Candacetravels

The Travel Diary

Tag: adventure

Sweet Adventures!

Happy early Valentine’s Day to my fellow travelers who celebrate! I’m writing this post on the eve of this beloved, nationally recognized Love Day, and flashing back. Last February 14th, I had the pleasure of roaming the streets of South Beach, before heading out on a 4 country Caribbean tour.Those were great times last year, but I am so ready for some adventures. I really don’t mean to complain because living in Florida certainly does afford you certain vacay-like opportunities on a regular basis, but come on..who doesn’t love a great (new) expedition, every now and then (or monthly, lol.) That would so totally work for me. In any case,  there’s something so incredibly amazing about combing new territory and discovering the unknown -that just gets me all excited!! I’m sure many, if not all of you, can relate. So on that note, buckle up, because we’ll be heading out soon. Get ready for some new, new, new adventures. Unfortunately, I’ll be spending this Valentines evening doing…uhm…much of nothing, unlike last year’s travel schedule…but we’ll be flying the friendly skies again soon. Don’t feel bad for me though at all. I’ll be laughing and smiling, eating strawberries by the pool. Ha! I had to slide that in, just in case someone out there in The Travel Diary land started getting all teary-eyed, when they read that I didn’t have plans. I’ll be spending part of the time on my tablet, planning Sweet NEW Adventures. So again, enjoy your V-tines Day this week travel- lovers, and for those of you who will be somewhere super cool, doing something totally fun, be sure and tag me on IG in some pictures. I’d love to see how you’re spending Cupid’s favorite day of the year! I bid you peace, love and new adventures. Until next time friends, safe travels!❤️

FullSizeRender (43)

Some Sweet Shop on South Beach February 2016

 

 

 

 

Candacetravels’ 2016 Year In Review

“When asked if my cup is half full or half empty, my only response is that I am thankful I have a cup.”

FullSizeRender (41).jpg

Babe’s Cafe – Brecksville, Ohio

What a year! 2016 doesn’t owe me a thing. Of course it wasn’t perfect, but it was certainly eventful. I gazed across the city of Dallas, TX from 470 ft up in the air, as well as dined on-the-go, spent Valentine’s Day strolling through South Beach in Miami, chased butterflies in Aruba, snorkeled and sampled cactus liqueur in Bonaire, lived like a local in St. Maarten while staying at Alegria, smashed dinner at my favorite spot on the French side, Cynthia’s, in St. Martin, changed planes a few times in Curaçao (visited there a few years ago,) stood in a ridiculously long security line in Newark, skipped along the cherry blossom filled Tidal Basin in Washington D.C., relaxed like a queen at The Ritz Carlton in Arlington, ate at a cute lil cafe in Eufaula w/my sis, let the ocean breeze blow over me in Panama City, where I saw the most beautiful sunset, chowed down on some delicious food in Atlanta w/a friend, while in between cities, attended the CAVS championship parade in Cleveland, among various other activities, made some new connects in Orlando, caught like a million flights back and forth between FL and OH alllll year long, learned about horticulture in Clermont during my down time, kicked back in Tampa and Clearwater when I wasn’t working, ate the best pumpkin risotto and mushroom sliders in Oslo, where I would happily spend my summers, staying at Scandic Vulkan, danced at the base of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, where I celebrated my B-day with friends, prayed inside the gorgeous 100+ year old Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona, after eating some yummy paella, spent a few hrs in beautiful Lisbon (which wasn’t long enough,) chilled out in the hot tub in Boston after my flight back to the US, and slept like a baby in Detroit! In the process, I smiled alot, caught a ton of flights ✈️(approximately 30,) rode on quite a few trains 🚉 (too many to remember) and in quite a few cars 🚘, (definitely lost count) as well as hit the water on a handful of boats 🛥 (that sounds about right) this past year too -and thanked God all the way thru! 🙏🏾In the midst of all of this, I met great people, sometimes traveled alone, while at times with others, and always with my favorite items – and wrote about many of my 2016 adventures on/in Candacetravels.com, in Upscale Living Magazine, on A Luxury Travel Blog, in Global Living Magazine and on Black Enterprise.com – I’ve included several links above for you!! Just click to read the full articles or posts. A HUGE THANKS goes out to all of you for your support, and a big thank you to 2016 for a superb Global Expedition that included 7 countries (well technically 8 because St. Maarten and St. Martin are considered two separate countries,) and a host of cities. But… now it’s time to make room for 2017!🏾 Let’s prepare to create some new epic adventures together. Happy New Year everyone!!

