Nikki’s Favorite Things: 2014 Fashion Accessories (Fall/Winter/Spring)

With weight restrictions on checked luggage, it’s hard to travel light and be fashionable.  I used to be the girl with 2 suitcases and a carry-on…for a 7 day trip.  Why?  Because I needed options and apparently thought I’d be doing outfit changes every few hours like Scarlett (of the O’Hara clan).  So young.  So naive.  Now that I am wearing my Big Girl Panties, I’ve learned that all I need is one suitcase and a backpack.

It was hard in the beginning but you learn the critical items you need…and where to find a laundromat.  The last thing you want to deal with while traveling to different countries is a lot of luggage.  Most metro systems in European cities do not have escalators or elevators so you are stuck carrying your suitcase up and down steps.  By the time you finally reach your destination, you are cursing the name Louboutin and wondering why in the world you needed to bring 5 pair of stilettos when you can’t walk in them on cobbled streets.  The struggle is real.

With space limitations, you have to figure out how to make 1 outfit work more than once. How do I accomplish this?  With my favorite fashion accessory…SCARVES!  I like to wear a lot of black because I have put on quite a few pounds it’s fashionable.  Wearing  black also allows you to accessorize with lots of different colors.  While I love to shop for scarves in the cities I visit, I always bring a few with me from home to be safe.

Forget the big chain retail stores and support small businesses.  I love Etsy!  How I got addicted to the app is baffling to me.  All I know is that I browse the online shops at least 3 times a week looking for unique accessories that I won’t see on 10 other women at the airport.  The items I highlight below were all purchased by me with no compensation from the owners.  This is just my opinion and recommendation of fabulous shops that you might want to check out on Etsy.

Right now, my favorite shops are:

DottieQ — She has a collection of amazingly funky knit scarves in a vast array of colors, offers super fast shipping and is a dream to buy from!  I love this rope scarf!!

This rope scarf is everything to me!!!

This rope scarf is everything to me!!!

Bo Peep’s Bonnets – I am in LOVE with the Chunky Knit Cowls I purchased from her.  She is super responsive and offers a great selection of colors.  Can’t wait for my slouchy hat to arrive so I can wear it on my trip to Iceland in January!

This modern take on "Little Red Riding Hood" is fab.u.lous!

This modern take on “Little Red Riding Hood” is fab.u.lous!

Scarf Arts – This store has a huge collection of beautiful silk scarves in lovely solids & prints.  The scarves are super soft and wash really well.  This (and a pink print) are my “go to” scarves year round!  You can dress it up or down.

This scarf is amazing!  I can wear it all seasons and get tons of compliments!

This scarf is amazing! I can wear it all seasons and get tons of compliments!

Zojanka – The designer/craftsman is located in Poland and she has a ton of funky/edgy scarves like the one pictured below.  I love that I can wear the bracelet alone or as part of the scarf!  Multi-purpose and great for travel!!

In LOVE!  This linen scarf comes with a gladiator-style bracelet that gives it a little edge.  I've not seen anyone else with this type of scarf since I've been wearing it.

In LOVE! This linen scarf comes with a gladiator-style bracelet that gives it a little edge. I’ve not seen anyone else with this type of scarf since I’ve worn it.

Verbosity – This shop specializes in upcycled t-shirt scarves.  Originally, I had ordered a custom-made scarf representing my college alma mater, Indiana University.  Then, I saw she had a Star Wars scarf and was like, “I need this in my life immediately.”

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Love this fabulous Star Wars scarf by Verbosity. Rocked it in London during a trip in March 2013. The Force was strong with me that day 🙂

Trouble Finding Your Passion? Start a Bucket List!

What are you passionate about?  Not sure?  Create a “Bucket List” that includes things you’ve always wanted to try or do.  You never know…one of those items may be what you are destined to do with your life!

Too many people wait until a certain time in their lives before they start pursuing their dreams.  Why do they wait?  There are various reasons:  “I want to wait until I get married”; “I want to wait until my kids are grown”; “I will do it when I retire”, etc.  Sometimes these “reasons” are really excuses.  START LIVING NOW!  Don’t wait until a certain event or milestone happens.  We never know when our last day on Earth will be.  Why not make the most of the time you have?

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Single?  Do not wait until you find that special someone.  Fill your life up with things YOU want to do in the meantime.  That means you’ll bring some fabulous stories to your next relationship.

Have children?  Don’t wait until your kids are grown.  Inspire them to want to live a fulfilling life as they observe you pursuing your dreams and taking chances.

Don’t wait until you retire!  In this economy, who knows when that will be!  Start your bucket list now so you can have an awesome retirement filled with things you love to do and places you want to visit.

The great thing about a bucket list is that it helps you to visualize what you want to do and take action when opportunities arise.  Groupon and Living Social have deals everyday!  This is how I fulfilled my dreams of skydiving, race car driving…and in January, a trip to Iceland!  Best part?  I am able to achieve my goals on a shoestring budget!

I am a long ways off from retirement and still waiting to meet Mr. Right.  But, you know what?  I’m happy!  Everything isn’t perfect.  There are times when I feel like I’ve failed at life…especially when others make insensitive comments.  However, instead of punching them in the throat taking it personal, I force myself to remember all of the things I’ve accomplished from my bucket list.  I didn’t get here overnight.  In fact, it wasn’t until my recent trip to Bali (another bucket list item) where I learned how to meditate properly and use yoga to control my mood.  And you know what?  My imperfect life is pretty fulfilling as I’m living, learning, dreaming and exploring!

So…join me in making an awesome bucket list!  I promise that you will love the feeling of trying new things.  Some you may enjoy…others you may not.  That’s the beauty of bucket lists.  It’s like shopping for dreams 🙂

Need inspiration?  I’m addicted to the free iPad app “iWish” which provides inspiration in the form of photos, quotes & maps as well as allowing you to create your bucket list electronically.  I also recommend Bucket List Living Magazine.  Follow the directions below and use the coupon code “3free” for a free 3 month subscription.  Let’s start living the dream!

What’s been on my bucket list?

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How to Use the Bucket List Living Magazine Coupon

  1. Go to “App Store Downloads on iTunes”.  Search for Bucket List Living Magazine.
  2. Download the free app by tapping the FREE button.
  3. Tap the INSTALL APP button.  You will then enter your Apple ID Password and click OK.
  4. When the magazine app is finished installing tap the OPEN button.
  5. Permission to send new issues and push notifications from Bucket List Living Magazine is requested.  Choose OK.
  6. Tap the SUBSCRIBE button and then the CURRENT SUBSCRIBERS button.
  7. Enter the coupon code into the account number box and tap the CONTINUE button.  After you enter the code you will receive a notification that you have subscribed successfully.  Tap CLOSE. (The current issue should begin downloading in the background.)
  8. A VIEW button will appear below the current issue, tap it to begin enjoying the magazine.
  9. You will have access to any issue published during the trial subscription period.  At the end of the trial period you will retain access to any issue downloaded during the trial period but will be required to pay for any subsequent issues.

