The best credit card for travelers

The best type of credit cards are the ones that give you something in return. If you love to travel, or even if you are planning an important trip in the near future, it makes a lot of sense to choose a credit card that can help you and provide you with some additional perks.  

I used to use an airline specific credit card. When you fly a considerable amount of miles each year, obtaining status on one airline gives you some amazing perks, and it makes sense that your credit card work with you towards that end. I no longer fly over 100,000 miles a year, so I use a credit card now that works better with my wanderlust spirit and gives me incredible flexibility to use my rewards in the ways that work best for me.

Today, I’m sharing my credit card of choice and the reasons why I love it. It may not be what’s best for you, but it would certainly behoove you to give this decision some thought and make sure you are using a card that gives you the best bang as you spend!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

  • Flexible: Use points for airline tickets, hotels, and pretty much everything travel related. You can fly on any airline, book any hotel, etc. Book through them or any travel platform you’d like.  My advice- through a travel professional like me!!! :)
  • No international transaction fees: If you do travel internationally, this is important. Make sure your card has this feature.
  • Great signup bonus: 40,000 miles for signing up, which is like $400 in free travel money. 
  • 2 for 1: You earn 2 miles for every $1 spent. I like that math.
  • Purchase Eraser: This is my favorite feature. When you have a charge on your credit card related to travel, you can simply use your rewards points to erase it. And it doesn’t matter if you’d paid the balance already or not, it’s just a credit to your account. 
  • *Visa Signature Bonuses: If you qualify, the additional benefits include 24/7 concierge services, complimentary upgrades, travel accident insurance, rental car insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, and roadside assistance. 

On a slightly narcissistic level, my card also is a great travel conversation starter, because I have it personalized with a great shot of the sunrise at the Grand Canyon, with me perched on the edge of a cliff. 

Not all cards are created equal. I’m not giving you a rundown of every card out there, because that’s not my specialty. But I did my research for this card and know from experience that it is a good one. Depending on your personal needs (and your credit score!), find what will work best for you.


I love last minute trip plans.  This may seem slightly counterintuitive to my personality because I am the queen of planning on top of planning cross checked with more planning. But there is definitely something exciting about deciding to go somewhere NOW.. just because.  The anticipation that builds up once you know you have a trip to look forward to is enhanced because your trip happens to be just around the corner! I don’t know what it is about January, but that has been the mindset of a few of my clients who decided to find the time in their schedule to book last minute trips and make the time for a romantic getaway. 

Starting your year off with a little unexpected R & R can do wonders for your sense of well-being and allow you to attack 2015 with a renewed sense of fervor and excitement.  If that is sounding right up your alley, contact Milk and Honey Travels to help you escape the day-to-day, chase the sunshine, and put a little bounce back in your step as you get ready for the amazing year ahead.

The following are some beautiful shots from last week's getaway to the stunning Four Seasons Santa Barbara, where they were able to enjoy the gorgeous grounds, relax poolside  and have their best friend tag along, as this resort also happens to be pet friendly!

Where would you like to go, and how can I help you plan it?

How to not suffer from Jet Lag when you travel

When I used to travel to multiple continents multiple times a year, jet lag was a real part of my life and I never really did get used to it. This throwback post is in honor of one of my least favorite aspects of travel... and then some helpful tips on how you can prevent it from being such a drag. Literally.

I remember... before I used to travel through time zones like I was passing through neighborhoods... thinking that jetlag was just feeling a bit tired and sleepy at the wrong time of day. Sure, that’s part of it but that explanation merely scratches the surface. Let me try and explain in better detail…

When you travel to the other side of the globe, you try your best to stay up until normal bedtime. This is a feat in and of itself. Every fiber of your being is telling you to close your eyes and succumb to mother nature, but you fight it and force your eyelids back open after every blink. I’ve been known to play games with myself and treat myself to an extra long blink. Usually this will end up in a 20-minute catnap that I snap out of and have to go splash my face with cold water.  

