Sunday, October 6, 2013

Touring Done Right-10 Tips from An Avid Traveler (Guest Blogger)

I've invited my first guest blogger to my site, Jennifer, of My Fabulous Code. She and I both love to travel and we were recently talking tours. Are they worth it? I asked her to share her wisdom on the subject.

To Tour or Not to Tour
I’m Jennifer Jane a fellow blogger at My Fabulous CODE ( and I’m also an avid traveler.  I wanted to lend my perspective on Kandice’s latest topic:  should you take a tour? Well first let’s define tour since there are so many different types of tours designed to serve a myriad of purposes. I will discuss the types of tours that are familiar to me.
Travel Group Tours
There are travel group tours where you book your entire trip around an agenda put together by the tour organizer. These travel groups are generally made up of several people who may or may not know each other. I think these are great if you’re traveling solo or internationally to a destination you’ve never visited, or have visited but still not totally familiar. On the flip side they can be limiting and not customized to the degree that it will suit everyone’s needs and desires. For this reason, travel groups don’t always suit me. I know I can be particular about where I sleep, where I eat, what I eat, where I go, what activities I participate in and what experiences I hope to gain. In addition, I may not want to be tethered to the same group of people for the duration of my vacation. I think getting out and meeting the locals is necessary for a fulfilling vacation (especially when traveling internationally). Funny enough, I consider myself a go-with-the-flow kind of girl, but I have to approve of the flow.
Activity Based Tours
Activity based excursions can include restaurant, shopping, clubbing, wine tasting and more! Now these I like! Because they are restricted to a window of time, you are only committing a portion of your day to the tour. In addition, it’s usually a native to the land who organizes the tour so you learn about the little hidden neighborhood gems you may have otherwise overlooked.  I really like these because they are specific to the experiences I want to have. For example, I probably would not select a tour aimed at fishing or hunting, but I would totally take a wine tasting tour. 
While on a recent vacation in Madrid, Spain, I participated in a fantastic tapas tour. For $65 each, my boyfriend and I along with four other tourists met up with our local tour guide, Ishmael, who prearranged for us a sampling of popular tapas dishes at five different restaurants in Madrid’s town square. It was one of our favorite experiences in Madrid.  Oh, I forgot to mention the tour also included wine at every stop!
SightSeeing Tours
This is a great way to learn the city you’re visiting. Neighborhood tours, architecture tours, museum and park tours are just a few that give you a real inside look into the history and evolution of a city. I prefer walking tours over bus tours because I like to get close and personal with my surroundings, after all that’s what I came for. I still take advantage of the bus tours because it covers a greater distance and so I get to see more of the city.     
Here are my rules for tours when I’m on vacation:
1.       I schedule tours the first couple days of my vacation so I can get a lay of the land and decide which places and activities I want to incorporate into my itinerary.
2.       I schedule tours early in the day so I can see everything in the day light. The exceptions to this rule would include dinner or clubbing tours.
3.       I confirm tour details the day before.
4.       I print off any tour or confirmation documentation.
5.       I always talk to the tour organizer to get recommendations on where to hang out, shop, eat, party, etc.
6.       I don’t select tours that take up more than half of my day.
7.       I have a backup plan in case I need to abort a tour gone awry.
8.       I always carry my own map for jotting down places I want to return to later.
9.       I tip the tour guide especially if they have given me a great experience and some recommendations to check out.
10.   Always leave with a great story to tell.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Chicago's State Street: Downtown's Sexy Main Street

State Street from above the L Stop

I remember going downtown during high school and feel scared and shaky walking down dark, garbage lined streets. In the 80's and 90's, downtown Chicago was downright depressing. It looked like the street Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall moved to in the movie "Coming To America".  Well....(Insert banal quote) "we've come a seriously long way, baby". State Street is no longer the ugly stepsister of Michigan Ave. You can find great shopping, decent food, and fun sight seeing walking down State St. in the heart of the Loop.

Getting To State Street.

The Red Line, Green Line, Brown, and Orange Line "L" trains all make stops on State Street. The State & Lake stop is by far the best stop to exit the train and begin an excursion down State St. into the Loop.

Shopping: For many years there wasn't any great stores on State Street. besides Marshall Fields and Carson's. In the late 90's and throughout many well recognized retailers have made their way to State Street. The great thing is that they have taken up residence within wonderfully historic building such as the few I've listed below.

