About Megan McDonough
Megan Eileen McDonough is writer, blogger and social media specialist based in New York City. She also runs Bohemian Trails, a lifestyle blog designed for the savvy and stylish traveler. Bohemian Trails aims to feature must-see places around the world, covering everything from revamped neighborhoods and vibrant street art to innovative tech hubs and everything in between. Her cultural escapades have taken her to Latin America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.
Megan is also a freelance writer and social media specialist based in New York City. She contributes to various online and print publications in the travel and fashion industries and is an international correspondent for both Jetsetter and Northstar Travel Media.
Latest Posts by Megan McDonough
July started off with an unexpected trip to Lisbon. My husband had been invited to speak at The Lisbon Challenge and I was fortunate enough to tag along for the weekend. Technically, I had been to Portugal before but it was very short lived. I spent a memorable day in Faro during my semester studying abroad. It was meant as a pitstop on my way to see a friend who was living in Sevilla, Spain. Well, I had a fabulous time in Portugal and after hearing stories about how beautiful Lisbon is, I’ve been dreaming about visiting it ever since.
Our high-rise hotel, Tivoli Oriente, was located in the northern part of the city, which is mostly characterized by impressive modern buildings featuring varied architectural styles. It wasn’t until later that day that I headed to the Barrio Alto area and wow, was it different! I had a field day walking on cobbled streets, exploring hidden alleyways and taking pictures at every turn. What fascinated me most was the vibrant street art that appears in pockets of the downtown neighborhoods.
I quickly learned that Lisbon is truly a city of contrasts. The graffiti-covered walls are a stark change from the historic monuments and the modern architecture seen in the north. I assumed that I would pick a side so to speak; that I would either appreciate Lisbon’s gritty side or I would applaud it’s more glamorous aspects, but the truth is that one without the other wouldn’t mean much at all.
For anyone specifically in Lisbon for the street art, here’s a helpful guide. I was honestly there to wander until my feet could wander no more and even though I had no set plans or even a map to keep me on track, I still stumbled upon plenty of art on my route. Unlike other cities that I’ve visited, street art is not only respected in Lisbon but it’s revered. In fact, traces of street art date back to the 1700s when formerly all-white buildings were rebuilt in bright colors due to damage from the earthquake of 1755. What a great example of rising from the ashes.
Although I’m no expert in Portuguese, I had my husband translate this phrase and it roughly comes out to “I wish I were the eyes of people who look at you with indifference.” As as listened to Diego’s translation, I looked back and forth between his eyes and the message covering the wall. I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to or even being able to look at him with anything other than love and admiration. Sure, it’s safer for us to keep our emotions at bay but then again, who wants to live a life devoid of feeling? Regardless, it’s a powerful message.
In addition to Barrio Alto, there’s plenty of graffiti in Alcantara, Parque Mayer, Avenida de Liberdade and the small passage that connects Rua da Madalena and Largo São Cristovão. I didn’t have time to research famous Portuguese artists but I do know that many of their work is here in Lisbon—Vhils, Bray, Tosco, YUP, Odeith and Chure to name a few. Based on the graffiti that I saw, some of them convey deeper meanings that reflect or perhaps challenge the country’s history, culture and lifestyle while others are there simply for one’s amusement.
Beyond the passageways and corridors where street art serves as open-air galleries, the same distinctive, alternative vibe is present throughout all of Lisbon. Although I didn’t ride one of the famous trams, I found the graffiti on the outside rather charming. I’m not sure if the locals would agree with me or not but I think it adds an extra layer to complexity to Lisbon; just when one thinks he has this city figured out, it throws another curveball. Speaking of trams, Lisbon is a hilly city so definitely take advantage of public transportation.
Even in Lisbon’s most picturesque spots, like the split-level viewing point at the The miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, there are gritty secrets to uncover. After taking in the view and photographing the park for nearly an hour, it wasn’t until we headed back toward the street that I spotted this lavender graffiti on one of the green wooden benches. In a way, it blended in so well that I didn’t even think of it as graffiti, but rather, just another interpretation of Lisbon’s art scene. If nothing else, it’s proof that grit and glamour can co-exist in the same space.
What city is both gritty and glamorous to you? Tell me in the comments below!
My airfare and accommodations were on behalf of Visit Portugal. All opinions are my own.
