Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

SOTM Tour: Month Ten of Twelve

52

Forrest Gump Bench

It’s almost over.

When Mario and I set off on the SOTM Tour, we planned on being away for a year, or maybe a year minus two weeks or so. Well, we have an official end date now: May 9.

On that day, we’ll board a flight from Malta to Birmingham, England, a little over eleven months since we flew out of the same airport en route to Paris.

It seems like forever ago.

I hit a wall this month. The #SouthUSA trip was busy, interesting, and so much fun — but as soon as we arrived in Washington, DC, I was exhausted and no longer wanted to do anything but sit at home.

Now that I think about it, it probably had something to do with going from this…

Gulf Coast

To this.

Snowy Columbia Heights

My apathy got worse as we traveled up the East Coast, and by the time I arrived in New York, I wasn’t even taking pictures anymore.

I’m counting on getting my mojo back when I fly to Germany next week. Until then, I’ll be lying low.

Lovelace Drugs

Destinations Visited

New Orleans and Vacherie, Louisiana

Ocean Springs and Biloxi, Mississippi

Foley, Alabama

Pensacola, Pensacola Beach, Seaside, Apalachicola, and Jacksonville, Florida

Jekyll Island and Savannah, Georgia

Charleston, South Carolina

Washington, DC

Baltimore, Maryland

Philadelphia and Havertown, Pennsylvania

New York, New York

Reading, Lynn, and Cambridge, Massachusetts

Seaside Florida

Favorite Destinations

Savannah. So incredibly romantic and magical and artistic and filled with history. Savannah is breathtaking, and it has earned a spot on my list of favorite cities.

Seaside. The destination that made me love Florida: perfect, immaculate, architecturally interesting, and a Stepford-esque environment of what a beach getaway should be.

New York. I may not have done much this time, but always, always enjoy my time in this crazy city. Even though I’ve never lived there, I really feel at home in New York.

White House White

Highlights

The #SouthUSA trip was incredible. I won’t rehash those moments — you can check them out here.

From DC through the Boston area, the highlights were spending time with family, many friends old and new, and a few adorable animals along the way.

Some of the travel highlights: seeing the White House under a rare blanket of snow, diving into the Smithsonian putting together a mini House of Cards tour in DC and Baltimore, getting to know the surprisingly artsy city of Baltimore, going to all the Rocky sites in Philadelphia (that was for Mario), and seeing Thank You For Being a Friend, a Golden Girls drag tribute show in New York.

At home, it’s been all about the wedding stuff. We’ve checked out our potential venue (nice), sampled some food from a possible caterer (yum), and I tried on some dresses (blech).

Oh, and this month we had the first celebrity sighting of the trip — John Waters at a bar in Baltimore! Mario took a moment to say hello to him, as he actually interviewed him for the BBC back in the day.

Someone Once Told Me Manila

Memorable SOTM Pic

In Manila, there are communities of people who live in the city’s cemeteries. Photographing these people and telling their stories was one of Mario’s biggest goals for this trip, and he achieved it, photographing several residents of Manila’s North Cemetery.

This woman, Arlene, shown here with her daughter, Axl, was told by her grandmother not to be in a hurry to marry. So how old was she when she actually did get married? Find out here.

Guacamole

Best Thing I Ate

I’ve talked about the charbroiled oysters of Biloxi before and I will in at least two more posts, so I’ll skip them for now and instead talk about the second-best item during this month.

La Superior, an excellent taqueria in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, has the best guacamole I’ve ever had. Seriously. That alone is reason to go. Their tacos are equally stupendous, especially the chorizo and lengua (beef tongue) varieties. Tacos cost $3 each; chips and guacamole cost $5.

Country Inn, Jacksonville

Best Place I Stayed

This month we stayed at Country Inns and Suites on the #SouthUSA trip and we stayed with friends and family for the rest of the month. Since I’m sure my friends won’t be letting out their rooms and couches anytime soon, and since I already mentioned the Country Inn in Savannah’s Historic District previous, I’ll talk about another of my favorites: the Country Inn in Jacksonville, Florida.

The absolute friendliest staff I have met in any hotel, ever. Everyone was full of smiles, greetings, and travel tips. This is the first hotel I’ve ever been where the maids introduced themselves to me and asked about our trip! We also got tips from the kind manager on neighborhoods to check out and local family businesses specializing in artisanal food, like the delicious Peterbrooke Chocolatier.

And while all the Country Inns have hot breakfasts included, each property had a few unique breakfast items. In Jacksonville, it was the berries, which I put on everything. The staff seriously were the sweetest people ever and they made Jacksonville a highlight.

Elfreth's Alley

Challenges

Living without heat or hot water for five days — I might expect that in Cambodia or Bulgaria. Of all places in the world, this happened to me in New York.

Whenever I visit New York, I stay with my sister Sarah and her boyfriend Zack in their Harlem apartment. Her gas was shut down following the deadly explosion in Harlem several weeks ago. The maintenance company checked for gas leaks; frighteningly, they found some in her building, and they fixed them.

But then they didn’t turn the heat back on for nearly three weeks.

Temperatures outside were below freezing for several of these days. Sarah and Zack bought a space heater to warm their place up and made creative meals with their George Foreman Grill and slow cooker, as the stove had no gas. We took bucket baths, heating up water in the microwave and then splashing it on ourselves in the bathtub as we scrubbed.

The building management said that their request to turn the heat on could take weeks for the maintenance company to implement. Meanwhile, the maintenance company said that the building management hadn’t submitted the complete paperwork.

And then ABC came calling. Sarah was featured on their news report!

Unsurprisingly, as soon as the building management heard that the media had been called, they managed to turn the heat back on. Not before several tenants in the building withheld their rent, though.

While it’s smart that the company checked the gas lines following the explosion, and possibly could have saved a few lives by doing so, the reason the leaks were there in the first place was due to negligence, the building inspector found. And there is no reason why a building full of people, including babies and shivering pets, should be without heat for several weeks in freezing temperatures in Manhattan.

I’m so glad this is over, for Sarah and Zack’s sake.

Oak Alley Plantation

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

One of my big goals of the #SouthUSA trip was to photograph the famous path leading to the mansion at Oak Alley Plantation, and I did just that. In fact, Mario and I immediately sprinted to the end of the alley following our tour, trying to get there before it was filled with crowds! It paid off.

This photo got 298 likes, making it my third most liked Instagram photo of all time.

Jacksonville

What I Read This Month

NOTHING. For the second month in a row. I’m not happy about it.

take a photo of yourself

Coming Up in Month Eleven

I’ll be here at home until the 13th, when I fly back to Europe!

My first stop? Leipzig, Germany! I’ll be appearing at Social Travel Summit, a new conference aimed to bring together travel industry leaders and top travel bloggers. I’ll be attending the summit as a delegate; Mario will be giving a talk on journalism.

After the conference, I’ll be heading to Wilhelmshaven to visit the Wadden Sea (a new UNESCO World Heritage Site for me!), then I’ll have a week to spare in Germany before my next flight. As tempted as I am to spend the full week in my beloved Berlin, I’m thinking that it might be nice to see somewhere new. Maybe Hamburg?

That flight on the 28th will take me to a place I truly love: Malta. Mario’s home country, the place we got engaged, and, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful and underrated countries in the world.

Along with Mario and several other bloggers, I’ll be taking part in the new Blog Island Malta campaign. Similarly to Blogville Emilia-Romagna, a few bloggers be living together in the same space (a gorgeous palazzo in the city of Valletta!) and exploring primarily on our own, but taking part in a few organized activities as well.

Month Eleven, the last full month of the trip, will conclude in Malta.

Any suggestions for Month Eleven? Let me know!

photo by: x1klima

Comments

52 Responses to “SOTM Tour: Month Ten of Twelve”
  1. Anna says:

    Wow, you covered a lot of cities during the last month – no wonder you needed to slow down a bit!

    You should definitely go to Hamburg! It has a quite different feel to it than Berlin- more of a typically Northern relaxed charme. You should check out the “Fischmarkt” (fish market) — but make sure to head there VERY early in the morning — and the Reeperbahn at night! As a red-light district, it has morphed into a cultural must-see sight (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reeperbahn). Plus: very close to the Reeperbahn the Beatles made their first steps towards the world stage, playing a number of gigs in Hamburg clubs (the Beatles museum there will tell you all about it, I really liked it!)

  2. Julie says:

    I have to ask-what on earth brought you to Havertown??? That was one “destination” I had never imagined seeing listed on a world traveler’s blog like yours 🙂 My parents live about 5 minutes from Havertown which is what piqued my interest.

    Glad you stopped in my hometown of Philly as well…your Elfred’s Alley photo is lovely.

  3. It’s hard to always feel inspired and have our mojo on high. I think the best thing to do is just ride whatever wave you’re experiencing and make the most of it! Still, that wintry shot is beautiful! And that is insane about your sister’s apartment. Actually terrifying…

  4. No one can blame you for needing to slow down after that month! Sometimes I find myself pushing to take enough pictures and do enough things, but really, blogging should be fun. If you’re not feeling like taking a million pictures or doing the tourist thing, there is no shame in slowing down! Besides, you still managed to take a memorable unique photo of one of the most over photographed buildings in DC! Love that snow-covered White House picture!

  5. It’s almost over! That guac looks yumm. I really miss Mexican food and can’t wait to get some next time I go back to the states. The Blog Malta thing sounds cool. I don’t know much about Malta so I’m excited to see what you write up!

  6. Clare says:

    Bremen is lovely and quite compact – it is about two hours by train from Hamburg. The Scnoor quarter and Bremen Town Hall (world heritage site) are the main drawcards but it is very.lovely and off the radar.

  7. Erika says:

    Wow, that’s crazy about the whole heating thing in NYC… no wonder you were kind of “over it” once you hit that part of the trip! I know that heat and running water and all of those things can be easily taken for granted, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an impact if you do experience a loss of them (temporary or otherwise).

    Anyway, I have really enjoyed hearing about your trip to the south! It definitely has me more intrigued now, especially with Seaside and I’ve been hearing lots about Savannah, so now that’s one to see, too!

    Excited about what’s coming up next month! 🙂

  8. Valerie says:

    What an eventful trip! Thanks for pointing out the Social Travel Summit — would love to make it out there someday. And if you’re ever in Williamsburg again, be sure to try St. Anselm for steak!

  9. LIz says:

    While you are home on the North Shore, you should definitely visit Salem. So many great restaurants have opened up recently including Turner’s and Opus.

  10. Karisa says:

    We are considering a stop to Malta in late November. I know this is not the ideal time of year to visit, but would you imagine it would still be enjoyable in winter?

  11. Winter can get you down (esp. when there’s no heat!), so it’s normal to feel more indoorsy. Maybe it’s time to curl up with a good book? 🙂 That photo at Oak Alley Plantation is gorgeous, by the way.

  12. Victoria says:

    What a great year you’ve had and we’ve been able to follow you every step of the way LOL! Now since I live in Berlin, I’m going to be biased and say “come home.” We’d love to have you! I’m so jealous of Leipzig right now since they have the privelage of actually meeting you guys and I really look forward to how the Social Travel Summit in Leipzig develops. Anything that promotes Germany in the bloggersphere is fantastic, in my book LOL!
    BTW, The Blog Island Malta gig sounds really cool and I can’t wait to read more. Have fun this month. 🙂

  13. Trish says:

    Hamburg is one of those cities that people seem to either love or hate. I loved our long weekend there even though it was in the middle of January and absolutely freezing. It definitely has its gritty side. We stopped in Bremen on the way back and Clare is right – it’s a nice, compact town. The town hall and the Roland statue in Bremen are also UNESCO sites!
    I live in the Frankfurt area and would love to meet up with you if you’re going to be anywhere in the area, and for us that includes anywhere within a 2-hour drive.

  14. Kemkem says:

    Since I am headed to Berlin in June, l look forward to your posts from Germany in general, and living in beautiful Malta, l am glad to hear of the Blog a Island Malta as well. I love this place and want others to discover it.

  15. Julika says:

    I love all your photos from the South, Kate! And I can’t believe your trip is almost over! It’s been so much fun following you around the world!
    Regarding your upcoming travel plans in Germany: I’m convinced you’d love Hamburg — they have so much art, amazing architecture, and live music there! It’s definitely one of the places one should see in Germany! And if you really happen to come to Lower Saxony, stop by pretty little Göttingen to meet me for coffee 🙂

  16. Nice photos Kate. My favorite one is the beach. I really can feel summer through it since it’s summer time in our country. I would love to swim in that beach in the future. 🙂

  17. J in Beijing says:

    I think it’s completely understandable to lose your inspiration a little bit when you have not only been travelling for a long time but have also gone from warm, sunny beaches to cold and snow. Blogging Malta sounds really interesting though. I’ve never been but most of my family have and they all liked it! At least you’ll be back in the sun!

  18. Katie says:

    Sounds like a good trip!

    Except the bit about having no heating / hot water in sub-zero temperatures. That sounds horrid. Glad your sister and her bf got it all sorted in the end.

    Your photos are beautiful though. I’m looking forward to hearing about the final leg of your trip! 🙂

  19. Laura says:

    I love that picture of the White House through the gate! And I’m completely addicted to House of Cards, so doing a little House of Cards tour in DC sounds fantastic.

  20. You certainly got to see quite a few places, especially the prettier towns that I have been to. I lived in Savannah for 2 years so it was nice to recognize the fountain in your photo again. But I agree, I think it has something to do with that beach shot cuz I felt the same way here in PA seeing that right away. Looking forward to hearing about your experience in Germany.