When you finally do get to lay your head down on the pillow, it’s the best feeling in the world. Seriously. It’s like euphoria. You know how sometimes you get a really strong urge to thank God for the little things in life that you tend to overlook? This is one of those moments. I’m usually one of those people who toss and turn and have about 14 internal conversations before I can fall asleep, but nights like these I don’t even remember my head hitting the pillow.

It is the best. Sleep. Ever. And it lasts for probably about 3 hours. 4 if you’re lucky. And it’s not as if you groggily roll over and slowly slit your eyelids to look at the clock. You are wide-awake without the slightest hint of sleepiness in your body. If you try and close your eyes again, you’re simply using way too many eye muscles to keep them shut and your body is telling you it’s futile anyway. You’re up. And you know what else you are? Starving! I’m talking about hunger pains that dig deep into your soul and make funny noises that you want to blame on someone else. I’m a ravenous beast when I wake up from these types of slumbers.

Mornings like these can be the most productive of your life, especially if you aren’t used to being a morning person. I get my best cleaning done and have arrived to the grocery store before it even opened. It’s a good thing too because by late afternoon you are almost a useless human being. The tiredness will hit you like a ton of bricks. Actually, it’s more like the bricks are piled neatly on top of your skull and every 30 minutes another one is added. Oh…and you feel nauseous. You try to outlast your crushing skull and the feelings of dizziness because you know if you just stay strong, you can beat this monster in a couple days and go back to being a productive member of society the whole day through. 

Now, here are a couple useful hints I picked up over the years to help the effects of jet lag not be so intense and to pass more quickly.

1. Drink lots of water: A lot of times during flights the tendency is to not drink a lot of water and therefore not have to take multiple trips to a bathroom you'd rather avoid. But, you will feel so much better if you stay hydrated and active on your flight. I would say aim for at least a cup each hour of flying.

2. Stay away from caffeine and alcohol: You may have a great time while flying, but you're going to miserable once you hit the ground.  

3. Pretend you're there already: If you are going to be somewhere for a while, it helps if you gradually move your body over to that new time zone beforehand.  Try sleeping and eating incrementally closer to the new time zone your body is heading to. This is also how I choose whether I'm going to knock out on the plane.

4. Nap like a cat: If you must shut your eyes and take a nap, make it quick. 20-30 min at the max. Anything more and you have screwed yourself for that night.

5. Pop some pills: I found these all-natural, homeopathic pills that are designed to help with this sort of thing, and I really believed helped me to feel less jet lagged. Perhaps it was a placebo affect, but I'll take that too.


If anyone has has success in using other tips and tricks to beat jet lag, I would love to hear them!


The idea of a “babymoon” is a fairly recent trend where couples treat themselves to a getaway before their bundle of joy arrives and life as they know it is changed forever.  It’s a time to celebrate the new chapter of life that is upon them, and also to indulge in all of the things that are soon to become obsolete.  Namely sleep, relaxation, and long uninterrupted delicious meals. When I first heard of it a few years back, I was under the impression that the couple went after the baby was born.  Kind of like a Honeymoon occurs after the wedding. Obviously, that sounds all kinds of impractical and doesn’t really lend itself to any type of relaxation.  However, I am totally onboard and in favor of a pre-baby vacation.    Heck, any reason we can create to justify a celebration that involves optimum pampering and luxury is a win/win for all involved. 

I recently had the opportunity to plan a Babymoon for a client I know very well.  My sister. She and her husband decided they were going to head to Vegas for a weekend of pre-baby fun.  I don’t know that Vegas is at the top of anyones radar when talking about a great place to getaway for someone who can’t drink, can’t party, and shouldn’t be caught dead in a miniskirt.  But that’s the great thing about these types of vacations… there aren’t any rules to them and you can pretty much make anything work.  For them, they wanted a place that was driving distance from home and where they could stay in an amazing hotel room, eat great food, go to a show, and be in bed by 10pm in a room with blackout curtains so they could start banking as much sleep as possible.  You can do all that in Vegas, and it happened to be a totally different experience then the Vegas of their pre-baby years.  Aside from Sin City though, I have a few thoughts on what type of trips would make amazing Babymoons…

Soothing Spa Babymoon

Staying at a relaxing spa resort gets right to the pampering aspect, which I believe you should be taking full advantage of.  Many spas will have relaxing pre-natal massage choices available, which work wonders at soothing away all those extra aches and pains.  

