For a while I've been noticing the ABCs of Travel making their way around the blogosphere. Now that I finally have my own blog I wanted to make an ABC list! (I'm a little late to the party but hey, I still showed up). This was a fun exercise because it reminded me of so many things I've forgotten.
A: Age you went on your first international trip:
My first international trip was to the Turks and Caicos when I was six. I remember driving to a conch sell farm in our red rental car singing along to “I Can See Clearly Now the Rain is Gone.” Good memories.
B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where:
I loved the beers in Brussels as I prefer light wheat beers. My favorite was Tripel Karmeliet.
C: Cuisine (favourite):
Oh god. I could never pick just one as I have a huge food obsession. I love everything from pulled pork tacos and tabouleh to boudin noir and chocolate chip cookies. My favorite cuisine may be a two-way tie between Mexican and Japanese. With a margherita pizza and Chinese dumplings on the side.
Sobrassada- one of my favorite foods from when I studied in Mallorca, Spain. Feel free to smuggle this for me.
D: Destinations, favourite, least favourite and why:
I love Spain. I think I could spend the rest of my life traveling from hill town to hill town eating cured pork products (see above). I love the Arabic architecture in the south, the quirkiness and beauty of Barcelona and the quaint fishing villages on the coast of Galicia. It's always fun to practice my Spanish as well.
La Alhambra Palace in Grenada, Spain.
A city I wouldn't return to was Helsinki. It reminded me of a city like Toronto; clean, well-ordered but not exactly enthralling.
E: Event that made you say “wow”:
I'm not sure I go to many events but seeing a gypsy wedding on the beach in France was pretty cool.
F: Favourite mode of transportation:
Last summer I was in Sardinia with three Australians and we rented a Fiat Panda and drove it all over the island. It was so nice to be in a rental car after a summer of schlepping to and fro on crowded buses and planes!
G: Greatest feeling while traveling:
This summer I traveled alone for a few weeks to Belgium, Greece and Ireland, couchsurfing and hosteling on a very tight budget. One of the last days of my trip I was having tea and reflecting on all that had happened. All of a sudden I felt overwhelmingly grateful for all the kindness I had received while I was alone. It occurred to me in that moment how lucky I was and how good people are.
H: Hottest place you’ve ever traveled to:
The hottest place in recent memory is Corfu, Greece. When I was there this July it was 105 degrees of pure humidity. Just walking outside and hearing the screeching of the crickets (which screech louder the hotter it gets) made me feel like I was in a psychedelic nightmare. Not to mention I had a fever of 103 degrees and was in an apartment with no AC!
I: Incredible service that you’ve experienced and where:
One of the most memorable family vacations we ever took was to the Coral Beach Club in Bermuda. Because my little brother and I had our own cabana we lived it up with a room service breakfast out on the lawn every morning. Even though we were only 10 and 12 the staff was really friendly to us.
J: Journey that took the longest:
I've flown to Chile and Argentina many times and it takes about 16 hours. So much fun.
K: Keepsake from your travels:
I collect pottery from my travels (one of the worst souvenirs EVER for a backpacker, may I add). I have greda earthenware from Chile, beautiful blue and white ceramic bowls from Portugal and a shortbread pan from Scotland decorated with thistles. Cooking equipment is always a souvenir I look for as it's practical as well as beautiful.
Pottery shop in Porto, Portugal. Like a kid in a candy store.
L: Let-down sight, why and where:
Florence, Italy. I grew up listening to the stories of my mom's study abroad experience in Florence back in the 80s. She waxed poetic about the cranky Italian host mother, the incredible art museums and riding around on a Vespa with my dad. I was excited to go but upon arriving I felt like I was in Epcot. All the Italians I met said that they live outside of the city, and it felt like I was surrounded by tourists at all times.
M: Moment where you fell in love with travel:
My first trip abroad without my parents was a student immersion program in Ecuador when I was 15. While Ecuador was beautiful I ended up having a pretty difficult trip. Despite how hard the trip was I came back with a huge urge to go out and experience more.
Our first campsite on a four-day hike in the Andes. It turns out I'm the world's worst camper.
N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:
The most interesting hotel I ever stayed at was La Becasina on the Tigre river delta outside of Buenos Aires, Argentina. We had to walk on a plank walkway to get back to our personal bungalows, complete with stunning views of the forest. It felt like somewhere Indiana Jones might stay.
O: Obsession – what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?
I don't know if I have an obsession of taking pictures of any one particular thing but I do have a weird thing for islands. Small islands are kind of the same all over the world; the community is very tight-knit and they usually have strange island rituals and foods. Because of their isolation they usually escape being exceedingly globalized which makes them much more interesting. My favorites so far are the Isle of Skye in Scotland, the Aran islands in Ireland, Chiloe Island off the coast of Chile and Sardinia, Italy.
P: Passport stamps – how many and from where?
I have no idea! I would love more though.
Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where:
One year for my birthday while I was nannying in the south of France we drove down to Figueres, a town on the French-Spanish border. In order to avoid the long lines at the Dali museum we ended up at an antique doll museum that was mildly disturbing. It turns out we should have seen Dali.
This is basically the plot of Hostel.
R: Recommended sight, event or experience:
The street art in Valparaiso, Chile. Valpo is a grungy port city set upon hills that overlook the Pacific. It is one of my favorite cities to walk through as around every corner you find a new mural or work of street art.
S: Splurge – something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling:
I'll pay a lot (at least for my po' backpacking self) on good leather. I bought my favorite leather jacket four years ago in Florence. My favorite leather store is the Spanish shop is Bimba y Lola. They make beautiful leather bags and accessories at a reasonable price. (Embarrassing fact- I almost screamed when I found it in Paris).
T: Touristy thing you’ve done:
I have worked as an au pair in Paris for the past three summers and whenever friends visit they demand to see the Eiffel Tower. I have been on every level of that godforsaken tower on three different occasions and I hope to never see it again.
U: Unforgettable travel memory:
Taking a road trip across the Dingle Peninsula this summer with an Irish guy I had just met. The roads were so misty that it was hard to see five feet in front of the car. We ended up stopping to hike up to an ice-cold lake. The scenery was so green and misty and beautiful, it felt very Irish.
V: Visas, how many and for where?
I had a student visa when I studied in Buenos Aires back in 2009 and I'm in the process of getting my French student visa to work as an au pair for nine months. Note to foreign readers- it's hugely important to get an esta visa before entering the US! I had some French friends forget to fill it out and it was a huge pain.
W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?
Hm… my experience with wine is unfortunately very limited due to my budget. When I studied abroad in Argentina I remember drinking $1.50 “vino tinto” that tasted so strongly of rancid vinegar that we chased it with orange juice. But I do remember tasting a few nice wines on a wine tour in Argentina's famed wine region, Mendoza.
X: eXcellent view and from where?
The most beautiful view I've ever seen was in Gimmelwald, a small village in the Swiss alps. My friend and I left the hostel to have a picnic of baguette and cheese over-looking over the mountains. The view was embarrassingly scenic; little streams fell over boulders as they made their way down the mountain. I remembered thinking, “How have I lived on this earth for 17 years and never seen this?”
The view from our room at the Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald.
Y: Years spent traveling:
I've been traveling since I was 15 so seven years now! And I would guess I've spent a full year outside the U.S.
Z: Zealous sports fans and where?
I was in Chile when they qualified for the World Cup and everyone was going crazy. I remember looking out the window and hearing people screaming and cars honking… it was very exciting.