Check out an article I wrote for She Wanderful regarding race and travel…http://www.sheswanderful.com/2017/03/29/6-things-black-travelers-need-to-know/
So I went a wee bit out of my comfort zone and tried a vacation in a cold climate. If you are like me and love travel but with comfort and a metropolitan atmosphere Iceland might not be on the top of your list. Yet I kept hearing about how much of a good time it was and then there are the cheap flights. So why not? So here are some to-dos for the urban gal for an Iceland adventure.
To start I took Wow airlines to get there. It’s cheap but barebones. Pack your snacks and plenty of water and entertainment.
The ride from the airport to Reykjavik can be a long one and therefore expensive. Book a shuttle transport through FlyBus. Reykjavik Excursions and Grayline Tours both set up transport for Flybus so make sure if you do a roundtrip ticket that you go back with the right company (my mistake so I ended up paying twice for a return trip to the airport). A round trip transport is around $50.
One common theme you’ll find is that Iceland is expensive. I’m talking New York or Vegas prices. I still can’t quite understand why that’s the case and it didn’t appear as though the Iceland salaries were commiserate with the prices. With that in mind if you want to save some money but also want to be where the action is, as most cosmo/urban gals should, then picking an apartment might be a better, more economical option than a hotel.
I stayed in a one bedroom apartment in the Luna Hotel Apartments. It was a great location to restaurants, shopping and nightlife. I was able to walk everywhere outside of excursions which of course was a money saver.
Iceland is a pretty safe place for travel so even during late hours I felt fine walking back to my apartment (although I did have a roommate). The apartment itself was tiny but stylish and comfortable with all the necessities. We saved money by buying groceries and eating in for breakfast and lunch. We didn’t get any housekeeping services which I was fine. Everything was clean when we got there and there were drawers with multiple towels and toilet paper. The kitchen had dishes and utensils as well as cleaning supplies. It was perfect and I’d be open to doing something like that again in a safe city. There is something to safety in a hotel if one is traveling solo though. But in a town like Iceland it was perfect.
As stated above, eating out can be a costly event. An average breakfast can be about $20 bucks and lunch/dinner can range from $20-$50 for an average restaurant/diner. I have to admit since I have a sensitive pallet I wasn’t as adventurous as I could have been for meals but there were places I dinned that I liked.
Solon Bistro -I had a super yummy brunch there with French Toast and eggs. I also came for dinner and had wings and a salad both very satisfying. Prices were average fair.
Rossopomodoro- Good Italian restaurant. I split an Italian style pizza and had some calamari. Both were really good.
Kebabhusid – I had fish and chips here. It’s just a small restaurant with affordable prices for Iceland at $28 compared to the $35-40 I was seeing at other places. I really liked my meal.
I suppose there are many things that people come to Iceland for but outside excursions have to be the key reason. As an urban dweller I can’t say that I’m the most outdoorsy but there are some basic activities that are a must do while in Iceland.
The Blue Lagoon- This is the reason many people come. There is something so cool about going to a huge natural body of water in the middle of nowhere that’s heated like a hot tub. Go as early as possible to avoid the crowds. Take advantage of the included mask and if you want a full experience get a massage. The weather wasn’t that kind when I went but I still had a great time there. I could have stayed all day if it hadn’t rained.
Golden Circle plus trip- This was a really nice excursion via Grayline tours. It’s a ways out of the city in southern Iceland so it’ll be an 8 hour day excursion. On this trip you’ll see a park where Game of Thrones was filmed which was very amazing to see, waterfalls, geysirs, craters and we visited a farm and had the popular Icelandic yogurt-ish food called skyr and ice cream. Both were delish.
I also suggest taking a city tour either on foot or on a hop on hop off bus.
Southern Coast tour- I didn’t do this tour but I wish I had. On this tour you’ll see waterfalls up close, black sand beaches, volcanos…
Diamond beach– I also missed out on this and I wish I had gone. It’s not exactly a beach full of diamonds but rather a black sand beach with ice that have the appearance of large diamonds. Very much a photographers dreams.
Northern Lights- This is another famous reason to check out Iceland. It’s not always set that you’ll get a chance to see them, especially after March until their colder seasons because after that time the days get super long. When we arrived in late March it didn’t get dark until 9. There is a time where it’s mostly daylight there so you won’t get a chance to see the lights at all.