The Controversial Macy's. The Marshall Field sign remains.

Target:  The retail giant moved into the gorgeous building that used to be home to Carson Pirie Scott on State Street. With great food offerings and a large selection of apparel handpicked for Loop dwellers, this Target has a great urban sophisticated vibe that makes it way cooler than the others.
Target- I love this building's design

I still love the old Marshall Field's Clock
Macy's vs. Marshall Field's: Many Chicagoan's still haven't gotten over Macy's purchasing our beloved Marshall Field's. Remember the petition? I, for one, signed it. But, the good thing is that the building's exterior and interior is still beautiful and ornate. Funny enough, there is actually still a group fighting to bring Marshall Field's back! I think we've lost guys....

Block Thirty Seven-Shops on State: You know how Michigan Ave has the Water Tower? Well, here's State Street's equivalent and it's pretty good. Block Thirty Seven has a list of impressive stores like Eileen Fisher, AkiraAnthropologie, Zara, and Sephora to name a few. Not bad, right? Plus, you can head to Magnolia Bakery for a cupcake while shopping.

Style aficionados won't be disappointed in here

Movies & Theatre

Gene Siskel Film Center: Film lovers may want to go and pay homage to a legendary film critic, Gene Siskel, by catching an international or independent film at the Gene Siskel Film Center

Broadway in Chicago-Book of Mormon, Wicked, and more all come for long runs at the Bank of America and Oriental Theaters.


Here's where I often find myself a little conflicted and in need of some help. I don't tend to find great dining in the heart of the Loop and definitely not on State Street.  You can certainly find great chain options like Potbelly's Chick-Fil-A, and Jamba Juice on this stretch of block. Or, you can head up to the Walnut Room on the top floor of Macy's for standard fare. So, I say head further north on State Street. or to Michigan Avenue.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Travel Souvenirs & Loved Ones: A Controversial View

I'm going to tell you something and you're not going to like it. I do not buy souvenirs when I'm on vacation. At least, I don't buy them for other people. There it is. I said it. Before you judge me please hear me out:

 In my everyday life I am a gift giver. I am a "for-no-good-reason" gift giver. If I see something that I think would make a friend, lover, or relative happy, then I will buy it for them immediately I have been told I am very good at giving gifts-"you give the best gifts" has been said to me. These gifts come unexpectedly and without reason. Although, I do love birthdays and holidays so I give during those times too. I come up with ideas and themes and all kinds of hoopla to make it fun and exciting. This is who I am; except on vacation.

Souvenirs are supposed to signify travel memories. When you give souvenirs it feels like you're sharing the place you visited.  But, does it really? Here's a hard truth: Souvenir buying can be draining. Trying to remember everyone is a chore. Making sure not to buy too much because of the baggage check-in that can skyrocket in fees that  rival your monthly student loan payment is an exercise in hard math. Oh, and the thing you really don't want to accept is that the gifted people will probably lose the key chain you bought, and fade the t-shirt in the dryer.  True story: my wonderful mother figure, Karolyn purchased and sent a ton of postcards from a beautiful locale that didn't reach folks until long after she had come home.

I believe the point of a vacation is to vacate your life. Leave all the routine and predictable and be completely and utterly (self) absorbed in the life of carefree traveler. You are experiencing room service, non-stop dining, and simply walking around without any true purpose except to enjoy doing whatever you want.

It's glorious..liberating..empowering! So, why ruin it by standing in a suffocating shop with an array of over-priced cotton t-shirts, refrigerator magnets, key chains, and hats to buy for people that you are giving things to most of your life anyway?I don't do it. I am giving you permission not to do it. If you are going on vacation and you come back empty handed, then blame it on me. Instead, spend the extra time and money on some new experience. A walking tour, a great meal, or buy yourself something great that will always make you think of your trip. Souvenirs aren't necessary because experiences are forever, and the best gift you can give to another is to encourage or help them to go visit where you've been and experience it for themselves.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Challenge Accepted....

I have really neglected blogging over the past few months and my biggest reason is that I felt like a fraud. Here I was writing a travel blog yet I wasn't going anywhere any time soon. I couldn't plan a really big trip because I made a promise to myself to pay off my major credit card debt once and for all.

