Preparing for any trip can be stressful enough, but here are my basic must-haves for any flight or travel.
Quality Luggageis a must! There is no greater annoyance than having luggage that does not travel well. I mean-really! it has one job… I’ve gone through my fair share of luggage but I’m most happy with my Delsey Helium Aero pieces in 25 and 29 inch sizes. In 2016, no person should have to travel with 2-wheeled luggage.
But I do have other options when traveling for much longer periods of time (4 or more weeks), or if I’ll be in one location for the duration of my trip and not transiting several locales. It is important to be mindful of the weight of your luggage in itself, since overweight luggage can put a damper on your trip before it has even begun, and the Delsey pieces I have are lightweight enough to help prevent this.
Packing Cubes I’ve only been using them for about a year but I find that they are a great way to keep things organized and keep you packed a bit more efficiently. Somehow it seems I actually pack less items by using these cubes. My first set was purchased for $29.99 from eBags and was the rectangular 4 piece set but after they arrived but before leaving for my trip I discovered that TJ Maxx also had an almost identical sent by Sharper Image for half the price at $14.99, so i got a second set of travel cubes.
A few of my friends have purchased these travel cubes that are more square from Amazon and love them as well. Many companies are now marketing travel/packing cubes, but ideally you’ll want to ensure you purchase a set that has a see-through mesh or compartment, otherwise you’ll end up having to open each cube in order to identify its contents.
A Travel Pillow Because being responsible for yet one more thing while traveling doesn’t seem worth it on short flights to me. So I typically only carry my travel pillow with me on flights over 4-5 hours. Flights longer than 5 hours for me, will most likely be international where frequently pillows and blankets are already supplied. Even when this is the case I make the most out of using both my personal travel pillow and the airline supplied pillow. Using one for my head and the other as a pesty armrest cushion.
There are very creative travel pillows on the market now that highlight and offer extras, so at this time I don’t have a particular recommendation. But I will say that for the typical horseshoe-shaped travel pillow you’ll see in any airport, be sure to purchase one that has a closure, fastener, snap, tie or some way to attach it to a bag, in order to make keeping up with it a no-brainer. Otherwise you’ll be buying travel pillows more often than neccessary.
Hopefully these three items will help make your next trip more enjoyable.
If you haven’t heard season 1 of the Serial podcast, the follow-up podcast Undisclosed: The State vs. Adnan Syed, or my previous post this post will not make much sense.
For the last several months now I’ve been mildly obsessed with the case surrounding the disappearance and murder of Hae Min Lee in Baltimore City/County in 1999. I pray that her family and Adnan’s gets real justice.
After I finished the Undisclosed podcast I discovered the Truth & Justice with Bob Ruff podcast. Somewhere around the middle of the season Bob rebranded the podcast from its original name of Serial Dynasty.
Episode 18 of the “Truth & Justice” Podcast was shocking! Halfway thru Bob drops a bombshell… that he had been communicating with Jay Wilds for weeks. My mouth dropped open and my heart skipped a beat!
Bob appealed to Jay by professing his belief that Jay was innocent in the murder case of Hae Min Lee. Bob disclosed that he was sure that Jay had essentially been puppeteered by the police and coerced into confessing any involvement in the case. Although Jay did not confirm Bob’s suspicions, surprisingly, he did not deny them either.
Ultimately, this just confirmed one of my theories in this case. That Jay really was not involved in the disappearance and ultimately the murder of Hae.
Bob mentioned that he actually felt bad for Jay. And I can understand Bob’s feelings. I think that once Jay got involved he quickly got in over his head and before he could realize what was happening he had potentially just screwed himself. And all for what may have seemed like a deal he couldn’t pass up, when it was all said and done, he really had just offered his friend or close associate up for something Jay had no actual knowledge of.
Let’s examine this…in my opinion, the cops probably had a small drug charge on Jay that they were using against him. Claiming to file charges and arrest him on possession charges if he didn’t give them information on who they suspected was involved which was Adnan.
The cops, like Bob hypothesized, likely told Jay that they knew Adnan was guilty of murdering Hae, and that Jay needed to cooperate and provide additional details. I’m convinced that Jay didn’t believe them at first, but they were probably very persuasive. Convinced at some point that the cops did actually have some real evidence of Adnan’s involvement in Hae’s murder, Jay likely began painting a picture of the last few weeks he had spent with Adnan.