Bed and Breakfast Babymoon

You can really capitalize on finding a unique and romantic getaway by staying at a bed and breakfast, which offer a totally different experience than what you will find at large resorts. There are places all across America that would be ideal, and so regardless of the destination and season, you are sure to be able to create a tailor-made experience for the two of you.

Beach Lover’s Babymoon

It doesn’t get much better than reclining on a beach under a nice shade umbrella, and relaxing to the sounds of the waves.  You have fresh air, the warm sun, and a nice virgin Pina Colada to complete things.

One with Nature Babymoon

A nice romantic mountain resort or something smack in the middle of nature gives you the opportunity to foster your deeper connection and appreciation for the natural beauty surrounding you. There is something very soothing about being surrounded by lots of trees and greenery, and being lulled by the sounds of nature.

If you or someone you know is expecting a new bundle in the near future, I would be happy to help you plan your next hoorah before your new arrival gets here.  Chances are you have a lot of other more pressing things on your mind to deal with, and time is of the essence!


Eat. Drink. Rest..... Repeat.

Everyone has their ideal recipe for the perfect vacation.  Think of it like chocolate chip cookies if you will.  Chocolate chip cookies are good no matter what. And you will eat them simply for the fact that there is sugar and chocolate and tasty carbs involved. But there is THE cookie. The one made up with just the right ratio of chocolate chips and walnuts, that is gooey in the center but crisp at the edges, and that somehow has half the calories as any other chocolate chip cookie in the world so therefore you can eat twice as many of them and not feel guilty.  This, my friends, is the ideal recipe.  

I think of my vacations like that as well. Sure, there are times when there is a lot to do, and I find myself with an itinerary jam packed with all the things I must see and have to experience. Those are great trips as well because they allow you to expand your mind and learn about all there is in the world we don’t know much about. But many times I need a vacation to push the reset button, and to simply allow myself to just be. I do this by eating anything my heart desires, having cocktails at any time because it truly is 5o’clock somewhere, and giving myself the opportunity to rest and relax without the itching notion that there should be something else I need to do and see. Personally, I prefer this last part to be done in front of an ocean where I can catch as many sunsets as possible. 

During my recent vacation to Mexico, I hit the reset button with fervor.  Here is a little glimpse into my perfect recipe..


If you don’t like Mexican food, we probably can’t be friends. I have lived in Southern California my whole life and so my palette has been rewarded with some very decent mexican food and I am grateful for it.  But in Mexico, you obviously step it up a notch.  With my group of friends, food is important. First air, then food. 

Tacos… You don’t need a fancy restaurant, you just need a little taco stand on the side of the street with some sizzling meat, some homemade tortillas, and some fresh salsa. Let your nose lead you, I promise it won’t let you down.

Tacos… You don’t need a fancy restaurant, you just need a little taco stand on the side of the street with some sizzling meat, some homemade tortillas, and some fresh salsa. Let your nose lead you, I promise it won’t let you down.

We also had an up-and-coming chef in our group. When I tell you his meals make you want to slap your mama, I mean it. The great thing about renting a villa is that it allows you to have meals in and break bread right at home. It also means someone has to do the dishes, so subtract one point for that.

We also had an up-and-coming chef in our group. When I tell you his meals make you want to slap your mama, I mean it. The great thing about renting a villa is that it allows you to have meals in and break bread right at home. It also means someone has to do the dishes, so subtract one point for that.


Mimosas for breakfast. Margaritas for lunch. Cervesa with tacos. A wine tour in the Guadaloupe Valley courtesy of Valley Girl Baja Wine Tours.  My liver is probably glad I am home, but hey, that is what vacation is for!


