Dublin

~By Amanda and Julie

I fly to Dublin often enough for work trips, however I’ve never had the opportunity to experience the amazing night life. When you have to be on your A game at 9 am, one can not stay out drinking pints and fine Irish whiskey all night. Julie and I decided we needed a long weekend in Dublin just to see this awesome city without a curfew. Warning! This post is pretty much about eating, drinking, dancing and sleeping. The most cultural thing we did was listen to Irish music and enjoy a run though Phoenix Park. However, it does contain a list of amazing spots in Dublin to enjoy all the above mentioned activities, including quite a few outside the normal tourist circuit of Temple Bar.


(Julie’s story)
I’ve always had an unusual bucket list, and at the top of the list was to get in a real Irish bar fight. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t actually want to hurt anyone; I’m a giant wimp whose bark is bigger than her bite. However, breaking a wooden stool with beer splashing everywhere and people yelling in Irish accents just did something for me. I flew to Ireland a few years ago with Anna, who couldn’t let me do this alone so she signed up to join the adventure. Once we got to the bar, I tried everything with anyone to pick a fight. I was being so difficult, but I learned that day that the Irish are the absolute best people! Every time I was indifferent to someone they bought me a beer. I was told a story about an Irish man who didn’t wanna fight, but was being called outside to prove his masculinity. He kept a telling the guy he didn’t wanna fight. So when it was time to go outside, he just stripped down bare naked on the street and lifted his fists. Who wants to fight a naked guy?!

The Irish have good hearts and adore fun. Somewhere on the internet there is a picture of me holding 4 or 6 full beers at one time looking dumbfounded. I fell in love with the Irish that day and someday I’ll find a way to smash a wooden stool without being a jerk.
(Amanda)
Trying to maintain a budget, we jumped onto Hostelworld.com and searched through the lists of available bunks. I have a gift when it comes to comparing accommodations and was quickly able find a place near the city center with the right price tag. Kinlay House sits just outside the Temple Bar area and is walkable to most major points in the city. This gigantic hostel has several floors of rooms at variable price points; it’s clean and provides the typical amenities. My only complaint is they close the common room. In all my travels I have never seen a common room closed every night for cleaning at 1:30 am. Being still on NYC time, we found ourselves with no place to go after the bars and pubs dimmed their lights for the night, not quite ready for sleep.

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We arrived in Dublin exhausted, but ready for excitement. As opposed to sleeping, we elected to stay up most of the flight, enjoying the complimentary red wine and watching Beauty and the Beast. I think we are both mentally about 5 years old. The most efficient and cost effective way into the city is by Airline Express Bus. Just outside of Terminal 1 arrivals you will find the ticket sales stand, where the agent will direct you to the correct bus for your hotel or hostel. For 7 euro, we expected a long and gruesome ride, however twenty minutes later we are swinging onto the sidewalk into the sunshine.

Our first priority was breakfast, which in our world means beer and a plate of fries. Don’t judge, we were in vacay mode. By random chance we found ourselves across the street from Doyle’s Irish Pub, which happens to have the exact same name as our second home in Astoria, New York, a bar named Doyle’s Corner. We immediately plopped down at the bar and befriended the owners. They were intrigued by their “sister bar” in NYC and provided a Doyle’s Dublin hat as a gift for them. We are basically ambassadors now. It graces the panel just over the bar in Astoria now. Fueled and happy we set off to our hostel for naps.


Darkey Kelly’s Bar & Restaurant

From our hostel bedroom window we spied a cute little Irish pub with a garden patio. It was the perfect place to grab a pint and wait for friends. The staff here is incredibly friendly and we made it our meeting point and breakfast beer rendezvous spot for the remainder of the trip.

(Julie)

The best part about traveling is meeting people. The hard part is saying goodbye. About 10 years ago I became friends with a girl online from Brazil. I was able to meet her face to face again finally in Rio, then again in Amsterdam, Stockholm and NYC. Our paths crossed over the years and when we decided to plan a Dublin trip, I remembered my friend had moved there to work with Puffins (how do I get this job)! We met her and her boyfriend at Darkey Kelly’s and headed over to a tapas place they had tried before and highly recommended.

Salamanca

(Amanda)

Always take the advice of locals, they hardly ever steer you wrong. Dublin has amazing food, if you choose the right places. I will never say no to tapas– why only choose one item from a menu when you can sample 4 or 5? The ambiance of Salamanca is just as amazing as the food. As usual, we over did it and ordered way too much food, because decisions are hard. The Pollo Renello and the Patata Rellena are both incredible choices and I could not stop sneaking bites of the Pate de Pollo, even after my stomach ached from fullness. With a bottle if Spanish Rioja, the meal was complete.

Anseo

We followed our friends down Camden street to Anseo. The bar was dark and divey, just the way we like it. The older DJ was spinning classics the traditional way; actually carrying around a record collection, props to you Sir! This bar is just how you would expect it, with a nice chill vibe away from the tourist tangle down in Temple Bar. We ended our night here, initially planning to seek out another divey local place. However, we found ourselves back at the hostel in the common room, drinking a bottle of red we had acquired; that is, until we were kicked out at 1:30 am…

Day number two brought in our friend Kmo from NYC, stopping over on his way to Italy. We met him at out our new hangout Darker Kelly’s for breakfast drinks. While he napped from his trans-Atlantic quest, Julie and I headed out for late lunch.


Toscana

With a craving for cheese and charcuterie we stumbled upon Toscana. Their appetizer portion was more than enough for two small girls to share. Of course red wine was ordered to accompany this meal of the gods; because really these entire three days are about drinking and how can you have cheese without wine? Our little seat tucked next to the window was the perfect place to people watch. Here, we realized we had yet to eat anything that was considered typical Irish food and in reality we didn’t for the entire trip.

Turks Head

Sauntering down towards Temple Bar we decided if we went back to the hostel we would just get tired. From outside we noticed the amazing decor inside Turks Head. It was like Alice in Wonderland meets The Little Mermaid, which pretty much has Amanda and Julie written all over it. The bartenders were awesome and let us bring outside coffees to pour in shots of Bailey’s, since we needed a little pick me up. Kmo finally woke from his beauty sleep and joined us for a pint to plan the evening.

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The Original Backpacker Pubcrawl

We decided to join the pub crawl which was advertised all over our hostel. Included was a welcome drink and specials for 10 euro. We added a new friend Lizzy, an American backpacking though Europe for the summer, who was in the same room as Kmo. This is why I love hostels: every trip brings a new friend. We were directed to Badbob’s Temple Bar, which was the meeting point and claimed our free drink, which was a beer. We bounced from pub to pub around Temple bar, I am not quite sure which places we even visited, however this was an amazing opportunity to meet friends and for 10 euro, why not?!

Hanger

Since bars and club close early in Dublin, especially compared to NYC, we headed for Hanger around it’s 11 pm opening time. It was time to dance. I respect the Irish for their lax dress code at clubs. They only require you to look presentable, no heel requirement, which suits my converse-only lifestyle just fine. The doors open initially to a smaller area playing hip hop mixed with top 40. Later a second room opens, spinning progressive house and trance. This is where I belong; I stayed and danced for the remainder of the night. My only issue with Irish bars is that they close early at 2-2:30, but I guess you can’t have everything!

Korkoro- The ramen bar

Casually mentioning ramen the previous day, we now all three of us had the craving etched in our brains. Through Yelp, we determined Korkoro was the best place in the city to curb this desire. It was the perfect brunch, the bowls of noodles and broth were served up steaming hot and held to the traditional style of this amazing cuisine. I chose spicy pork and it did not let me down; was the perfect thing for my stomach after a late night out. Afterwards we wandered around the city, stopping at George’s Street Arcade. The local covered market was home to several vintage, indie gift shops. This victorian style covered market is one of the oldest in Europe.

Dawson’s 37

We had planned a chill evening of dinner and a couple of drinks before settling to bed for early flights. Famous Last Words. My favorite place in Dublin is 37 Dawson Street and not just because they have a life-size sparkling pony guarding the entrance. Arriving for a late dinner, there was already a DJ spinning and the downstairs seating area had been converted to a dance floor. We were doomed to stay. I have eaten here several times and the food and beverages never disappoint. We shared another cheese and charcuterie board and an appetizer sampler. As we finished dinner, the music transitioned from lounge to dance. One more glass of wine became another, somehow gin and tonics got involved. Time to dance and the deal was sealed, we were staying. Around two we headed back to the hostel and creeped in for a quick 3 hour nap before heading to the airport.

I know this blog makes us look like alcoholics, but we really aren’t and we had fun, so don’t judge. 🙂 People think of Dublin and Irish food and pubs immediately come to mind, which are both amazing when done right. However, Dublin is often forgotten as a diverse city with so much to offer besides the initial first impression. There are several more restaurants and bars which I frequent on my work trips, which unfortunately we did not have time for this trip. So now we have go back again and we are so upset about it…….

On the other coast of Ireland

Check out our blog about the Cliffs of Moher

 

Way too Wanderlust Recommends

Kinlay House: 2-12 Lord Edward Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2 www.kinlaydublin.ie

Airlink Express Bus:  www.dodublin.ie

Doyle’s Pub: 9 College Street, Dublin 2 www.doylesintown.com

Doyle’s Corner: 4202 Broadway, Astoria NY 11103 www.doylescorner.com (Because by now you likely want to be friends with us.)