Buddhist Bootcamp

20131015-205704.jpgI’ve been saying that I’m going to start incorporating the principles of Buddhism into my life as soon as I can finish the “How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life” by the Dalai Lama.  But, excuses get in the way.  Work gets in the way.  Everything gets in the way except me making the time.

So, I decided to ease into it.  You know, start with going to yoga and ending with me finishing the book during my sojourn to Bali. That was such an awesome idea in theory. In practice?  Well, we’ll see.  I’ve got the book pulled up on my Kindle waiting for my attention.  Somehow, it got shuffled behind some trashy romance novels that some unknown person I downloaded.

Anyway, I started off with yoga.  Lord help me.  It looks so easy in the magazines.  I bought cute yoga attire from Athleta then signed up for a 75 minute Hot Yoga class.  Easy peasy.  I intended to walk out so zen & relaxed.

The class started and I was like, “this is cool!”  I’m stretching and the positions aren’t that difficult although I’m about as limber as an iron rail.  But no matter.  ZEN!  That’s what I’m here to achieve.  Then, I notice how quiet it is.  In spin class, I can’t think of anything else except trying not to die on the bike because they have me doing some sort of dance routine complete with jazz hands to 2 Chainz.  But here, it is so tranquil that my mind starts to wander and now I’m thinking about everything but yoga.  That’s when irritation sets in because you can’t zone out when the positions get harder.

Yoga Instructor (YI): (in a sing-song breathy voice) Slowly move into downward facing dog.

Me:  (moves into position) This ain’t bad. *tinkling music and YI painting us a scene with words* [then I start thinking about the stank email I got from John at work and my blood pressure starts to rise.]

YI:  Now move into a plank for 27 minutes

Me:  WTF?  27 minutes?  Ugh! [mentally drafting a response to John’s email that will go something like, “Sir, I suggest you use the backspace key next time you think of sending some crazy email to me because I ain’t the one.  Don’t try me, try Jesus.”  Hmmm, maybe I need to re-word that a little as it might come across hostile??  THESE PLANKS HURT!!!  JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL!]

YI:  Doesn’t that feel wonderful?  Like puppies resting on your tummy?  Breathe in deeply.  Think of yourself as the breaths, not the breather. You are one with the universe.  A flower opening up to the welcome the sun.

Me:  Ma’am?  I can’t do that.  This is too much imagery.  My core fell out of my body 10 minutes ago.  I’m about to do the crying baby position, k?

YI:  Now…transition out of the plank and cartwheel into the Terrible Twos Tantrum position (or whatever it is…honestly, I had stopped listening after my muscles locked up and were like, “please know your limitations.”).

Me:  OMG, is this a tumbling class?  WTH?  *falls out*

YI:  Namaste

Me:  Call 911

See?  This is why I can’t have nice things and be thin and calm.  WHY IS YOGA SO HARD???  This was supposed to be my introduction into Keeping it Calm — Buddha-Style.  At this rate, I ain’t going to make it.

So now…I’m back to reading the book and trying yoga again.  Maybe it will be easier on the beach in Bali?  Maybe this time, I can use imagery for good thoughts instead of mentally written curse-out emails?  I don’t even know.  What I do know is that I really want to learn to let foolishness roll off me like waves of cool water.  I read inspirational quotes by the Dalai Lama and think, “He is so wise. I need a better coping mechanism besides chocolate and alcohol.”

Do any of you follow Buddhist principles?  Any suggestions for a newbie?

Super Seoul Sunday

Statue of King Sejong the Great of Joseon

Statue of King Sejong the Great of Joseon

I had the pleasure of spending 24 hours in the beautiful city of Seoul, South Korea during a stop-over on my way to Bali for a business meeting and some R&R. Seoul far exceeded my expectations!

First, let me talk about Korean Airlines.

*sigh*

So, I purchased my ticket to Bali thru Korean Airlines trying to save my company a few dollars. They were a SkyTeam partner so I booked thinking this trip would finally get me to the coveted Diamond Medallion Promised Land. Wrong. Delta decided to change their SkyMiles Program and create 4 “tiers” for their airline partners. Prior to Sept. 1, 2013; Korean Airlines offered not only SkyMiles but 150% MQMs! I was psyched! Then, I started scrolling down thru the changes and guess who is in the dreaded “Tier 4 Barely SkyTeam Partner”? Korean Airlines. It’s like Delta wants to break up with them but doesn’t have the heart to do it so they are on a “break”. I’m so devastated that I can’t even write another Damn You, Delta letter.

I just assumed it was Delta’s fault. Like they felt they were now too good for simple Korean Airlines. Someone told them they were too pretty to be hanging with the nerds. Then, I flew KE for the first time on Friday and was like, “oh…sorry, Delta.” See, I now understand. KE just isn’t in the same league as Delta, KLM and AirFrance. Where was my amenities bag in Business Class? Why do I have to go to the bathroom to get a toothbrush? Why are you offering me headphones from a 1985 Walkman? Where are the noise-cancelling headphones? Where is the dessert trolley? Did you really just offer me a small Haagen-Dazs ice cream cup that I can buy for $2.99 at Kroger? I paid $8,000 for this? I need to see an itemized receipt. No, sirs and ma’ams. That ain’t the business. That ain’t SkyTeam Tier 1. That’s SkyTeam PIP (Performance Improvement Plan).

Um...what?

Um…what?  This is Business Class trappings?

I will give this to Korean Airlines…there was a lot of room seat-wise and their service is top notch and beats Delta hands down every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Moving on to the city of Seoul. I really didn’t know what to expect and figured a day layover would give me just enough time to decide if this is someplace I’d like to come back for a longer visit. This city is awesome! The people were so friendly, the service was excellent every place we went and downtown was so interesting.

View from the Conrad Seoul of the sun rising over the Han River

View from the Conrad Seoul of the sun rising over the Han River

We stayed at the Conrad Seoul (which I will review in my next post). It was a fabulous hotel! The only negative is that you were required to pay for internet. I feel that should be included in all stays because, seriously? This place ain’t cheap. Y’all can afford to make internet “free”. So, Mr. Conrad Hilton…to quote Amistad, “give us free!” With a 13 hour time difference and arriving to the hotel at 7pm, the first night was a wrap. But, we were up by 4am which gave us time to get situated and out for the day. Seoul’s subway system is so clean and easy to navigate! It made getting from the hotel to downtown simple and stress free.