  21. No wonder you hit a wall, you’ve been doing so much!

    I have so much sympathy for your sister and everybody else in the building! About 15 years ago there was a massive explosion at a gas plant east of Melbourne, and it put the entire state of Victoria out of gas for about three weeks in the middle of winter. People had to get real creative and sales of things like electric heaters skyrocketed. I was a 16 year old checkout chick at the time and we were flat out with people buying microwavable food. Of course, only a small part of Victoria gets snow in winter here, so it wasn’t as bad as it was for your sister.

    And about Arlene – 18 sounds heartbreakingly young. But, despite that, when I hear her story I can only think of my ex sister-in-law, from the Lahu tribe in Northern Thailand. She got married at age 12 and had her first child at age 14. So compared with that, waiting until the age of 18 sounds like quite an achievement. 🙂

  22. Rebekah says:

    I was at Jekyll island when I was really young, we went on the off season for super cheap and I loved it… and thats from a girl who doesn’t like much south of Ohio. Good luck in Germany, I’ve got no real advice on that.

  23. Veronica says:

    This is a great post! What a fun adventure you’ve been on! I always feel at home in NYC too even though I’ve never lived there. It’s such an exciting city to be exploring. Also, I just had a port call in Malta, it is such a pretty little island!

  24. Irene says:

    I find your comment about Bulgaria insulting. Why would you expect by default something like that to happen there? Bulgaria is a European country with every modern amenity known to the Western world and this comment is not in its place. I wonder where you stayed when you were there? I was also very surprised to read that you traveled by train while in Bulgaria! I wouldn’t recommend it and I wouldn’t do it myself because the train system in Bulgaria is not well developed, is slow and not convenient at all. I would assume you chose to travel by train because it is ridiculously inexpensive.

    • Irene, I think you answered your own question. 🙂 It’s hard to picture “every modern amenity known to the Western world” when Bulgaria has far worse trains than anything I saw in Southeast Asia.

  25. janneke says:

    Love your blog, your story and the pictures. Makes me want to get on the road as well! I will follow you, love to read more about you!
    ciao! Janneke

  26. amelie88 says:

    My train goes by where that gas explosion occurs every day since I commute to and from NYC every day. My train went by that building about a half hour before the building exploded (and my coworker on the train narrowly missed it too). And luckily the commuter train that did go by the building just seconds before it exploded narrowly missed the explosion (the passengers definitely heard it though). So I am really, really glad they checked your sister’s building but that really sucks they didn’t turn the heat back on right away! Such is life in NYC.

  27. The mother and child shot from the Philippines is funny! The board said “don’t rush marriage”, it’s just teen pregnancy and marriage back home for lower class population is common. Population problem that roots more problem.

    Yet, despite of that, we Filipinos survived with our humour to make us smile beyond problems.

    BTW, I’m jealous of your travels.

  28. I bet it was nice to be back in the USA for that guacamole and other good western food after being in Asia though right? That’s the main thing I look forward to when visiting the US… FOOD! :-p

  29. I’m looking forward to you posting about your new digs in London – can’t wait to see what your neighbourhood has to offer!

  30. Louisa says:

    Yep, it’s really exhausting. We’re moving quite slowly and still burning out! No one prepares you for that when you set off. I think the UK winter took it’s toll on me too, especially those very short sunlight days. Skipping summer in Australia was a grave error!!!

  31. Danielle says:

    If you have a full week in Germany, I would recommend taking a couple of days to see Bamberg. I lived there for two years and miss it so much. The old town is a UNESCO Heritage site, and the beer is the best in Germany (yes, better than Munich!) and there is a special kind of beer – rauchbier – that tastes like bacon. It’s about 4 hours away from Berlin by ICE train.

  32. Jon says:

    Do you have any plans to travel india nepal etc where the real cultures and adventures are. Most (not all) travel bloggers rave and tell us how much they love Thailand Vietnam etc but these countries are now completely over done and have lost their appeal.

    A lot of respect for people who are open minded enough to India.

    • I wouldn’t say these places have lost their appeal — far from it — but I would say that if you’re trying to make it as a travel blogger, Southeast Asia has been done to death. I’d love to travel to India and Nepal.

  33. Nancy says:

    On your next East Coast USA trip you might want to make it to Maine. Summertime temps a beautiful 78 degrees, and sailing the Maine Coast on a windjammer would be the perfect ending to a hectic travel schedule. Your solo traveler’s would feel welcomed, many offer single cabins, and what better way to make instant friends the sharing the thrill of sailing a 100′ schooner together.

    Email if you are interested in learning more, or coming to Maine for a visit.
    Nancy

  34. MACH says:

    Great photo of the path to the mansion at the Oak Alley Plantation!

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