Category: Travel Edition

Where to Eat in Washington DC

I recently traveled to Washington DC for the Festival Afro-Bahia. Dining out in Washington DC can be pricey, but even if you don’t have that kind of coin you can have a great time if you keep an open mind.

Luke’s Lobster (Penn Quarter)
Luke's Lobster Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato When in the DMV, seafood is par for the course. I googled lobster rolls near my hotel and this came highly recommended on several sites. This spot is casual with a beachy feel. At first, the fact that it wasn’t packed out threw me off, but I quickly realize that its set up to eat and run. I ate outside so that I could people-watch. I was able to unwind a little bit as I watched people I assumed to be government employees buzz by me on cell phones with brown bags. It made me even more grateful for my yummy food!
DineWithDani recommends: The Lobster Roll with chips and slaw is the perfect lunch.

Busboys & Poets (Takoma)
Busboys and Poets Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato I love the concept. Part coffee shop and bar. Part bookstore and restaurant. Part performance venue and art gallery. While there are several locations, the one in Takoma may be worth the drive. It was the perfect space to relax after a long day of dance classes with my girls. With several cocktails in us, we may have laughed a little too loudly for the other patrons, but it’s not a library. So… oh well. Best food in DC? No. Great atmosphere for friends and artists? Yes!
DineWithDani recommends: The Nachos are enough food for two people! They could actually be an appetizer for four!

Art of Soul (The Liaison Capitol Hill)
crab deviled eggs art of soulArt and Soul At Joie De Vivre Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Yes, there is southern food available just steps away from the U.S. Capitol. It is not soul food and the most soulful thing about the restaurant is the probably the music. But it is definitely inspired by the south. Crab topped deviled eggs, rabbit pot pie and fried chicken thighs are among the offerings. Make sure you get there in time for happy hour. Appetizers are half off and the bar is buzzing. The wait staff is friendly and attentive. So I’d go back even if I wasn’t staying in the hotel.
DineWithDani recommends: The Pork Rinds, they are made in house, huge and delicious with a squeeze of lime and a pinch of salt!

Sankofa (Shaw/Columbia Heights)
Sankofa Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato This book store, video store and café is always a highlight of my annual trip to DC. It is in walking distance of the festival site. Honestly, the environment is better than the food. Sometimes there is a DJ and vendors outside selling really cool handmade goods. I love that it is a space that celebrates the African diaspora that still welcomes everyone warmly.
DineWithDani recommends: Get a smoothie or some of the baked goods.

Harrar Coffee and Roastery (Columbia Heights)
Harrar Coffee & Roastery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato In a world filled with starbucks (which I love), it is nice to know that spots like this still exist. One-off coffee shops and roasters that take care with every detail of their offerings. This spot has so many different coffees made with beans from different regions of the world at different roasts. I enjoyed reading the descriptions and seeing what notes I could actually identify. They had me buzzing through my dance classes. Happily.
DineWithDani recommends: Try as many different coffees as you can!

Samba Compilations, featuring Mayara Lima

I’m a “Sambista” at heart; a passista and musa in my mind! I love Brazilian samba; the music, the rhythm, the dance, the costumes, the parties– just everything. Here are three samba videos I’ve compiled featuring one of my favorite dancers in Rio. She is well known and respected around the world because her samba is flawless. Keep watching for more videos of other dancers. Please enjoy these clips. Subscribe to the channel. Give each video a thumbs up. And turn on notifications!

Subscribe to the channel, give each video a thumbs up and turn on notifications!

Subscribe to the channel, give each video a thumbs up and turn on notifications!

Subscribe to the channel, give each video a thumbs up and turn on notifications!

