I Toured Sachsenhausen….A German Concentration Camp

I could not leave Germany without a history lesson. This lesson was a hard one to swallow, as I decided to visit a concentration camp. My friends and I did a guided walking tour of the Nazi Concentration camp of Sachsenhausen. We met the tour guide in a Central location in Berlin and from there embarked on a 1-hour journey to Oranienburg, Germany via train. When we arrived to Oranienburg, the first thing I noticed about the neighborhood was how quaint and unassuming it was. The houses were colorful and the sun was shining bright. You would never think just a few blocks away, a place like Sachsenhausen existed.

IMG_4853.JPGIMG_4858.JPGAs we inched closer to the gates of the concentration camp, anxieties from all 17-people on the tour began to rise. The tour guide used the opportunity to tell us that the beautiful houses that we walked by were the homes of German soldiers who spent their days murdering and torturing innocent people. They had the privilege to come back to their homes (right outside of the camp), with their picket fences and perfect families.  My mind began to race before even stepping foot into the camp. How could people be so sociopathic and evil?IMG_4859.JPGIMG_4857.JPGThere was an estimated 20k concentration camps in Occupied Europe. At the Sachsenhausen camp there was a classification system based on the triangle that prisoners had to wear on their clothes. For example:

  • Lilac Triangle: Jehovah Witness
  • Red Triangle: Political Opponents of the Nazis
  • Black Triangle: Anti-Socials – Become better Germans and more keen to Nazism
  • Pink Triangle: Homosexuals

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Finally, we entered the gates which read in German,“Work will liberate you.”

IMG_4890We visited the barracks, which were extremely small rooms but would hold 250-people in it. Three people were required to sleep in one small bed. The prisoners had to deal with typhus fever, starvation, and rats. They ate stale bread, sausage, and artificial coffee. The nazi’s knew just enough calories the prisoners could eat to keep them active and alive. Some of the prisoners, with skills that the nazi’s could benefit from, were put to use. One of those being the counterfeiters, who were able to forge money, jewelry and more for the Nazi’s. IMG_4899.JPGIMG_4896.JPGIMG_4906.JPGIMG_4911.JPGIMG_4918.JPGIMG_4923.JPGWe learned all about the torture techniques of the Nazi’s including visiting the gallows. Of course, if prisoners tried to escape they were either gunned down or electrocuted by the bob-wired gates. Some of the prisoners thought they were visiting a doctor but a needle filled with poison would be injected in them.Finally, we visited the gas chambers and the ovens. The Nazi’s at this camp killed 500 prisoners every 24-hours and burned them in the ovens.IMG_4933.JPGIMG_4934.JPGIMG_4946.JPGIMG_4942.JPGAs you can imagine, the tour was powerful but very overwhelming. At one point, I almost fainted because of the evil that I was learning human beings were capable of. To be within the confines of such death, torture, and hatred can take a toll on you. Hate is vile and it’s sick. It has no place in the world, not then and definitely not now. Even though the holocaust happened over 80-years ago, you still get a sense, in these camps, that you’re surrounded by death.The air feels heavy and overpowering. The camp is very eerie and isolating. I was surrounded by friends but still got a sense of aloneness. I felt fear. I felt sadness.

I walked away from this experience with a strong sense and responsibility to love others more. To smile more. To not be so divided by trivial things. We’re all humans. We are all equal. We need to love one another no matter what.IMG_4935.JPGKy Tip: Click Here for a link to some of the best Sachsenhausen walking tours in Berlin.  

Hallo Berlin!

I only went to Berlin for one reason and one reason only…ART. Okay, now that I think about it. Two reasons, art and history. I’ve heard that Berlin has a huge hipster culture as well, so I was curious to find out. This was the most spontaneous trip I’ve ever taken. Usually, I have well-thought out itineraries but this time I just wanted to go with the flow. Ironically, I never did make it to an art museum or any formal museum in Berlin for that matter but my time there was still very rich. Street art covers the walls of Berlin, especially the most famous wall of all, The Berlin Wall. In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, making clear, that the Cold War and the divide between East and West Berlin, no longer had standing in the country.  It was an amazing time in history and the Berlin Wall is a stark reminder of this. You can walk the Berlin Wall for miles and miles; every time you think you’ve reached the end, you realize you haven’t. The wall is filled with beautiful and colorful artwork promoting peace, unity and pride in Berlin.

IMG_4694.JPGIMG_4702IMG_4703In addition to the Berlin Wall, we visited Brandenburg Gate. There was a marathon going on at the time, which made the area around the gate impossible to get close to (another reason why the museum was off limits..we couldn’t get through the marathon), but it was still an experience nonetheless.

IMG_4788IMG_4793Our hotel was located in Alexanderplatz, so we frequented it’s large public square often. During our casual walks in the vicinity, we couldn’t help but to notice the Fernsehturm, which is a large television tower constructed between 1965 and 1969.IMG_4680Checkpoint Charlie Museum was filled with excitement for us. One of my friends actually kissed one of the soldiers there…AHHH! They were quite frisky if you ask me. Apparently, Checkpoint Charlie was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War.IMG_4818IMG_4822IMG_4831River Spree, which flows through Berlin and as far as the Czech Republic, was the perfect time for reflection. Sometimes I need these moments of serenity to express gratitude for my travels. The only reason I am here is because of God and I give thanks to his power and plan over my life.Travel By Ky BerlinIMG_4761.JPGSome of the people in Berlin are not very warm and fuzzy. It also didn’t help that we had no knowledge of the German language. However, using a map and our phones we were still able to maneuver our way around their train and bus systems.IMG_4849IMG_4776Like I mentioned before, I wanted to get a slight taste of hipster culture in Berlin. We tried to go to a reggae bar/beach club called Yaam but it was not a popping night…at all. Me and my girls got dressed up looking like some dance hall queens only to be greeted by Rastafarian men chilling, smoking and getting their drink on. It was weird and I could’ve sworn I saw a rodent crawling on the roof. That was enough for me to run for my life. All of the rastas were confused AF by my sudden exit. But I heard this place is pretty cool on a good day.

Ky Tip: 

  • I read a really good piece about Berlin on Travel Noire that inspired me to want to go. You can read it here. I don’t think I experienced the essence of this city which is unfortunate. If I was to ever go again, it would have to be with someone who knows the city like the back of their hand, because it’s  expansive.

Amsterdam…We Meet Again!

The first time I visited Amsterdam, I fell in love with the city. I was only there for a long layover, but it was enough for me to know I wanted return as soon as I could. You can read about my first Amsterdam trip here.  Two years later, I did. This time for a week and I can honestly say, it’s still one of my favorite cities. Amsterdam is charming. From its canals to its industrial architecture, it feels like a city that fuses nature and tradition with innovation (if that makes any sense at all).

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Like anyone visiting Amsterdam, the first stop was the coffee shops. I had a pumpkin spice latté with not one, not two, but three cakes. The cakes were delish. It didn’t hit me initially, but as I was walking back to my friend’s apartment, it had done the deed. We had plans to take a weekend trip to Berlin, but because of our coffee shop pit stop, we ended up missing our Mega Bus (or Flix bus as they call it in Europe) by 20-minutes. I was convinced the bus left at 11:52pm when in fact it was 11:25pm. That was the absolute worst feeling ever. The feeling of defeat and paranoia is a recipe for disaster. I won’t bore you with all of the details of how this night ended.

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The next morning, feeling more like myself (a little), we rushed back to the bus station, only to discover, it would cost us twice as much to get to Berlin. Whatever it took, as we had a hotel reservation and a friend meeting us there. We hopped on the bus and embarked on a 9-hour ride to Germany. Sherma and I caught up on sleep, talked and played games to pass the time. Every so often we would jump out at rest stops in random spots in Germany to smell the German air. We even ate German Burger King.

Of course, people stared at us, especially as I complained about having to pay 0.60euros to use the bathroom. When we finally got to Germany, our taxi driver started out being a mean grump but he ended up being a nice old man, who had a contagious German laugh. We settled into our hotel and roamed the streets, coming across a beer garden where we cheered to a good time and positive vibes in Germany.

Ky Tips:

  • Mega Bus (Flix Bus): Yes, you can take a bus to Berlin from Amsterdam and you can actually travel to a lot of places using Flix Bus. These buses are a fraction of the cost that it would take you to fly but as you can imagine, you need time.  Most people hate coach buses. I actually love them. One of the things I did notice while coming to and from Berlin on these buses is that everyone wants their own row. For the most part no one sat next to us, but we were one of the first ones on the bus and claimed our territory before anyone had the chance to. 
  • Public Restrooms in Europe: Paying to use the public bathrooms is a thing in Europe and it really makes you appreciate the luxury of walking into a restaurant or even Target and not having to pay to use their restrooms in America.

 

I Lost My Hearing in South Africa

It took a long time for me to tell this story. But after a year and a half, I think it’s time to share. As a travel blogger, it’s important to be transparent about the good, the bad and the ugly of traveling. The situation I’m about to detail for you hindered my travel writing a bit but it also made me stronger as a human being. My desire to write this past year wasn’t as strong as it was when I first started and hopefully by the end of this blog post you’ll understand why. This is a long and graphic story so readers beware.

Something happens to you when you get sick while traveling. All of a sudden, traveling doesn’t feel as adventurous, spontaneous, and exciting as it did when you first started. It feels scary and uncertain, like taking back an ex, after he cheated. You love him, but your heart is broken by the betrayal. In my case, the betrayal was getting sick while in South Africa. I don’t know how I got sick. It could’ve been the lady who sat next to me on the way to Abu Dhabi and placed a bag of her bloody tissues (from her nosebleeds) on my leg while I slept or the coughing man across the aisle, on the way to Johannesburg. Side Note: Traveling is not as glamorous as the photos make it seem.

