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.

 

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

European Trains

EurostarTaking trains between countries was easier than I thought. In all honesty it was a breeze. As a point of comparison I would compare it to taking a bus from New York to Virginia, only the scenery is much more gratifying.

Eurostar from London to Paris was fast. It actually got us into Paris 20 minutes earlier then expected. I literally fell in and out of sleep and before I knew it, we were there. The train ride was about 2-hours long. The annoying part was finding a place to put my bags. I ended up putting it in a storage shelf in the back of the car which was risky because I couldn’t keep watch of my bag; but there was nothing else I could do.

TranItalia’s14-hour train ride from Paris to Venice, was cheap and fun. We ate before we got on the train but I should’ve brought a snack with me because I got hungry along the way. The train cart we were in had 6 bunks and we shared it with an Italian couple from Milan. They were really kind people. They chose the top bunks and we chose the bottom four. We played games and snacked on cookies and wine. Shadesha and I stayed up and told scary ghost stories with our flashlights. We just made the best of the long ride. We passed through Switzerland and Milan but it was night time so we couldn’t see much. It was still exciting nonetheless. The train car was so cold. I was freezing. Tranitalia did provide blankets and pillows but I questioned how clean they were. Besides, the freezing temperatures I would totally take an overnight train like this again. It was so much fun.

Tranitalia from Venice to Rome, was a 6-hour duration and it went by quite fast as well. Again the scenery in Europe is to die for, and I could not complain about the beauty of the Italian cities we passed through including Florence and Tuscany. The wineries, colorful houses and mountainous regions were a beautiful sight to see.

I am all for trains when traveling through Europe. Not only do they tend to be cheaper than other intercontinental transportation options but it’s also fun. Train systems in Europe are way better than what we have in the States. I would recommend train routes for those who are traveling throughout Europe in a heart beat.

Ky Tips:

  • Get train tickets early!
  • Unlike flexible prices of flights (Where Tuesday could be $503 and Wednesday could be $490), train ticket prices are not as flexible, which is a good thing. As the departure date get’s closer the prices increase.
  • Set up alerts for prospective train routes you are seeking. I did this for trains from Venice to Rome and we ended up paying 13 Euro for our train ticket. Amazing prices.

10 Overseas Travel Prep Tips

It’s officially summer folks, which means a lot of us are travelling. Having recently come back from an extensive overseas trip, I have some valuable tips that I want to share with you if you are planning on travelling this season:

1. Passport

Don’t forget your passport. This is probably the most important identification you will have for your trip. Make sure you allot enough time to get a new or renewed passport if need be.

2. Pack Light

With the hikes in baggage prices, avoid over packing your bags

3. Exchange your money before you leave

The exchange companies overseas will charge fees like you have never seen before. Please avoid them by all costs (pun intended). Also get a list from your bank of their affiliations with any other bank in the country you are travelling to so you can easily retrieve money without high cost fees and exchange rates.

4. Research

Do your research on any country you are visiting. I can’t emphasize this enough. A lot of countries all over the world operate different from us in the United States. There are so many blogs, book stores, google maps, review sites like Trip Advisor and travel agents out there that can assist with all the information you will need for your upcoming trip. Use these resources; it’s so vital.

5. Itinerary

Probably the most important piece of paper you will have is an itinerary or a breakdown of how your trip should go (even though a few changes may occur). Make sure to have a list of places you are visiting, dates, hotel names and addresses, phone numbers, confirmations etc. Everything you will need to survive while out of the country should be included in this list

6. Download Important Apps

There are amazing travel apps out there for smart phone users. On my recent trip to Europe I downloaded “What’s App” as a means of texting and MagicJack to make international phone calls to my family for free. It’s amazing what you can discover on the App store

7. Know the basics

If you are travelling to a country that speaks a foreign language, know the basics words such as hello, good-bye, how much? Where’s the bathroom? So you can communicate with the locals

8. Maps of train systems

I think it’s very important to get familiar with different countries metro systems (before travelling) so you won’t get lost or overwhelmed. Also using the trains can help save money on otherwise expensive taxicabs

9. Beware of Pick Pockets and Robbers

It seems as if tourist have an invisible sign on their forehead which says “ROB ME.” Some people can spot a tourist from a mile away and with that being said, it’s always wise to be cautious of your belongings, your purse if you are a lady and your passport. You would never want an ideal vacation to go sour because something was stolen from you…what a nightmare.

