TU S1.2; TS 4: Sip & Cycle (Part 1) – Paris

Join me as we learn about & drink different wines. We will cycle thru Paris on a picnic-style bike with Cyclo Cafe and Tanisha Townsend of Girl Meets Glass! Part 2 will be up next week! Get your wine glass and come on ūüôā

Girl Meets Glass:
Bloghttp://www.girlmeetsglass.com
Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/GirlMeetsGlass/
Twitter — @girlmeetsglass
Tumblrhttp://girlmeetsglass.tumblr.com

Cyclo-Cafe:
Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/OntheCycloCafe/
Websitehttp://www.cyclo-cafe.fr

En Vrac (includes location & hours of operation):
Websitehttp://www.vinenvrac.fr/en/

S1.2, TS1 Parisian Catacombs

Hi my travelistas!¬† On today’s travelsode of Travel Unplugged, we are going 60 feet under street level to explore Les Catacombes (the ossuary where the bones of 6 million Parisians are housed).¬† Located at 1 avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy in the 14th Arrondissement.¬† They only allow 200 visitors at a time.¬† Due to the length of the tour (up to 1 hour) and the fact that you walk down 130 steps (and up 80 steps), it’s not recommended for those with limited mobility.

The Catacombs are so freaking awesome!¬† The bones are stacked up 5 feet high¬†in very cool arrangement of femurs, tibias and skulls.¬† I kept waiting for Sammy Terry to pop out and say, “Bonjour Madamoiselle, I’ve been waiting for you!”¬† Then I’d have screamed, died on site and had my bones mixed in with the others.

As I say in the video, what I can’t get with is that the bones are mixed up all willy nilly.¬† You know they didn’t try to figure out who is Celine and who is Francois.¬† And it would be my luck that if I was one of the dead, my bones would be mixed up with my arch nemesis (we’ll name her Becky since it starts with a “b”) and my ex (who we will call Leroix so it sounds French).¬† You know who ain’t trying to have¬†their femur mixed with Becky’s tibia and Leroix’s skull?¬† Me.¬† I have gone to Glory and need time to rest.¬† And I know they ain’t walking the golden streets of heaven…because if they are, then I’d need to go speak with Peter about their quality control process and review their paperwork to ensure that error is corrected and they are given tickets to go down South ūüôā¬† Ha!

If you visit Paris, be sure to check out The Catacombs in all of its macabre splendor!

Hours:
Daily from 10am to 8pm (last admission at 7pm), except Mondays and some holidays.

More information & to Purchase Tickets:

http://www.catacombes.paris.fr/

Travel Unplugged – Season 1.2 “The Remix” Trailer

Hi everybody!! ¬†It’s a new year with new goals and plenty of chances to make bad decisions! ¬†Ha! I want to welcome you to view the Travel Unplugged – Season 1.2 “The Remix” trailer. ¬†I had such big dreams and big plans last year for this travel show…but life happened and it kinda fell off the radar with my move to Paris.

So, I figured a reboot was in order and I’d relaunch the Travel Unplugged. ¬†Instead of doing Season 2 (since I only did 3 videos for season 1), I figured I’d do like most rappers/rapstresses and remix the first season. ¬†I even have a 17 week Winter Season Schedule. ¬†Now, the schedule is tentative as I may move some of the videos around depending on how lazy I am my mood.

This season, I will be publishing every Wednesday and will cover one of the following areas:  Destinations; Expat Experience; A Day in the Life of a Parisienne and Paris Highlights.  Check me out!

 

Tentative Winter Schedule

TU 1.2 schedule

An Expensive-Ass Letter

Hi all and Happy 2016!!! ¬†I told myself that THIS year, I was going to blog on a regular basis. Now, I lie to myself so take it for what it’s worth. Anyways, I have moved to the beautiful City of Lights and figured I’d start sharing my experience with you…my peeps…my e-family.

So, being offered a job transfer to Paris was so. freaking. exciting! Then, I was like, “wait, I don’t speak French.” ¬†But immediately was like, “Self, it doesn’t matter. ¬†You can pick it up!” LIES!

I took an immersion class in Washington, DC for 7 weeks before I moved…and know how to say my name and count. ¬†I can’t tell you how helpful that has been.

French Person:  Excuse me, would you like something to eat?

Me: ¬†Je m’appelle Nikki. ¬†Neuf.