Darkey Kelly’s Bar & Restaurant:  Fishamble Street, Christchurch, Dublin 2 www.darkeykellys.ie

Salamanca:  1 St. Andrew’s Street, Dublin 2 www.salamanca.ie

Anseo:  18 Camden Street Lower, Saint Kevin’s, Dublin 2

Toscana: 3 Cork Hill, Dame Street, Dublin 2 www.toscanarestaurant.ie

Turks Head:  Paramount Hotel, Parliament Street & Essex Gate, Temple bar, Dublin 2 www.paramounthotel.ie

The Original Backpacker Pub crawl:  www.backpackerpubcrawl.com

Hanger:  Andrews lane, Dublin www.hangerdublin.ie

Korkoro-The ramen bar:  51 Williams St. S, Dublin 2 (no website found)

George Street Arcade:  between George’s Street and Drury Street, Dublin 2 www.georgstreetesstreetarcade.ie

37 Dawson Street: guess what the address is…. www.37dawsonstreet.ie

Miami Ultra

~By:  Amanda

Sometimes the stars align, dates line up and days collide. While vacationing in Ibiza, stretched out in the sand with my Bloody Mary, I discovered that Miami Ultra would transpire the same weekend as my birthday next March. If you have read some of our past posts, the three of us definitely enjoy our share of house and trance music. For me it’s a true love. My soul marches to the beat and establishes me in my true spirit. It took approximately three minutes to convince the usual clan to go.

Music festivals are everything! For a multi-day festival you had better come armed and dangerous with a liver of steel and a small fortune in savings. Based on the line-up from the previous year, we knew per-purchasing the $350 three day ticket would be well worth it. Conveniently Miami Ultra sells tickets with a payment plan option. Therefore, if you don’t have tons of cash sitting in your savings you do not have to miss out. If you are looking for the most cost effective way to go, the earlier you purchase the ticket, the cheaper the cost. Don’t fear, if you are a last minute decision maker you can purchase tickets by the day through outside “retailers,” which is how most of our local Miami friends attended each day.

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The tickets arrived in a shiny box with all kinds of toys, about three weeks before d-day. If you ask me this was a little extra; just mail me the tickets. I do not need hot pink ear plugs or any for that matter, I was ready to hear every manner of sound these DJs would conjure. About a week before the show the time schedule was released on Ultra.com. Deciding who to see, when and where was one of the most difficult life decisions I have made to date. We booked a King room at the Hampton Inn Brickell; this was the most convenient location in our price range, giving us the ability to walk home. Miami is a gigantic sprawling city, so if you plan to stay further than a mile away or in South Beach, expect a challenge getting home at night. My motto is go with whatever is easy, so I will gladly pay $25 a night to make life simple.

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The festival itself was a shitshow, compared to any festival we had attended in Europe. It felt like a group of 5 year olds had planned the event. Arriving on Friday night we waited over an hour to enter the event, have the security staff check our bags and scan our tickets. I feel like Europeans could make millions on teaching classes to Americans on how to organize events. The port-a-potty situation was so insane; we all thought fondly back to the Flying Dutch festival in Amsterdam where there was only a 5 minute wait time for the toilet.

 

We parked ourselves at the main stage, where the line up was incredible. Arriving later than planned we were just in time to catch Armin van Buuren, who has achieved god status in my mind. We spent the rest of the night parked under a tree, slightly away from the crowd. By finding a home base in this area we were able to enjoy the music, without being suffocated by the huge crowd surrounding the stage. Also this convenient spot gave us the opportunity to make several amazing new friends. When I get the itch to be in the middle of everything, I’m always thankful for Julie, who will spend a few minutes deep in the crowd dancing with everyone!

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After the festival we headed back towards Brickell down S. Miami Ave, which was stacked with bars. Considering the state we were in we decided on the Fadó Irish pub and refreshed with cold beers. Perfect way to end the night. Everyone settled off to sleep….except ME. Someone (who shall remain nameless) in our group was sick and snored like a old Scottish man and I had been assigned to snuggle with her. I’m the lightest sleeper on the planet, so my solution was to grab a blanket and sleep in the closet. Do not judge me…. the door closed and blocked out the sound and I was fast asleep!

SATURDAY, before heading out we dropped by Coyo Taco on the corner for some tacos, breakfast of champions. The group goal of the day was to see Axwell ^ Ingrosso, the two remaining members of Swedish House Mafia. Having missed the opportunity to see the trio preform and living thought their podcasts, they were the essentially the missing piece of my life. The day was packed with Afrojack and Tiesto, amazing! As always, Tiesto opened his set with “Split,” and coincidentally Julie and I were right in the middle of the crowd at the main stage, jumping with everyone from the adrenaline. We kept our home-fort under the big tree with the neon orange decorations. As the afternoon changed to evening the sky opened up with a torrential down pour, many people ran under the various vendor tents to seek shelter from the rain. Thankfully our tree provided a decent amount of protection. I try to never let rain spoil my day, as you cannot control the weather. I even found an inflatable kangaroo to kiss. As the night closed we finally got to see Axwell ^ Ingrosso, they finished their set with “Sun is shining” as the clock passed into midnight and it became my birthday. As they finished their set, the whole crowd of old friends and new, erupted into “Happy Birthday”….best birthday moment ever!

After another closet “nap,” we headed to bay brunch. Wandering out in the far too bright Florida sun, we luckily ran into the Batch Gastropub right next to our hotel. They offered a weekend Brunch special with unlimited mimosas or Bellinis so we committed before even bothering to look at the food menu. However breakfast was delicious and it’s kinda hard to complain with bottomless fizzy drinks. Always a good idea to get one steady meal in our stomachs before heading out, I get so into the music I forget to eat. There is always this excitement/sorrow feeling when attending the last day of the festival. If I ever become a DJ (actually working on that) I wouldn’t want to close, because as amazing as your are, its still the end. Nobody wants to go home.

That didn’t stop us from enjoying every minute of that Sunday. My only regret is missing Showtek. Getting this many girls on my level of energy is incredibly difficult and no one was prepared to leave early enough to see the set. Remember what I said about finding a place and making it yours? We parked ourselves under that same tree again. At this point all of our friends from the past two days knew where to find us and we all settled down into our little village of happy. DJ Snake closed the night, maybe I was just sad Ultra was over, but I’m still trying to determine why he decided to close one of the biggest EDM festivals in the world with “The Middle.”

The saying goes, “Don’t be sad that it’s over, be glad that it happened.” The next day I boarded my flight home with those little white apple headphones hanging from my ears the whole way– my playlists were my attempt to keep reliving the weekend. My Uber driver told me there was a continuous 24 hour after party at Space Night club still raging on, but not even I am that crazy. Everyone should attend a multi-day music festival once in their life; there are so many to choose from for every genre of music. So grab some friends, wave your freak flag and be ready for the weekend of a lifetime.

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Check out our other festival blogs

Way too Wanderlust Recommends

Miami Ultra:  www.ultramusicfestival.com/

Hampton Inn Brickell:  50  SW 12th Street, Miami FL 33130 www.hamptoninnmiamibrickell.com/

Fado Irish Pub:  Mary Brickell Village 900 South Miami Ave. Miami, FL 33130 fadoirishpub.com/miami/

Coyo Taco:  1111 SW 1st Ave Miami, FL 33130 www.coyotaco.com

Batch Gastropub:  30 SW 12th Street, Miami FL 33130 www.batchgastropub.com

Las Vegas

ACEDIA • TRISTITIA • LUXURIA • IRA • VANGLORIA • GULA • AVARITIA 

S L O T H
Sin City isn’t just about legalized gambling and prostitution; it has so much more to offer than people think. I’ve been to Vegas quite a few times and wasted my afternoons at poolsides sipping colorful drinks with umbrellas, exploring the insides of all the fancy hotels and being taken in by the lights and shows. But there is more to Vegas than that and once you’re done relaxing it’s time to explore!

On one of my solo trips to Vegas, I decided to explore nature. I looked up in TripAdvisor the best hikes and headed over to Red Rock Canyon which is only a 35 minute drive from the strip. I spent my afternoon in the sun with fresh air covered in dirt. I love a day where I end up covered in dirt. I explored the area, studied the cacti until about sunset.


S O R R O W 
I didn’t have anywhere to stay that night and things got a little pricey at the last minute. So I thought I’d try something a little adventurous and booked a $17 bed at “Hostel Cat” figuring I’d at least make some new friends and get some interesting stories. It did not disappoint. As I drove up to the hostel there were two strippers outside on a swing. Already proving interesting. I felt a little uneasy as I realized I wasn’t in the best part of the strip. A part I had yet to discover. When I got inside I was given a code and instructions. Once inside the main gate, after two codes that change daily, I felt a bit safer. I chose the mixed bed dorm as I usually make more friends with guys than girls, who in my experience tend to be cliquish and extra messy. I secured my belongings, showered and headed to the common area to make friends.

L U S T
img_2190I just happened to be there for the first Friday of the month. All the food trucks were out, local bands, artists and performers. We had a great time and I highly recommend it. As many nights in Vegas end, we ended up at a local dive gay bar. Thank goodness for my new hostel mates because a lesbian couple tried to make me their new roommate!