All I know is, I got sick on the second night that I was in Johannesburg. We were headed back from a wonderful dinner, eating different meats from The Carnivore restaurant when I felt an itch in my throat and a chill. That night, I took a shower in hopes that I would feel better, but I got worst. There was a small chance that I caught the flu. As sick as I felt, I pushed through. I didn’t want the opportunity of being in South Africa, an absolute dream destination, to pass me by.

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Unbeknownst to me, you should never fly on a plane when you’re congested and sick. I had an upcoming flight to Capetown and I had to take it. While the flight began to land, my ears felt like it was exploding. The pain was excruciating. I thought I would be able to swallow and get my hearing back, but after we landed it never did come back. I had one great night in Cape Town, unable to hear in one ear but amazing nonetheless. As soon as I got off the plane, I headed to Mzoli’s which you can read about here. From there, my friend and I explored Capetown, had Cuban cigars and just lived it up. We were in South Africa for God Sakes.

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The next morning, we hiked Table Mountain. Halfway up the mountain (ie. 1500 feet) I felt like I was going to die. Doing what no one else in the history of this mountain has ever done, I decided to walk back down. I was getting sicker by the minute. I asked my Uber driver, who I flagged down randomly, (he literally picked me up from the side of the road… using hindsight I understand how dangerous this was) to take me to a pharmacy. I picked up some medicine in hopes that it would alleviate my sickness. When I got back to the hotel, I FaceTimed my friend who told me I looked terribly sick and urged me to see a doctor.

IMG_1998.JPGAfter our conversation, I rested but soon enough, we had another tour scheduled to visit the Western Cape and Boulders Beach, home of the African Penguins. In the tour van, my body continued to grow weak. I tried to keep up with the others, but I was dying inside. When the tour was over, I was scheduled to meet up with my other friend who was staying with me during the trip. We had a new hotel that we would be staying at and I said my goodbyes to my friends, not knowing I would never be the same again. When I arrived at the new hotel, I asked the front desk to get me a doctor ASAP. I almost collapsed at their desk. Someone helped me to my room and I took a shower because my fever was getting worst. I felt like I was on fire. Upon my friend’s arrival, he urged me to go to a doctor. The concierge told me the price for the doctor to come to me and it was out of control. I planned on just seeing how I felt the next morning.

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By now, I was in South Africa for a week, and I had three more days to go. When I woke up the next morning, my pillow was covered in blood and mucous. It seemed like overnight my ears started to drain. I’d never been so frightened in my life. I didn’t even know your ears could bleed (ears actually can’t bleed, the blood was coming through my ears from somewhere else, I later learned). It was time for my friend to take me to the hospital. My hearing was gradually deteriorating and I was so weak my friend had to carry me. When we arrived to the first hospital, there were hundreds of faces staring at me. Some were ailing in pain, others sat patiently, waiting for their number to be called. We walked into a small room where a frantic doctor and nurse, overwhelmed by the crowd of people waiting to be treated, told me they could not help me. They said they had so many other sick people and there was no way they would get to me. These are the times, you appreciate America and their health care system. As messed up as we think it is, other countries are far worst.

I walked out of there so faint, that I couldn’t stand on my own, let alone try to find another hospital. My friend took me back to the hotel and went on a search for doctors, pharmacies and anyone with knowledge that could help me. I continued to sleep and my ears continued to drain blood. It was absolutely disgusting. My friends back home suggested that I go to the U.S Embassy in South Africa and tell them about my situation. Thank God it didn’t have to come to that.

After all of his researching, my friend finally found a doctor for me. This doctor was very different than the one that I went to the day before. His practice was located in a very upscale neighborhood in Cape Town. To put it into context, me and my friend were the only black faces in the vicinity. The doctor told me that I had a severe ear infection and that my eardrum ruptured while landing into Capetown. This is where I learned that flying while congested is very serious. I honestly had no clue. He put me on meds to hold me over until I got back to the States.

I remained in bed for the remainder of my stay. My ears gradually started to get worst. I was beginning to lose hearing in both ears (only hearing the mucous swishing inside). Walking made me feel dizzy and nauseous. My friend had to carry me everywhere or walk very slow. I vomited every 10-steps. I also had to keep cotton balls in my ears and replaced them every 5-minutes because of the draining.

Traveling back to the States was a nightmare. That 20-hour flight with a lay-over in Abu Dhabi was hell on earth. Sometimes I thank God for his mercy over my life because I wouldn’t wish what I experienced on my worst enemy. When we finally landed in New York, I went straight to bed and the next morning my mom rushed me to Urgent Care. I couldn’t walk without throwing up and I also walked very slow, like a baby taking his/her first steps. I still had a fever and was uncertain about my fate. Eventually, the doctors gave me strong medicine, stronger than what I took in South Africa and referred me to an Ear doctor.

By this point, I could hear nothing around me. If people screamed, I couldn’t hear them. When I went to the ear doctor I learned that 50% of my hearing was gone. They did hearing tests on both ears and the verdict was bad. The doctors worried that they would have to operate if my ears didn’t get better. After a week, my hearing was still gone. The medicine they put me on was not strong enough. Before his last resort, which was surgery to drain my ears, the doctor put me on steroids.

After 2-weeks, I started to feel slightly better. I was still struggling to hear, but my ears gradually began to pop, and when I say gradually I mean gradually (to this day they still pop and I do not have 100% of my hearing back, probably around 90% but I praise God every day for what I do have). After 3-weeks of being out of work, I was finally able to return. Everyone couldn’t believe my story, nor could I. My boss was nice enough to pay for me to get to work and go home in a taxi everyday because he knew I still had trouble walking and balancing. Finally, one day, I could hear clearer than I did the day before and each day after it progressively got better.

There was one specific time that stuck out to me the most. I was on the elevator just coming from the ear doctor, in which he gave me bad news, that I could not go back to work and the initial medicine he put me on did not work for me. I was sad and defeated but also afraid to go home by myself because I couldn’t hear anyone if they talked to me (my aunt who accompanied me to the doctor had to go to work). I put in my headphones to give off the façade that I was listening to music. When I got into my building elevator, instinctively, I took off the headphones and not thinking, stood by the floor buttons. Someone asked me to press a floor for them. I didn’t hear. They asked again and I still couldn’t hear. So I pointed to each button until the person, bewildered by my actions, said yes, I’d chosen the correct floor 19. I cried when I got home. This is how deaf people feel every day. They’re present, but they are missing such a vital sense and others might judge them as being incapable or non-functioning. I cried because of the privilege I’ve had for so long, not even questioning what someone who is deaf might be feeling, how alone and isolated they might be. I became more aware. I became more grateful.

I finally felt like myself again exactly a week before my 27th birthday. I decided to celebrate like it was 1999 (literally, I had a 90s brunch) because what I’d been through was grounds for a party. God is good. I now understand that this is something I had to go through. It was humbling. It made me more compassionate. And believe it or not, even though I couldn’t hear the outside world, I heard and talked to God the whole time. He knew what he had in store for me and how he was going to change my life, he just wanted me to be still and wait for him. I thank him for this time in my life. As scary as it was, he spared my life so that I could tell my story today; a story of resilience in the midst of adversity and strength. It was hard not hearing, but I learned so much during that period.

Getting sick and losing my hearing while traveling changed my life in a way that I’d never expected it to and being able to share this story now, helps me to heal. A lot of people ask me if I would ever go back to South Africa, and the answer is yes, in a heartbeat. I love everything about South Africa; the culture, the people, I can go on and on. However, now, whenever I travel, I make sure I am prepared for anything and I mean anything.

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Animal Encounters in South Africa

Visiting South Africa was the first time I encountered wild-life beyond the zoo or aquarium. It was one of the most fascinating experiences I’ve ever had and wanted to share some of the amazing photos I captured. My favorite animal of all time are zebras so to be so close to them was a dream come true.

IMG_3903IMG_4103IMG_3964IMG_3987Zebras South AfricaAfrican Penguins

Navigating M’Zoli’s- South Africa

I drifted away from the city center of Capetown and gradually drove into the territory Guguletu, adorned with graffiti on walls that looked like it could compete with any painting at the Whitney Museum. The neighborhood children gleefully played soccer, barefoot in the scorching heat. The sun was still bright as I exited my Uber surrounded by a cacophony of sound and beautiful brown faces, all in the mood for a good time. I didn’t understand M’Zoli’s at first.

Was I supposed to party and then get my food or vice versa? I learned soon enough that I had to place my food order first then I could enjoy the festivities. Through a glass freezer, I could choose from all types of meat including chicken, beef, sausage links, pork, and ribs. I chose just about everything and allowed the sales woman to weigh the meat and tell me my damage. I then went to the back area, where a group of men were barbequing and was told to come back in 30-mins.

Inside the party, I found a seat next to a group of women, dancing rhythmically to the beat of drums, but the sounds of the drums mimicked the songs that the DJ played. These beautiful African women had smiles so bright and were filled with an almost contagious joy. I jumped up motioning to dance with them. I almost forgot to pick up my food from the grill. Needless to say, my food was delicious. You can almost taste the smoke on the meat. After days, of doing touristy things in South Africa, it was refreshing to be in the midst of my people, to experience this thing called bliss.

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The Legacy of Apartheid – South Africa

The elevator doors opened and I walked into the lobby of my hotel. Oddly enough everyone stared at me.  It seemed like everything stopped when I made my way through the space. I became self-conscious and ran (walked) back to my room until my friend came. I realized I wasn’t on some kind of “ego”trip when the same thing happened to her. Could they tell we were American? I thought we blended in quite well. Later that day at the Rosebank Mall it happened again. Locals broke their necks just to get a glimpse of us. Some smiled warmly, while others stared without flinching. I was curious as to why we were attracting so much attention. Was it the way we dressed? We were dressed in shorts and a t-shirt; you can’t get simpler than that. That night we confided in our cab driver.

Why does everyone stare at us everywhere we go? we said.

Jessica and I sounded like two annoying children wining about the kids at school. Our taxi driver laughed at our ignorance.

“They’re trying to classify you” he said.

“Classify?”

