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.

IMG_1182

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.

Love Jones

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.

IMG_1373IMG_1339

IMG_1347

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.
IMG_0972
IMG_0967 IMG_0966

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)

millennium park chicago millennium park chicago cloud gate chicago the bean chicago kydee the bean chicago millennium park chicago

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).

IMG_1018IMG_1024IMG_1052 IMG_1062 IMG_1071

IMG_1032 IMG_1034

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.

IMG_1140 IMG_1148IMG_1162

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.

IMG_0897 IMG_0913 IMG_0912

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.

Skydeck Chicago Sky Deck Chicago skydeck chicago

A Love Jones Lover Chicago Bucket List

Have you ever watched the movie Love Jones? It’s by far one of my favorite movies. Larenz Tate and Nia Long play Darius Lovehall and Nina Mosely, a couple who live in Chicago and go through the ups and downs of a pre-social media relationship. The two have a love for the arts and poetry and an undying passion for each other. Chicago is the unofficial main character of this movie as the places they frequent include Grant Park and the Wild Hare. I was inspired to go to Chicago because of this movie. I wanted to recreate all the moments Darius and Nina shared together. This has been one of my travel goals for years and it would finally happen. One Saturday when I was sick of dreaming, I booked my ticket for memorial weekend. I would bring my professional camera with me to channel Nina and my mac computer to channel Darius. It would be the perfect infusion of what I love to do write and take pictures for a whole weekend.

A Love Jones Lover Bucket List

The Sanctuary

The Spoken Word Lounge, 1200 W 35th St., Chicago, IL 60609

The Sanctuary is a cool-cat nightclub where the hottest poets in town share their spoken words and deep thoughts. The smoked-filled room makes for the perfect introduction into the poetic mind of Darius Lovehall as he shares with the audience his “Blues for Nina.” Unfortunately, the Sanctuary is just an illusion and doesn’t actually exist. But there’s a huge spoken-word scene in Chicago.

The Wild Hare

2610 N. Halsted St., Chicago, IL 60614

Darius and Nina’s first date went down here. The Wild Hare is a Caribbean-inspired bar lounge located in the Lincoln Park section of Chicago. It’s particularly popular because of the live music that starts every night at 9PM. There’s a diverse crowd, from athletes wanting to enjoy an ice-cold Red Stripe to lovers conversing in the dimly lit corners of the venue. The walls are adorned with bright yellow, green and red hues and flags hanging from the ceiling. You can’t go wrong with the jerk chicken platter and a side of Jamaican beef patties. The Wild Hare’s mouthwatering menu is only enhanced by the sweet sounds of Bob Marley blasting through the speakers.

The Buckingham Fountain

301 S. Columbus Dr., Chicago, IL 60605

The lighting of the Buckingham Fountain is perfect for a romantic smooch. The fountain spouts everyday from 8AM-11PM, but contrary to popular belief, it’s not named after the palace in London.

A Bookstore

Myopic Books 1564 N Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60622

The scene of the crime… Darius is caught with another woman amongst the books here at one of Chicago’s oldest and largest used bookstores in the heart of Wicker Park. Definitely not a high point in the movie, but dramatic!

Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP)

600 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60605

While the location isn’t featured in the movie, the essence of photography is peppered throughout, which makes MoCP well worth a visit. Although the museum change exhibits about five times a year, the current exhibition, Dandy Lion: (Re) Articulating Black Masculine Identity, is a must see. The photographs in this exhibit are reminiscent to Nina’s work (if she really existed).

Chicago Stepping Class

Steppersusa.com

Darius and Nina showed off their chemistry while on the dance floor. If you’ve never heard of stepping or you’re just intrigued by the art, consider taking a beginners steppers class while in Chicago. Classes are $10-$15, but you won’t be disappointed.

Black Stone Hotel

636 South Michigan Ave. (lobby entrance on East Balbo Avenue), Chicago, IL 60605

The Black Stone Hotel has definitely been upgraded since the filming of the movie but still has its original charm. Go for a drink at the bar and see if you can snag a peak into the very room where the Annual Steppers Ball took place.

Chill along the shores of Lake Michigan

63rd Street Beach 6300 S. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago, Illinois 60649

“You only get one true love… two tops.” Lake Shore Drive is the perfect spot to take in Chicago. Take a walk, think about the one that got away and how to get them back.

Love Jones

My First Experience as a Solo Traveler

Alone. Not by choice. My boyfriend (at the time) and I got into an argument. We parted ways that weekend. I was on my own in a huge city much like my own, but it was not NYC, it was different and I would be doing a disservice to Chicago if I compared the two.

Alone. I never anticipated Chicago being a trip for one but God always has other plans for us, doesn’t he? After settling in my new hotel, I decided to wear my hair in its natural state to represent the sudden burst of freedom I now felt. It was liberating to say the least. The first thing I did was explore Magnificent Mile. I walked outside of my hotel, conveniently placed on the corner of Ohio and Mag Mile and proceeded down the strip admiring the tall buildings and the shopping. I was in Chicago for sure. There were stores for days—Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Guess, Ralph Lauren, Under Armour, Neiman Marcus, H&M and the list goes on. I decided to take a boat tour of Chicago along Lake Michigan followed by a trip to “The bean.” I looked around at all the people swarming towards the bean with their families and friends and at that moment I wished I could share this time with someone—but I couldn’t so I did what anyone else in my situation would do…I found someone who had a nice and friendly demeanor and asked if they could take a picture of me—I was alone in Chicago, but that didn’t take away from the fact that I was still a tourist. I met two middle-aged women who were more than happy to take my picture. They complimented me on my natural hair, in awe of what I did to make it look the way it did and went on about their day. I felt exhilarated. My fear of being alone in Chicago wasn’t completely gone, but I loosened up. I would make the best of this trip and enjoy the wonders of solo travel.

The next morning, I woke up and had time to reflect. I sat in silence. I prayed. I talked to God. I was able to write. I planned out my itinerary. I talked on the phone. I did everything I wanted to do in MY time. I planned to do a museum day. I would visit all the museums in Chicago that were on my itinerary. Three museums in one day. As a matter of fact, 3-museums in 5-hours, since I didn’t get to my first museum (The Art Institute of Chicago) until noon and everything closed at 5PM. I say this all to say, I was on my own time. I didn’t have to answer to anyone else but me. I was accountable for how my trip would go. This was the day that my fear of being solo in Chicago completely left me. I no longer feared someone would notice I was alone, or that I would be kidnapped. I let go of everything and lived life. I enjoyed my time walking through the exhibits of the Art Institute, interpreting art from my perspective and not the perspectives of others. I enjoyed taking pictures of pictures at the Museum of Contemporary Photography and watching the Dandy Lion video over and over again without being rushed by someone else. I loved learning about the history of African Americans at the DuSable Museum and getting caught in the rain, looking for the bus on the way back to the hotel. It was beautiful. It was liberating. It was such a necessary experience to push me out of my element. That night, I decided to take myself to a nice dinner. I wanted to visit the Wild Hare with my boyfriend and dance the night away to reggae music, but things did not turn out as such—so guess what, I visited without him. I arrived to the dinner around 7:30PM and I was surrounded by other couples on date night but that didn’t faze me. I asked the hostess for a table for one and ordered my jerk chicken plate filled with cabbage and rice and peas. I had an ice cold drink to go with my dinner and danced for a few hours to old school reggae music. When it was getting late, I took a cab home and got back to my hotel around 11PM. The next morning I took the CTA Blue Line train and found my way back to the airport. Overall, it was such a beautiful trip.

