Havana Good Time

Last month, I stepped back in time with the two best friends a girl could ask for. Havana, Cuba was unlike any place I’d ever been.

From the bright colored homes, classic cars, and heart of the Cuban people, nothing was more spirited.

We saw Fusterlandia (above) and admired the beautiful works of art. Then, we sampled different rums, savored the most delicious (and only) flaming coffee I’d ever had, and I had my first cigar, which I loved! We brought several back 😉

From Old Havana, to Mafia Mojitos, we soaked in every experience.

Getting lost around the capital.

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And come on, our balcony view was right near the famous Malecón!

We also caught El Morro cannon celebration and the most breathtaking sunset! What a way to end a trip of a lifetime.

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Please- If you are from the U.S., do not let what is going on right now steer you away from this incredible country. I urge you to see it for yourself. You can get a visa at the airport like we did for support of the Cuban people. Stay at an AirBnB and exchange money beforehand. All things were actually less of a hassle than we expected.

This is one place you will be so happy you didn’t miss!
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Cincy

In the past, I have written a couple posts about the Sigma Tau Delta International English Convention. Read my first post here, and about the 2016 conference in Minneapolis and the 2017 conference in Louisville.

I just returned from the 2018 convention in Cincinnati. It was a whirlwind of a weekend! On the way there, I started off with a stop at one of my new favorites in Columbus: Winans. Chocolate and wine, you can’t go wrong…

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Once in Cincinnati, I spent most of the first day exploring. It was a cloudy day, but still beautiful nonetheless. Below are some of my favorite sights in the Queen City:

*Roebling Suspension Bridge, Smale Riverfront Park*

*Great American Ball Park, Findlay Market*

*Hathaway’s Diner- I could eat all my meals in this charming, old-school place.*

 

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10/10 recommend!

I gave my presentation on Saturday afternoon and connected instantly to the brilliant writers: DeAndra, Eric, and Korbin.

*Rhinegheist Brewery*

Speaking of murals, Cincy has plenty!

*At the Red & Black Conventions Award Gala with my two guys, where my poetry collection was awarded a prize.*

And the next night, I got to reunite with my best friend from high school, who was visiting town.

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Already can’t wait to see what next year’s convention has in store.

See you in 2019, St. Louis!

 

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DOPEnhagen

Q: What do you get when you gather seven friends, set them loose in a historic capital city, subtract your worries, multiply Carlsbergs and explored streets, and add in another country border crossing?

A: An unforgettable weekend.

My first impression of Copenhagen was that it reminded me somewhat of Amsterdam: the canals, the amount of bicycles, art and architecture, etc. But the Danish and the Dutch are quite different!

Our first stop was Nyhavn, the famous canal with brightly colored waterfront homes, shopping, restaurants, and more. We stopped for some smørrebrød before continuing past the wooden ships in the harbor.

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Nyhavn

On the way to the iconic Little Mermaid statue, we stumbled upon St. Alban’s Church and the picturesque landscape surrounding it.

The city itself was very walkable, and public transportation was also convenient. I got the tourist card for 72 hours at the airport, which came in handy for the metro, buses, and trains. By the end of the afternoon, we made a final stop at Tivoli Gardens, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew it was an amusement park, but it was the middle of February. Surely nothing would be open and running. Wrong. Not only was this park a winter wonderland with its beautiful and brightly shining lights, but it was quite the happening place! We went for a ride on the antique roller coaster, screaming with delight as it whipped around corners and cut through the night.

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Tivoli- winter wonderland

The next day, we wandered Strøget window shopping and climbed Rundertaarn, a round tower with an incredible view of the city, as seen below:

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Other notable sights: Amalienborg Palace, Christiansborg Palace and the Renaissance-era Rosenborg Castle.

Sunday afternoon, we took a train to Malmö, Sweden.

It was awesome to spend the afternoon in another country, wandering the city squares, stopping for a drink, and seeking out the Turning Torso tower.

We saw Stortorget, the oldest square, and got our bearings as we searched for the next café or landmark destination.

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All of the locals we encountered in both countries were exceptionally helpful and friendly. It only added to the already charming cities.