10. Be Open Minded

Indulging in another culture unlike your own could be frightening. However you have to go into an experience wanting to take it in to the fullest. Let your hair down and enjoy the lifestyle of foreign cultures. Try different foods, dance in the streets, sleep in, relax and just enjoy life. You never know what you will learn and you may also discover, people across the world is just like you in a lot of ways.

Kydee Williams

Being Black and Being a Woman in Europe

Race Relations is such a hot topic in the United States, so naturally I thought it would be an issue overseas. I looked up blogs and articles on this issue but nothing came up so I figured I would just wait until I got out there and experience what being a black woman in Europe was all about.

I was surprised by the color blindness of most Europeans. Throughout the trip I never felt color conscious. Occasionally we would have people stare at us to the point where it got a bit awkward but aside from that it was pretty cool. I guess that’s why so many famous black entertainers like Josephine Baker fled to Europe in an attempt to dodge all the racial issues back in the States. It really illustrates how far we still must come as a nation in America when it pertains to issues of race.

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to illicit any type of divide but race relations was a real concern of mine before my trip.

24 Hours in Amsterdam

“Is this love, is this love, is this love, is this love that i’m feeling” -Bob Marley

Amsterdam was the country I looked forward to the most (shhh, don’t tell anyone). For years, this place have gotten a bad rap for being a “druggies” paradise. But did all the rumors have some truth to it? That’s what I sought to find out.

IMG_3353When we arrived into the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, we were amazed by it’s beauty. By far, this was the best airport we’ve been to all trip. The charging stations immediately captivated Taurie and I. In order to charge your phone you had to pedal a bicycle to get “juice”. We stayed in the airport for at least an hour roaming around.

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We found our hotel without a hassle because it was in the airport. Citizen M was the best hotel ever. Everything was high-tech and contemporary. I checked in using a touch-screen computer. The room was controlled by a single remote. The vibes in Amsterdam were all good!

Kydee Williams When we went downstairs to figure out how to get into the city’s center, the concierge gave us a map and told us we had to take the bus because the trains were under construction. I studied the city’s train system but not their bus system and was afraid we would get lost. Luckily, it worked out all in our favor. We caught a bus and got off at Museumplein, which was ways before we should have gotten off but allowed us to see the IAMAMSETERDAM sign and the Van Gogh Museum.

Kydee WilliamsKydee Williams Kydee WilliamsLater, we took a tram to Central Station and sought to find the Red Light District. It was still light out, but walking through that district scared us. The beautiful women in the windows just ready to be sold for sexual favors was discomforting. We were on our way out of the district when Taurie asked if we could stop at the Bull Dog coffee shop because she was super tired and needed an espresso shot. I laughed so loud and exclaimed:

“Girl do you know what coffee shops stand for in Amsterdam”

“Coffee right?”

“No, Marijuana”

This time we both laughed so hard we could barely contain ourselves.

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Kydee WilliamsKydee WilliamsThe Anne Frank Museum was a must do while there. This museum single-handedly changed my life. I’m not trying to sound cliché but it shook me to my core. Just being in that small attic was overwhelming. Only 70 years ago, this young woman was forced to hide out in an attic because she was Jewish. However she didn’t let her enslavement shake her. She had dreams and high hopes that she would make it out alive. Anne was a writer, and one day hoped to become a famous journalist. She wanted the basic freedoms that we too often take for granted. It’s amazing how God works sometimes. Anne’s dreams came true but she never reaped the benefits of it in life. I am inspired by Anne Frank because I am Anne Frank. I went on this trip searching for the same freedom of living life on my terms, just like she yearned for. I too, want to be known for writing amazing books. I want to be free just like she wanted to be free, to travel the world and experience different cultures. She inspired me to keep dreaming and keep doing. I left that museum a changed woman. The world would be mine, unapologetically.

Kydee WilliamsKydee WilliamsKydee WilliamsKydee WilliamsKydee Williams Something that was extremely commendable about Amsterdam is that no matter how far they’ve come from their dark history of Nazi invasions and mass murders, it still brings that past, which made them stronger, into their present and future. I actually saw a billboard by a library that had a picture of Dutch people from the past (circa 1930’s ) and Dutch people from the present which further reinforces the importance of blending periods as inspiration for progression.

I realized that as human beings, we too should never forget where we came from on the path to bettering ourselves. I couldn’t help but be reminded by how far this city and all of the European cities I visited have come. One of the many beauties of Europe is that they preserve remnants from their past in the midst of modernizing their present which is something we all can appreciate and why millions of tourists are drawn there annually.

