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, TS2: Arab Adventures Pt. 1 “Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Ride” (UAE)

Hello my lovely travelistas! ¬†Please join me for Part 1 of my 2 part “Arab Adventures” series! In this travelsode of Travel Unplugged, we are going to watch the sunrise as we soar over the desert outside Dubai in a hot air balloon!!!

I’ve had a bucket list for 6 years now and was finally able to check “riding in a hot air balloon” off! ¬†I booked the tour thru Balloon Adventures and IT. WAS. AWESOME! ¬†Seriously, this ranks up there as one of my all-time favorite activities!!! ¬†It would have been perfect if I had a glass of champagne…but I’ll do that next time (smile).

Looking for a fabulous way to start your day during a trip to Dubai? ¬†Consider doing a hot air balloon ride. ¬†You start the day SUPER EARLY. ¬†I mean, seriously…they pick you up between 3 and 4am. ¬†And you know the only folks out at the time are those making bad decisions ūüôā ¬†It’s about a 1.5 hour drive to the desert lift off location so you can take a quick nap enroute.

Once you arrive, you go thru a safety training then watch as they prep the balloon for the ride.  It goes by really fast so be sure to bring your camera and GoPro to capture the memories (they also will sell you a video of your ride).

Cost is approximately $270 per person for adults.  They do have discounted pricing available for kids (ages 5-12).  Price includes transportation to/from your hotel (or a central meeting point), flight certificate and cold refreshments.

Grab your e-goggles and let’s go!

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

Indian Visa Shenanigans

How did I start my day?¬† Well, thank you for asking.¬† I started it by going to the Indian Consulate here in Paris because they requested an “in-person interview” about my visa application.¬† It gave me the warm fuzzies when the travel agent told me that she’s never had this request before.¬† Yay me…always the trailblazer.

Anyway, I ask the travel agent if I need to make an appointment.¬† She tells me no, just show up sometime this week between 9:30 and noon.¬† I was like, “Are you sure you can arrive unannounced at the consulate office?”¬† TA, “Yes.”¬† So that is what I did.¬† And, e-family, what do you think happened?¬† Do you think this process went smoothly?¬† Spoiler Alert…it did not.

I arrive around 9:30am to beat the rush and catch folks in a good mood.¬† I had learned from my visit to the French Consulate in Washington, DC that some of the workers aren’t morning people but I decided to take my chances.¬† And crapped out.¬† I wasn’t rolling 7s or 11s, y’all.

However, I arrive and speak with a nice African gentleman working the gate.  As I explain the purpose for my visit, he waves me thru and I go up to the front desk.

Me:¬† Bonjour, Madame!¬† I’m here for an interview regarding my business visa to India.

Deepa (that is what I am naming her):  Why are you?

Me:¬† *thinking — “I just told you.”*¬† Says out loud, “I’m here for a visa interview.”

Deepa:  Do you have an appointment?

Me:  *looks pitiful* No, Madame.  I was told by my visa agent that I did not need one.

Deepa:  *unaffected by my pitiful look* Who told you that?

Me: *clearly Deepa isn’t processing my clear communications with her*¬† My travel agent.¬† She sent me an email stating this fact.

Deepa:¬† You can’t just show up at the office without an appointment!¬† Show me the email!

Me:  *woosah* *shows her the email*

Deepa:  Yes, it says clearly right here that you are supposed to show up for an interview.

Me: Wait…what?¬† Yes, it says I don’t need an appointment.

Deepa:  Exactly!  You did the right thing.

Me:  *Deepa is lost in the sauce at 9:30am*

So, Deepa then asks for my paperwork…which I don’t have since it is with THE INDIAN CONSULTATE OFFICE.¬† I inform her of this and she was like, “How do I know who you are?”¬† *Jesus take the wheel and my visa application*¬† I write down my name and passport number as that bit of advanced security seems to satisfy her.¬† Deepa then goes to speak with person in charge of my visa application.

You are probably thinking…it can’t get any worse, right?¬† WRONG.¬† See, these jokers are what Charlie Murphy likes to call “habitual line steppers.”¬† Which means they will cross the line each.and.every.time.

Setting the scene — Deepa walks me up some rickety steps, down the hall and to a large office where my piece of paper with my name and passport number are sitting.¬† I sit down in from of Mahdi (the name I’ve selected for this gentleman) and he continues to shuffle and look thru sheets of paper for 3 minutes.¬† I’m steadily looking at him like, “Sir?”¬† He finally acknowledges my presence and we have the following exchange.

Mahdi:  Why are you here?

Me:  *Take me to the King* Because I was told I needed to come in for an interview regarding my business visa to India.

Mahdi:  Hmmm. *picks up my passport*  Page 51 is blank.  Why?

Me:¬† *clueless*¬† Can I please see the passport to understand your reference? *he passes the passport and I see that it says to “see page 51” for endorsements.¬† I’ve never noticed this and nobody has EVER questioned me about it…and y’all know how much I use my passport.*¬† I don’t know what that is about.¬† I’ve never been asked about it.

