Introducing…Travel Unplugged

I am so excited to announce my new online travel show…Travel Unplugged!!!  Season 1 premieres April 29, 2015!  For 8 weeks, we will take an adventure throughout the UK, Europe and the Middle East.  The second trailer will be released in a couple of weeks and will explain the concept of Travel Unplugged & what you can expect.  Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel & blog!  Thanks 🙂

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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The Queen, Scones & Crazy Folks…It’s London, baby!

I freaking love this city!  It’s one of my favorite places to visit.  We go together and it is my boo thang…in fact, we are MFEO (Made For Each Other).  The energy, the diversity and the FABULOUS SCONES AT HIGH TEA!  Oh, I am all kinds of off my low-carb diet. I don’t care that I’m gonna be looking like a brown version of Honey Boo Boo’s mama by the time I get back to Atlanta.  They are just too good to deny myself!  You know that scene in the movie Precious where Precious runs off with a bucket of fried chicken?  Imagine me with a bucket of scones, clotted cream and red currant jelly…with a side of breakfast tea.  Yeah, it just got real, y’all.  Scones real.  Not biscuit real.

Friday
Where do I begin?  We arrive mid-day at Heathrow and take the train to Paddington Station. Travel tip I learned in 2008 — you can withdraw GBP (British pounds) from the ATMs at the train stations (look for the signs) without being charged a fee (of course, check with your own bank as they may apply a fee for foreign transactions). The ATMs usually have pretty good exchange rates.  After getting some cash, we decide to get a taxi from the rail station to the hotel…and that is when it starts.

For some reason, crazy finds me wherever I go. Which meant that out of the line of taxi drivers available, we had to get Nutters the Taxi Driver. Oh God.  He doesn’t look crazy at first…but it was only a matter of minutes before his “foolishment” made an appearance.  So, we ask the Taxi Driver from Nutbush City London if he can take us to the Waldorf Astoria – Syon Park (a slice of heaven, y’all!).  He agrees and tells us to hurry up and get in the taxi.  Wait…What?  Hurry up and get in?  Where they do that at???  So, we struggle to get our stuff into the taxi because he ain’t going to get out and help us with the bags.  That must be extra.  Whatever.

We finally get everything in the taxi, and he drives up the street then says he doesn’t know where Syon Park is. Wait a doggone minute.  What? You don’t know where it is? WTH? Now I know for a fact that taxi drivers in London must pass a test to know where everything is located in London to get their taxi driver license. And, it’s a park. And, you have GPS…seriously. Stop. Don’t play with me, Nutters. You may be from Nutbush London but I’ve watched What’s Love Got to do With It enough times to do a pretty good Ike Turner imitation.  I gave him the directions, he said he still didn’t know so I called the hotel and told him what the receptionist told me…then he held his hand out for my phone…because clearly I can’t be trusted to relay a message.  Lord help me. I can’t let him steal my joy. So, he talks to the receptionist who tells him the EXACT SAME THING I JUST TOLD HIM. Seriously?

He finally starts driving, then starts READING some papers that are in his lap! Drifting off to the side.  Um, sir? Why are you multitasking?  Don’t you watch those commercials about distracted driving?  I ain’t tryna end up a statistic. Before we could say anything, a bicyclist came up to the side of the car and asked the cabbie to roll down his window. Nutters thinks that the cyclist is going to ask for directions because buddy has said “‘Scuse me mate, can I ask you a question?” Nutter: “Sure thing”; Cyclist: “WTF, mate?  Learn how to drive!  Blah, blah, cussingcakes”.   Nutters’ smile dropped off his face with a quickness.  Then, he starts cursing at the cyclist telling him to “Bug off, you bah-stahd!”  Uh oh…ish just got real.

That ruined Nutters entire day. He talked about that for the 40 minutes we were in the cab.

Nutters: Can you believe that toe rag?
Us: No, that was uncalled for. (but thinking the cyclist was spot on)
Nutters: He was spoiling for a fight, he was! I didn’t do anything wrong. That bloke had no respect! He’s getting me ire up, that toe rag!
Us: Um, sir?  What is a toe rag?
Nutters: It’s a foul term which means the rag that people clean their feet with.
Us: Ew

We start trying to talk about something else. But, once there is a millisecond of silence, it starts again.