Seoul's subway

Seoul’s subway

Our first stop was Gwanghwamu Gate where the 2013 Seoul Arirang Festival is taking place.  There are several musical performances that we walk past…

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We head over to the Gyeongbokgung Palace which is the first royal palace built in the Joseon dynasty.  “First constructed in 1395, later burned and abandoned for almost three centuries, and then reconstructed in 1867, it was the main and largest palace of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty.[1] The name means “Palace” [Gung] “Greatly Blessed by Heaven” [Gyeongbok].  In the early 20th century, much of the palace was destroyed by Imperial Japan. Since then, the walled palace complex has been gradually restored back to its original form. As of 2009, roughly 40% of the original number of palace buildings still stand or have been reconstructed.” (source Wikipedia).

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Changing of the guard at the palace.

This palace is a series of buildings and walkways.  It reminds me of the palaces I’ve seen in Morocco and Istanbul as it has courtyards and a very open/airy feel.

Final stop was the National Folk Museum of Korea which houses an impressive collection of artifacts and tells the history of the people of Korea.  Very fascinating…and free!

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As we are walking around, I start to notice a theme with the couples. I’m guesstimating that 87% of them wore matching outfits. If their shirts didn’t match, they at least wore matching shoes.

Forget roses and rings...matching outfits show people y'all are MFEO (Made For Each Other).

Forget roses and rings…matching outfits show people y’all are MFEO (Made For Each Other).

Y’all weren’t ready for the collage, were you? This right here? This is commitment. Who needs a ring when you have a madras button-down and matching leggings? This also makes it easier to figure out where you stand in a relationship. If Kim Jong hasn’t gifted you with a “Jungle” t-shirt & a pair of bright yellow Nike’s that match what he is wearing? Y’all don’t go together. He is not your boo thang. Please understand this. Know the couple code. If you were trying to figure it out, then here you go. You’re welcome.

All in all, Seoul was such a great time & the food is PHENOMENAL! I can’t wait to come back and spend a good amount of time exploring monuments & temples and participating in a tea ceremony.

Have you been to Seoul? If so, what things do you suggest a first time visitor do?

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The Cookie Monster Coat

All I wanted was a fabulous new coat.  Why did that have to turn into The Biggest Loser audition?  Seriously?  Ugh.

I’m working on a new blog post updating “What to Wear When Travelling Abroad” with some cool new & beautiful finds from small retailers (scarves, coats, accessories, etc.).  I’m so excited!!!  So, one of the items I recently attempted to purchase was a beautiful coat. Like all purchases, I picked my size (going up a bit so I could wear bulky sweaters and not look like the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man).  Once I submitted my order, I receive an email from the supplier asking me for my measurements so she could verify that the size I selected was appropriate.

This coat was the business, y'all.  Unfortunately, it only comes in sizes preemie to 3T.

This coat was the business, y’all. Unfortunately, it only comes in sizes preemie to 3T.

Isn’t it fab?  This coat gives me life!  Do you know how fierce I’d look walking around Paris rocking this baby?  I had dreams!  I had accessories!  But, after a couple of weeks, what I didn’t have was a coat.  So, I follow-up asking about the status of my order…only to receive this email:

Dear Customer:  This coat does not fit you. We have given you a refund. Please check your account.  Thank you.

Wait.  Whut? Return to Sender cuz I know this ain’t meant for me.  O__o  <—– that is me giving her the side-eye because this is a hot bed of foolery (and yes, I said “whut” because “what” will not accurately capture my feelings at this moment).  The coat doesn’t fit?  Are you serious?  Ma’am, I rebuke you and your shenanigans.  Sigh.  Now I gotta write a response back to her.

Apparently, this is how the coat would fit me and my Precious-sized self. #smh

Apparently, this is how the coat would fit me and my Precious-sized self. #smh

Dear Coat Voldemort,

Why does this coat not fit?  Is it made for toddlers?  I am an averaged size woman.  I do realize that I may look the size of Godzilla since you all are so tiny in China…but trust me when I say that I am not planning to wear this coat while hanging off the side of a building kidnapping a woman and asking her which diet works best for her.  I need details about why this coat (which is offered in sizes S, M, L, XL and XXL) will not fit me.

Did seeing my measurements make you bust out into a verse from “Brickhouse” by The Commodores?  No, I am not a size 2…but I am not a body double for the Kool-Aid Man either.

So, ma’am, I’m gonna need some answers because you have messed up my Fierceness of Fall plans behind this.  If you have to sew 2 coats together to fit my supersized ass, then get to sewing because I need this coat in my life and you ain’t taking it from me.  On second thought, forget it…I will take my business someplace else where they won’t smack the cookies out of my mouth while making my coat.

Thanks,

Gone With the Wind Fabulous

Dealing with my feelings.

Dealing with my feelings.

Too much?  Sometimes I can’t help myself.  When I read her email, I was like, “no she didn’t.”  How am I too fat for a coat?  Y’all…iCant.  She basically remixed Beyonce’s “Ego” song and said, “you’re too big, it won’t fit, lose weight…you gotta a big bootay….a big, big bootay”.  #devastated

Amazing Amsterdam…Sex, Drugs & Queen’s Day

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Okay, y’all…I absolutely LOVE Amsterdam! Super big thanks to Renee for flying over from London to hang out with me. This had to be one of my all-time favorite trips! The weekend was off the charts.

I’m not sure why (maybe it’s the movies & reputation of drugs & sex), but I expected Amsterdam to be kinda drab & seedy. In reality, it is a beautiful city with gorgeous buildings, lots of serene canals and lovely people.

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I was amazed at how friendly the Dutch are! Even the guy who told me that black people were greedy O_o [more on that later]. The only slight negative (which is completely my fault) is that I wish I had learned some of the Dutch language because we had people coming up telling us stuff in Dutch and had to tell them we were American and didn’t know the language. If they didn’t know English, they’d just smile and wander off. Thankfully, we came across some folks who could translate the funny/entertaining handmade signs for us.

So much happened so I am going to break this blog post into parts in an effort to remember most of it.

Hotel
Our hotel was fab-u-lous. So funky & chic. We stayed at the Inntel Hotel in Zaandam which is only 2 metro stops from center Amsterdam (Centraal Station) and located right next to the metro!
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Queen’s Day
It just so happens that we are there over Queen’s Day Weekend. Koninginnedag or Queen’s Day is a national holiday in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Celebrated on 30 April (or on the 29th if the 30th is a Sunday), Koninginnedag is the official birthday of Beatrix, Queen of the Netherlands. Queen Beatrix’s actual birthday is 31 January; 30 April was the birthday of her mother and predecessor, Juliana. The holiday remains as an April observance in honor of Juliana and in hopes of better weather than would occur in January.