Ever dreamed of setting sail over the choppy ocean waves to seek adventure, and perhaps a quenching, rum based cocktail to boot? For those with piratical fantasies, or aspiring to plunder lesser known experiences from a far-flung isle, holidays to Greece are the new holidays to the Caribbean. Mark a cross on your world map and set sail for the Greek islands, where a treasury of sun, sand and superior sights awaits, just over the horizon.
The Desert Island of Anafi
With a population of fewer than 300 people, this eastern isle of the Cyclades was told to be a gift from the gods to shelter the Argonauts from a vicious storm. Despite its hot desert climate, Anafi is the perfect size to navigate on foot, and hiking is a popular activity with visitors to this arid little spot. The unspoiled landscape unfolds its 18km of natural beauty in monolithic limestone, historic charnel houses, and the ancient temple of Apollo. Be reassured, hungry and thirsty explorers can find succor in one of the traditional Greek restaurants on the island, as well as a bed for the night in a cozy B&B.
Photo: Flickr/Yiannis Chatzitheodorou
The Party Island of Mykonos
Beautiful people flock to the glamorous beaches of Mykonos for the vibrant, thrumming nightlife like oiled up, narcissistic moths to a flame. Summer months are high season, when prices soar in this popular beach resort but in autumn and spring the climate, and costs, are far more favorable. Travel from nearby Piraeus or Rafina to arrive in style by catamaran, or fly direct from the mainland. Embrace the glitz of beach life for a day, then sneak away to the north of the island, where the untouched sands of Agios Sostis make for an altogether more tranquil beauty away from the commercial clamor, just perfect for the morning after the night before.
The Historic Island of Kythnos
Home to one of the oldest historic settlements ever recorded, Kythnos is home to an old Mesolithic settlement dating back to 80000 BCE on its northern coastline, predating the legends that whisper around the temples and ruins of Greece’s other islands. However, the island still bears signs of habitation from other settlements, wearing the signs of Venetian and Ottoman occupation. Kythnos also has one of the largest cave systems in Greece, which has become a tourist attraction in its own right.
The Paradise Island of Kato Koufonissi
This completely uninhabited island can only be reached by boat from Pano Koufonisi, but the rewards are great for those who choose make the journey. Crystal clear waters, a single tavern and the chance to camp under the stars in its undeveloped wilderness could make it the perfect place to escape the world. Visit one of its three beaches and meditate, explore the old settlement of Panagia or hike up a gentle elevation to look across the Aegean to other islands and consider how lovely it is to be at a complete remove from the incessant demands of civilization.
It’s no myth: Greece will charm you with its history, culture, intrigue and beauty.
Photo: Flickr/Anne-Claude Faillétaz
This is a guest post by Samantha Vowles.
It’s hard not to go camera crazy in a place like Jamaica. Everything from the blue skies to the yellow and pink sunsets are just screaming to be photographed. I have narrowed down some of my favorite photos from my most recent trip.
After spending a week in both Negril and Montego Bay, I’m pretty much convinced that Jamaica is one of the most laid-back, relaxing destinations one can visit. Sure, people actually do work here but everyone here wears a smile and tends to approach life as a series of adventure. This is a generalization, of course, but I really appreciated meeting some of the locals and getting comfortable with the lifestyle here.
As picturesque as the beaches are, some of the most beautiful parts of Jamaica require a bit more time to truly appreciate. This delicate flower, for example, deserves a closeup, don’t you think?
Rick’s Cafe in Negril is a party spot for anyone seeking a bit of adventure. People can eat, drink or cliff jump (not pictured). I opted for the mini cliff, which is more of a high dive, but there were plenty of people who took the plunge.
This fabulous male peacock was roaming around the Sandals property in Montego Bay. Clearly, I was hoping he’s show his colors for me but I guess I’m just not his type. He finally did give us a show the morning we headed back to the airport.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to enjoy the many spas we visited during out trip but I really enjoyed the calm spa grounds at the Rockhouse Hotel. Everything about this property was top-notch and this quiet fountain was the cherry on top.
As one might imagine, Jamaica is perfect for couples or really anyone hoping to fall in love. Everything is romantic here, especially this view from the Sandals resort in Montego Bay. There’s noting better than curling up with a great book and lounging next to “the one.”
Can you believe that this creation is my favorite photo? I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who noticed him during our tour of Rockhouse Hotel but I appreciated these quirky characters right away. I’m not sure who or why they are hanging from the trees, but I think it’s nice touch.