Thank you for watching,

Much Love,

Dani Styles

Where to Eat in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil… Part 1

I recently traveled to Rio de Janeiro for what turned out to be a glorious vacation. Every day was spent walking along the beach, day drinking and taking in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Of course, I ate some amazing food. Here are just a few of the spots that I recommend for you:

Galitos Grill (Ipanema)
Galitos Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato  This was intentionally my first stop! We didn’t get to our apartment in Ipanema until roughly 10pm BST. After we dropped our bags, we ran down the block to a closing Galitos, they were wiping things down and putting the chairs away. We told them we just arrived from America and had been dreaming about the food. So, to our delight, they prepared us a large feast to-go. If you are a Brazilian food beginner, someone who has never had Brazilian food or has limited experience with it– this is the perfect place to begin. Solid! Legit! My recommended meal (and what I ate every time i ate there): Galito ao molho picante forte (a whole chicken with spicy sauce– its really not spicy at all), Arroz com Brocolis (rice with broccoli shreds– it looks like green rice), Feijao (black beans- get one per person) and Farofa com Bacon (toasted coarse ground tapioca flour– trust me it is delicious on your beans). There are so many great things on the menu, but this is a great start.

Restaurant e Bistro Aquelas Coisas (Madureira)
Aquelas Coisas is so far off the beaten path that they aren’t even listed on most travel sites. This minority-owned bar is an unofficial hangout for the Portelense of Madureira (the supporters of the Portela Samba School in the neighborhood of Madureira). And they are a very warm and welcoming group. Aquelas Coisas makes this list, not because of the food, but for the atmosphere and events. You’ll find mostly outdoor seating, with live music and fresh churrasco (they actually place the grill in front of the restaurant sometimes). Anyway, if you find yourself all the way in the north zone, this place is worth a visit. Recommendation: Visit their facebook to find out what events are happening. You could happen upon a samba de raiz, pagode or block party.

 

Bibi Sucos (Copacabana 2)
Bibi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Bibi Sucos is a chain of juice bars in Rio de Janeiro. They serve items you can get pretty much anywhere, BUT the atmosphere is super cool. My love described the decor as “so-cal”– southern California surfer style. I recommend this location because they are one of the few locations with indoor seating. The other locations have bistro tables on the street and their menus are very limited to only juices and acai, while this Copacabana location has sandwiches and more. Recommendation: Acai (ah-sah-EE) or a Suco Verde (SUE-coh VEH-jee).

 

Bar 48 (Rua Teixeira de Melo, Ipanema)
48 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato This bar was just over a block from my airbnb in Ipanema, but I only discovered it in my last week. I missed out on so many cool events. To start: this bar is woman-owned, LGBTQ friendly and multicultural. The space stands out with graffiti’d walls, oil drums for tables, loud, live music and strong drinks! In the grand scheme of upscale and exclusive Ipanema, Bar 48 is a laid back and inclusive environment with patrons of all backgrounds– from the favelas to the luxury high rises. I enjoyed getting to know the staff, the owner and dancing with its regulars. And I definitely plan to return! Recommendation: Get to the “Happy Hour” early and get your check before the happy hour time ends.

 

Lapamaki (Ipanema)
Lapamaki Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato For me, the best review a restaurant can have is being packed out every night. I never saw this restaurant on any lists. I just walked by it EVERY day and saw it full of people– inside and out. So on one drunken evening, we decided to check out our local sushi joint. They did not disappoint. The food was visually appealing, fresh and delicious. I really can’t say more. If you are in Ipanema, it is worth the wait for a table. Recommendation: Get one of the “combinados”, which are varietal platters appropriate for groups.

 

Pop Sucos
My airbnb was less than a block away from this burger joint. Yes, I know its called “sucos”, which is juices, but they also served burgers! So after reading the menu a few times, we decided to check it out. My experience with hamburgers in Rio was not stellar, but in watching the food go out to other tables, I realized that these weren’t your average Rio hamburgers. They were actually delicious. Pretty much US/ American quality! While on vacation in Rio, I didn’t really have any cravings for American foods, BUT this was a nice departure from the Brazlian fare that I’d been eating every day. I probably wouldn’t return only because legit hamburger places are popping up all over the city and I’ll want to try them too. But this one is pretty dayum good!  And I dig the pop-art decor. PS– they deliver!