“Yes, they’re trying to figure out if you’re one of them”

“Well duh, of course we’re one of them; we’re all black”

“Well yes, but in South Africa, there’s certain classifications. They’re probably trying to figure out your status. Are you wealthy or poor? Coloured or Black?”

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That night, on our long cab ride to dinner, we received the lesson of our lives on classification in South Africa. Our driver talked to us about the racial hierarchy in South Africa and how people try to distinguish themselves in many ways. This ultimately perpetuated the system of segregation and separation which was the goal of Apartheid. It was so important for me to make my way to the Apartheid museum because I wanted to learn more.

 

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Apartheid is a system of segregation enforced through legislation by the National Party who governed South Africa from 1948-1994. It was a blatant act of racism forcing non-blacks, who made up the majority of the country to be separated from whites.

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At the Apartheid Museum, I learned about the history of Apartheid and its detrimental effects on South Africa. Upon walking into the museum, there are two entrances. One that says White’s Only and another that says Coloreds Only. This was standard protocol for South Africans during Apartheid. As you walk through the doors according to your classification, you enter a gloomy room filled with identification cards of inhabitants of South Africa. The Population Regristration Act of 1950 required South Africans to carry these cards with them at all times. These National ID cards, classified people according to their race which included:

  • Black
  • White
  • Coulored (Mixed Race)
  • Asian/Indian

In some instances, parents could be separated from their children, because of the differing and rigid classifications of race.

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Race Classification Apartheid Museum

Apartheid was a blatant act of racism forcing non-blacks, who made up the majority of the country to be separated from whites. They were also treated as second class citizens, forced to endure oppression, unemployment, and poor living conditions. By 1950, the government had banned marriages between whites and people of other races, and prohibited sexual relations between black and white South Africans.

 

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I think what bothers me the most about this system, is the plunder and paternalism of foreign European nations coming to Africa. This type of entitlement can still be sensed when visiting today. It’s very unfortunate to see African people oppressed by some of the Europeans who live there. Our cab driver told us a story about a white teenager no older than 17, who slapped him in the face and there was nothing he could do about it. To know that our cab driver felt so helpless when it came to protection from the government and legal system was disheartening.

So what kind of progress has been made? Well South Africa is known as the Rainbow nation. People from all over the world flock to South Africa to live, study, vacation. It’s one of the most beautiful countries in the world and a melting pot of people. In 1994, the first black president of Africa was nominated into office. His name was Nelson Mandela and he changed the face of the political landscape and his presidency promoted inclusion and change towards a bright future. Today, South Africans co-exist, despite the discrepancies in class and race, however a lot of progress and change still needs to be made.

Nelson Mandela

 

Joburg Night Life

KONG

Kong Club Rosebank, Johannesburg, South Africa

Everything comes alive in South Africa at night. My first experience clubbing in Africa occurred at the KONG nightclub in Johannesburg. This club was just like any night club you would go to in the States with a mixture of African and American hip hop (mostly American). I loved clubbing in South Africa simply because I like to watch the locals dance. African’s dance in a way that I have never seen before. It’s as if their body is driven by the beats and they do what naturally comes to them. I’m obsessed!

Moyo Melrose Arch

Shop 5, The High Street, Melrose Arch, Johannesburg, 2076

We also went to a really cool restaurant named Moyo which stands for “Heart” in Swahili. Moyo is located in Melrose Arch. The food is mouth-watering good. The dessert table was oozing with sweets, from cupcakes to chocolate fountains and the entertainment was excellent. There are live bands that serenade you as you eat and encourage you to get on the dance floor. To top off the experience the waitresses come around while you’re waiting for your meal for an authentic tribal face painting experience.

Living Room

20 Kruger St, Johannesburg, 2094, South Africa

Living Room was one of those things on my itinerary that I did not get to do while in South Africa. Usually, I don’t write about things that I did not experience for myself, but this seems like such a cool spot in one of the hip Maboneg district, and I don’t want to keep this discovery to myself.

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Sani Bonani Soweto!

Soweto Changed Me.

As soon as we arrived in Soweto we were led to the dining section to eat. Bunny Chow was on the menu, which is a chicken stew in a bread bowl. Delicious! A series of huts shielded us from the sun as we dipped our bread into the well-seasoned stew and drank water to cool off. About 5-chickens surrounded us clucking around the premises. Hello Soweto!

Soweto Bunny ChowSoweto Bike tour

Bunny Chow Soweto

One of the first things we learned in Soweto was the Zulu greeting Sani Bonani. It’s what everyone says to each other, whether you’re friends or strangers, like an acknowledgement of some sort. We decided to do a bike tour in and around Soweto, which allowed us to spend time with the locals and learn some history. The name Soweto, is an acronym which stands for South Western Townships. Soweto is home to very famous South Africans including: Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela, and Desmond Tutu.

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Soweto Backpackers bike tour

Soweto Bike Tour

Ky Tip:

  • If you’re looking for a bike tour in Soweto, I highly suggest the Soweto Backpackers. The tour was freaking amazing and taught us so many things. The tour guides became some of our good friends by the end of the trip. We loved everything about them. http://www.sowetobackpackers.com/

Soweto Soweto

The discovery of Gold during the late 1800s in Johannesburg is what added so much value to this city. However, colonizers from all over the world including the Dutch and the British exploited the country and its people of its resources and enforced a system of segregation that would have lasting effects on the culture and race relations for years to come. An increasing number of blacks were evicted from the city of Johannesburg and forced to live in the surrounding townships like Soweto. Allegedly, many blacks were evicted because of a government induced spread of the Bubonic Plague. These townships were underdeveloped and unsanitary.  The government tried to further their oppression in Soweto by separating the men from the women. This would reduce reproduction among blacks.

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We progressed through the neighborhood, despite learning all these hard truths and noticed that the locals were filled with joy. Big bright smiles covered their faces. Some even told us how proud they were to see black tourist (that was the funniest thing ever). There was such a unity in Soweto; the atmosphere gave me so much energy. The people were so friendly. They danced for us, and surrounded us. They commented on how funky my Biggie Smalls shirt was. I felt like I was home, with my brothers and sisters. I was so content.

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Yet, I could not ignore how impoverished my people were to this very day. Walking past the local grocery store, I stepped over their sewage, draining throughout the village. The people had communal bathrooms that they shared. The babies were in need of shoes. One of the little girls had on a skirt that was 3-sizes too small and exposed her. The homes were tiny. I couldn’t fathom that people lived in those conditions. I felt helpless but their smiles and their zest for life encouraged me.

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The legacy of Apartheid is alive in Soweto. You really see the effect that this system had on black people. The unemployment rate is over 53%. There are abandoned apartment buildings that are the equivalent of $50 USD a month, but remain empty because it’s not affordable for the locals.

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Abandoned apartment buildings in Soweto that remain empty because it does not allow livestock and its too expensive.

Yet there is hope for Soweto. My tour guide was 27-years old, born and raised in Soweto and he is smart enough to be the president of South Africa one day. He loves  his people and he knows the dire situation they are in. We talked politics and Malcom X during our tour. He was well versed in America’s grim political situation as well, laughing at the prospects of Trump becoming president. He took us to a spot where in 1976 the Children of Soweto began protests against the government, because of the introduction of Afrikaans. Afrikaans is the language of the oppressor and they did not want to assimilate to their culture. Many of these students lost their lives at the hands of police. One of the most notorious of these students was Hector Pieterson whose lifeless body was carried by Mbuvisa Makhubo and his sister Antoinette Sithole.

Soweto Uprising Struggle Soweto

By the end of the tour, it was time for us to learn about Zulu culture. We dressed up as Zulu Kings and Queens and drank from a canteen filled with a traditional Zulu beverage, that sort of tasted like a beer. It was a spectacular end to an overall empowering day.

Zulu

 

I Ate Zebra & Other Miscellaneous Animals in South Africa

We met up with some amazing ladies from the South Africa Glitch Gate group that I mentioned in a previous post. We had dinner at The Carnivore Restaurant in Misty Hills Country Hotel in Johannesburg. The drive was about an hour long but the experience was worth it. Our taxi was about 460 Rand round trip, which was the equivalent of $29.00 USD.

Ky Tip

  • Taxi’s in South Africa – Uber’s are cheaper than regular taxis in South Africa. Due to the WiFi situation out there, it wasn’t always easy for me to catch an Uber, but the cost was almost half-the price of what your average taxi would cost. My taxi reference in the above post is the quote for a regular taxi. However when I started using Uber, I was paying about 3.00 USD at some point for my cab rides.

 

IMG_1603.JPGThe Carnivore is a family styled restaurant that allows you to try the meat of different animals including Zebra, Crocodile, Antelope, and Deer just to name a few. The meal commences with a soup or honey bread and proceeds to the main course which is salad, baked potato and meat! If you’re wondering, the zebra kind of taste like beef, the crocodile tasted like a chewy chicken, the antelope, I had it mixed in rice, it sort of resembled paella. Eating deer was just too weird for me. Up until that trip, I’ve never encountered zebras or antelopes but I see deer’s running past me on the highway all the time. In spite of this I tried the deer meatballs. :/ Dessert was a simple scoop of vanilla ice cream. The waiters were friendly and brought around the meat on a stick. They were dressed in striped aprons and sun hats. They really blessed us with hospitality.

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I really loved the vibe of this restaurant. Upon entering, you have to walk through a long corridor filled with historical biographies of very important figures in South African history ranging from Shaka Zulu to Nelson Mandela. The bios are accompanied by over-sized bronze statues representing these men and women in their natural state. As you progress into the restaurant you’ll notice it’s adorned with South African artifacts and keepsakes in glassed window cases.

Carnivore Restaurant Johannesburg Carnivore Restaurant Johannesburg Carnivore Restaurant Johannesburg Carnivore Restaurant Johannesburg

After dinner, all the waiters took pictures with us, and waited patiently until we were ready to leave. It was the perfect welcome to South Africa meal and the ladies we had dinner with were awesome!