✌💕

Candacetravels

This post includes both sponsored, as well as non-sponsored material. However, the events noted above do recount my actual experiences regardless of post. My goal is to provide you with useful information to make your travel experience as rich as possible.

5 Fun Things to Do in Barcelona

Hola friends! Welcome back to The Travel Diary. Today we will take a look at a few of my favorite to do’s in the beautiful city of Barcelona. This locale is home to some of the most unique architecture in all of Spain. From the fabulous works of Antoni Gaudi, which are spread throughout the area, to the top of the Monument a Colom, located at the lower end of the famed, Las Ramblas Boulevard- there is much to see and do. So kick back…and enjoy reading about some of the best Catalonia region to dos.

IMG_4019

  1. Sagrada Familia

A visit to this renowned church is a must! The construction of this project first began in March 1882 by architect, Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano, who resigned shortly after, leaving the job to the acclaimed, Antoni Gaudi, to complete. It has been 100 years since his death and the basilica is yet undone. Despite being fully completed, this neo-gothic piece of history is still remarkable inside out. While the exterior leaves much to the imagination, considering its “busy” design, (which is in true Gaudi fashion,) it’s the interior that really takes your breath away. I have never laid eyes on anything even remotely comparable to Sagrada Familia, before in my life! Everything about it draws you in. There are stunning stained glass windows, a striking ceiling and pillars, statues adorned throughout and carved inscriptions. To call this church impressive doesn’t even begin to do it justice. There is also a designated space for worship and reflections within the basilica, in the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament and Penitence. Here, all are welcome, regardless of faith, to witness this “symbolic expression in stone of the Christian faith.” (sagradafamilia.org). The church is meant to serve as a place where people can come together and unite as one. Sagrada Familia holds masses throughout the year, where visitors can attend. There are also several other items on display in the outer hallways from times past. Though a work in progress for the last 100+ years, post Gaudi’s death, the church is finally slated for completion in the year 2026. And to think, this is only “one” of his creations. There is also the Park Guell, Casa Mila and Casa Batllo to name a few. Since it’s difficult to put into words how magnificent the Sagrada Familia is, I’ll just have to show you below. The church is also located in an area that is surrounded by numerous souvenir shops, restaurants, businesses, living quarters and markets. I’d highly recommend purchasing tickets in advance, to avoid the sell-out crowds that this landmark draws in. Nothing comes close to this marvelous piece of history. Stay prayerful and enjoy your visit!

IMG_4013

Sagrada Familia Exterior Side View

IMG_4030

Sagrada Familia Exterior View

IMG_8256.JPG

Sagrada Familia Interior View

IMG_4077

Sagrada Familia Interior View

IMG_0267.JPG

Sagrada Familia Interior View

  1. Monument a Colom

This beautifully chiseled monument sits in the Placa de la Porta de Pau square. It provides some of the best 360 degree views of the city, from atop the 197 ft tall column. Just an elevator ride up, and visitors can behold the amazing Barcelona views! You will see the neighboring port and the famous Gothic Quarter, among other notables from up high.


Barcelona Port and City Views from Atop Monument a Colom

IMG_7650

Here’s a little history. The monument was designed by Catalan architect, Gaieta Buiga, and it first opened in 1888, in honor of Christopher Columbus’ first expedition to the Americas. There are items for purchase on the base level and different entrances and exits. Make sure to have your cameras ready, and have plenty of space on your sim cards.