Kydee Williams Kydee Williams Kydee Williams The Dutch people are some of the nicest and most welcoming people I’ve encountered. They sang songs loudly as they rode their bicycles throughout the streets. The serenity that I received in Amsterdam was one that can only be experienced by visiting this city.

Kydee WilliamsKy’s Verdict: Amsterdam is one of the most amazing city’s in Europe and I just fell in love with it’s beauty. From the cool trams to the canals and lofty buildings, it’s just one of a kind. Mercedes Benz Taxi Cabs along side bike riding enthusiast is just one of the many disparities that only makes sense in Amsterdam. I just wanted to be there a little longer. Amsterdam, is not the city filled with stoners and prostitutes like some people believe it is. It has a laid back, no worries kind of vibe and the Dutch people are so friendly. On my flight to the Netherlands I sat next to a Dutch woman who was completely maternal. She took care of me the whole ride making sure I had food and drinks because she knew how exhausted I was. She made small talk and just was a pleasure to be around. I knew from that moment my experience in this country would be one of a kind. I think I discovered my nirvana.

Rome If You Want To

“You know literally we can go shopping in Italy…”-Jadakiss

The first time we took a taxi while in Europe was in Rome. Our train to Rome was about 6hours and we had no idea how to navigate the metro system (nor did we want to). The driver was a bit mean and he tried to overcharge us for our ride.

Ky Tip: Beware of this scheme. Taxi drivers will assume you are a stupid American and will try to overcharge you for their services. Make sure they always have their meters on, unless it’s a standard charge from the airport and also go to each country knowing approximately how much the cost of a taxi is. I used the following website for these calculations: http://www.worldtaximeter.comIMG_2775 IMG_2780Kolbe Hotel was absolutely beautiful. It’s in the midst of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. I literally was amazed when I opened the door to the room. It was a 2-story loft of some sort. This was the best hotel we checked in thus far.

Kydee WilliamsWe got dressed (but not fast enough) and headed to Vatican City. It was beautiful and vast. However, when we got there the Sistine Chapel was closed for the day. So we did what anyone would do…take flicks!

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Kydee WilliamsWe headed back into Rome to make a wish at the Fountain de Trevi or Trevi fountain. Trevi had swarms of people surrounding it. I made a simple wish and like everyone whose ever thrown a coin inside, held high hopes of returning to Rome one day.

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Kydee WilliamsIf I can count the amount of times we ran in Rome, whether it was to cross the street or catch a bus it would be endless. We took buses everywhere. Rome was not as strict about paying for transportation which worked to our advantage because we got on and off as we pleased. We wandered around aimlessly, until we unintentionally discovered the Roman Ruins. Honestly, this was one of the greatest moments of my trip. Stepping back into time and and experiencing how the ancient romans lived was the most magnificent experience ever.

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IMG_3642Kydee WilliamsOur walk back to the hotel was creepy to say the least. We got chased by a bunch of Italian children who were looking at us weird and pointing at us. However, once we got to the hotel there was no way we could just stay in for the night. We were in ROMA!!!! So we went roaming around the city in search of adventure. It was around 11PM, but this place was still alive.

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Kydee WilliamsWe went to a local bar that was very chic, followed by a bus ride for the heck of it. We got off the bus at the perfect stop and decided to switch gears and start searching for pastries. A local told us about a bakery where we could get fresh baked treats straight out of the oven. YUM!!!

Kydee Williams Kydee WilliamsKydee WilliamsTime was of the essence for our last morning in Rome. We had a plane to catch at 2pm which meant we only had a few precious hours left in Italy. Our morning consisted of the Roman Forum and the Coliseum.

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Kydee WilliamsKydee WilliamsIMG_2981 IMG_2983Shortly after it was time to say Arrivederci Italia. España here we come!

Ky’s Verdict: I like to think of Rome as a hybrid that merges the elements of city life with its historical past. I can’t wait to go back. This city has too much history and attractions to experience in one day. I just didn’t have enough time and I yearn to return. FYI- Italian men, love chocolate woman. This is a gorgeous city and it’s preservation of its ruins were captivating.

Ciao Venice!

In the villa in Venice sipping vino – Jay -Z

Imagine riding on a cold train for 14hrs, with nothing to eat or drink, just to pull up into the most majestic city you’ve ever seen, completely surrounded by a large body of water and colorful buildings. That was my experience upon reaching Venice and that extensive train ride was so worth it. When we got out of the Venezia Santa Lucia train station, I felt like I was in a fairy tale story book. We walked over a bridge that crossed the Grand Canal and down a block to our hotel.