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Hotel Review: African Pride Hotel

Ky Rating 8.5

I stayed at the most lavish hotel in Johannesburg. Here’s how:

Apparently African Pride Hotel in Johannesburg is the best hotel the city has to offer, and I got to stay there for a few days. I didn’t intend on it. What happened was I had a booking for it’s sister hotel Protea Fire & Ice hotel in Melrose Arch which is more of a girly boutique hotel, way cheaper, however they overbooked me. So the hotel offered that I stay at African Pride. Lucky Me! On the ride to the hotel, the driver explained how fortunate I was to be staying at this hotel, local celebrities and really distinguished people tend to stay there (pretty cool). This was especially important to me since, I was solo for the first couple of days on my trip, so I wanted to make sure I was in a lodging that was safe and very secure.

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Arriving in the neighborhood of my hotel, Melrose Arch was a treat. The atmosphere is so alive; there are restaurants all over the area, and people are just happy.

However, I have to be honest, and share that I encountered my first problem while checking in. Somehow my debit card reached its limit for the day and would not allow me to pay. So I had to pay in cash, according to the hotel’s exchange rate, which was a ridiculous, rip off. Either way, I was just happy once I was able to check in, get free Wi-Fi and get ready for my night on the town as a solo traveler.

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The rooms at African Pride are really innovative. The walls are exposed brick. The bathtub is in the bedroom, which to some might be creepy but to me it was perfect and it’s just an overall cool space. It felt like a cute little studio apartment. The lighting was also really cool as well, I believe it was green. The room had treats, including some fruit and m&ms. I didn’t get to explore much of the hotel, but it’s a pretty dark hotel. Not illuminated by much light. The pool area is bright, but people don’t really go in the pool, they just sun bathe in the bungalows. The hotel is pretty small, well secured, and definitely a comfortable stay. The staff was cool.  Not overly friendly, but okay. Was it my best hotel experience? I don’t know. I feel like I’ve had better experiences but the decor of this hotel is beautiful.

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Welcome Home – South Africa

“Welcome Home” chills went up and down my body after hearing those words. The man who said this to me was right. I was finally home and it was a long time coming. There’s really no way to prepare for a trip like going to the motherlands. You kind of just go, which is the approach that I took, and using hindsight probably wasn’t the greatest of my ideas but you live and you learn.

Johannesburg South Africa

I got off the plane, in O.R Tambo International Airport, with a group of travel friends that I met on an amazing Facebook group called South Africa Glitch Gate. The first thing I did was exchange currency. I made the mistake of taking out a wad of U.S cash before leaving the states, which didn’t make much sense because I didn’t really use it. ATMs are the way to go in South Africa, so I took out about 2,000 rand, which was the equivalent of $125, from an ATM in the airport and it lasted me the first week of my stay.

We took a van to each of our hotels while sharing our itineraries for the week. Kearan was our driver and he comes highly recommended. My hotel was in the Melrose Arch area of Johannesburg. Out of all the areas I could’ve chosen for lodging, Melrose Arch was the perfect area for me as I was traveling solo for the first few days. It’s sort of a gated community, filled with restaurants, hotels, and lavish shopping. My hotel was African Pride Melrose Arch, which I review here.

Melrose Arch Johannesburg South Africa

My first few days in South Africa were spent exploring. When my friend Jessica finally arrived, we went to the Rosebank Mall and shopped in stores like River Island and Woolworth. We had plans to do so many touristy things that day including going on the Hop on and Hop Off bus and visiting the Cradle of Human Kind but the reality of being in South Africa hit us and we found ourselves wanting to drink wine while sitting by the pool, enjoying the beautiful summer weather.

Rosebank Mall South Africa

Rosebank Mall South Africa

Rosebank Mall South Africa

Ky Tips:

  • I got my ticket to South Africa for $590 on Theflightdeal.com in April 2015. Sign up for their email list so you can get flight deals too!
  • The South Africa Glitch Gate is a group on Facebook that allows you to connect with other people who are either traveling to South Africa or already visited. We share tips, tricks, itineraries, restaurants, advice, and drivers. It’s a very informative group, and it helped me draft my itinerary based on all the information being shared.
  • Currency – The South African currency is the Rand. When I went, it was 16-Rand to 1 US dollar, which was an excellent conversion. Like I said, as far as spending money goes, I don’t think I spent over $400 the whole trip and that approximation could be a stretch.
  • Kearan Fourie was the driver that we used in Johannesburg. His email address is Kearanfourie@gmail.com. Feel free to email me if you need his mobile number as well.
  • List of Neighborhoods in South Africa – One of the hardest things for me while planning for this trip (and any trip for that matter) is figuring out what neighborhood is best for my lodging. I ended up staying in Melrose Arch, but for those who are curious about the neighborhoods in Johannesburg check out this blog that I discovered which helped me figure it all out. http://www.inyourpocket.com/johannesburg/A-Guide-to-Johannesburgs-Districts_73381f
  • Sandton, Maboneg , and Melrose are great lodging spots in Johannesburg. I stayed at the African Pride Hotel. Click the link to read all about it.
  • Kydee W South Africa Itinerary– I love sharing my itineraries for my trips. Hope this itinerary helps while you plan for your own trip to South Africa.

 

Hotel Review: Premier Inn Abu Dhabi Airport

Ky Rating: 7.0

So you have an overnight layover in Abu Dhabi and need a hotel? With highest honors, I recommend Premier Inn Abu Dhabi Airport. Here are 6 reasons why:

  1. The Convenience

After going through customs in Abu Dhabi, I walked about 7-minutes through the airport and was at the Premier Inn. I didn’t have to step foot outside, and the location was so convenient. I would actually stay in this hotel if I didn’t have a layover.

  1. The Price

A night at the Premier Inn will range in price for the obvious reasons, but will rarely go over $88, which is a steal in a lavish city like Abu Dhabi.

  1. The Rooms are Cozy

My room was so cute. It was purple, super small but so cozy. My favorite part was the chaise lounge by the window.

  1. The Pool and Hot Tub

Not only does this hotel have a pool but a hot tub too.

  1. The Shuttle Bus to Attractions

If you get in earlier enough, before 6:30PM local time, the hotel has a free shuttle bus that will take you to some of the popular attractions in Abu Dhabi including the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

  1. The Staff

I found the staff to be very efficient and helpful. My check-in process was a breeze.

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Pet Peeves while Flying

You never realize how uncomfortable flying is until you actually fly. I had the worst luck ever on the last flight that I took. It was a 12-hour flight to Abu Dhabi, with a baby relentlessly crying and a man sneezing the nastiest sneeze ever. But the worst of them all was the woman sitting next to me blowing her bloody nose. Neither her nor her husband had any regard for space as they comfortably allowed their heads and feet to touch my area, as if they were in the comfort of their own homes. What really took me over the edge was when I went to sleep and woke up next to her bag of dirty, bloody, tissues. AHHHHHHHHH! I desperately searched for a way out but to no avail for 4-hours. Finally, when I got up to go to the bathroom, I discovered a seat right in back of me, with a woman on the other side (two spaces in between us). Boy, was I excited about this; I moved instantly. The moral of the story is, don’t fly and be as anal as me. However, if you’re anal and still going to fly, find some tips below on what to do when you are in a really messed up situation en route to your destination:

  1. You have to tune annoying people out. Maybe watch a movie or TV show that your airline provides as a courtesy or better yet read a book with your headphones in.
  2. Speaking of headphones, music can be a great escape. You can essentially tune out the blowing of the noses and the sneezes if you blast your latest jams, over and over again.
  3. Force yourself to sleep. Kind of hard to do when you’re uncomfortable in the first place, but going to sleep can help the time pass some. In the past, I was able to go to sleep without an issue This time around, I was so uncomfortable it was very hard for me to stay asleep and every time I woke up, only a few minutes had actually passed.
  4. Show and tell that you’re uncomfortable. In my case, if it wasn’t for the language barrier I would’ve been able to say something but because this woman only spoke an Indian dialect, I wasn’t able to communicate my concern beyond the universal grunting and sighing.

I survived using these tips. Once I moved to the new seat, the rest of the flight was smooth sailing.

 

 

 

Redefining Valentines Day through Travel

I am a die-hard-love-fanatic-hopeless-romantic-sucker-for-love human being, and given my history with love, that is a sucky person to be, but what the heck, I am! My Valentine ’s Day history has ranged from really good ones to really lonely ones. I’ve had my mother buy me presents (out of pity) and my friends offer to take me out to help fill the void of being alone. But last year, something great happened. I finally learned that I could take control over the day and not have the day take control over me or my emotions.

I intentionally booked my trip to Dubai during President’s week and was excited to find out I would be there on Valentine’s Day. Never mind, that I had a boyfriend at the time and this would be our first Valentine’s Day together (or not together since he wasn’t accompanying me on the trip); it was bigger than him. It was more so about me. This was the first year I realized I could take control over the day, which for years, reminded me of my relationship-less status. So I did.

I started the day at the Dubai Museum and hurried back to my hotel to catch the shuttle to the Burj Al Arab. When you think of Dubai, the first thing that may come to mind is this hotel. Shaped like a sail on a ship, it’s located on its own island and a night at this hotel will run you a few thousand dollars. Fortunately for me, I was able to utilize the Burj Al Arab’s beach because I stayed at the Jumeirah, which is its neighboring hotel.

Honestly, the whole experience left me speechless. I relaxed on this beautiful beach for hours, soaking up the hot desert sun as I splashed my body in the Arabian Gulf. The water was cold but I didn’t care. I stared at Burj in amazement that I was so close to one of the best architectural visions ever built. One day I too would be a guest at the Burj, I thought. The sea served as a barrier between me and the lavishness of this hotel, but hopefully not for long. This was a special moment for me, one filled with many realizations and quite honestly contentment. How did I get here? I was still baffled by it all. I had no intentions to travel to Dubai until I could “afford” it. But I was there, and I was happy. Happier than I had been in a long time and this fulfillment came on Valentine ’s Day, a day that too often made me feel like I was unworthy of love.