W R A T H
The next day one of my best friends just so happened to be in town so we made a lunch and headed out to the Hoover Dam. If you haven’t been, it’s a landmark worth seeing. Powering three states with electricity, the Hoover Dam supplies power to over 18 million people. Where Mother Nature is never a force to reckon with on its own, absolutely never mess with a construction where man and nature combine forces. The death toll numbers are controversial from even the birth of the construction; the death from flooding, accidents and the suicides are incalculable. There is definitely an eerie feeling when you look over the edge of the railing. Honestly, it was so fascinating and you can even cross another state border off your list if that’s your sort of thing. We saw loads of military helicopters and airplanes circling above and we came up with a couple of good conspiracy theories about Area 51. The drive back is a bit brutal with traffic (especially with a full bladder) so I recommend you time the drive home around the traffic.


E N V Y
We made it back in time to hit up a couple of poolside happy hours and if you plan Vegas properly it doesn’t have to be expensive. As soon as you land in Vegas and Instagram your selfies with #vegas or anything similar, club promoters will start messaging you with deals. I personally am not a club person although I’ve had some pretty memorable experiences in some; usually ending the night with at least one marriage proposal. I’ve had a guy give my friends $100 to promise to keep me safe. (They gave him change as $100 seemed like too much for me at the time; apparently I need new friends.) I’m more of a dive bar kinda girl and people watching is my main game. Vegas dive bars are like “people of Wal-Mart” on steroids at prime time. Everyone has a story and they all are waiting to tell you if you’re up for it. Be ready to hear a lot of doom and gloom and tons of terrible decisions. It’s amazing!

G L U T T O N Y
img_4356Another highlight of Vegas and what would America’s City of Sin be without the tastiest of the deadly sins… Las Vegas buffets. You can eat your way around the world for $25-$200 depending on your quality of poison. Again, I’m not really one for flash and crowds so you can usually find me people watching and soaking up that cheap happy hour booze with $5 steak and eggs or at Ellis Island where they have steak, gambling and Karaoke.

 

 

G R E E D
There is something for every budget and lifestyle in Vegas. I’m not much of a gambler,personally, but occasionally you can find me at the wheel of fortune slot machine earning some free drinks. If gambling isn’t your thing, you can hike, learn history, site see, live your flashiest life or finally get that envious “hangover movie” kind of night and wake up with a tiger. I was accidentally an extra in a movie once while tanning by the pool. The world is yours in Vegas and all the possibilities are at your fingertips. Careful what you wish for and live semi responsibly, you could also end up at a drive thru Elvis chapel marrying a stranger… it is Vegas after all.

Pereira: Pretending I’m a local

~By: Amanda

If I could have a friend from every country in the world my life would be complete. Nothing is better than experiencing the culture with a local, especially one whom is like a sister. This is how you find places you typically wouldn’t know existed. Locals know the true places, not the ones with mobs of tourists or lining the glossy pages of guidebooks. Typically, I am the group planner for every adventure, but when it came time to plan our trip to Colombia, I handed over the reins to our friend, Patty. The first places people generally explore in Colombia are Bogota, Medellin or Cartagena. Our first city was Pereira, which is where Patty spent every childhood summer, visiting family and friends. So this is where we showed up, ready to absorb the true Colombian culture.

We arrived fashionably late, thanks to a Viva Colombia airlines cancellation. However for the inconvenience they more than made up for the delay with a free round trip airfare (for which we have big plans…. a Salsa weekend in Cali). Patty greeted us at the airport with family and our hired transportation for the next two days, a 8 person van for $180 ($23pp). How I love South American prices! Patty had everything sorted and we arrived at Kolibri Hostel where we had booked the 6 bunk room for ourselves. Clean and with modern upgrades I could not have picked a better place to rest my head.

As quickly as possible we traded our travel leggings for swimsuits and flip flops and hustled downstairs to our waiting van driver. Our pressed time did not keep us from picking up a couple bottles of red wine for the drive, which the hostel gladly sold to us with a stack of plastic cups! The perfect evening had been planned, we were on our way to the hot springs. The Santa Rosa de Cabal area, is about one hour outside of Pereira. Here, several hot springs dot the side of the mountain and of course Patty had chosen the bougie-est of them all. Termales is the highest hot spring on the mountain, in theory you always want to visit the hot spring settled on the highest point, the water there is the purest. As we entered the lobby it was almost as we had stepped back in time, the decor was top to bottom traditional Colombian.

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I love hot springs, there is no better way to spend an evening relaxing in the heated water than with cocktails. This particular hot spring had several pools which progressively get hotter, fueled by waterfalls gushing the geothermal heated water. On the furthest end of the spring is a waterfall plunging freezing cold water into the mix. If you dare, jump under this invigorating experience… which only two of us had the balls to try. The only thing that could possibly make the night better was empanadas, which guess what, are available in the cafeteria. It always amazes me how cafeterias or snack bars everywhere else in the world can serve such amazing food. Meanwhile in ‘merica we always settle for the soggy hot dog or burnt pizza.

We headed home for sleep, because the next day we were headed to the coffee park. I love coffee and I love rides, so image learning there is place in existence which combines the two for them, National Coffee Park. This entire amusement park is dedicated to the celebration of coffee, I love Colombia, seriously amazing. There are several packages available at various prices to enter the park. Of course we selected the full ride package, because we were going on every ride.

The park is beautifully manicured with immaculate green spaces. After a quick coffee with whiskey, because well it is us, we jumped on the gondola which expedited us down the section with the rides. Running full force we headed towards the go-carts, because that was the first thing we saw. Working in an insane pattern we snaked our way through the park, hitting every ride that wasn’t designed for someone under 4 feet. As the day grew hot, it was time for the log flume! All five girls piled into the plastic hollowed out log and belted out screams as we zoomed down the shoots; soaked! The boys watched from a distance, with some lame comment about not wanting to be wet– they suck anyways.

Our other goal for the day was to attend the performance which highlights the history of coffee in Colombia through song and dance. The production was amazing, especially the vivid costumes, the only possible improvement would have been beer sales! Time for lunch, the Patacon appeared delicious and we always try something new everyday; food in South America never disappoints. Maybe Guinea pig, but we dodged that bullet. Most of the group chose fried chicken. The Colombians have a thing about getting their hands greasy which is bound to happen with properly fried chicken. Each meal is sold with plastic gloves, now I would prefer to lick the last of the golden deliciousness off my fingers, but every culture has their thing. Still no beer available, this is pretty much the only issue we found with the whole park.

After lunch, we set out to finish our original quest. Here is where we encountered the two best rides we found all day. First the bumper boats, which involved 5 minutes of petty competitiveness trying to shove each other under the various fountains. Finally the roller coaster that we had noticed the bright red track peaking though the landscape all day; and it was time. We all ran up to the gates ready to experience the “biggest thrill” of the park. The ride was amazing, fast, drops, twists and turns and the best part… zero line, zero! So, we rode again and again; three of use rode the coaster five times. Why not, there was no wait and in the U.S. a similar coaster puts us waiting in the heat for hours.

We walked out of the park like we owned the joint; we had pretty much conquered our goal with the exception of kiddie rides, for once I was too tall. Our van transport picked us up at the exit, but not before Julie and I ran across the street to purchase as many beers as we could carry. It was a two hour drive to return, but what else did we have to do… and we had been deprived all day after all.

Because that was not enough action for one day, we later headed out to Circunvalar, which I imagine means “road of bars” in Spanish….am I close? Several amazing bars pumped full of salsa music lined the streets, our favorite was an eclectic little bar exclusively dedicated to shots called Mister Shots. Here is where the night gets fuzzy.

The next morning we jammed out of Pereira early headed for Medellin. Our group was large enough to make the price of renting a private van equilivant to individually buying tickets on a scheduled tourist bus. Traveling in a group often has its perks, in South America always shop around for ground transport, likely you can find an amazing deal.

It’s cities like Pereira that I crave to visit, they have a magical calmness to them, over the hectic bustle of your typical tourist haunts and major cities. This is why I prefer to see the country with a local, they will show you the true flavor of the country. And with that being said we are now accepting applications for you to be our friend and show us your country, we will not disappoint…just kidding, kinda!

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Way too Wanderlust Recommends

If you want to know more about Pereira, check out: 8 Awesome things to do in Pereira

Kolibri Hostel:  Calle 4 #16-35 Circunvalar, Pereira Colombia +57 6 331 39 55 www.kolibrihostel.com

Termales: Calle 14 #15-52 Santa Rosa de Cabel-Risaralda www.termales.com.

National Coffee Park: Km 6 via Montenegro Pueblo Tapao, Montenegro Quindío, Colombia National Coffee Park (information though Wikipedia in English)

Mister Shots:  Av Circunvalar 8-94, Pereira

Paris: The Love Story

~By: Anna and Julie, with “salt bae” from Amanda

Girls trip to Paris!