Nutters: That bah-stahd was spoiling for a fight, he was. I would’ve given him one but I can’t lose me license over this.
Us: Well, don’t let him ruin your day.
Nutters: It’s already ruined! Didn’t you hear him? He wanted to fight! I’d have fought him too. I wanted to spit on him…it’s what he deserved, the bugger! But, I can’t lose me license.
Us: Good God

You already know that I’ve been using “s/he was spoiling for a fight but I can’t lose my license behind this” all freaking week. So, since Nutters is on a roll, now he is mad at us for some reason. Telling us that we went out of our way and should’ve taken a taxi from the airport.

Nutters: You just wasted a couple of hours, ladies.
Us: That’s okay, it’s beautiful and we can see the sights on the way.
Nutters: You aren’t going to see anything on this drive so set your expectations now.

A few minutes later, a police motorcade drives by and we are forced to pull off to the side of the road. Now Nutters is all hyped and is like, “OH! SOMEONE FAMOUS IS COMING! SOMEONE FAMOUS IS COMING!” Next thing you know, we see a green Jaguar with the Queen of England sitting in the back! I will admit, I was starstruck. I mean, it’s the Queen! I want her job (well, her title). So cool. Anyway, you know I had to say to Nutters, “See? If we took a taxi from the airport, we wouldn’t have seen the Queen!” But, Nutters was determined to be Darryl Downer even though he was starstruck too. He proceeds to pull out about 200 autographs he’s gotten over the years. Then says that if he sees someone famous, he’ll stop the car and go ask them for an autograph regardless of if he has a fare or not. Wow.

So, we finally get to the Waldorf Astoria (after he has to pull over to get gas…and charges us for the time it takes to do it and also misses the BIG SIGN that says WALDORF ASTORIA – SYON PARK). And, guess who we see as we pull in? Ralph Lauren is driving past us in his roadster!

Okay, the Waldorf is FAB-U-LOUS! Seriously, y’all. It was one of the nicest hotels I’ve stayed in.

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We have a spot of tea after we check in. Afterwards, we shower and change to go out to dinner in London. As we are waiting in the lobby to speak with the concierge, we meet this guy from Saudi Arabia who starts chatting us up. Apparently, there is a car show going on at the place next door. We saw a ton of high-end cars when we pulled up. I mean, those suckers were no less than $100K each. He offered to give us his pass so we could go in and look around but we passed. He was really nice though!

We end up in Piccadilly Circus looking for a recommended restaurant which we couldn’t find until the next day. So, we decide to eat at a steakhouse called “Aberdeen” which was okay…but not a place I’d try again.

Saturday

Wimbledon

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We get up super early (6am) to meet up and try to get tickets to Wimbledon. After walking to the train station, getting breakfast and catching a bus to Wimbledon (they had special bus service running every 30 minutes from Victoria Station in downtown London), we finally arrive at 11am. And are promptly told (as we are looking at the mass of people) that the wait time in line is 7 hours…we can’t get in to see a match until 6pm. So, we passed on watching a match (I’m not that into tennis anyway…I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about). We ended up walking around, taking pictures and chatting with people to find out what time you need to get there to avoid a long wait in line for tickets (answer…camp out the night before, or get there no later than 7am the day of).

After taking the bus back to London, we take the Tube to Leicester Square and buy tickets to We Will Rock You which is a musical based upon songs by Queen. If you go to the Half Tkts kiosk in Leicester Square, you can buy tickets for plays and musicals at a discounted price. I had originally wanted to see Wicked but it wasn’t on sale. After buying our tickets, we went to the National Portrait Gallery.

Okay, you definitely should check out the National Portrait Gallery. First, it’s free. Second, it’s interesting. It is filled with portraits of people from different eras. I love to read history and am obsessed with the Plantagenets (House of Lancaster & Yorks) which spawned The Tudors. The War of the Roses and the drama of Henry VIII was too salacious for words!