My first time as a solo traveler was an experience. I am not going to act like it wasn’t scary because it was. I don’t like being alone, especially in a hotel room by myself but now, I understand that this time alone was exactly what I needed. I had time just to spend with myself. I had time to think and evaluate my life decisions. I was surprised by my own strength because I could’ve just remained in the room, stagnant since I was alone, but instead I was empowered. I got up and did everything that was on my itinerary. I am now more open to an experience like this.

10 Tips to Conquer Solo Travel as a Woman

  1. Be Bold. Do not be afraid of conquering the city you are visiting. Make sure you know everything you want to get done and go for it.
  2. Prepare. Before I started each day, I had an idea of the things I wanted to do and how I would do it. I also googled what time everything opened and closed, and planned my daily itinerary based on my research.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, directions or for someone to take a picture of you. Just make sure who you ask makes you feel comfortable.
  4. Try to get home at a decent time.I wouldn’t advise staying out until the wee hours of the night especially as a woman traveler. Safety First!
  5. Treat this new city like it’s your own and you deserve to be there. My friend gave me advice to act like I was out and about in NYC and once she said that, my whole mindset about the trip changed. I wouldn’t be so cautious in NYC so why should I be afraid here?
  6. Enjoy time with you. Take time to breathe, read or even sit in silence when you’re on your solo trip.
  7. Don’t be embarrassed to have breakfast, lunch, or dinner by yourself. Again be confident. You may get stares, which is expected, but people will ultimately respect your independence. However, it’s okay if you just want to take your food back to the hotel. #NoPressure.
  8. Meet Up. If you’re going to a new city solo, see if your friends or family know of anyone you can connect with or if there’s any events or meet up groups happening.
  9. Treat Yourself. Maybe it’s a cupcake or a new outfit but make yourself feel special…you deserve it.
  10. Little White Lie. Never tell someone you are alone. Safety First!

Chicago Travelbyky

Are you ready for a Baecation?

You think you know, but you have no idea.

That tagline will forever be in my head. As a kid, I spent hours upon hours watching the Real World on MTV. There was something so genius about putting a group of young, eccentric people in a house together and discovering who they really were at their core. Spend enough time with someone and their inner selves will begin to show. Whether it’s their passions, vulnerabilities or insecurities, it all begins to spill out. I can now say the same thing about going on vacation with a mate. If you really want to know your boyfriend/girlfriend go on a vacation with them. What makes a baecation different from just hanging out at the house or in your neighborhood together is that both of you guys are completely out of your element. You will begin to notice things about how the person you’re with takes charge (or not). You’re more inclined to notice things like if your boyfriend will instinctually help you with your bags or if your girlfriend will make you breakfast in bed. Things that you didn’t know you were seeking might be revealed. Which can be a good thing or a bad thing.

I say this from experience. I took my first baecation recently and what was supposed to be an amazing opportunity to explore a new city that we both have never visited ended with the demise of our relationship.

Discretion: I am not writing this piece from a place of bitterness, more of a cautionary tale.

My relationship was not ready for this next step of traveling together. There were a lot of loose ends that needed to be tied and a lot of things that we both didn’t know or like about each other when we went away. When I am on vacation, I hate taking naps as soon as I get into the room. However he wanted a nap, which turned into 6-wasted hours of a day. It gave me anxiety watching him sleep, when I wanted to discover this new city; we had a whole itinerary planned and each hour that passed made me feel like we would get nothing done. Yet what he didn’t know is that I go to sleep really early so by 10PM I was turned down and this was prime time for him to turn up. He wanted to hit up a blues club around 11pm but by that time you could hear my snoring miles away. Our personality disparities were shown in many other ways and we ultimately realized this relationship wouldn’t work.

Before you decide to take a baecation with your mate you must have a discussion, and in this discussion be totally honest about your expectations for the trip:

  • How will we pay for the trip? Do you have a partner that will take care of all the costs? Sometimes as women we would love this, but it’s not always realistic for us working class people. So to be fair you both will most likely be splitting the cost. Who will pay for flights? Who will pay for hotels? Or will you just go 50/50 on everything?
  • How will we pay for things while on the trip? I harbored a little resentment when we were on the trip and my boyfriend didn’t pay for certain things. It bothered me when we went to dinner and I had to pay half or when we went to an attraction and I had to pay for my ticket in front of the lady at the stand (who I secretly thought was judging me). Yes I am petty (maybe a bit unrealistic) but these were my concerns.
  • Manage Expectations. What do you both want to do during the course of the trip and how can you compromise and get everything done so everyone is happy? Brain storm all the things you would like to do and draft an itinerary.
  • How will we get to the airport? Together? Apart? When I went away with my boyfriend I was a little annoyed that he didn’t come pick me up and we just go to the airport together. Granted he lives in Harlem and I live in Brooklyn (two different worlds) but it was 3 AM and I was a female in a taxi cab by myself. I’ll admit it was scary but I got to the airport safely. What I would’ve preferred was for us to go together. Again, maybe you guys are not as particular.
  • Are you a stay on the resort person or do you like to vacation like a local This is important. You both have to make sure you’re on the same page. If one person wants to explore and the other wants to hang out by the pool all day you won’t be spending much time with each other.

My best advice is to keep the peace, ignore little idiosyncrasies and live in the moment, at least until the vacation is over.

IMG_1461

Restaurant Review: Elberta Restaurant and Bar

Elberta Restaurant and Bar 335 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217

So far, I’ve had dinner and brunch at Elberta. Elberta is a relatively new restaurant on Flatbush, in Park Slope that serves comfort food. The first time I came here was for my birthday. I had a series of their sides which included Mac and Cheese, Sautéed Spinach, Truffle Fries, and Deviled Eggs. I loved everything except for the Mac and Cheese, which needed a bit more seasoning and cheese. The rum punch in a mason jar was really cute and tasty as well.

For brunch this week, I had deviled eggs again, which wasn’t as tasty as it was before. It had a fridge taste but I still ate them. The brunch menu was filled with dishes I loved. I am on a healthy kick but I had a craving for steak and eggs. I went with my instinct and ordered it. The presentation was amazing. The dish comes in a skillet and in addition to the steak and eggs there is a side of potato’s mixed with tomato’s and spinach. I didn’t like how big the chunks of steak were, but it was so good! Well seasoned, juicy and just an all around good choice.

The décor of this place has exposed brick, great music and an intimate vibe. I will definitely come back here and I suggest you give it a chance as well.