I was lulled to bed by the sound of crashing waves and woken up to the same beautiful sound. Every morning I would make my coffee and then just sit on the deck and have my quiet time, and every evening I would make my cocktail and sit in the hot tub to watch the sunset.  Most of our time here was spent with nothing really scheduled to do, and that was absolutely perfect. Watching the ocean is doing enough in my book.


When you experience how good a vacation like this can be for your soul, the important thing to do is figure out when you’re going to do it next.  My friends and I have committed to once a year. It’s going to be difficult. People are going to think they’re too busy. Schedules aren’t going to line up. But when we make it happen, it will be worth it.


For years we talked about doing a trip together. And for years that is all that came out of it…a lot of talk. I have had the same group of amazing friends for over 20 years and we have stayed close and have continued to see our friendship grow and blossom as we navigate different stages of life and become the people we never even dreamed about when we were simply a group of high school kids that found each other and decided to call ourselves BFF’s.

But now that it actually is going to be Best Friends FOREVER, carving out quality friend time isn’t as easy as it was when you are in high school and college and your friend time is generously handed to you.  People have really busy lives. They have families.  They have careers.  And not just any career, my friends happen to have top of the industry, globe-trotting, world-changing careers. So much so that when calendars get pulled out to try and see when it might be possible for 8 different people to have time to all come together and just be, it seemed easier to try and invite the president on this vacation. 

But we made it happen. We invited husbands that our now forever part of our squad whether they like it or not, rented a beautiful house in Mexico right on the beach, and packed our bags to start off the New Year together and officially put the fun in dysFUNctional in a way only we can accomplish. And all I can tell you is that it was SOOOO worth it. 

I know a lot of people in this stage of life have so many legitimate reasons why a vacation like this sounds nearly impossible. But I just want to encourage you that it can work. It can work with kids.. and layoffs.. and breakups.. and different personalities.. and drama.. and crazy work schedules.. and a vegetarian, gluten-free friend who does all the grocery shopping for your trip. 

It will be full of laughter, and eating amazing food til you want to explode, and people not following the itinerary and it not being the end of the world, and ocean breezes during a beautiful sunset, and conversations about how life is really going, and fighting during game night, and learning how to say “cheers” in four different languages, and planning to work out more than you actually do, and letting your guard down in a way you can only do around family, and priceless memories you will cherish forever. 

All of this is possible. I just experienced it.

Travel More

The key to fulfilling any New Year’s resolution is to plan ahead and make sure that it’s aligned with your personal goals… not just haphazardly write a bunch of recycled stuff down on New Year’s Eve on a whim. I believe that most resolutions have the best intentions, but they are usually missing a very important ingredient: a plan of action.

Here is a great New Year’s resolution that I think most people would benefit from… 




And if you have said that before and it didn’t really happen, and are saying it again and don’t have a real plan of action in place to ensure it does happen, chances are it will be one of those well-intentioned ideas that never really comes to life.  So, as we stay goodbye to 2014 and usher in the new year full of new and recycled resolutions, let’s break the “travel more” goal down into smaller steps we can follow so that we actually end up accomplishing it.  

Pick a place already:

Here…There…Anywhere. Whatever you do, just don’t develop paralysis by analysis.  There are so many amazing places you can go, so don’t stop yourself from going anywhere simply because you can’t choose somewhere. The sooner you decide where you are going, the more real it will become and the harder you will work at making it happen.  

Decide when you’re going:

This all depends on what’s important to you and what you are trying to accomplish with your traveling.  Sometimes though, you just have to be impulsive so that you can make a decision and get on with it.  Once you have a destination, there are ways to figure out when is the best time to go if you are looking for sunshine and only sunshine, when it might the low season, and when you are most likely to encounter lots and lots of tourists.  But just make sure you nail down the where and the when.

Start your research:

That’s when you contact me.  Although, it’s perfectly find if you contact me before step 1 because I have lots and lots of ideas about where you should go if you don’t happen to know. :)  But now is the time to really start to make your ideas come to life.  Figure out what this trip is going to be about… what you want to experience, and what you want to get out of it.  Here is when the trip really becomes about YOU. This will also help you solidify a budget so that you can be ready for the next step.