This debt has been following me around (and growing) since I graduated from college. I kept coming up with a million justifications for either not paying it off or for adding to it:

"I do need this coat because it gets so cold here and it'd be nice to have more than three coats"
"Carrie Bradshaw never worried about money and she seemed happy....why should I?" 
"I can't afford to pay more money toward my credit card because I'll be miserable and have no money to enjoy myself"
"What's the point? I'll never get this paid off."

The truth is that I was ashamed and intimidated that I had so much to pay off. There was some magical thinking on my part that one day someone would hand me the money, or I would win the lottery-that I don't even play-and then pay it off. 

I went to Paris last October and I promised myself when I returned that I would tackle my credit card debt. Paris was everything I hoped for and beyond and I was grateful to have taken the trip of a lifetime. I was also hungry to do it again soon. So, I decided to stick to my guns and pay off the credit card. I shakily picked up the phone and called the credit card company and asked to have my payment doubled. I was nauseous thinking of this big change to my cash flow, but I wanted to stick to my goal to pay off the debt within three years. In the past nine months I have payed off 1/3 of the demonic debt.

Well now I have a new job and I have decided to use my increased income to pay more toward my debt in hopes that I will be debt free in two years. Paying off this crazy, burdensome debt will make me feel like I can take on the world, and then I'll travel the world.. That's the new promise I'm making to myself and I'm going to keep it.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Speedy Spa Getaway

I was taking some vacation days from work and I needed a quick getaway. I was feeling completely burned out from the 9 to 5, the capricious weather, and life in general.. I am one of those people that believe that sometimes you have to leave your domicile to have a real vacation. Staycations don't always cut it.

A picture from outside the hotel
We opted to take off to Kohler, WI to visit the Kohler Waters Spa in the middle of the week. After reviewing the hotel options on Trip Advisor  we chose the Inn on Woodlake. They had a great deal called the Red Carpet Treatment which included our hotel room, 20% off spa treatments for both of us, a free movie, amenities, and a $50 food credit for any of the local restaurants. Who could beat that?

The gorgeous pool
After getting settled we took the complimentary shuttle to the spa. Now, do you know about Kohler? I'm sure you do. They are famous for their plumbing products-toilets, tubs, faucets. Well, I guess they decided to take plumbing and make it sexy. Mission accomplished. The spa is amazing! It has several whirlpools including one on the rooftop; a sauna, steam room, and waterfall swimming pool. There are comfortable chairs and couches throughout the spa.  The locker rooms and bathrooms are stocked with comfy towels, complimentary sandals, toiletries (some of the best I've tried), and those amazing showers.

Both my friend and I chose the Avacado Wrap for our spa service. A sublime exfoliation, followed by a massage of heavy oils, a scalp and facial massage, and a cooling eye mask. Of course, I drifted in and out of consciousness during the whole treatment. After our treatments we stayed at the spa for another two and a half hours. Melody, my friend, ate about a pound of their almonds and yogurt covered raisins. I drank what seemed a pitcher of their water. It wasn't normal water, it was better.

Market on the resort property
Afterwards, we went to the market to gather up a few snacks just in case we didn't like the amenities for the movie. This was no ordinary market. I forgot that Wisconsin is famous for their beer and I know they had at least 100 different selections. More importantly (to me) they had a fantastic selection of chocolates in their bakery and you just don't see that every day. It was a beautiful market and I had to take a few pictures.

The next morning we took advantage of the complimentary continental breakfast before saying goodbye to the Kohler village. The trip was a worthwhile getaway to help lift my spirits and start the rest of my vacation.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Wanderlust In Small Doses

Twists and turns have been pulling me away from my blogging, although travel is never far from my mind. As I try to make plans and save for my next vacation, I find myself wishing that I'd been more adventurous while I was in college or even after college when I didn't have so many responsibilities to manage. How much fun it might have been to take off and explore Europe for weeks, months, or even years at a time. Now I have to wait for the few times a year when I can venture away from my desk, my home, my work, my real life to immerse myself in a completely different place, even if it is for just a few days.