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Restaurant Review: Burger & Lobster

Burger & Lobster 39 W 19th St, New York, NY 10011

Burger and Lobster is one of the most genius restaurants I’ve been to in a very long time. I have nothing but great things to say about this place. Yippie, I think I have a kinda sorta almost favorite new restaurant.

Okay, to start everything, as in all meals, on the menu is $20. This makes things so easy. The menu is super simple. There’s burgers or lobsters and that’s pretty much  it, there’s your menu in a nutshell. With each meal, there’s a side of  fries and a salad that comes with it. The salad and fries are delish. The burger is so juicy and the lobster…Oh my, I love seafood, so this is a win for me any day, but the butter sauce they give to go with the lobster is so tasty.

The dessert, I wasn’t too keen about, I had Greek vanilla yogurt and it was okay. Drinks are reasonably priced at $12. The service was fantastic. The decor is industrial, really high ceilings and hanging lamps along the bar. Also, there’s a huge tank filled with lobsters when you first walk in, poor little things 😦

Overall, I had an excellent experience here and I am looking forward to coming here again, and again!

Curlfest 2015

Who: Naturalistas

What: Curlfest

Where: Prospect Park

When: Saturday August 29, 2015

Why: Inspiration. Empowerment. Freedom. Beauty. And to show the world that Natural Girls Rock.

To be honest, I wasn’t nervous about going to Curlfest by myself. I knew I would be among pure positivity and maybe going alone would make me more approachable and give me the opportunity to meet new friends. I walked into Prospect Park and saw a girl, who was also alone. She had a head full of beautiful natural hair pulled back by her beats headphones. I tapped her shoulders and asked if she was also looking for Curlfest. Once she said yes, we decided from then on we would be buddies. As we were walking, two gorgeous Latina women with curly hair approached us. They were also looking for Curlfest, so we decided that we could all find it together. #Curlfriends

Curlfest was like a Natural Hair Utopia. There was a sea of beautiful natural women, some with long hair some with short hair, some with braids and some with dreads. Hair, Hair, and more Hair. The first thing we did after getting our goody bag, was shop. There was a bunch of vendors selling everything from vintage clothes to waist beads. There was also a lot of Afrocentric garb and jewelry vendors. Next thing on our list, was the hair vendors. Curlfest had everything from Carols Daughters to Shea Moisture giving out free product samples and hair demos.

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I felt so free. I attended a picnic panel on Protective styling moderated by the owner of Khamit Kinks Salon. I danced to all the latest hip hop songs (and partook in a Soul Train Line), I hula hooped and even got free dating advice specifically catered to natural haired women (which was totally a gimmick but I enjoyed it nonetheless).

I don’t want to get sentimental, but natural hair is such a beautiful thing. For years, I struggled with embracing my natural hair, and that insecurity follows me up until today. But each day that passes by, I love my hair and I love myself even more. Growing up, when you are told that your hair is not beautiful or not accepted it hurts and makes you feel denigrated. However, with events like Curlfest, you are joined by other beautiful, carefree women just like you and you have no choice but to be empowered and inspired. Natural Hair is here to stay and I am thankful for my journey and I am also thankful for the organizers of Curlfest. It’s their second year, but I know this is going to be a huge movement.

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Restaurant Review: Miss Lilly’s 7A Cafe

109 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009

With Labor Day around the corner, it was a coincidence that my friend had her birthday dinner at Miss Lily’s 7A recently. Miss Lilys is a Caribbean inspired restaurant that makes you feel like you’re in a shack in Montego Bay, Jamaica (but you’re really in the Lower East Side of New York). Upon entering, I was serenaded by the sweet sounds of old school reggae music. The birthday dinner, unlike many others I’ve been to, was family style. Basically, we had a large selection of food, 2-drinks and dessert for $50.

Miss Lilly's 7A CafeThe appetizers included: Roast Corn, Kale Salad, Jerk Chicken Wings, and Cod Fish Balls. My favorite was definitely the Cod Fish balls. For a main course we had, Salmon, Shrimp-On-A-Stick, Cold Slaw, Macaroni and Cheese, Rice and Peas, Roti Skin & Curry, and Jerk Pork. For dessert we had Banana Pudding. The Rum Punch was the bomb. I tried a little bit of everything, and it was pretty tasty. But I must say the best part of the experience at Miss Lilly’s was the music. We danced non-stop into the next morning. The restaurant was seconds away from kicking us out. #Goodtimes

Check out Miss Lily’s 7A if you’re ever in LES.

Kydee Williams Travelbyky.com

Miss Lilly's 7A Cafe

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Afro Punk Fest 15′

When I think of Afropunk Fest, I think of FREEDOM! Which is why every summer, I look forward to this event at Commodore Barry Park. Nope, scratch that, I count down the days until this event, that’s how much it means to me. From the first time I attended Afropunk, it made me feel like I belonged somewhere. It represented a bunch of misfits, who dared to be different, coming together to be great! Does this mean we are misunderstood by society? Of course it does, but for one weekend, you are among others just like you and no one, not one person will judge you. I swear, Afropunk is the best place on the planet to people watch. It’s epic. The fashion, the food, and the vendors, are all out of this world fantastic.

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Afro Punk Vendors travelbyky.com kydee williams

This was the first year Afropunk charged a fee ($45 for a one day pass and $75 for a weekend pass) to attend, in the past it’s either been a requested donation or a regular R.S.V.P. I was hesitant at first but soon decided, the performances were worth my money. On Saturday, which was the first day of the festival I caught acts like Sza, Kelis, Ms. Lauryn Hill, and Grace Jones. Sza can sing her butt off. Kelis was fun and pregnant. She engaged the audience and has so many hits that I love—of course she sang the crowd favorite My Milk Shake brings all the boys to the yard. During the intermission, DJ Beverly Bond turned the house down before Lauryn Hill’s performance. Ms. Lauryn Hill’s performance was much anticipated. I spent weeks listening to the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, reflecting on how amazing of an artist she is. I love her. However, her performance was straight up mediocre. Her voice is no longer the same, her sound was low, she sat down for most of the performance even though it’s a music festival and no one past the first 5 rows could see her. To make matters worst, she sang my favorite song Ex. Factor with a totally different tune and shortly after her sound completely went out. Like completely stopped working. I will credit her for continuing her performance, that’s the testament of a true star. Some people started to boo her and leave, while others, her real fans, wanted her to win so bad, so we stayed there and encouraged her through the rest of her set. She ended her show with Doo Wop (That Thing) and then suddenly dropped the mic and walked off the stage. I was heartbroken. I felt like a child who just found out Santa Claus wasn’t real.

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Afropunk Fest 2015 travelbyky.com

My friends wanted to leave, but I wanted to stay. I’m trying to hold on to as much of summer as I can. I mean I hate the winter, there’s really nothing to do. They eventually decided to stay and I am so happy they did. We watched Grace Jones perform and were recuperated. All of our hearts were no longer pained (after Lauryn). Grace Jones killed the game, killed Afropunk Fest, and just made everything great again. She’s such a talent, and her songs are amazing. Once, I was able to shake my memories of her from Boomerang the movie, I was really able to appreciate her as a true artist. She’s wild dope!

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Afropunk Fest 2015 travelbyky.com

After Afropunk, we decided to explore Fort Greene. We went to Walters for a small dinner and then Mo’s for drinks and dancing. Overall, it was a great day. Afropunk is so liberating. The perfect end, to an amazing summer.

Walters Restaurant Kydee Williams travelbyky.com

I love you Brooklyn!

Viva Las Vegas

This is my 100th post on Travelbyky.com, which is huge for me. In one year, i’ve managed to write 100-times, wowzers! I am celebrating just like TV shows celebrate their 100th episode. To commemorate this milestone, this post will be a wild, all access view of my trip to Vegas! Since they say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas—I am completely flipping the script and telling it all!

Kydee Williams Las vegas

I took the Megabus to Vegas from L.A for a little under $30 bucks. I was paranoid because I just started reading A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown, and it made me distrust a lot of things and people. I literally slept with one eye open, on the 6-hour ride–It was the middle of the night and I was on a bus with a bunch of weirdos, what would you do? When I got to Vegas, around 6AM, I caught a cab to my hotel which was the Hilton Grand at the end of the strip (by the Stratosphere). Imagine my surprise when the 6-minute cab ride from the bus station to the hotel came up to $22.

KY TIP: Vegas is expensive. Vegas taxis are even more expensive. Beware!

I was staying with my friend Britt, who was already at the hotel. The first thing we did was walk the strip. That’s when I realized how far we were from the center of the strip. We walked for about 20-minutes and was only at the Wynn Hotel, which is not even close to the main strip. I didn’t see The Paris Hotel, I didn’t see The Mirage, I didn’t see Bellagio—we were totally away from the action. At first this seemed daunting but using hindsight, it was actually a great thing for us:

  • Public Transportation: We were able to learn and navigate the public transportation system in Vegas. There’s buses that goes up and down the strip as opposed to taxicabs. The bus passes are $6 for a 2-hour pass and $8 for a 24-hour pass. One cab ride along the strip can cost you $18. You be the judge.
  • Cheaper Prices: The further away you are from the center of the strip, the less things cost. For instance, everyone walks around with over-sized cups in Vegas. They range in size but the largest you can get is about 3ft tall. The souvenir shops around our hotel were significantly cheaper, and we got one of these cups for about $3.95, whereas on Central strip it was triple the price.
  • Access to CVS, McDonalds, 7/11: Since Vegas is so expensive we tried to reduce cost as much as possible. We went to CVS for everything from wine to TV dinners. Luckily, we were in Vegas on July 11th (7/11), so we were able to get free slushies while singing Beyonce. We made our own drinks that were just as good as Fat Tuesday; our version just cost us next to nothing.
  • Peppermill Diner: We found a really classic restaurant called the Peppermill diner, which had the best breakfast for a reasonable price. The food was only $12-14 a plate for a very large portion. We came here everyday. Had we been on the Central strip, breakfast would’ve started at around $20. Another plus about this place was they take a picture of you and give it to you as a keepsake. Peppermill diner is a great dining experience.