I’ve given a pretty substantial recap of Liz, her sister Bloody Mary and her daddy Henry 8 with his 6 wives in a previous blog post. The War of the Roses was fascinating as well and preceded Henry 8 (the war actually ended with his daddy, Henry 7). The House of Plantagenet ruled from the 12th century and was actually founded by a Frenchman, Geoffrey V of Anjou. The war broke out because 2 of the branches (the Lancasters and the Yorks) couldn’t get along. This was basically a series of dynastic civil wars for the throne of England between the heirs of those two houses. The “war of the roses” name comes from the fact that the houses had a symbol of a red rose (Lancaster) or white rose (York). Mental instability, perceived weaknesses in ruling and coveting power kept them fighting for 30 years (1455-1485). If you ever visit the Tower of London, you will hear the story about the 2 young sons of the last York king, Richard III, who (after Richard had died), were sent to the tower by their uncle (Richard’s brother) under the guise of keeping them safe. However, it’s believed they were murdered because their bodies were never found (they were around 13 and 8 or something like that…I can’t remember the exact ages). Anyway, the war ended when Henry 7 defeated the uncle and married Richard III’s daughter to unite the houses. Then, spawned crazy Henry 8.

I always like to see pictures of what these folks looked like. I’ve seen plenty of pictures of Queen Elizabeth I and her daddy, Henry 8, but it’s cool to see original paintings. Here’s what I can tell you. Beauty is subjective. A lot of adjectives like “beautiful”, “renowned beauty” etc were used. No. Let’s just stop. She can’t behead you now. The people you are talking about are dead. Let’s just keep it real because we all have eyes. They were okay…and some. Well, let’s just say that I’d have cursed the artist out like the bicyclist did Nutters if he painted me with a light mustache and cross-eyes. Stop. I did find my absolute favorite painting. It’s of the Earl of Southampton who was a playboy extraordinaire. You didn’t even need to read his bio to know. His picture said it all. All the other pictures of men had short cropped hair. Southampton had long flowing locks to the middle of his back, a swagga to him, and a look that said, “you know you want me…don’t deny it. I want myself.” He was so debonair that while Liz 1 was beheading folks who even looked like they thought she had bad breath, this joker just got some jail time for participating in organizing her overthrow. Then he was pardoned! That’s right. Earl Rapunzel got out and was like, “take that, take that…can’t stop, won’t stop…baaaaad boooooyyyy!” Check him out: Earl of Southampton

After we leave the National Portrait Gallery, we have about 30 minutes before high tea so we walk down to Trafalgar Square where they are holding some sort of Jesus rally.

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This something that apparently is going on around the city. Which is actually really cool! They had bands and were giving inspirational messages. It was packed!

We then head to the National Gallery Café for high tea. Words cannot describe how freaking AWESOME it was. I’ve had high tea in London at various places before but it’s never been this good. If you go to London, definitely check it out. Delicious!

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The scones were like eating slices of heaven if heaven tasted like buttery biscuits with clotted cream and red currant jam. Sigh. I had to buy the cookbook so I can recreate them when I get home. Sooooo good! I mean, I just cannot stop thinking about them. The tea was great too. Besides the scone, there were finger sandwiches (cucumber, salmon and tuna), and sweets (tarts and pound/sponge cupcake…or as they call them here “fairy cakes”).

After we had pulled ourselves away from high tea, we walk up to the British Museum and pass another outdoor concert (this was a rap concert focused on Jesus).

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By the time we arrived at the British Museum, it was closed so we head to Starbucks for another refreshment (it’s warm y’all), then over to the theater for the musical…which was awesome. I didn’t really have any expectations. It was inexpensive and when it started, Pam and I were like, “the hell is this? I’m taking a nap.” Then, all of a sudden, they changed scenes and it got awesome! This musical is hilarious! The concept is that it’s set in like 2050 and all musical instruments have been banned and we are being programmed by computers. But, there are rebel people out there that can’t fight the music and want to bring it back. It’s really good and I suggest you check it out (www.wewillrockyou.co.uk).