Kringlan Mall- Not too far from city center, if you get a bit tired of all the nature this is a good place to check out some shopping. The mall has mostly local Iceland chains which is a good because if you’re going to pay crazy Iceland prices you might as well get something unique.
Iceland also has a bunch of boutiques. Check out Laugavegur and nearby Skólavörðustígur for shopping.
To save a couple of coins on Saturday or Sunday stop by the Kolaportid Flea Market to get immersed in local Icelandic style and find a few cool things for lower prices.
Iceland has a ton of nightlife and bar hopping is super easy to do but again, with prices being so high you might want to pregame at your apartment first. Go to Vinbudin for spirits which is an Icelandic chain. You can also swing buy duty free on the way from the airport when arriving to grab drinks which is what we did (don’t judge!)
Most of the nightlife we visited was on Laugavegur street or right off of it. Some notables were:
Lebowski Bar– An homage to the movie The Big Lebowski they specialize in different types of white Russians which were very yummy. Stay for their Thursday night movie trivia night.
Dillon Whiskey Bar- If you are a whiskey lover this is the place. They have a decent happy hour.
Prikid- If you like house and hip hop this is the place to be. the music gets better the later it gets so be warned if you get there too early it might not be what you expect. The drinks at cheaper especially on weeknights.
Kofinn- We happened upon this on a Friday late night. They were playing “real” hip hop and reggae. Had a fun time but they don’t stay open super late.
Kaffibarinn, – This trendy little spot is super tiny but if you like dark and cool this is it. On Friday we heard house music which I loved. Great spot for hanging with friends but not so much for meeting new people.
In sum it turns out the outdoorsy vibe of Iceland can be a great spot for a Cosmo girl. Iceland is a flexible town to be enjoyed at any level whether you are camping or staying at the Hilton you can find your comfort there.
I have been to Negril quite a few times and written past posts about it but I decided to write a different post after my recent venture there. Specifically from the perspective of a female traveling alone or with other women. It might sound crazy to some but not every woman goes on vacation to an island with the hopes of “getting her groove back.” Sometimes you just want a relaxing getaway and nothing more.
Jamaica is a beautiful place but navigating your way through some of the social aspects of it can be tricky. Here is my guide for the cosmo gal who travels to Jamaica and wants to enjoy it safely.
Hotel: This time around I stayed at the Negril Treehouse Resort. I’ve been to other hotels that I’ve written about and they were nice but one thing that gives Negril the edge is that you aren’t bothered by the vendors walking the beach. I’m not sure if it’s because the location is further down from the center of 7 mile beach or if it’s because security keeps them at bay. It’s also hotel away from Margarittaville and a short cab ride to other main nightlife spots. Also the staff is very friendly (which is a theme for most of Jamaica). A free breakfast buffet is included with local and Westernized dishes. They also have a two for one happy hour every day at the outdoor restaurant/bar located right next to the hotel beach area, pool and Jacuzzi. The rooms are comfortable and I felt safe. They have separate outdoor seating with tables and a swing for each room. We were on the second floor with not much of a view but it was still nice. I would suggest looking into their suites that face the ocean. For a highly rated hotel it is also very reasonably priced.
If you want to do more than sit on the beach, reading a book and sipping cocktails (which is a fine plan indeed), think of these other solo safe activities.
Rockhouse Spa– There are many spa services in Jamaica to get massages right on the beach but if you want a bit of a getaway, undisturbed experience going to a spa in a hotel is a nice option. Rockhouse is a hotel on the Cliffs with cute rooms with their own mini cliffs for you to get into the water. The spa offers more than massages and includes facials and body treatments.
Falls: YS is more populated with tourist, maintained and a little farther away.
Mayfield is less populated, not well maintained but you get more care from your hosts and the waterfalls are just as beautiful. Because it’s not as popular you get more time to experience it which is a major bonus. I’ve been to both and had the better time here. Although this was less popular I still felt just as safe. There are other tourist around so you aren’t in the middle of the land alone with just your host.
Dining- You can really go anywhere to eat alone and not feel like the odd man out. Socializing is different there in my opinion and it’s not just about being seen but rather experiencing. One of my most favorite places to dine is Kabuya. I could have eaten there everyday. Spicy Seafood Medley everyday all day. The drinks are also delish and the ambiance is visually interesting to keep the eyes busy if you are alone.