What is your favorite destination to photograph? Tell me in the comments below!
This trip was hosted by Visit Jamaica via Finn Partners. I stayed at Couples Swept Away in Negril and Sandals in Montego Bay during my stay. All opinions are my own.
Despite the fact that my trip to Portland was short, I did my best to explore as many neighborhoods as possible. If you’ve never been to Portland, let’s start with some basic orientation to help get your bearings. The city is divided by the Willamette River, with the more walkable neighborhoods on the west side and the slightly more spacious, residential neighborhoods on the east. If you remember from my recent post, Portland sports every type of bridge architecture so crossing from one side of Portland to the other is the ultimate photo op.
I’ll be starting with two neighborhoods on the west side, from north to south and then will move along to the east side. There are plenty of neighborhoods not mentioned on this list but these five are the ones I spent the most time in, so they are the ones that made the cut!
The Pearl District
We all know how I adore revamped neighborhoods and Portland’s Pearl District has a great rags to riches story. Former warehouse turned stylish hub, this neighborhood is effortlessly charming. The cobblestone streets contrast the modern lofts, showcasing how both old and new influences can exist in perfect harmony. This area is very walkable and feels like a city in that there are cross walks and plenty of fashion boutiques, bars, restaurants and cafes. I highly recommend stopping by Powell’s for a reading break, Blue Star Donuts for a delicious snack and the Multnomah Whiskey library for what will probably be the best cocktail you ever drink. Alder & Co. is the perfect one-stop-shop for unique gifts for your friends back home.
Old Town Chinatown
Technically two different neighborhoods, they basically work as one. In fact, the Pearl District connects to Old Town Chinatown so you can easily visit both neighborhoods in an afternoon. As you get closer to the river, things start to feel a bit more lively. Voodoo Donuts is a must for any new Portland visitor and you can also see some funky street art nearby as well. Also worth visiting is the Lan Su Chinese Garden, which is a walled garden that stretches for a full block. If you’re in town on the weekend, stop by the Portland Saturday Market to shop for artisan crafts, sample exotic dishes or mingle with the locals a bit. Further south you have Portland State University where the Portland Farmers Market takes place every weekend.
If you’re on the hunt for a microbrewery, look no farther than Central Eastside, the area just across the Willamette River from downtown. Beyond the large warehouses and urban train tracks there are a slew of popular restaurants and breweries located in this part of town. It’s also quite the scenic area, as the river is right there and the views are pretty spectacular. Many of the breweries on our Brewvana tour were located in this area like Commons Brewery and Cascade Brewing Barrel House. The cool thing about Portland is that if you continue biking just a few minutes beyond these hotspots, you’ll find yourself in a series of quiet, residential areas. The green grass and tall trees overhead feel like a suburb right in the middle of the city.
Mississippi / Williams
Heading over to the east side now, Mississippi / Williams showcases a completely different side of the Portland you thought you knew. I mainly stuck to Mississippi Avenue, a long stretch of trendy bars, up-and-coming restaurants, outdoor beer gardens and quirky shops. The North Williams shops are located about a half mile away, so depending on your endurance level you might want to bike there. Plan ample time to walk around, as each shop is more interesting than the next. Mississippi Records is a small, independent record store selling everything from blues and jazz to some of our favorite rock legends’ albums. Shop for new and vintage clothes for both men and women at Animal Traffic or scarf down some fresh food at the Mississippi Marketplace.
The Alberta Arts District
This neighborhood is an artistic explosion that is ready to happen. Actually, it’s already happening but I sense that even more creativity will appear in the coming years. Similar to the Mississippi Avenue, The Alberta Arts District is a mix of vibrant street art, cool bars, independent fashion boutiques and artisanal bakeries. As soon as I arrived to this area I knew I had found my “place” so to speak. There is so much to see and do here so if time permits, plan a few hours to walk at your leisure. Pie Footwear sells eco-friendly, vegan shoes and if you’re curious as to what that is, you aren’t alone! Gallery hoppers can hit up Monograph Bookweks, HiiH Gallery and Guardino Gallery. For vintage clothes, try Tumbleweed or Frock.
This trip was hosted by Travel Portland. All opinions are my own.