Understand your travel fund:

Does it need to be built or does it need to be put to the side? Are you setting aside money so that these funds are earmarked specifically for this trip or do you need to develop a plan to save and put away so that you can stash away funds specifically for this purpose.  

Book it and GO:

Life is too short.  You need to get out and see the world. You need to make things happen or else they don’t ever happen.  Don’t let this be the year when your travel resolutions fizzle… The world is full of amazing places and I want to help you experience some of them.

Where in the world...

For those of us stateside, we are smack in the middle of winter season.  All that makes me want to do is get on a plane somewhere where the sun is shining and there is a legitimate reason to wear my bathing suit.  It’s the reason why I choose to live in places where snow only exists on T.V. and anything below 60 degrees calls for over exaggerated declarations of how freeeeezing it is.  Personally, I am not one to vacation in destinations that are experiencing their cold weather season, because to me sunshine is far too important of a factor in my enjoyment. However, if you happen to be a person who likes travel for more cultural exploration, there are a lot of great deals to be found when you travel to a destination during their “low” season.  Flights are cheaper, hotels can be found for far better rates, and places are not nearly as crowded, so it’s definitely something to consider.  

Let’s take a quick look at how the rest of the world is fairing weather wise right now and how that may factor into new places you might want to explore early in 2015..


This time of year is generally the best one to visit Southeast Asia when drier, cooler weather prevails. You will encounter high hotel costs and large crowds since the rest of the world is trying to escape the European and North American winters as well. 

Australia/New Zealand: 

The seasons in Australia and New Zealand run opposite of those in North America and Europe, so this time of year would be peak summer season. Because these are their summer months, most places will be experiencing high tourist traffic, but be pretty amazing and perfect weather-wise.


It’s the opportune moment for a trek in the Moroccan desert, a trip across the Maghreb or for visiting countries such as Senegal or Egypt before the higher temperatures arrive. The prices at this time are affordable too. South Africa currently basks in warm temperatures with low rainfall, which sounds just about perfect to me.


Right now Europe is full of cold places, rainy places, and places that just aren’t seeing too many hours of sunshine.  Head here if you want to go on a cultural break and visit some stunning museums or have the opportunity to eat at some amazing restaurants and have some big-city fun at a fraction of the cost.  If winter sports are your thing or you just really enjoy the beauty of winter, you can take full advantage of all the snow. 


Central America, South America, and the Caribbean are having beautiful, sunny-but-not-too-hot weather right now, and of course Hawaii is always close to perfect no matter what time you go.  These are great times for romantic getaways to these destinations because it stays away from the rush of spring breaks and summer vacations and takes advantage of the perfect conditions.

From Russia with love

The last few days have been downright chilly.  Probably not what you would call a legitimate cold front, more along the lines of a pansy west-coast definition of cold.  But it did remind me of probably the coldest place I've ever been in my life... Russia in winter. The following is a blog from Winter of 2010, when I arrived in Moscow with a hoodie on and some flimsy hand mittens from Walgreens. Coldest moment of my life. I actually really enjoy places that look and feel like winter, but more from the perspective of looking out a window sitting next to a fireplace. I did end up going back to Russia in the summer and Moscow can be a very interesting place to visit. However, it probably won't ever make my list of recommendations for winter time.


I’m in Russia, but I have yet to start feeling the love. For starters, this internet I’m on? It cost me $60 bucks. No, that’s not a typo. For 24 hours of connectivity to the world, I pay the price of what it probably costs to provide wifi to the whole hotel. You’d think I would at least get a nice glass of champagne with my purchase. No such luck. I’m also tired. Like, my head wants to split in two, type tired. Right now I’m debating on trying to tough it out and stay up til dinner, or let it get the best of me and just wake up in the middle of the night and be a starving, ravenous monster. I’m leaning towards monster.  

