Category Archives: Travel

#TheEuropeTurnUp Part Deux

After five full weeks in Europe, this baby bitch has officially returned to these beautiful United States. It definitely feels like I’ve lived a thousand lives since I left, but I’ll try my best to condense everything into a neat little blog post. So, here’s part two of #TheEuropeTurnUp:

Madrid

I’ve been asked a few times what my favorite city was throughout the trip. Without hesitation, I always say Madrid. The food, the people, the museums. Just absolute magic and perfection. Plus, it’s extremely simple to navigate via metro and very walkable, too. Which proved to be a plus for me, since I get lost going to the bathroom. The hostal I stayed in (Hostal Meyra) was staffed by THE nicest people. Legit, I don’t think I’ve received more hospitable service in my life.

If you come to Madrid and don’t visit El Prado or Museo Reina Sofia, just quit at life. Seeing Picasso’s Guernica in real life (after seeing a replica hanging in my best friend’s childhood home for the entirety of my youth) made me feel some type of way. Parque de el Retiro is akin to New York City’s Central Park, but sparkles just a little more (in my opinion). There’s a huge lake where you can rent a rowboat (which I did with my friend Ashley in an extremely romantic The Notebook moment). Also, a glass house that’s pretty fun to walk through and take pictures in.

Do yourself a favor and watch a flamenco show (and chug all of the sangria). Also make sure to have tons of tapas, tortilla and paella. Pro tip: when you order a beverage at certain bars, a tapa (or more) come for free 99. I spent my life ordering tintos and getting ish for free. #themoreyouknow

Barcelona

I felt ignorant as fuck arriving in Barcelona and quickly realizing that Spanish is not the predominant language. It’s Catalan. Which, I always thought was “a form of Spanish.” It’s not. It’s an entirely different language. So, that was a lesson learned. After having my mind blown with that little fact, I booked it to Park Guell for amazing views of the city. Later on, I met one of the girls I would be traveling with for the next two weeks. This is where I pause for a brief story on how life has a funny way of working itself out (and bear with me, because it can get confusing). Two months prior to the trip, my friend Kat introduced me via text to her sassy and incredibly kind friend Dana, who included me in her travel plans with no questions asked. She then suggested I get in touch with HER friend Sam, who wanted to travel to Mykonos and was thinking of going at it solo. So, I did. And now I guess I should let everyone know that Sam and I are practically married.

As a Barcelona native of nearly a year, she took me out and introduced me to her lovely friends, showed me around the city, booked us for a visit to La Sagrada Familia (one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen) and talked art with me at the Picasso Museum (another must-visit location).

Seeing the city through the eyes of a local was SUCH a rewarding experience. And if it weren’t for my friend Kat and her friend Dana and HER friend Sam, I would’ve certainly missed out.

Greece (Athens, Santorini, Mykonos)

While Madrid was certainly my favorite city in Europe, the absolute BEST part of the five weeks was the time I spent in Greece with some of the baddest bitches I have ever met. In addition to Dana and Sam, their friends Valerie and Maggie were also in tow for a week full of laughter, sun, history, culture, tzatziki and romance (at least for Dana). Pro tip: visit the Black Beach and eat at Poseidon for a spectacular ocean/sunset view. Maybe skip Red Beach, which took us FOREVS to get to and wasn’t that impressive.

Highlights: Acropolis in Athens (after you get over all the men trying to holler at you, you’ll appreciate the magnitude and importance of this area).

Daylong boat excursion in Santorini (which included visits to a volcano, hot springs and the blue domed houses in Oia). Oh, and stay in Oia for the sunset. Yes, there’s a ton of people there, but it’s absolutely stunning.

Staying at Hotel Artemoulas in Mykonos. After all the hustle and bustle up until then, this hostel was a much-needed place to simply relax, enjoy the pool and benefit from the close proximity to the beach.

Mallorca

Much like Nice, this was also a “chill” city for me. Tons of beaching and eating on our part (this portion of the vacay was shared with Dana and Valerie). We were staying in a German-centric part of town, which was amusing. What wasn’t? The fact that we were staying a stones throw away from a strip of bars and souvenir shops that could only be compared to an episode of Jersey Shore. Our hostel didn’t have AC either, so that was a bummer, but the staff and their hospitality more than made up for it.