IMG_0422 IMG_2440

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TRAVEL BY KY

It’s been a beautiful year since I posted my first blog entry on this website. All I can do is thank God for giving me a vision for what I wanted to do with this blog and watching it flourish. Since my first trip abroad to Europe last year, travel has become my addiction. I am at my happiest when I travel. I feel so blessed and I thank God for revealing to me the vision he has for my life through these adventures. Traveling makes me bold, fearless, adventurous and curious. It’s allowed me to grow in so many ways in the last year and I am so thankful for every opportunity that may come my way. Thank You for the support.

photo-48

Travel Conference Style

So I was playing around with the website Polyvore. I wanted to create cool outfit inspirations for a conference, having just returned from Women In Travel Summit 2015. I struggled with what to wear. I decided on a dress and some leather boots the first day and jeans with a shirt that made a reference to Paris on the second day; which I thought was pretty standard. What I soon learned, when networking and meeting new people, standard is not good enough. At a conference, particularly a casual one, it’s essential to stand out!
Standing out could mean cool hair, a statement necklace, or wearing bright colors. If you are shy, your outfit can do all the talking. People will want to know who you are and where’d you get that from?
One of the first styles I chose below is very comfortable and consists of a graphic tee, some boyfriend jeans, comfy converses and a bag, big enough to hold all of the conference material you will collect throughout the day. I also added a bright yellow cardigan that you can wear if it gets too cold or throw around your waist for fashion sake.
What to wear to a conference
I thought it would make a lot of sense if I included some dress options as well. Dresses are easy to throw on, hassle free and can also be a standout piece. I picked some of the dresses below because they were bright and funky. They also seem casual enough for a travel conference and can be paired with a blazer or a cardigan. Ditch the heels and wear some cute flats for the occasion. These style tips will be a guaranteed head turner.
What to Wear to a Conference

Women In Travel Summit 2015 Part III

Day Two of The Women in Travel Summit started with breakfast. I had the pleasure of meeting some amazing ladies, including one who traveled throughout the United States, by visiting 50 States in 50 Weeks. Here’s the kicker, she’s from Australia. One of the profound things she said is that we are so lucky to be in the United States, because if we want to be in the desert we can go to Arizona, if we want to be on a beach, visit Florida, Need culture? go to New Orleans and there’s history in every state in America. Her stories resonated with me, as she found splendor in driving through New Jersey and Nevada. Why does it take someone from a completely different continent to visit our country and find such magnificence in it? Too often as Americans we overlook the grander of our country. It made me want to discover all that she found to be enticing. There’s such value in living in a vast country filled with natural resources, nature, and incredible wonders.

IMG_1604After taking our quintessential group picture (all 300 of us), we listened to the amazing stories of people who partake in volunteer travel. This conference opened my eyes to traveling with a purpose. I eventually would love to use my travels to help others; maybe building a school in Thailand for girls who just escaped sex trafficking or making pillows and beautiful patterns with the women of Kenya; Teaching the children of Dubai English or handing out sanitary napkins to young girls in need in India. I had a lot to think about when it came to travel, I was excited about the prospects.

IMG_1601 IMG_1608Our first breakout session was WordPress for Travel Bloggers, it basically went through all the ways you can self-host on a WordPress platform. This was valuable information, but right now I am ok with hosting via wordpress and not self-hosting. However, three things I learned that could be valuable to you is:

  1. Always compress images before uploading to a blog.
  2. Always do regularly scheduled backups of your database and your entire site.
  3. Protect yourself by any means from hackers, because they want to send out spam emails using your credentials. If WordPress prompts you to pay extra for hacker protection go for it.

Street Harassment while traveling with Delia Harrington, was one of the sessions I looked forward to the most. While I was producing my show Reserved, this was one of the issues I was very passionate about bringing to the forefront. Growing up I had no idea how to navigate this unwarranted attention I was getting all of a sudden. To avoid the hissing, cat calling and being stalked to my building, I would just take a longer way home, getting off the train one stop before I should’ve and just walk the 5 extra minutes. This was my means for coping with an issue, that everyone else ignored.

IMG_1660When I arrived to the forum, it felt like I was not alone. I watched around me when women of all shades raised their hands when asked if they have ever been victims of street harassment. I shared my story of my first time being cat called at age 13, or even cursed out when I didn’t respond. It was comforting to know that other women were able to relate, some women recounted being as young as 11 when they were first approached by men on the street. It’s disheartening to know that an issue such as street harassment, which can make girls and women feel unsafe in their own neighborhood, is taken so lightly. I remembered trying to tell the women in my family about my experiences and feeling like I was talking to a brick wall. Just ignore it, they would say. I believed I had to accept this fate of being harassed as just the norm, although at the time I didn’t know it was harassment. I had my aha moment in college; I was in a women studies class listening to group final projects, when a team based theirs on Street Harassment. It was the first time I was able to define what was happening to me; finally I didn’t feel ignored because other people experienced it too. Although street harassment is a global issue, there are great strides being taken against it. Here are some ways we can respond to street harassment:

  • Direct confrontations with street harassers may prove extremely dangerous, particularly if you are alone in an unpopulated space.
  • It’s each individual’s right to decide when, how, and if to respond but keep your safety in mind
  • If you’re safe to do so confront your harasser with strong body language
  • Use statements not questions leave me alone vs. will you leave me alone?
  • Identify the perpetrator “Man in the yellow shirt stop touching me”
  • Educate others, especially men
  • Tell your story
  • Get active

Finally, after sneaking out of the hotel to do some sightseeing with my mom and grandma, during our 2-hour lunch break, I attended the last break out session for the conference. This session was all about maintaining a travel blog when you are not travelling. I found some amazing tips on using your neighborhood as a source of inspiration or reliving your times in the countries you previously traveled to, by writing about topics you did not already address( maybe restaurants, museums, to dos or what not to do). I found this session to be great because it inspired me to keep on writing even during the down times when I may not have a trip on the horizon. Just open your eyes to see that there’s culture all around.

IMG_1725 IMG_1723

When we all convened, back in the main hall, I was under the impression that the conference was over, but there was so much more to come. Adventurous Kate was the final speaker of the conference. She spoke strongly and passionately about Gender Inequality in the blogging world. She rose awareness about men getting all the praise for blogging and photography but are they really dominating the field or just getting credit for it? She encouraged us to support one another.

With that being said, I had to leave the conference earlier than anticipated. I thought the conference would end on time but it went over and I felt like I was leaving an amazing party early. Well, there’s always next year and its happening in sunny California!

IMG_1733 IMG_1736

CBWmKCZU8AAOFjA

Women In Travel Summit 2015 Part II

Manicures and photobooths!  I managed to arrive in heaven. Well, not really but this was all the pampering a girl needs to be happy. During the break I was torn between attending a bloggers revision workshop or a holistic scheduling break out session. I chose, How to get ish done and still have time to do yoga (The holistic scheduling session). I learned some pretty cool techniques, but most, I was already familiar with. When you have a 9-5 job, and manage two blogs and one website like I do, it’s imperative to hone your time management skills.

IMG_1496

IMG_1544

IMG_1503 IMG_1506Cashing in on You was the next talk and it was absolutely empowering.

One of the questions asked was What would you do differently if you knew for sure that the only real currency you have in life is you?

When you start to think like this, you begin to take risks. If the only currency in life I had was me, I would have to do three things better:

  1. Network
  2. Make lasting relationships
  3. Get rid of the fear of rejection and take more risks.

Even though this was a hypothetical question, this is really a great way to put things into perspective. I need to start thinking of myself like currency and know my worth, because I have tons of value. Heck, I am a goldmine. You, who are reading this, whoever you are and wherever you may be should do the same.

Other Takeaways from Miss Catrice:

  1. Know why you do what you do and why you are the best at doing it
  2. Be very clear about your brand
  3. Do not be afraid to stand out

The stand out tip resonated with me most. It’s very important to be the person that stands out. Whether it’s a bright blazer, crazy hair, an amazing broach, always have a conversation piece on hand when a new opportunity presents itself at a conference or maybe even an event.

Follow @catriceology for some more personal and professional branding tips.

IMG_1517 IMG_1521My next break out session was about the boring and monotonous world of SEO. SEO is search optimization, and if a blogger want to find success, their website/blog should come up on Google’s 1st page and not its 22nd.