 

Zaza Bistro
Zazá Bistrô Tropical Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato At the time of my visit, Zaza Bistro had the best reviews of any restaurant in my neighborhood. As I learned that night, it was for good reason. Zaza is located on a corner in what looks like an old house. It reminded me of restaurants in the Poncey-Highland area of Atlanta with bright color paint, wrought iron fence/art and fresh vegetation. The low lighting and middle eastern music actually made the vibe extremely sexy. The drinks, featuring niche ingredients, were delicious. The entrees were small but extremely flavorful and surprisingly filling. Recommendation: Order anything with octopus. You will NOT be disappointed. Its tender, juicy and well seasoned.

 

Casa de Feijoada
Casa da Feijoada Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato This had to be the most decadent and indulgent meal of my life to date. For some reason my love and I had the entire restaurant to ourselves– so the service seemed almost over the top. Here, there is no need for a menu. You came for the feijoada (fay-jo-AH-dah) completa: black beans, meat, rice, couve (collards), aipim (fried yuca), torresmo fritas (cracklin or chicharrones) and laranjas (oranges). This is basically an all-you-can-eat restaurant. The server replenishes everything as you go. Ours also kept our glasses full of my favorite brazilian drink: batida de maracuja (ba-CHEE-dah jee mah-dah-coo-JAH). This is a mixture of sweet passion fruit nectar and cachaca. I nearly had to be ROLLED out of this restaurant. And I fell asleep as soon as I got back to the apartment. Recommendation: Go early. Pace yourself. Walk home if you can– you’ll need the workout. LOL.

 

Look out for a second post with more recommendations. Let me know on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook what you think. Much love. Remember, life is good. Eat it up!

Salgueiro Samba School in Rio de Janeiro (2014)

In August 2014, I visited the Salgueiro Samba School (Academicos do Salgueiro) for their weekly public rehearsal (ensaio), which basically turns into a big party! It was an amazing experience. That night I made new memories and new friends.

While we got there before 11pm, the show doesn’t really kick off until 1am. There was live pagode music, followed by a mini parade through the quadra set to the most recent carnaval enredo. From what I understand, there is a passista show after the parade. Those are the videos that I love to watch online. This is apparently when the party really starts. They go all night! I can’t wait to return so that I can experience this portion of the party. But I enjoyed what I experienced.

I filmed as much as I could while still staying in the moment. And upon my return to the US, the first thing I did was splice all the footage together to an amazing song about Salgueiro. Below is an abridged version of the original video.

I’m annoyed and flattered by all the people who have posted the original video as their own. So, thanks and you’re welcome. LOL. #watermarkednow

TIP: Take a nap before you head out and wear cute but comfortable shoes. Even my comfortable heels hurt after standing on the concrete for 3 hours. And if you’re a person who sweats, take a rag. Its one of those types of parties!

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Safety Tips for Travel to Rio de Janeiro

Praia Leme Aug 2014

Before I went to Rio de Janeiro, just after the World Cup, many people warned me about the dangers of traveling there. I was told all about the “street kids” who will rob you blind and the cab drivers who will rip you off.

Recently, a video surfaced of street kids picking pockets and snatching items from random passersby. It has a lot of people rattled. Admittedly, I was taken aback as well because all 27 incidents happened at the same intersection.

I’m grateful that founder and editor of Brazil Magazine, Bruce Jones, gave me some tips that I want to share with you.

Invest in a money belt. Money belts are basically fanny packs you wear under your pants or an actual belt with a secret compartment. This is a way for you to store emergency cash, cards and identification in case you are robbed. The trick is to NOT go into the money belt in public. Only do so in a restroom if you must.

money belt options

Avoid the city bus and the train if possible. Your chance of being robbed increase on the bus. There are comedy sketches about it. Cabs, walking in your neighborhood or taking the metro to your destination is preferable. The metro and the train are different. The metro goes through a lot of the popular areas in Rio. The train will take you to the west zone and north zone—poorer suburbs compared to the south zone.

