Monthly Archives: August 2011

My Life in Travel – An Interview With Myself

Standard

My flight last weekend had me reading  The Independent – Travel Section – I enjoyed reading the article so much, I thought I would make my own ‘My Life in Travel

First Holiday Memory?

Meeting Mickey Mouse at Disney Land, when I was 3. I remember standing on Main St, waiting for the parade. The Flying Dumbos my first ever ‘roller coaster’ and getting ice cream in Vegas with my parents.

Havana

Best Holiday?

My feelings have always been split between Cape Town and Havana. I’ve blogged before about how incredible my experiences were in both cities. I’ve made the connection that both Cape Town and Havana have similarities: extreme poverty and governments that either were, or still are troubled but beyond those issues, are two cities and countries that are beautiful. Cape Town has it’s beautiful coast, vineyards and such motivational history that empowers you to do great things and to think beyond your four walls – you can do anything you set your heart and mind to. Cuba’s people show such generosity, honesty and warmth. The decaying architecture has a charm that I don’t think I will ever find again and I cannot begin to recount the incredible evening I spent in the presence of members of the Buena Vista Social Club, sipping Havana Club daiquiris and enjoying a Cohiba.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

Britain has some beautiful scenery and wonderful sites and things to experience, but hand on heart, my favourite place in the UK, has to be London – my home town. London has so much culture. I discover something new every time I’m in the city. The architecture is so diverse – from 500 yearBig Ben old structures to incredible new buildings such as the Shard. London continues to impress me – and I feel that I love it more and more with each trip home that I make. One of my favourite things to do when I am in London is to enjoy the fashion. Although shopping is a lot more economical in the US, I don’t think you can beat the variety and selection of style and fashion that London has to offer. If you are thinking of a city holiday in Europe, London has to be on your list, from history and culture, to fashion and food – London has everything you need in a vacation.

Quick tip: Make sure you tour London by night – it’s incredible.

What have you learnt from your travels?

  1. Always budget for more than you think you will need
  2. If you can, don’t scrimp (point #1 helps with this) – it’s usually a once in a life time experience, and you don’t want to regret what you didn’t do, so you could save a few bucks.
  3. Remain respectful at all times. Always leave somewhere in the same or better condition that you found it in.
  4. Lastly – If the locals do it, it must be good – enjoy the local cuisine and embrace the culture that you have chosen to experience.

Ideal travelling companion?

Some travels call for your best girl friends (weekend shopping in NY or a girls trip to Vegas), others call for some Mother-Daughter or Parents-daughter time (I adore my time with my parents – especially, since we live so far apart) and for the rest of the time I can’t think of a better travel partner than my incredible fiancé. We always manage to laugh through the stressful times (delayed flights, dragging heavy suit cases across airports, parking lots and hotels and hairy flights) and enjoy the good times together. I cannot wait for our honeymoon together.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

Yes, yes and ehhhh not so much.

I love the beach and seeing the ocean, but I need more than just catching rays to make my vacation time count. I love experiencing new cultures and learning all that I can behind the local area or region.  However, saying that…if my time is limited – I’m all about lazing by the pool, enjoying the spa and taking in the views. Nothing is more calming and relaxing to me that hearing the waves crash against the beach, or surrounding myself with gorgeous scents and flowers, mountains and peaceful environments.

As far as the adrenalin junkie goes – I will leave that to others.

Hilton Los Cabos, Mexico

Greatest travel luxury?

Time! Since I have moved to the States, I have really learnt to appreciate my time off. It has become a luxury that I adore.

Holiday reading

I have good intentions when I go on holiday. I pack 2 or 3 books, but unless I have no other distractions the reading just doesn’t happen. I have now started to use the Kindle app on my iPad to avoid lugging around heavy hardbacks that I won’t actually read unless I am on the plane. I actually read a lot more at home than I do on holiday now.

Currently reading: The Thank You Economy’, by Gary Vaynerchuk

Where has seduced you?

Marbella, Spain. It’s stunning. Mountains, palm trees, ocean, fresh food and beauty every which way you look.

Better to travel or arrive?