Over the past couple of weeks I've asked myself what stopped me from taking off after college for places unknown. When I reflect on that time I can remember that I was more concerned (worried)  with creating a stable life for myself especially after having lived a precariously unpredictable one for so many years. The thought of wandering around aimlessly without a sense of where I would lay my hat (or purse) next did not appeal to me at all. All I could think about then was having my own place with my own set of keys and maybe a coffee maker. I craved stability, coziness, and peace at that time more than stamps on a passport. Also, I'm pretty sure that I was scared of being anymore uncomfortable than I'd already been in my life. Back then I was proud that I moved three hours from my home to attend college in a town surrounded by corn fields. On the way to school I actually cried when I saw a post office that was only the size of a small house.

Floating back to the present, I'm happy that I did what was best for myself at the time.  Now when I come home I get the feeling I had hoped for when I was younger- warmth, peace, safety-happy to be home. So, I guess for now I will continue to feel grateful for my short travels and make plans to tap into my wanderlust when I retire. God, please let me some point.

The place where I now sit and have my coffee

Monday, March 11, 2013

Travel Interrupted: What To Do?

I'm a bit heartbroken. I had hoped to take another exciting trip abroad, but real life squelched my plans. Traveling is so fun and reinvigorating for me that I truly considered ignoring my responsibilities in favor of my heart's desire: to go back to Europe for an extended visit. It took me a couple of weeks and some quiet reflection to accept that it wouldn't be best for my long-term goals. Oh, what are the goals?  To travel more in the future. Yep, it always come back to my travels.

To satisfy my wander lust this year I've decided to explore the many neighborhoods and events in Chicago. As a native of the Windy City, I tend to take its' virtues for granted and constantly dream of Some Place Else when I'm looking for excitement. It's kind of weird that I do that because this city is home to Lollapalooza, the Ravinia Festival, and to many Olympian level chefs and culinary delights (Hello, "Girl and The Goat"). What can I say? I'm not known for being the sharpest knife in the drawer. As an apology to the city I will begin my jaunts in the spring (I need to let the mean winter hawk retreat) to see what the word is on the streets and to tell you where to beat a path to when you're here.

Can't afford a dream trip this year either, or don't have the vacation time to leave for an extended period? Well, join me in exploring your own city starting in the Spring. Once I get started, I'll starting asking people to holler back about what they uncovered in their own hometown and we can build own own travel book (oh gosh, we could be rich)! 

I'm excited to challenge myself to get out around the city. If you live in Chicago and have a great recommendation for me, then post it in the comments section or shoot me an email at I'll check it out.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Los Angeles, CA: The (Touristy) Right Way To Go

Headed to Hollywood, baby

When I turned 30 many years ago (I'm kidding it was five years ago) I went on a trip to Los Angeles with four of my good friends. It was a dirty thirty trip even though nothing even remotely dirty happened. We only had a weekend to see the city and a major part of my reason for going was that there was a vintage expo being held in Santa Monica. If I have never mentioned this in previous posts I will tell you now that I love fashion so a trip for that purpose was a worthy trip indeed.

Now I notice that many travel sites will tell you to avoid certain "tourist traps" when visiting popular  destinations (check out this link for a briefing), but I don't always agree with that sentiment. In fact when I went to L.A. my friends and I proceeded to do some of the cheesiest things possible and had an incredibly fun time. Here's where we headed:

Hollywood Bouleveard
After the hotel it was straight to the legendary Hollywood Boulevard. Let me tell you that we got embarrassingly excited as soon as the sun started to go down. Remember the movie, "Pretty Woman" and the opening scene? Well, that's exactly how it looked and felt. I can't say for sure if we saw any pretty women, though there are some strange characters that inhabit the Boulevard. My friend, Erika, actually stopped to take a picture with Elmo. No, I do not know why Elmo was on Hollywood Boulevard and we weren't smart enough to ask.

Erika and the mysteriously present Elmo

Hollywood Wax Musuem
We giddly  handed over our money to go into the Hollywood Wax Museum that has been described as a "waste of money". Nope, not to me. I got a huge kick out of critiquing all of the statues and rating the celebrity likeness quotient. They didn't do Angelina Jolie justice in my opinion.
Kaniese with Samuel L.(waxed) Jackson

Ripley's Believe It Or Not
This was inevitable because I have always loved Ripley's since I was a kid. As soon as I saw it I couldn't resist popping in. I looked in some strange box and a woman was blinking up at me. Yowza.
Kim, plus a few pounds!