Walk on the beach side of the road. If you want to walk along Avenida Atlantica (the beach road in Copacabana), or any beach road– be sure you walk on the beach side. If you walk on the city side, it is very easy for someone to rob you and disappear down an alley.

Don’t use your smart phone on the street. If you need to look something up, map your location, etc.—do NOT do so while walking the streets. Duck into a store (not just the entry way) to use your phone. Keep your phone in your front pocket or purse.

avenida atlantica (google maps)

Don’t carry a lot in public. Large backpacks, big shoulder bag purses, lots of jewelry, passport electronics everywhere—all of these things can make you a target. PS- a photocopy of your passport/driver license will suffice in day-to-day shopping if they even ask for ID.

Don’t give cash to the street kids. I know this sounds heartless, but you kind of open yourself up to being robbed later. If you give cash to one (or two), they may come back with their friends to rob you later because they know you have cash.

Beach kiosk workers are good resources. Along the beach in Copacabana and Ipanema, there are covered kiosks where you can buy food and drinks. Typically, they speak decent English and are on the beach all day every day. They can be a wealth of information.

Stylized and standardized Kiosk named "Posto 6" with restaurant and bar at Copacabana beach sidewalk. The promenade is a pavement landscape in large scale ( 4 kilometres long ) having a black and white Portuguese pavement design by Roberto Burle Marx, a geometric wave. Sugar Loaf mountain in background.

Don’t chase your robber. Your pocket can be picked at any time of day. And the strangers around you are not likely to help. In fact, they will get out of the way and keep moving. If you chase the robber, you may find yourself alone somewhere.

Don’t expect the military police to help. The police are everywhere in Rio, but keep in mind they are not there to help you. Do not talk to them, do not take pictures of them, just ignore them—like the Brazilians. There are Tourist Police in Rio, but you may not see them as frequently as you like.

Keep a small amount of cash in your front pocket. If you are robbed, you can hand this to robber and say that’s all you have. If you open a wallet or purse–they will take the whole thing.

favelaKnow where you’re going. There are neighborhoods that one should not enter without a Brazilian friend or guide. Some people will say to avoid the favelas all together, but I personally had a great experience in Rocinha. It was a guided walking tour– not a safari trip on truck. I won’t pretend that all favelas are created equal. So just make sure you’re aware of your destination and surroundings.

Petty crime is almost inevitable in a country where the wealth disparity is staggering and virtually ignored by the government. Keeping these things in mind, can decrease your chances of victimization. And none of these tips should impede upon you having a fun time in the marvelous city.

Where To Eat in Miami

I recently traveled to Florida to celebrate my birthday. I checked out a few spots based on recommendations of TV personalities, friends and locals. Here is my round up of faves. Check them out when you’re there.

Boteco
IMG_2365[1]Legit, the most Carioca place I’ve ever been in the U.S. I’ve been to Brazilian spots in Atlanta, DC, Los Angeles and New York. This was very special. I only wish I had my samba sisters with me. The DJ played all of my faves from Timbalada to Zeca Pagodinho. And the live band played all the latest and greatest in pagode. We went on Saturday (my actual birthday) which is their weekly feijoada (a dinner centered around black bean stew). The caipirinhas were on point, the food was delicious, the atmosphere was lively and colorful. It was a great time.
DineWithDani recommends: The caipirinhas are perfect.
Boteco Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

La Camoronera Seafood Joint & Fish Market
This spot is tucked in Little Havana, which is not exactly a neighborhood that most tourists venture to. I didn’t feel unsafe when I got there, but we did drive through some areas that looked bombed out, abandoned and forgotten. The restaurant is small, but the service is fast and pleasant. Locals know and respect this place with good reason.
DineWithDani recommends: Anything involving shrimp is the reason you go. Period. 
La Camaronera Seafood Joint & Fish Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Rusty Pelican
IMG_2364[1]This is a classic upscale seafood restaurant. Every Floridian knows, has been or recommends this place. Located on Key Biscayne, it offers a stellar waterfront view of Downtown Miami. The menu hits all the marks: oyster, lobsters, fresh fish and delicious sides. This was a surprise dinner for me and it didn’t disappoint. Tip: Sit outside at night and enjoy the view. Its very romantic. The couple across from us couldn’t stop making out. They felt it! You will too.
DineWithDani recommends: The oysters and lobsters are actually not over priced.

