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Travel

Pura Vida

Abigail Diaz

A few years ago I planned to visit Costa Rica but I had to postpone my trip, which as you can imagine was a bummer. Then earlier this year when a few close friends traveled there I took it as a sign to revisit the idea. When I asked them how it went they all had the same response – “You have to go.” My follow-up question was, “is it safe for a woman to travel alone?” They responded with an emphatic, “yes!” I decided to book my flight then and there.

Earlier this year I set myself the goal of traveling somewhere internationally alone. Yes, it was a total Eat, Pray, Love moment, but I did it. Since this was my first solo journey and my birthday present to myself, I decided to work with Anywhere.com, an online travel agency, to plan my trip. I highly recommend Anywhere.com, if, like me, you’re tight on time and are looking for people who will accommodate your needs, schedule transportation, and find lodging for you in a pinch. I gave them less than a week to plan everything and they turned it around perfectly. It was one of the easiest processes I’ve experienced with regard to planning a trip. If you don’t mind spending a little extra, I recommend using them. They were always available and communicated with me via e-mail and text, which I preferred. 

Upon landing in Costa Rica, I traveled to Arenal, which is a three-hour drive from San Jose. The town is located at the base of a volcano and everywhere you look you can see the lush green jungle. Waking up the following morning, I was greeted by a volcano outside my window and tropical birds singing. Breakfast was included in my hotel stay and each morning involved an activity that was scheduled by Anywhere.com/costa-rica. I hiked in the jungle, zip lined, white water rafted, rappelled down waterfalls, and visited one of the most relaxing hot springs in Arenal, and went horseback riding.

Overall the experience of traveling alone was liberating and empowering, and doing so many activities on my vacation got me excited for the New Year. I was fortunate to meet great people on my trip and I’m not sure I would have had the chance to have met them if I were traveling with a partner or group.

I encourage everyone to visit Costa Rica and if you’re up for it, to travel alone.

xo -AD


Belize Babe

Abigail Diaz

When you think about the heat and humidity in Houston, it doesn’t compare to Belize. The small island is a hot box, only bearable because of the true island breeze that is blowing the entire day. I contemplated sleeping on the balcony just for the breeze. I opted out of staying in a hotel to stay in a hostel. Something I hadn’t done since I was 18 years old. The Sandbar Hostel had great reviews and for about $15 dollars a day, why not?

The county of Belize isn’t anything I expected, which made this trip even more exciting. The local language is English, which makes it the only country in the South Americas not speaking Spanish. The culture was far from what I expected, as well. The people are incredibly nice to the point that they will drive you to another business, just so you can get what you want. The mode of transportation is golf cart or bike. Me being the weirdo I am, I convinced my girlfriends to rent bikes with me. Imagine riding around the island with a cocktail in your hand or a midnight ride with the streets empty; it was awesome. I felt like a kid all over again, besides the booze part.

The food isn’t what you would expect, either. With a mash of Mexican, El Salvadorian, Honduran and Haitian you get a little bit of everything. And not to mention the seafood is some of the best I have had. While visiting the island you must drink a mint piña colada, (you heard me right, mint)! It is better than a traditional piña colada and this one additional herb just up’s the ante on why I was double fisting these babies.

Belize is a great place to also experience nature on another level. The country has the second largest barrier reef, which is a must when visiting. I am not a fan of snorkeling, but it is worth it.  If you are able to visit the mainland I would recommend experiencing the ATM.  Although I was not able to make time for it, the locals told me the next time I come to try it out.

And on that note, I can’t wait to come back soon. Overall Belize stole my heart, the island is still not tainted with tourists. There is still an old world and new world feel to this place. If you are a person who loves to stay on their resort and not explore the destination you are visiting, I don’t recommend Belize to you. This country is for the adventurer who appreciates places that embrace the modern times and appreciates keeping traditions alive.

Bonjour France

Abigail Diaz

When retuning from any major trip, most people have traveler’s remorse. Maybe they didn’t get to see all the things they had on their to-do list, they spent way more than what was planned or they just regret returning home. Whatever the case is, out of all the trips I have made, France may have been the one destination to evoke this emotion in me. This would mark my third time in Europe and my first to France. Flying out on Labor Day and enjoying eight days there (which I knew wouldn’t be enough time for me but I take what I can get), I was set and ready to explore the country I have been most curious about.  So was the trip worth every moment and cent I spent? Oh yes! Visiting Paris and traveling to the south of France was pure perfection.

Paris really is a magical place that has so much to offer. Visiting historical sites and museums with all the decadent deserts and shopping at your finger tips really does explain why so many people especially girls become obsessed with this city. I would highly recommend anyone who can travel outside of traditional touristy seasons to visit in September. Mornings were crips, afternoons were the perfect warmth suitable for walking miles and not breaking into a sweat and evenings were layer friendly. Out of all the things I did in Paris my favorite really was just walking around and exploring the city. There was not a time I didn’t feel safe and just admiring all the architecture really brings a perspective that we are not as fortunate to enjoy back home in Houston. And don’t hold back on the sweets and breads, I didn’t gain one pound and it was fabulous!

The city of Nice on the other hand was just as wonderful as Paris but on the polar opposite spectrum. Visiting the south of France is slower in pace, which is how I like to travel. We stayed in a Villa outside of Nice and it was pure perfection in the sense that I felt I was staying somewhere you would see in the movies. The owner of the villa Anne was a pure delight and was a fantastic guide with advice on to where to go and what to see. The day of our arrival we drove to Provence two hours away from Nice. We visited a truffle farm and this was something I have always wanted to do.  The following day we drove to Nice to explore the narrow and historical streets. And ended the trip visiting a beach overlooking the perfect shades of blue and green tones of the water.

As you can imagine the trip was a grand success and this will be the one destination that I will most likely visit every year. France made such an impression on me and I truly left in love with the country.

My top 15 to see, do and eat:

1.     Hotel Max This is the delightful boutique hotel we stayed at in Paris.              

2.     Lunch at Mandarian Oriental is worth every cent. Dont hold back on ordering everything! 

3.     Dinner at Cristal Room which also is an enormous showroom of Baccarat Crystal. 

4.     Deserts from Ladurée  I visited their chocolate store and highly recommend the rose flavor chocolates. And yes, the macaroons are amazing and ice cream too!

5.     Museum - https://www.centrepompidou.fr Although I am a lover of all art, my taste is a little more modern. This museum had many collections and the location is not as central as others. So if you are looking at visiting a museum without the crowds, this is a great option. 

6.     Colette Because, if you know anything about Paris and fashion, you will know about Colette.

7.     Foie Gras at Comptoir de la Gastronomie - All food revivalists will love this place. I highly recommend the ravioli foie gras, it was MAGNIFIQUE. 

8.     Bakeries – The French take their breads and pastries as serious business. So they are all LEGIT!

9.     Stay at La Forge d'Hauterives - Just a 30 min drive from the Nice airport, this villa is worth it. If you have ever wanted to stay in a place that looks like it came from a movie, I promise this is the place.  

10. Go Truffle hunting at Les Pastras - OMG! Education, fun and delicious. You will go home a truffle snob, in the best way possible. 

11. Best view of Nice, France is at Castle Hill 

12. Visit the beach in Antibies, France ( They have sand and not pebbles, like traditional French beaches tend to have.)

13. Dinner – Malabar in St-Paul-de-Vence, the view is awesome when the sun is going down.

14. Cocktails at two of my favorite places – http://lrdparis.com http://www.candelariaparis.com

15.  Walk everywhere and as much as you can! No joke, it is worth it. As you don’t want to miss anything!

NOLA

Abigail Diaz

When traveling the U.S., visiting New Orleans is hands down one of my favorite cities. The food, music, history and attitude of the city mix so well together. Although it is only a five-hour drive from Houston, visiting NOLA gives off an essence of being somewhere abroad. Everyone should visit the “Big Easy” and venture out to see all the historical gems and delicious bites this city has to offer. Yes this is a top destination for bachelor and bachelorettes with the very present intoxicated individuals, but if you look past that you will find a destination city like no other in North America.