Frederick's of Hollywood
I don't know. I really do not know why we were so keen to shop at Frederick's of Hollywood on Hollywood Boulevard, but it really seemed like something we needed to do at the time. Period.
Celebrity Home Stalking/Sightings
Okay, say what you will, but this was totally worth it. We bought an over-priced map from a very gentlemanly sounding man (he charged more than the price on the map) and we gassed up the rental and headed to Beverly Hills and beyond. Let me say that Beverly Hills is a beautiful area full of hills, trees, and of course, gorgeous homes. Driving through it was a real treat and we spent hours looking for and at properties.
However, any celebrity worth their salt had a gate as high as the Berlin Wall. We saw nothing. Well, we did see Jennifer Lopez's cleaning lady heading into the house if that counts for anything. We also must have stumbled upon someone truly famous in a SUV because when they saw us driving towards them, they ducked under the steering wheel. My friend Melody said it was a woman. We drove for blocks trying to guess who it could have been:Jennifer Anniston? Drew Barrymore? Paris Hilton? It remains the mystery of the headless woman.
Side Trip: Santa Monica,CA
How I loved Santa Monica. I have never been very impressed with beach towns, but this one got under my skin.The Third Street Promenade is officially one of my favorite places in the U.S. The boutiques, shops, and sights are fantastic. The area has the feel of a small town with an upscale vibe.  Bonus: we found a diner that served some of the best breakfast I ever had, and I'm sorry I can't tell you the name of it. 

So, yes, in one weekend I tried to do as many touristy things as possible while in L.A. Am I ashamed? Not even a little bit. I had a great time. Sometimes it's just fun to go to all the places you've heard about and experience it for yourself. Does that make you a bad or unsophisticated traveler? Not at all. Forget the rules and do what feels right for you. If it makes a great memory, then it was a worthy trip in my book.

The Usual Suspects Taking Over Hollywood
(yours truly on the left with my necklace hanging weirdly over my breast)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Missing Paris? Here's A Cure

I told myself before I went to Paris that if I truly liked the city and the culture that I would learn to speak French when I returned home. The only problem is that I was a bit afraid because I took French in high school and the only thing I could remember from the whole experience, besides fruitless attempts at learning the grammar, is how to say hello and goodbye. I did some research and found out about the Alliance Francaise de Chicago, Chicago's French cultural institute.  I signed up to attend their open house on Wednesday to take advantage of a trial lesson in French. Oh, and the wine and cheese.

Little Singing Cutie Pies
The event opened with a small concert given by the students from Lycee Francais Chicago, a bilingual school that teaches k-12th grade. The kids were adorable and excited to be the center of attention. They did a fantastic rendition of "We Will Rock You" in French and English! 

After the concert, our French language class began. There were about  18 of us and we learned the art of introductions by practicing with each other, which was fun and a little nerve racking. I now know  how to properly introduce myself and a friend. This will come in handy for my next trip to Paris. I spent my last visit saying ,"Bonjour! Parlez-vous anglais?" 

After class while having wine and cheese I toured the center; beyond the language classes the center provides cooking demonstrations, cultural events, film screenings, and other opportunities to enjoy French culture. They also have an extensive library of  French film, books, and CDs that members can borrow. Bonus for Kandice: they have a cafe that meets monthly for learners of all levels to practice their skills. 

I definitely plan on attending more events at the center and signing up for classes sometime soon. If you are interested in joining or visiting an Alliance, they have centers all over the U.S. and abroad. Go to their website to learn  more.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

10 Things That I Loved About Paris

I  mentioned I went to Paris in October. Well, I loved it and I can't stop thinking about it. Today I tried to think of my favorite things from Paris, then I made a game to pick 10. I think these might be it, but this list barely scratches the surface.

  1. Pain au Chocolat (chocolate croissants) every morning 
  2. Chocolate so good that you need sit down just to eat it ( I love you,  Le Maison du Chocolat)
  3. Outdoor cafes on every corner
  4. Balconies on beautiful limestone buildings
  5. Cobblestone streets
  6. The fact that people really do say "oh la la"
  7. Leisurely dining
  8. Paris at night
  9. The cute clerk at my hotel
  10. La Seine 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Paris: Picture It Gorgeous

I went to Paris in October and it was everything I expected and beyond. It is truly a beautiful city. There are many things to love about Paris-the food, the language, the art, the sophistication-and I loved all those things; however, it was Paris's antique beauty and architecture that drew me in so deeply. Take a look at these pictures. None of these are typical tourist sites and still they're beautiful.