Anna

When I was 3 years old, my parents took me on a six week tour of Europe, and some of my very earliest memories originate from that trip. My most vivid memory was going up the Eiffel Tower at night, and I remember stepping off a crowded elevator holding tight to my Dad’s hand, feeling the rushing breeze of the night air. We stepped to the edge at the top and I will never forget my father saying, “Anna, look, this is the Ville de Lumière– this is the City of Lights!” And all the lights of Paris twinkled magically below and around me that night in 1985.

For 32 years I held onto the beauty of that night, and from that moment on, the Eiffel Tower would always be a special place for me. My love of travel began with that trip. I started traveling on my own in 2008, but in all the trips that I’ve taken back to Paris, and in all the times I’ve picnicked under its beautiful structure with my friends in the grass of the Champ de Mars, I’ve never been back up to the top. Somehow, my heart knew that I should wait to take that trip back up when I could hold the hand of a man who would love me just as much as my father. The Eiffel Tower and Paris became a sacred place for me that I would wait to share with the man of my dreams.
I’m a Leo, and I have always been extremely sentimental and romantic. My best girl friends have known about my love affair with Paris since basically the day they met me. They always knew that if the right man ever came along, that Paris was my dream engagement. I’ve been dating for seventeen years and in all that time, no one I dated ever quite understood how important Paris was to me or quite understood why.

When Midnight in Paris came out in 2011, it was my favorite movie. My girl friends and I watched it over and over, wanting to find the magic church steps that transported you back in time to the Paris of Hemingway and Fitzgerald. So we took a girl’s trip to Paris that summer, and it would be the spring step to all of our future travels together. Paris is what first originally bonded us as travel buddies and best friends for life. We wrote about our first trip to Paris together here. This is where we first started to get an idea that one day we wanted our own travel blog.

For the next six years, us girls have traveled to more countries together than we can count. I continued living the single life in New York City, dating around the world and had some serious heartbreaks or ten. Ultimately, I made a decision to stop looking so hard for love. I wanted to get out of the hustle and bustle of NYC that was making me hard and jaded, and I found my heart yearning back for the south. I am a Kentucky girl after all. It was time to focus on me, and what made me happy in life: my job, my family, and my vacations with my girl friends.

In the fall of 2016, that all changed when I met Ben. Ben lives in New Orleans, but he works two week shifts in the oil and gas industry in North Dakota. I flew to Minot, North Dakota on a trip over Labor Day weekend to see my family. I was out to dinner with my cousin Josh, and he invited along two co-workers. One of those friends I already knew, who had traveled to both Bali and Ibiza with Josh and I. The stranger who I didn’t know showed up a little late, but when he sat down across from me at the table, and I suddenly looked over into his warm brown eyes, my whole life changed.

They say when you know, you know. I didn’t know right away immediately, but I think Ben might have! Ever the southern gentleman, he slowly taught my heart to love him and trust him in a way that I didn’t know possible. He fit right into my life, and I his. I thank God every day that Ben found me. He is my happy ever after and now I will let the girls chime in with their version of how they managed to plan the engagement of my dreams. Everyone’s part is so important to telling our love story.

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Julie

How do you pull off a secret engagement in Paris when the fiancé-to-be is a Leo? Anna always told us her dream engagement and we knew when the day came that she met her perfect man, Amanda and I would have our hands full with planning.

4 months prior to D-Day, Amanda, Anna, Danielle and I were on a bus in Bolivia when we received a picture of the diamond from Ben. I have to be honest: I am a terrible secret keeper. You can’t send 3 of us a picture of a diamond and not expect us to squeal with delight leaving Anna pouting that we knew something she didn’t know. Immediately we have to either start planning everything in Paris or break it to our friend that an engagement in Paris is a bleak and an unattainable dream. Amanda contacted Ben and started the scheming. I asked her all the “what if” questions. What if it was the perfect man and the perfect ring but the location wasn’t exactly Paris? Her response “Well then he wasn’t listening, then was he?” Touché. (Anna: In my defense, this was months and months before)

It took 8 friends, 4 months, lots of scheming, the miracles of the universe aligning and the perfect fiancé to be. We worked closely with Ben to pick a date. Then we scoured the internet for what events were happening in Paris said week. One of us suggested we needed a girls trip. Someone else suggested Paris, where we faked plans with a friend of a friend for Jazz fest. Who couldn’t say no, right? Finally, after a lot of work she agreed to the dates and the location but we were positive she would start to catch on. She already knew the ring existed and she knew Ben had the days off.

The universe intervened magically by mail one day when Ben opened a letter and it was for jury duty the exact date he was supposed to leave to Paris! It was perfect! He left the letter out so she would find it and then he secretly got out of it with a copy of his airplane ticket.
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Anna

You can always get me to agree to a girl’s trip to Paris over any excuse, but Jazz Fest was particularly diabolical because I love jazz. So going to JazzFest in Paris for a reunion girl’s trip was a perfect cover. At first I begged Ben to come along, but his initial excuse was that he needed to take care of his bees, so I (eventually) dropped it. I know that his beekeeping is vital to him; it was one of the many reasons I fell in love with him in the first place.

I already knew that Ben wanted to plan a life together, because he openly tells me so on a regular basis. As girls do, I had created a Pinterest board over the years of all my favorite engagement ring ideas for that future someday, so I let Ben have access to it, but it must have been a bit confusing. I remember when Amanda, Danielle, Julie and I were on our backpacking trip in South America and we were on a bus to Puno that Ben all of a sudden texted me asking, “Princess cut, right?” And I immediately texted back, “No, Asscher!” Ha!  After that I was kept in the dark, they immediately made a chat group without me. It nearly killed me because curiosity kills the cat and I usually like to know everything!

So about a month before our trip, Ben and I were home in New Orleans and as he was opening his mail, he came upon an envelope for a Petit Jury Summons on the very day I was to depart for Paris with the girls. Any little lingering hope I had that he could go along at the last minute was crushed. Ben was elated. He even told my Dad over lunch how excited he was, he was looking forward to doing his civic duty.

I was even beginning to have doubts that I even wanted my long-held dream of a proposal in Paris. After some soul-searching conversations, I realized that what I truly wanted was simply to be with Ben–to be engaged, and to wear his ring. A ring of his choosing, a proposal of his choosing. I already know how romantic Ben is, so I knew that any proposal from Ben, whether or not it was in Paris, was going to be a lovely surprise, and all that mattered to me was his heart.

So I took off for Paris with joy to meet the girls!

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Julie

We got Anna to Paris the day before Ben’s arrival and kept her busy and entertained and away from the part of town he was staying in. We even had to keep her busy when he got on the plane by scheming that he had been sequestered for a jury duty case and so he couldn’t call her. Once we had sufficiently thrown her for enough loops, we came up with a story that we needed to dress up and take photos like we had done on our first girl’s trip in Paris 5 years prior. At this point there were so many loops that I didn’t even know what the truths for our day plan was anymore. I think only Amanda knew what was true and what we had staged to keep Anna’s always wandering mind from asking too many questions. One of our friends had told her that we had special lunch reservations at a Café near the Louvre. He went early to meet with Ben and to communicate with Amanda, who was trying to time everything perfectly (I always joke that she is really Mrs. Peregrine as far as timing goes).


We arrived to the “Locks of Love” bridge (the Pont des Arts) and we found our friend in the middle of the bridge talking with “friends” (which were actually strangers but he made conversation with them to legitimize the story). There was a man with a violin playing “la via en rose” and by this point we were sure she knew. All of our energy was buzzing. We managed to assemble everyone for a group photo facing away from where Ben would walk up behind us. Now here’s the really special part for me: I was playing the role of photographer so I was able to capture the whole thing as Ben was walking up behind her, and I had to remind myself to stop shaking and click the button. He walked up holding a bouquet of pink roses and a ringbox. When she finally turned around and saw him, it was probably a full very long second before it set in on her that the love of her life was actually there. She sobbed. We all sobbed. Continuing to take photos and videos when you’re shaking is so hard. You want to live in the moment and enjoy it but an engagement in Paris only happens once in lifetime so we all rallied.


Ben and Anna hugged and cried and as she finally began to calm down he got down on one knee and proposed. In the middle of the Locks of Love bridge with “La vie en rose” playing on the violin, with all of her best friends around her, and another perfect universe moment when Anna’s adopted mom just also happened to be there that day and that day only. Dreams really do come true. Ben brought along a lock for them and they found a little section on the bridge where more locks have started appearing to revive the tradition. They locked their love together and threw the key into the Siene. After that he told her that he had dinner reservations at the Eiffel Tower and her face of surprise was absolutely priceless. Even the coldest of hearts were warmed and there wasn’t a dry eye on that bridge. Its adorable how much the French also love to love and strangers stopped to enjoy the moment with us.


We took all of our beautiful pictures and headed to the nearest cafe to regroup, celebrate with rosé and aperol spritz. We Facetimed Anna’s cousin Josh and our closest friend Abi who has been with us from the beginning. We called her dad and her grandma and as she recounted the story to each of them we all cried more tears of happiness.


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Anna

Our first couple nights in Paris were simply amazing. Amazing friends, amazing food, amazing rosé. We went to visit the Sacré-Coeur and Montmontre, Amanda and I had a morning run along the canals of the 10th Arron., and we checked into our beautiful mid-eighteenth century apartment. Amanda had found it through a friend, and it was centrally located right next to Notre-Dame Cathedrale on the Isle de la Cité. We took a ride on a bateau-bus down the Seine to the Eiffel Tower along with five bottles of wine for a picnic in the shade. We took photos everywhere.