The holiday was first observed on 31 August 1885 as Prinsessedag or Princess’s Day, and was held on the fifth birthday of Princess Wilhelmina, the heiress to the Dutch throne. With the princess’s 1890 accession, the holiday acquired its present name, Koninginnedag. When held on 31 August, the holiday was the final day of school summer vacation, and rapidly became popular among children.

With the accession of Queen Juliana in 1948, the holiday was moved to her birthday. When her daughter, Beatrix, took the throne in 1980, she retained the celebration on 30 April, but altered her mother’s custom of holding a parade near a royal palace, instead choosing to visit different Dutch towns each year and join in the festivities. Koninginnedag is known for the nationwide vrijmarket (flea market), when many Dutch sell secondhand items, and as an opportunity for “orange madness” or oranjegekte, when the normally-staid Dutch let down their hair, often temporarily dyed orange for the occasion (source, Wikipedia).

However, this year marked the last “Queen’s Day” for a while as Queen Beatrix abdicated the throne for her son, King Willem-Alexander to take over.  This is the first new king in over 100 years.  Going forward, it will now be known as “King’s Day”.

Saturday, 30 April

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Renee and I met a couple of American ex-pats, Samantha & Tabatha (who currently live in London), as we were leaving the hotel. We ended up sitting next to them on the train to Centraal Station and got along famously…so much so, we decided to hang out for the day!
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The energy of this city is unbelievable! All you saw were people covered in orange (from orange wigs & “crowns” to having their faces painted orange…it was fabulous)! I was told that there were over 1 million people in the city on Saturday! And, it felt like it. The streets & canals were packed. It really was like an upscale European Freaknik (especially when we were in the Red Light District).

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As we leave the station, we come across our first street performer who happens to be a Dutch hip hop artist named Pharo. He was actually pretty good! Kinda puts you in the mindset of DMX (especially when he started barking).
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We wanted to get a cd but he wasn’t selling any…which would never have happen in the US. They always have their street team out with folks selling their cds, t-shirts, posters, etc.

Next, we see a couple waving from a window pretending to be William & Kate.
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Then, we head over to the pancake house to get something to eat. OMG, seriously? Who didn’t know about this? Me! Apparently, they are known for their many-flavored pancakes and pancake houses are everywhere!
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It was even more delicious than the picture looks. Mmmmm! Mine was basically a chocolate sundae on a pancake. Renee & Tabatha had the banana split pancake. The pancakes are prepared in so many different varieties (from sweet to savory). I’ve never seen anything like it. I want one just remembering it. I mean, ice cream, whip cream, powdered sugar, and chocolate sauce on a pancake? Who needs Mrs. Buttersworth? You may require an insulin shot but then you are good to go!

After eating our pancakes, we start walking again. Because this is basically a big street party, all the streets in the city are closed so you don’t have to worry about traffic.

We ran into some guys selling €0.50 lap dances. Yes, 50 cents.
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This was hilarious. You can see what you get for your money. Poor guy was doing all the work. He gave 1 guy a lap dance by taking a running start and jumping on to his lap. These folks are crazy. LOL

We then walk across a canal bridge and look at all the folks partying on the water. Clearly, that is where we needed to be!
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The pictures can’t quite capture how massive an event this is but let me tell you…you WANT to do this next year. I promise you. We definitely need to rent a boat the next time. The funny thing was that even though the city was packed and people were high on alcohol and other substances, it was so civilized. Nobody was out of control and everybody was your best friend. I’ve never seen anything like it. I smiled the entire day! And, that isn’t the pancakes talking 🙂

After all the walking & partying, it was time to take a break for champagne & strawberries! We gotta keep our strength up to enjoy the party.
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The Dutch are some talented folks as well. After getting our afternoon champagne, we come across another set of street performers.  The kids have their hustles too. Queen’s Day is actually very kid-friendly.

Then we went to Vondel Park (which is a beautiful public park in Amsterdam). There were kids performing everyplace (from the violin to guitar to acrobatics & breakdancing). You can tell they have spent a lot of time practicing and more than likely perform throughout the year.

There was a kid playing the drums who was awesome. Like a little Travis Barker. He even had his hype men (who would pop out in some Michael Jackson dance spins then collect money). Then little boy in white strolls around the drum set and kicks that leg Michael Jackson-style? What? I cannot.  And, he is only giving you a taster. He can’t expend all his energy since it’s an all-day performance.  He’s gotta save something for the late afternoon blowout extravaganza.  #toomuch

We then came across 2 little girls with sleeping bags on the sidewalks and a sign that read “Getting Rich to Sleep” (as translated to me by a Dutch guy). Basically, they had a jar out and you could pay to see them sleep (which was a little weird).

While at Vondel Park, we come across a couple of guys trying to sell everything but their mama. They started by telling us that we could buy a teddy bear for 50 cents but hugs were free. We declined but they were entertaining. Next thing I know, they have us doing shots of Tequila and chanting “PUT IT IN THE BAG!” I don’t even know how that happened or what the “bag” was…but clearly you needed to put something in it. Ha!

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They also had this cool idea where kids can play inside these huge clear balls and tumble around on the water.
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As we are walking, we see a vendor selling this:
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Yes, those are rabbit ears with glasses and a penis as a nose. One of y’all almost got that as a souvenir.

Also, every block has Port-a-Potties and something for the guys –
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I can’t tell you why these captured my attention like they did. I can’t imagine whipping my stuff out in front of folks just to take a leak. I wanted to get closer to figure out exactly how they were using it (bow chicka bow wow).

As we head back to the train station, we come across a carnival (which seems like a smaller version of your typical county fair).
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We also went into some stores where you can pick up your “products” and other souvenirs (i.e. t-shirts and everything that is sex or drug related).

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We then head over to the Red Light District (which I will cover in more detail later). The party is still going strong over here. We go into a sex shop which has more stuff than I’ve ever seen. There had to be at least 20 types of vibrators! And then I came across a “Doggie-Style Harness”. I wish I had taken a picture of it. I mean, it’s a piece of fabric (which lays across the woman’s mid-section, and 2 handles for the man to grip while he’s doing his thing. Seriously? If you need a harness to have sex doggy-style, then your ass is lazy and don’t need it to be having sex in the first place.

After spending most of the day walking around, we buy some french fries (which they serve with mayo) and head for the train station.

We head back to the hotel to shower and change for dinner. By this time, my feet are KILLING me, but I was determined to party it up.

We have dinner in Zaandam at a Japanese restaurant (which is the only place still serving food at 10pm). After dinner, Renee & I head bid good-night to our new friends, Samantha & Tabatha (who had a tour early on Sunday).