Rusty Pelican Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Flanigans Seafood Bar
This spot may be the opposite of the Rusty Pelican– a local chain of hole-in-the wall bars serving up seafood classics. One thing I noticed: almost nothing on the menu is fried. But you can get a whole fish with two sides for a nominal price. You’ll find lots of beers to choose from, a full bar and loads of TVs tuned to sports. This is paradise for my man. Beer, sports, seafood, flip-flops-level casual attire and loud music. No wonder he was excited to show me this spot.
DineWithDani recommends: The clam chowder surprised me, as did the shrimp alfredo and smoked fish dip!
Flanigan's Seafood Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
IMG_2363[1]This southern restaurant in South Beach rivals some of the top spots in Atlanta. The server (who was from Atlanta) said they were known for their Chicken & Waffles & Watermelon. Girl, what? I mentally moved past the addition of watermelon and ordered the entree which is meant to be shared. It was perfection. The music is retro. The cocktails are hand crafted and strong. And the guests are a hodgepodge of locals, tourists, celebrities and notables. I sat next to someone from the cast of Empire (who was on a date). That’s all I’m going to say. LOL. The tables are so tight together, however, that I could have eaten off their plates. But instead I talked to the couples on the other side of me about all kinds of shenanigans and we shut the restaurant down with raucous laughter. All in all one of my favorite nights in Miami. I can’t wait to go back.
DineWithDani recommends: Obviously the Chicken & Waffles and & Watermelon are worth ordering, but also the charred okra is a great addition.
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Touch of Cuba
On our last day, we went on an adventure looking for something obscure I’d heard about. This worked up an appetite and we thought back to the Cuban spot that looked packed out at 9am. Around 11am we stopped there for an early lunch. This teeny spot in Hallandale serves Cuban classics with a smile. And much like the rest of Hallendale: no muss, no fuss. And it’s all good in the hood.
DineWithDani recommends: The coffee. I’d never go to starbucks again if I lived near this place.
A Touch of Cuba Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Visit the “Vineyard in the City” through June 2016

by Christopher A. Daniel (@journalistorian)

courtesy in Atlanta Food & Wine Festival
photo by Christopher A. Daniel

A selected group of us foodies, media and influencers were invited out for a glimpse of Atlanta Food and Wine Festival’s (#AFWF16) “Vineyard in the City” the day prior (Jun. 2) to the culinary extravaganza’s official activities. Located directly across the street from the Four Seasons Hotel in Midtown, the four-acre plot is the country’s first ever pop-up vineyard.

The weather couldn’t have been more beautiful…until it started to rain once the event ended. Still, the vineyard’s pastoral landscape is garnished with bushels of sungrown grapes dangling everywhere. In the midst of the grape patches sit a wildfire tupelo, an Athena classic elm tree, a Japanese maple tree and quite a few Silver Date palm trees. On the top of the hill sits a really cool, Keith Haring-inspired mural as part of an “Art in the Vineyard” program.

The groundbreaking vineyard itself has a beautiful, countryside ambiance. As guests made their way down the path leading into the vast green space, everyone sipped on refreshing glasses of chilled Villa Sandi prosecco. The first stop on the tour had thin slices of country ham that cured for the last two years. David Bancroft from Acre Restaurant in Auburn, AL flipped between shaving the rose-colored meat and convincing us to try some ham fat whiskey pickling in a Mason jar.

courtesy of Atlanta Food & Wine Festival
Photo by Christopher A. Daniel

Stepping down a small flight of ascending grassy stairs, Chef Todd Richards from downtown Atlanta’s White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails unveiled some samples from his upcoming eatery (Jun. 15 precisely) located inside of Krog Street Market, Richards’ Southern Fried Chicken. He introduced everyone to his scarlet-hued hot fried chicken and its sibling golden brown classic fried chicken.