Florence

The last city in my incredible adventure! The first night was absolutely miserable due to my hostel not having AC and thinking a single oscillating fan on the ground was enough for six girls. I was on the top bunk, so got zero air. Also, no guard rail on the bunk, so I was afraid to sleep for fear of falling overboard. Needless to say, I had to book a hotel room for the remaining two nights.

The architecture in this city is amazing. The overall vibe is great. But it was so hot (that suffocating type of heat that makes you chug seven water bottles daily) that I couldn’t fully enjoy myself. So, maybe that’s why I had a less than stellar impression of the city? Anywho, Il Duomo is amazing on the outside. The inside? MEH. St. Peter’s Basilica and Sagrada Familia beat it out in my book. I climbed the cathedral bell tower (which, despite being HELLA HOT, was worth it, if only for the view). Accademia Gallery should be visited on a Sunday when it’s free, so you can see the statue of David ~in the flesh~. Otherwise, it’s a skippable venue. Incredibly small and all of the artwork is the same. So, unless you want to see a bajillion versions of the crucifixion of Christ, the virgin’s coronation or Madonna with child, then just leave this one out of your plans. Pro tip: there’s a statue of David replica right outside Palazzo Vecchio if you really want to see his junk. Speaking of which, the Palazzo Vecchio Museum is also pretty dull. Just a ton of unfurnished rooms that the Medici family inhabited. Artwork on the ceilings is tight. Statues of Hercules inside are also dope. Pero, if you’re here with limited time, I wouldn’t bother. My final day in town I ended up meeting an awesome gal in the line for Uffizi Gallery (Pro Tip: spend the extra 4 euro to reserve a specific time to enter and stand in a way shorter line. The main line to enter was a 2 hour wait. Ain’t nobody got time for that). Her and I breezed through the museum, filled with masterpieces by Raffaele, Michelangelo and possibly the other two Ninja Turtles. We then decided to YOLO and take a little trip to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower (SO worth it for me, if only for the photo ops and the lols).

Pro tip: Apparently Florence has some baller ass Chinese food (who knew?) I had a 6 euro meal that was to die for. So, take a break from the pasta, pizza and gelato (which is all divine here) and get in on that Chinese food doe. But if you’re like fuck that noise, I want even more pasta, pizza and gelato, then visit Mercado Centrale (which came recommended by my friend Natalia and is where I ate lunch every single day).

So, that concludes my wrap-up. It was a life altering, magnificent, incredibly special month of June. And, with so many other cities to explore, I know I’ll be seeing Europe again soon.

Much like my last post, I invite you to creep on my Instagram (@GoLourdesDuarte) for pictures and amusing commentary.

#TheEuropeTurnUp

I must start this post by saying that I feel like a bag of dicks for abandoning my blog for a month. But, between moving out of my apartment and preparing for my Euro trip, some things fell through the cracks. So, now that it’s been a full two weeks that I’ve been prancing around Europe, it’s a good a time as any for an update. Actually, it’s because my hostel in Nice has computers and I actually COULD write a post. In any case, below are my thoughts, comments and concerns on the cities I’ve visited thus far!

Paris 

I mean, the people barely speak English, the city is filled with tourists and you’ll be blowin’ money fast because it’s so damn expensive, but Paris is freaking BEAUTIFUL. So much so, that it caused me to expel moisture from my eyes… twice. And the food is baller. Crepes, crème brûlé, souffle, macarons. I just wanted to eat all of the things. Fromage forever!

Fun highlights: cried while taking the elevator up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, cried while inside Notre Dame, my travel pals and I almost busted our respective asses in the Catacombs, joyously danced to “Niggas in Paris” outside Versailles.

Amsterdam

The people have been the friendliest that I’ve encountered. Which… should really come as no surprise. Red Light District has absolutely no chill, as there are semi-naked ladies in the windows at all hours. Good food was hard to find, which is why we ended up eating at the same delicious Chinese restaurant twice. But you can’t leave this place without trying a waffle. Pero like the thin ones with honey in the middle not the big fluffy ones that are usually stale. Ugh, I wish I could remember what the thin ones are actually called. Anyhow, the city is pretty small, so getting through it all in two days is more than doable. My favorite museums from the trip have been the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House, so I strongly recommend both to any potential visitors.

Berlin

Traveling to this city wasn’t originally in my plans, but after my friend suggested going, I decided to book a flight and YOLO. And thank God I did. If you’re a fan of history, do yourself a favor and come here. From the Nazis to the commies, Berlin has had a rough go of it, but it’s a truly fascinating place. Also, I never thought German food would be my jam, but I quickly realized how very wrong I was. Spätzle, schnitzel, pretzels. NOM. Also, you can walk around with beer in hand just about anywhere you go and there are no fucks given. It should also be noted that both the hostel I stayed in and the people I met there were quite delightful.

Rome

Upon arriving, I absolutely hated my hostel. It was filled with youths, my room was located in a random building across the street and the staff was comprised of a bunch of twats. Luckily, one of my roomies was this wonderful British gal who made the experience so much better. In fact, we decided to catch a David LaChapelle exhibit at Palazzo delle Esposizioni, which was fab.  However, the “traditional” sites in this city are absolutely remarkable. The Vatican, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, Colosseum, Roman Forum, Spanish Steps… you really can’t miss any of them. The two downsides we experienced: 1) the Trevi Fountain is under renovation, so it looks like someone took a dump on it. 2) the “skip the line” tickets for the Vatican are bullsh.

Much like Paris, there are tourists and lines everywhere you go. So, keeping my rage in check was a struggle. Oh, and I wrecked the youths during beer pong at the hostel bar. As the oldest bitch in the group, I was quite proud of myself.

Nice

This was my “chill city,” so I haven’t done much other than walk along the beach, drink a daiquiri and climb up Le Château. There’s no hustle and bustle, so I’ve just been doing me. Legit, that’s all I have to report.

Next up on #TheEuropeTurnUp are Madrid, Barcelona, Athens, Santorini, Mykonos, Mallorca, Florence and then home sweet home on July 9! Yes, the return is a lot sooner than I anticipated, but I’m hemorrhaging money out here! Also, return flights to Miami are ridic expensive, and I want to visit La Patria (aka Cuba) with Momma Duarte upon my return. So, while it’ll be goodbye to Europe, it’ll be hello to other amazing adventures.

Finally, because I’m an idiot/lazy, I’m not embedding images into this post. But feel free to creep on Instagram  – @GoLourdesDuarte.

Viva Los Angeles

After spending a delightful week in Los Angeles, it would be remiss of me not to include a mini recap of what I was up to.

By now, it’s a well-known fact that I’ve decided to hightail it over to the West Coast come September. This crazy little idea took form over three years ago when my lovely mentor kept proclaiming how “tired” Miami was. She was right. Employment opportunities are scarce. Romantic possibilities even more so. Yes, this is my home. I will love it long time. But, considering I’ve never lived elsewhere, I’m feeling some type of way about the 305 by now. Then, after spending three weeks hiking Machu Picchu and tearing up Peru and Colombia with two L.A. natives last summer (who had nothing but amazing things to say about their hometown), I was inching closer and closer to this big move. And, while I don’t know why it took me this long to realize that I needed a change of scenery, I guess better late than never. Right?

So, off I went last week. I stayed with the aforementioned mentor and her amazing family. I got to meet friends of friends that so graciously showed me around and decided to have lunch/dinner with me so I wouldn’t be a friendless loser. I was invited to my first UCB sketch comedy show, cementing my decision to start taking sketch writing/improv classes there this fall. I had food that would make angels weep from its glory. I had SUPER (you can take the girl out of Miami, but you can’t take Miami out of the girl) pleasant Lyft drivers (one time for my main man Kyle). The kitsch and glamour of Hollywood is where I wanted to take permanent residence. AND….. I found a kickball league. Which I know sounds absolutely ridiculous. Pero like, it’s important to me?

Suffice it to say, it was a productive trip. One that made me feel sure (or as sure as I would ever be), that I wasn’t making a decision of the life ruining variety. Sure that the food and opportunities and people of L.A. were totally right for me. Oh, and the weather. After all, a girl can never have too many good hair days.

The Miami Bucket List

What happens when two Miami natives become simultaneously funemployed right before deciding to leave the city? Well, the Miami Bucket List, OBVIOUSLY. I’m leaving to L.A. to ~follow my dreams~ and hopefully not end up on a porn set. My bad bitch gal pal Kelly is sauntering to Philly with her boo thang. So, here are the very Miami things we want to do before flying the coop:

Watch/Bet On/Try to Understand Jai Alai

I don’t think either one of us really know what the hell this is. What we DO know is that it’s fast-paced, popular in Miami and Cuban men bet on it. But all of that sounds delightful, so we’re about that life.