Visitors can also do a wine tour, through the Mirador de Colom wine tourism experience, on the base level.  Guests can sample different cava and wine, and get additional information on other wine experiences in the region. Salud!
IMG_4056

Monument a Colom Exterior View

IMG_8564

Barcelona City Views from Atop Monument a Colom

  1. Authentic Paella on Repeat

I am happy to say that I got my fill of vegetable Paella this Barcelona run. My first time in the area was limited; thanks to a 3 day delay in NY, so it prevented me from indulging too much. But this time… success! I pretty much sampled paella everywhere I went to eat, and I don’t regret it at all. This dish is one of my favorites at Cuban restaurants in the states, so I just had to try it (again and again,) while in Spain. Did I get sick of eating it? NOway! It was delightful and prepared a bit differently each place I went. While dining at one restaurant, Ultramarinos, I did get the opportunity to also nosh out on some pretty yummy guacamole and chips, too. Their paella actually came in at number 2, behind a little local gem nestled amidst other small eateries, over near Sagrada Familia in Eixample. They had the best olives and…I was so famished that first day, after such a long night, I don’t remember much else. My stomach won the head battle that day. Yep, that’s me- the crazy hungry, travel blogger. Moving on. The cool thing about Ultramarinos -is that it’s located right on the popular La Ramblas strip- in the midst of all the action. The ambiance and décor is awesome, and the street views are great. From the colorful lights to the signatures of prior guests scribbled across the walls, it was the perfect spot for a rainy afternoon lunch. My suggestion- eat as much paella as you can while in Barcelona!

IMG_0024

Ultramarinos Restaurant

IMG_0025 (1)

Ultramarinos Restaurant Lights

IMG_0047Tea, Guacamole and Chips at Ultramarinos

Processed with Snapseed.

Authentic Paella at a Local Restaurant in Eixample

4. Stroll Las Ramblas 

This acclaimed boulevard is a tourist and local favorite. There are numerous hotels nestled throughout, as well as tons of restaurants, markets, souvenier shops, vendors and museums. Located near Port Vell, where the cruise ships come in, it is considered the heart of the city. The atmosphere is bustling, both day and night, and the La Boqueria Food Market, even offers a paella cooking workshop. I couldn’t resist mentioning that, lol. The street is pedestrian friendly, and is known for having street performers, artists and tourists from around the globe. From people watching, to eating and shopping, this is the place to be, so get your walking shoes on!

IMG_4047

Street Performer on Las Ramblas

IMG_7651

Museu de Cera (wax museum) located on Las Ramblas 

  1. Explore. Explore.

Visit as many other museums, monuments and sights as you can.  Barcelona has something for everyone to see. There are walking, city, bike, sightseeing, food and cultural tours. There is an endless list of places to explore. From Picasso to the theater, you will not get bored. Also, depending upon when you visit, consider making a trip to the beach. Yes, Barcelona has beautiful beaches, where you can swim, relax or even sail. Unfortunately, it rained most of the time this trip, so I missed out on the beach. The city is so vibrant and colorful, and equally as much multicultural. I met shop and restaurant owners and workers from various parts of the world, who were really nice. Also, don’t forget to mail your postcards back home, while you’re out exploring! Have fun!

Visit Candacetravels on Instagram to view more photos and videos of this gorgeous destination.

Processed with Snapseed.

Candacetravels Mailing Postcards Back to the US in the rain

City Details

Locals can be heard speaking both official languages; Catalan and Spanish. There are numerous taxis, as well as a subway, buses and airport shuttles. Hotels are plentiful throughout the city, and range from moderately priced to deluxe. If you don’t plan to rent a car, consider staying on or near Las Ramblas. This location will provide easy access to entertainment and sights, as well as to the metro stations. I split my time between Eurostars Monumental in Eixample (which is in walking distance to Sagrada Familia) and Arc La Rambla, which is located on Las Ramblas Boulevard.

IMG_7624

Hotel Arc La Ramblas Front Entrance

IMG_7618

Views from my 7th Floor Room- Eurostars Hotel in Eixample 

Thank you for stopping by today. I hope that you learned a little more about this beloved Spain destination- and are eager to explore. Until next time, I bid you safe and happy travels. Adios amigos!

