Category Archives: Wanderlust

TRAVEL TIPS SERIES: PART 2 — STRATEGIES FOR FINDING AFFORDABLE ACCOMMODATIONS

Standard

NEW BLOG POST!

Now that you have some ideas about the various ways to travel to your destination via assistance from various airline/flight hacks, let’s explore the multitude of ways to secure affordable accommodations.

IMG_1343.JPG

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to not to be tied in to staying in one type of accommodation. Here are a few:

  •  Airbnb, HomeAway,VRBO — as part of the “sharing” economy, these three peer-to-peer online home stay networks are wonderful ways to experience a destination as if you are at home.  They come in the form of private homes, condos and apartments — fully furnished! I have used both VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) and Airbnb in cities like New York City, San Francisco and Boston). They are even available for international destinations. I plan to rent one the next time I travel to Paris or London.  To secure, you merely have to check availablity, place a deposit for the dates you desire, and look forward to your adventure.   I find that I prefer these arrangements over hotels, not so much because I dislike hotels, but because I get to cook my own meals in a fully stocked kitchen, launder my clothing and relax in a homey environment.  They are equipped with towels, pots/pans, wifi, and modern appliances. There are a variety of price ranges depending on the pricing assigned by the owner.  I’ve stayed in high end ones, and I’ve stayed in ones that were more economical — all were class acts. Payments are made online. Please visit each entity’s website for more information.  Below are pics from an Airbnb in New York City.
  • Hostels — this arrangement is often more economical; here guests can rent a bed (dormitory style), share bathrooms, and there are usually common area lounges and kitchens.  Unlike hotels, hostel rates are incredibly lower than hotels, and in many you can find book and music sharing  programs. It’s very communal, and opportunities to meet, socialize and hang out with other hostelers is very prominent. If you are one for privacy, you won’t find it in a hostel. EVERTHING IS NOT FOR EVERBODY. I’ve done it once, and although I have met and maintained relationships with some great people from Malta, Sweden, Canada and England while staying at a hostel in Paris, I probably won’t do it again — only because I am past dormitory style living. However, if you are on a tight budget and don’t mind communal living and interaction, this arrangement is a viable one. Additionally, there are systems in place for securing valuable items.  Many even provide airport shuttle services, along with internet lounges and a means for booking city tours. Despite the age old stereotype that hostels are best suited for students, and nomadic types, there are high end hostels and ones that offer private rooms (albeit at an additional cost).  Be sure to check out Hostelworld.com  Below are pics of a hostel in Bangkok, Thailand.
  • Couchsurfing — I must admit that I have not experienced this one first hand. Every time I vow to try it, I chicken out! I can’t seem to muster up the courage to sleep on a total stranger’s couch.  However, a couple of friends have couched surfed, and they found it safe and convivial. Although a guest could conceivably stay on a host’s couch, private rooms in homes are often provided.  One of the most attractive features of Couchsurfing is that it is free; there is an annual membership fee, however. If you have a skill or talent or other interests, these can be shared, also, with your host.

img_1771

If you still prefer staying in a traditional hotel, I strongly suggest that you make arrangements through booking.com, a great site!  Whenever I have used this site, I have had pleasurable results.  For example, for an overnight layover in Dublin, Ireland, I booked a room through this website, and I landed a beautiful room in The Clayton Hotel (really luxurious) for a mere $79.00.  When I arrived — super exhausted, I might add, the hotel agent kindly informed me that the Clayton was providing me with an upgrade to a suite.  When I asked him how much it would cost, he gently replied “courtesy of us.”  Needless to say, I’m going back to Dublin soon, AND I’M STAYING AT THE CLAYTON!

CHECKOUT THESE WEBSITES:

airbnb.com, couchsurfing.org, hostelworld.com, homeaway.com, vrbo.com

NOTE:   Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series where I will talk about tips for “Traveling Comfortably.”

 

 

 

Advertisements

BEEN ALL OVER THE WORLD, BUT I HAVEN’T BEEN TO PILSEN IN MY OWN HOMETOWN!

Standard

NEW BLOG POST!!

It’s a damn shame!  I’ve been to Australia, France, China, Africa, Spain and a host of other foreign countries.  I pride myself on being a global citizen, who partakes in a variety of cultural offerings.  I’m open to diverse cultures and sampling unique foods. I have even tried learning French at age 50+.

So with all this cultural exposure, how in the world could I have never been to The Pilsen community on the lower west side of Chicago?