Here are my favorites to see, eat and do in NOLA.

-       Visit The Pharmacy Museum- www.pharmacymuseum.org

-       Eat at Cochon - www.cochonrestaurant.com

-       Cocktails at Cane & Table - www.caneandtablenola.com

-       Breakfast at The Ruby Slipper - www.therubyslippercafe.net

-       Steam Boat Ride - www.steamboatnatchez.com

-       Dinner at Doris - www.dorismetropolitan.com

-       Brunch at Arnaud’s - www.arnaudsrestaurant.com

-       The Carousel Bar inside The Monteleone - www.hotelmonteleone.com

-       See all the floats at Mardis Gras World - www.mardigrasworld.com

-       Taste Frozen Irish Coffee at Erin Rose - www.erinrosebar.com

-       Drink Adult Milk Shakes at Stanley - www.stanleyrestaurant.com

-       Worth the wait at Willie Mae’s Fried Chicken - https://www.zagat.com/r/willie-maes-scotch-house-new-orleans/menu

-       Enjoy the sights on Bourbon Street

-       Listen to music at Jackson Square - www.experienceneworleans.com

-       4 am munchies at Café Du Monde - www.cafedumonde.com

Thailand Adventure

Abigail Diaz

Today marks a week of my return from Thailand.  Vacations are really not a time for relaxation for me, as I want to see and do as much as I can while visiting a new destination.  Relaxation happens on the weekends, although lately the weekends have been designated for work and projects. However, getting away to the furthest part of the earth that I have been was my goal on this trip.  

After my birthday in November, I had the travel itch. I had just booked my Mexico trip, but still wanted to book another vacation. I decided to treat myself to a trip I could only dream of; where the place was exotic, the cuisine was amazing and the beauty of the country was inspiring. After doing some research I decided on Thailand. The beaches are some of the best  in the world and the residents are known for their kindness. 

With minimal planning, I used the Audley Travel agency to get our trip squared away. They were great at assisting all the needs and wants, as well as keeping to the guidelines of what type of experience we were looking for. Overall the trip was amazing, memorable and affordable. I would recommend everyone to visit Thailand at least once in his or her lifetime. 

Here are the top 10 things to do while visiting Thailand. 

  1. Visit The Temples

2. Eat the Street food / the food is hands down better than the restaurant food. 

3. Visit a night market / Bangkok has so many they will cater to your every need.

4. Go on a bike tour in the country side.

5. Visit Patara Elephant Farm

6. Rent a private long tail boat for snorkeling & island hoping 

7. Have a Thai Massage 

  • They range from $8 - $100 and run for about 1 hour. I did a $10 and $30 message, both great in their own ways. 

8. Make reservation for tea at The Mandarin Oriental 

9. Book flights to visit other places within Thailand. We visited Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Krabi & Ko Lanta. 

Flight Tiphttp://www.skyscanner.net/airline/airline-thai-airways-tg.html

**This site allows you to compare all the Thai airline prices.**

10. Order a cup of coffee. Thailand has a strong coffee industry that many Westerners are not aware of, there are so many coffee houses to visit and they are all unique and tasty. 

On a final note, there are a few things to be aware of if you are a selective traveler. In March the villagers burn their crops, this then creates a thick smoke around certain parts of Thailand. Also, Thailand is not as modernized as some other countries. Bangkok can be a bit dirty to some and the views of women are still very traditional. Whenever visiting another country you must always be conscious of their culture and values. With that said, I still loved Thailand and would return sooner than later. 
Happy Travels!

 

Magnificent México

Abigail Diaz

Tomorrow will mark a week since I returned from a three-city tour of México. I had planned this trip for a few years, fantasizing where I would visit for some time and decided last November that I would finally book the trip and buy my flight tickets. The trip began in México City, then I visited Guadalajara and ended in Cabo San Lucas. It took seven days and four flights to complete this tour.

When I stated thinking about visiting México that included these three cities I envisioned it to be a trip with purpose . I had never visited Mexico City (D.F.) or Cabo so those were a must. And my boyfriend had never been to Guadalajara to see the agave fields and where tequila was made. All the cities were different and brought something special in their own way. I’ve created hyperlinks to a few of my favorite places so you can get a sense of how amazing they would be in person.

These are my top 15.

Mexico City D.F.

  • See the Tiffany Ceiling in

    • http://www.granhoteldelaciudaddemexico.com.mx/default-en.html

  • Tour the Caterdral Metropolitana

    • http://www.catedralmetropolitanademexico.mx

  • Visit Lilit and Jules Basement Cocktail Bars

  • Climb to the top of Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan

  • Museo Nacional De Arte ( National Museum of Art)

    • http://www.munal.com.mx

  • Eat at Café de Tacuba

    • http://www.cafedetacuba.com.mx/en/

  • Buy bread from Pasteleria Ideal

    • http://pasteleriaideal.com.mx

Guadalajara

  • Tour a Tequila Distillery ( Casa Herradura)

    • http://www.herradura.com/

  • Visit Tlaquepaque

    • http://www.tlaquepaque-centro.com

  • Eat Mexican street food

  • Make reservation to Allium: Cocina de Huerto

    • http://www.allium.com.mx

Cabo San Lucas

  • Boat Ride around ‘Lands End” Arco de Cabo and request to stop at Lovers Beach

  • Make Reservations at Sunset Da Mona Lisa during the sunset hour

    • https://www.sunsetmonalisa.com/home

  • Eat dinner at Los Tres Gallos

    • http://lostresgallos.com

  • Breakfast at Mama Royal Café or Lolita’s Restaurant

I will say each city will cater to each individuals wants and needs while on vacation. If you seek history and something to do every hour, D.F. is the place for you. Meeting right in the middle with history and an easier going lifestyle would be Guadalajara and rounding out for the tourist junkie who loves to relax and feel the safety of the States, Cabo is the place. Each brought its own flair, but overall Guadalajara provided culture, history, amazing food and energy coming as the front runner for the city I enjoyed most visiting.

Guadalajara is progressive enough that you still could get around with limited Spanish, but not feel as commercial as Cabo. The culinary scene is definitely elevating, but still keeping core to the roots of their culture. I will absolutely visit D.F. again to dissect the city with more time and planning. Cabo was gorgeous, but the city is over advertised which cheapens it in my opinion and the authenticity of México was lost. Overall the trip was a success and the growing admiration for México over all grows, can not wait until next time.


Why Travel?

Abigail Diaz

The adventure of seeing a new place and experiencing something you can’t at home is the whole reason for traveling. Getting us out of our element of the day to day and allowing to be. Of course there are always exceptions; work travel, going to see a loved one who may have fallen ill or passed etc.

But, leaving those situations behind, traveling is a very personal action. Growing up, my family never went on vacation, as it was too expensive. However, I couldn’t wait to go to summer church camp. Those four days provided me with adventure, personal time, socializing and exploring. As I got older I would get the chance to go on small missionary trips across to Mexico with my church. Again, the same thrill of being somewhere else from home got me enthusiastic.

The first time I would get the chance to travel abroad would be at the age of eighteen. I remember hearing my youth pastor talking about a mission’s trip to Amsterdam and I was sold, I could care less if I had to clean toilets, I wanted to go. Since we couldn’t afford to send me, I hustled to pay for that trip. At the time I was working at a coffee shop, but I need more income. So I solicited my services for cleaning homes. For months, I would leave from school to cleaning a church members home. The whole experience was humbling and rewarding. At last, the hard work and dedication paid off and I paid my way to Amsterdam.

The point of all of this is, that traveling should be personal. Regardless of the reason of why you are going somewhere, you should take a moment to pause and embrace where you are physically and emotionally.