After the musical, we head back to the hotel around 1am.

Sunday
We wake up and head out late morning to go to the British Museum and enjoy high tea again. We decide to do high tea at the British Museum to save time.

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Hm, I might have been drinking when I took this picture because it looks kinda off.

The British Museum
Is AWESOME! OMG, seriously? This place is incredible! Seeing the Rosetta Stone up close was amazing! Being able to see the relics up close from the Parthenon and Egypt was surreal. Having seen the places where they originally existed added a whole other level of excitement. You definitely need to check it out. Plus, it’s FREE! You can’t beat that! Just so amazing. I couldn’t even get thru the entire museum so I plan to go back and visit it again.

Egypt Exhibit
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The Rosetta Stone
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Greece (from the Acropolis)
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Easter Island
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After we left the British Museum, we walk around trying to decide where to eat and ended up at a decent Indian restaurant. Then, we went to hang out at the park by the London Eye since we had time to kill before our train left. Okay, why did a reporter & cameraman from ITV show up and start interviewing people on the weather? This is news because it was sunny and an unusually hot (91 degrees!). However, we notice that they interview the people next to us on the bench (who were white) and then went on to interview only white people. The reporter was Indian! Really? What took the cake was when they went to interview an interracial couple and asked the black guy to get up and stand outside of the camera shot so they could interview only his white girlfriend. I wanted to jump in front of the camera as they were talking and say “BROWN PEOPLE LIKE SUN AND HEAT TOO!” but I thought better of it. It was weird because London is such a diverse city. More diverse than most cities I’ve visited which is one of the reasons I love it so much. I just chalk this up to a 1 off experience and maybe they only interview people of color on Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays?

Overall, you can never get enough or get bored in London. This is my 4th time and I feel like I’m only scratching the surface of seeing the city. I just love so much about it. It’s easy to get around, very diverse, lots of activities, scones & high tea, cultural events…you name it, London’s got it. Until next time,…you stay classy, London (for all my Anchorman lovers).

Photo of the Day: Corner of Kingsway & Sardinia (London)

London is a photographer’s paradise.  Love the architectural surprises that you come across while strolling around this lovely city.  How cool is this?

Beautiful Bath (England)

Cherrio, mates! (said in my best British accent).  Ha!  I’ve always wanted to visit the quaint town of Bath.  I was up on Monday morning before 6am (1am US time — London is 5 hours ahead) to catch a train to Bath for the day.  The trains are really nice and convenient!

I arrived in Bath then pulled out my map and headed to the Roman Baths for my first tour.  Bath, England was known as “Aquae Sulis” when inhabited by the Romans.  Two hundred years ago, this city of 85K was the trendsetting Hollywood of Britain. 

The Roman Bath tour was very interesting (and it was a good thing that I took that tour so I wouldn’t be too shocked by what was to come later).  Apparently, back in the day, men and women would go to the baths to hang out with each other & socialize.  It was like a community center of sorts. 

After the tour, I had breakfast at The Pump Room which is a high-class restaurant where you can listen to a classical trio play music while you eat.  I had a traditional “Bath bun” (which is basically a sticky bun with sugar and currants on the top) and some coffee.  I also tried the curative Bath water (pumped up from the springs hundreds of miles below ground…not all that tasty) but hopefully it’ll kick in and cure me of this bug I’ve picked up. 

After breakfast, I pulled out my map and made my way over to the Fashion Museum.  I take the scenic walk past Queen’s Park and the Royal Crescent & Circus towards the Fashion Museum.  I have to say that the Fashion Museum has been my favorite place so far and a must see if you love fashion!  They had displays for all fashions (both men and women) from the 1500’s to present.  The museum offered audio guides to assist putting everything in context. 

  

After leaving the Fashion Museum, I went to Bath Abbey.  Bath Abbey is a 500-year-old Gothic church that has a huge stained glass window which depict 56 scenes from the life of Christ.  It also has a bell tower so I took that tour and climbed 212 steps to the top.  Once the tour was complete, I attended Mass. 