Kydee Williams Las vegas

Kydee Williams Las vegas

Once we became acquainted with our neck of the strip, the fun began. We kept our day time activities pretty simple. We slept in, had breakfast/lunch and hung out by our hotel pool or other hotel pools on the strip. Our nights, were when everything came alive. We went to clubs, pool parties, and concerts. Las Vegas is one of the best places I’ve ever partied in my life!

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  • Our hotel pool was resort style. We spent most of our days in the over-sized Jacuzzi and cooled off in the pool. Did I mention how hot Vegas was.

Kydee Williams Las vegas

  • The Water Show at the Bellagio. The Water Show at the Bellagio was pretty cool. It happens every 15-20 minutes, and the water dances to different tunes. It’s an experience.

Kydee Williams Las vegas

Kydee Williams Las vegas

  • Surfing (Flowrider) at Planet Hollywood. In the words of Beyonce #Surfboardt I had a lot of fun surfing. The activity will cost you about $25.00 for 30-minutes of instruction and surfing. Once the instructor finally let me surf on my own, I got the hang of it–Then, something happened. I lost my balance and the waves washed me up. My back hit the wall and I was sore for about a week. I thought I’d share this embarrassing moment with you guys.

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Kydee Williams Las vegas
That’s Me, in a ball, getting washed up by the waves! Where’s my Surfboard?
  • Boyz II Men Concert I am Boyz II Men’s #1 Fan. There’s no one who loves Boyz II Men as much as me. So when I found out they were playing at the Mirage I had to get tickets. The day of the concert, Britt said “Kydee we have to meet Boyz II Men tonight” I looked at her like she had completely lost her mind. I was actually afraid of the thought, but my desperation outweighed my fear and I didn’t care what we did to make this happen! The concert was beautiful. They did a lot of covers by other artist, but also sang some of their hit songs including “Bended Knees,” “Water Runs Dry,” and “I’ll Make Love to You.” After the concert and two failed attempts at convincing security that we needed to be back stage, we were lingering in the lobby, when 2-middle-aged women came up to us frantically, “Hello, we have to catch a plane, but we have two backstage passes. Do you guys want them? You both look like fans–please take them” Would you look at God! We ran backstage with our passes, just in time to meet the legendary Boyz II Men. AHHH! I loved Nathan all my life, and now I was hugging him and standing next to him. Magical things happen in Vegas. I still can’t believe this happened.

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  • Shopping. Vegas has every store you can imagine on the strip and they are still building more. The shopping in Vegas is unimaginable and will make you either lose your mind or go broke. Everything from Chanel to Forever21 is right at your finger tips or better yet, in your hotel lobby.

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  • Night Life. There’s lights, dancers, acrobatics, amazing DJ’S, props, and  smoke. Clubbing in Vegas is a show in itself. We hit up Tao Night Club and Encore Beach Club

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I’ve been to Vegas once before, so it wasn’t necessary for me to do all of the touristy things. The Vegas strip revolves around the hotels. Every activity you do is most likely inside of or associated with a hotel. If you’re a first timer to Vegas, I’ll share with you a few great things you must do while in Vegas:

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The last day of our Vegas trip, Britt’s friend from Philly picked us up and took us on a off-the-strip tour of Vegas. She lives in Vegas now and wanted to show us around. We visited a bunch of the properties and homes in Vegas that were just exquisite, and might I add reasonably priced. This was a special moment in our trip because it brought about a lot of perspective. Anything is possible with faith and hard work. I realized that I used to have a dream of being a home owner, with a pool in my back yard. I lost that dream along the way, possibly even thinking it was unattainable but I am after it again. My trip to Vegas, was the extra pep that I needed. It left me in high spirits and excited about what the future might hold.

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36-Hours in L.A

“It never rains in Southern California”-Tony Toni Tone

I was underwhelmed by the LAX airport. For some reason, I imagined it to be fabulous, with celebrities all around and paparazzi cameras blinding me as I walked out of the terminal but it wasn’t even close to that. It actually reminded me of LaGuardia Airport in New York, and that’s not saying much. I hurriedly changed the clothes that I wore on the plane to my OOTD (outfit of the day), which was a denim jumpsuit, wedges, and a floppy hat, in an attempt to channel LA style. My friend Amara, who I would be staying with, pulled up in a brand new cobalt blue Honda Accord. I was so impressed. She looked so amazing, sun kissed, and super relaxed—LA was treating her well.

Our first stop, was none other than Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles in Hollywood. We caught up with each other while pigging out on the Obama Special, as well as some candied yams, mac and cheese, and potato salad. I really enjoyed the mac and cheese here, the waffles were delish, but the chicken…I wasn’t too crazy about it.

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We then went to Venice Beach. The area surrounding Venice beach is absolutely stunning. It’s a quaint neighborhood, filled with mini canals, beautiful and colorful beach homes, and tons of restaurants and cafes. It reminded me of the actual Venice in Italy (just a tad bit).

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Kydee Williams Travelbyky.com

The boardwalk, was the real star of this area. There’s vendors all around trying to sell you everything from mix tapes to medicinal marijuana cards. Muscle beach was everything I imagined it to be, with huge men pumping 300+ pound weights. I saw the skate park where a bunch of skater dudes were doing outlandish tricks on their skateboards. I was captivated by the street art, which was DOPE. There was Chris Brown blasting through the speakers, and tourists all around, riding bikes or just walking carelessly with their family. I was amazed by how many people were at the beach in the middle of the day on a Tuesday. That could never be the case in NYC, but I wasn’t there to compare the East Coast vs. the West Coast, I just wanted to absorb as much of their culture and customs as I could.
Kydee Williams Travelbyky.com

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Kydee Williams Travelbyky.comKydee Williams Travelbyky.comKydee Williams Travelbyky.com  Kydee Williams Travelbyky.comKydee Williams Travelbyky.com  Kydee Williams Travelbyky.com Kydee Williams Travelbyky.comThe Street Art was so amazing, Amara and I decided to have a photo shoot, before getting our feet wet in the water. There was so much to do on the boardwalk, I almost overlooked the actual beach. It’s extremely funky and so lively.

Kydee Williams Travelbyky.com Kydee Williams Travelbyky.com Kydee Williams Travelbyky.com Kydee Williams Travelbyky.com Kydee Williams Travelbyky.com Kydee Williams Travelbyky.com Kydee Williams Travelbyky.com Kydee Williams Travelbyky.comOnce we got back to Hollywood, I was finally able to write. Amara dropped me off at a really cool coffee shop, The Republic of Pie, in North Hollywood. I was so inspired by this place. I wish I had the words to describe all the elements of it, but I will try my best. It’s a huge space, very industrial styled and rustic. There’s natural sunlight coming into the shop, and tables and chairs all over. When I got there, a songstress was performing with her guitar. Some people listened intently while others continued studying and collaborating. I went to the very back area, which sort of resembled an over-sized living room. It had an array of comfy couches and wooden tables to work. I found a nice spot on a couch, as soft as a pillow, and placed my brownie on the coffee table. I was finally able to start my script, the very reason I was in LA in the first place. I wrote for hours until Amara came back for me so we could have dinner. We went to Big Wangs, which is a sports bar that has amazing specials, $1 Tacos and $5 Margaritas–You really can’t go wrong with this place.

Kydee Williams tRAVELBYKY.COMThe Next Day…

I tackled Runyon Canyon which is the famous hiking trail in LA (that all the celebrities trek). Runyon is a gated park, which harbors large mountains outlined with trails to make climbing easier. I was happy I got to the top, but I was huffing and puffing, begging the lord to pull me through—it was hard. My body was sore for about three days but seeing the amazing view of LA made it all worth it.

IMG_3872Kydee Williams Travelbyky.comKydee Williams Travelbyky.comI also had the opportunity to go to church with Amara at One Church LA. Pastor Toure Roberts and First Lady Sarah Jakes-Roberts leads the church. What I loved most about this congregation was how much young people attend and how involved everyone seems to be in the growth and progress of this ministry. There were hipsters, young professionals, and creatives all joining together to give thanks to the Lord.  I was enamored by the atmosphere and everyone’s ability to come as they are. If you are ever in the LA area, give this church a try.

My 36-Hours in LA, was a success! But I can’t end this post without saying that I did have my In N’ Out burger, fries and milkshake, and it was yummy. I got on a Mega Bus to Las Vegas just before midnight on Wednesday, for only $29 (This is a total plug for anyone looking for an inexpensive way to travel around the West Coast). I loved everything about LA’s carefree culture. I also loved that it’s a hub for creativity and people who believe in their dreams and are doing something to chase after it. I look forward to seeing more of L.A in the near future.

Restaurant Review: Madiba

195 Dekalb Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11205

I am going to South Africa in February 2016, and Madiba seemed liked the perfect introduction to South African cuisine. I found a $20 Groupon for $40 worth of food and asked Myllz to join me one night after work. Madiba is a really cool and cultural restaurant. The outside, looks like a café of some sort. When you walk in, there’s the bar and a sitting area, with a huge bookshelf of South African inspired items for sale. The space looks really small until you’re led to their main dining area, which is a decent size. On the walls, you can’t help but to notice huge statement pieces and famous faces including: Nelson Mandela, President Obama, Animal skin and Animal print and the South African flag just to name a few.

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The menu is eclectic. We started with some Slap Chips, which are basically French fries drenched in salt and vinegar—This was kind of like eating salt and vinegar chips, pretty tasty. For drinks, we shared a pitcher of the Obama Mama, which is a rum infused fruit concoction; the pitcher was huge and we couldn’t finish it. For the main course, we split the Salmon Burger, which was remarkable, but I love salmon, so I would say that regardless. We also had the Durban styled Seafood Curry with Rice. The curry dish was well seasoned and consisted of an array of squid, fish, prongs, peas, green beans, and corn. Overall, the customer service was good. The food was really tasty and reasonably priced. I would definitely recommend, this place for anyone interested in trying something new. I really enjoyed my experience here.