I have been trying to get to The National Mexican Museum of Art since 2002; every year I vow that I am going to visit there, but it keeps greeting pushed off.  Back in 2015, I clearly stated in a blog post that I would no longer put it off and visit this treasure in 2016. Have I done it, yet? Not yet, BUT…

Recently I enrolled in a photography class with a phenomenal organization — Blue 1647!! Blue is a technology innovation center “where diverse people making a positive impact in the world gather to create, collaborate, learn and build (from Mission Statement).” With a mission like this, it’s no wonder Blue 1647 would find themselves in the heart of Pilsen — a community ripe for technological innovation, business development and culture.

When I found myself having to go there for my class, I was a bit excited because I’d never spent anytime in Pilsen.  Conversely, I was a bit uneasy about going there for the same reason — I’d never been there. If  I am honest with myself, I would have to acknowledge that no matter how adventurous I have been throughout my life, doing something for the first time was still daunting, even for me!

I love serendipity!  Here I am taking a class in a neighborhood that I have heard so much about but hadn’t spent any time there.  Once I arrived for my class and had to go out to shoot photos, I immediately felt the electricity and specialness of Pilsen. How could I have overlooked it, underestimated the importance of spending time there, and as much as I love Mexican food, what was my problem? I wondered.

Being surrounded by a number of beautiful murals depicting  Mexican culture, being in the midst of coffee houses like Cafe Jumping Bean, taquerias and the lure of the aromas of Churros and other edibles, I became overjoyed and blessed to be present here on a Saturday — a day where you can truly capture (with a camera) the the life of a community.  I could feel Pilsen’s spirit.

Residents rode by on bikes and even stopped to take pics with the women in my class.  Cars whizzing by slowed down to a crawl to checkout why seven women  were clicking away with their 35mm cameras.

Like many Chicago neighborhoods, Pilsen has gone through its share of gentrification; many families have moved out because of what’s been called an affordability factor. However, Pilsen hasn’t seemed to have lost its true essence.

It has a great balance of older adults who maintain the stories, music and history of its residents. There is other end of the spectrum where there are young people with high energy, new ideas and dreams.  There are small business owners like shoe cobblers, hardware stores, dress shops and long established restaurants.

Street food, Horchata and Huaraches can be found everywhere!

There is a lightness in the air — the kind that says, “we are family; welcome to it!”

I look forward to hanging out more and more (with my camera, of course) in Pilsen! I plan to get to know her well.

 

 

 

 

 

A RECAP: ONE YEAR OF THIS…I…DO…FOR…ME!

Standard

It was exactly one year on August 15, 2015 that I launched This…I…Do…For…Me (TIDFM)! It has been a year of tremendous growth, creativity, meeting fascinating people, traveling to places that I thought I’d never visit and stepping out with the belief that I could carry TIDFM off into the world for the benefit of women who are 50 years of age and older!

image.png

I am most proud of the business’s website thisidoforme.com; this is the pipeline for posting information for our clients and readers in the areas of Art/Literature, Theater/Dance, Music/Concerts, Food/Restaurants, For the Soul, and Travel. I chose to focus on these areas for the website, as well as the blog thisidoforme.wordpress.com because activities, outings and excursions would serve as the focal point to encourage our target population to immerse and treat themselves, particularly since they have spent countless years caring for others.

image.jpeg

Here are some of the fun things that I, along with my adventurous clients explored this past year:

TRAVEL

In September 2015 – It was 11 cities in France – Paris, Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Avignon, Monaco, St. Paul de Vence, St. Balme Maxime, Nice, Lyon and St. Tropez! I left feeling like France was my home.

In November 2015 – It was magnificent Sydney, Australia! I have a trip planned for eight people planned in November 2017!

In January 2016 – It was the beautiful shores of Orange County and Los Angeles, California!  Shopping and sheer relaxation was the order of day for a solid week.

In June 2016 – I had the honor of traveling to Madrid, Salamanca and La Alberca, Spain! It was here that I fell in love with the culture, the magnificent food and the warm and loving people. I even had the chance to take a short side trip to Dublin, Ireland! I must go back there if for no other reason than I must spend more time in some of neighborhood pubs that are full of life, laughter and good food to accompany that fun environment.

ON THE TRAVEL RADAR FOR 2017:

It’s looking like Atlanta, Georgia in January, Cuba in February and back to Sydney, Australia in November 2017! Life is Good!