Kydee WilliamsThe first thing we did was EAT! We found a quaint restaurant close by and ate carbonara and a seafood platter filled with squid, octopus and prawns. Venice food is so good.

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Kydee Williams Kydee Williams Kydee WilliamsAfter lunch we went walking through Venice taking in it’s sophisticated eloquence. Venice is so effortlessly beautiful.

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Kydee WilliamsWe wanted to buy wine and strawberries for our gondola ride just to set the mood. Luckily we didn’t have to search very far before discovering a super market where in addition to our wine we picked up Nutella. There was a Gondola man outside of the market who seemed cool and had a gorgeous boat so we did what anyone would do and tried to negotiate the 80 € price down before hopping on.
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IMG_2609Our Gondola ride was pretty awesome. We sailed along the Grand Canal, snapping flicks and listening to the history of Venice. We passed by the Marco Polo house, only to discover that Hollywood was there shooting a Marco Polo film. It was awesome to see all the actors dressed like they were living in the year 1295. The ride lead us under various bridges and secret passageways that unlocked the mystical charm of Venice. Our tour guide was super cool, until someone got Nutella chocolate on his hat and he went INSANE! He kicked us off his boat cussing us out in Italian. You had to see it to believe it.

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We had one more thing to do for the day and that was to find San Marco Square. Venice has signs on buildings with arrows that points you into various directions and you have to keep looking for these signs…it’s so bizarre and very easy to overlook.
Kydee WilliamsI think the city is a set up for getting lost. It’s something that will inevitably happen to you. We roamed the streets aimlessly sometimes following the crowds and other times just walking into desolate alley ways stopping at Gelato stands and bakeries along the way. Venice is weird like that, one minute you are surrounded by hundreds of people and other times you are on the streets completely alone.

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IMG_2710 Kydee WilliamsFinally, we discovered San Marco Square, the heart of Venice. The first thing we did was go inside St Marks Basilica. I walked to a pew and kneeled on the stand praying to God and thanking him for his blessings and traveling mercies. I then put holy water on my head and walked out. San Marco Square was filled with tourist, pigeons and amazing architecture.

Kydee Williams IMG_2722 Kydee Williams Kydee Williams Kydee Williams Kydee WilliamsTrying to find our way back from San Marco Square to Santa Croce (the neighborhood of our hotel) ultimately meant we would get lost, yet again…only this time we were really lost. I guess I can cross Get Lost in Venice off my bucket list. We walked across the Rialto Bridge, one of the oldest bridges in Venice. It was massive and the sun was setting over it which made it look extra magical. We then walked through a few alley ways, turning a left and another left, walking straight down a path, crossing a bridge and walking along the Grand Canal until finally we saw something we recognized…BURGER KING! In Venice, there was only one McDonalds and Burger King. It just so happens that our hotel was close by. We could finally breathe easily.
Kydee WilliamsThat night we had free cocktails at our hotel bar and talked candidly with the staff. It was after 10PM so we knew Venice had completely shut down but we found a restaurant close to our hotel who cooked us seafood spaghetti and carbonara. Magnifico!
Kydee WilliamsKy’s Verdict: I love Venice but I probably won’t be visiting here anytime soon. All I needed was that one day to experience this beautiful city but after that I can see it becoming boring.

Bag Lady: Tips and tricks for packing

I HATE PACKING…but I’ve never had to pack for a two-week vacation (The Horror). Initially I was going to buy a new suitcase for my trip. I saw IT-Lightweight luggage at TJ Maxx one day and immediately fell in love. It was a measly 4pounds and meant that I could probably fit more clothes in my suitcase without going over 50 pounds. Eventually after much thought I decided against it; I spent too much money on the trip already and at this point I needed to focus on saving for it.