Considering I was the first one to sample (which I typically unapologetically am), I was totally blown away by the marriage of seasonings that actually take awhile to set it. It’s a nice mesh of ginger, garlic, curry and onion powder among others that explodes on the tongue upon chewing and swallowing. Adding onto the sensation of the Southern staple is Chef Richards’ bourbon hot sauce. Needless to say, I made countless trips to his table until all of the white meat had disappeared because that sauce was winning!

WP_20160602_14_03_06_Pro (1)
photo by Christopher A. Daniel

Adjacent to Richards’ table sat Chef Gerry Klaskala’s vegetable casserole. At first sight, it appeared to resemble a broccoli casserole. Chewing and tasting was a different story. I appreciated how the casserole totally resembled potatoes-au-gratin, one of my all-time favorite side dishes. However, I couldn’t stop making trips to Richards’ fried chicken table even though I had two servings of Chef Klaskala’s dishes.

Anyhow, the Vineyard is here in Atlanta throughout the month of June. #AFWF16 will host a series of master classes and signature events there. Every Tuesday and Thursday will host arts programming, but it’s quite a nice atmosphere for enjoying a light lunch outside or tranquil enough to enjoy a romantic, brisk walk with that special someone.

Christopher A. Daniel is an Atlanta-based journalist, cultural critic, historian, ethnomusicologist, and public intellectual. His work is primarily published digitally on The Burton Wire, where he is site’s music and pop culture editor. He’s also a frequent contributor to Albumism.com and soulhead.com. His work and passion for diversity and multiculturalism have been recognized by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), and NewsOne.com. Christopher was also awarded a Community Journalism Fellowship for the U.S. Consulate’s Office of Rio de Janeiro, where he traveled to Salvador, Bahia.

Cocktails| The Bitter Truth About Bitters

The Bitter Truth Cocktail Bitters Traveler's Set
The Bitter Truth Cocktail Bitters Traveler's Set
The Bitter Truth Cocktail Bitters Traveler’s Set

Bitters are an important ingredient for any true bartender or cocktail aficionado, with an interesting history. 

I have to admit that for years I had no idea what “bitters” were. I would see the word in cocktail ingredients list and shrug it off. 

I also didn’t know that there were so many different types of bitters. I only ever saw angostura bitters and orange bitters on the shelf at the grocery store. So you can imagine my surprise when I started talking to “mixologists” about why they used bitters in drinks. 

So for those of you who don’t know:

What are bitters? Bitters are literally liquid extracts of herbs, seeds, barks, roots, rinds, flowers and leaves. .

What do bitters do? Bitters were historically used by apothecaries to aid in digestion among other things. Today they are used to add very specific flavors and to add amazing smells that bringing out mild, unique flavors in your cocktails.

Can I use bitters at home? If you want to upgrade your home bar, you should absolutely include at least two different types of bitters. You’ll seriously really impress your friends with your extensive home bar if you include these key ingredients.

Where do I start? Purchase The Bitter Truth Traveler. This set includes five different flavor bitters in a cool box. As an added bonus, this set is TSA regulation for in-flight carry-on bags! And from my personal experience, since you only need a few dashes per drink, this kit will last you a long time! 

Thank you for purchasing your bitters starter kit using the link below. It helps to keep this blog up and running. I appreciate your support!

For more information about the kit click here

 

 

Get Your Passport… It Is Time For Your First International Trip!

from the monitor on the plane
from the monitor on the plane

GET YOUR PASSPORT! IT IS TIME FOR YOUR FIRST INTERNATIONAL TRIP!!!