Unless I am fortunate to fly first class, then it’s always better to arrive. I have so rarely been on a flight in the last year that has been on time, if it hasn’t been cancelled – so I’m all about ‘just get me there’.

Worst travel experience?

I think the worst travel I have ever experienced was as a teenager – travelling around Eastern Europe. As a student the history that I got to walk through and places I explored were fantastic and so crucial to my learnings, we went to Belgium, Luxembourg, Prague where we stayed in a haunted, converted prison, Berlin and on to Krakow to visit Auschwitz. An experience I can never forget.

What made it my worst experience was that we travelled all across Europe by coach – sometimes over night, cramped in to a coach with 30 other girls for hours upon hours upon hours. Definitely not the luxury standards I had become accustomed to. 😉

Best hotel? La Quinta Resort & Spa

I have been very lucky, at a young age, with my parents and as an adult now, with my work, to be able to stay in some incredible hotels in some wonderful locations. My all time favourite hotel is one that I discovered outside of my parents and work and I make it a goal to make sure I get there at least once a year, although I wish it was every weekend.

Which hotel, you ask…. my all time hotel destination of choice is La Quinta Resort & Club. The resort has everything I love about Spain and California rolled in to one. 5* luxury, Waldorf Astoria name tag and old world Spanish charm with golden era Hollywood history. Adobe inspired casitas, in-room fire places, small swimming pools dotted around the resort, on property restaurants & bars and an incredible spa.

I should probably insert here, that I work for Hilton Worldwide, yet my opinions about the resort are my own and I am not taking any kick backs for waxing lyrical about how heavenly I find the hotel. (same goes for my image of the Hilton Los Cabos – above)

Favourite drive?

Pacific Coast Highway, California. Nothing beats driving along the coast in California. It’s iconic and far from a letdown from Northern California and the 17 mile drive all the way down to San Diego.

Dream trip?

Good question – we are working on that right now as we discuss where to go on our Honeymoon. Koh Samui, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Greek Islands, Bora Bora, Maldives or Fiji – I’m dreaming big.

Favourite city?  Chicago

I have a passion for Los Angeles. I feel like it’s my home away from home. Scrap that – it’s my adopted home. I never feel more like I belong than when I am in LA. The ocean, the sushi, the wide, palm tree lined boulevards, full of world class people watching.

After LA which is a given, I do love Chicago. Having never been there until a few years ago, I have been making annual trips since 2008. A real city with a buzz about it that warrants a mention. My top hotel for style, views and rooftop dining and drinking is The Wit, A DoubleTree Hotel (another obligatory disclaimer that this is my personal opinion and I am a Hilton Worldwide employee). If you happen to be in the Windy City the rooftop is a must.  With my sushi obsession, I have to add in here that Sunda is incredible for sushi and cocktails. I hear that brunch there is good enough to write home about.

Where next?PCH - Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles, of course!

Advertisements

My Personal Ryder Cup – US vs Europe

Standard

Having spent 10 days back home in Europe I have things to be grateful for in both home land and my chosen land of residency so I thought I would do a quick comparison. If I was savvy enough or just less lazy I’d make it in to a snazzy little infographic but I’m not so I won’t.

Bottle of Diet Coke in Europe  1. Soda vs Fizzy drinks – of course they’re the same thing with a few vital differences: a) In most places in Europe a diet coke comes in a beautiful glass bottle – the real deal, no soda gun syrupy mess here. A sparkling iced bottle of….wait, scratch that…. A Luke warm bottle of soda served with, if you’re lucky 2 ice cubes and a slither of lemon. Which brings me to point b) If you dare to ask for more ice like I do, (you get the famous scene in Oliver Twist: The boy asked for MORE…the boy will be hung) you are lucky to get an extra cube. And c) In most places you will pay $4 approx for each bottle of diet coke. No free refills here. On yer bike son.

2. Air Conditioning – Stepping off the plane in the UK was a thing of beauty. having left Dallas in a haze of 30 something consecutive days above 100f the wall of crisp 60f was so refreshing that my thoughts of lame British summer’s washed away as I wrapped myself up in my pashmina and appreciated all that is London in August.  That was until we got to Spain. Gorgeous beautiful Spain. Picturesque. Stunning at every turn.