On Monday night, when Ben told me the Petit Jury might turn into a Grand Jury and that they were going to be sequestered at a hotel without their phones, I realized that I didn’t know when I was going to hear from him again, and I broke down in tears at dinner. He had to call me to calm me down. Amanda took me to the bathroom and dried my tears as she always has. We found some dive bars in the Marais and I spent the night distracted by shots, dancing, and Amanda DJing.

By Wednesday the rest of our friends were expected to arrive so we were planning a dress up photo shoot that day. I woke up with quite the hangover that morning but still managed to get a shower and curl my hair. I had bought a few new dresses online to bring to Paris, and my favorite was a navy blue “swing” dress for dancing in the jazz clubs. It took a few hours for seven girls to get ready, but there was a good supply of champagne on hand from a little wine shop around the corner. Julie was already “shooting” as Amanda danced around the living room. Our guy friend was looking very dapper in a brand new blue suit from Milan but he left early, saying he had friends to meet at 2, who were preparing a special wine and cheese lunch for us at a café near the Louvre.

“Make sure you get my shoes!”, she said.

Finally when everyone was ready, we left the apartment to meet at the café at 3. Meanwhile, we took photos everywhere along the Seine. When we got to the famous Pont des Arts, I remember being distracted into taking more pictures when we were about halfway across. While we were standing there smiling, I felt someone’s hand on my arm. I thought it was one of the girls. But when I turned around, I heard the familiar violin strains of “La Vie en Rose,” and I saw Ben standing in front of me with an armful or pink roses.
My initial reaction was pure shock. I couldn’t quite believe he was there, in person, in Paris, standing on that bridge. I just started shaking and sobbing uncontrollably, and wrapped my arms around his neck. I can remember him holding me close, both of us crying, and he whispered in my ear, “I have something to ask you.” Even when I finally calmed down enough to let go of him, I remember reaching out to touch his face, to know that this was really happening and wasn’t a dream.

The next thing I knew, Ben got on one knee, presented me with a ring box and said those sweet words, “Will you marry me?” I said “Yes I will” through tears of happiness. I nearly reached for the ring before I realized in my stupor that I should put out my hand so that he could place it on my finger. I was shaking like a leaf. It was the most joyous moment of my life. Meanwhile the violinist switched into Besame Mucho, and everyone around us was clapping and crying.

Ben had already bought a lock, and wrote Ben ❤ Anna on the side. We went to the railing and found a section of bridge where other lovers had already begun to leave new locks. Ben bent down to turn the key, and then after we both blew it a kiss, he tossed it far away into the Seine. It made me infinitely happy that he knew how much that little bit of sentimental tradition meant to me.


And then Ben had one last surprise. He pulled out some papers from his inside his jacket pocket and presented me with dinner reservations that night at 58, where we would dine at the Eiffel Tower. Somewhere there’s a priceless photo of my face. It was a culmination of all my little hopes and dreams. I couldn’t stop crying or shaking. My cup of joy runneth over.


After what seemed a million photos later, we crossed the bridge and found ourselves a spot at the Café Restaurant Le Grand Louvre. We had many rounds of champagne and kir royale to celebrate! When I finally could sit down, I was able to fully appreciate the beauty of my new ring.
Ben had looked at all my Pinterest saves and then had it designed especially for me, with little gold twists in the band that gave it a slightly antique look. Sweet and simple and classic. I could not have imagined anything more elegant. My entire day was perfect from beginning to end, and when I called my Dad and my Grandma to share the happy news, they cried too. I truly felt as if all the universe was in the right place for once, and that I was the luckiest girl alive. No other man would have the patience or persistence to give me the engagement of my dreams, and do such an incredible job surprising me. My favorite photo is when I am standing there unsuspecting, and Ben is walking across the bridge behind me, broad smile across his face.

 

 

 

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Anna’s favorite photo

Keeneland, My Kentucky Derby

~By:  Amanda

I make fun of “fly over” states all the time; however I can’t really talk, as I’m from a fly over state. Anna and I were both born and raised in Kentucky. I know what you are thinking: there is literally nothing there. True, some parts are not worth spending more than the five minutes you would need to gas up your car and grab a bag of Cheetos. However we do have our claims to fame, including by far the best college basketball team in the country– I am not biased, google it! Bourbon, which speaks for itself, no explanation needed! Finally horses, specifically horse racing. This is not a post about the Kentucky Derby, it’s about my favorite place in Kentucky, located just outside of Lexington, Keeneland Race Track.

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Keeneland is one of the most beautiful horseracing tracks in the country, with much of its original 1930’s style architecture. Every April and October, they showcase live horseracing and in my opinion surpasses the beauty of the twin spires at Churchill Downs. For most Kentuckians, Keeneland is an event, so dresses and ties are the favored dress code. Just don’t wear a hat, as those are for the Derby. We will know you are from out of town even before hearing your accent. Everyone shows up early to tailgate, complete with cocktails and homemade southern style appetizers, before the first post at 12 noon.

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Every time I return, nostalgia pulls. This is where I spent most of my Fridays when I attended the University of Kentucky, skipping that last afternoon class. As you enter you almost feel as if you are pulled back in time; the grounds have been perfectly maintained since the track was constructed in 1936. My first stop is always the “Sports Bar” on the second level, which is the prefect place to grab a Bloody Mary and make your bets for the first race.

The $5 general admission grants you access to most of the grounds and the free seating on the benches at the racetrack’s edge. It’s incredible to watch the horses fly by. To sit in the fancy box seats, located in the covered Grandstand, you better know someone. These boxed areas are pre-owned and are passed down though families from generation to generation. You can also purchase Grand Stand Reserved seating or make reservations in various dining and club venues. Its the bougie way to go and should be booked in advance, since reservations go fast.

I am a weirdly traditional person, so my day here always starts with a Bloody Mary first, and then moves on to bourbon, which pairs well with a beef frank with spicy mustard for lunch. However, if you are a Kentucky virgin, I highly recommend the burgoo, a delicious stew. I always end my day down near the long finish at the Equestrian Bar–this is where my father and his friends typically set up post. At this point I have spent all my money on bets and I can usually count on a cocktail or two from him, citing that I am unmarried and therefore still his responsibility.

I rarely win, mostly because I solely choose my horses based on their names. However this place is still magical to me, maybe because it transports me back to those treasured days I spent at university or maybe it’s because the sights and sounds are the feeling of home. For me it’s not about winning, it’s about the atmosphere: Keeneland embraces the true Kentucky spirit.

 

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Teaching your 9 month old nephew to gamble, totally normal!

Check out  Keeneland from one of their own’s prospective… my dear friend Isaac Hickman from the Broadcast Department at Keeneland created this video titled “Family and Friends”

https://www.facebook.com/keeneland/videos/10154249380567186/

 

Way too Wanderlust Recommends

Keeneland Racetrack:  4201 Versailles Road, Lexington KY 40510 www.keeneland.com

Cairo, Egypt

~By:  Julie

In 2011 I received the opportunity to travel to Cairo, Egypt, one of my most memorable trips even to this day. I was only given a small window of time to prepare before the trip and I didn’t know when I’d ever return, so I hired a tour guide/ driver to take me and a couple of my co workers at the time to see the things you are supposed to see. Our hotel was directly on the Nile River, with the most incredible views that immediately gave me the warmest feeling. It’s been 6 years and I’m still pinching myself about this opportunity.

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A few things that surprised me:
1. The Sphinx and the Pyramids of Giza are located right dab in the middle of Cairo. No joke. When we were flying into it, I saw a huge city with bare land in the middle like an abandoned dusty golf course and upon closer look I spotted the pyramids and the Sphinx from above. It still blows my mind.

2. Now, I had a certain expectation of camels when I came to Egypt… I figured I’d see one… but I really didn’t think I’d get to interact with them. They are really the oddest looking creatures and call me crazy but I couldn’t stop looking at their weird butts.

3. I’ve now stood in front of the giant stones that are the base of the pyramids and I really do question how they got there. ET? I’ve crawled underneath the smaller pyramids, touched the hieroglyphics, and was thankful for the shade of any shadow from the torturous sun. I came as close as possible to the Sphinx and she’s entirely much smaller than I anticipated, which doesn’t happen often to me based on my size. But all of it is a wondrous marvel.

4. I learned to not judge a book by its cover in Egypt because no house is finished. They never finish the top floor or roof of the house in order to avoid paying taxes. I was told the dirtiest looking places can really be the most valuable palaces inside. From the street you really get a different perspective on things.

5. After a necessary food stop for street-side doner Kabob, a voice came over the public loudspeaker chanting in a religious tone and the entire city paused in the most eerie way. No one made us feel uncomfortable for not practicing the way they did. We just kept quiet and reserved to the side out of respect until it seemed ok to continue our journey.

The video is long but I’m so grateful I have it after so much time has passed.


I had plans to return to Egypt to visit Alexandria before things became tense… I’ve lost some of the memories. But I still wear my cleopatra cartouche, display my papyrus paintings with pride and can’t wait to explore the rest of this incredibly mysterious country.