I am sure you’ve all had those moments, where, for whatever reason we are prompted by the inner working of our minds to face our fears, accept our failures and forgive our faults. I wasn’t expecting these emotions to sweep through me while in Jamaica but as I watched the sun set on my last day in Montego Bay, I realized the tides were shifting, both externally and internally. Maybe the waves of emotion I’d been experiencing the last few months were because I was moving forward, not backward. Jamaica brought everything to the surface, exposing the truths I had too long forgotten.
I guess it all started on our first day in Negril, where we volunteered with some local children. Assuming that I was a burden to them, sent there for my own amusement, I approached the students timidly. How was it that a 27 year-old seasoned traveler felt intimidated by these young, vivacious children? Well, that was just it actually.
As I watched the students during their recess break, my mind drifted back to my years in elementary school. I went to a private Catholic school in a pretty building, with pretty teachers and pretty classmates. During recess, I’d go out and play on our pretty jungle gym and fix the pretty ribbon in my hair. Don’t get me wrong–I’m grateful to my parents for sending me to a great school. I learned a lot, was challenged daily and slowly discovered the things that made me happy in my life as I knew it.
Most of my fond memories as a child were ones spent with my family. Heading to school every morning brought me stress. I was always so lively, so sweet and loving at home with my family and for whatever reason, arriving at school put me in defensive mode, draping a heavy cloak of shyness over me for many years. I never quite felt “myself” at school, a problem that would eventually resolve itself during college.
Yet, as I watched the children at Negril All Age School, I saw only joy on their faces. Maybe I was being naive but I envied their playful nature, their bright white smiles and their uncontrollable laughter. It was like they were all in on a joke and I desperately wanted to hear the punch line. They didn’t have much but it didn’t matter because they had tapped into the secret of life and already knew that happiness had very little to do with material possessions. They lived completely in the moment, which brings me to my next point.
On Living in the Present Moment
Living in the moment is a lifestyle that I’ve always found difficult to master. Why is it so hard for me to toss my worries aside for a few minutes? A few months ago, I look an Art of Living class: The Happiness Program to improve a few things about myself that had been plaguing me–namely, accepting things as they are, dealing with stress, depression and embracing life to the fullest. It might sound strange to hear this from someone who travels for a living but sometimes the loneliness of the job overshadows the joy it brings and that shouldn’t be the case.
The children at Negril All Age School, not to mention every other local I met while in Jamaica, seemed to have perfected what I, in 27 years, still struggle to attain. I watched as a group of school children gleefully jumped rope and more than anything I wanted to join in the fun. Why was I standing like an observer when I could be part of the action? As more and more children walked up to me and introduced themselves with a grin, I became aware that my barriers were quickly tumbling down.
Later in the day I did get involved by reading a book to a younger group of students. In these moments I felt alive, grateful that my insecurities did not keep me from embracing the moment for what it was–one person helping another. As our group headed for the door I was nearly struck down by the dozens of children running up to me, hugging me and waving goodbye. One girl held me so tightly that I felt I might cry. It wasn’t that she was hurting my waist with her unbreakable embrace but because I felt so utterly loved that I might burst. I have plenty of love in my life but there was something so pure, so tender about their goodbye that I felt blissfully content.
Before leaving, one of their teachers later mentioned to me in passing that the children loved when visitors came to the school because it was their way of traveling and meeting new people. Immediately, my face reddened. Of course, me being a travel writer and getting to visit a new destination every month has nothing to do with the local students there, but I felt guilty because I so often take this for granted. I’m always telling others that you don’t need to travel to learn; that you can learn a lot just from exploring your own backyard. It seemed that perhaps my words contained some truths.
The same thing came up a few days later during our visit to a traditional Rastafarian village. One of the leaders mentioned that they had Internet there on site and that surprised me. I couldn’t imaging this group of men and women being interested in surfing the net. I wasn’t alone on that, and seeing our perplexed faces, he explained that traveling isn’t as easy for them as it is for others and that using the Internet is a form of travel. He was so proud, so hopeful about humanity and his fondness for life was contagious.
As I pondered all these lessons on my last night in town, I began feeling confident about where my own path might lead. Almost routinely, I had used the hour leading up to dinner to reflect on my experiences from the day. After dinner, I often found myself drifting away from the group toward the water where I could stare out into the abyss that seemingly had no end. Oceans have a way of making you feel small but this time, I felt like I had far more to offer the world and the idea that I could make a difference, however small that was, gave me strength.