Amanhavis

Hotel Amanhavis, Benahavis

Beach - San Pedro, Marbella

San Pedro Beach, Marbella

It’s great until the summer sun has taken a toll for the day and you want to cool down….and nowhere has the AC cranked. I’m sure the Spaniards think that a drop in temperature from 90 outside to 85 inside is a relief from the heat but this AC spoilt brat needs 70. I then wondered, did the Spanish have it right. Is it better to dress like it’s summer and galavant in cheek hugging shorts and bikini tops and embrace the heat or live like we do in Texas with the air somewhere between a constant 60 – 70 and jaunt in to work in our trousers and long sleeve shirts pretending summer doesn’t exist until we step outside and sizzle in the heat of our long sleeves and wool trousers. I know one thing for sure: My bikini definitely won’t ring up the bill at the dry cleaners.

3. To tip or not to tip – In the UK I was always used to the 10% tip if service was excellent, in the US it’s 15% if the service was mediocre. If you’re in Spain 5% is the expected tip. The Mr. Was quite appalled to start with. But where Europe tips less – they make up for it in solid wages for employees and there is, of course the benefit of free healthcare, education, etc.

4. – It’s taboo to talk toilet but just this one small note in Europe vs US bathrooms/loos  America – what’s the deal with the toilet stall door having the gaps between the door and the door frame? I don’t like the idea of people poking their nose in my business, literally. UK – why no seat covers? Even my trip to the Harrods ‘luxury bathrooms’ complete with the “room” attendant had me frustrated with lack of people’s cleanliness. Even the room attendant was blaspheming under her breath about people’s obvious inexperience and inability to aim straight. A simple toilet seat cover would resolve most of these problems. I’m glad they don’t charge you £1 anymore.

5. My daily work out – when I lived in London I never needed the gym, why? Well when you work and spend time in the city you walk, skipping the tube and just walking for 30 mins instead of sitting in the traffic or crowding yourself in to the tube was actually a peasant experience at the end of the day. Living now in the States for 5 years I’ve lost that. Everywhere is a drive. Even if you could walk you still drive. Why would you walk when you have a car? Admittedly NY or Chicago is different to Texas or LA but I can’t walk anywhere in Texas to actually get somewhere. I’d be walking for hours. Not to mention walking in the heat? No thank you. I do miss city life. I enjoyed walking around London for a few days. You miss so much in the car. And who wants to miss out on things while you’re in your car cursing at the guy who just cut you off.

So who wins? Team USA (I hear chants of “we’re number one”) or Europe…. I’ll let you decide.

All In Hand – A Travelling Girl’s Guide To Hand Luggage

Standard

I travel about twice a month. Typically for business. My packing is like a well oiled machine. I tend to leave it to last minute but it’s so automated that I probably could do it in my sleep instead of leaving it to last minute and use the time to catch some zzz’s and get my bags packed at the same time.

After years of international travel I’ve whittled my carry-on luggage down from a weekender and an over sized bag filled to the brim down to a cute tote that I can take anywhere.

My personally crafted bag of tricks:

My personally crafted bag of tricks

1.  Navy blue satin style tote from Henri Bendel – full of pockets, great for storing all my little items that I need to have to hand

 2.  iPad 2 –16gb 3G  – Along with the usual things to do on an iPad (music, movies, games) on international flights there is no wifi so I love using Zite which is a custom magazine tailored to my interests. Although I need Internet access to browse the pages, I can save articles on my Zite account to read once I’m up in the air. (Instapaper is also another great app to save articles to read for later) I also poach books via my Kindle app from my Fiancé. He has over 200 books on his kindle and my app allows me to share and download any of his books which I can read offline.

3.  iPhone  – 16gb 3GS  – I use AT&T for my iPhone service so it’s my #1 go to while in Europe since I get roaming and a reliable back up for my camera/flip cam (not shown). While in the US I also carry my Blackberry, but to be honest, since it’s Verizon it’s pretty much a dead weight to me outside of the US.

4.  A Cobra inflight pack – all the gadgets I need to be able to charge my devices on the plane’s dc cigarette power outlets. This little pack runs around $50 (if you buy at an airport like I did but I’m sure they are cheaper on Amazon).