 

After I got my soul right (smile), I went back outside into the freezing weather to take the 2 hour walking tour of Bath that is lead by a member of the Mayor’s council.  I lasted 38 minutes because Old Man Winter was like, “Read Rick Steve’s and get the highlights.  You know it’s too cold for you to stay out here”.  I decided to walk quickly over to Pultney Bridge then the Bath Market before picking up a late snack (it’s almost 4pm at this point).  That is when I discovered Cornish Pasties!  They are the BEST things ever.  Basically, it is some sort of meat (whatever you choose…I picked spicy chicken) baked in dough — kind of like an apple turnover but with meat instead.  LOVE IT. 

After my snack, I decide to go to the Thermae Bath Spa to unwind.  Now, here is where things get interesting.  See, I thought this spa was like the spas in the US.  I mean, they have spa treatments and everything.  So, in my mind, this is supposed to be a relaxing place to unwind while soaking in the hot, curative waters.   The first sign that this wasn’t what I thought came when I noticed there was a line that extended outside the entrance door!  Like we are at the club.  Seriously.  I explain that away with the thought that many others must have the same idea as I do since it’s cold outside so they want to go inside and soak in some hot water.  They let people into the spa in groups (just like at the club).  Keep the “club” reference in mind, k?  Once inside, you go through the line and pay for your 2 hour session (they also offer 4 hours but really, that is just too much time in the spa to relax — or so I thought…this is the club so there might be bottle service).  Anyway, once I pay for my session and receive my robe, towel and slippers, I am directed to the changing room.  I see men and think, this is the wrong place.  Before I could turn to ask the attendant, I see a couple of women emerge and realize that this is co-ed.  I was like, “I have to change in the same room as men???  Oh hecks naw!”  I didn’t want to be an ugly American or seem like a prude so I just took my stuff into one of the changing stalls and closed the door. 

Once I was changed and covered up (one of the few), I head down to my relaxing soak.  I get down to the hot “bath” and it really was like a club on water!  First, people were wearing almost nothing (even the fat folks and let me tell you, I felt like Amy Winehouse because there was some big folks around).  Second, I guess that is where you take your boo to get freaky because people were all over each other.  It was like a scene from the HBO series “Rome”.  I mean, call me a prude, but dang…get a room!  All that was missing was a DJ playing Rick James’ “Superfreak”.  I mean, there were couples in their 60s making out!  I don’t need to see that y’all!  t’s loud and people are getting it on in the “healing waters”.  I decide to go to the “steam room” as maybe this is where the relaxing section is.  Wrong.  The steam room is a huge area with 4 different circular steam rooms that have varying degrees of steam and different aromatherapy scents.  There are foot baths along 2 walls (where you can sit and soak your feet) and showers along the other 2 walls.  I take off my robe and go into the steam room.  Well, this is co-ed as well and while not as bad as the Minerva bath downstairs, it wasn’t tame and it wasn’t quiet.  After about 30 minutes, I decide to head to the rooftop hot bath to see the sunset.  Now, it is seriously cold but I decide to sit in the hot bath OUTSIDE and not look at lust bunnies.  Then, some guy kept staring and getting closer to me but trying to play it off on the current of the water.  Uh huh.  This ain’t the ocean, buddy.  Keep it moving!  As I watch the sun set, I realize something…I’m having a great time at the spa/club!  While it’s not a quiet relaxation, it is actually pretty neat.  It’s more social in nature and is a more unique experience than anything I’ve encountered in the U.S.  I can’t wait to go back!

After I leave the spa, I head over to a coffee spot and have a slice of chocolate cake and a latte before heading to the train station.

Crazy at the train station — There was some crazy man at the train station.  Apparently, British crazy doesn’t look the same as American crazy.  He seemed normal.  But, while I was waiting in the lounge, he decided to “perform”.  I mean, he was seriously ‘flicted.  I don’t think that people knew what to do with him.  He started clucking like a chicken then got loud (he was sitting 2 seats away from me) and said that he wanted to “represent my hood” (as he looked at me).  Okay, I am from Atlanta and deal with crazy on MARTA regularly.  He has to do better than that to rattle me.  Then, he started messing with some woman next to him and playing with his face.  Strange.