Then, Renee & I head to…

The Red Light District

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It’s actually only a few blocks. I don’t know why I expected it to be the size of a mini city. So many observations.

First, there are actual “red lights”…basically red light bulbs that act as a “porch light” to the doors/windows the girls use to advertise themselves. You walk along these streets and come up on buildings that have doors that have huge glass fronts where the girls stand to advertise themselves to the potential buyers. Most of these little rooms had some sort of black light so the white lingerie the women were wearing was glowing.

If you are interested, it starts by sign language where the guys will ask how much, the girl holds up the amount of fingers to denote the cost (maybe 50 euro) and they negotiate that way. Next thing you know, they approach the door, the girl lets them in, and she shuts the curtains. Let me tell you this…there were a lot of closed curtains, y’all!

As we walked past some, the girls were actually in there cleaning (with mops, etc) and re-making the bed. I’d look at the guys congregating around these windows and give them the “you so nasty” look while I kept it moving. One woman (who was large & in charge) was playing aggressive with some small guy (she was double his size) and as she told him, “you know you want it”, he responded with “I’ll be back”…and walked approximately 7 steps before turning around. He was with his boys so I guess he needed a group consensus (or money) before he could walk over and complete the transaction.

Most of the girls look Eastern European. I’ve read stories about girls being sold into prostitution when they thought they were going to be coming to the west to find better job opportunities.  What I found interesting is that the prostitutes have a union and benefits!  There is even a prostitute museum.  I would’ve gone in and looked around had it not been closed.

In between where the girls advertise themselves, you will find plenty of sex/erotic shops, sex clubs (where you can watch for 25 Euro or participate for 35 Euro) and coffee shops.

Coffee shops…they sell more than coffee.

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From what I understand, most of the coffee shops sell weed (in pure form, mixed with tobacco or in cupcakes) but not liquor. So, you can get high while drinking a cup of tea. There was one spot that we found that did sell liquor in addition to other substances. If you don’t get down with the stickiest of the icky, then they do have non-drug items on the menu.

One thing I did find strange was how narrow the stairs are. I mean, if you are high, won’t you just fall down those suckers?
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We also passed a Condomerie which sells an array of condoms. I didn’t understand having a condom in the shape of Shrek but hey, what do I know? You couldn’t take pictures so you’ll have to go to the website and then use your imagination on how the window display was set up. Because one thing I can tell you about Amsterdam is this…some of those displays can make you blush.

Sometime during the night, I came up with the phrase, “Sit down, Suzy Brown.” Which I think is GENIUS. Go ahead, start using it. After seeing as much as we could of the Amsterdam nightlife, we finally arrive back to our hotel at 4am. MG_0340.jpg

Sunday, 1 May
Amsterdam is very different today. Things look to be back to normal and the crowds aren’t nearly as big. After checking out of the hotel, we store our bags and head back to the center of town for pancakes (again) and some sightseeing.
For some reason, we ended up back in the Red Light District (which looks totally different during the day time). The RDL is close to the train station so we walk thru there on our way to see the Anne Frank House.

Here are just a few things we see during our walk:
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This may be my new mode of transportation if gas prices don’t go down
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Beautiful canals
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Anne Frank House
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We packed as much as we could into 48 hours and had an absolute ball!  Amsterdam is a riot and you will love it as long as you are open-minded and non-judgmental…which we should all practice on a daily basis.

Germs on a Plane

I recently read a fascinating & insightful article, Just Plane Nasty: 5 Places Where Germs Thrive on a Commercial Flight by Microbiologist and Director of Global Service Care at Reckitt Benckiser Inc., Joe Rubino.  In this article, he discusses the top 5 dirtiest places on a plane.  And for those of us that travel, it is eye-opening.  I will never board another plane without sanitizer!  Here’s a quick recap:

  1. Bathrooms:  I’m sure everybody knows this.  I never touch anything in a public restroom without paper towels and always use Purell after I leave.  I’m amazed at how many folks wash their hands then touch the door handle.  Too many people have subjective definitions of cleanliness for me to touch bare surfaces.
  2. Touch Screens:  Imagine how many fingers have touched that screen before you decided you wanted to play trivia on your flight to El Paso?
  3. Tray Tables:  All I had to read was the example of folks using it as an impromptu changing table.  Ewwww!
  4. Blankets/Pillows:  Blankets and pillows are reused multiple times before they are sent off to be washed.  This quote from Rubino says it all, “A saliva-filled pillow can perhaps cause the spread of a cold or flu, especially if there is more than saliva on it, such as respiratory secretions and mucus.”
  5. Seat Pockets:  How many times have you used the seat pocket to hold trash?  It’s easy to do.  What I found most interesting was the article speaking to the fact that some people lick their fingers when turning pages of the magazines provided.  Uh uh.  No.  My mind cannot deal with that.  Right now, I’m ordering a vat of disinfectant to soak my fingers.  I’m done with Sky Mall!

What does the article recommend?  Traveling with lots of Lysol® Disinfectant Wipes (or their travel-sized spray).  I highly recommend you read the article in its entirety.  It’s very informative in explaining where germs live & how you can decrease your chances of catching a cold or the flu while travelling.  Lots of things to be mindful of.  Also, please check out the other articles on the Priority One Jet’s blog.  Very interesting reads!

Nikki’s Nest: Riad Joya (Marrakech, Morocco)

The amazing Riad Joya courtyard

The amazing Riad Joya courtyard

Planning a trip to the majestic city of Marrakech? I recommend staying at the fabulous Riad Joya (designed by the eclectic & posh Umberto Maria Branchini). Featured on The Today Show’s 2012 “Hotlist”, this decadent riad captures the essence of different African cultures and each suite is light & airy.

Located in the very heart of the Medina (in the historical and protected area of the Mouassine quarter), Riad Joya is just a short walk from main monuments, the souk and Djemaa El Fna square (where you can buy spices, get a henna tattoo or take part in snake charming). You can also see some of the most exciting attractions of the red city, such as the Coranique School, the Koutubia and the Museum of Marrakech.This elegant boutique riad is a welcome retreat of peace & tranquility after spending the day exploring the chaotic Medina. I had the pleasure of spending 3 lovely days at this riad last year and can’t wait to visit again.

What’s a Riad?
Historically, it is a traditional Moroccan home with an open garden or courtyard. However, now most function as hotels/resorts. Riads are more inward focused. You won’t see large exterior windows. In fact, the exterior is rather plain and you are unable to tell if the home is upper or lower class. There are clay walls with a huge (and in some cases, ornate) door. Once you enter thru the massive door, you will be amazed at how lovely the interior is. This is where the magic happens..beautiful tiles & mosaics, water fountains, lush fabrics…riads offer you the opulence of a grand mansion combined with a cozy atmosphere. These lovely “homes” only have a small number of rooms (i.e. 5-10). Riads provide you with a unique Moroccan experience that you won’t get staying in a traditional hotel. You receive special attention & stay in beautiful surroundings. It’s like a slice of heaven.