THEATER AND DANCE

Some of the theater outings that TIDFM clients participated in included Byhalia, Mississippi at The Steppenwolf Theater, Lorraine Hansberry’s The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window at The Goodman Theater, the musical 42nd Street at The Cadillac Palace Theater, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at The Oriental Theater and Satchmo at the Waldorf at Hyde Park’s Court Theater.

ON THE THEATER AND DANCE RADAR FOR 2017:

The critically acclaimed Hamilton (hopefully my group’s name will move up the wait list)! If I see nothing else except Hamilton in 2017, it will have been a good year.

FOOD AND RESTAURANTS

Yes, I and my clients love to eat! I, along with food critic Eleni Murphy reviewed some interesting restaurants. Eleni even shared some of her London, England favs. Oftentimes, these restaurants were sampled following a theater performance. What a way to top off a great production!

Here are some of the restaurants visited and reviewed during TIDFM’s first year of operation:

1. Café Ba Ba Reeba (Chicago, Illinois)
2. Sobrino de Botin (Madrid, Spain)
3. NAC (London, England)
4. Kappacasein Dairy (London, England)
5. Granger and Co (London, England)
6. Berners Tavern (London, England)
7. Sweet Mandy B’s (Chicago, Illinois)
8. Del Seoul (Chicago, Illinois)
9. Summer House Santa Monica (Chicago, Illinois)
10. Dove’s Luncheonette (Chicago, Illinois)
11. Cemetia’s Puebla (Chicago, Illinois)
12. Nini’s Deli (Chicago, Illinois)
13. Podhalanka (Chicago, Illinois)
14. Mercado San Miguel (Madrid, Spain)

ON THE FOOD AND RESTAURANT RADAR IN 2017

1. Army Thai on Damen
2. La Palapa on 34th Street

ART AND LITERATURE

I and a client attended the “Portraits of Motherhood” Exhibit, which highlighted the artistic talent of Antonia Ruppert. I found a gem on the south side of Chicago – The Creative Room located in the heart of the Park Manor community. This design studio’s mission is to provide a space for people to create their own DIY (do it yourself) interior design projects.  Clemenstien Love is the mastermind behind this hidden treasure.

I provided overview of books that I’ve read over the past year – including a few children’s books. There were a mixture of travel, music, autobiography/memoirs, short stories and social justice commentaries.  They ranged from biographies of culinary icon Marcus Samuelsson to children’s classics like “Corduroy” by Don Freeman.  For reviews of the other selections, please check out the art and literature link on thisidoforme.com

ON THE ART AND LITERATURE RADAR IN 2017

I plan in conjunction with another entity to include my clients on a few Famous House Tours during the holidays. Please stay tuned.

FOR THE SOUL

One of my favorite things to do in conjunction with the business is learning about the myriad ways in which women care for themselves even in the midst of dealing with life’s stressors. This section of the website spotlights a diversity of women who share with TIDFM’s audience how they care for their souls, especially as they are taking care of other people, their jobs/businesses.  Please check it out as you might find some helpful hints on self-care and the exploration of new things.

My first year has been loaded with fun, doubt, new experiences and places, great people and a true excitement about TIDFM’s future growth.

The growth of TIDFM has manifested through the creation of a logo, connecting with Mighty Mongoose Tours to write a blog post of an upcoming helicopter excursion, participation in The Diverbo program in Spain, serving as a guest on the radio program “Living it Up After 50,” hired two freelance writers for the website, ran two TIDFM contests, announced TIDFM’s first international excursion to Sydney, Australia, and I was asked to review a self-empowerment book by a coaching expert.

I am grateful to our readers, those who traveled with me and those who joined us on a number of outings. In the coming year, I plan to broaden TIDFM’s reach, and I hope you will stick around for the ride.

image.jpeg

PHOTO ABOVE:  Me enjoying Indoor Skydiving!

 

September and October 2016: A Recap of Travel, Education And Fun

Standard

imageEvery two months, I will provide an update on my travels, activities and any new venture that materializes.  Here is what I had the opportunity to experience during September and October 2016:

TRAVEL:

From September 9-20, 2015, I experienced Wonderful France that featured excursions to Paris, Avignon, Arles, Aix-En-Provence, St. Tropez, Nice, Monaco, Lyon, St. Paul de Vence, Beaune and St.  Balme Maxime.  This entire trip was fun, educational and whimsical.  The food was great and the historic sights were amazing!

In October, I was honored to return to my undergraduate institution Oberlin College for the OA4 (Oberlin Association of African American Alumni) reunion.  It was amazing to see classmates that I had not seen since commencement. To be able to reminisce while walking the campus and getting reconnected to the college that served as the foundation for my path in social services was almost surreal.