Frolic Around Vizcaya/Deering Estate

Despite being THE most Cuban, I’ve actually never been to Vizcaya, so we’re gonna put on some white dresses, big hats and frolic around the grounds like the Miami royalty that we think we are. And while we’re at it, we’ll hit up Deering Estate just to get real fancy for a day.

Citi Bike Around the City

Both of us are terrified of biking, so naturally we want to risk life and limb by renting a Citi Bike. Although, by “around the city,” I mean biking a few blocks before the cars scare us and we just walk alongside the bikes until we return them.

Take a Day Trip to the Everglades

Because alligators. And airboats. And Florida panthers. And milkshakes at Robert Is Here fruit stand.

Witness Half Naked Ladies Table Dance at Mangos Tropical Cafe

Yeah, we’ve never been during peak hours. In fact, we’ve laughed at tourists that come here. But now, it’s about freaking time to embrace this place.

Travel to the Mystical Land of Hialeah for Cuban Ice Cream Sandwiches

So I might’ve already done this one because I’m an excitable human being. But hitching it to Hialeah for ice cream is NO JOKE, you guys. Was it delicious? Yes. Would I go back to the birthplace of Ñooo Que Barato? Nope. So, consider this item CHECKED.

Go On a Double Decker Bus Tour

Mostly to see how our city is being advertised.

Happy Hour at King of Diamonds

We’ve both been… but never together. We’re considering it our last Miami strip club hoorah.

Take in a Marlins Game

Since it’s America’s national pastime. No, but really because tickets tend to be dirt cheap, the stadium is in fabulous Little Havana and I love everything about peanuts.

Swim in the Venetian Pool

On an especially hot day since the water is always freezing. And it’ll help us forget how many people have peed in there.

New Year. New Me. New Orleans

New Orleans for New Years. An ambitious idea, sure. But alongside a group of Miami’s most ratchet, we executed a pretty epic week. We stayed in the Big Easy for five gloriously sloppy days. Between the eating, the drinking and the questionable life choices, I’m pretty sure we’re all broken for at least the month of January.

And while this city will consume you in the best of ways and the worst of ways, it’s always one filled with more than a few revelations. Some of my own:

  • My essence is wholly accepted by the men here. Whatever I’m doing wrong in Miami, I’m certainly doing right in New Orleans.
  • There is nothing more gratifying than slaying a karaoke performance of “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea at Cat’s Meow. All those Thursday night practice sessions at Brother Jimmy’s really prepared us for the big leagues.
  • Guys just dance better here. Wait, scratch that. Guys FROM here just dance better. They just do.
  • It’s perfectly fine to refuse showing your tig ol’ bitties for cheap beads, given your response is, “I’M A LADY. Also, there’s nothing to see here.”
  • Do NOT pick up anything off the floor. Unless your idea of fun is catching every strand of herpes.
  • Gingerly tipping a stripper $5 for an excellent performance is the definition of courtesy. Laughing at one that busts her ass coming off stage is not.
  • You and all of your friends will get lucky in one way or another. There’s just something about the energy in this town that will make it happen for you.
  • Do not make the egregious error of calling the trolley a cable car when speaking to a local. But whatever man, those things are ON CABLES. How was I supposed to know the difference?
  • A frozen Irish coffee from Erin Rose is absolutely life affirming.
  • Flaming Dr. Peppers from The Gold Mine Saloon are trouble when you walk in.
  • Praise everything holy for the existence of the fried chicken at Willie Mae’s in Treme.
  • Free brewery tours with unlimited beer are why this city is so damn great.
  • My stomach can expand drastically for maximum consumption.
  • Booking a hotel down the street from a liquor/mini mart hybrid is always a solid idea. Because mimosas are meant for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Whisper sweet nothings to me residents of New Orleans. I am about that Southern accent life.
  • The city’s flair for the dramatic (feathers on feathers on feathers everywhere you go) is a big bag of YAS.
  • I have no choice but to make “Uptown Funk” my new favorite song after hearing it EVERY DAMN WHERE.

But the most important thing I gathered from kicking of the New Year in New Orleans is that 2015 should most definitely be the year of TREAT. YO. SELF. To all the foods. To all the drinks. To all the bad behavior that you’ll find a way to excuse. Live every week like it’s Mardi Gras. Because, why not?