Thinking back to my favorite book, Peter Pan, I remembered the single most impactful passage that assured me that adulthood wouldn’t be so bad. J.M. Barrie writes,
There could not have been a lovelier sight; but there was none to see it except a little boy who was staring in at the window. He had ecstasies innumerable that other children can never know; but he was looking through the window at the one joy from which he must be for ever barred.
Inspired by this fleeting though, I resolved to take the lessons I learned while in Jamaica and live and love as if nothing else mattered.
What travel experience reshaped your outlook on life?
This trip was hosted by Visit Jamaica but all opinions are my own.
The post Pondering Life’s Clever Mysteries in Jamaica appeared first on Bohemian Trails.
Finally, I checked Portland off my travel bucket list only to discover that I want to check it off again and again. This city is effortlessly fascinating and everything from the gritty street art to the farm to table culinary scene tops the charts. If you’re from Portland you probably already know that it’s the epitome of cool but for those of you who are planning a visit, hopefully this gets you in the Portland mood.
I’ll be doing a neighborhood guide soon enough but for those travelers who are on a time crunch, I’d stick to a few main areas to see Portland’s hippest areas. I’d recommend stopping by Powell’s Books in the Pearl District and biking to the Alberta Arts District for graffiti, boutique fashion stores, artisanal ice-cream and food trucks. Don’t leave town without passing through Mississippi Avenue for more bars, restaurants, beer gardens and stores selling knickknacks.
In case you need an extra push to visit Portland this year, here are 10!
1) The street art is inspiring and will put you in a positive mood. Can you think of better advice than this?
2) Portlanders DIY like nobody’s business. They also know how to put just about anything to good use.
3) They take transportation to the next level…literally! Thrifting anyone?
4) Locals are pretty talented, not to mention very stylish.
5) Art has the power to transform ordinary into extraordinary. I found this mural on a wall facing a parking lot.
6) You’ll never go thirsty for beer. Can we also please take a moment to note how amazing this bar art is?
7) Even the streets have something to say. These murals are designed to encourage drivers to slow down. It’s rather effective, don’t you think?
8) There’s always something new to learn, even while waiting in line for Blue Star donuts.
9) They live life on the edge. Is anyone else petrified of bees? The Bee Local honey is so good, it might be worth the risk.
10) There are bike shops that double as bars. Enough said.
What’s the coolest city in your opinion?
This trip was hosted by Travel Portland. All opinions are my own.
My recent trip to Jamaica was filled with so many memories that it’s hard not to recount them all. Everything from the picturesque beaches to the inventive culinary scene is impressive, not to mention extremely appealing to millennials. During my short but sweet stay in Jamaica I explored both Negril and Montego Bay. Although they are only about an hour or so apart by car, they felt very distinct from each other so I can only imagine what the rest of Jamaica has to offer travelers.
Many people heading to Jamaica spend a good amount of their time relaxing at the all-inclusive resorts and while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, I wanted to highlight a few additional ways to see a more cultural side of Jamaica. As tempting as it is to sleep by the beach all day drinking piña coladas (don’t worry, I’ve been there!) spend at least a day or two getting out and immersing yourself in the colorful culture waiting just outside your hotel’s door.
Volunteering at the Negril All Age School
By far the most rewarding experience while in Jamaica was getting to spend a few hours volunteering at the Negril All Age School. Whether you’re a seasoned volunteer or simply looking to dip your toes into the field while on vacation, this program makes it easy for all travelers to get involved at some level. We spent time with the children during their recess and then broke up into pairs and read to the students.
I was a little nervous at first but I left feeling really invigorated. In fact, I didn’t want to leave. When they all hugged me at the end of class, I felt so incredibly loved. Back in the day (high school) I spend my summers lifeguarding and teaching swim lessons. Although that was a decade ago, it took a visit to this local school to make me realize just how much I miss working with kids. It also was another perfect example of how happiness has little to do with one’s physical possessions and much more to do with one’s outlook on life.
As I went from classroom to classroom, I couldn’t help but compare their humble school to my upper-middle class elementary school. The two couldn’t have been more different and yet the students at Negril All Age School looked a whole lot more content than I remember being at their age. I might have been there to teach them, but it was ultimately these students who taught me a much more profound lesson. For anyone interested in getting involved during their stay, you can reserve your volunteer spot through the Rockhouse Foundation.
Visitors to Jamaica (not just the hotel itself) can contact them by phone or email and ask to help out at the school Monday through Friday. Something worth noting is that many hotels have their own community programs, so it wouldn’t hurt to ask the hotel you’re staying at about what programs they offer.