Nightlife- So this is where I get a bit nervous in the solo traveling game. For some reason men in Jamaica (be they tourist or locals) don’t get the idea of a female, especially a black female, traveling on her own. This is where solo or even traveling with just one other girlfriend get’s tricky. In summary, many local men were overly flirtatious to the point of making me uncomfortable. In one place a guy didn’t even accept my not being interested and my friend and I had to leave. In addition, there is a growing population of local female “escorts”. I was propositioned by an older male tourist. Once he heard me talk and saw my reaction he said he was just joking and walked away. And before you ask, I was not dressed like I was about to work the stage.
For this reason I would suggest being careful with your nightlife options. Certain hotel bars playing live music are a better option for the solo gal to avoid any harassment. The Jungle, the only club in Negril, was also a fun environment but that isn’t much fun for solo night out so this is a good option to go with friends.
In the end Jamaica is a great place to travel on your own or in a duo. As with anyplace just be smart and talk to trusted locals about best places to go. One of the main pros for solo travel is that it allows you to really get to talk to people and you will find that many Jamaicans are very helpful and only want you to have a good time in their country so that you come back. So enjoy…and relax!
So I got published in another travel group website called Wanderful regarding tips for the black female solo travel. I encourage you to check out the information whether you are a woman of color or not or even if you are going with friends overseas. Thanks!
It’s a shame I haven’t done a post on Philly before. I visit once a year if I can. I really could go more as I am only a two hour drive away. A couple of months ago I decided to do a last minute trip to the city of brotherly love with a gal pal and wanted to share with you some places to check out if you are an cosmo shopping gal like me and find yourself here for a day or two.
We stayed at the Loews which is walking distance to Reading Terminal Market (where they have all of the food), some shopping, restaurants and bars. Our room was spacious and the hotel was nice with a restaurant and bourbon (my fav) bar inside (Bank and Bourbon). There is also a gym and a pool (which was closed when we were there, grr).
If you are a shopaholic like me Philadelphia is a unique town for that. If you only have a short time, I suggest these two areas for shopping:
South Street Area- This is a very hipsterish part of town where you’ll find everything from consignment shops to exotic shops. My favorite second hand store in this area is Greene Street. Chestnut/Market St area is also another good place to do shopping. There are mostly chain shops like H&M and also some boutiques.
If you can sneak in another excursion or shopping isn’t your thing check out the Philadelphia Museum of Art and see the Rocky Statute and run up the “Rocky Steps” before checking out the art. If you prefer more of a quirky art check out Magic Gardens also in the South Street area.
Green Eggs Café. This place is super tasty for brunch but has a wait so come early if you can but well worth it!
Zavino– Pizza Wine Bar. Great pizza and drinks. Dark and small, cool spot.
Sampan– Trendy and tasty Asian food spot
Federal Donuts– Unique Specialty Donuts. Oh and Chicken. Fried. Nuff said.
Karaoke- Yakitori Boy. They have a public space and private rooms for us karaoke fanatics.
Check out Center City for more upscale/cocktail bars such as the Rittenhouse Square area.
Hope this guide helps should you ever find yourself in Philly!
If your candidate didn’t win or she did and you simply just want some rest after all of that political craziness, here are a couple of places to visit (or stay) to start a new.
Amsterdam– I love a smaller city that is accessible on foot or bike. Amsterdam is a huge biking community. It’s very diverse racially and thought wise. There’s great shopping, eating, and a nice music scene. Also you don’t have to be an expert in Dutch to understand what’s going on. Very welcoming and not too foreign from a liberal, artistic way of life that a U.S. urban cosmo girl should know.
Florence– I fell in love with this city. It’s another smaller town with history and beauty. Shopping is nice, the food is amazing and you aren’t too far from vineyards if you are a wine person. I also found, at the time that I visited, it to be affordable living wise. My sister and I happened upon a real estate office in our wandering and seriously considered purchasing a vacation house (we didn’t get it). A great town to unwind and just enjoy life.
Dublin– So the weather isn’t too great here but maybe that’s why the people are so friendly (well probably it’s the whisky) to stay happy. I think the mood of the city is the reason why I picked it for this list. A nice contrast to the angry atmosphere in this past election among the other negativities and injustices occurring. It was nice to visit a town where everyone smiled and said Hi.