Also in October, I had the chance to travel to Cincinnati, Ohio, for The International Congress of Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly (LBFE). Not only were the workshops well presented, but I was blessed to meet my colleagues who work in other parts of the world.  Staff and board members from other LBFE chapters — Madrid, Barcelona, Romania, France, Switzerland, Germany, Poland and Ireland and the U.S. — were able to meet and share best practices for working with isolated elders.

THEATRE

In mid October, I attended The  Court Theatre’s (Chicago) production of “Gem of the Ocean” written by renowned playwright August Wilson.  Wilson wrote The Century Cycle plays (one for every decade from the 1900s to 1990s), and after having seen this production, I can proudly say I have seen all 10 of Wilson’s masterpieces.

NEW RESTAURANTS

I, along with five “This I Do For Me” participants, experienced an absolutely delectable meal at Francessa’s on Taylor in September, and at Pizza Capri and Chant, in October.

READING

In September, I read the seminal work “The Sisters Are Alright” — a must read that examines the stereotypes that plague African American women. The author Tamara Winfrey Harris did a beautiful job with this book.  Also, “Leave Your Nets” written by mystic Joel Goldsmith was devoured by me in October.

MUSIC

In October, I saw the musical phenom Cecilie McLorin Salvant in concert, and immediately following the concert, I purchased her latest CD entitled “For One to Love.” I am also listening to “Live in Cuba” by The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.

Lets see what November holds!

You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest .

#thisidoforme.com

Reflections on France — How I Miss Her!

Image
Reflections on France — How I Miss Her!

I have been back exactly one month from my Wonderful France trip, and one thing is really clear to me — I want to go back!  France has that great mix of serenity — Saint Paul de Vence and  Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Balme — to high profile sophistication of Monaco, Monte Carlo, Nice and Lyon– to the just plain fast pace as you would find in exciting Paris.

When I say I felt freer than I have in my entire life, I mean it.  I was free to meet new people —  adventuresome Australians, caring Canadians and all ablaze Americans.  I was free to try my first Pastis and my first Floating Island.  I unapologetically and unashamably took pictures of all the iconic Parisian and uniquely French sites, while at the same time taking photos of some of the most unsuspecting aspects of life in France.  You know the ones that cause you to ask yourself “who would be interested in this photo?”

The food, the food, the food!  Who knew that ordinary chicken could express its Frenchness in so many different ways.  I actually had Coq Au Vin!  Who knew that macarons taste better in Aix? Who knew I would eat at Paul Bocuse’s Lyonaise Restaurant in Lyon? And, oh, The boulangeries, charcuteries and the plentiful open air markets (St. Tropez) too big to navigate in one visit.  I had fun trying, though!

Who knew that I would find a bracelet laden with Swarovski Crystals for little or nothing?! I came back loaded down not with clothing, but with tee shirts and refrigerator magnets shouting out Côte D’Azur, Avignon, Arles and Cannes!

I am determined to cook something — anything — with those cooking herbs from Provence, and then lay that meal atop the Provençal linen that I purchased.

Yes, I’m a newly minted Froncophile.  Can’t you tell?  Actually, I’ve been one for a while through my mental travels, visits to French restaurants in Chicago, and through the writings of James Baldwin, Richard Wright,  Peter Mayle, Julia Child and a good number of Expats, who like me, have that Love of France Disease.

France, who knew I would miss you this much? #thisidoforme.com

ANTICIPATION!!

Standard

As I prepare for my trip to France later this week,  I am paying close attention to all the emotions that are flooding my mind, body and soul.

What stands out is the sense of anticipation that I am experiencing, not just excitement, but a feeling that something is about to be birthed.  Usually, I am excited about the new country that I am going to visit, the foods that I will sample and of course, the shopping that I will get to do.

I have been to France before on two other occasions (Paris, Aix, Marseille), and although I will excitingly get introduced to new French towns/cities (St. Tropez, Beaune, Monaco, Lyon), this trip is different from other trips taken in the past.

I can’t recall anticipating visiting a new city with the hope of returning home to plan something — a trip, an excursion to new restaurant, an educational lecture — not for me, but for you!  “This I Do For Me” readers, I take this trip with brand new eyes and a heart for creating something for you that you will remember, always.

While I’m traveling, please check our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest pages.  Wheels Up!

Baguettes, Macarons and Crepes -- Here I Come!

Baguettes, Macarons and Crepes — Here I Come!