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When I got home I began to pack all my things in a large suitcase, yet it seemed like the suitcase itself was heavier than my clothes. I downsized literally 2-hours before my flight to a smaller version. It was probably the best decision I made for myself. In total I carried a:

  • Medium suitcase
  • Book Bag with Wheels
  • Purse-which was more like a second carry on

Switching my suitcase now meant squeezing all my clothes in by any means necessary. I had shirts inside of heels and wore two jackets on the plane. I basically packed all my clothes in large Zip Lock bags and poked holes in each of them to release the air (each bag was separated by the outfit I would wear in each country). The zip lock strategy worked out but to be honest by the end of the trip it was hard to keep up with. An approximate list of things I carried is below:

Suit Case

  • About 10 Day outfits
  • 5 Night Outfits
  • 3 Jackets (Winter, Rain coat, Leather)
  • 3 Sexy Shirts for the night
  • 2 Leggings
  • 2 Jeans
  • 1 Overalls
  • 2 Sweaters
  • 8 Shoes boots and sneakers

 Carry On

  • Ipad (A waste, I didn’t use it one time)
  • Passport holder and passport
  • A pen for documentation
  • ID besides a passport
  • Converter-London and Europe plugs are different
  • 2 Travel books
  • A journal
  • Maps
  • Make Up
  • Gum
  • Tooth Brush
  • Undies
  • Extra Pair of Clothes
  • Sneakers

To be honest I over packed. I packed two pairs of black boots and only ended up wearing one. I also packed three heels and ended up wearing two. My advice: less is more when it comes to shoes

Ky’s Travel Tips

  1. Pack light, in the words of Erykah Badu. Next time I travel to Europe I will be taking 2 bags instead of three. It becomes too much of a hassle trying to keep up with all that luggage…it’s just super annoying.
  2. Also invest in a Bungee for luggage which is a sort of elastic rope that allows you to hold in place any sized carry on, on top of your luggage.
  3. Iron clothes before you leave, as European hotels have a weird policy that doesn’t allow irons in the hotel rooms.
  4. I bought a lock for my luggage but didn’t end up using it. Don’t be like me and take that risk, use the lock because you never know who’s rummaging through your stuff.

Before Leaving for Europe Remember:

  1. Remember to switch your phone to an international service or else you will have no way to contact your loved ones.
  2. Remember to download What’s App and MagicJack to call and text internationally

Kydee Williams

 

Style 101: Shopping

I did all my shopping before I left; it’s just too expensive to shop in Europe. Nevertheless, in this photo driven world that we live in, it was important for me to look the part while in Europe. I wanted each of my outfits to be reflections of my personal style and the countries I was visiting. To start, I researched the traditional and/or stereotypical looks of each country. I then tried my best to imitate:

When I think of…

  • London, I think preppy, I needed a trench coat
  • Paris, I think romance, I needed a beret, soft colored outfits and black
  • Venice, I think nautical, I needed stripes like the Gondola guys
  • Rome, I think of a historical metropolis, I was thinking something along the line of gaudy Donatella Versace
  • Barcelona, I think excitement and liveliness, I needed bright colors
  • Amsterdam, I think Kydee all the way…Boho-hipster

Kydee style boardFor fashion inspiration I resorted to magazines that illustrated European influenced styles, specifically Harper Bazaar magazine and clipped out tons of photos that fit the looks I was going for. Now I needed to shop:

Thrift Shopping: Thrifting was the best. I got a lot of European styled skirts and shoes that set the tone for some of my looks

The Fashion District: The garment/fashion district in NYC was my go to spot for D.I.Y projects I was attempting including a tutu skirt and tassels on my heels

Zara: If you know me, then you know my favorite store since I was 15-years old has always been Zara. I found some really cute things including leopard pants that were expensive ($70) but cute.

Forever 21 + H&M: I got a lot of accessories, leggings, shirts and sweaters from these stores. I also got my walking shoes.

Banana Republic: I found my trench coat and blazers here…perfect for the conservative looks.

Ky’s Style Tips

 

  • Take pictures of your outfits before you pack them. It’s great for memory and keeping track of what you are actually taking
  • No pictures? No problem…just use an excel document or the reminders app on your iphone as a check list

 

IMG_1201 IMG_1213

Kydee Williams Kydee Williams

All about the Benjamin’s Baby!

 

Kydee WilliamsSo let’s talk money. Back in 2013, I was told I could never plan a trip to Europe for under two thousand dollars. One of the things you have to understand about me is that you should never tell me what I can’t do, because I am probably going to do it.

I talked to a professional travel agent who told me the same thing…Europe for two weeks cannot be planned for under two-thousand dollars. It was then I decided I could plan this whole trip without any help.

Ky Fact:

Consulting with a travel agent is something I suggest all first time travelers do (even if you want to plan your own trip, see what they can show you). However, I used the advice and quotes of the travel agent competitively to find better prices than what they were giving me

See below the itinerary presented by the agent

Travel Agent Quotes

Budget: The trip’s budget was that magic number I keep bringing up $2,000. However it was a goal of mine to get that number down as much as possible. Now, we are all working women so between the time we booked and the time of the trip we were able to save up spending and food money for the actual trip which is not included in this budget.