A special thank you goes out to the Barcelona Tourism Department’s Premium Division, for assisting with my stay, and for sponsoring my press access to the area’s landmarks.

 
 

18 Hotel Keys

I was recently packing when I discovered a number of hotel keys floating about in various pieces of luggage. I typically rotate between my duffle bag, roller bag or backpack/weekender, depending upon the length of each trip. To my surprise, I counted 18 stays, reflecting 18 keys for this year alone. In case you’re wondering, I do usually turn in at least one key, considering the hotel or resort generally provides you with two. In some rare cases, I have even received three keys, when there were room, door issues. In any case, upon making this discovery, I thought to myself – “This is a lot of hotel keys for 2016, Candace.” While most are from the Hilton family (I’m a HH member ) i.e. DoubleTree, Hilton Garden Inn or Hampton (work related,) there are some others that hold extra special memories this year. I must confess that I don’t always post on social media where I am each day, and that is partially because, sometimes…. I’d rather not be found. Forgive me. I mix and mingle when needed, but the introvert in me has to have time to work in peace alone, and other times, I simply need to refuel- and that is best accomplished solo for me.

While strolling back down memory lane, I was instantly drawn to three keys in particular out of the bunch. They naturally stood out because they looked so different from the scores of replicas from the brands noted above. Immediately, I cracked a smile. I closed my eyes and thought back to when I used each of them this year, and the fun times that I had during my stays. From boating on the Caribbean Sea in Bonaire, to snapping photos of the low-flying aircraft on Maho Beach in St. Maarten, I had a blast! Then there was the day I ventured across to the French side- of St. Martin, to nosh out at Cynthia’s with a buddy, and the day I set out to view the thousands of gorgeous cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin in Washington D. C.  While all 18 experiences were not nearly as refreshing as these, I must say that each of them still left a lasting impression upon me. I’ve met so many cool people, engaged in countless deep conversations with individuals from all across the globe, joked with hotel staff….and complained in some cases, dined alongside some really interesting individuals, and overall just had a really good time. Life is meant to be lived, so I try my best to do just that. Although, it’s actually a pretty grueling job, despite what most people may think. Everyone sees the glitz and the glam online, but forgets about the backside of it. The flip side… is the challenging part. There are issues with business clients, unclean hotel rooms, hotel keys that don’t work after you’ve lugged tons of bags up to your door and have to go back to the front desk, those days where less than obedient children splash water on everyone outside of the pool while their parents sunbathe quietly, the nights of broken bathroom shower heads, lack of towels in the room, broken microwaves when it’s late and you want to warm up that delicious soup at 10:30pm, hard beds, hallway construction noise, loud neighbors and the telephones that don’t get a dial tone in the rooms, too. Yep, it’s not always an Instagram dream, but it’s part of the journey! Considering I’m a bit of a road warrior, a.k.a consultant, content writer, business coach and of course…travel and inspirational blogger, I’ve come up with a few things to consider before you book your next hotel/resort stay.

Hotel/Resort Tips from My Personal Experience

Remember: Not all hotel rooms are created equal. Thus, it’s important to look for certain amenities: Here is my go-to list, regardless of business or pleasure.

Driving vs. walking– If I have a rental car, which I often do, then proximity to the airport is not a major factor. However, in those instances when I don’t get a car, then accommodations near the airport and client are a real plus, since most have free shuttle service to and fro the airport, as well as within a 3 mile radius. I also consider if the property offers (free or not) breakfast, has on site restaurants, or if there are a plethora of food choices in both walking and driving distance. If I’ve had a long day, the last thing I want to do on my way back in, is to have to drive far to pick up dinner. Onsite restaurants are a winner, especially if the food is yummy. Free parking is also a plus when choosing.

