Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Me, the Book-worm

I've been reading like crazy this summer!
Truth is, my summer plans changed quite a bit. Originally, I was planning on spending my summer in China, Vietnam, maybe Australia and then in Japan where I would work in Beppu (southern Japan) with a friend of mine. Unfortunately, that didn't happen so I've been lazily hanging around Prague. Many of my friends left for the summer or are doing their internships so I've been spending a lot of time wandering around the city, reading books and sipping on iced lattes. I won't complain as it's nice to relax before writing a bachelor's thesis but....I'm a type of person who loves to be busy all the time. So, in order to make use of my endless reading, I figured I would share with fellow wanderlusters who are book-worms like me:

1. Dance, Dance, Dance by Haruki Murakami (my favourite author)
2. Norweigan Wood by Haruki Murakami
3. 19Q4 by Haruki Murakami
4. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
5. The General's Son by Miko Peled
6. Wild by Cheryl Strand
7. The Little Book of Mindfulness by Patricia Collard

Read on wanderlusters!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

I'll start from my most recent trip...which was so spontaneous and absolutely the best last-minute decision I've ever made. It was to...wait for it...drum roll... Rio de Janeiro, Brazil!

Two of my best friends were going and one of them is, well, practically Brazilian as she goes twice a year and is fluent in Portuguese, so luckily the trip was planned out and I was able to squeeze in there,  I bought my plane ticket about 15 hours before the flight- talk about sudden spontaneity! It was the afternoon that my two best friends presented their BA theses and passed their state exams. We came to university with two mini bottles of champagne and lots of hugs to congratulate the new Journalism and Communication degree holders.
The last few months had been pretty emotionally and mentally draining for me. I was in desperate need of an escape. I had been feeling really out of touch with myself, especially with my soul. I felt completely and utterly exhausted from numerous things which were happening around me and from university (side-note: I was supposed to graduate alongside my two friends but due to one extremely difficult class I had to prolong my degree an extra semester). So, it was time to replenish myself.

My friends and I were sipping on some drinks at an outdoor cafe along the Vlatva River here in Prague and I said, 'Guys, I want to come to Brazil. Can I come?' (another side-note: they asked me to come along months before but I declined as I had other summer plans- which were cancelled a month or two before- and I needed to focus on writing my thesis). 
They got all excited and basically, I bought the last ticket for their flight. I went home that evening, packed quickly, went to exchange some money, sleep an hour or so before heading to the airport at 4 AM. 
We had a connecting flight in Amsterdam and I flew on the flight one hour before them so that part of my journey was alone. I was sitting in the plane, right before take-off just staring at my ticket. I'm not sure if I was in utter shock that I was actually going to Brazil or I was just so tired from not sleeping that I was dozing off with my eyes open...maybe a combination of the two.

We spent the next two and a half weeks on the famous beaches Ipanema and Copacabana, exploring the streets, meeting wonderful people, relaxing, sipping on coconuts and eating cups of acai as big as our heads. Unfortunately, this time around we didn't get to go much into the nature parts or out of the city but I guess that's all the more reason to go again! 
We did go to Cristos Reedemer one afternoon. It was fascinating to take a little bus up a narrow, winding mountain road and also to see the favellas up close. At the top, the views were absolutely  breath-taking and the Cristos stood tall before us. We also had probably the best mango juice ever created. We actually heard a tour guide tell his tour that the mango juice in this cafe was the best in all of Rio...and I'm not surprised. If you go to see the Cristo Reedeemer, make sure to stop in the first cafe you come across when climbing up the stairs (after giving your ticket)- it will have a lovely patio with a view. This is where you need to get a mango juice (or any fresh juice for that matter). Also, if you are a caffeine addict like me, you can find a cappuccino like the ones you get at home here. I had a really hard time finding a 'latte' or 'cappuccino' while in Rio. For some reason, every time I thought I found one, it ended up being a melted chocolate cup with maybe a drop or two of espresso. 