What would our budget include?

  • Flights
  • Hotels
  • Intercontinental transportation

See below a database of our budget for the trip. On one side its estimated costs of the trip and on the other it was the amount we paid (give or take a few dollars). In total, out of my own money I didn’t spend more than $1450.

Europe Budget

Savings

I honestly saved for this trip in about 3 months. It just meant not going out as much and cutting back on a lot of things like shopping, unnecessary spending, no gym, no frivolous spending while out…matter of fact I barely went out.

Money$ Money$ Money$

In total I took 140 Euros with me. I didn’t have to take out British Pounds because my boss gave me some pounds he had left overs from his many trips. That helped me out a lot.

Ky Tip’s

  • Exchange your money before you leave. I went to my bank which is TD Bank and they only charged me $7 to make the exchange.
  • Get a list from your bank of the banks overseas that they are affiliated with so you won’t be charged a fee to take money out of the ATM.
  • Call your credit card/debit card/bank company and tell them you will be overseas and let them know where you are going so no funny business happens to your card while you’re away. When I say funny business, I mean your bank assuming that your card was stolen because of the international charges.
  • Currency Exchange: BEWARE! Please avoid these booths by all costs. They are crooks. I did end up needing some Euros while in Italy in which I had $100 cash on me that I wanted to exchange. I went to the booth desperate because I couldn’t find an ATM affiliated with my bank and they literally gave me back 49.50 EUR in return. I hate telling this story because I’ve never been so ANGRY in my life, however I want you guys to learn from my poor mistakes. An ATM is way better than a currency exchange.

Hotel. Motel. Holiday Inn…Say WHAT?

One of the hardest parts about planning a trip to Europe is finding the right hotels. I can’t even begin to count the amount of hours spent on hotel research to ensure that the accommodations were just what my friends and I wanted. We didn’t want to stay in hostels and although hotels are expensive in Europe, I felt I could find some well within our budget (and modern as per my friend’s requests).

Ky Facts

  • Airbnb is great, however I feel like this site is best for people who are staying in a certain place for an extended period of time (more than 3-days) and unfortunately we were only in each city for 1-3days so it didn’t make sense.
  • Google Hotels started out as my source to finding hotels but they weren’t giving me totals on prices so I didn’t really use this once I found other websites.
  • Booking.com, is where I found all the hotels we stayed in because it’s reliable and gives the total price of the stay. It’s very accurate and although I booked all of our hotels on the actual hotel website, it equipped me with the information I needed to move forward with the reservations.
  • Tripadvisior, was excellent when I wanted to see the actual pictures of hotels that guests took.
  • GoogleMaps, is excellent. I found our hotel in Venice via GoogleMaps. I was using the site to look at the area by the Santa Lucia train station when I discovered Hotel Papadopoli.

London
Tune Hotel Westminster
Kydee Rating: 6.0

I liked Tune hotel but it’s quite small. There was construction going on outside of our hotel room door which was a bit distracting but what can you expect for the price? They charge for everything including television and towels. There is also no daily housekeeping service. We requested the handicap room/bathroom but the shower was terrible. Water would leak out of the bathroom and into our room at times. If I was to ever stay here again, I would definitely get a regular room with a regular shower and toilet. Although it sounds like a terrible hotel, it really wasn’t that bad. The location was great, right across from the Lambeth North tube stop and 3-4 blocks away from the London Eye. It was very easy to get around, as buses were also within close vicinity to us and we were able to get from Picadilly Circus to our neighborhood in about 7mins. We also walked from the London bridge and Buckingham palace back to our hotel which proved our hotel was in an awesome area.

Tune hotelParis
Hotel De La Place Du Louvre
Kydee Rating 7.5

The Hotel De La Place Du Louvre was a small but gorgeous boutique hotel, located in front of the Louvre museum. I can’t begin to describe how close this hotel was to the Louvre and to the Rivoli Metro. The hotel itself is petite. The elevator is the equivalent to what Polly Pocket might use; two people at once would be pushing it. However the rooms are decent; very simple but cozy. The shower is the best part of the room and almost feels like it shouldn’t be in the room. The hotel offers breakfast and the service is awesome.