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San Blas Adventures: Love, minimalism… and rum

~By: Amanda

One day I woke up and realized I didn’t need any more ‘stuff.’ As the sun rose over the Caribbean and pierced the cerulean sky, I knew everything I needed fit inside a backpack. The ‘stuff’ that humans of our day have determined important, such as electricity, WiFi, and constant cell phone service, are all actually unnecessary. All you need are the basics: food, shelter, love and a little bit of rum. All mixed together on a pristine white sand beach with the tropical waters of the Caribbean lapping in the sunset. From an early age, especially as Americans, we are taught ‘stuff’ is important. Whether it be from various marketing channels or our peers, the social lesson we have embraced is that we need things to make us happy. At the end of our South American tour we learned with just how little we could live with and just how liberating that could be.

We first learned about San Blas Adventures from two of our Dutch friends; these guy are true travelers and claimed this was “best trips they had ever done!” Hearing that, it was inevitable we would go. Cap-stoning the end of our backpacker trip we each paid the hefty price of $450 for the four day, three night trip. Little did we know the experience we would gain would far outweigh the money spent.

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San Blas Adventures operates speed boat tours through the islands of the Kuna people, who flourish here off the Caribbean coast of Panama. The Kuna people fled to the islands from the mainland after the Conquistadors invaded. Here, they found not only had they rid themselves of the Spanish pests, but the blood sucking kind (mosquitoes) as well. You can book a tour online in either direction between Panama City, Panama and Colombia by boat and see one of the most amazing cultures and beautiful archipelago of islands in the world. There are not many ways to transverse the border between these two countries, as the only other option is off-roading through one of the most dangerous jungles on the entire planet. Forget the lions, tigers and bears, this is one of the most highly trafficked drug routes in the world. Your other option is the sea route, by sailboat utilizing other tour companies. While tranquil, you receive much less time on the islands, and more time on the sailboat. Other travelers told us horror stories over beers in Colombia about boat captains kicking off  their passengers and changing itineraries for the company of hookers.

 


San Blas Adventures was one of the first companies to operate boat tours between Panama and Colombia. One of the three owners of the company is a member of the Kuna tribe, so to book the most authentic experience and to incur the least amount of speed (wave) bumps possible, we highly recommend this company. When pre-booking online one is required to pay a $100 deposit. With this deposit comes multiple emails of the most specific set of instructions I have ever seen for a vacation. Read them once, twice, maybe ten times because these are imperative for your enjoyment for the next 4-6 days, well that, coupled with Poseidon’s temper.

These are some of the points I can not stress enough…

  1. Money: Read all points specific to money. While the deposit is paid in credit card, the balance is paid in cash, specifically USD. San Blas Adventures operates out of Panama, which barters in green dead presidents. Why you might ask, because the remainder of the money is paid to specific Kuna people, for our accommodations on each island, to our boat operators, for food etc. For the Kuna, “Visa is not everywhere they want to be;” their culture operates on cold hard cash and that’s what is easiest for them. Remember you are a visitor on their land. Basically show up with a minimum of $600, it will save you drama later.
  2. Also understand that regardless of departure point, your balance is paid in USD. If leaving from Colombia, pre-plan to have the money exchanged ahead of time. We traveled from Medellin and exchanged our money at the Bank of Colombia in the bus terminal. This process took over an hour requiring passports, signatures and fingerprints. The last possible point to obtain cash on the Colombian side is in Necocli (and will still need to be exchanged from Colombian Pesos to USD), there is NO ATM in Capurgana or Sapzurro.
  3. Bring only the Basics: all you need are a couple of swimsuits and dry clothing for evening time. It will all fit in your day pack. Flipflops are all that is necessary. I didn’t wear makeup for 5 days and it was fantastic; however, deodorant and a toothbrush will keep you from being “that person.” Pack a sweatshirt, it’s insane how cold a hammock in the Caribbean can be. It’s advised by the crew to keep all valuables and breakables in your day pack. Apparently the Kuna are not so gentle with the transport of your big backpacks. For electronics, double bag them, we brought super size zip-locks from home. You can buy bin liners (garbage bags) to cover both your day pack and your larger backpacks to try and keep them dry during the journey. You won’t actually see the larger backpack again until it’s time to say goodbye.
  4. DO NOT BRING DRUGS: Your guide is not playing around. A few months before our tour a German man was caught with 2 grams of Colombian powder at the check point into Panama. Word on the street is, he is still in Panamanian Prison. You are checked entering Panama, you are checked leaving Panama. This is just not worth it; I assume South American prison is not fun, so just enjoy your rum and life!
  5. Charge everything before leaving civilization: While you won’t have signal…less time for Snapchat, more time for bonding with new friends. You will want to capture the beauty of this paradise you get to call home for four days and all the memories in tow. Charge up your mobiles before leaving the for the islands. We did have electricity available in Sapzurro the night before we left, so leaving Colombia this is your last chance. A back up battery pack is also a good idea and in our opinion a must for every traveler. If you are a GoPro user, maybe 2 back-up batteries—you know.
  6. Don’t be a squirrel: Be nice to your guides, as they are there for you. Please and thank you go a long way. At the end of the day they are not here to change your pampers or fix your personal travel mishaps; but keep you safe and introduce you to the wonderful Kuna culture.

As much are nobody likes rules, the ones mentioned above are important, because this trip will change your soul if you come open minded. Starting in Necocli, you take the 8 am ferry to Capurgana. We spent the previous night in Punta de Aguila hotel in Necocli. This hotel had one of the best reviews on booking.com, and a triple room set us back around $8 per person, including breakfast. The ferry is your first taste at what the next few days will be like. The ferry boats are larger than the boats you will use to transverse the San Blas islands to Panama, but the waves are the same. One of the guys on our tour watched someone vomit on his backpack. Upon arrival in the colorful coastal town of Capurgana you will have a few hours to kill before the tour group briefing.

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Around 12 everyone huddled together at the San Blas Adventures office for our official tour meeting. Here is where we met Pedro, our Brazilian guide and his assistants David from Switzerland and Julia from Germany. Pedro broke down our plan for the next few days and gave us the 411 on what to expect. He collected our passports to stamp us out of Colombia, while we set off to buy important provisions like rum. We later poured the contents from our glass liter bottles into empty plastic water bottles–a more effective way to transport when riding 10 foot waves. The ferry between Capurgana and Sapzurro were the smallest boats I have ever seen deemed sea-worthy, considering the size of the waves beating up against the hull. On the 10 minute ride we managed to get insanely wet as we clutched to our day bags for dear life.

Once in Sapzurro we headed to our pre-booked hostel. I highly recommend staying with the hostel Hotel Triny that San Blas Adventures utilizes. We pre-booked Hilltop Sapzurro hostel in advance with fear that upon arrival, we would not find accommodation for 8 people last minute. Upon arrival we found the hostel a mess, without proper beds for our party. One bed had a random store of knock-off perfumes and condoms; I guess everyone needs a side business! We evacuated after it was confirmed that Hotel Triny recommended by San Blas could easily accommodate us.

We awoke the next morning ready for adventure. While traveling we refuse to use the word ‘adventure’ in the present tense. Doing so has lead to an immense amount of crazy situations, including but not limited to running away from a tsunami, multiple credit cards losses and a terrifying boat ride though the Straits of Malacca. So when we booked with a tour company which used the word adventure in its title, we knew we were doomed. We boarded our trio of speed boats, not really knowing what to expect. Boats one and two kicked to life, but ours didn’t, the motor refused to turn over. The Kuna drivers tried again and again and finally the boat surged to life; we were on our way.

“Catch me at the border….I got visas in my name”  (Paper Planes, M.I.A)

Our first stop was the Panamanian border, which we reached within 20 minutes. Our guide David pointed out the actual Panama border– a cliff of black rocks which jetted out into the ocean. I was surprised how quickly we changed between the two countries and how soon we were docked on Panamanian soil. As briefed, the border guards wanted to inspect all our luggage after checking our documentation. After the lead customs official apologized for the ‘inconvenience,’ a barking German Shepard we named “Sugarplum” was let out to sniff our bags. See we are not playing around, listen to your guides, its just not worth it…

“I’m on a Boat” (The Lonely Island, ft T-pain)

This tour is different from the other tours of the San Blas islands, because as opposed to sail boats, San Blas Adventures utilizes speed boats. This gives you much more island time and less chance for sea sickness; although some members of our party had their fair share, blame it on the rum. The boat time between islands each day is approximately two hours and the ride can be correlated to riding a wave runner. The speed boats travel in a pack of three for safety, two for passenger and one for supplies. These boats are not huge; they ride the waves of the Caribbean like a rogue cowboy.

It’s insane to look over at your sister boat and see it flying out of the water, skimming the top of the waves and realize you are doing the exact same thing. Our second day on the water the waves reached over 10 feet. Sea water poured into our boat and all I could think about was the Titanic, but sadly we were sans Leonardo DiCaprio. I walked off the boat that day soaked from head to foot, and my eyes stinging from the salt water. I have never seen Anna be so green in my life, meanwhile her cousin Josh seated on my left belted out an excited shout every time the boat peaked over a wave and became airborne.

