori Avocado Tool

I love avocado. I mean LOVE. This tool makes slicing and dicing super easy. This 3 in 1 tool cuts, opens, pits and slices the avocado.

RETAIL COST: $7
5. tanglefix brush

I love this brush because it’s small, compact, gentle and sturdy. Plus its the perfect size for traveling!

Retail Cost: $6

How to spend a week in Paris for less then $1200

This season we have a 12 day shooting hiatus during production this summer and I am ecstatic! I have extreme waunderlust and 7 months of straight work doesn’t allow for travel. But this season we have a break for Fourth of July! If you’re like me and have an incessant need to travel but are on a budget then here’s the “How To” for you!

How to spend a week in paris for less than a $1200

A Godsend in the world of Airlines: Nowegian air 

Norwegian Air is an affordable airline with the some of cheapest flights from the US to Europe.

The MEca of search engines: skyscanner.com

Sky Scanner compares millions of flights to find you the cheapest deal, fast. This is absolute best flight search engine I have found. However, if you’re a student I recommend you try Studentuniverse.com. You have to have a student ID and email address. I used Student Universe to plan my whole European backpacking trip when I was in college.

HOw to search for flights:
  • When searching search one-way. It’s usually cheaper then booking a round trip. You don’t have to stay within one airline so you have more options.
  • Leave from a major hub. I live in Norfolk, VA. It’s always cheaper for me to fly out of Richmond. Which is only an hour and half away from me. Another option I have is to leave out of New York. I can easily get to JFK (NYC) for around $150 from RIC. Or I take the 6 hour Mega Bus for just $25!
  • Search on a week day around 2pm.
  • Book flights about 6 weeks in advance if possible!
OUTBOUND FLIGHT

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Return FLIGHT

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TOTAL: $616

Hostel

If you really want to travel on a budget then staying at a hostel is the best solution. Hostels in Europe can be top-notch. If you do your research you can find excellent places that are cheap, modern, clean and friendly.

I suggest St. Christopher’s Inn. They have hostels all over Europe. Staying with a hostel chain means more accountability, better communication and higher standards. I’ve stayed our St. Christopher’s in London and at Gare Du Nord in Paris.

When searching for the right hotel I look for:
  • Breakfast
  • Bed sheets provided
  • WIFI
  • In room lockers
  • Organized Social events

Seven days and six nights at St. Christopher’s Canal, Paris: 33.62 per night

TOTAL: $238.35

FOOD Budget
  • Breakfast – Free
  • Lunch – $12 a day ($85)
  • Dinner- $15 a night ($100)
  • 25% off food and drink specials downstairs in Belushi’s bar and restaurant

TOTAL: $185

FUN

TOTAL: $115

TRIP TOTAL: $1155


Check out what I did on my last trip to Paris: CLICK HERE 

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What Italy Taught Me

My second solo trip aboard gave me another opportunity to reflect on myself and life aspirations. Here’s what I learned:

1. I don’t need other people to agree with me

  • In Sorrento for New Years Eve all of the people I was with were going home at 115AM and I wanted to stay out. I tried to convince them to “stay out, seize the day, YOLO!” But they wouldn’t budge. Everyone “was tired”. As I followed them back to our coach I got really sad. I even started to cry. With all my heart I wanted to stay out, dance and be with the locals. That’s when I punched myself in the gut and asked “why do I need these people to be with me? I don’t even really know them! Why do I need them as a safety blanket?” I told myself “if you want to stay out here’s your chance! You don’t need them. Go back to the city square and dance the night away!” That’s when I found myself running back to the party alone and I am so happy I did.

2. I like to dance

  • When I am traveling I suddenly become a dancing queen. I transform into a sexy vixen with dance moves to kill for! When I go to my hometown clubs I’m more reserved. I’m with people I know or around people I’ll probably see again. So I tend to be more self-conscious. But when I’m abroad I let my guard down and dance like there’s no tomorrow. I defiantly want to adopt my new-found dance confidence the next time I go out in the states.

3. Italian food is good but Asian food is better

  • I’ll probably get some slack from this. But I honestly sampled more “life-changing” cuisine while in Asia. I think that American Italian food killed any ingenuity of real Italian food. I actually left Italy being kind of disappointed. Before my trip every told me “you’re going to eat amazing things.” I tried the local cuisine everywhere I went. I had focaccia, black squid pasta, pesto, meatballs, lasagna, cold cuts and mozzarella but nothing really stood out. In Asia one meal was always better than the last. I went home craving pad Thai, fresh spring rolls, noodle soup and screwers.

4. Always pack more underwear then you think you need

5. I can survive without my laptop or ipad

  • This is the first trip I took without bringing a computer.