Eating Jamaican jerk at Murphy’s
Right after our volunteering experience we slowed things down with a stop at Murphy’s for a taste of Jamaican jerk. He was nice enough to open early just for us and I’m so glad he did. Our group each ordered something different on the menu and everyone raved about their food. I ordered the jerk chicken, which came with a beautifully styled tomato on top, this delicious donut-type dessert called festival (it really is a party in your mouth!) and some fresh fruit. In true Jamaican fashion, I flushed it all down with a Red Stripe.
After gobbling down our food like nobody’s business, Murphy swung by to see how we liked everything. As it turns out, Murphy’s dad originally started the restaurant, so he’s been working there his whole life. He also lives on the property and grows ackee and mango trees in the backyard.
Opting to not use black pepper, Murphy makes his own curry, jerk and other spices from the plants on his property. More information can be found on his Facebook page and make sure to stop by during opening hours (2-10pm daily). What I appreciated most about our time at Murphy’s was how approachable he was and how passionate he is about his craft. Clearly talented, his laid-back vibe and easy going nature helps create an all-around comfortable atmosphere. I wandered around the grounds while waiting for our meal and it really feels like you’re eating in someone’s home rather than a restaurant.
Visiting a traditional Rastafarian village (complete with jam session)
Jamaica is the land of Bob Marley and there are plenty of ways to dabble in the reggae arts. Our group spent a few hours at a traditional Rastafarian village. This, along with the volunteering, are the most rewarding ways to delve deeper into Jamaican culture in my opinion. When I first learned that we were going to be meeting some Rastafaris, I was intrigued but also unsure as to how authentic this would feel. Sometimes mass tourism can take away the “realness” of a place but luckily this was not the case at all at the village. After learning about some of the Rastafarian beliefs and ways of living, we followed our guide across a creek and through a grassy trail. Along the way he pointed out the different trees and what purpose each served. There was one tree that apparently hints at when a rainstorm will hit. It made me realize how powerful nature is and how much we can learn from the sights and sounds around us. Finally, we entered a quiet village area where there were members building local crafts, preparing vegetarian dishes and a few people playing the drums. After a leisurely tour through the grounds, it was time to listen to our new friends play some music. After about three songs, the band members invited us to the stage to contribute to the next few songs. I look pretty excited to be up there, don’t I? Before leaving, I stopped by the craft market to do some shopping. Similar to the Negril All Age School, I found it hard to leave this serene oasis in the middle of Jamaica.
Time Traveling at Rose Hall
When we learned that our adventure tour was canceled due to mud all over the trails, our group leaders suggested we visit Rose Hall instead. This was a completely spur-of-the-moment decision and one that filled me with a mix of anticipation and trepidation because we would be walking into ghost territories…maybe. Rose Hall is located in Jamaica but could easily fit somewhere in the American South.
There were moments when I was so swept up in the story of the “White Witch” that I did confuse my surrounding with the beautiful backdrop of Savannah or Charleston. Despite the picturesque views, the story behind Rose Hall is not so beautiful. Without getting too gruesome, because it really is a sad reflection on humanity, plantation owner Annee Palmer earned the nickname of the “White Witch” because she was so horrific to her slaves.
She managed to charm and then kill her three husbands before she herself was murdered by one of her slave lovers at the tender age of 29. Our guide was dressed in typical clothing from the 1820s when Annie first occupied the residence and as creepy as our day tour was, they also offer ones at night. While this was not originally part of our itinerary, I think it’s a good eye-opener to how far we’ve come as a human race. Subjects like slavery, murder and physical abuse are never easy but it’s important to understand our past so we can create a better future for all races, genders and ethnicities. For more information on the events that took place here, visit their website.
Snorkeling and dancing the day away
While this article focuses on how to go beyond the beaches, I’m squeezing in a cruise option because, well, technically, you aren’t on the beach. Our three hour Reggae Catamaran cruise combined soft adventure with drunken dancing. After about half hour of cruising, passengers have the opportunity to snorkel. This was the first time I opted to wear my contacts while snorkeling and that was a good decision.
There were tons of fish swimming near the reef and the water was a nice refresher from the summer heat. Once everyone is back on the boat after snorkeling, the bar opens and there is lunch served inside. There’s another stop in Margaritaville involving a slide and a trampoline floating on water. At this point, most passengers were clearly tipsy and the lifeguard in me was like “wait, are they ok?!” but of course everyone was perfectly fine.