Our final stop was Öresund Bridge, which was a breathtaking view as the sunset stretched across the sky. I’ve never seen such beautiful blue and peach hues. Crazy how many moments you want to bottle up just so you could relive them again.

After arriving back in Copenhagen, we explored Christiana (Freetown) in the dark, which was really trippy, but such an interesting place.

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If you ever get the opportunity to go, I can’t recommend it enough. Truly Dopenhagen. This was without a doubt a weekend for the books!

Until next time,

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UnBelizeable

As 2017 drew to a close, I knew I wanted to take advantage of all my time off work for the holiday season.

My parents and I flew to Florida to spend Christmas with my brother, his wife, and their daughter. We visited Destin, Panama City Beach, and Pensacola, ate way too much, and truly enjoyed our time together as a family again.

It was a beautiful change from the snowy weather back north!

Shortly after, I flew solo to Belize City for one last international trip before the craziness of 2018 began.

Although Belize has a bad reputation and certain parts of Belize City are indeed VERY dangerous, (consistently ranking as one of the highest homicide rates in the world) I am so grateful that I did not let this hold me back from going.  I had a safe trip there and back, and made friends with other tourists and many locals. It was hard to not enjoy all the beauty the country had to offer. I stayed in San Pedro, and took the ferry back to Belize City where I met Carlos, who showed me the best parts of his country.  Here was my first full day- packed with lots of adventure:

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Visiting Altun Ha ruins.

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Ziplining through the jungle!

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Cave tubing 🙂

I would highly recommend those who are thrill seekers to check it out! And though I’ve explored caves before, I was pleasantly surprised by how different my perspective was with cave tubing.

That evening, some friends and I went to Wahoo’s Lounge for the world famous “Chicken Drop.” You guessed it- we bought tickets and watched as a chicken strutted around on the board, hoping that it would take a shit on our number. It was easily one of the most ridiculously interesting things I’ve ever experienced.

The next day I traveled to Caye Caulker, one of Belize’s most famous destinations, to relax and have some island fun. I couldn’t imagine being surrounded by these incredible views and calling this place my home. Would I ever get tired of it?

I spent the late afternoon at the Lazy Lizard enjoying a drink and jumping into the crystal water.

There is so much more I could say about this trip, from turtle talk to late night exploration, to the friendships I formed, but some things can’t be put into words. I’ll leave you with these highlights, until next time.

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AmsterDAMNNNNN

You guys, I just got back from one of the most fun trips of my LIFE! I flew to Amsterdam last week and took full advantage of my short time there.

Some quick highlights:

Van Gogh & Rijksmuseum

I Amsterdam sign

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Vondelpark- I stayed right near this gorgeous place.

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Heineken Experience- this was a BLAST. Tour of the brewery, boat ride to A’Dam, interactive experiences, bottling your own beer, everything!

A’Dam Lookout- come onnnnn, more like AmsterDAMN.

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Over the Edge- because why not?

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Anne Frank House- Truly an eye-opening and overwhelming experience to tour this annex and learn about this incredible young woman’s life and how her words have impacted us.

Dutch Pancakes & Coffee

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Floating Market

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Canal Tour- By the way, 12,000-15,000 of these bad boys get pulled out of the canals every year!

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Light Festival- so, so beautiful! Photographs don’t do justice. From November 30-January 21st, so I definitely picked the right time to go!

(These are just Christmas lights- but still, how spectacular?!)

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Dam Square

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Here, you can see bubbles in front of the Grand Palace.

Jordaan/Leidseplein neighborhoods

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Red Light District

I made fast friends with these lovely lads from Ireland and we had an amazing night out!

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I also got to see the charming countryside of the Netherlands:

Zaandam-  Behind me is the only working mill in the world that still makes paint.

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Volendam

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Cheese tasting is awesome. Until you’re a solid ten minutes in…

I tried kibbeling here, too. Delicious!

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Wooden shoes, anyone?

And I’ll leave you all with this bathroom stall wisdom from Friday night:

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Catch you wildly beautiful people somewhere in the world next time!