The only problem with this hotel is that no more than two people can be in the room. If you say you are going to have 2-people in the room make sure it’s 2-people. We tried to act like we didn’t understand english when we were questioned by the mean concierge as to why so many of us were in one room (as you may already know it was four of us). After 11PM the hotel completely shuts down and it’s almost impossible to get back in without waking up the mean concierge. However that doesn’t take away from all the positives of this hotel which was the location, location and the location. It’s right by the Rue Rivoli which is filled with amazing parisienne shopping and also within close proximity to the Seine River and the love lock bridge; Hotel De La Place Du Louvre is truly a gem.

Hotel De La Place Du LouvreVenice
Hotel Papadopoli Venezia-MGallery Collection-Accorhotels
Kydee Rating 8

Since we weren’t staying in Venice for long, I decided it would be best to find a hotel in Cannaregio or Santa Croce which is within the vicinity of the Venezia S. Lucia train station. Believe it or not I found Hotel Papadopoli while looking at the area surrounding the Santa Lucia train station and Hotel Carlton which is another hotel on the Grand Canal. I probably wouldn’t have discovered it because it’s a relatively new hotel and up until the Google Maps discovery I didn’t see this hotel anywhere. It is a beautiful and rich hotel. The elevators were small but our room and bathroom were to die for; traditional Venice with a modern feel to it. Each of us received a robe from the hotel. The décor was that of a royal and decadent mansion. The service was exquisite. The free drinks at the bar were amazing and the candy that they keep at the front desk is still being craved by my sweet tooth. In terms of the location, it was perfect for us. We walked just about everywhere, and in the morning when it was time to catch our train we just walked across a bridge to the station.

VeniceRome
Kolbe Hotel
Kydee Rating: 10

When booking for Rome, I wanted to make sure I found a hotel that was in the midst of the Roman Ruins and the coliseum. Although I now know that Rome is a booming and fast-paced city I still wanted to feel like I was in Rome, and ancient Rome at that. Kolbe was about 15 minutes from the Rome Termini train station and 35minutes from the Airport. It was probably the most amazing hotel I’ve ever been to in my life. The front looks like a regular hotel, decked in brick seemingly archaic architecture. However when I got inside the room I was awe-stricken by its massive interior. The room had 2-stories. The first floor has a pull out couch, beautiful bathroom and a desk that was decked with a welcome present which included sparkling water and a basket of fruit. On the top floor were two twin beds . The walls were brick and the furniture was a mixture of cloth and leather. In the morning, we were treated to a buffet breakfast which included eggs, bacon, sausages croissants, cupcakes fruit and so much more. I was in utter awe and didn’t want to leave Rome. Our hotels were just getting better and better

Kolbe HotelBarcelona
Hotel Barcelona Princess
Kydee Rating: 8.5

Hotel Princess was a great hotel however it’s location…not so much. I was doing so well on our hotel choices in Europe but I didn’t do enough research on Spain to know that Diagonal was not the area we wanted to be in…DARN! But, I can’t take away from the hotel. It was a nice hotel with 2-pools and a cute girly common area where we spent one night drinking wine and having girl talk. Overall the hotel stay was pretty cool and cheap about $413 total for 3 nights however, it wasn’t in the lively part of Barcelona which took away from the experience. After a day there we learned to maneuver the train system to our advantage and were in Las Ramblas and Barceloneta in no time.

Hotel PrincessAmsterdam
CitizenM Amsterdam
Kydee Rating: 9

CitizenM hotel in Amsterdam Schiphol is amazing. The décor is so weird and funky. The colors seemed like it shouldn’t be together but it worked. Everything is high tech. Check in and check out is done by a computer. The room is controlled electronically by a single remote. The colors of the room changed with my mood. It would go from pink to green to blue…so cool. The shower and bathroom is pretty futuristic as well. To get into the city, I took a bus because the trains were out of service, it was pretty simple. I would definitely stay here again. The price didn’t hurt either 88 Euro for a night.

CitizenM amsterdamIf you want exact prices for each hotel email me at travelbyky@gmail.com I’ll send over the break down. Nevertheless each hotel per night was between 88-185 Euros

Finding the PERFECT Flight

People are so afraid of the Multi-City option and it’s probably because it seems frightening. You can easily make the assumption that it would be more expensive than a one way option or a round trip. However with the last 2 international trips that I’ve taken, the multi-city option has fared to be the best option.

Last year, I went from New York to St. Maarten, St Maarten to Atlanta and Atlanta back to New york for $700. This year, I went to Europe for a little over $800 (JFK to London Heathrow; Barcelona to Amsterdam and Amsterdam back to JFK). Multi-City is excellent for extensive travel and usually way cheaper than any other options I’ve found recently. I love it.