Getting There

Riad Joya will arrange for a taxi from the airport, train station, or other cities at your request. Your taxi will drop you off just outside one of the gates to the Medina. The streets are very narrow inside the Medina so no cars are allowed…only push carts, donkeys & mules. They will also arrange for a luggage porter to greet you at the gate and lead you to the riad which is just a few minutes walk away. My advice…do not try to find the riad on your own. The Medina has many streets and this riad is located off a side street from another side street. A 20 Dirham (which is about $2 USD) tip to a luggage porter is money well spent. Plus, this will allow you to take in the sights and sounds of the Medina while walking to your destination.

Promotions

You can book directly via the website or go thru a 3rd party discount booking agency (i.e. Jetsetter; Trip Advisor).

The Courtyard

This riad surrounds a breathtaking courtyard that has a water fountain and beautiful plants & flowers. There are open lounge/sitting areas surrounding the courtyard. Each area makes you feel comfortable and relaxed.

View of the Riad Joya from the rooftop at night

View of the Riad Joya from the rooftop at night

Marrakesh 442Rooms & Suites

Riad Joya is an elegant 7-suite luxury boutique hotel. Each suite has a theme based on a particular African region. The riad website describes it best, “The overall atmosphere is of an elegant private house where understated luxury fuses with eclectic style and bespoke service and attentions.”

This hotel also has a “Butler service” which offers tailored services “from the assistance with transportation and luggage, to recommendations of activities, Joya’s Butler is always ready to ensure that all our guests have everything needed for an enriching stay.” We were spoiled rotten! He anticipated our needs, handled getting our laundry washed & pressed; walking us to and from the hammam and inquiring about our favorite fruits & vegetables to help with dinner selection. I really needed him to come home with me 🙂

Each suite features a private seating area and large dressing room. The bathrooms are amazing!!! They are “all made in natural stones combined with the traditional tadelak, are bright and spacious and features large shower and a vanity corner.”

Be sure to check out the pictures on the riad website (linked above) or tripadvisor.com as each suite is different. Upon arrival, we are told we can pick from a variety of suites since the riad was not fully booked (fab-u-lous!). After we chose our suite, we were taken to our room and given time to relax before heading down for dinner. Words really can’t capture how wonderful this place is.

We stayed in the largest suite — the Dar Arabe…absolute luxury!

A writing alcove in the Dar Arabe suite

A writing alcove in the Dar Arabe suite

Vanity area

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Soaps, shampoo & conditioner

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Seating area

Seating area

I was also given a tour and was able to photograph a few of the suites that weren’t in use.

The Tuareg suite (inspired by the Berber people). Love the eclectic look & feel of this room (even if it is the darkest suite of the bunch).

Entrance to the Tuareg suite

Entrance to the Tuareg suite

Sweet dreams in the Tuareg suite!

Sweet dreams in the Tuareg suite!

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Check out the sinks!

A copper bathtub surrounded by a circular cloth shower curtain.

A copper bathtub surrounded by a circular cloth shower curtain.

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Seating area

Seating area

The Naos suite – in Egyptology, naos refers to that which is hidden and unknown inside the inner sanctum of a temple (source, Wikipedia).

Naos suite

Naos suite

Naos suite

Naos suite

Naos bath

Naos bath

The Domus suite…

Domus suite

Domus suite

Domus seating area

Domus seating area

Dining

The chef at the Riad Joya is PHENOMENAL! You can dine in their beautiful dining room or on the terrace (which is up several sets of very steep stairs). The riad provides a bountiful breakfast of fruits & pastries (you can request eggs as well) and a daily set menu.

A bountiful dinner

A bountiful dinner

Ambient lighting in the dining room with their beautiful Moroccan lamps.

Ambient lighting in the dining room with their beautiful Moroccan lamps.

Delicious dessert

Delicious dessert

The Hammam & Spa

What better way to unwind from a day of sightseeing than to enjoy a hammam & spa? Unfortunately, the riad’s hammam was out of service during our stay but they did set us up with an appointment at another hammam a short walk away (and the massage is fab-u-lous)! You pick between a couple of fragrant oils (my choices were “orange flower” and “jasmine”). Those magical hands lulled me right into a light nap. Want to know more about what to expect when visiting a hammam? Check out my Tale of 2 Hammams post.

Overall

If you are looking for the perfect place to unwind and relax during your visit to Marrakech, this inviting sanctuary is the place. Have insightful conversations over mint tea while learning about Moroccan culture from the locals. I must warn you that this riad is not suitable to those who are wheelchair bound or have mobility issues due to the amount of stairs. Other than that, this place is perfect. Centrally located with delicious food and an absolutely phenomenal staff, the Riad Joya is a wonderful place to stay during your exotic trip to Marrakech. So forget using hotel chain rewards points and enjoy the unique experience of staying in a riad!

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Nikki’s Rating: Absolutely Wonderful 5

Rating Scale 1-5 (1 = GET OUT NOW; 2 = Seriously?; 3 = Eh, it’ll do; 4 = Fabulous; 5 = Absolutely Wonderful)

Looking for a place to stay in Fez? Check out my review of the Riad Laaroussa. Interested in visiting Morocco? Check out my travel adventures here!

Exploring Athens

I spent a wonderful 8 days in Athens for work. I have to admit that I wasn’t all that excited to come back after having spent a day here last year while on my Mediterranean cruise. However, it’s much different hanging out over a series of days versus being caught up in the cruise crowd for a day being shuttled from site to site. The best part of the trip was that my favorite travel companion joined me…my Mommy! She actually did tours to other cities while I slaved away in the office. Hopefully, she will have her blog post to me soon (hint, hint).

Hotel
I stayed at The Athens Gate hotel which is in central Athens with a fabulous view of the Temple of Zeus & the Acropolis. You can read my hotel review here.  The area around the hotel is so neat.

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View of the Acropolis during breakfast.

If you ever visit Athens, I highly recommend this hotel. Do the pre-booking (which includes breakfast) for a great rate. What is better than eating breakfast while looking at the Acropolis from their rooftop restaurant?