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Jamaican Me Want to Go Again

My family and I went to Jamaica over Labor Day weekend for a short, tropical getaway. Though the country’s economy has been a struggle, and many visitors choose to stay at the all-inclusive resorts for the duration of their vacation, Jamaica is its own paradise away from those high-end hotels– complete with natural gems, lush rain forests & mountains, delicious cuisine, vibrant colors, and the ever-steady sounds of reggae music.

 

We stayed in Runaway Bay, just north of the birthplace of Bob Marley. Once we arrived Friday, we got settled into our stay with a relaxing trip to the beach. That evening, we tried ackee and saltfish and listened to locals play reggae music.

The next day, we set out for Ocho Rios and the Blue Hole (also known as Island Gully Falls, etc.) There are many around the island, as Jamaica is sprinkled with these natural pools of water. “Ochi” is a port town that has blossomed with tourists, due to the surrounding attractions. It was a long and winding road to the Blue Hole, but once we got there we instantly knew it was worth it. The water was the most beautiful crystal clear blue color! We jumped off cliffs, climbed into caves, and even did a rope swing into the pool!

 

On Sunday, we ventured out to Dunn’s River Falls. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was speechless when I looked up from the Caribbean sea to find this magnificent waterfall stretching up to the sky. We climbed the waterfall, something I have never done before, all the way up to the top! There were lagoons throughout the climb that we dropped into, natural rock water slides, and terraced rocks that provided steps. A group of us made a human chain holding hands, guiding each other through the swift, rushing water and over the slippery stones.

Monday was purely for relaxation, as we had a short time before our flight left. With cold drinks in hand, we reminisced about sunsets, jerk chicken, and the color of the water while listening to reggae beat in the background.

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It was amazing to share this experience with my parents, and to see the more adventurous side of them! Even though they are over 60, they hiked the falls and did the rope swing into the Blue Hole! How’s that for retirement?! We loved the Patois language, the mouthwatering food, and the spirited people of Jamaica. I have no doubt that we’ll be back! #yehman

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One Happy Island, One Happy Girl

Bon bini! I took a mini vacation over the fourth of July holiday, because why not? Destination: Aruba. Scroll on to see “one happy island” for yourself!

Day One- I arrived in Aruba in the late evening of June 30th, so I saved my explorations for the next morning. I woke early, grabbed breakfast, and walked along Palm Beach and Eagle Beach, breathing in the fresh air.

With a cool breeze, white sand, and blue waters, it was hard to believe I was in such a beautiful place!

Later that afternoon, I climbed Hooiberg Lookout for a view of the entire island:

(Definitely want to bring lots of water with you for this one! Speaking of which, Aruba has the cleanest/most pure drinking water.)

Since I was only staying on the island for a short period of time, I was determined to see and do as much as possible. After the hike and exploring downtown, however, I was beat! I headed back to my hotel to relax with my newly arrived book, and watched boats come in to shore.

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Boat coming in at sunset.

Day Two- To see most of the island as possible, I booked a jeep tour. This covered most of the eastern side of the island, from the northernmost point all the way to Baby Beach. We also explored:

  • Bushiribana Gold Mills Ruins
  • Ayo Rock Formation
  • Hidden caves
  • Arikok National Park

My all-time favorite spots were the natural bridges and pools that we stopped at.

Natural bridge, above, and natural pools, below.

More sights: Alto Vista Chapel, a donkey befriending us, and the California Lighthouse.

After a long day, I needed to refuel. I love being close to the ocean, so I chose to have a delicious seafood dinner on the pier.

Day Three- Beach day! Soaked up the sun, chased lizards (which are everywhere!), and drank fresh fruit smoothies. And no, I can’t take credit for that sand sculpture.

On my last night, I was dazzled yet again at sunset:

The island of Aruba is small, but I was only just beginning to uncover the heart of it. I talked to as many locals as I could, learning about the language (Papiamento, but most Arubans can speak four or five languages), their lifestyle, and how tourism makes up the majority of their economy. The country may be a popular destination for couples and families, but I still enjoyed myself and was grateful to be able to relax and take in the beautiful sights.

Even before I got on my flight home, I knew I wanted to come visit again.

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The only good thing about leaving is this incredible view!

Catch ya on the flip side,

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