Three tips I learned was:

  1. Making Google like you is all about creating amazing content that people love and share
  2. Publish up to date and real life content that people care about
  3. Brainstorm the common terms and phrases you think people use to search the broad topics of your blog site

IMG_1511

Shortly after a delicious lunch, my last break out session of WITS15 day one would commence. I was torn between “Press Trip Travel,” which I believe would’ve been totally beneficial to me or “Meeting the Global Challenge of Educating Women Through Media: Soulful Travels with Grannies on Safari” I chose the latter and I am happy I did. Grannies on Safari did something to my soul. They were so cute and they have amazing chemistry. Most of all their session was almost like a call for action for us travelers to do more for others abroad. There are women across the world in Africa and India who can’t go to school because they don’t have sanitary napkins to wear while on their periods. That should never be the case. We have to use our platforms to bring awareness to these issues and help our sisters (and brothers) reach great heights in their lives even if they are miles away.

Grannies On Safari have a show on PBS and you can Click here to visit their website.

IMG_1526With Day One of WITS 15 down, I was feeling overwhelmed. I needed to connect with the many people that I met that day, but I also needed to take more action. I have more than one platform, one is even geared towards the empowerment of women and even though I’ve made progress with all my platforms, this conference made me realize, that my work has just begun. I needed to make more of an impact. Do more, heck, maybe even rebrand. That night, I had a feeling of non-complacency. If I learned anything from this conference it was that change and growth were on my horizons.

IMG_1528 IMG_1651IMG_1530 IMG_1531 IMG_1541

Women In Travel Summit 2015

The night before Women In Travel Summit 2015 (WITS15) I planned out my whole schedule on Sched, which is a genius app for organizing your schedule and calendar. I was able to sync all the activities I would do for the weekend on my Gmail calendar, which alerted me every time I had a workshop coming up. I was all packed and ready to head to Boston for a weekend of connecting with other women travelers like myself. I hoped to leave with new friends and lasting connections yet I had very little expectations for what the weekend would bring. I love going into a new experience with an open mind and heart.

photo-17I realized I was in Boston when we drove past the harbor leading up to the Engineering School at Boston University. Beautiful town homes lined the stoned streets, it was so charming. The first event on the Sched calendar was an opening party at the We Work South Station. I decided to have dinner with my mom and grandmother instead, whom I brought with me to tag along and enjoy the city while I was at the conference. It would be the only time I had to hang with my favorite ladies before the conference really got started.

IMG_1481

IMG_1482

IMG_1484 Saturday morning, I woke up refreshed. I got dressed in what seemed like a standard conference outfit; a dress, tights, boots and a cardigan. Everyone knows you can’t attend a conference without a cardigan. I checked in and was super excited when I was told that the amazing travel bags that were on each chair in the conference hall was for us to keep. I was torn between the red and the black. The red was vibrant, but the black was practical (I went with the bold red). I was overwhelmed and quite excited when I saw how many beautiful women were in attendance at the conference.

IMG_1494 IMG_1572

IMG_1600Where would I sit? I found a seat next to lovely women, as close to the front as I could possibly get. I love sitting in the front, it keeps you alert at all times. Breakfast was continental and consisted of bagels and delicious muffins. The opening speech came from an amazing woman, traveler and entrepreneur, Asian Fusion Girl also known as Dina. Dina’s story was raw, and relatable. Dina grew up internalizing the negative words of her mother who told her she wouldn’t amount to anything (her father was a bit more supportive and compassionate). She used these words to fuel her life to great heights. While in college she decided to pursue a career in music. She got on a plane to Brazil to connect with her uncle who had a connection at MTV in Sao Palo. What came out of her spontaneous trip was a record deal. However she ended up winning a huge legal settlement, when she heard the music from her demo tape on a commercial that was broadcasted throughout Brazil.

IMG_1491She decided to travel with her new found fortune. While in Italy she met a man who she gradually fell in love with. He was filthy rich and treated her like a queen. They traveled the world on his private jet and didn’t find it necessary to carry luggage, as there would always be clothes waiting for them at each location. He eventually asked her to marry him, but not before she invested some of her money into the stock market and was making huge returns; Dina was deemed the Girl with the Golden Touch because it seemed as if everything she touched turned to gold. Her fiance asked if he could invest some of her money and she didn’t think twice about it. After all, he was wealthy and such a boss. She admired what he did and how he handled his business.

One day when everything in Dina’s life was perfect, she received a call from her lawyers, frantically saying all her assets had been frozen because her fiance got busted for his illegal doings. She lost 90% of her assets. After going through all forms of depression she decided to travel the world and give the 10% she had left away to people in need. This woman walked right into her purpose. She opened up kitchens to feed the lower caste people of India and helped save 3-12 year old girls from being trafficked in Cambodia. She eventually picked herself back up, so overjoyed by her travels and began thriving in business again, initially with her blog Asian Fusion Girl.

I was so moved by Dina’s speech. Her honesty and transparency set the tone for the rest of the conference.It was at that very moment when I realized the type of conference I signed up to be apart of, and I was so happy I did. There were people out there that travel with purpose and I would learn more about giving back while traveling as the conference went on. Yet, this felt like a space where as women we could be empowered. We could be uplifted. We could share our stories. I was absolutely excited about what the rest of the day would bring.

The Perfect Brooklyn Saturday

As bad as I wanted to sleep in, I knew it would be best if I took advantage of the 50-degree weather and embark on a really cool Saturday in Brooklyn.

Around 2PM, I met up with my friend for brunch at Woodlands. Woolands is a relatively new restaurant in Park Slope. I’ve seen this place, but never thought twice about actually dining here until today. I was intrigued by the rustic décor and savory menu. I opted for my usual, scrambled eggs but asked for a side of Belgian waffles. They ended up giving me one red velvet waffle, which was a pleasant surprise; this waffle was moist, fluffy, and melt in your mouth good. I would definitely come back here for brunch again, the unlimited mimosas until 4PM, sealed the deal.

Woodlands Restaurant

After brunch we took a nice walk to the Brooklyn Museum, which was the highlight of the day. Target First Saturdays is a guaranteed good time. From its arts&crafts, musical performances, and films followed by discussions, this is the go to spot for every Brooklyn native new or old. Now that this event has received so much notoriety (or Brooklyn got more populated, who knows?) you really have to make sure you’re at the museum before 5PM to avoid crowds. In addition to the museum’s typical exhibits including Egyptian and European art work, today was a special day- Basquiet and Kehinde were both on display. The depth of both artists and the meaning behind their artwork defies description.

IMG_0043 IMG_0034 IMG_0053 IMG_0051 IMG_0064 IMG_0067 IMG_0095 IMG_0108

Tips By Ky:

If you’re in the Brooklyn area, please show these two exhibits some love, especially if you’re into non-conventional urban, depth and expressionist art.

Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks April 3rd –August 23, 2015

Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic Feb 20th –May 24th 2015

Weekends By Ky: Boston

Boston is uncharted territory for me and I literally didn’t know what to expect. I thought to ask around and got mixed reviews. My intern just returned from Boston on a college tour and exclaimed “Some of Boston’s buildings resemble warehouses.” My boyfriend, who went to school in Boston said “ Its not much to it besides sports, bars and seafood,” and my boss, well his words of advice were “You have to try the ricotta cheese cake at Modern Pastry in the North End.” Honestly, from the mixed reactions, I had little expectations but decided to come to my own conclusion.

My mom and grandmother were my companions for this trip. We got off the Greyhound at Southwark station around 6:45PM Friday evening and caught a cab to the Revere Hotel located in Downtown Boston’s theater district. What I immediately loved about Boston was how much it reminded me of my college years; there were so many young people (most likely students since Boston is home to some of the best schools in the country).