Puerto Rico, San Juan– So I know that this is a US territory so it’s not far escaping but it’s still an escape. The weather is great, the food is delish (if you can’t tell I’m all about the food) and the music scene is quite nice. Also it has a lot of US chains here so if you want something different but not ready for a big leap this is a good option. And you know, the beach.
Cuba– I’ve never been here but why not strike while the iron is hot since we now can visit Cuba and flights are pretty cheap. Indulge in Cuban rum and cigars (which you can now send home to the US if you return). Not sure if you can work here but it’s nice for an escape with the music, food, and vibrant scene.
Toronto– Another place on my visit list. A major plus is that it’s close. It’s diverse, artistic, and pretty busy with lots to do. With festivals, a good food scene, shopping and parks, seems like a nice escape to me from some of the tenseness going on in the U.S. Plus they said we could come if the election didn’t work out.
So I’ve been to New York City several times. Mainly to Manhattan and Brooklyn. So I should really be ashamed that I’ve never blogged about my travels there before. If you know my blog you know that I’m a girl that likes to shop and dine within a reasonable budget. With that in mind I thought I’d take you through a good weekend for a cosmo gal.
Now this is really a mini guide and not all encompassing. I’ve written other posts about how to plan a perfect trip tailored to your needs. I also am not going to go into all the touristy things you should do while here. By now everyone knows about the staples: Statute of Liberty, Empire State Building, the MET, Broadway… So instead I’m going to break this down to food and shopping (the nightlife is seriously overwhelming so I wouldn’t dare direct you on what to do, I suggest going to Yelp and keying in words that meet what you are looking for like R&B, martini, happy hour).
Where to Stay
Typically I go to SoHo when I come to NYC because it’s near the shopping I like. Nothing is cheap lodging wise in this city but I like to stay at the Holiday Inn Express in SoHo. it’s pretty reasonable. However, my most recent stay led me to a unique hotel called the Yotel. Several major cities world wide have this brand and it’s supposed to be this automated boutique hotel for a less expensive price.
When I first got to the place I was confused. The theme of the hotel is like a plane. They have a couple of greeters at the door with “mission control to major tom” t -shirts (homage to the David Bowie song). But then you go and check yourself in! I went to one of many computer kiosks, put in some information and out pops a receipt and my card key. Hmm, so then I take an elevator to my room which is labeled as a flight number or cabin on my receipt.
Once inside, the room is super modern and super tiny. There is no closet. Pretty much a bed that can electronically move back and position like a couch and then goes all the way down. Flat screen TV and a tiny desk/night stand. There is a small area to put a suitcase and hang clothes and you can also store under bed. Behind a curtain is the bathroom area with shower, a window, safe, iron/ironing board and sink with decent counter space and a fabulous lit mirror making it perfect for selfies!
Overall, I did like the hotel but you have to be comfortable with the person you are staying with because there is no privacy. And I’m not a fan of the movable bed, I need a sturdier mattress. Also there is something to that live human interaction. I tried to call before I arrived and was never able to reach anyone. I also emailed and left voice mail messages. Nada. The hotel had an information desk with people so that was helpful and it did have a restaurant and cool rooftop bar so you weren’t totally on your own. There is also a gym. I’d say it’s a cool idea but there is something to hospitality.
Where to Eat
I’m a foodie but not much of a snob about it. I’ve eaten at several places so like nightlife I can’t tell you where to eat. It’s best to Yelp it up and explore on your own. However, if you try Chinese or Italian you are on the right path. I’m not a huge chain person but since many of the local chains in NYC are only in those areas, it’s new to me! I like the local chain Ollies for Chinese food. For breakfast I went to Friedman’s and it was super delish. Get there early like before 10am early. Juniors, a diner type restaurant, also has great American food with a selection of cheese cake to make the calories worth it all. If cheesecake isn’t your thing you must try Magnolia for their cupcakes. Another local chain that was randomly featured in Sex and the City, I usually check it out when I’m in town. They also have an online shop. Yum. As a side note, I found out about that shop on a Sex and the City Bus tour which I would definitely recommend if they still have it.