My friend insisted that I try the 'tapioca'. When she first told me I had a completely different image in my mind so I was a bit hesitant as I'm not the biggest fan of tapioca. However, this was a glorious little snack which changed my idea of tapioca completely. There were sweet and savory options so, of course, I opted for a sweet one: a dulce de leche with coconut flakes. It rocked my world. The best place to get them is from a street vendor; we got ours in the evening along the streets of Copacabana. 

Brazil showed me what the most beautiful sunsets in the world look like. I was in complete awe watching the sun setting over the mountains, coloring the sky in vibrant orange, purple and pink colors. We stayed for about 45 minutes and soaked in the beauty around us. I wanted to take hundreds and hundreds of photos but I told myself that these moments don't necessarily need to be documented because you'll miss the entire experience. So, yes, I took quite a few photos but then I set my phone down and watched as the stars took over the sky. 

Before coming to Brazil I had drank caipirinha...or so I thought. I tried some on the beach and I realized I had never actually tried a real caipirinha before! It's an alcoholic drink made with cachaça, sugar and lime. They were incredible and I vowed to never drink a caipirinha which wasn't from Brazil again (I ended up breaking that and regretting it). 
Now, I'm not a health-freak or anything but I would say that I usually eat pretty healthy and wholesome. I don't diet, I don't watch what I eat, if I want a piece of cake then I will have a piece of cake (or the whole cake). However, I don't usually eat fried foods. If you call that some dietary restriction then I guess that's my only one. I was never really into fried foods or fast food. It just doesn't sit well in me and I don't find it really tasty, so I just stay away from it. In Brazil though, I realized A LOT of the food is fried. Of course, I had quite a bit of fried food but I came back to Europe feeling pretty yucky. With that all said, I would still recommend trying some of their fried cuisine (don't worry they have plenty of other options). Some of the best fried food I had eaten there was: pão de queijo (fried cheese balls) and olinho de bacalhau (codfish fried ball)

One of my friends is a vegan so we were always trying to find places which accommodated to her. It was hard but definitely do-able. So, vegans and vegetarians of the world, fear not! Brazil DOES have options for people following these types of diets. We ate mainly at buffet style restaurants which are quite popular there. Our two weeks were filled with tons of rice and beans, veggies and fruits (I usually added salmon, sushi or chicken to my plate). Towards the end of the trip I realized that almost all of my clothes were starting to feel...tight...while you can see that as a reason to freak out, I saw it as a sign of a holiday thoroughly enjoyed!

Overall, Brazil was an absolutely incredible experience. We met many amazing people, met some old friends of my friend, explored, relaxed and most importantly replenished our souls. The experiences I had there were surreal. I was sitting on the plane back to Europe thinking to myself, "Did all of that just happen?" Yes, yes it surely did. 

Here are some tips I would advise you to follow when going to Brazil, regardless of the time of year:

1. Be safe. That's a no-brainer. Rio de Janeiro is NOT the safest city in the world but if you are mindful of your surroundings and you try to blend in much as you can, you will be just fine. I'll admit, I didn't feel as safe there as I do on the streets of Prague but I did not feel like I was in imminent danger. Always listen to your gut, if you feel like you are walking down a bad street, turn around and go back. Also, don't flash around your iPhone 6, your big fancy digital camera or designer wallet stuffed with money. When on the beach, keep it minimal, cover your belongings and NEVER leave things unattended. If you act like a local, people will believe you are and thus, you will likely be able to avoid any trouble (but, hey, stuff still happens sometimes). 

2. Wear sun-screen (and bring bug-spray). The sun is strong. All. Year. Long. We went when it was winter and I still got pretty burned on the first day. There are also a lot of bugs and mosquitoes, some which carry diseases such as malaria and while it's unlikely you will get bit by one of these mosquitoes, it's still good to use bug spray and avoid those big, ugly red bumps all over your legs and arms.