The first thing that probably came out was that his girlfriend Stephanie’s birthday was January 13th. It was a significant date not just because it was the day that Hae went missing but because it was also Stephanie’s birthday. So that had to be part of the narrative, because clearly if Adnan was really close friends with Stephanie, Jay’s girlfriend, and had gotten her a birthday gift, and advised Jay to do the same. So I suspect the narrative that was heard at trial was built around the mall trip etc. and Stephanie’s birthday. But at this point Jay is already singing. Painting a picture of Adnan that the cops wanted and needed in order to frame the state’s case.
At some point during the many chats with the police and interrogations, Jay had to realize that his lies and claims had gotten him far deeper than he had ever imagined his Crimestoppers “anonymous tip” would get him. He just wanted to collect $2500 well $3000 when it was all said and done.
The thing is most people probably know that the tip you provide to Crimestoppers is only paid out if it results in the solving or conviction of the case. So unless you have some guilty knowledge or real awareness of the facts surrounding a case, it’s not a very lucrative decision.
Knowing what he knows now, I’m almost certain Jay would have made much different choices when it comes to his claims and involvement in this case altogether. I can probably bet that if he had the chance to do it all over again:
he would have kept his mouth shut and taken his chances with the ‘probably’ minor drug charge he was facing, rather than be intimidated by the Baltimore Police
send an associate to jail,
involve his best friend Jen in a crazy mess
and essentially be at the mercy of the prosecutor and charging officers for years and years to come.
Looking back now that Jay has moved away and has a wife and family of his own he wants to protect, who wouldn’t choose a few days or weeks in jail over a lifetime of harassment and accusatory claims against themselves.
It’s really a shame that Jay was so selfish in this, because it was certainly not worth sending an innocent man to jail. Who knows whether he knew it from the beginning, sometime after Adnan’s arrest, or if it wasn’t until he was at the trial that he became aware his actions had sent a close associate to jail for a crime he had not committed.
Can you imagine being Adnan…being arrested for the murder of your ex-girlfriend whom you loved and not knowing why you were being targeted as her murderer? And then learning that someone you thought was your friend had actually gone to the cops and accused you of the heinous act, and having absolutely no idea why this guy would make up this lie. And more so, how this huge misunderstanding wasn’t cleared up, then you end up being tried and convicted. I’d be dumbfounded and blaming myself for even being in the same social circle as someone who could do something like that.
The neighbor boy portion was also very interesting…I actually believe that what we’ve heard on Serial and Undisclosed about the personality and character traits of Neighbor boy is probably a combination of both Neighbor Boy and Jay Wilds.
My assessment was that Jay possessed more of the “blabbermouth” quality that was pinned on Neighbor boy than Neighbor Boy (NB) actually did. NB seemed like a guy that sorta wanted to be liked by people so he would just share interesting info and stories he had heard or experienced. But not in a ‘I’ve got a secret’ type of way, more of a social conversation… ‘Did you hear about …’ kind of way.
According to NB, Jay told him that Adnan had murdered Hae and showed him (Jay) Hae’s body in the trunk of a car. NB also stated to Bob Ruff that according to Jay, because Adnan was Jay’s weed supplier that Jay had expected to see a large amount of weed in the trunk when Adnan supposedly went to ‘pop the trunk’ but was surprised to see a dead body instead. Which to me is hardly believable that Adnan was Jay’s supplier.
The cast of characters in this story is just unbelievable. If Hollywood doesn’t take this real life drama and turn it into a movie, they’re losing out on a huge pay day! I don’t want to make light of a serious situation but I could come up with a great cast….maybe my next post?
While getting our tan on, we ran into Ed, a representative from Cirque de la Nuit, who explained the party packages they were offering. After what seemed like forever we decided on a package that included the following tickets:
Thursday: Sankeys Club and another club I can’t quite remember the name of.
Friday: Ibiza Rocks
Saturday: 12:30 Boat Party with all you can drink followed by a pool party from 4-12
One spot we went to played mostly techno and EDM, we did NOT have a great time there.
Another club we went to had the movie Alien vs. Predator showing in what can only be described as a movie theater room.
I think we spent the majority of the night watching that movie, or in my case, watching the insides of my eyelids, as I had absolutely no interest in the movie and was exhausted anyway. They woke me when it was over and we went home.
Friday night was when we agreed to do our “white night” dinner. We had walked by Le Bar one night on our way home from the club and thought it’d be a great spot for dinner. Unfortunately we hadn’t made reservations in advance but when we arrived looking as amazing as we did, they couldn’t turn us down and found us a nice table.
The service and our server was amazing and so was the food. It was a great evening.
The boat party was the best! We all had a great time (well minus my one friend who refused to take her motion sickness pills knowing we’d be on a boat). But one monkey didn’t stop our show. The drinks on board were made in batches and they had about 4 or 5 varieties in addition to beer. The drinks were all really good and I lost count early on of how many I had consumed.