IMG_1766IMG_1467Check-in to the Revere Hotel was very accommodating. I had business cards sent to the venue and the staff was able to get them delivered to my room, despite the mail room being closed for the night.The Revere Hotel is a funky boutique hotel, with colorful and abstract pieces of art. It was very easy to call this hotel home for the weekend because of its cozy feel. One of the first things I noticed upon entering the room was the pillow menu, (A pillow menu?) now that’s accommodating. It gives you the option to choose the type of pillow you want, hypoallergenic? Anti-Snore? Or how soft or hard you want it to beIMG_1582 IMG_1761 IMG_1762 IMG_1472IMG_1586 IMG_1473 IMG_1474IMG_1476We decided to eat dinner at Legal Seafood. I had the New England Clam Chowder. It was pretty good, but i’ve tasted better. My entree consisted of mashed potatoes and cajun shrimp. You can’t go to Boston without trying the Clam Chowder and Boston Cream Pie, it’s almost obligatory.

IMG_1481IMG_1488IMG_1487The rest of the weekend, when I was not at my Women In Travel conference (which is what brought me to Boston in the first place), I spent trying to get a feel for the city. It snowed all day Saturday, but on our last day it was sunny (cold, but sunny). I had a 2-hour break to explore. We went to Modern Pastry to try the delicious cheesecake and pastries. We then walked around the neighborhood, admiring the quaint town homes and narrow stone streets. We came across some noteworthy landmarks including the Paul Revere Statute, Old North Church and The Massachusetts State House. We stumbled across an historic chocolate and printing shop where I was able to see how chocolates were made and tasted during the revolutionary period. Boston was charming to say the least. It’s the perfect getaway if you want a change in scenery and to learn a little about American History.

IMG_1635 IMG_1648 IMG_1669 IMG_1673 IMG_1677 IMG_1679 IMG_1684 IMG_1693 IMG_1694 IMG_1695 IMG_1700 IMG_1703 IMG_1707 IMG_1708 IMG_1710 IMG_1712

IMG_1706 IMG_1717 IMG_1718

According to Ky: 6 Things to Do in Boston

1-Try to attend a reenactment of the Boston Tea Party

2-Be adventurous like me and tackle the freedom tour without a tour guide

3-Join the debate; Do you prefer Mike’s Pastries or Modern Pastries? Take your pick!

4-You must try Boston Cream Pie and New England Clam Chowder while in Boston, it’s a must!

5-Visit a museum. I didn’t get a chance to do this, but I would’ve loved to visit the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of African American History

6-Visit the Cheers Bar from the famous TV show, where everybody knows your name.

Ky’s Verdict:

Boston is beautiful and filled with so much history. From it’s quaint homes to it’s historical landmarks, this is a city that I would definitely visit again. I have to admit, and I am going to be honest here, after hearing stories about the race relations in Boston, I had some reservations about how I would be welcomed as an African American woman, nevertheless my experience was quite the opposite. The people are very pleasant and accommodating. I didn’t feel like an outsider at all. I was welcomed with smiles and small talk by the locals. The customer service was amazing. I really enjoyed my weekend here and I am happy I didn’t let the opinions of others deter me from my travels. This is why we should all travel, to break down misconceptions and to learn.

Europe Anniversary!

March 26th 2015 marks a year since I toured Europe with my close friends. It was one of the most defining moments in my life. For me, life began when I realized there’s a whole world out there that needed to be discovered. My road to finally gaining the courage to travel across the Atlantic wasn’t an easy one. I always believed traveling around the world was a privilege reserved for the rich or famous-definitely not for someone like me. In November 2013, I was like many recent graduates, feeling lost, confused and defeated. I was making very little progress at work and my daily routine was beginning to feel monotonous. All my friends around me were putting down payments on homes and cars and I could barely figure out what I would eat for lunch. My spirit was broken, as it seemed like everyone was progressing so seamlessly into adulthood and I felt so empty. I prayed for the day when I would find my passion and start living for me. One day, while at Barnes and Nobles, I stumbled across a book in the travel section. The Rough Guide to First-Time Europe. I sat down on the floor and read the book cover to cover. My spine tingled as I read about the vineyards of Italy and the vibrant culture of Spain. I yearned to ride on the double decker buses in London and dance the night away in Paris. It hit me; I didn’t want a house or a new car (well eventually I would), what I wanted at that very moment was to see the world.

The best part about traveling is figuring out where you want to go. Pulling out a map, which almost feels like the whole world is at your fingertips. It’s exciting to pinpoint which countries are within close proximity of each other and how to maximize your trip. My friends and I decided to go with London, Paris, Venice, Rome, Vatican City, Barcelona and Amsterdam. We were going to maximize our options some more while in Spain by taking a flight to Ibiza or a ferry to Morocco (which a lot of people don’t know is an option) but decided to figure it out once we got there. I found a multi-city flight that took us to three out of seven cities on our itinerary (NY to London, Barcelona to Amsterdam and Amsterdam back to NYC for $800) and we took trains in between the rest of the countries for as little as 13 Euros. Since I was traveling with three others, everything was split four ways, from our hotel rooms to our taxis. This reduced costs for the overall trip immensely.

London was such a treat. From Heathrow, we took the tube to Lambeth North, which dropped us off across the street from our hotel. We went on the London Eye, followed the audacious sounds of the Big Ben until we were engulfed in his presence and antagonized the Changing Guards outside of St. James Palace. Speaking of palaces, Buckingham Palace was glorious. It’s adorned with gold and highly secure. The London Club scene is so fun. What I liked about London was that it was a European version of New York City. I didn’t feel like I was in another country at all (except when crossing the street).

IMG_1692 IMG_2507

After spending some time in London, we took a Eurostar train to Paris. Paris was a dream. I literally was awestruck by its beauty. It was everything I imagined and more. The city is bustling but it retains an air of class and grace. Our hotel was right across the street from the Louvre Museum which was our first stop, followed by dinner on the Champs Elysees, a walk to L’Arc D’Triomphe and a failed attempt at getting into the hottest club in the city, Club 79. Our adventures eventually lead us to having a picnic in the park by the Eiffel Towers where we devoured Nutella Crepes and Vin (Wine). On the Love Lock Bridge, I made a wish to find love again. A few months later I met my boyfriend and we are currently in the honeymoon phase of our relationship. Paris is truly magical.

IMG_3711IMG_2074

From Paris we took an overnight train to Venice Italy. We drove through the mountains of Switzerland and made a quick stop in Milan. It was so fun being on a train for over 14-hours knowing that our final destination would be Italy. We played heads up on our iPhone and pigged out on junk food. When it was time for bed, we told ghost stories until we fell asleep. When we woke up, we were surrounded by the beautiful and vast waters of Venice. Venice was a fairytale. We immediately walked across the Grand Canal until we found our hotel. We made our way to lunch at a quaint restaurant where we had authentic Italian pasta and seafood. It was here that I tried Octopus for the first time. One of the best things you can do in Venice is get lost. Whether you do it on purpose or by accident, it’s inevitable. Don’t freight, somehow you’re going to find your way back. Our perfect Gondola ride was ruined when my friend accidentally got Nutella on the Gondolier’s hat; he cursed us out in Italian and told us to get off his boat. You had to see it to believe it.

IMG_2586 IMG_2736 IMG_3703

Rome was an historical haven. Our hotel was in the midst of the Roman Forum. Rome was literally like stepping back into time, yet it’s a modern European metropolis. What I grew to love about European culture, especially Rome, was how embracive it is of its past while progressively advancing into its present and future. The merge is almost harmonious. Our first stop was Vatican City, which is considered a country. It’s located in the midst of Rome and is majestic. The art, the columns, the fountains were all remarkable. From Vatican City we made a wish at Trevi Fountain, had authentic Roman Pizza, and explored the city until the middle of the night in search of Italian pastries. We met so many people along the way.

