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There has been a meme being passed around lately — “A to Z travel” — and I’m delighted to have been tagged by my friend Amanda of A Dangerous Business.
Here you’ll find out about some of my travels, long before the days of the blog, that I’ve never talked about here before!
A: Age you went on your first international trip:
I believe my family and I went to Prince Edward Island, Canada, when I was just a baby. We went to Canada a few times when I was little.
First trip overseas, though, was when I was 16 and went to France with my fellow francophile classmates: we stayed with a host family in Normandy and explored the region.
B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where:
Don’t laugh at me, but I love a good Beerlao! It’s light and goes down like water.
C: Cuisine (favorite):
Italian, hands down. All kinds. I have favorite dishes in every region. My recent Delicious Emilia-Romagna blog trip, a food-themed trip in Italy’s best food region, was the ultimate foodgasm.
D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why:
What a hard question!
I’ll have to default to my favorite city of all time — Paris. And I’ll add two Southeast Asian runners-up: Koh Lanta, Thailand, and Sihanoukville, Cambodia.
Least favorite? I’ve never been a fan of Philadelphia. I’ve tried to like it so many times, but outside of Manayunk, the city just doesn’t appeal to me at all.
E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:
I witnessed a riot in Rome back in 2006. I was drinking absinthe in a bar in Campo dei Fiore with my glee club friends when explosions rang out on the piazza. There was a huge crowd gathered there.
All of a sudden, a million carabinieri (Italian military police) appeared out of nowhere with shields and began beating the people in the crowd. People were screaming. The bar locked us inside.
A few minutes later, most of it had died down, but it was still a very scary experience.
F: Favorite mode of transportation:
I love traveling by train — especially when you have the money to splurge on first class!
G: Greatest feeling while traveling:
Randomly deciding out of the blue, “Hey, I think I’m going to go here tomorrow,” and booking a ticket before you have a chance to think it over. Booking spur-of-the-moment travel always makes me giddy.
H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to:
San Antonio, Texas, this past August. I love heat and humidity, but this was too much, even for me! It’s a great city, but I recommend visiting anytime but summer.
I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where:
The Alam Sari in Bali took care of me when I was a mess after the shipwreck — they opened their doors to me, refused to take payment, and let me recover in a really nice place.
J: Journey that took the longest:
It took me 33 hours to get from Vang Vieng, Laos, to Hanoi, Vietnam by bus. During that time, all I had brought to eat was a roll of Oreos (DUMB idea!) and I almost got left behind at the border. Add in passengers who smoked on the bus and blasted Vietnamese pop music and it was almost beautifully horrific!
K: Keepsake from your travels:
I’m very sad to have left my Cambodian hippie pants behind in Turkey. They were the only keepsake I REALLY cared about. Beyond that, I don’t attach as much value to things anymore — it’s all about the pictures. Pictures are my souvenirs.
L: Let-down sight, why and where:
Midtown Manhattan. It’s a mass of gray. I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t like New York for so long — and then I discovered downtown, and Brooklyn, and so many different neighborhoods that are bright and colorful!
M: Moment where you fell in love with travel:
It had to be on that first trip to France with my classmates — just after we arrived at the airport and hopped on our bus to Rouen, we were squealing as we tried to spot the Eiffel Tower.
N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:
It’s hard to pick one as being “nicer” than all the others! A few candidates: The Palazzo Las Vegas; the Interalpen Hotel-Tyrol in Seefeld, Austria; the Kempinski Ishtar on the Dead Sea in Jordan, and, for sheer coolness, the Duomo Hotel in Rimini, Italy.
O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?:
Lately, I’ve gotten into food photography more. I need to get a DSLR and a good lens so I can really do these photos justice, like this shot of freshly caught crab with Kampot pepper in Kep, Cambodia.
P: Passport stamps, how many and from where?
Countless, in part because so many are faded due to being underwater for so long during the shipwreck. I’ve visited 26 countries so far if you include the United States.
Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where:
No contest: the white chocolate statue of Michael Jackson in Szentendre, Hungary. It’s the main reason why I went to Budapest!
R: Recommended sight, event or experience:
Go to Wadi Rum, Jordan, camp out overnight, and wake up to see the sunrise as you ride a camel across the desert. Colors like you’ve never seen before.
S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling:
I can tell you what I used to splurge on — blowout party weekends in Las Vegas. I will always treasure those memories, but they’re a part of the past now. I can’t wait to go back to Vegas, but I’ll never party there as hard as we used to.
These days, I splurge on adventures. Four of my biggest splurges in Vietnam were going to Snake Village, the Halong Bay cruise, designing custom clothing in Hoi An and renting a motorbike for a few days in Mui Ne. All very memorable adventures worth the splurge!
T: Touristy thing you’ve done:
Madame Tussaud’s in Las Vegas! Go with people who have a sense of humor! My girlfriends and I love going here for the sheer purpose of sexually harassing most of the statues.
We were grinding on Tiger Woods LONG before his scandal broke.
U: Unforgettable travel memory:
Songkran in Bangkok. A three-day water fight all over the city. NOBODY is safe! The best festival I have ever experienced and one that I recommend to all.
V: Visas, how many and for where?
Eleven in total: one student Schengen visa for Italy, two for Laos, two for Cambodia, one for Thailand, two for Vietnam (the first had a visa error), one for Indonesia, one for Jordan, and one for Turkey! And I’m getting the next one next week in New York City. Where? You’ll have to wait and see… 😉
Of course, the one that I REALLY want, the UK visa, still eludes me…
W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?
In Italy, the quality of the house wine is outstanding. Even better? A glass shouldn’t cost you more than a few Euros.
X: eXcellent view and from where?:
Paris from the bell towers of Notre-Dame. Sure, the Eiffel Tower has a great view — but you can’t see the Eiffel Tower when you’re in it! And the Sacre-Coeur has a great view, but it’s so far away that everything is tiny. Notre-Dame is in the center of the city and gives you a great view that includes the Eiffel Tower.
Y: Years spent traveling?:
27. A little over one year as a full-time traveler.
Z: Zealous sports fans and where?:
I have to return to my hometown for this one. BOSTON is America’s best sports city, and all four of our teams won championships in the past seven years. We also are part of the biggest sports rivalry in America (Red Sox/Yankees) and a few other good rivalries, too (“BEAT LA!” chants fill the air when the Lakers are in town). Even though I’m not much of a sports fan, I always support my Boston teams.
And now it’s time to pass it on! I tag:
- Ayngelina at Bacon is Magic
- Paul at My Postcard From
- Dylan at The Travelling Editor
- Stephanie at Twenty-Something Travel
- Diana at D Travels Round