 

What to Wear When Travelling Abroad

Coco1One of the most popular questions asked when getting ready for a trip overseas is “What should I wear?”  I always suggest researching what the locals are wearing (with a few exceptions notated below).  Not solely for aesthetic reasons, but also for safety.  Most pickpockets target tourists.  Looking like you belong goes a long way.  Here are a few suggestions to help you look like a local on your travels abroad.

1.       Dress for the Country/Culture.  Each country has its own style.  Some countries are more lax (the U.S., England, Ireland, Scotland) while others take their fashion seriously (France & Italy).  With the exceptions that I have noted below, you can usually get away with a nice pair of jeans/black pants/skirt and plain shirts/sweaters.  Don’t wear anything outrageous or loud (leave the catsuit at home).

  • Middle East/Egypt/Morocco (& other Islamic countries) = First and foremost, you want to respect the culture of the country you are visiting.  Which means no Daisy Dukes while visiting the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo (and, yes, I have seen it).  Make sure you dress conservatively (covering most of your skin).  Yeah, it may be hot, but you can find breathable and dry-wick fabrics pretty easily.  Trust me; you do not want to stand out in a conservative country.  Women from western countries are viewed as being “loose”, which can invite sexual harassment from the local male population.  By keeping your goodies covered up, you take the attention off of you (and your valuables).  In Morocco, most women (and quite a few men) wear djellabas (a hooded robe).  These can be either heavy or light weight in fabric (according to season).  I didn’t wear one when I was there, but it is definitely an option which will reduce the amount of stares you get.  I tend to buy breathable tunics from Old Navy (most are 3/4 length sleeves), long flowing skirts, loose capris and convertible cargo pants.
  • France/Italy = These 2 fabulous countries are homes to the most famous fashion houses around.  This means they take their fashion seriously.  While the Italians are a bit more accepting, the French will turn their nose up if you walk past them wearing any of the items listed below in #3.
  • You can never go wrong with basic black.  It’s easy to coordinate and you can interchange with stylish accessories (like a scarf or costume jewelry).
  • The French love black, navy and brown.  I suggest using those as your base colors.  You will notice that most of the French will pair up their dark wardrobe with a colorful scarf.  Don’t have one?  Buy one when you get there…it’s a souvenir & fashion accessory all in one.
  • The Italians love color and you can get away with a lot more.  Most of all, it is attitude.
  • Quick everyday tip = Get your clothes tailored.  I noticed that many people look better in clothes that are altered to fit their shape.  I picked this tip up while visiting Paris.  Everybody there looks like a million bucks (or euros) and it really is because their clothes fit impeccably.
  • Spain = The Spanish love color & flowing maxi dresses/skirts.  I also noticed some ladies wearing cowboy boots with shorts but we will pretend like I didn’t see that because I don’t think that’s a good look personally (I like to call that seasonal dyslexia).
  • England/Ireland/Scotland/Holland/Czech Republic/Switzerland/Scandinavia = Pretty much anything goes.  I can’t say that I have seen a huge difference in what they wear vs. the U.S. (with the exception of the “don’ts” listed below).  A popular look during the summer of 2011 was shorts with tights & Chuck Taylors (*shudders*).  Don’t emulate that.  Hopefully that was a 1 season only look.LBD

2.      Dress for the Season.  Be sure to check the weather before you go.  Weather Underground is a good resource.  I have typically found that you will need to dress in layers no matter when you travel abroad.  A light jacket, colorful scarves, stylish cardigans/sweater coats are a must for spring, summer & fall.  Going in the winter?  Bring along a warm coat, some snazzy boots & a cute hat/scarf/glove combo.   I had left my puffer coat at home during a winter trip to Milan…only to realize that everybody (and I do mean everybody) was wearing one.  First and foremost, you want to be warm.  Don’t take an unlined peacoat when visiting Finland in the dead of winter.  Your health trumps fashion.  Plus, you will stand out as not knowing how to dress properly for cold weather 🙂  ExOfficio is now offering a snazzy sweater jacket that doubles as a travel pillow when folded.  This jacket is so cozy & warm!  I recently wore it during a winter trip and fell in love with it.  The jacket packs very easily, is super soft AND rain-resistant as well as keeping you warm & toasty.  This is now my go-to jacket both here and abroad!