French Person:  Um, hi Nikki.  What do you mean by the number 9?

Me:  *blank stare* Deux

French Person:  Wanders off and takes away sharp objects

It is getting better though.  I am now taking French lessons twice per week and while I do get frustrated at the fast pace, it helps to push me forward into learning the language so I can assimilate faster.

Which brings me to sharing my experience at the post office (or La Poste) as it’s called here. ¬†My sorority sister requested I send a letter to her child’s kindergarten class that basically says that I saw the gingerbread man here in Paris. ¬†I write and address the letter, figure out what I need to say at the post office to buy the correct number of stamps, and head forth to bask in a moment of triumph.

Sigh. ¬†As I get to the counter, I show my letter and ask how much I needed to pay in postage to mail the letter to the United States. ¬†I hear something that sounded like “set” which I took to mean 7 (which is “sept” in French). ¬†So, I buy 7 stamps and place ALL 7 ON THE LETTER.

Did you ever read the Harry Potter books? ¬†If not, there is a passage about Molly, Harry’s best friend’s mom, mailing him a letter thru the “Muggle Post” (non-magical letter mailing, which is basically what I am doing). ¬†Since they normally use owls to deliver letters, his wizarding family didn’t know how much postage to put on the letter. ¬†It looked like this…

il_fullxfull.254382229

What my letter looked like.

 

Which is exactly how my letter looked to travel from Paris to Indiana. ¬†When I put all 7 stamps on the letter, the address was just barely visible. ¬†I give it to the postman, he looks at me and was like, “Why are there so many stamps on this?” ¬†I was like, “Sir? ¬†What? ¬†You told me 7 stamps.” ¬†He looked at me and muttered something in French that sounded suspiciously like “bless her heart” which we all know in southern US means that person is “special.”

After removing 6 stamps, I was finally able to get it mailed. ¬†No telling where the gingerbread man is now…:)

 

 

Season 1, Travelsode 2 (The Blue Lagoon — Iceland)

The second travelsode of Travel Unplugged takes you to the beautiful Blue Lagoon! Located just outside Reykjav√≠k, this geothermal spa (which is one of National Geographic’s “25 Wonders of the World”) is a “must see” on your travel bucket list!

Links:

More info about the Blue Lagoon (including pricing/directions) – http://www.bluelagoon.com

Products — http://www.bluelagoon.com/shop/us/

Icelandair (stop over for up to 7 nights on your way to Europe) —  http://www.icelandair.us/flights/stopover/

Gate 1 Travel — http://www.gate1travel.com/scandinavia-travel/

Ice Ice Baby – Season 1, Travelsode 1 (XtraCold Ice Bar, Amsterdam)

Welcome to the season premiere of Travel Unplugged!!! ¬†In today’s travelsode, we will explore Amsterdam’s XtraCold Ice Bar¬†located at¬†Amstel 194-196,¬†1017 AG Amsterdam, Netherlands.

You can purchase your tickets online at the XtraCold Ice Bar’s website, Tours & Tickets, or on Viator. ¬†Going to Amsterdam to celebrate King’s Day? ¬†Check out my blog post about Queen’s Day (as it was known before King Willem was inaugurated). ¬†It is a blast!

Thanks for watching!

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 ūüôā

Save Me…Stockholm Marathon 2014

This poor fool here…sigh. Smiling like an idiot before reality sets in.

This poor fool here…sigh. Smiling like an idiot before reality sets in.

Back in December 2013, running a marathon seemed like such a great idea. Maybe I was hopped up on candy canes and Christmas cheer which impeded my ability to reason & make sound decisions? My sis had registered to run it and the Stockholm Marathon is billed as the most scenic marathon in Europe. So, why not? I really should’ve¬†stopped to examine¬†those reasons. Instead, I paid my money and started training. Then, got a new job and relocated from Atlanta to Washington, DC which meant I took a 2 month hiatus and just did mental training runs. Yeah, I said that. I claim a run even if it is just me taking a nap and dreaming about it. Which should tell you that I was not ready for this race. But, when has that stopped me? Remember when I wrote that letter from heaven after the Warrior Dash in 2011? Or when I got Jedi mind-tricked into doing Tough Mudder? Yeah, I never learn.

So, as with my other races, I am going to take you on the race with me…complete with pictures because you know I looked for ANY reason to take a break.

The race started at noon…which was kinda weird as most races start early in the morning. But, that worked for me because it meant I got to sleep in.

The only real prep I did was pack all the necessary running equipment...I guess "common sense" got left in DC.

The only real prep I did was pack all the necessary running equipment…I guess “common sense” got left in DC.

Let’s get started…

I am all limber and ready to go by the time the race starts. I feel good because I have on my favorite running outfit, compression socks and my running belt with electrolyte tabs & GU. Mentally, I’ve psyched myself up that this is just a sightseeing tour that I’m running instead of walking or biking. See? Sometimes you gotta lie to yourself to make it thru the day. Anyway, all is good and people are laughing and running with strides like Olympians.

After the first mile, I feel good. In fact, I think I’m a beast! My pace is awesome and the breeze is perfect. Then I remember I have 25.2 miles left to go and a piece of my soul dies. But, I psych myself up…I’m running a freaking marathon. Woohoo!!! (meanwhile people on the sidelines are looking at me like, “sucker.”)

Things are okay miles 2-5, then as I get to mile 6, I start to look for a scooter or Metro station. This can’t be my life. WHY AM I DOING THIS? GOD, DO YOU HEAR ME? Surely he can hear the sound of my sobs as I struggle.¬† Then, I look at my Garmin and notice that it is tracking a half mile off from the kilometer markers.¬† WTF?¬† I can’t run any extra steps.¬† So, I’m now running with this look on my face:

Only 8 kilometers?  Whatchu talkin' bout, Willis?  That should say 12!

Only 8 kilometers? Whatchu¬†talkin’ bout, Willis? That should say 12!

Sigh.¬† Mile 7 arrives and my feet aren’t happy…even the song by Pharell can’t perk them up.¬† They are clinically depressed.¬† But, I’m talking myself thru it and focusing on my playlist…then I see a hill.¬† Lord, Jesus…WHY?¬† I grit my teeth and power thru it by just trying to sprint up as fast as I can while thinking about all the cakes and pies I’m going to eat to celebrate.

I will say that the course was laid out well and they had djs and bands throughout.¬† It was weird hearing someone calling my name over a loudspeaker when¬†I stopped for a sports drink and telling me that I’m doing great…I guess the chip in my bib transmitted my name and country!¬† Very cool!¬† That got me feeling pretty good for the next 0.2 miles.¬† LOL

By mile 8, I was certain of 1 thing —

not ready

Seriously.¬† At this point, I’m mentally preparing my letter to send to Iyanla¬†Vanzant asking her to fix my life because I am apparently the CEO of Bad Decisions, LLC.

Once mile 9 comes around, there is a big crowd and I notice they are really enthusiastic!¬† I thought to myself, “How nice!!!¬† They are cheering me on.¬† I can do this!”¬† Then, just as I’m luxuriating in all the adulation & affections, I see a Kenyan sprint right past me with a police escort.¬† Wait…did he just lap me?¬† IS HE ALMOST TO THE FINISH LINE?¬† CAN I HOP ON THAT POLICE VAN?¬† So many questions.¬† But, alas, I realized that the applause wasn’t for me…the lady who got lapped.¬† It was for the winner.¬† But,¬†lets pretend like it’s still for me, mmkay?

By mile 10, I knew it was a wrap.  I made so many errors in thinking I could run this race.

  1. First, I didn’t finish training.¬† Having my longest training run as 8 miles did not prepare me for this.
  2. Second, I have¬†¬†ran in my regular training¬†sneakers — not the new¬†ones I bought.¬† My thought process was that the new ones¬†were just like my training shoes but would be “fresh”…well, they were fresh alright…fresh hell.¬† My feet felt like I had been running barefoot over crack pipes for 10 miles!
  3. Third, I don’t really like running.¬† I mean, I’ve done it for a long time and always thought I should do a marathon…but I don’t like running long distances.¬† I’m okay with topping out at a half marathon.¬† 13.1 miles is the perfect distance and it feels like 9,658,720,148,932,451 miles anyway…so I win.
  4. It’s okay to say “no”.¬†¬†I didn’t have to run this race when I knew I wasn’t ready.¬† And, it is okay that I wouldn’t get my money back.¬† Sometimes, you gotta know when to hold’em, and when to fold’em.

So, at mile 11, I ran right off the course and into the waiting arms of a beautiful park bench.¬† I swear I could not walk for at least 30 minutes and had to take my shoes off for relief.¬† I don’t feel bad at all for not finishing the race.¬† Why?¬† Because I am alive.¬† LOL.¬† I saw so many other people had the same idea so I did not feel like a loser.¬† In fact, when I had a debate with myself about finishing the second lap, my saner side was like —

Another mile?  Bye, Felecia!

Another mile? Bye, Felecia!

The good news is that my sis did finish the race and I am so super proud of her!!!¬† 26.2 miles is a major achievement!!!¬† Have you ever registered for a race and didn’t finish?¬† Please don’t tell me I’m the only one!!!

The Beautiful Blue Lagoon

20140514-231000.jpgAfter seeing a picture of the Blue Lagoon on Crack Boards (also known as Pinterest), I was obsessed with soaking in the thermal waters that were said to turn back the hands of time like Cher! ¬†It just so happened that Groupon was offering an $899 deal for a 3 day trip to Iceland (roundtrip airfare, accommodations and some tours included). ¬†I figured the deal was too good to pass up (side note: I’ll review the trip and using a Groupon to travel in a later post). My fabulous photographer friend, Sarah (who is responsible for the profile pictures on this blog), was kind enough to join me on this amazing adventure.

Snow blankets the ground around the thermal pool.

Snow blankets the ground around the thermal pool.

The Blue Lagoon was everything I had dreamed about!  And that is saying something considering we went to Iceland in January when it was COLD!

20140514-231148.jpgNestled outside Reykjavik (on the way to the airport), this famous thermal spa is all that it advertises and more.  There are shuttles between hotels in Reykjavik to/from the spa as well as from/to the airport.  We actually spent our last day at the Blue Lagoon.  After checking out of our hotel, we hauled our luggage to the spa.  At the entrance, there is a separate building where you can store your luggage for a minimal fee.  After receiving your claim ticket, you walk thru a paved path of cleared volcanic rock towards the actual spa.

Once you are at the main entrance, you can stand in line for a ticket (or pre-pay via the website or one of the tour vendors‚Ķthe line will be long so I highly suggest pre-paying so that you don’t waste precious time waiting to get in). ¬†There are different packages available and you can also rent¬†towels, robes and shoes. ¬†I brought my own towel and flip-flops but did rent a robe (some spa packages include robe & towel rental). Once you are checked in, you are given a wristband that acts as currency. ¬†If you want to purchase anything (products, food/drinks, spa treatments, etc.), just scan your wristband and it will be applied to your account (which is linked to a credit card you provide upon check in). ¬†So easy! 20140514-215542.jpg

You are then free to go to the locker rooms to change. ¬†The locker rooms are NICE! ¬†Very clean and easy to use. ¬†After changing into your swimsuit, you walk thru to the showers to rinse off then out to the thermal waters. ¬†It was our luck that on the morning we arrived, it started sleeting. ¬†It felt like someone was shooting a gun filled with icicles at me as we were walking outside¬†to the pool. ¬†But, once in the water, it felt like heaven!!! ¬†Some areas of the pool are warmer than others. ¬†The water has a sort of “milky” texture to it‚Ķmaybe because of the silica mud. ¬†It was so soothing! ¬†Word on the street was that the spa mud was supposed to take years off your face‚Ķso you know I was caking it on in an effort to look like a pre-teen by the time we left. ¬†Didn’t work. ¬†Sigh.

After relaxing in the water for a while, we decided to take a break and get a quick bite to eat. ¬†What better way to continue to unwind than with champagne and cheese? ¬†Living the dream, y’all ūüôā Once we were full, it was time to try the sauna before heading over to the private thermal pool for our in-water massage. ¬†For regular readers of my blog, y’all know I love to go to spas in each country I visit. ¬†I’d like to say it is because I am a connoisseur of fine spa experiences. ¬†But, honestly‚ĶI just like getting rubbed on‚Ķwhich is what got me in trouble in Bali. ¬†Ha!

20140514-231051.jpgAnyway, each time I visit a spa, my goal is to try a massage or treatment that I’ve never experienced before. ¬†The Blue Lagoon offered an in-water massage where you lay down on a floatation device and are covered with warm towels (for 30 or 60 minutes). ¬†The masseuse will use silica mud or oils to exfoliate/massage your body. ¬†In traditional massages, you always start face down on the table so they can start with your back. ¬†Here, you are always laying on your back but the masseuse (who is wearing a wetsuit) can go under water to massage your back and legs. ¬†It is so cool!!! ¬†Who doesn’t want to get a massage in warm water? ¬†Even when the sleet turned to snow while we were outside getting our massage, I didn’t care. ¬†It was like kisses from angels‚Ķthat water got to me y’all. ¬†I know I sound crazy but by the time they are done using magic to relax your muscles, you don’t want to leave the pool. ¬†I felt like I was floating on a cloud with not a worry in the world. ¬†Sigh. ¬†I miss the Blue Lagoon. 20140514-231130.jpg

ASCOLI PICENO…THE ITALIAN SOUL

After a somewhat longer hiatus than I planned, I am back!!!¬† First post of 2014 is a guest article written by Stefano Tulli¬†from Ascoli on the Road!¬† After reading about this amazing Italian city, I can’t wait to visit this summer to experience it first hand.¬† Enjoy!

1Ascoli Piceno is an amazing and still unknown destination in the very center of Italy…What? Haven’t you ever heard of it?? Follow us and we are sure you’ll get in love with our hometown..

Ok, I don’t know anything about Ascoli..why should I consider it as an option to my trip to Italy??

First of all.. Ascoli Piceno is the perfect essence of everything you are expecting from a trip to Italy.. Ascoli Piceno is a very ancient Italian city, older than Rome! Every corner of this town is art, history and culture..

2Are you looking for Italian history? Ascoli Piceno is divided into 6 districts, each one having a historical beauty.. Roman bridges, arches, amphitheatres, the typical Cardo and Decumano organization of the city map..

Moreover..reach Ascoli Piceno in July and August.. you will witness a great medieval experience, with an ancient joust called QUINTANA (different from Siena). The whole town celebrates the local medieval history with a series of historical events aimed at commemorating Saint Emidio, the local saint..

3Are you looking for Italian art and architecture? Ascoli¬†Piceno is called the travertine city..the 2 main squares are simply breathtaking. The Cathedral, the museums, the ancient houses, the old streets… Ascoli is a great city for art lovers and it‚Äôs also demonstrated by the development of a great architecture and design university which hosts many overseas and Erasmus students every year!

Do you want to taste great Italian food and wines?? Well‚Ķthe most famous local product are the ‚ÄúStuffed¬†Ascolana olives‚ÄĚ and we are sure you have heard of this great fried olive once in your life. Not yet? Trust us and trust every tourist who has tasted them..unforgettable! Probably you will also want to drink something. Apart from the great local wines, you will also taste the incredible local liqueur..the Anisetta Meletti¬†, which has a very delicate and special aroma coming from the quality of the Aniseed, carefully cultivated in certain areas around Ascoli¬†Piceno..

4

Are you looking for a relaxing experience, far away from tons of tourists that visit the most famous places? Well..Ascoli Piceno IS your destination.. Food, art,, history, culture, lifestyle..Hundreds of Americans, russians and northern Europeans had the chance to visit Ascoli and most of them never came back to their hometown..falling in love with our romantic, beautiful and elegant Ascoli Piceno

5‚ÄúOk.. Ascoli¬†Piceno could be an option..but how do I get there??”

Easier than you think.. Less than 3 hours from Rome and 1 from Ancona or Pescara Airports, Ascoli¬†can easily be reached by train with the Milan ‚Äď Lecce/ Bari train: stopping in the city of San Benedetto del Tronto, you can arrive in Ascoli¬†Piceno in less than 20 minutes..

“Well, seems like I can have a trip over Ascoli¬†Piceno..what else should I know and when is the best period?”

Again, the answer is easier than you think. Do you love summer time? Ascoli Piceno is 15 minutes from the Adriatic Sea..Do you love winter? Great mountains are only 30 minutes away from downtown. Are you an autumn lover? Wow.. excursions, walks and pictures during this period are amazing in our city. Do you want to reach Ascoli in spring? Ok, just listen to our final words..there’s nothing better than having a walk in a historical Italian city, taking great pictures and relax in an amazing square drinking your favourite cocktail waiting for the colours of the sunset illuminating the historical buildings of Ascoli Piceno..

Hope you will now be convinced…We are waiting for you!

Guest post¬†written by¬†Stefano Tulli — Ascoli On the Road

www.picenontheroad.com

ascoliontheroad@gmail.com