Must- Haves–  I look for hotels with a business center in case I have to fax or scan items and a pleasant lounge area. If they don’t have a business center, then I need to confirm that they will fax or scan items if I need them to. I enjoy working in different atmospheres so when I’m not in the room, at a coffee shop, or in an office, I like to work from the lobby or lounge area. Change of scenery for me- is good. I also appreciate onsite laundry rooms and/or service and if it is a resort, then access to tours, beaches and other outdoor activities. Additionally, I look for onsite spa services, indoor or outdoor whirlpools, swimming pools, ocean room views (if it’s a water location) or city or garden scape views.

Also, be sure to select a property in the area of your activities. Map out to-do’s; restaurants, museums, train stations (if needed,) beaches, etc. If you have a strict diet (look for eateries that can accommodate,) walking restrictions and enjoy things like-morning jogs or strolls, your hotel location is important.

Travel Memberships & Apps

My preference for vacation is luxe! For business I’m generally in a moderately priced location. Thus, it really just depends on the trip, the client, whether it’s a vacation or business and the time of travel. I am a rewards member with Hilton and Wyndham (though not a huge fan of their brand, but I have stayed in a couple newly remodeled Wingates and Wyndhams that I liked.) Some of my favorite go-to apps for hotels include: Hotels.com, AgodaHotel Tonight, Travelpirates – primarily for flights and Hipmunk. The benefit of being a member or having an account with these companies is that you earn valuable points. Many travel-related credit cards (i.e. airline or hotel brands) work the same way. Each stay and even some purchases (credit cards,) allow you to amass points that can be applied toward “free” stays. Sign-up to take advantage of these benefits today! 

Well, 18 hotel keys later, and all I can say is that it’s been a wild ride already this year. Prayerfully, several more incredible travel experiences are on the way. In the meantime, happy and safe travels to you, and stay tuned to learn about more adventures, tips, products and services.

FullSizeRender (18)

3 Tips for Spontaneous Travel…

 

How long has it been since your last, spur of the moment getaway? If you took longer than 30 secs to answer, then boy are you overdue for a trip! Not sure when you will find the time to steal away? Well, here are 3 quick tips to help get you out of the office-and on the road, or in the air today.

  1. Pack a Bag

Whether you choose a weekender or duffle bag, just grab something- and fill it up! Yes, pack it and leave it out in eye view. Place it outside of your closet, or somewhere near your bed..so that perhaps, you can trip over it, lol. Let it serve as a constant reminder to you that some time away- is needed soon. Also, don’t forget to toss in your favorite travel  and lifestyle magazines, books and any favorite, non-perishable snacks that you’d most enjoy.

     2. Prepare Cameras & Other Devices

Pull that camera from atop the shelf in your closet and charge up that battery -NOW! Gather your flashes, hoods, lenses, SIM cards, as well as any portable chargers, adapters or other must-haves, for the road. Once you’ve collected all the items, toss them in the bag that you packed, and again, remember to set it outside of your bedroom closet. Yes, that weekender that you’re going to keep bumping into- unless you get serious about getting away!

      3. Create a Checklist

The major benefit of having a check-list readily available, is that you’ve already taken all the guess work out. Remember, spontaneous trips are…well… spontaneous! We’re cheating a little by preparing in advance, but it’ll be oh so worth it. Make a list of necessary contact numbers and must-do’s before leaving the premises today. This will ensure that you’re not disregarding any previously confirmed engagements, nor sacrificing any necessities in the last minute process. Have a person or kennel on hand that would agree to keep your pet or mini-you (like an overnight daycare,or trusted granny, who never turns down time with your favorite little persons,) for a day or two, on short notice. Let these individuals know ahead of time that one day in the very near future, you will be calling them for help! It may surprise you to see just how much they’ll encourage you to do it, too. Also, remember to make arrangements now (by putting them on notice that a spontaneous getaway is in the making) for taking out the trash or picking up the mail.

Sooo, now that you’re ready- you are going to ditch work one Friday, (only if you have vacation time to use…and even if you don’t,) and catch a flight or hop in the car for the spur-of-the-moment time of your life!

Now that you are all set- get ready for some spontaneous travel fun! Share your stories with the Candacetravel team when you return, as well as of any adventures from your last spur-of-the-moment trips. We’d love to hear from you!! Safe travels!