3. Don't assume everyone speaks Spanish. Just because they are in South America does not mean they speak Spanish. It's just ignorant to assume that. Their most widely spoken language is Portuguese. Much of the population in Rio does not speak any Spanish. While my friend is fluent in Portuguese, there were several instances when my other friend and I would go out to explore. We didn't speak a word of Portuguese. Okay, we knew several basic phrases but it was difficult because many people we encountered didn't speak English very well and didn't speak any Spanish. After talking with some locals and asking them what to do in these situations, they always told us, don't assume that people here speak Spanish, they usually are a bit offended and then they will know you are a 'gringa' (Portuguese word for female foreigner). 

4. Take a taxi at night. Especially after a night of drinking in Lapa (or anywhere else downtown). Be smart and travel in groups at night unless you are very familiar with the city and know the language. 

5. Do not wander off into a favela. Do not do it alone and do not do it at night. Do not go there if you are looking for drugs or whatever it is that you fancy. There are many drug lords in the favelas who deal and will kill you without mercy if you create any sort of conflict over drugs. I've heard many stories about foreigners wandering into these favelas looking for drugs to amplify their big night out in Rio. Well, their big night out didn't happen- either they were found dead, seriously beaten and close to death, jailed or missing. Just don't do it. You can have a fun night out in Rio by just drinking the caipirinhas and avoiding several broken bones or a black eye. Do not go on tour through there because that's just, again, ignorant. Think about it, you are walking through an area where people with less are living and snapping photos so you can post it on your social media pages to claim you had some 'living-changing experience' and then you go back to your fancy hotel and order room service. It's just not very kind, in my opinion. It's not a museum where you can just wander around, point, stare and snap photos. It's a place where people, like you and me, live whether its temporary or permanent. Be respectful. If you know anything about favelas, you will know that there are some worse than others. They are in every neighborhood through Rio except for one. Respect that people live there and it's their home, maybe by choice but many times it's not.

While it might all sound scary, it's just common sense. Be smart when traveling, but especially in Brazil. The likelihood of something bad happening to you is slim-to-none but remember that anything can happen and it's always better to be safe than sorry. 

I hope that this will inspire you to travel to Brazil and explore the beauty that Rio de Janeiro is! 

Travel on wanderlusters!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Travels of 2015

There have been quite a few destinations explored this year...some planned and some very spontaneous.

So far, and posts will follow focusing on each location, this year I've been lucky enough to explore around:
Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague- Netherlands
Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Oita, Beppu- Japan
Dublin and the Cliffs of Moher- Ireland
Rio de Janeiro- Brazil

& tomorrow we are off to explore Athens, Mykonos and Santorini, Greece!

By the end of this year, I'm hoping to make it Dubai and Abu Dhabi- United Arab Emirates; Istanbul- Turkey; Venice- Italy and head back to South America (Brazil, Argentina, Peru) for two or three months before I need to present my bachelor's thesis and take my state exams in February. Has anyone been to these places and give me some recommendations? I'm always trying to find the best coffee shops in any new city I travel to as I am an extreme caffeine addict...or maybe it's just that I love latte art from around the world!

A few of my favourite travel quotes, which I like to remember right before going on an adventure:

"Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller." – Ibn Battuta

"We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls." – Anais Nin

"To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted." – Bill Bryson

This one is especially important:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” – Mark Twain

Yes, I'm a student and money is usually tight but if you REALLY want to travel, you will make it happen someway. I'm a firm believer in that. I have worked numerous jobs or gone to the United States for my summer holidays to work as a nanny for two wonderful girls in order to save some money and be able to travel to these places. I've spent countless hours in my university lectures with my mind wandering and thinking 'why the hell am I sitting here when I could be out there somewhere exploring?'

I told myself long ago that I will not be one those people to sit in an office job for the next 30-40 years of my life, from 9-5pm, Monday-Friday. No matter what happens, I will find a way to travel around the world and live a life full of adventure, happiness and bring back wonderful stories and have unforgettable experiences. That being said, this quote is spot-on: "I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine." – Caskie Stinnett

Travel on wanderlusters!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Whoa...New Name?