Where to Shop
Ok if you are a Gucci, Prada girl this is not the post for you. I love shopping and my idea of splurge shopping is buying full price at Banana Republic. No judgement for those who do the high end I just can’t do that and travel. So when I’m out and about finding cute clothes and beauty on a budget is my goal and NYC is great for that.
The local beauty supply stores in Manhattan have everything. Recently I went to Beauty 35 near Hells Kitchen and they had all of the lower brand beauty and hair goods. Also check out E.L.F. Cosmetics store in SoHo. If you are into monthly beauty box subscriptions Birchbox has a store in SoHo as well.
For department stores check out Macys Flagship and for some deals go by Century 21 an inexpensive department store
For costume jewelry, I love So Good Jewelry also in SoHo. It’s a large shop with all types of costume jewelry that fits every type. If you have the patience also check out Hells Kitchen Flea Market on a Saturday. There’s a lot of crap there but some really funky jewelry pieces and I always walk away with something (and you can haggle so that’s a plus).
For clothes, here is my caveat: I only go cheap for trendy pieces that aren’t timeless, casual and evening tops and summer dresses. Treat yo self when it comes to work wear and jeans. So if you want some cheapie items I typically stop by Mystique Boutique (has an online store), Amsterdam, Necessary Clothing, Uniqlo, Buffalo Exchange (a chain vintage store, also located in DC). In general once you are in this area I say just walk around and you’ll find a lot. So maybe just pin point one of the boutiques for directions and then take off and explore. You’re also near a lot of good eats near Canal street. And if you want to go mainstream like H&M or high end, there are plenty of those places around as well.
Enjoy your time and I hope this helps!
My family is from Jacksonville, Florida but all my visits there I have never been to St. Augustine. One of the oldest cities in the U.S., this adorable little town is about 45 minutes from the Jacksonville airport. It’s only a ten minute drive from Ponte Verde beach. If I ever had to suggest a great place to visit for couples St. Augustine/Ponte Verde are it. Sure there is a college in St. Augustine and it can be a bit fratty so be mindful of when you go. I went just when school was beginning so it was a good mixture of all types.
Ponte Verde is a great place to rent a beach house, which gives you your own patch of beautiful private beach. Then when you get a little bored mosey on over to St. Augustine for some shopping, eating, and drinking. There is a large outlet for name band shopping but the real joy is going into the Old City part. Old buildings, historic sites, tasty restaurants and cute boutique shops.
For food, check out Brunch for, well, brunch and Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grill for, well, seafood!
For shopping check out the Red Pineapple.It’s near a ton of other shops as well. Stroll through the area and manage your funds or you’ll spend it all on clothes, food and knick knacks!
When there check out the Tini Martini Bar for all of the martinis. Pricy at $12 a martini but one is the size of two so it works out. Great place to sit out on the patio and people watch. They also have live music.
Sangrias Wine and Piano Bar is another good location for drinks, music, and people watching.
All and all, a cute town for history buffs, beach folk and those who like a slow paced scene but want something social.
A friend mentioned taking some time off to travel to another country and find her Mr. Right. I’m not sure that would work but we all get into our Eat, Pray, Love moments from time to time.
But it got me to thinking, with the advent of online dating and apps, people find love close and far, is it so far fetched (assuming you are willing to relocate) to take a trip to find more than a good time, yourself, and peace but love too?
Is it a good idea?
The Pros are you could find a culture that strongly appeals to you. Just because you were born in a certain place doesn’t mean you have to stay there. There’s a large world to explore full of many types of people.
A major Con is being apart from loved ones and maybe the normalcy you are used to. My friends who thought about leaving figured they would stay at a destination a month to get a feel for the place. Seeing that it takes 30 days to break a habit I can see the logic that it could take just as long to get used to a new place to best decide if it’s worth the upstart.
One good way to get your toes in the water is trying out online sites and apps. One new site I discovered called Miss Travel takes the idea of online dating and mixes it with travel. On this site you can post a trip you’d like to go and set up a profile much like any online dating. You can search within your parameters for travel companions or search for trips they have posted. You can go 50/50, pay for both people, or look for someone willing to pay for you to travel with them (side eyes). Not certain on the safety of this (I’d play it smart and book your own separate hotel room and maybe do some phone and skype sessions before). However, I can see the thrill in going to a new place and having a possibly cute partner to meet and accompany you.
