Fantasy Travel Friday – The Orient Express

Friday, December 16th, 2011 | Posted under Fantasy Travel Friday, Travel Challenge

When I hear the words “Orient Express”, I think of elegance and Agatha Christie. How can you not? When I decided to write this Fantasy Travel Friday post, I was shocked that the Orient Express train still existed. When I think of the hey day of train travel, I think of the early to mid-20th century, and the fact that people slept and ate sumptuous meals in the comfort of a train. I take the train at least three to four times per year here in the Northeast U.S., but it pales in comparison to the luxury of the Orient Express (and it’s only for four hour rides).

Train travel is still a major part of travel in Europe, but I think the Orient Express (now called the Venice Simplon Orient Express) goes beyond getting you from Point A to Point B via the rails. I’m adding this to my “Wow! This pretty expensive, and I need to win the lottery list” of travel dreams.
The Orient Express has a variety of routes, but I would choose the Paris to Istanbul route leaving from Gare de l’Est and arriving at Sirkeci Station a week later with stops in Budapest and Bucharest.

I know that I’d be staring out of the window a lot like this woman.

Catching views like this….

A lazy afternoon of staring deserves some afternoon tea to go along with it.

Knowing me, even with all of the pretty scenery, I would go exploring through the train to discover as many of the public and private spaces as I could.
One of my first stops would have to be the dining car, of course.

In the early evening, I suspect people sip cocktails here in the lounge.

I will say that the Orient Express knows how to use space well. Each cabin has both a daytime and nighttime configuration. Your personal steward changes the room over while you are “out” for the evening.

I would love to lie in bed watching the world go by.

Maybe a bunk wouldn’t be so bad (I don’t see Husband J going for this)?

Do you think I could get Husband J to agree to splurge on a luxury cabin?

I can’t think of a more fun way to see Europe.

Have you ever been on an overnight sleeping train? What has been your most memorable train trip?

Happy Weekend!


Travel Challenge, Day 15 – Advice to Those Traveling Abroad

Thursday, July 14th, 2011 | Posted under Travel Challenge, Travel General

***Last day…better late than never, right? I’m glad I finished.***

Day 15 – Advice to someone who is thinking about traveling to another country
I think Deidre of Vai Via Blog really captured the sentiment of any advice I could give you if you’re thinking about traveling abroad, which is (like Nike says) “Just Do It!”
I know that there are a lot of constraints perceived and real that deter people from getting out there to see the larger world: lack of vacation time, money, worry about safety, etc., but I want to tell you to do it anyway.
Here is some of the advice I’d give to folks thinking about traveling abroad soon:
1. Be intentional about travel. If you do want to get away, make a plan and figure out a way to get where you want to go. Maybe that means planning for over a year, but at least you have travel on your radar and are focused about incorporating it into your life. As I get older, I realize that the everyday aspects of life can get in the way VERY easily and take priority over travel, i.e., bills, family obligations, etc. I know one of the biggest roadblocks people experience with traveling is money. I love how Catherine from Forty Twenty Four and her husband purposefully incorporate a line item in their budget for travel savings. That’s how it’s got to be! I know I have not talked about money on this blog yet, but a post is in the making because I do want to address it.
2. Learn a little about the history and culture of the place you’re visiting beforehand. You definitely don’t need to read Phd. level history books, but it really adds to your experience if you take a little time to even read the history section of the guidebook, Wikipedia or SOMETHING before exploring another country. Understanding the context for what you see and encounter will deepen your experience while there.
Salvador, Brazil

3. It’s okay if you don’t speak the local language. Wait, you didn’t know I spoke Turkish? 🙂 Just kidding. Melinda from Palindrome at Home did ask me this question a few months ago, and I haven’t addressed this yet. If you are reading this blog, you either a) are a native speaker of English, or b) have learned English quite well enough to understand my rambling. I want to tell you that you are lucky in many respects. English is widely spoken by many people in the tourism industry all over the world. I’ve spoken English to Balinese shopkeepers, Turkish cab drivers and Brazilian street kids. Yes, there are some countries where English is not widely spoken, but to be honest that is actually part of the experience of traveling abroad. In those instances, some good basic phrases or some genuine smiles and hand gestures can go a long way. People have been so nice to me when I have addressed them in their language and made an attempt to speak even if I don’t sound like a native (or even close).
Bali, Indonesia