5.  Zicam – my equivalent of airborne. I know it doesn’t work the same but it definitely keeps me healthy when travelling on a flight. I read an article that said you can be affected by a passenger’s sneeze or cough up to 2 rows behind or in front. I don’t know how accurate that is but having Zicam with me when I feel a sore throat or tickly cough start up has never done me wrong.

 6.  Nivea Visage – cleansing wipes. I haven’t been able to find these in the US so stock up every time I’m back in the UK. I predominantly use these as a quick and easy make up remover when travelling but they’re also great at keeping my skin fresh and moisturised on a long haul flight. Since they’re not classed as liquid i can carry a whole packet and not worry about the size. Similar wipes in the US such as Nutrogena or Biore do equally as good a job. I just prefer the scent and fresh feeling of Nivea.

7.  Books – although I appreciate the ease of reading on my iPad I still like to carry an ‘old fashioned’ book with me. For the 30 mins at the start and end of a flight when electronics aren’t allowed and if/when my ipad juice runs out. I’m currently reading The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk. A light read for those of us in the marketing/customer service world.

8.  Belkin head phone splitters (approx $20) – my Fiancé and I occasionally like to watch films or TV together (on the iPad) inflight so this little gadget is a great update to having to share an ear bud with your co-passenger.

9.  Scent – after a 10 hour flight stuck on a plane just a simple freshen up and spritz of scent before arriving at your final destination does wonders for not feeling like a boho when you greet your family and friends in the arrivals lounge. (Gucci – Envy Perfume – delicious summer scent of grapes and citrus)

10.  Carmex – I’ve tried every chapstick from budget to luxury and nothing has repaired my chapped lips better than Carmex. (approx $2)

11.  Mini nail file – For OCD girls like me, if I can’t fix a nail snag immediately I’m likely to ruin my nails trying to fix it sans file. Not pretty.

 12.  Warmth Luxe socks. If you arent lucky enough to be in Business or First class then I recommend a warm pair of socks (especially if you are travelling in flip flops or open toed shoes). If you are by the exit rows it’s usually colder on the toes and these socks feel amazing. I also carry a pashmina with me (not shown) which doubles as a blanket. The snob in me can’t stand the smell or the possible hygiene issues I think up when it comes to multiple-use inflight blankets.

 13.  Nivea hand cream – I carry this travel size tin everywhere I go. One of the most important beauty regime’s you can stick to on a flight is moisturise, moisturise, moisturise.

 14.  Watch – long haul flights take a toll on your body and your mind. I try to trick my mind by adjusting my watch during the flight to my new time zone and get myself on that time zone as early as possible so when I land I can be on my feet and awake to make the most of the day ahead of me.

15.  Obviously passports are a must. I love using a passport cover a) because it protects my passport from wear and tear ( UK passport immigration make you order a new passport when it’s looking tatty so this will help save money and hassle from the immigration officers) and b) it makes it so much easier to find my passport when I know I’m looking for a bright blue cover.

His & Hers passport covers: His – Original Penguin – tan leather (approx $40). Hers – Henri Bendel cobalt blue faux snake skin (approx $60)

16. Water bottle – You can’t take a bottle of water through security but I definitely advise grabbing one at the concession stores before boarding. Airlines are getting better at making sure they hydrate passengers but it’s still not as good as it should be and to be honest if you are a water snob like me, the water is pretty nasty and the smell of those plastic cups can be off putting. I always try and travel with a bottle of Fiji ( I know, I know I’m  a snob)

My next wish list item is a pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones – I first was introduced to the wizardry of these delights during a long haul flight where I was upgraded to First Class and realised how wonderful they really are at blocking out all that in-flight noise that you don’t even notice until you are trying to listen to your music or watch a movie (or trying to block out those annoying passengers). So, they will be my next travel toy.

I tend to have to haul items for my Fiancé too so fortunately I have space for his gadgets as well. Although that doesn’t stop me hinting that a new bag wouldn’t go amiss.

All in all it’s a pretty manageable load to have in hand for in-flight entertainment and well-being.

Happy Travels