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Maximizing My Summer Saturdays

Dear Summer, you may never be the same again.

I don’t want to be one of those reminiscent adults crying about missing childhood. I’m really not. There’s a certain freedom that comes with adulthood, one that I greatly appreciate. But the other day it hit me–gone are the days of two-month summer vacations, double dutch, and staying out until the street lights came on. While maintaining a full-time job, it’s hard to enjoy summer like I used to. My summer time fun, is limited to two measly days during the weekend which goes as fast as it comes. That’s barely enough time to explore and be consumed in adventure. The second I let my hair down, I’m faced with the reality that it’s Sunday and I must prepare for the upcoming week.

Recently, I decided to take control of my summer. Yes, I still have to work Monday thru Friday but Saturdays are my days where I maximize my day–I call it double trouble. I leave my house around noon and don’t return home until 1-2AM the next day. Essentially it’s like two days of activities and new experiences packed into one. This past weekend I had a double trouble Saturday and it turned out to be one of the best days i’ve had in a while, here’s how it went down:

2:00PM Brunch at a new restaurant

The Cecil 210 W 118th St, New York, NY 10026

Summer is all about exploring. The weather is great and there should be nothing preventing you from going out. After a 100-Black Owned restaurant list came out on I Dont Do Clubs, my friends and I set a goal to tackle some of these restaurants. The Cecil in Harlem is one of them and I finally decided to make the long trek uptown to try it out. To read my review of this restaurant, click here.

4:30PM A walk around the Harlem Neighborhood

Harlem is filled with Brownstones and restaurants. The stroll to 96th street was pleasant. We discovered a huge pool in Central Park and the actual tattoo shop of the Black Ink Crew, which is a show on VH1. A major bonus was that some of the cast were just hanging out on the stoop of the shop.

6:00PM Brooklyn Museum First Saturday
August at the Brooklyn Museum is Caribbean Heritage Month. Every year, the museum pays homage to the West Indian Culture that dominates Brooklyn. When I walked into the museum, the first thing on my agenda was to get tickets for the Short Film/Webseries Ackee and Saltfish. The viewing started at 8PM, but tickets always go on sale an hour before and the lines are long. After I snagged my tickets, I discovered a reggae concert happening outside. I don’t know who the artists were, but they were singing Soca and getting the crowd hype. Around 8PM, I proceeded to the screening. Ackee and Saltfish was funny! It follows the life of two millennial girls living in London as they touch on issues of gentrification and snagging Lauryn Hill Tickets. I thought it was too short–I wanted more!
After the screening, I went to visit my boyfriend Basquiat. I have grown to love and admire his work. I wanted to see if I rediscovered anything new and fresh.

After watching his documentary Radiant Child, I understand some of his work according to the point in his life he was at. You can see how his art progressed from 1981, when he first started, to the paintings in 1983-1987, that could go for over 3million dollars now.

The Rise of Sneaker Culture exhibit was next on my list. The exhibit was well done and took you on a journey of the history of sneakers starting from the first pair. I love how it paid homage to both hip hop and sports. Sports may have been the reason for sneakers being made, but hip hope grew its popularity into the cult culture it is today. I will be sure to write more about this exhibit in an upcoming blog post.

Finally, I discovered the much anticipated FAILE: Savaged/Sacred Young Minds. This exhibit, raises questions about our relationship to consumer culture, religious traditions, and the urban environment by blurring the boundaries between fine art, street art, and popular culture. It will blow your mind! More on this in an upcoming blog post.

11:00PM Soda Bar and Lounge

629 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238

On the walk to Soda we stumbled across some books on the stoop of an apartment building. I walked away with The Black Book, a book of beautiful and well executed photography. Before heading into Soda, we stopped in the ice cream shop across the street to charge our phones. Ample Hill Creamery is known to have some of the best ice cream in Brooklyn. I figured since we were there I could try the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake ice cream, but the staff told me to come back in 30-minutes because it was too hard! Maybe next time. Soda was fun. We spent the rest of the night talking and dancing to all the classics. When “I Need A Girl” by Diddy came on, the nostalgic memories of past summers flooded the minds of everyone in the room. After all the days activities, I got home around 2AM.

If you’ve been feeling like summer isn’t what it used to be, maybe you’re right! We are adults now, and with adulthood comes responsibility. But we can’t let adulthood win! We have to learn how to make the best of our summers even if we think we don’t have enough time to enjoy it!

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20 Reasons to go to Chicago Now!

1. It’s so Clean:

I know writing conventions tell me I should start with something really cool and interesting, but one of the first things I noticed about Chicago is how clean the city is. Unlike NYC where there’s garbage overflowing on every corner and people littering like it’s the local dump, Chicago locals take pride in their city and abide by the signs encouraging them to upkeep their surroundings.

2. The People:

The people in Chicago are friendly. As a native New Yorker, born and raised, we tend to be aloof and on guard at all times. Actually, I have a story to tell: I was walking into the Chicago metro one morning and someone said “Good Morning” to me. I ignored him. I wasn’t sure if he was talking to me, but he was. He made his presence clear by saying good morning again, with a smile. My heart melted and I replied back to him with the same kindness he showed me. I am not used to people talking to me in NYC so it was a bit of an adjustment to warm up to him. I realized, there’s some people in the world that are just friendly and want nothing from you. That was one of the many takeaways from my stay.

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3. Magnificent Mile Shopping:

I wasn’t sure what would be the big deal about Magnificent Mile. It’s just shopping right? Wrong! My breath was completely taken away by this beautiful strip. It’s every shopper’s paradise. The stores are huge. Nordstrom’s, Neiman Marcus, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, super-sized Zara, Guess, Forever 21, you name it, Chicago has it. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was in the flesh. Of course one of the most sentimental moments I had was going to the American Girl store. I know I am old enough to have my own kids, but it was my childhood dream to come here and I felt blessed to finally receive the opportunity to. So there you have it, magnificent mile shopping was so good, it brought tears to my eyes.

IMG_11784. Sports:

Chicago Bulls. Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago Bears. Chicago Cubs. Chicago White Sox. Any of these teams ring a bell? I almost forgot I was in the town of Michael Jordan.  I was supposed to see a Cubs game at Wrigley Field the weekend I visited but it rained. The tickets are super cheap starting at $20 bucks. Unfortunately the locals I talked to had nothing great to say about their teams.

IMG_11095.The Beach:

In the midst of the amazing city, Chicago has a beach. Just to give some perspective it was less than 7-mins walking distance from my hotel and my hotel was located in the midst of their Downtown District. I went to Chicago during Memorial Weekend, and this was the first day the beach was open to the public. It seemed like the perfect picturesque view. Tall Sky Scrapers, overlooking the beautiful Lake Michigan with locals and tourist alike sunbathing and playing volley ball. I almost felt like I was in the American version of Dubai.

6. The Food:

Chicago has some good food. I had an array of delicious dishes, ranging from Jamaican to Seafood, but the food I enjoyed most, was the Deep Dish Pizza. First let me say OMG. Then I can proceed to describe this beautiful creation. It’s definitely deep dish, much bigger than I anticipated. The tomato sauce is covered on top and the delish cheese is layered throughout. I added sausage and peperoni and waited over an hour to get this pizza made, but it was worth it. I bought a small pie for about $24 and it lasted for a whole week. I made sure to bring it back on the plane with me because it was too good to discard. Whoever created this is genius. I went to Giordano’s but people later told me Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria is better.

Giordano's Deep Dish Pizza Chicago7. Lake Michigan:

Lake Michigan is Chicago’s pride and joy. The lake is massive and a beautiful teal blue, it’s surrounded by tall immaculate buildings along Lake Shore Drive. One of the activities I did was take a tour along the lake. I took an architecture tour of some sort, although, I was told the tour would encompass fun facts and attractions. The water is cold (it splashed on me and my camera at one point) but adds eloquence to the city.  I shudder to think what Lake Michigan turns into during the winter months.IMG_1099

8. The Architecture:

I was amazed by Chicago’s architecture, and this is definitely a feature that the city is proud of. There’s a hybrid between the new and old buildings and Chicago once housed the tallest building in the world (Willis Tower) before the Burj Khalifa was built in Dubai. Now the Willis Tower is the second tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, since the Freedom Tower was completed this year.

IMG_11409. The View of Chicago:

The view on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower is phenomenal. I went to the Sky Deck at night and was captivated by the glistening lights and bustle of the city. From the deck I could see the stadiums, the lake and other buildings on the horizon. After waiting on a long packed line, I got to the transparent box aka the sky deck that feels like you are walking on air, 103 stories high. If you are afraid of heights this attraction will freak you out!

10. The Chicago Theater:

I didn’t get to see a show at the Chicago Theater but I did pass by this gem and it’s amazing. I almost left Chicago without seeing this but as I was walking to the train station, headed to the airport, I saw the theater lights in the distance. With my suit case in tow, I walked almost 10 blocks and was enamored by the Chicago Theater sign. So happy I could cross this off my bucket list.

IMG_135611. Chicago Stepping:

Taking a Chicago stepping class was important to me. Chicago is the birthplace of this artistry so I thought it would be awesome to take classes from the best. I found 2-dance classes but their beginner courses seemed to take place on Tuesday’s. Check out Crosstown Steppin and Steppers USA if you’re interested. However, there’s a steppers group in NYC that taught me the basics and I took the course for about 6-months. It was so much fun.