The street where my hotel was located. Paris is full of balconies

No clue where we were, but I loved the buildings.

I loved the trees lining this busy street and building full of patios. Patios are my weakness.

Strolling through Marais and just took  a snap of this gorgeous church.

A fun looking street in Marais.

After you take your eyes off my friend, Melody look at the beautiful street she's standing on!
Caught a side street glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. Amazing.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dreams of Paris-Possible Cure for Job Loss

My 35th birthday was approaching and I decided that the perfect way to spend it was in Paris, France. I had been falling more and more in love with the idea of Paris as I watched French films. I also talked to a few people who visited and I was so ready go for myself. I figured what better time to enjoy Paris than for my birthday. My first international trip! However, there was a major problem: I was unemployed. 
 I had been laid off from my teaching position since July 2011 and it was now December. I was jobless with bills to pay, but strangely nonchalant about being unemployed. The fact is that the job had become an emotional burden. So, instead of fear and depression I chose to be optimistic and almost irrationally certain that I would be fine.
Anyway, I put together a vision board and glued a picture of a suitcase and the words "Paris" on it. I also went to Costco and bought educational software to learn French. I told people that I was going to France; I started doing research on what to do, where to stay, and what to see while in Paris. I read, borrowed books at the library, and scoured the web.
I look back and I really think that my determination to go to Paris was a great motivator. The idea of taking a trip to Paris gave me something else to focus on besides finding work or being out of work.  Many times when something seemingly negative and frightening happens in life, we become consumed by it.  I've learned that it helps to visualize what we desire during these dark periods. By choosing to think not only of a job, but also of traveling to Paris-a dream trip- I think I avoided a negative spiral of obsessive worries about the future. 
I got a great job in March 2012. I paid for my trip in July 2012.  I turned 35 October 19th in Paris. 

Yours truly in Paris

Monday, January 14, 2013

Movies That Make You Want to Buy A Plane Ticket

A few of these might be debatable for you and I'm completely open to that. Share your thoughts with me, but don't deny me my rhapsodizing about a few of my favorite movies that make me want to book a vacation immediately.

Midnight In Paris

The opening is a sequence of shots of Paris streets and locales so lush that I immediately wished I was a train ride away. You can tell that Woody Allen loves Paris just by the way he conveys the city's easy beauty and nonchalant sophistication. It also doesn't hurt that this movie shut up the critics that thought Woody had finally capped out on great stories. Not at all. It's a real treat.

Under The Tuscan Sun

This movie sealed it for me. I'm going to Italy. There's nothing more to say.

Vickie Christina Barcelona

I'm not trying to show any bias to Woody Allen, but the man is very good at getting the best shots of a film's locale.Plus, this is a really good movie.

Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil

Whatever you think of this movie you have to admit that Savannah, Georgia's Southern charm is on full display. Maybe it's the movie, but it also seems to have a dark, eerie mystique, right? I need to make my way there to see.


I have to mention this one again as inspiration and please don't kill me if you're sick of hearing about it, but this is truly a great movie, and it captures Paris's beauty and spirit so well. Actress Audrey Tautou jumps off the screen. If you've never seen it, then please do so. Notice the fabulous use of color in the film which is pure genius.

Have any recommendations for me? Please leave a comment. I love a good movie especially if it will add to my list of places that I must visit.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Three Advantages of Solo Travel

I never considered traveling alone until I actually did it. I was so driven to visit New York that I took a leap of faith and went by myself. If you haven’t already taken a trip alone, then maybe if I tell you the three things I learned from my solo trip I can convince you.

You Might Get Special Treatment

During my solo trip to NYC, I think I received a few perks because of my solitary status. Well, and my ability to handle cold weather. A Garment District shopping tour that I purchased was refunded in full because everyone else cancelled because it was “too cold.” The tour company was wonderful and offered me my money back AND scheduled two private appointments for me with Linda Richards, a coat designer, and Elizabeth Gillette, an accessories designer known for her beautiful scarves. Everyone was so gracious and sweet to me. I felt like The Duchess with all the personal attention. 