So you’re ready to take your first international trip? I went to mexico at 17, the same year as 9/11 (don’t do the math) and I didn’t need a passport– just parental permission. But now, a passport is needed to leave the U.S. period. And my passport never saw a stamp until 2014. I held on to it for years. And I was so proud and cheesing from ear to ear when the Brazilian government official stamped my passport and said “bem-vindo”. Actually i think he said “welcome”, but whatever.

If you don’t know where to start for your first international trip, I’ve got ten steps for you!

  1. Get a passport. I know that may seem like common sense, but you won’t believe how many people say they want to go to London or France or Japan, but they never take the first step to invest in a passport. In the grand scheme of travel expenses, its probably one of the best and cheapest investments you’ll make. $135 + cost of photo. PS- don’t expect your photo to be good.
  2. Pick a Country (and maybe a city). If you’re like me and lust after everything on the travel channel or inside national geographic, the choice could prove difficult. So for this I say follow your heart and go big. If your heart is torn, talk to friends and family, or whoever you intend to travel with. Actually, finding a travel companion can be harder than picking a location.
  3. Do Your Research. Common questions to have answered early that could change your decision: What language(s) do they speak? What kind of food can you expect? What are some local customs? When is the best time to travel? What’s the weather like? Does my church or alma mater offer group travel with excursions? How much is average for airfare and accommodations? Do I know anyone who has been? Do I know anyone who lives or lived there? Does our government discourage or regulate travel to this place? Does it require an entry visa in advance of travel?
  4. Apply for a Visa. Not all countries require an entry visa, but that should be part of your research. Is a visa required? How much does it cost? How long does it take to approve? How long is it valid? What are the requirements for approval? Some countries will give you the visa when you get there (aka the stamp in your passport) but others require advanced application. For Brazil, the process of gathering materials for the application and awaiting the response made me kind of anxious. It was all worth it.
  5. Book Airfare. Some visa applications require you to have your airfare already booked. And if you don’t need a visa, book it as far in advance as is feasible for you. Consider your financial, personal, social and professional obligations at this time.
  6. Book Accommodations. In your research, you already found out what prices were common, but you should remember that hotels are not your only option. Airbnb is blowing up. Hostels are getting better and better. And truthfully, depending on how exotic or remote your chosen location, those may not even be options. So be open minded.
  7. Make a List of Activities. When you pay the premium to travel internationally, staying in your hotel or laying on the beach all day probably isn’t the best use of your time. Go see something historic. Go do something philanthropic. Go learn something new. Your vacation will be better for it. And if it goes badly, at the very least you’ll have an interesting vacation story. But just keep in mind the cultural customs and try not to piss off the locals.
  8. Don’t Piss Off the Locals. Travel blogs, books and more can give you the do’s and don’t for nearly wherever you want to go. If the city you want to visit expects one to dress modestly, do that. If the city you’re visiting is one where people smile and say hello to strangers, try that. Most importantly: if they speak another language and you hit a wall of communication do not, DO NOT yell in english at the locals expecting them to understand.
  9. Prepare for the Expected. There are a few things that will keep coming up in your research, like the suggestions to learn to say a few phrases. If you leave your hotel, you’ll need them. And avoid high exchange rates by exchanging your money at your bank before you leave. Speaking of money, a flesh tone money belt to wear under your clothes may not be a bad idea– just don’t open it on the street. Again, most of the “common sense” international travel tips will come up in your research.
  10. Embrace the Unexpected. Some people say to prepare for the unexpected. That oxymoron doesn’t fit with international travel. No matter how much research you do, you’ll never be prepared for everything that comes your way. So just do your best to go with the flow. You’re on vacation now!

Beer Dinner at the Hyatt Regency Orlando

I had the pleasure of dining at Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse at the Hyatt Regency Orlando. The chef’s special menu was paired perfectly with five different brews by New Belgium. Chef Will Walters did amazing job, the hotel staff treated us like royalty and after a great meal, it was nice to go up to a tidy, comfortable room. Enjoy this recap. 

 

 

 

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