There is some sort of “Happy Trolley” that will drive you around the historic section as well. It’s usually pretty packed and runs late.
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Food
Greek food…I’ll be honest and say that to me, it was “okay”. I prefer something with a bit more flavor. Not to say that the food was bad, but it wasn’t like Italy. It is serviceable…meaning that it will fill you up. It was hit or miss depending on where you ate. Most of the time, I felt it was a little bland. But I will say that the Greek salad was pretty good and the moussaka (which my Mom loves), gyros & souvlaki were good depending on the restaurant. They give you A LOT of food and you will get the stink-eye if you don’t clean your plate. It’s like they take it personal if you don’t eat everything on your plate. Clearly, the concept of portion control is lost here and they could care less if you are on Weight Watchers. Which I kinda love.

Moussaka – sautéed eggplant & tomatoes with minced meat (like hamburger) topped with white sauce & cheese) then baked. The version I like best had potatoes.
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Souvlaki – think kabobs. It’s basically grilled meat & veggies on a skewer. I had chicken & pork. They will sometimes serve it with a pita and rice depending on the restaurant.
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One day, I just wanted something familiar so I ordered a hamburger and fries. This is what I got…
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I didn’t expect 5 breakfast buddies. LOL. But, it was actually pretty tasty. I was only able to eat 1 ½ patties but it’s nice that you know you aren’t going to starve when you leave.

While the food was okay, the experience is phenomenal. We ate outside at various cafés that had outstanding views of the Acropolis every night. That more than made up for the food. I never got tired of staring at the Acropolis. It’s just magnificent!

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Choosing a restaurant to eat at is an experience in and of itself. There are waiters/hype men that stand in front of EACH restaurant and try to persuade you to come in and eat. It reminds you of when you are touring and vendors worry you to death trying to sell you their souvenirs. One night, a colleague & I decided to try out a rooftop restaurant in this cool hilltop section of The Plaka. There were at least 9 restaurants in this little section. We choose one, go thru the kitchen to get to the back stairs and climb up to the roof. The view was awesome.

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So, we look at the menu, decide on our selections and our waiter comes over. He has a “Godfather” vibe to him. We order and he proceeds to tell us what he is going to serve us instead. Um, why do they give menus if it’s “waiter’s choice”? So, for appetizers, he brings us out some sort of cheese spread (nope) and fried cheese (nope again). That’s right, fried cheese. Sigh. Now, I just wanted salad and moussaka. That’s all. The Greek Godfather gets irritated that we aren’t wolfing down the fried cheese & cheese spread. He’s all, “you no like?” Well, I ain’t trying to have a horse head in my bed in the morning so I say, “oh, it’s delicious. I’m just trying to save room for my moussaka.” He gives me the stink-eye and goes to say something to the bus boy. I’m pretty sure he tells him to go find Barbaro. Anyway, after begging the busboy to take the appetizers away, we finally get our main meals. Sigh. It was okay. I had high hopes. The Greek Godfather comes by and asks why I haven’t finished my meal (I half expected to hear him tell me about the starving kids in Africa). I tried as best as I could to eat the entire meal. My colleague is laughing and telling me that I’m getting punked. Whatever. I’m scared. By this time, the Greek Godfather is treating me like I came to his daughter’s wedding with no gift and asking for a favor. I’m like, please don’t have me sleeping with the fishes over this moussaka. He was done with us at this point. Clearly we didn’t worship at the fountain of the Greek God of Food. The night wasn’t lost though because the view was spectacular. We ended up going to Café Plaka for dessert and coffee afterwards.

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Animal Kingdom
If you are scared of dogs, then you don’t need to visit Greece. Seriously. They are everywhere. I’m a dog lover (as some of y’all know about my booters, Mr. Riley). Greece is overrun by dogs & cats. You know that movie, “All Dogs Go to Heaven”? Well, I think they really go to Greece because those dogs live the life! Most of the dogs are strays. Now, strays in the U.S. have an emaciated & wolfish look to them because they try to survive on the streets by foraging for food. Not the strays in Greece. Oh no, those jokers are well fed to the point where they may want to start counting Weight Watcher’s points. The government takes care of them by providing food & water in designated areas around each city. Some dogs have collars and some don’t. The ones that have collars are the ones that have been seen by a vet and have had their shots.  I absolutely LOVE that!  The fact that these animals are so well cared for says a lot about Greece to me.  Yeah, they may have financial issues, but they also have a big heart 🙂

My first night in Athens, my colleague & I were walking around trying to find a particular restaurant. We see some dogs (lab mixes mostly). At first, 2 of them decide to escort us on our walk which is cool because I’m missing Riley so I’m happy to have dogs to coo over. Then, we come up on a pack of dogs in another section. Clearly, this is their “set” and they let the 2 dogs with me know that. It’s all growling and barking. I’m like, “the hell?” I can’t get caught up in dog gang wars. So, we try to slowly slide out of the conflict and as we turn the corner, we hear some loud barking coming from the sky. Why is there a dog on the roof barking at us like, “get the hell on!”? Seriously?

Over the 8 days, I was able to note that the dogs pretty much kept to their own areas of the city. They are also extremely smart. One dog was walking next to me on a busy street (Syngou). Then, I guess he decides he needs to cross the street because he walks to the stoplight where the cross walk is. At this point, I stop because I need to know if this dog is going to rush out in front of traffic. Um, why does he wait for the cross walk sign to turn green, looks both ways, then crosses?

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I was outdone. That wasn’t the only dog that did it either. I guess they need to be well-trained to survive in a big city but still, it was amazing. So, to recap…the dogs & cats have food and water, can come and go as they please and don’t have to listen to an owner. Riley would give me the deuces in a hot second if he were to ever hear about this place.

The Fabulous Sites
Athens has a lot of ruins…which I love. I enjoy walking on ground that someone has walked on thousands of years ago!

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We checked out the New Acropolis Museum which has relics (about 4,000 statues & artifacts) from the buildings on the Acropolis (i.e. Parthenon & Temple of Athena Nike). It gives you a pretty substantial history of how the Acropolis came to be, what it was like during its heyday, and why it was almost destroyed. Now, it doesn’t have “a lot” of stuff like you expect in a museum. But, I found it interesting.

Next stop was Hadrian’s Arch which was built by the Roman emperor, Hadrian. It’s the symbolic entrance to Athens. Basically, it was his way of letting the Athenians know who they were beholden to. The inscription facing the Acropolis side reads “THIS IS ATHENS, THE ANCIENT CITY OF THESEUS.” On the other side, it states “THIS IS THE CITY OF HADRIAN, NOT OF THESEUS”. That joker was gangsta.
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He also built Hadrian’s Library.
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You know, I just realized he is the Tyler Perry of ancient Greece. I mean, his name is on everything. I’m pretty sure that if I did the research, I’d find that all the plays put on during that time were most likely titled, “Hadrian presents Hadrian’s Meet the Aristotles” with Athena being Madea.