IMG_2823 IMG_2881 Baila Mi Cha-Cha, this tune was in my head when we landed in Barcelona. Monica (Sanaa Lathan) from Love and Basketball played ball in Spain and this song was the opening soundtrack to her new life abroad. I couldn’t shake the tune as we took walks along the beach, ate lunch on the boardwalk and partied until the wee hours of the morning in Barcelona clubs. One of the most memorable things about Barcelona was the food, from the paella to the tapas, it’s all so flavorful. Although we planned to take a day trip to Morocco or Ibiza, we became so engulfed in Barcelona’s culture that we decided against it.

IMG_3274 IMG_3320

Amsterdam was one of my favorite European cities. From the cool trams to the canals and lofty buildings, it’s just one of a kind. The vibe was super relaxed and the Dutch are so friendly. Our first stop was Museumplein to witness the genius of Van Gogh’s artwork and the infamous Red Light District before dark; beautiful women in windows waiting to be sold for sex was heartbreaking but in the Netherlands this act is totally legal. Next up, The Anne Frank Museum, which singlehandedly changed my life. At the risk of sounding cliché I learned the true meaning of freedom while standing in that tiny attic that Anne and her family lived in for years to escape execution. We are so privileged, we have so many freedoms and liberties and we literally have the resources to make a difference and change the world; after leaving Anne’s attic, I knew my life would never be the same again.

IMG_3384

We covered all of these cities in the span of 13 days. We were constantly on the move, which was awesome. We were able to do everything on our itinerary and more with hopes of returning to each of the countries we visited one day in the near future.

My first trip to Europe changed my life and now travel has become my addiction.

Debunking Myths of The Middle East

Be careful not to get Trafficked. Don’t get kidnapped. The men oppress their women. There’s a lot of sex slaves out there!

One of the most important reasons why I travel is to combat ignorance. How can you really know what a culture is all about unless you’ve experienced it for yourself? A lot of the above statements were from people who have never visited the UAE in their lives, but the propaganda they “heard” about the Middle East and how terrible it is-with ISIS roaming around and kidnappers ready to take American girls as captives, led them to assume this would be my fate.

Now imagine if I allowed their comments to hinder me, I would’ve never been able to sit here and tell you that I felt safe in Dubai. At some points more safe than I do while living in Brooklyn. I traveled to the Middle East and survived. Yes, there are injustices going on in the UAE including: a lack of fair labor laws and poor labor treatment for the individuals working on those beautiful buildings, prostitution, human trafficking and mistreatment of housemaids–but this is the case wherever you go, even in America.

Not all women are oppressed in the Middle East. Middle Eastern women jhave different standards than some American women. Middle Eastern women wouldn’t dare expose their bodies for the entire world to see. They treat their bodies as a temple, only revealing their treasures to their husband. They know their worth and walk with confidence in their long black Abaya’s. They wear the best of the best underneath their garments. Christian Louboutin shoes, Alexander Mcqueen dresses. Almost every one of the women have a designer bag. While shopping with their friends they open their Abaya’s and reveal they are decked out in jeans and the latest shirts from Zara. They are just like us.

I learned the importance of being chaste, while in Dubai. Always being mindful not to offend anyone by exposing my shoulders, or showing too much cleavage like I would in America. Yet, the profound significance of this was that I didn’t feel less sexy, I felt beautiful. One of the most monumental parts of my trip was being able to put on an Abaya for the first time. I felt honored to imitate the essence of a Muslim woman. I felt like they showed me another way. I was able to walk in their shoes for sometime, while in the mosque and it felt empowering. I have such an indescribable respect for them.

Thank You God for bringing me back home safely. Unfortunately we do live in a crazy world and anything could’ve happened to me. I am completely aware of that. However the moral of the story is, you should never let other peoples beliefs of a country hinder you from traveling. You should also never let your own misconceptions hinder you. Go for it. Find out for yourself, and you will be glad you did, because whether good or bad, you still will have a story to tell and an experience to share for the rest of your life.

Hyatt  Capital Gate Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi for a Hobby

Finally, a day to relax. I used my last day in the UAE to actually unwind. We went downstairs to the 19th floor to have lunch and a dip in the pool. We ended up staying there longer than planned. There was so much going on. The jets from the day before were now flying high in the sky, spinning, flipping and leaving colorful contrails that resembled the UAE flag. We were warned not to take photographs of what we were seeing or else our phones would be confiscated. That’s just how exclusive Abu Dhabi is. IMG_0976 IMG_1012 IMG_1041 IMG_1052 IMG_1054 IMG_1068 IMG_1078

From the pool we went straight to the Guggenheim Museum on Saadiyat Island for an afternoon of art and culture. The Seeing Through the Light Exhibit was on display and it absolutely blew my mind. There was a lot of art work that represented this idea of infinity. Celestial infinity. In this broad world, where do we fit? Ghada Amer’s, “Reflected Light” art work was one of my favorites. It was a ball, with light reflecting inside, enclosed with words in Arabic that describes love. The emptiness on the inside where the light reflects illustrates the void that we have when we choose to fall in love (especially when we fall out of it). Finally, one of the best exhibits I went to was the “Infinity Mirror Room” by Yayoi Kusama. The room is surrounded by mirrors and colorful LED light bulbs; as you walk along the rectangular panels which is surrounded by water, the colors of the lights change. It gives off an element of space, time and infinity.

IMG_1087 IMG_1093 IMG_1095 IMG_1096 IMG_1099 IMG_1100 IMG_1102 IMG_1101 IMG_1105 IMG_1127 IMG_1130 IMG_1133 IMG_1137 I ended my trip to the UAE with a visit to the spice souqs and the Yas mall to check out Ferrari World. All in all, this trip changed my life.

IMG_1139 IMG_1140 IMG_1155 IMG_1160 IMG_1159 IMG_1165

Setting Standards at Emirates Palace

What did you learn while on this trip? The vacation was winding down and we were at the opulent Emirates Palace, fit for royalty and decked in Gold. It was designed to provide luxurious accommodations for visiting Heads of States around the world. Thank You God for your blessings ran through my mind at least one hundred times. I soon replied back to my friends by saying “Standards.”

IMG_0960IMG_0983

IMG_0990

IMG_0891 IMG_0892

IMG_1202 IMG_0986 IMG_0898  In life there’s no time to settle, we should demand excellence in all things. It’s not enough just to get by. I am worthy of the things my little heart desires; I am worthy of seeing the world; I am worthy of greatness; I am worthy of making my childhood dreams come true; When we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, we lose sight of what truly matters. I was having dinner at a palace; a palace made for kings and diplomats around the world. I was worthy, I am worthy. There’s no way I could go back to the way I used to be. Routine. Going to work, coming home and doing it all again. Nope that wasn’t me. That’s never been the type of person I imagined myself to be. I made a promise to myself that it wasn’t enough just to merely exist-going forward I needed to live. IMG_0930

The rest of the night was spent with great conversation and shisha, overlooking the serene ocean, with the palace lights in the backdrop-beauty at it’s best.

IMG_0958

Rites of Passage in Abu Dhabi

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Ky who graduated from school, worked very hard, and soon realized that traveling around the world was attainable for anyone. She started small, visiting islands like Jamaica and Anguilla, then she made her way to Western Europe-until finally she gathered enough courage to venture into Arabia. Arabia was a dream, and Abu Dhabi was a fairytale.