Ky Facts
• Google Flights should become your best friend. It gives you an extensive list of current flights and prices for your destination.
• I love Delta Airlines. Ever since I started flying with them, my flight experiences has been a breeze. You never go hungry on their flights as they are constantly feeding you and the service is just exceptional.
• All my multi-city flights have been booked through Delta (FYI).
• I don’t like booking on travel sites although I use them as an aid. It’s too much of a liability in the sense of having to work with a third party if anything goes wrong, I much rather work with the airline itself.
• If you’re fickle like me, Delta gives you a 24-hour grace period to cancel your flight or make changes without penalty. This is how I was able to add the layover in Amsterdam to my flight a day later.
• Before I booked, I was super excited. After I booked and it became a reality, the excitement dwindled because I had to wait until the end of March to actually travel…ugh I hate waiting.

Kydee Travel

The Blueprint-Planning Europe

Traveling to Europe was a figment of my imagination until January 2014. I had a blue print of how my trip would go, but flights and hotels were not booked, so essentially it was just a dream. Finally, during the last week of January, I decided to purchase my $827 multi-city ticket that took me from JFK to London Heathrow and from Barcelona El Prat to JFK 11-days later. However I still wasn’t completely satisfied with this trip. I wanted to go to Amsterdam! After much thought and careful consideration, I managed to find a 21-hour layover there for the same price of my original ticket. Thus, I changed my flights and booked the layover. In hindsight, it was the best decision I made.

Below is the first ever outline or blueprint of how the trip played out. We originally had plans to travel to Morocco once we landed in Spain but we realized it would be quite over ambitious of us, since we were already planning to tackle 7-c0untries.

Blue Print for Europe Draft Jan 2014

I planned Europe with 2 of my friends from Penn State. I later asked one of my friends from High School if she was interested in going in which she obliged. Now it was four of us going to Europe which initially sounded like a terrible idea because of  our princess personalities but it ended up being another amazing decision (more on that later as well).

We were visiting the following cities in less than 2-weeks:

  1. London
  2. Paris
  3. Venice
  4. Rome
  5. Vatican City
  6. Barcelona
  7. Amsterdam

I soon became the point person of travel. Researching for Europe became my life. I couldn’t sleep knowing that I would be in Europe in 2-months. I sat in Barnes and Nobles for hours every weekend, surrounded by travel books. I wanted to know everything possible about each of the countries I was going to. I also wanted to make sure we could have a fabulous trip on a budget.

Ky Facts

  • We booked 2 months before departure, which was great because I really didn’t have the patience to wait any longer…Europe was calling my name!
  • Perfect Timing: We went to Europe during off-season, just missing the price hikes during the European Fashion Weeks.
  • Four’s A Charm: Going to Europe with 3 other people was a great decision. We split everything four ways including: hotels, cab rides, and food which cut the actual costs of our trip immensely.

See below my final Europe 2014 itinerary for your reading and planning pleasure:

Europe Itinerary 2014 Kydee (click the link)

The World

Almost Quarter Life Crisis

In November 2013, I was a miserable mess. All of these awesome things were happening for everyone around me and I felt stuck, in the same spot, not progressing at all. After church one Sunday (which did nothing to change my mood), I went to Barnes and Nobles where I sat in an obscure corner,surrounded by books that represented the many directions in which my life could take. To the left of me, were study aids for masters degrees and law school; In front of me were self-publishing books; to the right of me was the travel section and in back of me was all about weddings and relationships. What was God trying to tell me?

I picked up a book from each section and was immediately captivated by the travel books. Europe seemed like a distant dream but I reveled in how sweet it could be to smell the air of this historical haven. My nose quickly became stuck in a 300-page First Time Traveler to Europe guide and I wouldn’t leave Barnes and Nobles until I finished it. My spine tingled as I read about all of these European countries and their famous attractions; so rich with culture. I yearned for the day to experience traveling the world.I prayed to God that he would begin opening doors for me.

Just then, my friend Danielle found me in the literary sanctuary I created for myself. When I saw her I just cried in her arms. I was so vulnerable and confused about my life and it’s next steps but I felt like God sent her there to pick me up (literally and figuratively). I left Barnes and Nobles that night with a renewed sense of purpose. I knew that I wanted to travel. That was the next big thing I needed to do.

Two months later, I officially booked my flight to Europe.

I wrote this November 2013 and placed it on my computer at work
I wrote this November 2013 and placed it on my computer at work