I’d love to say that I’m going to spend some of my free time seeing some of the sights in this country because I’ve never been here before, but that would be a big fat lie. I don’t plan on stepping outside of this hotel unless I’m making a mad dash to the bus that is going to take me to the track. It’s cold here.  scratch that, it’s freezing. My flimsy California cold-weather attire had the nerve to show up here and think it was going to do something against this kind of cold. As soon as I walked outside I started coughing like I had been a smoker for the last 50 years of my life. My lungs just didn’t know what to do. I think I actually saw the driver chuckle at me.

Which brings me to the one thing I have experienced in Russia thus far. The lack of smiles. I keep grinning at people and offering a polite acknowledgement and it has yet to be returned. This must be a cultural thing, akin to what nice Midwest folks think when they visit New York, just on a slightly grander scale. I’m going to make it my mission to find a Russian that will crack a smile for me. I know it’s in there somewhere; maybe they just save them for warmer weather. Which by the way is totally understandable. The one man who did smile at me was actually hitting on me. He wanted to give me his number and offered to take me around and show me the sights, to which I had to politely decline. Not because of the weather though…just because it was downright creepy.  

Other than that, I’m doing great. I just plan on resting up and getting ready to jump on Sunday. I will be up against a strong field of Russian long jumpers, half of whom I probably have never heard of, but who nonetheless will go out and pop a world leading mark and disappear back into obscurity. I swear, this country produces long jumpers like nobody’s business. Until next time…

***Let’s make today “smile at a stranger day” and hold the smile until they are forced to smile back!

What does Luxury travel mean to you?

I am constantly looking for ways to better understand what my clients are truly wanting from their travel experiences, and for me to have the ability to anticipate what that person is looking for.  In the realm of "luxury travel", it's evident to me that the definition of that should be a personal understanding of what the individual finds valuable.

What does luxury travel mean to you?

Is it over the top luxury in the more traditional sense, where you treat yourself to the best of the best when it comes to 5 star accommodations, indulge in the finest food and wine, and travel to your destination so that the plane itself feels like a resort?

Are you looking for more experiential luxury, so that you give up some aspects of luxury in the traditional sense in order to have more of a unique and authentic travel experience? 

Or perhaps what you are looking for is an emotional experience, and that is what correlates to luxury for you because connecting at a deeper place can make it a life changing trip.  

When I speak about understanding someone’s personally defined luxury travel experience, it is along these lines that I am trying to understand what you are after and what motivates you.  This is the thing that is slightly different for everyone and what you will not get help with when you look only to the internet to help plan your travel. 

My goal is to align specific client desires with the right locations, accommodations, and experiences.  In the end, it’s all about discovering your own brand of luxury travel and making it come to life.

If you'd like to work together to make that happen, feel free to contact me for a free initial consultation.

How to make the most out of flight delays

We are in the height of holiday travel season and for many that means zig-zagging across the country to spend time with loved ones or getting away for a holiday adventure.  Even when you are the best planner and have double checked your flight status before leaving home, sometimes the inevitable still happens— flight delays.  They can turn even the jolliest of travelers into Mr. Scrooge in a heartbeat.  But the inevitable is just that. However, there are a few tips and tricks of the trade I’ve picked up over the years that are important reminders and just may come in handy while you’re traveling this season. 

Know you’re rights: Every airline is different and they will have their rules and regulations spelled out in small print so it can’t hurt to know what it is that you are entitled to—and what you are not. Most of the time you are entitled to be put on the next available flight or given a refund.  Some of the older airlines, however, do have a stipulation where you can be placed on another carrier if you’re delayed.  

**did you know** weather related cancellations exempt the airline from compensating passengers. Inclement weather is considered a force majeure or an act of god, and airlines are not required to pay for food / transport / lodging. Exceptions are sometimes made, but should not be expected.

Closed mouths don’t get fed, so ask for free stuff nicely:  A free meal can always make a situation a tiny bit better.  Make sure you ask to see if you are entitled to meal vouchers or possibly a hotel stay.

Make the most of it: These days, many international airports can also double as a spa resort if you just ignore all the other frazzled travelers around you.  If you have time to kill, why not treat yourself to a nice little spa getaway and pamper yourself with a manicure, a nice massage, or a little retail therapy??  