In the broad day light Abu Dhabi’s beauty is highlighted. After leaving Dubai, we entered Abu Dhabi on the Sheikh Zayed Bridge and soon could see the Grand Mosque in the horizon. We pulled up to our beautiful hotel, and went to the 18th floor to check in. I heard a loud noise, as if a plane was flying unusually close to the building. The floor shook, and the concierge warned me not to be afraid; Abu Dhabi’s military was test-flying jets right above us. I went on the terrace and saw how close these jets were to the hotel; it was quite the sight to see. When we arrived in our room, all three of us were amazed. This hotel was posh. Out itinerary said, Ferrari World was next on our to do list, but I was feeling a bit under the weather and did not want to go on the fastest roller coaster in the world at that very moment…maybe the next day.

We decided to go to the Sheikh Zayed Grande Mosque instead. We each went through our luggage and picked out the most conservative pieces of clothing we brought with us. The Grande Mosque warns visitors against showing their arms, legs and hair-it’s a very conservative and religious sanctuary. As we approached the entrance our breath was taken away. It was as if the architects wanted to create a sort of heaven on earth, as the buildings were all white and adorned in Gold.

Kydee Williams

IMG_0693

IMG_0709

Jessica Leconte

The first thing we did was head to the changing room, where we picked up our Abaya. An Abaya is a black robe that Muslim women wear. At this point in the trip, it was truly an honor to wear their garb. The Muslim women in Dubai are so beautiful. Not only do they exemplify confidence and splendor but modesty. They leave much to the imagination, and are seemingly the most treasured beings in the UAE. Putting on the garb was almost like a rites of passage for me. I was finally enlightened to one of the keys of womanhood and for me that is less is more. Women in America tend to show all they have to get attention, but sometimes the most beautiful women in the world are the ones that are humble, chaste and save their treasures for the right one-their husband and their God.

IMG_0679

IMG_0681

Legend has it, Rihanna came to the Grande Mosque and got escorted off the property because she decided to have a photo shoot on holy ground. Is it wrong that I wanted to do the same thing?

IMG_0963 IMG_0962 IMG_0967 Upon walking into the mosque, you have to take off your shoes and place it into a cubby. The entrance to the mosque is detailed with floral designs and gold adornments, absolutely astonishing.When you gradually make your way into the mosque,the carpet is green with flowers on it as well. One of the first things I noticed was the geometric shapes, the clocks with times on it (which I soon learned were the times of prayer) and the chandelier.

IMG_0794

IMG_0776 IMG_0971 IMG_0788 IMG_0792

We decided to take a walking tour, which was the best thing we could do to actually learn the significance of the mosque. I learned a lot, some of my take away’s are as follows:

The 5 Pillars of Islam:

  1. Shahadah – Submission to God and declaring there is no other God and Muhammad is God’s messenger
  2. Salat – Ritual Prayer 5-Times a day, including sunrise and sunset
  3. Zakat – Giving 2.5% of ones savings
  4. Sawm – Fasting and Self Control during Ramadan
  5. Hajj- Pilgrimage to Mecca
  • Women pray at home on Fridays, they don’t necessarily come to the mosque. The mosque is mostly for men.
  • Green is the color of Islam.
  • Date was the only fruit in the region when the religion was starting.
  • Prayer is facing the holy city of Mecca, and Mecca is located in Saudi Arabia.
  • Humans don’t have enough words to describe God. God is infinite.
  • Call of Prayer in Abu Dhabi is done through the Sheikh Zayed Mosque (the most beautiful sound you could ever hear)
  • Non-Muslims cannot touch the holy book, the Quran, at the mosque.

IMG_0793 IMG_0796 IMG_0798 IMG_0801 IMG_0803 IMG_0805

I have to say, as a Christian woman, I learned a lot from Muslims on this trip. For one, their whole life is dedicated to their faith. They take time to pray to God five times a day, while some of us don’t take 5-minutes out of our busy schedules to acknowledge God. I came back wanting to carve in more time for my creator. The one that makes a way for me every time, when there seems to be no way at all. The one who is so faithful and answers all of my prayers. The one that heard me when I said I wanted to travel and see the world, and gives me the opportunity to do just that every time. I am blessed and because of this trip I am more open minded to the values of other religions. At the end of the day we all love God. There’s no reason why my belief should be seen as any better than anyone else. God intended for us to live harmoniously, not fragmented based on constructs such as religion, race and politics. I treasure the many lessons learned on this day.

IMG_0766

IMG_0835 IMG_0854 IMG_0862 IMG_0874

Arabian Nights

The sun was gradually setting. The rich blue sky highlighted, by the amber sunset  and auburn sand made it a beautiful sight to see. I wouldn’t be Kydee, if I didn’t take the opportunity to sit and roll in the sand.

IMG_0475

IMG_0402IMG_0426 IMG_0427 IMG_0436 IMG_0439 IMG_0464 We rode on the 4×4 ATV bikes. That was the most fun I had in a long time. It’s so liberating to ride through the desert and race at night. What a rush.

IMG_0646IMG_0660 IMG_0562 IMG_1194photo 2-2

IMG_0644At dinner, we explored the different tents, which had an array of activities to do. We had Shisha and got henna tattoos. Dinner was a huge Middle Eastern, Bedouin spread. Entertainment consisted of a Bedouin man spinning in a colorful costume that had lights all over it, while the belly dancer shook her hips to traditional Arabic music.

IMG_0580 IMG_0585 IMG_0591 IMG_0595 IMG_0588IMG_0625

IMG_0597 IMG_0604

IMG_0612Can you believe we did all of this in one Arabian Night? Hands down one of the best days in Dubai.IMG_0637

Deserted in Dubai

I woke up bright and early to head to the Dubai mall to purchase a selfie stick. I know, very vain, but it seemed like we were the only tourists in Dubai without one. Besides, it would be useful for our desert safari. This selfie stick was kind of a big deal.

IMG_0372 IMG_0373 IMG_0375 IMG_0379 IMG_0380 Kydee Williams

Addicted to the art of negotiation, we went back to the Deira Gold Souqs for more souvenirs. We would soon learn, Dubai is the best place to negotiate, because in my experience, shops in Abu Dhabi were more expensive and not as willing to. I searched for the Arab scent. It’s a scent that you cannot help but to smell when passing some of the men in Dubai. Someone told me Musk and Rose were the ingredients. Yet, the guy trying to sell me this scent was a crook, so I left the souq without it!

Dubai is infamous for its traffic. We were going to be late for our pick up to the desert, which was scheduled for 3:30PM. We were stuck in traffic for about 30-minutes and arrived back to the hotel at 4PM. The driver, who picked us up was so nice. We thought, we would be the only ones on the safari but he then drove to a residential area of Dubai to pick up an older Irish couple and their grand daughter. The minute I saw we would be on this desert safari with gramps and granny, I knew we were in for trouble. They would probably warn the driver not to go so fast and blah, blah, blah.

For about an hour we drove on a highway, until it gradually turned into the desert. The brown sand was beautiful. We got out of our jeep to meet with the other group of jeeps that would be traveling with us to our secret location in the desert.

IMG_0512Kydee Williams

IMG_0394As we were zooming through the high sand dunes like a roller coaster, up down, to the side and around, granny asked the driver if he could slow down for her grand daughter who was getting car sick. I nudged Myllz and rolled my eyes. Really? Did I pay to go slow on the sand dunes? Who goes slow over sand dunes? I guess we do. I was so annoyed!

I couldn’t wait to get to our secret desert camp. The first thing I did was ride the camels. They were so cute. Scary but cute. I almost wanted them to spit so I could see it in person but their mouths were covered.