Europe 010

Charles de Gaulle Airport- Paris, France

 

 

 

Cruising Solo NCL Style

Are you prepping for your next holiday and considering traveling alone? If so, then cruising solo is the ideal way to go! You can explore multiple destinations as you float from port to port- and meet some incredible people along the way. That’s right! You can pack your bags for a party of one- with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL)and still get in on all the fun. There’s no need to harass your family and friends any longer, because I’m going to show you how to have an incredible time all by your lonesome…Well not completely alone, but it’ll at least start out that way. So…grab some coconut water and get ready for the solo adventure of a lifetime!!

IMG_1717

Norwegian EPIC

Here’s Why You Can Embark On This Mission Alone

Venturing out on a solo mission is now easier than ever. Norwegian Cruise Line has created a community where solo cruisers can link up- in an environment completely designed with them in mind. All Studio guests, as they’re affectionately called, receive “exclusive key card access” to the Studio Complex and Lounge. It is a private common space, strictly for those cruising solo- where cruisers can engage with others from all across the globe. The area is complete with coffee, espresso, pastries and plenty of space to lounge and engage in some light-hearted or in depth international conversations. There are even dedicated “happy” hours in the evening for singles to meet-up. I met travelers from just about everywhere, as I sipped on a hot beverage. It was awesome! I love the concept and the exclusive access.

MI.Epic_.Studio-Lounge

Norwegian EPIC Studio Complex & Lounge (Image credit to NCL)

Cozy Studio Cabin Staterooms

Norwegian offers solo cruisers the perfect space.They have “award winning,” studio cabins for those floating, shall we say… unaccompanied. Last May, I had the pleasure of sailing on Norwegian Cruise Line’s EPIC, in a studio cabin; throughout Spain, Italy and the French Riviera. My little home away from home on the Mediterranean Sea was fantastic. It was just the right size and it had all the amenities that I needed. It featured white and purple décor, a comfortable bed, an in-room shower, a sink and of course a separate, enclosed “water closet”…. if you know what I mean. It also had cabinet space, a flat screen television and even a small desk area to use. I absolutely adored my cozy little stateroom cabin, and cannot wait to cruise solo again soon. It is such a great space for eager independents, providing them the ability to cruise alone, and for an amazing rate.

Europe 066

Studio Stateroom Cabin

Onboard Activities and Off-Ship Tours

There are tons of  epic activities on the ship. Whether you’re restaurant hopping, line dancing, taking photos or splashing in the pools, you would have to work extremely hard to be alone in this environment. I found myself chit chatting and laughing at every turn. From the passengers to the staff, I never had a dull moment. NCL also offers free-style dining, which is phenomenal. No designated times or assigned tables are required. This allows guests to float about at leisure. Additionally, there are fantastic shows on board, a comedy club, bowling, the option to belt out your favorite tunes for the crowd- via karaoke and much, much more. You can also catch some of the most incredible pictures as you dock at each port. Once you exit, a whole new world opens up. Also, there’s no need to be concerned with how to get around by yourself. You can book group tours directly through the ship, or even opt to explore the areas with your new found (ship) friends as a unit. Either way, you’ll have a lovely time!

IMG_1229

Headliners Comedy Club

Europe 035

On Board Water Activities

Europe 212

Port in Naples, Italy

While on board the Epic, I linked up with some others I knew from the states. It was a remarkable adventure and an unforgettable time. You never know who you might bump into on your next unescorted mission.But, what I do know, is that cruising solo is now easier than ever, so I promise you’ll forget you ever boarded the ship alone. However, if you do get tired of all the crowds and want some space, you always have the option to steal away. After all, you are technically on holiday alone, so it’s all up to you. Until next time my friends, Bon voyage!

*I had a blast reviewing NCL. This post is meant to inform and provide travelers information. This is a summary of my true experience while onboard the ship, and my opinion is solely shaped by my own personal experience. I like to experience what I write about firsthand, so that I can advise fellow travelers of offerings and services!

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén