Travel

So my travel category has been growing and growing, making it more difficult for both you and me to catch up on my travels. After procrastinating for so long, I’m finally working on making it easier for you followers of my post-grad Europe and Morocco trip and other trips to read chronologically.

Please enjoy!  :)

EUROPE & MOROCCO
1 — The Layover: Iceland in 14 Hours
2 — London Calling
3 — Saturday in London
4 — Why It Pays to Avoid Low-Cost Airlines
5 — Munich State of Mind
6 — It’s a (Wo)man’s World
7 — #ARTventures in Munich
8 — Dealing with Travel Worries
9 — Check back for more soon!

More Recent Travel Posts [View all]

ISTANBUL
1 — Turkey = China?
2 — Follow the Herd
3 — All Things Turkish

NASSAU, SAN JUAN, ST. THOMAS, ST. JOHN
1 — Bahama Mama Drama (Too Much?)
2 — Fun in the Sun
3 — Sweet San Juan
4 — Playful Puerto Rico
5 — To Traveling
6 — From Heaven Back Down to Earth
7 — Escape to St. John
8 — Take It In
9 — Final Winter Break of College

CES IN VEGAS
1 — What I Expect for #CES2015
2 — CES Chaos
3 — Only in Vegas
4 — Deuces, #bunsces
5 — Techies in Vegas

COMING SOON
— Thanksgiving 2014 in NYC
— One-Day Summer 2014 Trips
— Vegas & L.A. 2014
— Italy & Canada 2014

Dealing with Travel Worries

Around 11 p.m., I thought about a lot.

Having arrived on our delayed Vueling flight from Munich to Barcelona, we sat in a cab with an elderly driver who spoke no English but could read the map on my phone that only loaded because I had taken the time to connect to the free airport WiFi while waiting at baggage claim.

What if I hadn’t bothered with filling in fake personal information just to get those few minutes of WiFi that ended up helping the taxi driver know exactly where to go? Now looking back, I suppose I could have done it while in the cab, but how smoothly successfully telling a non English-speaking driver where to go just made me think.

Even with his assurance, I couldn’t help but check the map every now and then, making sure that we were headed the right direction. We were.

Traveling produces a lot of “what ifs.” What if the flight had been cancelled or delayed further? It was already nearly midnight. I had no way of contacting the Airbnb host without WiFi. In fact, as we dragged our suitcases to building No. 70, we faced a conundrum. Which button to ring?

Exhausted, we desperately tried to connect to “Barcelona WiFi,” what apparently looked like citywide free WiFi. But impatience grew. It wasn’t working. I didn’t know which button. Why wasn’t this communicated before? I remember looking around at passersby. What if we asked them to use their phones?

Somehow, luck was on our side. The door opened. A man with graying hair looked at me. I can imagine how pathetic we must have appeared. Worried. Tired. Phones out but failing to connect. Slowly, he asked, “Sonia?”

YES! We made our way up the narrow but colorfully tiled staircases. Surprisingly strong, he carried our heavy suitcases, one by one, up I don’t even know how many flights of stairs. Finally, we entered, greeted by his adorable wife, Laura. They weren’t mad. I apologized for arriving so late. His only response was a forceful, “Relax!”

Relax. The worries that come out of traveling in a foreign country whose language you don’t know or understand are natural. But it’s important to keep in mind that traveling also requires relaxing. You have to accept that things will work out, whether in a direction you had expected or not.

Our mood lightened considerably as our lovely hosts showed us around. Already, we’ve declared that they have given the friendliest welcome of the Airbnb hosts we’ve encountered.

“In the…eh…”

Kitchen?

“Yes, there’s, eh, some, cake. For tomorrow morning! You eat!”

The wife had apologized early on for her bad English.

It’s okay. We came to Spain not preparing to speak any Spanish. But I’m confident we’ll find our way and have a great time.

#ARTventures in Munich

Café Frischhut
Schmalznudl is a delicious donut-like pastry that you must try before you die, according to a Foursquare reviewer.

With a day starting off with that yummy goodness, how could it be bad? (No, don’t worry, it doesn’t turn bad.)

Café Frischhut
Perfectly limited menu at Café Frischhut.
Freshly made schmalznudl at Café Frischhut
Freshly made schmalznudl!

For our final full day in the relaxing city of Munich, we spent it exploring more of the city’s cultural offerings at the Pinakothek der Moderne museum and Museum Brandhorst next door. We went on a lucky day—the insurance company Allianz sponsored today, giving free access to visitors. Such a wonderful museum, full of architecture, design, and even the first Apple computers! Such a pleasant surprise to see also old mobile telephones, an electric violin and cello, and Picasso paintings. One of the first exhibits we visited, the security guard with a heavy German accent and broken English was inquisitive about our backgrounds (Japan? China?) and told us what we were looking at (city density in Shanghai, Dubai, etc.). He was great, helping to set the fun mood of a well-designed museum full of great art.

After such a great experience at Pinakothek, we headed to Museum Brandhorst expecting something similar. Unfortunately, not only did Allianz not sponsor this museum’s tickets for the day (7 euros/ticket), but the staff immediately came off as not as friendly. Guard at the door told me I couldn’t take pictures. Another guard downstairs at the “Dark Pop” exhibit kept eyeing me down, ready to yell at me if I even took out my phone from under the jacket draped over my hand and arm. The only redeeming part of this museum was Andy Warhol. Although I couldn’t get pics of those works, I managed to sneak in a few photos. Not nearly as exciting as Pinakothek :/

Of course, all was well because we treated ourselves finally to the cakes we had seen from day one in Munich at Café Rischart. #drool

After making one final stop at the English Garden tomorrow, we’ll head to another beautiful city—Barcelona! So excited!

It’s a (Wo)man’s World

Save for the very country club-like brunch, today comprised activities traditionally of interest to men—gawking at cars at the BMW Museum and BMW Welt and then drinking to our hearts desire (which wasn’t much) at a Bavarian beer and food tour.

Are we Germans yet?

We had a blast at the BMW Museum and the BMW Welt next door.

And then…the beer tour. The tour started off well. While checking in, the tour guide asked about my supreme fisheye lens, and I demoed for him what it did (“helps you take more legit photos”). I saved the photos for humorous effect.

Before the tour started, we each got a half-liter bottle of beer, learning that it wasn’t “ice cold” like the Americans were used to (yes, one American actually asked why, complaining that it wasn’t as cold as expected) because cheap American beers contain a ton of preservatives and other chemicals that make warmer beers taste bad. When brands like BudLight make their beers ice cold, the cold on your tastebuds masks all these unpleasant tastes. The crowd…as expected from the photos online—mostly middle-aged adults who love beer.

Selfie before Bavarian Beer & Food Tour begins
Selfie before Bavarian Beer & Food Tour begins.

And although the tour guide Keith was fantastic (great personality, attitude, knowledge), some of the 27 members in our tour group (all American save for three Canadians and two Australians) acted rather rudely. Does our averse reaction perhaps hint to our sheltered backgrounds? It’s a thought we certainly contemplated over brunch the next morning, but consider what we witnessed.

CHARACTERS
1 — Filipino Woman
Dressed in tight, gold pants and matching gold velcro sneakers, married to Older (Presumably Rich) White Male. Both from Boston.

First sign of rudeness: Cut in front of my friend while rushing to get a seat on the tram. Got up to ask tour guide a question. Returned to stand next to seated husband. Lady got on tram and “took her seat.” She said this aloud, looking at this woman. Then told husband to get up so she could sit. She sat for about two seconds before getting up again.

Second sign: Overheard conversation with a registered nurse about her tattoos: “You know, a friend of mine got fired for having tattoos. She had to remove hers. Are you sure you’re okay with them?” Why try to worry someone who clearly knows the risks?

Third sign: To husband: “I broke my phone!” Husband told her to stop playing with it. Her immediate response: “Shut up.” During dinner, my friend continued to turn to me, telling me how rude this woman was treating the husband—even during dinner in front of strangers!

What put us over the edge: “Where are you from?” Dorchester, my friend answered. “Oh! That area… I’m, like, scared to drive through there…” She stopped talking to us. My friend felt extremely insulted. Waiting outside the Hofbraukeller restaurant, she pointed to my friend while talking to her husband, telling him she was from Dorchester. Shocked at this observation, my friend gave the woman a look of WTF, which somehow prompted the couple to walk over, asking my friend about her post-grad plans (full-time at PWC). The moment of redemption, in my opinion. Go, Kelly!

2 — 20-Year-Old Beer Addict
In addition to describing each beer with connoisseur-like detail, she openly talked about stealing one of the beer glasses. She also was one of the first to finish the entire half-liter of beer we got before the tour even started.

3 — Ignorant GoPro Couple
The GoPro couple was cute at first. Until I overheard the woman (the registered nurse from above) laughing at my friend’s “Asian blush.” First, it’s Asian glow, and second, of all people, you as a nurse should know better. Then it got unbelievably worse when one of the intoxicated tourists got up to try doing a move that tested whether you were drunk or not. After he couldn’t do it, the man mocked him, yelling, “HA! HE’S DYSLEXIC! HA HA! DYSLEXIC!!” What the actual fuck? Then when the nurse found out that my friend was studying for the CPA, she gave some sound advice: “Just study for three days, like, all day, before the test. I’m sure you’ll pass.” No comment.

And well, there were those Peanut Gallery Americans who kept shouting things randomly throughout the tour. Man, this group. But that Rude Filipino Woman offended my friend to the point of disbelief. You know that’s bad.

But to avoid ending this post so negatively, check out photos of the moments we did enjoy, from huge beer “samples” to white sausages. Really, it was a solid tour. Just the people made it slightly unbearable.

Munich State of Mind

Coming from a jam-packed time in London where we hardly had time to rest, we arrived in Munich expecting a much calmer four nights (yeah, poor planning comparing the knowledge we had of each city—could have spent much longer in London).

So we spent the first morning in Munich sipping coffee and enjoying breakfast at Bar Centrale, a highly rated Italian café on Foursquare—a must-have app for traveling and finding your way around (remember that GPS works without WiFi) to the top places in any city.

Even if you miss a few Swarm check-ins here and there (I know I have, either the delay or the missing check-ins have produced a psychologically painful withdrawal from attempting 100-percent accuracy in the U.S. regarding my whereabouts), Foursquare is Yelp, Google Maps, and TripAdvisor all in one. Just make sure you save the places you would like to go to so you can access the map and compare where you are when you’re out to whatever destination.

We then made our way to the Deutsches Museum, conveniently located mere minutes from our Airbnb. The museum is technologically focused, so we saw everything from electrical power to sundials on the observatory (where I made the wonderful realization of moving my supreme fisheye lens to the front and taking awesome selfies without—gasp—a selfie stick!). The museum is heaven for anyone interested in engineering, technology, or even musical instruments! I was so pleased to see a “Musik” hall full of instruments.

After the Deutsches Museum, we really had NO other plans for the day. But with the weather still decent and with it being so early and all, we explored, wandered, discovered.

I am so happy about the Airbnb we chose, simply because of its centrality. From the Deutsches Museum, we walked and found Viktualienmarkt, an outdoor food market. But given that it was Whit Monday, or Pentecost, we walked through an empty market, save for the bustling restaurant in the middle taking advantage of the holiday’s closures.

Feeling hungry, we saw a cool rooftop café next to the market and decided to check it out. Wow. What a place. The cakes looked out of this world. But we decided to return to try those later, as we ordered “real food” instead. While my friend got smoked salmon flatbread, I ordered what looked like German specialty, kaiserschmarrn (shredded pancakes) with apple sauce, made using the original Oktoberfest recipe.

After chilling here for a while, enjoying the views, we walked to the breathtaking New Town Hall we caught a glimpse of while walking to the café. Just amazing. All of this just minutes away from our place, by the way.

I realized where we were then—Marienplatz! Among the top rated attractions in Munich. So we walked down the wide streets full of shopping until we found a small, lovely park with chairs. We sat. Chilled some more. Looking at my Foursquare map, I saw that there was a much bigger park down the street—Hofgarten. Upon entering, we knew we had found our running spot for Thursday, the only decently warm day forecasted during our stay (it’s deceivingly chilly here).

Ah. This is the life.