The scary part of riding a camel is when they come up and come down. It’s sort of like levels. Some of the camels have no sense of space and will be all in your face. Camels are very treasured by the people in Dubai. It’s a serious crime to harm them.

IMG_0516 IMG_0519IMG_0518 IMG_0523 IMG_0529

IMG_0648 IMG_0649

Kydee In Dubailand

45 Million flowers of different shades, colors and sizes surrounded me in the Dubai Miracle Garden. I felt like Alice in Wonderland, discovering one masterpiece after another. We proceeded through the garden in complete awe, getting lost in the flower maze. The garden was beautiful.

IMG_0247 IMG_0251 IMG_0256 IMG_0258 IMG_0273 IMG_0275 IMG_0276 IMG_0277 IMG_0278 IMG_0308 IMG_0309 IMG_0335 IMG_0338 IMG_0343 IMG_0344

From the garden, we proceeded to the Gold Souqs. $100 dirham later we were in the midst of a bustling neighborhood called Deira. This was nothing like the immaculate areas we’ve experienced thus far. Deira was different. This was definitely the area of the locals. We were surrounded by a sea of men asking us to buy jewelry, hair and “designer” bags. Some asked us to follow them into alleys, but we knew not to…c’mon. We eventually met a nice guy whose name stood for Happy in Hindu. I got the best deals from him.

IMG_0352

Ky Tip: Mastering the art of negotiation in Dubai Souqs is essential

  • If you’re with others, be the one that’s not overly eager. The merchants will want to impress you because he knows there’s a chance you will leave his store without a purchase. He will also want to give you a deal.
  • Negotiate the price. Remember nothing is set in stone at souqs. If they tell you 10 Dirham try to get them down to 5 or if you are really lucky, 3.
  • I negotiated 3 belly-dancing belts for 12 USD. This was beyond a steal because each belt went for 35-50 Dirham which is about $10-$12. Negotiating in USD probably helped me more because it’s a currency other than their own.
  • Try to leave the store once they give you an unreasonable price. Of course it’s a bluff but they will chase you down to negotiate a price that’s more to your liking.

After the overwhelming nature of the souqs, we spent the rest of the night in the Dubai Mall, which is really not that hard to do. The mall is amazing, equipped with over 1200 restaurants and shops, its own ice-skating rink and an aquarium.

IMG_0354 IMG_0355 IMG_0356 IMG_0357 IMG_0358 IMG_0360 IMG_0362 IMG_0363 IMG_0366 IMG_0643

V-Day in Dubai

9:30PM reservations were set for Thiptara Restaurant at the Palace hotel on Valentines Day and of course, we were late. The cab driver accidentally dropped us off at the wrong hotel which meant we had to trek in heels for 6 blocks to the Palace.

IMG_0167It was a special valentines dinner, spent with my lovely friends. The restaurant overlooked the Dubai Fountain. Every hour the fountain dances to sweet melodies. We also got the restaurant to wish Jess a Happy Birthday (although her birthday was over a month ago). One of the most memorable dishes I had while at dinner was the calamari. It was so good, we had to order another batch. The batter melts-in-your-mouth and the squid was fresh. The overall experience at The Palace was incredible. Later that night we went to Armani Prive and back to Jumeirah Beach Hotel 360 Bar.

Ky Tip: Dinner and clubbing in Dubai requires reservations. Make sure you’re proactive about scheduling your night life activities.

IMG_0177

photo-16IMG_0176 IMG_0183

IMG_0640 IMG_0223 IMG_0222 IMG_0226 IMG_0221 IMG_0216 IMG_0203 IMG_0196

Burj Al Arab All In My Face

Our hotel, Jumeirah Emirates Tower, has a free shuttle to the Jumeirah Beach Hotel every 3-hours. The beach hotel is captivating and also right in front of the landmark, Burj Al Arab.

IMG_9967

IMG_0070Burj Al Arab is one of the only 7-star hotel in the world. It’s located on its own island and is truly a sight to see. If I ever doubted I was actually in Dubai, being on the beach smack dab in front of the Burj Al Arab made me realize I was. I had to pinch myself a few times.

The beach is safe and pure luxury. A waiter comes around and caters to your every need. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves. One of the inevitable discussions that came up was Valentines Day: “Do you believe in Valentines Day?” Of course I do and this was by far the best V-Day I’ve ever had. Soaking up the sun on a hot desert beach, what more could I ask for?

IMG_9966

IMG_0149 IMG_0147 IMG_9989 IMG_0040 IMG_0050 IMG_0164 IMG_0084

The Dubai Museum

The next day we got up around 6AM to catch breakfast. Our friend Jessica arrived late the night before so essentially it was her first day in Dubai. We had an amazing buffet with delicacies from around the world. We then headed to the Dubai Museum, for a heritage tour.

IMG_9898The Dubai Museum is the oldest existing building in Dubai and was the perfect introduction to the city. The museum took us on a journey of Dubai from its humble Bedouin beginnings to the global giant it is today. Life size figures epitomizing the culture of Dubai and its people from their faith in Islam to their education and means of trade, made up a large majority of the exhibits. It was interesting to learn that Dubai only started industrializing in the 1950’s/60’s and have attained more in less than a century than most countries would ever dream of.

IMG_9903 IMG_9904 IMG_9905 IMG_9908 IMG_9909 IMG_9913 IMG_9918 IMG_9921 IMG_9920 IMG_9926 IMG_9929 After the museum, we explored the surrounding neighborhood of Burj Dubai. We visited a souq where the clerk made me try on a belly dancing costume for fun and purchased a few souvenirs after negotiating of course.

IMG_0638

IMG_9930 IMG_9950

IMG_9947  IMG_0639IMG_9949IMG_9933

Where Art Thou Burj Khalifa?

We headed out to explore Dubai on foot. We soon learned, Dubai is a city where everyone drives. Getting anywhere on foot is the worst mistake you can make. Our target for our first journey in Dubai was to find the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. One of the many disparities of Dubai is that in the midst of it’s divine architecture, there’s a lot of development going on. We walked along an unpaved path filled with cranes and construction in search of the Burj. Finally, we found what seemed like civilization along the Sheikh Zayed Road but lost sight of the Burj Khalifa.

Where was this building?

We continued walking until we heard music. “How Low Can You Go” by Ludacris was blasting from an unknown location and we followed the sweet sounds of hip hop, until we were at brunch in the Al Murroj Hotel. The party was filled with drunk people, smoking shisha, and having a blast (an unusual sight to see in the broad day light, especially in a country that emphasizes its zero tolerance for alcohol in public), so we did what anyone would do and crashed the party. IMG_9789 IMG_9794 IMG_9802 IMG_9821 IMG_9824Across the street from the brunch was the Dubai Mall. We headed towards the mall and noticed that the Burj Khalifa was right in front of us. How to get inside was still a mystery. The landscape of this city was bewildering; nothing made sense. When we thought we found the entrance to the Burj Khalifa, we were stopped by security telling us we were trespassing on private property. We decided to go to the Dubai Mall and see what we could find in there. Once again, the entrance for the Dubai Mall was hard to find. We had to walk along a beautiful lake for about ten minutes before discovering a sea of people, many with selfie sticks, relaxing in front of the mall. Once inside we headed straight to the currency exchange and ATMs. We then grabbed a bite to eat and discovered that the entrance to the Burj Khalifa was actually inside the mall. Go Figure. After all that walking we were exhausted.

IMG_9859 IMG_9884 IMG_9887