Later I got a great seat on Broadway to see Mama Mia.  I just popped into the theater one day and the ticket agent asked me twice if I was alone and when I said yes, he said, “Oh, well, I can get you a good seat for little money.” And, that’s what he did. I sat smack dab in the center with a great view for only $60. I could see the cast members’ pores from my seat.  It’s easier to give special accommodations to one person rather than a few.
"My" theater on Broadway

It Gives You Freedom to Do What You Want

One evening I was trying to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art which unfortunately was closed, but I kept walking and somehow landed at the Museum of Arts and Design. I figured why not, so I went in. The exhibits were so creative, so imaginative that I couldn’t believe some of it was real. I actually saw a dress knitted out of money. I saw another sculpture made out of wire racks.  I don’t know if there was anyone in my life at the time that would have been as thrilled as I was at finding such an unexpected treat. The good thing is that it didn’t matter. I was free to explore.

 It Can Be a Revelation

I almost missed going to New York because my friends weren’t on board.  When the opportunity arose everything about it was ideal except that they didn’t want to go. The flight was affordable, the hotel was a steal, and I had the vacation time.  Yet without my friends, I started to second guess myself: "maybe it isn't that big of a deal to go to New York."  "Will New York really be fun alone?" But the more I reflected on it, eventually the truth emerged: I didn’t want to wait. I wanted to take advantage at that moment.  That trip was one of the best life experiences I’ve ever had.  While I was there I realized how much I relied on my friends for approval. That trip was the catalyst toward building my confidence and identity separate from my friends.  I began to need them less for validation, less for contentment, and less for acceptance.

Have you taken a trip alone? Tell me about it. Are you thinking of taking a solo trip, but on the fence? Talk to me about. Or, read this great article on traveling solo.  

Monday, December 31, 2012

New York Saga Pt. III : Sex and the City Tour

One of my favorite shows about friendship

On my second day in New York I headed out for the Sex and the City tour. We met at the Pulitzer Fountain across from The Plaza. Of course, I got lost on the walk there and ended up being late; luckily, the tour guide waited for me.  As expected the tour was packed with women with the exception of two men, who clearly had been dragged alone for the ride by their sweethearts. Right from the start the tour guide was feisty and hilarious-she actually cursed and hit the bus driver because of a malfunction-and kept everyone in stitches. We were supposed to watch clips from the actual show, but the  bus's VCR wasn’t working (hence, the mini beating the bus driver took). So, the tour guide ad libbed which was still entertaining.

A big part of what made the tour so enjoyable is that you actually see more of Manhattan in a matter of a few hours than one might accomplish in a few days. In doing this, the tour takes you to some of the key locations that were filmed in the show:

  1. Harry Winston Jewelers where Charlotte and Trey purchased her engagement ring.
  2. The Meatpacking District  location of Samantha’s apartment where she fought with some very noisy transsexual prostitutes
3. The famous Magnolia Bakery where Carrie and Miranda ate cupcakes and she divulged about her new crush, Aidan, “His name is Aidan. And I believe him to be very cute.” We were all given a
cupcake of our own to eat courtesy of the tour.
  4. To Carrie’s neighborhood where each person takes a picture on Carrie’s porch

  5. Shopping in Soho and Greenwich Village

  6. For a cocktail at Aidan’s Bar where I ordered a cosmopolitan. What else?

  7. The Pleasure Chest where Miranda took the girls to get their very first “Rabbit” (if you don’t know
        what I’m talking about, then quickly rent season 1). I will only tell you that I bought a coffee table  book that I absolutely l love.
Chilling on Carrie's Porch

Being on a tour bus with so many other fans of the show made it even more fun. We laughed at the tour guide;s impersonations, quizzed each other on episodes, and debated our favorite love interest for Carrie. The tour guide was very funny and extremely nice; she took great care to make me feel comfortable since I was alone.  Having the opportunity to actually experience some of the things like the cupcakes
and the stores and bars where the show filmed made the experience even more memorable. I would recommend that anyone who loves the show take this tour. 

If you’re going to New York, but don’t want to take this particular tour, then Zerve has other very interesting tours of New York that are worth checking out.