6. Australians are not all party monsters

  • The last trip I took was filled with a ton of young Aussies who were perpetually drunk the entire trip. Italy attracted an older and more mature crowd. They surely changed some of the misconceptions I made of those from “down under”.

7. I want to take a trip with my best friends

  • Traveling alone is great. But it would be nice to come home and have other people to reminisce with. I feel rude when I’m talking to my roommates and I interject with “one time in Italy or once in Thailand”. I wish I had other people to revel in the glory I my ventures with. I think my girls and I could totally concur South America. I hope I can convince someone to go with me new time.

8. I prefer adventure tourism to historical tourism

  • Italy is beautiful. The history is fascinating and the sites are bucket-list worthy. My tour focused on seeing the ruins, churches and then shopping. After the third city it got a bit repetitive. I now know I prefer holidays where I can trek, swim, kayak, sky dive, ect. I want to experience the land, people and only a little bit of the history. I would love to go back to the Island of Capri or the Cinque Terre to go sailing or hiking. I defiantly need to visit Italy in the summer. I think it would be a completely different trip.

9. I do not like coffee

  • In Italy I did as the Italian do. I drank cappuccino and did an espresso shot. Each time I asked myself “why did I waste money on this?” Gross.

10. I love wine

  • After wine tasting in Tuscany how can you not love wine? I’m now a connoisseur!

Review of Contiki Simply Italy

Here’s my review for the Contiki website:

I booked this trip last minuet on a whim because I had no New Years plans. I’m so glad I went!

Seeing Italy during the winter is a truly unique experience. The cities are a beautifully lit up with sparkle lights and Christmas decor. Ringing in the New Year in Italy you can feel a sense of hope, love and peace in the air. Our trip was lucky enough to celebrate New Years eve in the stunning seaside town of Sorrento, New Years Day in Florence and the Italian Holiday Epiphany in the Cinque Terre. It was fascinating and truly special to celebrate with the locals and see their beautiful traditions.

Our amazing manager Enzo constantly praised us for our decisions to visit his country during the winter. We were often reminded of our luck when visiting towns like Capri and Venice which during the summer are usually impassable due to the high influx of tourists. Seeing how crowded Verona and Milan were in January, I can only imagine that during the summer these places must be miserably crowded.

I come from a mild climate state so the cold weather didn’t really bother me. But many of my Australian tour mates had a pretty rough time on some of the colder days. Apparently it was the coldest January much of the country had seen in 40 years? It snowed in the South!

I think what really makes or breaks your trip is how you spend your free time. I was lucky enough to meet a couple of like-minded people who believed in the Contiki moto #noregrets. We stayed out most nights, met the locals and explored the cities on our own. Some of my favorite memories are when I went walking by myself in Capri and Sirmione. Being in a group is great, but its important to find time for reflection on your own.

I recommend doing all of the me time meal options. I loved the group dinners and most of them provided bottomless wine! The best meal was our final in Rome. The singing waiters were amazing!

I don’t recommend doing the Contiki arranged gondola ride. I didn’t enjoy being in the gondola with 5 other people. I felt like we were going to tip over and only two people got good seats. The rest of us had to hunch over on little stools. Arrange it on your own! I personally am not interested in in-depth lectures on history so I would not do the walking-tours if I went again. There was more “talking” and less walking. Get a guide pamphlet and explore on your own. I felt like these tours took away from our free time.

I was amazed by the size of the suitcases some people brought for our 12 day trip! Travel tip: Pack and then take out half! You don’t need so much stuff! Everyone complimented me daily on my outfits and I had the smallest suitcase of all the girls! Bring only some key items and mix and match. Because it’s winter you don’t need to worry about getting sweaty or smelly so it’s even easier to pack light! Besides you’re in Italy! If you need more clothes you can buy them there!

My favorite things from the trip?
– Boat ride on Lake Garda
– Montebuoni’ Tuscan Dinner
– Electronic Space Disco
– Getting lost in Venice
– New Years in Sorrento
– Chilling with to much wine in the Cinque Terre

Our hotels were all very nice. Some were pretty far from the city center, but all easily accessible by cab or metro.
Our guide Enzo was great. He provided a wealth of knowledge about the history and lifestyle of Italy. He was also very passionate about the welfare, growth and our impressions of his home country. I’ll never forget his daily greetings (insert italian accent) “Contiki…..!!!” His pal and our driver Fabio was quiet but also entertaining. He didn’t speak english but he interacted with us using hand signals and facial expressions. He reminded me of Mr.Bean.

I certainly recommend this trip to anyone looking for a more in-depth and cultural experience. It’s great to spend a 12 days in one country. I feel like we really saw the best of Italy and I know I could go back someday and traverse it on my own! Go on this trip. You won’t regret it!

“The richest people in the world are those who have seen it.”

Review written Jan 2015

My Contiki was: life-affirming, comprehensive, absorbing