Our guide Pedro said this was the worst he had ever seen the waves, hence our arrival was delayed a day. If the waves are deemed unsafe, extra days might be added to the tour, at a cost of $25 a day. San Blas Adventures highly suggests giving a minimum 2 day cushion on the back end of the tour for delays. This means it’s in your best interest to not have immediate flights booked or onward travel plans set in stone. Plus you get extra island time #winning!

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“The sun is shining and so are you….” (Sun is Shining, Axwell ∧ Ingrosso)

The plan each day is to split between two islands. The first island is typically deserted and reserved for sun, relaxing and splashing in the waves. Later you move on to a nearby island to have dinner and sleep. As we docked on our first island, our souls entered paradise. The day time islands are your perfect white sand beach island covered with palm trees, which shaded us from the hot Caribbean sun. As usual, we lasted about three minutes before jumping in the waves. Here is where lunch was served, all washed down with fresh coconut water mixed with rum; it was the perfect way to start every afternoon. The beach contained a volleyball net, snorkeling areas and shallow waters to play. San Blas adventures carts around a huge bin full of sports and water equipment for you to play with and there is plenty of snorkel gear to go around. Let’s just leave it at Julie and I are an epic fail when it comes to volleyball.

The second and third islands followed similar pattern. Day two includes a trip to Monkey Island, home to a pair of spider monkeys. They each had their own unique personality, one loving to cuddle while her rambunctious brother stole Julie’s sunglasses. On our final day we stopped at Pelican Island, which you can walk the circumference in 3 minutes. In the shallow clear waters surrounding the island, you can find hundreds of starfish resting in the sand. Careful with these fragile creatures though, as too much time out of the water will kill them.

“I acquired taste for salmon on a bagel, with the capers on a square plate.” (Broccoli, D.R.A.M)

I can still describe every bit of food they served us on this tour. This is mostly because everything was delicious and the portions were huge. Us girls often found ourselves scraping our plates over to a guy friend as we could not finish. Considering the cooking circumstances, I was highly impressed with the meals our crew served. They can also accommodate a wide range of dietary requirements, if notified in advance. According to our guide David, he had never seen a group go through so much hot sauce. Pretty much the only thing missing from my life in those 5 days was pizza, but the rum helped me cope.

Our first night at dinner, to get everyone mingling instead of staying comfortable in their own cliques, the guides started up a game that we would play out til the end of the trip. It’s the perfect icebreaker as you form alliances with people and start bonding over diabolical schemes.

Water, soda, beer and coconuts are sold by the Kuna people at a price of $1-3. The Kuna on each island keep a running tab in a notebook and you settle up at departure time. They usually have plenty to get you throughout the night…. unless someone named Josh decides to be bougie as hell and buy the entire cooler of beer for a shot-gunning party. On some islands you can purchase liters of rum. Your guide will know–plan ahead, no one likes an empty bottle.

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“Blame it on the Night….” (Blame, Calvin Harris)

There are thousands of islands inhabited by the Kuna people. Some of the smaller islands are home to 1-2 families, while the larger islands are covered with a “Kuna city.” These house several families, have schools, shops and some even restaurants and sleeping accommodations. Our sleeping quarters varied from wooden bunk houses built over the water to hammocks in a thatched hut on the beach. Each provided their own unique twist on island living. Don’t expect luxury accommodations, this is basic; however I was comfortable and slept well every night. Bucket showers are a thing and a bottle of water will take care of your teeth, otherwise just pretend you are a mermaid and live in the moment.

 

“24K Magic” (Bruno Mars)

Our last night our guide promised us magic…..We arrived at a small island which was inhabited by just one family and claimed our hammocks, which were lined up under roofs made of bamboo. We filled the rest of the afternoon with our usual games: playing on the white powder beach, relaxing in the hammocks, and card games of course. This was paradise, how could we ever want go home? Our fun was broken up with a call for pictures, as Pedro wanted a girl group photo for the company’s website. Following though in typical girl spirit, we concocted several creative poses, including a three tier pyramid. We learned that it was all just a rouse; as we rounded back to the beach, we saw one of our own, Dano’s boyfriend drop to one knee and ask her to marry him, as the golden sun dipped into the horizon.

If that doesn’t start a party, then I do not know what will! The only thing missing was Champagne, but this is the middle of nowhere and you can’t have everything. It was our last night and we determined to make it a memorable one. Our guides gave us access to the leftover fruit salad from the morning and we attempted to mix up some sort of sangria. This somehow generated a beer shot- gunning and log wrestling contest; I think the boys had some insane idea of making this the island version of American gladiators. Dinner came soon enough consisting of a lobster feast which made Red Lobster look like a biotch. So much lobster stacked on top of each other, it was a tower of heaven.

The bonfire was lit and the speakers were hooked up; we spent the rest of the night dancing around the fire and sealing our new friendships– it was magical. As I settled in my hammock, swinging in the night breeze, my only regret was that  I couldn’t stay here for longer. I could have spent another five nights in that hammock and another five days swimming around that island hanging out with my new friends. I was not ready to go home….

Why I would go back again tomorrow

I was not ready to go home, I was not ready to go back to civilization, the constant beeping of the phone, the loudness of the billowing city, I was happy in my bubble. “Everything I need, I now know for sure, I can fit in a backpack.” This is from my favorite book “Grounded” that I have read six times. It’s true, every time I take a trip like this I learn I can live with less and less. Some clothing, my pair of Converse chucks which are ripping at the seams, and a stuffed black lab puppy that I cart everywhere (to remind me of home). However, we have been tricked into thinking we need things to make us happy. More and more I realize it is experiences, travel, friendships and love (and maybe a little bit of rum) that are true happiness!

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Our soundtrack for this adventure, prefect for island dreams and rum coconuts Julie’s Hammock Playlist, here is the Spotify link: https://open.spotify.com/user/julie.kristine/playlist/03xGmhGzlpYZVNnevjhSuy

Check out our other Blogs about Panama:

Way too Wanderlust Reccommends

San Blas Adventures:  www.sanblasadventures.com

Hotel Punta De Aguila Necocli:  Calle 50, Necocli Colombia, 057870 www.hotelpuntadeaguila.com booked via www.booking.com

References

 

  1. M.I.A. “Paper Planes.” Maya Arulpragasam, Wesley Pentz, Topper Headon, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, and Joe Strummer. “Kala.” London, XL Recordings and Interscope Records, 11 Feb 2008, digital download.
  2. The Lonely Island. “I’m on a Boat.” Andy Samberg, Akiva Schalter, Jorma Taccone, Wyshmaster, T-Pain. “Incredibad.” Universal Republic, 3 Feb 2009, digital download. 

  3. Axwell Λ Ingrosso. “Sun is Shining.” Sebastian Ingrosso, Salam Al Fakir, Axel Hedfors and Vincente Pontare. Single, Sweden, 12 June 2015, digital download.
  4. D.R.A.M., Lil Yachty. “Broccoli.” Roget Chahayed, Julian Gramma, Shelley Marshaun Massenburg-Smith, Miles McCollum, and Karl Rubin. “Big Baby D.R.A.M.” Atlantic Records and Empire, 6 April 2016, 7″ and digital download. 
  5. Harris, Calvin. “Blame.” Calvin Harris, John Newman and James Newman. “Motion.” London, Deconstruction Fly Eye Columbia Records, 5 Sept 2014, digital download.
  6. Mars, Bruno. “24K Magic.” Bruno Mars, Christopher Brody Brown and Phillip Lawerence. “24K Magic.” Atlantic Records, 18 Nov 2016, digital download.
  7. Stevenson, Seth. (2010). Grounded. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

 

 

 

 

Part 3: Buenos Aires

~By:  Marco

As we are waiting to board our plane to Buenos Aires, I have a scroll through the pictures of the past few days. The views still fresh in my mind. I feel absolutely spoiled. How can anyone not like traveling? How can you prefer a holiday where you just get drunk and lay in a chair for 10 days in a row and still be $2K down. With not knowing how you actually spent it. How do people go to the same place every year, over and over again? How can someone be satisfied with oiling up and their only goal be getting the best tan for the coming two weeks?

Walking 20 km a day totally disconnects you from everyone and everything. No phone service. No Facebook. No Instagram. Just an endless road of rocks and dirt in front of you. Surrounded by trees and mountains. That feels like relaxing. I feel I start to appreciate my surroundings a whole lot more. Nowadays, everyone is constantly on their phones. At school, at the bus stop. During their lunch break. Strangers hardly talk to each other, nobody even smiles or says hello anymore. Then suddenly, if you are doing a 20 km hike in the middle of nowhere, with people you don’t know, you’ve never seen before and most likely will never see again, you start to say hello, “How are you? How was your day?” Weird isn’t it?

After having one of my philosophical moments on the plane again we got this little treat from mother nature. Although I have seen many sunsets and sunrises, they always stay beautiful.

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Our last hostel was located pretty much in the center of Buenos Aires. Rock Hostel & Brewery is located right on ‘Plaza del Congreso.’ A beautiful area surrounded by parks, historical buildings and great architecture.  Furthermore, it has a great atmosphere to meet new people with a bar in the middle of the communal area with large sofas and cool artistic decorations. As the hostel name might suggest, every dorm room has the name of a famous rock artist and throughout the hostel ‘the rock’ is visible through the art on the walls. The hostel has a good rooftop to relax and get away from the noise of the city. The view isn’t great, as you cannot see over the walls (even us tall Dutch guys couldn’t) but great to wind down with a beer and escape the madness of the city. Talking about beers, one of the areas we tried out for nightlife is ‘Palermo.’ Later, I found a video on my phone featuring six people in a taxi yelling (you could barely call it singing) Oasis’s Wonderwall. I believe we had a decent night out.