Act Quickly: All those other passengers stuck in the airport because of weather? They’re going to need to spend the night somewhere as well, and are also trying like mad to get booked on another flight.  Don’t waste your time standing in that 3 hour line at Customer Service.  Get on the phone and try and figure out things that way. Also, check hotels that possibly might have little to no cancellation fees and book yourself a bed before they all fill up.  You will thank yourself.

Travel in Style: So you aren’t traveling first class… that doesn’t mean you can’t act like it at the airport.  Buy yourself a day pass to the airport lounge.  Seriously, it’s SO worth it if your delay is going to be lengthy.  Free wifi, comfortable chairs, food and drinks, peace and quiet, and sometimes even showers to freshen up.

Travel insurance is your friend… and possibly your savior: Many times travel insurance covers delays.  Check your coverage to find out what the time stipulation is and the maximum allocation.  

Be nice: Shouting doesn’t make a plane take off any faster. It doesn’t make weather suddenly clear up. And it certainly doesn’t make airline employees more sympathetic to your plight.  The fact of the matter is, they deal with angry, disgruntled passengers all. day. long.  They are far more likely to notice and appreciate the smiling passenger in the sea of screaming ones.

Still want to complain?: Wait til you get home:  Oftentimes a legitimate complaint about procedures or unfair treatment can get you some sort of compensation because airlines are in the customer satisfaction business.  You will get a lot more bang for your buck this way.


I can still remember my longest flight delay... almost 24 hours in Paris and 10 of it stuck at the airport.  I am still kicking myself for being such a novice traveler that I didn't take full advantage of it and go enjoy another night in the City of Love. Don't repeat my mistakes...sometimes you just have to make spiked eggnog out of eggnog! 

My time in Cologne, Germany

Periodically, I would like to repost blogs here from my travels when I was an athlete.  That was a time where I spent many months traveling the globe, and learned a lot about many different places and cultures.  Thursdays seem like a good day to do this... #tbt and all.  The following is a blog from 2010 after a summer living in Cologne, Germany.

This is my second summer living in Germany. For the few years before that I had always been based in Italy, which is lovely for my eating habits but maybe not so much for my six-pack. There is only so long an athlete can sustain themselves on pizza and gelato. I found the threshold and crossed it…many times. Before coming to Germany though, I was slightly apprehensive. Sure, I travel to a lot of different places, but I never actually spend much time in any one place. In my mind, Germans were a bit stoic and unfriendly, not to mention I was never a huge fan of schnitzel. Staying in Cologne last summer though changed my opinion drastically. The city was vibrant and full of life, and the people were friendly and open-minded.  

Last year my apartment was smack dab in the middle of city centre, close to all the action and the hustle and bustle of everything. It was my kind of place. People spoke English, you could find any kind of food you desired, and Starbucks was just down the street. I didn’t have to pay rent for that apartment though so when it came time this year to find a place and the money was coming out of my own pocket, I opted for something a little more affordable, which translated to not staying in tourist central. For the first couple of weeks I absolutely hated it and complained to anyone who would listen. I think I actually claimed to be living in the ghetto. Of course, if you’ve ever been to the ghetto you’d laugh that I had the nerve to say that, but the graffiti all over the walls was my proof.  

There are some people who like to immerse themselves in the local culture and there are others who like to have as many comforts of home as possible to make them feel at ease. I tend to be the latter. This neighborhood I was in was not for my type. None of the restaurants had menus I could read, hardly anyone spoke good English or even bothered to try, and there was NO STARBUCKS with free wifi in the vicinity. And I already mentioned the graffiti. It was everywhere.  