The DJ was awesome he played a mixture of hip hop and dance and enough to satisfy the music taste of all onboard. and so were the other partiers on the boat. The only downside was that we were under the impression that the boat would dock at a small nearby island and not just in the middle of the sea. Many of the folks on the boat jumped off the boat into the sea for about 30 minutes or so before it was time to head back. I very slowly took the ladder down and mostly held onto the side of the boat. Because the way my swimming skills are set up…
After the boat party we went back to our AirBnB to shower and get dressed. We went to Swag (the only club on the island that plays Hip-Hop every night). We were originally told that Swag tickets were included in the package but apparently they weren’t. Luckily Greta from Cirque de La Nuit got us free tickets. And we had the BEST time at Swag. I really wished we had gone before our last night since they played the music we liked best.
Swag was awesome, the DJ was from NY and he played a great set and mix of hits (he played a lot of Philly artists which was even more amazing since we’re all from Philly) that made us not want to leave (Sat Aug 15). But we had to be at the airport by 6:30 the next morning and the combination of drinking all day and partying all night was a bit much for me at 30.
Packing to leave for the airport took me forever. I was tired, still intoxicated, sleepy and by the time we got home from Swag there wasn’t much time to do anything but pack. The flight back was a bit rough for me. And it never fails, I always have the most fun on the last night of all my trips. Lesson learned: pre-pack as much as possible if planning to go out the night before you leave. I was sad to leave Ibiza but all things come to an end.
The last leg of our EuroTrip ended in Ibiza, a small island off the coast of Spain. I was looking forward to this beach getaway the most. I love the beach, the lazy time just enjoying the sun, the breeze, and the water.
We took a local train from Amsterdam to the airport. Since I hadn’t gotten a chance to take a photo at the Amsterdam sign at the main train station, after we checked in and went thru airport security I left my carry-on bag with my friends and went outside the airport to capture a few flicks with the Amsterdam sign at the airport.
Of course our flight was delayed, but once we landed in Ibiza we took a cab to our AirBnb, grabbed food nearby, and walked around along the beach. We met a woman, Alesandra, who was about our age dancing in the street to a live band, her mother and grandmother sitting nearby encouraged me to dance with her, so I did. Afterwards she offered us free tickets to the club she worked at and told us to text her beforehand to confirm if she was working.
We woke up the next morning and walked a bit to find tickets to do excursions etc. we got the information we needed but didn’t book anything. We found a place nearby to get breakfast right on the beach complete with delicious mimosas. Let the fun begin!
After breakfast was the designated time for sun & sand. But before we could get our relaxation on we were intrigued by a speed boat pulling a group in a what can only really be described as a huge inflatable circular water raft. Instant fun and we signed up immediately!
The four of us dropped our belongings, grabbed the life vests and hopped into the raft holding on to ropes on either side of us. The ride was quite bumpy and a few of us fell off the inflatable benches onto the raft floor with the velocity of the boat making it pretty difficult to gain composure. I’m pretty sure a few of us sustained a bruise or two, but it was so worth it. It was unexpected fun, especially since the boat driver was deliberately maneuvering the raft to keep us from gaining composure and getting drenched in the process. I don’t remember the cost and unfortunately (or fortunately) it wasn’t captured on any camera. But here’s a shot of the boat and raft in the water.
We made it back to the beach where we rented an umbrella and chairs. A few of us went to a nearby shop to purchase some libations.
Luckily we happened to find a store with an ice bucket special that included a bottle of alcohol, ice, water, cups and juice. I did a bit of negotiating for the price since we wanted to swap out the type and brand of alcohol pre-designated for the deal but the liquor bucket ultimately made for a great beach trip.
After a quick photo shoot we went back to relaxing on the beach.
The story of a missing high school honor student who was later found dead and her recent ex-boyfriend who was charged with her murder in Maryland back in 1999 has been my latest obsession for the last few weeks. If by now, you have not heard about the SERIAL podcast that began in October of 2014, then you must be living in a cave.
I first learned about this podcast about a year ago when the Today Show did a segment on it as the last episode was preparing to be released for season 1. I have never really got into the whole “podcast” thing so I didn’t pay it too much attention then. But for whatever reason I recently heard the first episode of Serial’s season 1 and was immediately hooked. It is great for traveling so I binged through it quickly.
For quick background information on the case, Serial provides a “partially unbiased” look into what happened on the afternoon of January 13th 1999, and the events that followed. Essentially, a Korean-American female high school senior, Hae Min Lee, went missing on January 13 in 1999. Her body was found a few weeks later in the city of Baltimore and her recent Pakistani-American ex-boyfriend and classmate, Adnan Syed, was charged with her murder.