So...you may have noticed a slight change (okay, a big change! in TWW: the NAME. Yes, I decided to change the name to La Vie Bohème, seeing as now it won't only be a travel blog but a travel and lifestyle blog. I felt that the name would be a little deceiving to new readers. Plus, changes with TWW mean it's okay to change the name, right?

I'm working on getting the URL changed so it will be lavboheme.com instead of travelingwithwanderlust.blogspot.cz.

The name was inspired by the fact that I mostly reside in the Bohemia region of Czech Republic and life truly is quite 'Bohemian' there. A little ironic that the name is French and the region is in Czech Republic, eh?

I hope the new name and newness of everything else won't retract old readers and if so, drop me an email at travelingwithwanderlust@gmail.com and we will see what can be done :)

Have a lovely evening wanderlusters (yes, I will still call you all that) and travel on!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Let's Talk About New York City

The Big Apple. The Empire State. The City That Never Sleeps. The City of Lights. The City of Hopes and Dreams. Manhattan. New York, New York. Oh, NYC you wonderful and horrible place.

I both love and hate Manhattan. While growing up, the summers we didn't spend back home in Czech Republic, we would sometimes venture up into the city for a week or so. Then we would retreat back to our country life in southern Maryland, dazed by the quickness of life in the city, filled with pollution in our lungs and wishing to never see an obnoxiously yellow car ever again.

While I say I have a love//hate relationship with the city, I'll never pass an opportunity to be in Manhattan. I'm keen to see what Chicago will hold whenever I will finally make a trip over there.

Anywho, let's get to the fun stuff about New York:

Blinding, crazy, cold but wonderful Times Square by night.

Times Square!

A woooonderfully good french toast breakfast at 12 Chairs in Soho. A must go-to place.

My gorgeous breakfast date // New York City travel companion in SoHo.

Adventures in China Town.

Walking the Brooklyn Bridge (with super cold and sore feet) into Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Roasting Company- right by the river in a warehouse building. Great coffee- a bit on the expensive side but definitely worth it + the atmosphere is so very 'Brooklyn'.

I'm OBSESSED with Thai food so of course, we had to go to at least one Thai restaurant. I believe it was Pam Real Thai Food in Hell's Kitchen. On the outside it didn't look like much but inside it was very modern, dark and the food was delicious. Amazing pad thai and lovely service.

While I'm obsessed with Thai food, I think my heart belongs mainly with coffee. I would go to every coffee shop in a city if I could. Naturally, I Googled the best coffee shops in each part of New York we explored. This quaint little cafe. Third Rail Coffee, was in Greenwich Village. Great $3.50 latte and they even did a little bit of that latte art everyone loves to Instagram.

Morning walk through SoHo.

Central Park, you were gorgeous that Friday morning. 

I had never been to Grand Central Station and as Gossip Girl was one of my favorite shows growing up, I just had to go to the place that started off the show. (GG fans you'll know what I mean).

Breezy strolls through Central Park on our last morning in the city.

Pre-Brooklyn Bridge foot cramps.

Grand Central Terminal Station with my darling of a friend from university.

The Slavics take on New York City!

Some other restaurants we went to were:
- Red Bamboo (vegetarian/vegan)
- OatMeals (awesome oatmeal bar- I didn't even know these existed- with a huge variety of sweet and savory oatmeals...I got the Indian Spiced and it was amazing).
- Birch Coffee

In 2 (full) days we went through:
-West Village (where we stayed)
- SoHo
- Chinatown
- Little Italy
- Upper East Side
- Brooklyn
- Greenwich Village
- East Harlem
- Mid-Town
- East Village
- Lower Manhattan
- No-Ho
- Flat Iron District
- Upper West Side
- Hell's Kitchen

And all on foot! Okay, so maybe we took a metro the last day between Mid-Town and West Village because we were about to keel over from walking SO much.

Well, I guess that's all about New York City! Travel on wanderlusters!

P.S. Tomorrow will be TWW's first fashion-inspired post.