Now that I am in my last week here though, I am realizing how much I grew to like this place. The restaurants in my neighborhood are some of the best I’ve experienced in Germany. I know people and they know me. There is the guy at the corner Kebab place who knows my order by heart. And the nice man at the phone shop who made it so that I could have internet on my laptop and doesn’t mind spending 15 minutes setting it up for me while I wait because I can never understand the German instructions. And the group of men at the Italian café who say ciao Bella every.single.time I walk by. Or my favorite…the owner of Felafel King just around the corner. He’s from Lebanon and his English isn’t that good so sometimes we try Spanish. I don’ speak Spanish but he knows I’m from California so he figures I know enough. I’ve seen pictures of his wife and kids. I pretty much know his whole life story, actually. And he always asks about my best friend that visited. He says she looks like Naomi Campbell and that’s true only in the sense that she’s black. But hey…if you are going to be compared to anyone, Naomi Campbell ain’t bad.  

The graffiti no longer bothers me and I actually prefer not having Starbucks around the corner. Even with free wifi, 4 euros is just too much for a latte. I am SO ready to go home but I think I will be excited to come back next summer and say hello to my new friends.

Virginia Wine Country

Being from California, wine country has always meant Napa/Sonoma.  Until this past week, I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t know much about Virginia Wine Country… and even more surprised to experience it and realize how amazing it is!  My visit along the Monticello Wine Trail, which is compromised of about 30 wineries, is considered the birthplace of American wine and was inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s version of wine making.  It afforded me some seriously jaw dropping views, with sprawling hills, amazing colonial houses, interesting historical markers, and the lingering beautiful colors of fall that make me fall in love with places that have actual seasons.

Our first stop was at Blenheim Vineyards, which is owned by Dave Matthews, the musician, who is a native from Charlotesville, VA.  This vineyard is situated on a historic estate and is fairly unassuming, at least in comparison to our next visit to Trump Winery just up the road. But then again, I would expect most things sporting the Trump moniker to be a bit flashy. The tasting room is a cozy space on the top level of a two-level rustic wood structure, with paneled glass floors that allow you to peer down into the wine production facilities below. There were only a few other people there during our tasting, and we chose to have an additional glass of wine out on the deck overlooking some gorgeous views of the winery, all while creating our own Dave Matthews playlist on the iphone… I am super cheesy like that!

Trump winery did not disappoint, with over 1300 acres of breathtaking scenery.  My favorites here were the sparkling wines, and I paired that with a delicious cheese plate because you definitely should not forget to snack while wine tasting! This winery definitely had more visitors and more of an upbeat and lively atmosphere, but it was easy to escape outside to embrace the serenity and take in all of the gorgeous views.  


We also made a quick stop at Jefferson Vineyards right before closing and were able to taste some great wines, and pick up a few great bottles to have on hand at Thanksgiving before relaxing on the deck to watch the sunset behind the Blue Ridge mountains.

I am a huge fan of wine, and so of course I think wine tasting is an excellent activity that allows you to expand your knowledge and uncover some new favorite wines in the process.  It makes all the sense in the world to make a short trip out of it.  What better way to spend a weekend getaway then seeing the countryside, enjoying breathtaking views, and sampling some amazing new wines?!  If you live in this area or find yourself wanting to visit, do yourself a favor and experience this wine region… you won’t regret it. 

Getting it in

I like to exercise.  It’s one of the things I have continued to keep part of my routine years after I retired from being a professional athlete.  However, because I now travel simply for pleasure and not to compete like in years past, finding time to workout can be a little more difficult.

I’m not saying that all vacations need to have serious sweat sessions.  I am a firm believer that some desserts just don’t need to have a penalty cardio session attached to them.  But if you’re like me, you feel better doing something at least some of the time.  These are usually never the kind of workouts I do at home, but they get my heart pumping and allow me not to fall too far off the wagon.  

Any time I find myself traveling somewhere that has gorgeous outdoor scenery, I will often make an exception to my ban on unnecessary jogging and go for a run.  This is definitely not something in my normal workout repertoire, but not taking advantage of this scenery would have been a crime.  As it’s Thanksgiving week and we are all getting ready to consume at least 5000 calories in one sitting, and then make our way back for another 5000 the next day when it’s time for leftovers, I encourage those of us traveling and not near our normal workout spots to try and get it in.