Meet up is another good site to check out to get immersed into a culture on your own. You can join a group in the area you’d like to check out (maybe even an expat one). You can also reach out to local members before you arrive and perhaps set up a meet and greet.
Tinder can also be a tool to meet people and maybe find love abroad. It’s an international app so who knows who you can meet while visiting your destination.
Trip Advisor is one of my favorite travel planning sites for just about everything. However, you get the best use out of it if you go to the forums. Many times soon to be visitors will do a roll call to see who is going to the that particular place when they are. It’s a way to make friends (just be smart) if you are outgoing enough to reach out to the forum writers. Many locals are also on the site to give advice and guidance on their country which can be another way to meet people far and away.
I can’t say there is a good place to find love (well maybe China since there is an overpopulation of men in need of wives). The places you might typically think are romantic might not lead to love. Therefore, I say go where your heart calls, where your passion calls.
However, if you are looking for places that might put you in a romantic state of mind check out the following:
Italy- just about anywhere. How many movies are there where Italy is the setting for love? I’m partial to Florence/Tuscany myself.
Capetown, South Africa- This is where my friend thought she’d find love. With the beaches and social scene perhaps it’s possible.
Buenos Aires, Argentina- If the city is as sexy as the tango, maybe romance is here as well.
Caribbean- Many a gal and guy has gotten swept up in a romance in Jamaica. But be careful of swindlers.
London, England- Some may disagree but I found my time there, especially when I spent a semester, a bit easier to date. It’s an easy city to strike up a conversation with a stranger.
Bali- I just keep hearing good things about it. I mean it was the love in Eat, Pray, Love.
Good luck on your international love.
So after traveling to Malaysia and Thailand and experiencing lugging heavy bags, differing luggage limitation with all the plane rides and just buying more than I thought, I began to rethink how I pack for trips.
I love fashion and makeup and hair care is very particular for me because not everywhere I got will have what I need. However, to make your life so much easier in your travels, remember that packing is not a “one size fits all” type of event. So for my fashionable cosmo folks here is my suggested fashion packing ideas depending on trip type.
Think Jamaica. There are the obvious beach toiletries like sunblock and insect repellant. But when you talk fashion keep it casual. If you are going to be on a beach climate the whole time there is no need to bring heels. Not even platforms. Everytime I do I feel like it’s a waste of space because I never wear them. The key word is Casual.
- Swim suits
- beach flip flops
- “fancy” evening flat sandals that are easy to slip on and off for beach parties
- day time sandals
- sun dresses/maxi dress
- Simple accessories
- tinted cc cream, powder or concealer; bright lip stick (pink, tangerine, red); colorful eye liner (blue, green, purple); shimmery/gold shadow; blush, lengthening mascara
- find ideas here http://www.modcloth.com/shop/beachwear
Big City Trip/High Fashion
Think Paris. When I went to Paris years ago one thing I noticed is that fashion is not a game. One way to scream “I’m a tourist” is to walk around wearing tennis. The women were serious about fashion no matter the age. I hung my head in shame when an older diva walked past me in heels with me in my gym shoes. Now I’m not suggesting go sightseeing in 4 inch heels but the key word should be Trendy.
- comfy yet fashionable flats (think converse or toms or ballet flats)
- Jeans/cargo pants and tops
- “fancy” top to go with jeans
- Little black dress /evening dresses/jumpsuit
- strappy heels
- statement necklace/bracelet/earrings
- primer, foundation, powder, high lighter, light and dark eye shadow, black gel eye liner, high volume/lengthening mascara, dark lip color and neutral lip color
- see ideas here: check out tjmaxx for ideas
City Trip/ Casual Environment
Think South Africa. A place where sight seeing and exploring is the number one goal but yet happening night life still exist. The key word is Adaptable
- flat sandals
- tennis, toms, ballet flats
- shorts/jeans/cargo pants and tops
- evening knee length or mini dresses
- cute evening tops
- “fancy” flat sandals, maybe a comfortable platform
- neutral color jewelry (think gold/silver) both simple and statement
- tinted cc cream, foundation, powder, pinks/reddish lip sticks, brown/neutral shadows, brown and black eye liners, high volume mascara
- Check out www.asos.com for ideas