Mahdi: *looking like, “gotcha!”* Where you come from?

Me:  Washington, DC but I live in Paris now.

Mahdi:  But this application says Washington.  There is no DC with it.  You do know that Washington is also a state?

Me: *wanting to get sassy in the mouth but holding my mule so I can get this doggone visa* I don’t know why the travel agent didn’t put DC on it.¬† I’m sure it was a simple oversight.¬† And, yes, I am aware that Washington is also a state.

Mahdi: *looking put upon like I asked him for a ride to the airport* Do you speak Hindi?

Me:¬† No, is that a requirement? *can’t help myself*

Mahdi:  Where you plan to go in India?

Me:  Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad

Madhi:  Hmm, what is this on your forehead in the picture on your French visa?

Me:¬† It’s a smudge.

Mahdi:  I thought you wore a dot on your forehead like some Indian ladies.  Have you been to India before?

Me:¬† No. *and at this point, it doesn’t look likely that I ever will.*

Mahdi:  Looks like you missed your flight. *They took so long processing my visa that I had to reschedule my trip for late February*

Me:¬† I know but it’s ok.

Mahdi:¬† What’s the capital of Washington?

Me:  *confused*  The capital of Washington?  In the United States?

Mahdi:  Yes

Me:  Seattle

Mahdi:  So you do know about the U.S.

Me: *taking out my phone to get Jesus on the main line*  Yes, sir.

Mahdi:  Okay, I will approve your visa.  Have a nice trip.

This is my life, y’all.¬† I promise you that I cannot make this stuff up.¬† India better be a freaking dream with everything I’ve had to go thru to get this visa ūüôā

 

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

The Life of Travel Be’s…

logoTravel is like a sensuous dance choreographed to the different rhythms of life. ¬†In order to make the most of your trip, keep in mind the 10 Travel Be’s:

IMG_0698

Riding an elephant has been on my bucket list for years! The ultimate experience is to interact with them in either Africa or India while they are in their element.

Be Inspired

Whether it be a beautiful beach photo on social media (i.e. Pinterest), a book or movie (i.e. Under the Tuscan Sun or Eat, Pray, Love), an inspirational travel quote, or a fabulous travel blog (*waves* “hi, y’all!”)…be inspired by things around you. ¬†It can be just the boost you need to encourage you to start planning your dream getaway.

Be Independent

Most people feel more comfortable traveling with at least 1 other person while others are a bit more adventurous and prefer to travel solo. ¬†Regardless of if you are with a group or on your own, be independent! ¬†This is your trip. ¬†Be selfish and make sure you see the places or do the things on your travel bucket list for that place. ¬†This doesn’t mean you stand up at breakfast and say “Alright, y’all…you are boring and I’m gonna have to jet and do my own thing because I will slit my wrists if I have to visit 1 more museum.”..then make a dramatic exit in a whirl of scarves and your phone cued up to “Flawless” by Beyonc√©. ¬†I mean, you can do it but maybe save those dramatics for after dinner when there is mood lighting, k? ¬†Work out an itinerary with your travel partner(s) and figure out what the “must see/do” places & experiences are. ¬†Then figure out if you all want to do the same things. ¬†It’s okay if you don’t. ¬†Just carve out time where you part ways and have your own independent adventure to live the greatest experience you can dream of. ¬†Trust me, you don’t want to be on a plane flying home while giving your boo the side-eye because you gave up visiting the Eiffel Tower so he could walk around WWII battlegrounds.

Don't let this be you when your friend suggests a day of watching ESPN at the hotel when you're in Rome.

Don’t let this be you when your friend suggests a day of watching ESPN at the hotel when you’re in Vegas.

Be Adventurous

Explore the world…that’s what it’s there for! ¬†Being an explorer allows you to be bolder than you are at home. ¬†Immerse yourself in the culture, go whitewater rafting, go hot air ballooning over an African desert…whatever it is, make sure you take your sense of adventure and push yourself (at least a little bit) outside of your boundaries. ¬†Think of at least 1 day of your trip as an “adventure” and plan things that will allow you to have a “wow” experience.

Sunrise hot air balloon ride over the desert of Dubai, UAE.

My view from the sunrise hot air balloon ride over the desert of Dubai, UAE.

Be Innovative

I love traditional tours but always mix in something unique for each trip. ¬†While it’s a great idea¬†to start each adventure by taking a Hop On/Hop Off bus tour to orient yourself with the city, make sure you book something fun & exciting too. ¬†It could be a spa getaway, an overnight camping trip in the desert, riding camels in the Sahara, sunrise hot air balloon ride, visiting the Harry Potter movie set…you name it. ¬†Museums are nice but make sure you give yourself time to do something that will allow you to truly experience the place you are visiting. ¬†If there is something you want to do and there is no formal organized “tour”, call up the place and ask them if you can have your own unique experience. ¬†Nine times out of 10, it will work and you will have an experience that most people will wish they had thought to do.

IMG_0276

Research + proper planning = a fabulous trip!

Be Prepared

(Including the “baby be’s”: be safe, be knowledgeable) ¬†Research the place you are visiting. ¬†My travel boo is Rick Steves. ¬†Love him! ¬†His books are THE BEST! ¬†You need a game plan before you arrive (unless you are the type that just figures it out as you go…if that is you then know that we will never travel together because my nerves can’t take you). ¬†This will help you maximize your time, avoid tourist traps and focus on enjoying your trip. ¬†You may also want to go to the State Department’s website (www.osac.gov) and check out the country report for the place you are visiting. ¬†It gives you great info on crime and other concerns (i.e. privacy, health, etc).

Rocking the abaya in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Rocking the abaya & hijab in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Be Culturally Aware

I love being an American and am an unapologetic feminist. ¬†Even with all the struggles we have here in the U.S. when it comes to race, crime, poverty, etc…it’s one of the greatest countries on Earth. ¬†But, sometimes I don’t like some of the people that¬†live here…case in point, the current state of affairs with black men being gunned down by police officers or vigilantes who suffer no repercussions from those illegal acts. ¬†Black lives matter. ¬†I am also very aware that I am afforded rights here that I wouldn’t be granted in some other places.

With that being said, be aware that each country has their own set of struggles & cultural sensitivities. ¬†Some are stronger than others. ¬†On a recent trip to Saudi Arabia, I made sure I wore traditional clothing [a black abaya (long cloak) and hijab (head scarf)] so that I would not run afoul of their religious laws nor make people feel uncomfortable. ¬†While it was a huge adjustment visiting a place where women don’t have as many rights as men, I tried to at least blend in physically since being submissive was a bit of a stretch for me (smile). When visiting other countries in the Middle East that don’t require¬†the abaya, I made sure I was covered (long skirts/pants, long-sleeved blouses, etc). The last thing you need is unwanted attention or to be hassled by the religious police. ¬†Yes, it may be hot but you are a visitor in their country. ¬†And who wants visitors that don’t respect the house rules?

Be Open-Minded

The beautiful thing about this world is that it’s made up of so many different kinds of people (which is both a good thing and a bad thing). ¬†What is normal to you may seem absurd to someone else. ¬†That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep an open mind. ¬†For example, if you plan a trip to Amsterdam and know you have very strong views about drugs & sex then make sure you avoid the Red Light District. ¬†Please don’t tour the Red Light District wrapped in a cloak of judginess¬†(is that a word? Spell-check says it isn’t but I kinda feel that it is…hmmm…too lazy to verify so I’m making an executive decision that it’s a word). ¬†Where was I? ¬†Oh, yeah, cloak of judginess…don’t walk the RLD¬†pointing fingers at the people entering the coffeeshops or having impromptu prayer sessions for the sex workers. ¬†Know yourself and if you don’t think you can handle certain situations, avoid them. ¬†While drugs & prostitution are stigmatized and mostly illegal in the U.S., they aren’t in the Netherlands. ¬†Sex workers have unions and get benefits. ¬†Yeah, it’s weird to those of us not raised in a culture where it’s accepted as a daily part of life but I live by the motto, “if you like it, I love it.” and keep it moving.

Be Positive

This may be the hardest one for those that aren’t naturally a “glass half full” person. ¬†It takes work. ¬†My trick is to take a couple of deep breaths, fuss about it on Facebook complete with a full dramatic recap of what happened and a Meme (probably Kevin Hart). ¬†Make the “disaster” funny. ¬†Once you can laugh, you can start to get perspective. Being angry doesn’t help you fix the situation. ¬†Anger is a thief as it steals your good sense & happiness. ¬†Little issues become huge issues. ¬†Don’t be that person who has a meltdown because you ran out of gum. ¬†And, honestly, if things have gone horribly wrong…they can only get better, right?

I actually posted this to Facebook when my flight to Hong Kong was cancelled and I was told I'd have to sleep at the small regional airport I was at in Japan. Sigh...

I actually posted this to Facebook when my flight to Hong Kong was cancelled and I was told I’d have to sleep at the small regional airport I was stranded at in Japan. Luckily, I was able to sweet talk my way into a hotel about 45 minutes away.

Be Patient

Things go wrong. ¬†Flights are delayed or cancelled, that fabulous hotel that you booked actually looks like the Motel 6, or you can’t find anyone who speaks English. ¬†Trust me when I say that everything will work out. ¬†It always does. ¬†A little patience takes you a long way and can keep your dream vacation from turning into your worst nightmare. ¬†With so many travel apps and international calling plans, it’s easier than ever to get help.

Morning meditation with a yogi

Morning meditation with a yogi in Bali.

Be Kind

A smile goes a long way. ¬†It’s universal and understood in any culture. ¬†You don’t need to know the local language (but it helps if you at least learn a few key phrases like “hello”, “please” and “thank you”). ¬†I’ve had more people open up and share wonderful experiences with me just by being genuine and offering a pleasant smile. ¬†Plus, a smile makes you beautiful and who doesn’t want that?

I hope this list of Travel Be’s helps you to plan and enjoy your next fabulous vacation. ¬†Are there any Travel Be’s that I missed? ¬†Let me know!