coco3

3.       DO NOT WEAR…

  • Baseball caps!  If you want to protect your head & face from the harsh sun, opt for a stylish wide-brimmed hat (during the summer) or cloche/fedora (during the winter). Baseball caps scream tourist. Don’t bring your favorite sporting team to France unless you are actually on the team, k?
  • Baseball/Football Jerseys, High School/College T-shirts, etc.  Do I really even to explain why wearing a baseball or football jersey is a no-no? Again, you don’t want to stand out as a tourist for pickpockets. T-shirts are fine if they are plain or have a cool graphic. Bottom line, you want to look nice…not like you are getting ready to workout. If you just don’t think you can survive without wearing sporting apparel, buy a soccer/rugby jersey. You can fit in and it will be a conversation starter.
  • Fanny-packs!  Seriously…just no.  It’s not cute.  Tell your mother to leave it at home with the rest of the 80’s attire.  I don’t even know how this item became popular.  Never carry your money and valuables in a waist contraption that is easily seen.  You are begging a pickpocket to take a knife, cut the strap and steal it from you.  Use a money belt instead.  It’s similar to your beloved fanny-pack; it just goes under your shirt/waist of your pants instead so it will not be seen.  This protects your valuables from curious onlookers.
  • Expensive jewelry/bags!  A pickpocket will tackle you to steal your Rolex or Louis Vuitton.  Leave your valuables at home.
  • White sneakers???  I have actually seen quite a few locals wearing sneakers (though not usually white) around London & Paris.  My preference is to bring a pair of running shoes (as I like to workout during my trips abroad…even running races like the Paris-Versailles 10K) as well as a comfortable & stylish walking shoe (i.e. Hush Puppies, Mephisto, Clarks) that can transition into an evening shoe. I highly recommend walking shoes that have a rubber sole to minimize the impact of walking on cobblestones.  I love the Hush Puppies Sonnet flat which you can buy at Macy’s for almost half of what it retails for at other locations as well as the Makena Ballerina shoe.  Bottom line is to wear a shoe that you will be comfortable walking in for hours at a time.

Emma

4.       Must Haves.

  • Light jacket/cardigan/wrap = If you plan to wear tanks or sleeveless tops during the summer, be sure to bring something to cover your shoulders when visiting a place of worship.  You will not be allowed to enter with shoulders (and sometimes legs) exposed.  I bought Magellan’s Sun Protection Wrap for my recent trip to Morocco and fell in love.  So soft and it provides the necessary protection (both arms and head) when you enter places of worship.  I even wear it around at home.
  • Secure purse/money belt = I have been using a PacSafe purse (stylish & secure) to carry around my valuables, guidebook, umbrella & bottled water for a couple of years now and it is awesome.  Highly recommend!  The shoulder straps are reinforced with steel so it cannot be cut and the zippers lock into place.  It will take a pickpocket a few minutes to figure out how to gain access to your valuables.
  • Comfortable walking shoes = As I stated above, cobblestones can be harsh on your feet.  A stylish rubber-soled shoe will save your tootsies!
  • Dark colored pants & skirt = Use these as your base pieces.  Dark colors camouflage stains & are great to pair with funky accessories.

MM

5.     Handy resources.  Here are a few websites that focus on travel-related items:  While ExOfficio & Magellans offer stylish options, you can certainly find great travel clothing from cheaper stores (i.e. Old Navy, Target, etc.).

While these tips may not prevent you from being identified as a tourist, it will keep your bag lighter and you safer.  Hope it helps!  Safe travels.  Do you have any travel fashion tips?  If so, please comment as I’m always looking for a fresh perspective!

Also check out my posts on Nikki’s Favorite Things: Fashion Accessories and Essentials for Stress-Free Travel.