 

The following day we decided to be a tourist. As the tourists do, we visit La Boca, which is known for its colorful houses. As you might expect, it wasn’t as amazing as all the beautiful Instagram pictures. Yes, it was beautiful. Yes, I can definitely recommend going. However, don’t expect the world. Go there for an hour when it is sunny and enjoy the walk and the city. A nice tick off the box, but absolutely not a ‘must go’ if your time is limited.

 

What I do recommend is eating the ‘Menuas Dias,’ which are what the locals eat. Try some of the amazing local dishes for real South American prices. You’ll find them pretty much everywhere in the city and are absolutely worth trying.

On my last day we got invited to an Asado by a fellow colleague who used to live in Argentina and now works for the same airline I do. As I stated in the beginning, the people in this part of the world are absolutely amazing.

Often people ask me, “What is the best destination you go to?” Or, “What is your favorite place?” I always say, “The crew makes the trip,” and I would say this is very applicable for a country or city too. The people make the country. To finish this trip with a typical Argentinean ‘Asado’ (barbecue) was the cream on top. The Argentine’s know how to do asados. I’ve never seen so much meat accompanied by no salad or anything green at all. Just lots of meat and lots of red wine. What else can you ask for on a last day? Well, it would be nice if I could actually understand a bit of all this Spanish. Hey, always keep room for improvement! Another thing travel has taught me.

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Check out parts one and two of Marco’s South American adventure and our other blogs about Chile

Follow Marco’s adventures on Instagram at Marcookunst

Marco’s Travel Itinerary and Hostel Information

Flights: London Heathrow (LHR) > Aeropuerto Internacional Ministro Pistarini, Buenos Aires (EZE) > Aeropuerto Internacional Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez, Santiago (SCL)

Bus: Santiago > Pucón > San Carlos de Bariloche > El Calafate > El Chaltén > El Calafate

Flights: Comandante Armando Tola International Airport, El Calafate (FTE) > Aeropuerto Internacional Ministro Pistarini, Buenos Aires (EZE) > London Heathrow (LHR)

Pucon- I Love Pucon Hostel
http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:kGXXEyIOAm0J:www.dutch.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/I-love-Pucon-Hostel-and-Backpackers/Pucon/270352+&cd=6&hl=nl&ct=clnk&gl=uk&client=firefox-b-ab

Bariloche – Universal Traveler Lodge Hostel
http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Universal-Traveller-s-Lodge-Hostel/Bariloche/79005?dateFrom=2017-04-07&dateTo=2017-04-10&number_of_guests=2&sc_pos=3

El Calafate-Hostel de las Manos
http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Hostel-de-las-Manos/El-Calafate/38194

El Chalten-La Comarca Hostel
http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/La-Comarca-Hostel/El-Chalten/59554?dateFrom=2017-04-07&dateTo=2017-04-10&number_of_guests=2

El Chalten-Racho Grande Hostel
http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Rancho-Grande-Hostel/El-Chalten/16797?dateFrom=2017-04-21&dateTo=2017-04-22&number_of_guests=1

Rock Hostel & Brewery – Buenos Aires
http://www.dutch.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Rock-Hostel-and-Brewery/Buenos-Aires/69163

Flight El Calafate – Buenos Aires – Aerolineas Argentinas
http://www.aerolineas.com.ar/Welcome

Bus company – Andesmar
http://www.andesmar.com/

Patagonia, Part 2: Down Volcano Villarrica

~By:  Marco

PART TWO: DOWN VOLCANO VILLARRICA

When we packed our big backpacks at the beginning of this trip, I was wondering what the big round piece of plastic was used for. Due to my lack of Spanish, I had no idea and no one bothered to translate into either language I spoke. Now, all the pieces finally come together. We are going to slide down. With a big piece of plastic under our bums and the ice pick in our hands to steer (and brake!), we slide back down the volcano. As long as it took us to climb it, is was much faster sliding back down. A-MAZING! I reach the bottom with snow in my mouth, snow in my shoes and everywhere it can possibly go. Wauw!

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After being out and about the whole day, we peacefully fall asleep in our hostel. Soon, we are back on the road continuing our way further down south.

At San Martin we cross the border with Argentina, to finally reach Bariloche. As the weather was horrible we decide to make it a quick pass through and only stayed for one night. We quickly book a hostel through Hostelworld and are sorted for the night. After a short night of sleep behind us, we quickly prepared ourselves for the 25 hour bus drive which will bring us to El Calafate. Twenty-five hours.  I don’t think we realized how long that actually is. To sit. On a bus. Even after not seeing each other for over a year we could not fill the 25 hours with endless talks. Music, various naps and foremost Pisco, helped us get through the hours. The main reason why we are going to Calafate is because of the Petito Moreno Glacier. I can tell you everything about it, however, some things are better conveyed through pictures. The one thing I can tell you, it was definitely worth the 25 hour bus ride. Pictures tell a thousand words, right?

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The sound is unlike anything I have ever heard when those massive, massive, blocks of ice make their way into the water. Imagine thunder and then multiply that times ten. In-credible. Full stop. We stood there for hours. Carefully watching how those massive blocks of solid ice reacted with the elements. The continuous sounds of ‘thunder’ all around us. We all know that light travels faster than sound. But to actually see it for yourself, seeing those blocks of ice falling into the water and literally five seconds later hearing that massive ‘bang’. Very impressive. If you ever visit Patagonia, this glacier is highly recommended.

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As Calafate is more expensive than we budgeted, we decide to move up to El Chalten, which is about a 4 hour bus ride away. Nothing compared to our last ride. Funny, how travel shows you perspective. While a 4 hour bus ride before seemed tiresome, after those 25 hours it felt like a walk in the park. In Chalten hostels are cheaper, (and so are the beers) plus, there are a lot of free hikes. What’s not to like?

To start off easy, we began with the 18K hike of Torres Del Paine. The weather this day wasn’t on our side unfortunately. Very cloudy, which pretty much killed the view. Luckily, it’s just the start of a series of hikes and we can’t have it all, I’m afraid. Traveling wouldn’t be as satisfying either. You can’t always get what you want. All those Rolling Stones fans know what I am talking about! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7S94ohyErSw)

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After we get back to the hostel, we quickly go to the local supermarket to buy some well deserved beers. And some dinner, don’t forget dinner. If you’re hiking around 20K a day, you will be hungry.   Bright and early the next day we got ready for our adult hike, the Fitz Roy Mountain, only 20.2 km.  After yesterday’s hike we slept like babies, or was it because of the beer?  I don’t want to bore you with our Dutch conversations. I mean, it’s not even a real language. Anyway, what it is was all about: the crazy views!

 

Sad as I was to leave those amazing views behind I was excited to move on to the last bit of our South America adventure. Buenos Aires! It will be a transition from those stunning views, relaxing atmosphere and long hikes, but I was sure it wasn’t going to disappoint.

Check out parts one and three of Marco’s South American backpacking saga and our other blogs from Chile

Check out Marco’s adventures on Instagram: Marcookunst

Marco’s Travel Itinerary and Hostel Information

Flights: London Heathrow (LHR) > Aeropuerto Internacional Ministro Pistarini, Buenos Aires (EZE) > Aeropuerto Internacional Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez, Santiago (SCL)

Bus: Santiago > Pucón > San Carlos de Bariloche > El Calafate > El Chaltén > El Calafate

Flights: Comandante Armando Tola International Airport, El Calafate (FTE) > Aeropuerto Internacional Ministro Pistarini, Buenos Aires (EZE) > London Heathrow (LHR)

Pucon- I love pucon hostel
http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:kGXXEyIOAm0J:www.dutch.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/I-love-Pucon-Hostel-and-Backpackers/Pucon/270352+&cd=6&hl=nl&ct=clnk&gl=uk&client=firefox-b-ab

Bariloche – Universal Travelers Lodge Hostel
http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Universal-Traveller-s-Lodge-Hostel/Bariloche/79005?dateFrom=2017-04-07&dateTo=2017-04-10&number_of_guests=2&sc_pos=3

El Calafate-Hostel de las Manos
http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Hostel-de-las-Manos/El-Calafate/38194

El Chalten-La Comarca hostel
http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/La-Comarca-Hostel/El-Chalten/59554?dateFrom=2017-04-07&dateTo=2017-04-10&number_of_guests=2

El Chalten-Racho Grande hostel
http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Rancho-Grande-Hostel/El-Chalten/16797?dateFrom=2017-04-21&dateTo=2017-04-22&number_of_guests=1

Buenos Aires-Rock Hostel & Brewery
http://www.dutch.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Rock-Hostel-and-Brewery/Buenos-Aires/69163

Flight El Calafate – Buenos Aires – Aerolineas Argentinas
http://www.aerolineas.com.ar/Welcome

Bus company – Andesmar
http://www.andesmar.com/