Hadrian’s Arch is right in front of the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Hadrian finished the construction that began in the 6th century B.C. and continued on and off for 700 years. Kind of like road construction projects in Atlanta 🙂 Anyway, the Olympieion (aka Kolonnes or Columns) were 360×143 feet and considered one of the largest temples in the ancient world. There were once statues of Zeus and Hadrian but those are gone now.
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Then, we walked to Syntagma Square which is the focal point of Athens political & civic life. This is where you find major banks, travel agencies, fine hotels and where the protesters congregate almost every weekday over some issue. It’s right across the street from the Parliament building.

Syntagma Square & surrounding area
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Parliament
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As you are walking, you come up on some random excavation & relics — 398.jpg

Then there is the famous Central Market. Y’all ain’t ready for this. You need a strong stomach. Basically, they sell everything from the rooter to the tooter in here. I like the fact that they try to be funny with their displays even though this almost made me become a vegetarian.

The 3 Little Pigs
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Liner & instestines, etc from cows
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I don’t think smoking killed this one
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Next stop is Ancient Agora. This was the commercial and civic center in historic Athens. It’s a jumble of ancient building relics as these buildings were used for a wide range of political, educational, philosophical, theatrical and athletic purposes. It’s a great place to wander though. Once you enter, you will be on the main road entitled “Panathenaic Way”
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I read that Agora was usually filled with merchants, legislators and philosophers (in fact, Socrates & Plato were regulars). But, it’s pointed out that very few women hung out here because they did not regularly go into public places. In 399 B.C., Socrates, accused of “introducing strange gods and corrupting youth” was sentenced to death. He drank his up of hemlock in a prison at the southeast corner of the Agora (I can’t even tell you where that is) where excavators later found small clay cups, just the right size for his fatal drink. It’s a pretty neat place and actually very peaceful (even if folks were executed here).
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We then head up to Monastiraki (which is a neighborhood that fringes the Agora and Roman Forum). Basically has a log of flea markets and restaurants. In Monastiraki Square where there are some guys in Celtics jerseys doing some sort of hip hop/breakdance production. It’s like “Electric Bougaloo – Athens”. I’ll upload the video once the site it back up.
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Getting around
The taxis are kind of expensive but I do appreciate a flat fee of 35 euro from the airport to central Athens. I primarily used the Metro. Which is cheap and clean. Now, they don’t have turnstiles but you are supposed to validate your ticket at the ticket machine. In Italy, they have people on each train that come by and verify that your ticket is validated or you get fined (you may remember the wonderful story of my ride from Genoa to Florence with the crazy guy that didn’t validate and had to pay 50 euro…classic). Anyway, they don’t have that here. It’s the honor system. The Metro is usually pretty crowded but folks are nice, there is no drama and the trains run pretty regularly.

Overall, I really did love Athens. I would definitely go back again as there is so much to see and not enough time to see it. The people are friendly and my local contact even brought my colleague & I to his house (which is fab) and fed us fresh strawberries & gelato while we sat in his backyard under the pergola looking at the Aegean Sea.
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The shopping is great and the men are gorgeous!  Seriously? Why was that not in the guidebook? How can I get one of them??? With each trip, I feel like I’m becoming more well-rounded and able to view the culture from a more global point of view, instead of a U.S.-centric view. Hopefully, I will be able to run the Athens marathon one day as I’d love to run the original marathon route (as long as there aren’t many hills, then I’d be satisfied with just driving it). I guarantee that if you make the trip to Athens, you won’t be disappointed. May is the perfect time to go as the weather is mild, it’s right before high season & it isn’t crowded. Check it out!

Wicked Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey…the Dubbs Abbs.  I don’t know why I keep trying to give places nicknames…that’s not working is it?  I know you read “Dubbs Abbs” and thought, “WTF is she talking about?”  I’m sleepy, y’all.  Don’t judge me 🙂

Westminster Abbey is so cool!  Kings (i.e. Henry VIII with his crazy self) & Queens are crowned & buried there.  The most interesting thing for me was finding out that Queen Elizabeth I is buried ON TOP of her sister, Queen Mary (or, as she was known, “Bloody Mary”…which actually makes me a bit thirsty for a cool beverage). For those of you who aren’t up on your Tudor history, Mary was the daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon and Elizabeth I is the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

So, Liz’s mama stole her daddy (Henry) from his 1st wife (Catherine) but later found out he was crazy when he had her decapitated for allegedly being a traitor and having an incestuous relationship with her brother. Which I mean, with the royals marrying 1st cousins and such back then, that is sort of like the pot calling the kettle black. It also explains the whole “Deliverance” vibe some of them had…you just don’t mix the blood lines like that.

Anyway, Mary was a strict Roman Catholic like her mama. Her father had changed the official religion of England from Catholicism to Protestant in an effort to divorce Catherine when the Pope refused to grant him an annulment so he could marry his new boo, Anne Boleyn. Of course, if Lil Annie knew that Henry would turn his craziness on her and get all Betty Broderick (the quintessential Lifetime movie for love gone crazy), I’m sure she would’ve reserved her charms for someone else. But, power is a heady drug that distorts your common sense. All she could see is the finery and being able to tell her haters to kiss her ass once she was Queen of England. I can relate…in fact, I’m looking for Harry now 🙂

So, as I was saying before I digressed, Mary changed the official religion of England from Protestant back to Catholicism and rounded up people who refused to convert and had them burned alive at the stake. I’m pretty sure that Jesus wasn’t co-signing that. I mean, she prayed all day every day so you think she would know better. I imagine something like this happened during her prayer sessions:

Crazy Mary: Lord, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.
Jesus: Uh, Mary? My will ain’t being done right now. What are you thinking burning folks on a stake? Don’t you remember that I died on that sucker? You think this is how I want folks to come to me?
CM: But, Jesus, I can’t let these people continue in the religion of that heinous Anne Boleyn and her trollop daughter, Lizzie.
JC: Get a grip. You have to move on from that. Are you taking your meds?

I think Mary had a touch of the crazy like her daddy and after being locked away from her mama for years due to her father’s out of control libido, it couldn’t have been too much of a surprise. Mary continued the tradition & locked here sister, Elizabeth (Liz 1), in the Tower of London for a while because she thought Liz was in on a plot to kill her. Which…she probably was. That’s just how they rolled back then. After Mary died at the age of 42 from cancer, Elizabeth inherited the throne (after a lot of drama).  Being locked away in the Tower and being labeled a traitor did nothing to get Mary in Liz’s good graces. Which is why she now and for all eternity will reside beneath Liz in the Abbey. I’m sure Liz was like, “How you like me now?”

The Tudor history is fascinating. I would recommend reading a series of books by Phillipa Gregory to gain a thorough overview (The Other Boleyn Girl, The Virgin Queen, etc). Being royalty back in the day was a death sentence!

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