The thing that makes this case so interesting is the cast of characters involved in the resulting trial, but more than anything it is the lack of real evidence against Adnan that somehow got him convicted and the fact that he very much seems like the most unluckiest person alive.
After I finished listening to SERIAL, I had my own theory, which I’ll share in a later post, on the case but was still a bit hesitant to make a firm assertion as to who I thought was guilty/involved etc. So as many others have stated, Serial left me with more questions than I was comfortable with.
Luckily I immediately began listening to what I’ll call the sister podcast series entitled “Undisclosed: The State vs. Adnan Syed” which unlike SERIAL was very biased towards the innocence of Adnan. But after episode 10 of Undisclosed, which I had to listen to at least 4 times to understand what they were trying to explain, I was convinced that Adnan was the lead character in a series of very unfortunate events, and that he was wrongfully convicted.
For me this case is even more interesting because 10 years ago I lived in Baltimore county not too far from Woodlawn high school, the school the victim and her boyfriend attended, and I’m familiar with several of the locations mentioned in the case.
But for me this is/was a case of more than just guilt or innocence. It is a case of justice and our very flawed legal system and our even more flawed prison and reform system. Whether you believe Adnan is guilty or not, one thing that is certain is that his court case was a complete circus and undoubtedly should not have led to his conviction.
Because of my past career plans to complete law school and pursue a career in the legal system, this case and all of the hoopla surrounding it have made me strongly reconsider my decision against going to law school. I’m excited about a few things I have in the works that will allow me to explore an old and now refreshed passion of mine. And I’m also excited to see what will happen with this ongoing case, as recently a Baltimore City judge granted Adnan’s request for a post conviction hearing relief to reopen his case.
Once we arrived at our AirBnB in Amsterdam we dropped off our bags and darted out to get food nearby.
We noticed a bar near the Chinese restaurant where we got dinner, and stopped at the bar afterwards. They didn’t have much of anything that I prefer to drink and it was super crowded so we didn’t stay long and called it a night.
The following day we booked activities. Several of us picked different activities but we all agreed to do the Ice Bar, a guided tour on the canal, and the sex museum in the red light district.
I had a little time before activities so I got a manicure and pedicure. Although my friends wanted to see the Anne Frank house the line was way too long and would have cut into the other activities we had planned during our short stay.
One other friend and myself had purchased tickets for Body Worlds. I hadn’t gotten a chance to catch the exhibition several years ago when it was in both Philadelphia and the Washington DC area, so I was excited to catch it now.
The Body Worlds exhibition takes an interesting look into the magic of the human body. One of the exhibits compared an average weeks spread of food for countries/cultures around the world and there was no surprise that the American family was among the top calorie consumers and had the unhealthiest food choices.
There were also several sex exhibits that were interesting and a display of a child fetus through each month of gestation. I really enjoyed Body Worlds.
I wanted to rent a bike and do some low key exploring but nobody else was interested and there wasn’t much time to fit it in.
The canal tour was fun as well, our boat captain was funny and very attractive. And seeing the city from the canals was definite interesting, specifically learning about the architecture and design of most homes. Which explained why the steps in our AirBnB were so narrow and winding, which can be really dangerous. I will say it was a real team effort hauling our luggage up two levels of narrow and winding staircases.
The Ice Bar was an experience. It was fun and the drinks they have at their regular bar were really good.
After leaving the Ice Bar we headed to a nearby club, where we stayed and danced for almost an hour until I realized that I had left the hat (as seen in the photos above) I borrowed from my friend that day at the Ice Bar. As we were leaving to back to get the hat the bouncer tried to convince us to stay. We explained what happened and he offered us a bottle of champagne (well Prosecco) if we returned after retrieving the hat.
Unfortunately, the hat was nowhere to be found so we returned empty handed. But luckily the bouncer kept his word and the champagne was an added bonus to the night.
On our last night, we went to the sex museum and visited to the red light district. The museum was fun and enlightening. Learning about the sex industry in Amsterdam gave me a much different perspective on this business. I don’t plan to run out and join the industry but it is interesting to see how these “mostly women” are viewed by society and how the government has regulated or at least involved itself in this industry.
From what we were told, a good majority of the women who put themselves on display in the windows and elsewhere to advertise themselves for sex, are in long term committed relationships or married. And their careers are not hidden or shamed by their family or friends. They all look at it as just another job.
I think most people will agree that Americans are quite prudish and overly judgmental when it comes to sex and ones sexuality. So I’m sure many of us a bit surprised when we are taken out of our element to a freer more open culture. Europe in general is a very sexually open continent, with nude beaches and nude bath houses etc.