4. Safety is important, but don’t let it paralyze you. I know that we live in a crazy, scary world sometimes. I’m not staying throw caution to the wind and make a trip to Afghanistan tomorrow, but the evil forces in the world that perpetrate bad things want many of us to live in fear. I refuse to do that, and you shouldn’t either. If I thought about terrorism on a regular basis, I would never leave my apartment or use the subway. We need to be vigilant about our safety wherever we live. With this in mind, actually heading out and seeing the world will only help in understanding that the world can be a welcoming place.
Dublin, Ireland

5. It ain’t like home. That’s the point though, isn’t it? The beauty of the modern world even with its computers and cell phones making it a little bit smaller is that people still have customs, lifestyles and foods 🙂 that make where they live unique. The fun part of traveling is to explore those differences.
What advice would you give anyone thinking about traveling abroad?

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Travel Challenge, Day 14 – What I Learned from Traveling Abroad

Monday, July 11th, 2011 | Posted under Personal, Travel Challenge

***Finishing off the the Travel Challenge***

Day 14, What did you learn from traveling abroad?

What have I NOT learned should really be the question.
I’ve learned to be able to adapt to almost any situation and any group of people I encounter, especially people who are not friendly. I know that’s a skill you can learn right at home, but I have encountered some fellow unfriendly travelers. It’s actually a little disconcerting. If I may be honest, being a Black woman with an American accent has definitely put me in a position to explode stereotypes with other travelers. On a few occasions I think people have interacted with me based on their own perceptions of what I am supposed to be and think, and I have not enjoyed those times (It’s rare, but it happens. People tend to be universally cool. See below). Whatever the situation my tact is to always be pleasant. If I put out positive energy coupled with good old fashioned manners, then I know good will come back to me during my travels.
People care about each other regardless of political divisions. Case in point: I went to Cuba nine days after September 11, 2001 to participate in an academic conference. When meeting Cubans and mentioning that I grew up in New York City, there was such an outpouring of support, kind words and genuine concern. Many of the Cubans I met were sincerely devastated by what had happened. When I mentioned this to a friend when I returned, she was shocked that Cubans would be concerned about how the U.S. was coping with this horrible event. Why not??!! We’re all people; and tragedy is tragedy even if our governments and political choices don’t agree or align. I’ve experienced this in other countries too, not just Cuba. Perhaps it’s an often pervasive belief in the U.S. that other countries don’t like people who live here? I’m not going to be Polly Anna and say that there aren’t people who want to hurt others simply for things like national origin (like this guy). If anything, travel has taught me that people’s perceptions of the country where I reside is much more complex.
I can figure out just about anything in most situations. There’s nothing like getting a little lost or not being able to fully communicate with someone, but you figure it out. I’ve gained confidence in my ability to find a place to sleep when I didn’t have one or figure out a subway/metro system to get me where I need to go. Also I’m pretty good with maps, if I do say so myself. 🙂
What have your travels taught you?

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Travel Challenge, Days 12 & 13

Thursday, July 7th, 2011 | Posted under Personal, Travel Challenge

***My internet works again! Yippee!!**

Day 12- Someone who influenced me to travel abroad

*Scratches head** My Mom? I think unwillingly she allowed me to travel places when I was younger that made me fall in love with travel. Allowing me to do a summer abroad in Mexico at almost 16 instilled a love of travel in me. We were talking about this a few weeks ago, and she marveled at how she had the inner strength to do that. My Mom was super strict and a tad (how do you say this?) “overprotective” when I was younger :), yet she saw an opportunity for me to grow. Plus, my summer program was free (I won a scholarship)! You can’t deny free and life changing, right? Thanks for letting me go, Mom!
Day 13 – Favorite travel quotation
I like this one:
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”
-Maya Angelou (love her!!)


Travel Challenge, Day 11 – A Milestone/”First” Abroad?

Monday, July 4th, 2011 | Posted under Travel Challenge

Day 11 – Did you have any milestones or “firsts” abroad?

This prompt was hard, too. I can’t really think of any other than the whitewater rafting. Maybe it was spending my first Christmas around no family or friends in South Africa? It was weird spending Christmas with virtual strangers, but it was still fun. Also everyone wishes each other “Happy Christmas” (they do this in Antigua, too) and have Christmas lunch and not Christmas dinner. A nice change of pace.

Speaking of holidays….
A Happy Independence Day/ July 4th holiday to my U.S. readers at home and abroad. Enjoy the holiday today wherever you are.

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