12. The Art Institute of Chicago:

The Art Institute of Chicago is the #1 Art Museum in the World, which was even more reason for me to add this to my itinerary. I went around noon on a Sunday. There was a long line outside of the museum, but I got in within 15-minutes. Ticket prices vary based on if you’re an in-state resident or not. Of course out-of-state residents pay more. The cost for entry is $23. I decided to start at the top floor and work my way down. I started in European art, since it’s my least favorite and progressed into impressionism. Surprisingly I enjoyed the European Art exhibits. I then made my way to the exhibits I knew I would love including modern, contemporary, photography, and African art. I must say, this was one of the best museums I’ve ever been to.IMG_1257 IMG_125413. The Museums:

 

I had to give the Art Institute its own reason to visit Chicago because c’mon it’s voted the #1 Museum in the World, but that shouldn’t take away from the other museums housed in this amazing city. I also had the chance to visit the Museum of Contemporary Photography and the  DuSable Museum which is an African American history museum. I came across the Chicago Cultural Center as well which across the street from Millennium Park. The museums in Chicago are superb. Make sure to research the days where entry into the museum’s are free, although some museums just ask for a donation. What I didn’t get a chance to see was the Hull House, which is a staple in American history.

14. Navy Pier:

Navy Pier is a sort of amusement park in the heart of the city. There’s a Merry-go-round and Ferris wheel as well as places to eat like BubbaGump and Margaritaville. There’s also the famous Garett’s Popcorn and Giordano’s.

Navy Pier-Travelbyky15. President Barack Obama’s Home:

Before Barack Obama became president and moved into the White House he lived in the Kenwood section of Chicago. Although you cannot go inside of his home (it’s highly secured), you can admire his humble beginnings from the outside.

16. The Bean (Cloud Gate):

Like every other city in the world, Chicago has the go-to attraction that signifies you’re there. In Paris it’s the Eiffel Tower, in NYC it’s the Empire State Building, in Chicago, its Cloud Gate. Cloud Gate or the Bean is a silver sculpture in Millennium Park that reflects the whole Chicago skyline. It’s made out of stainless steel and people love to go there to take pictures and admire the shape of this bean-like structure.

The bean17. The Music:

When I was in Chicago, I couldn’t help but listen to R. Kelly-Step in the Name of Love. It was on repeat. In my mind, that was the soundtrack of my trip. It made me happy. There’s music all around you in Chicago. Homeless men singing the blues, young men drumming on containers and dancing to the beat. There’s also a lot of jazz and blues clubs including Kingston Mines which plays classic music that takes you on a trip back in time.

18. Love Jones and other classic movies filmed in Chicago:

Love Jones is my favorite movie and the primary reason I visited Chicago. I wanted to see where Darius chased after Nina in Union Station and where they had their special date nights. Yet there’s other classics that were shot in this city including My Best Friend’s Wedding at the Drake Hotel and the classic movie turned series on Showtime Soul Food.

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19. It’s Kid Friendly:

Chicago has so many things to do with children. There’s the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Children Museum, Shedd’s Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium. I also walked by the Maggie Daley Park which I thought was so fabulous. Maggie Daley was the mayor’s wife who died from cancer (I learned this from a local), the park was created in her name and it is fabulous. It’s located in the center of the city along Lake Shore Drive. The backdrop is the city skyline and the playground is imaginative.

20. Chicago Photography and Street Art:

The art in Chicago left me speechless. What I loved most is how Chicago’s art incorporates culture and diversity. I went to see the Dandy Lion Exhibit that sought to show black men in a different light other than the stereotypical “thug-like” exterior they supposedly give off through photography. The aim of this exhibit is to re-articulate Black Masculine identity. The subjects dressed nice but were overall well-rounded and complex individuals. I also got the chance to check out the Love for Sale exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center, which was epic. Overall, the street art in Chicago stopped me in my tracks. Beautiful installments, sculptures, and graffiti art are sprinkled throughout the windy city.

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Ky Takes Chicago Part III

I took time in the morning just to relax. It was Sunday, so I read my bible, prayed and sat in silence—completely left with my thoughts. I was at peace. My first stop would be the Art Institute of Chicago. My plan was to get there by 10:30am when it first opened but once I got outside on Magnificent Mile, I was entranced by the liveliness around me.

I decided to walk to the American Girl Place. When I was around 10-years old, my mom planned to take me there for my birthday. I was so excited. However a few weeks into planning, she realized she couldn’t afford such a pricey trip. For me it was one of those childhood heartbreaks. I acted like it was ok, but I was disappointed. When I got to the front of American Girl, I just cried. Growing up, my mom wanted to give me so much but financially she was limited. I felt so blessed to know God had exalted me to a position where I could make some of my dreams come true. It was the most therapeutic tears I have ever shed. I walked in and acknowledged all the beautiful dolls. There were hair salons and restaurants for the dolls and mini clothing boutiques for their clothes. Mother and daughters surrounded me. It was special to say the least. I proceeded to some big girl (window) shopping at Neiman’s before heading to the three museums I wanted to tackle:

  1. Art Institute of Chicago
  2. Museum of Contemporary Photography
  3. DuSable Museum

AMERICAN gIRLAmerican GirlIMG_1189After my tour of Chicago’s museum I planned to have a nice dinner to conclude my weekend. I got dressed and went out to the Wild Hare. In the movie Love Jones, Darius and Nina spent the night dancing to live reggae music at this spot. I wanted to recreate the same scene or feeling. When I first got to the restaurant there was a soccer team enjoying beers and a few couples on date night. I asked for a table for one and enjoyed a delicious Jerk Chicken plate with an ice cold drink on the side. The music was epic, old school reggae that reminded me of my childhood (My mom and dad loved this kind of music). There was one last thing on my itinerary that I did not get done—The Chicago Theater. I wanted to ask my cab driver to drop me there but it was getting late. Eh, maybe ill come back in the future to see it.

The Wild Hare The next morning on my way to the train to get to the airport, in the distance I saw a sign that said CHICAGO—Wait was that the theater? With my suitcase in tow I walked about 10-blocks along State Street until I was close enough to see it for sure. My trip to Chicago was officially complete.IMG_1356

Ky Takes Chicago Part II

Day two in Chicago started out in a bit of a frenzy. The person I was traveling with decided to head back home so now I was a solo traveler in Chicago. After I got over the initial fear of being alone, I found freedom in the whole situation. I moved out of the Airbnb apartment and found lodging closer to all the action. I was in the center of Magnificent Mile. Luckily Jack, my Airbnb host, was nice enough to drive me to my new hotel. Once checked in to the Inn of Chicago, I decided to walk along Michigan Avenue to explore.
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Almost immediately I came across Lake Michigan on the DuSable Bridge. I walked downstairs to see if I could get in on the boat action happening on the lake. I noticed there were a few boat tours and I figured taking one would be a great way to learn more about the city. All of the tours were sold out until 5:30PM which meant I had 3-hours of free time.

Magnificent Mile

I headed straight to the Bean in Millennium Park. It was actually pretty cool. The bean is made out of silver steel so it’s like a mirror of some sort—it reflects the city skyline as well. People gather from all over the world just to touch it and get a picture with it. I even found myself envious that I wouldn’t get the picture I wanted so I decided to take selfies until two nice ladies took my full length pic for me (the struggles we have now-a-days)

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From The Bean, I headed across the street to the Chicago Cultural Center. I stayed in there for hours exploring the exhibits. The architecture was beautiful. There was one specific exhibit that I loved called Love is for Sale: The Graphic Art of Valmor Products. What I loved about this exhibit is it raised awareness about the conversation of beauty in advertisements when catered to black women (and some men) back in the day. The ads promoted bleaching creams, wigs, and attaining “good hair” with Valmor Products. I’m always amazed by the ads of our dark past. Some of them were offensive and would make me feel inadequate as a black person (if I lived during those times).

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My tour of Chicago via Lake Michigan was the perfect way to get more acquainted with Chicago. I learned about the architecture, took in the beautiful views and just enjoyed the amazing weather. If you’re ever in Chicago, you have to take one of these tours on Lake Michigan.

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My day wouldn’t have been complete without a Deep Dish Pizza for dinner. I waited in Giordano’s for an hour before my pizza was ready. It was a total of $24 but so worth it. I was so exhausted by my day that I decided to take my deep dish back to the hotel. Let me just say this, deep dish pizza is the best food creation on the face of this earth.

Giordano's Deep Dish Pizza Chicago

Ky Takes Chicago

When I first arrived in Chicago, I became enamored by all Chicago had to offer. O’hare airport is really nice. The passage way leading to the train station is adorned with neon lights which change colors as you walk. This was a trip meant for exploration. I didn’t want to take a cab into the city, I wanted to be like a local and take the train. It was 20-stops on the Blue line.

O'Hare Airport

I got off the train at Jackson Street and took a bus to my AirBNB apartment. I would be staying with a man named Jack. He lived in a condo on the South Side of Chicago along Michigan Avenue. When it was time to get off the bus Jack was waiting at the bus stop to greet me. It was wonderful. Jack’s apartment is beautiful. It has white decor, with pictures of Chicago hanging along the hallway walls. The apartment is treated just like a hotel. He had slippers waiting for me and a welcoming name sign on the room door. The continental breakfast was a plus as well. He mentioned he kept a camera in the kitchen which made total sense, I always wondered about the safety of Airbnb hosts. The view from Jack’s apartment is also amazing.

Airbnb

One of the first things I wanted to do was visit the Navy Pier. It was about 20-minutes away from the apartment. I got on a bus then took a cab. To be honest, I was quite underwhelmed by it. It was still under a lot of construction, but the views from the pier were magnificent. Lake Michigan is such a beauty.

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From the Navy Pier, I went on to the Sky Deck Chicago in the Willis Tower. The Skydeck is about $19 and it’s an experience. There’s two noteworthy rooms that you must go threw before you take the elevator to the 103rd floor. The first room is a sort of pop culture room, exhibiting everything that Chicago is known for including: the Chicago Bulls, President Obama, and Oprah. There’s also a room where you can watch a video on the history of the Willis Tower and how it came to be. Finally, you are led along a hallway to elevators that take you to the 103rd floor. Once on the observation deck, you see the city like never before. There’s thousands of tourist there, all waiting to get a chance to stand on the sky deck.

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