It’s reasons like this that make me appreciate the traveling that I get to experience.
Next stop on the tour was Amsterdam! But not after yet a little more travel drama…but this time we arrived at the train station in Paris to depart for Amsterdam. We probably got there way too early.
Unfortunately, we had to walk down to the second to the last Thalys train car (#18) for our seats only to learn that there was no more room for any of our luggage on our car. After being directed to the previous car (#17) to check for availability and being told the same.
We broke up our group of 4 into 2. Two of us ran all the way to the 5th train car, where we finally found availability for our massive luggage. We were not pleased with leaving out luggage so far out of sight and reach from the reserved seating we had in car #18, but what are you gonna do?
Returning to our seats was not a simple task as a train employee was refereeing an argument between a nice lady with kids who purchased a reserved seat and the arrogant man who was sitting in her seat and was determined not to move.
The train was full so finding an empty seat for him would probably not be easy. Getting past that drama took a few minutes. Finally we arrived at our reserved seating of 4 only to find a group of young guys playing cards and occupying them.
After making it clear that we had reserved those seats we were on our way to Amsterdam. I believe it was about a 3 hour ride.
Ironically, this happened to be the same train that 3 Americans would stop a gunman a mere 2 weeks later; only that train was going to Paris from Amsterdam. #Godisgood
This is an awesome idea I plan to adopt for my next birthday. And I love this Living out loud mantra! My birthday is next month so I don’t have much time to figure out my new mantra for the next year of my life. Additionally, I know I’ll be focusing on my 2016 vision board. Hopefully the two will go hand-in-hand. But I’m definitely looking forward to starting this new tradition. Do you have any similar birthday traditions that you live by? I’m curious. If not check out Jen’s tradition here.
We took a taxi from Charles de Gaulle airport to our AirBnB. Which was nice and in a great location. Check in went very smoothly and after changing clothes we were out the door to site see the Champs-Élysées, the Eiffel Tower etc.
We grabbed lunch and tried to get tickets for a dinner show, but the two shows we had interest in seeing were sold out for that night.
Although it was something we discussed doing weeks in advance we hadn’t actually purchased the tickets. (Lesson Learned: Book ahead, next time).
After site seeing, we returned to the apartment to figure out our next move. This took awhile but eventually found a place to have a really nice dinner. Santa Carne, an Argentinean steakhouse.
Our party of four had an amazing time at Santa Carne. 3 of us ordered the L’assiette du chef (Chef’s choice) which is essentially 3 different types of steak with potatoes and salad. The couple at the table next to us had gotten the same dish and it looked amazing. He also said he had ordered it medium well which is normally how I take my steak, but it was a bit too red for me so when I ordered mine I got it well done and was more than satisfied.
The fourth person in our party ordered the La Brochette (steak skewer) and she also was happy but for only 10 Euro more why not get the Chef’s choice? We also ordered a rose wine which was okay.
The service was amazing! Our Argentinean server, Ariel was a bit shy about speaking English to us and communication was a small challenge but he gladly grabbed a chef from the kitchen, Lara/Laura to interpret for us all and she was awesome as well. It was a great time and made my second time in Paris a thousand times better than my first trip to Paris.
We had a mini photo shoot while waiting outside to be seated for dinner…
I was wearing a silver and custom made center pearl ring on my left ring finger. A 28-year old Ariel grabbed my left hand and noted the ring. I quickly switched the ring to my middle finger to indicate that I was not indeed engaged or married, as he continued to flirt. We all had a laugh about that.
After dinner we stopped for me to get my favorite European treat, a crepe! It was a delicious Nutella and banana crepe.
Black people want wash cloths for their hotel rooms. No not a hand towel… no…not a body towel. A WASH CLOTH!
Washcloths are little square sized cloths about 5 inches by 5 inches. We typically like two per person. One for our face and one for the rest of our body.
We use them in conjunction with the soap or body wash. We don’t apply the soap directly on the skin, because someone else may be sharing that same bar of soap. (And that is nasty!) So we suds the cloth with soap and water and use the cloth to wash.
Also, the cloth acts as a light exfoliant, which is probably why you always compliment us on the smoothness of our skin. Now you’ve been informed why #blackdontcrack.
I’ve never been to another black persons home where they did not offer me a wash cloth and a full body towel. It is just how we roll. So please do not come back with every kind of towel BUT a wash cloth the next time we ask. I know you have them in your inventory. Because Susan gave me one two days ago. Now why the housekeeper took it and didn’t replace it with another washcloth, is a whole other post.