Once everyone is back on the boat, the DJ picks up his set and people dance like there’s no tomorrow. Also worth mentioning is that this excursion is definitely geared toward the 21-35 crowd. It was nice letting loose for awhile, sipping a rum punch and laying out on the outer deck. I’ve personally never been on a cruise that combined snorkeling with a dance party and for millennials, this was the perfect mix of culture and nightlife so to speak. If you decide to follow in my footsteps, make sure to bring your camera because the views are absolutely stunning.
Looking for more opportunities to experience the real Jamaica? The Meet the People program is a great way to gain a local perspective by actually meeting and spending time with locals. We took advantage of this by setting up a meeting with fashion designer Pablo Palair and stopping by his showroom in Montego Bay.
What was the most noteworthy thing you’ve done on a trip ? Tell me in the comments below!
This trip was hosted by Visit Jamaica however all opinions are my own.
Berlin is one of those magnificent cities where biking becomes an art form. My first time there, about two years ago, I signed up for a few walking tours or simply wandered through the neighborhoods on my own. While this is certainly a great way to get a feel for local culture, biking does give a new perspective.
Here are five bike trails for every interest. Keep in mind that many of the routes will intersect, thus giving you a tour of many of Berlin’s most popular and iconic neighborhoods. Happy trails!
Berlin is a city filled with green space, which may come in the form of a spacious park or a quiet courtyard. I would start in Mitte (literally means middle, or center) and make your way to Volkspark on the edge of Friedrichshain and Prenzlauer Berg. The tree-shaded park is open 24/7 and has playgrounds, tennis courts, a pond and a restaurant. Then I’d somehow weave along from East to West until you reach the Tiergarten (pictured below). Located in central Berlin, this is where you’ll find the zoo and a few cleverly hidden beer gardens. This is a huge park so biking really is the best way to see it all. If you’re been biking all day, watching the sun set along the river is the ultimate reward. Otherwise, just stop here for a picnic before heading back to your hotel.
Berlin is one of the most fascinating cities when it comes to architecture and I didn’t quite realize this until seeing it from the bike lane. Prenzlauer Berg is one of the best examples of gentrification following the fall of the Berlin Wall. What once was a bohemian hangout for struggling artists is now a hotspot for Berlin’s trendiest residents. Because of the increase in rents, there are also a lot of families living here. Yet, if you look up at the buildings you can see that there are a few that haven’t been revamped, like the brown flat pictured below. From here, make your way to the Friedrichshain neighborhood where many of the buildings are modeled in East German architecture. On foot, I never noticed the contrasting styles. By bike, however, it is too obvious to ignore.
With gentrification came a whole lot of street art so pretty much anywhere you go in Berlin, you’re sure to stumble upon something that catches your eye. I even managed to a few of El Bocho’s “Little Lucy” graffitis. Kreuzberg is one of the areas most well-known for its street art. The famous Kreuzberg “Astronaut-Space Crusader” by Victor Ash, located near Kreuzberg’s Skalitzer Strasse, has become one of the city’s most iconic images. “Brothers” and ”Leviathan,” both work by Blu, are also here. Depending on how much time you have, Friedrichshain is another neighborhood where street art reigns supreme. Although the infamous Tacheles is no longer open, I still recommend going to Mitte to see a few different types of graffiti like stencils (made out of cardboard paper) for example.
If you’re hoping to hit up a few different markets, remember that many of them take place on the weekends. The Mauer Park flea market is one of my favorites but plan your visit around your particular interest. Arrive early in the morning to beat the crowed or swing by in the late afternoon/early evening for a massive outdoor karaoke party. The Kreuzberg market is another popular weekend pastime where you can shop for second-hand clothes, flowers and even stop for a beer in the garden next door. If you’re visiting during the week, consider heading to the Turkish Market, held on Tuesdays and Fridays. From textures to fresh fruit, color is all around. Finally, the Flea Market at Bode Museum on Museum Island is the go-to spot for antique books.
Berliners really know how to live and I’m somewhat jealous of their mastery of the whole “work/life balance.” Most people commute by bike so there will always be a place to lock your bike, and do make sure to lock it rather than testing your luck. In general though, Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte are the best spots for fashion, design and an all-around boho-chic vibe. Mitte has some of the newest and hippest bars and restaurants, making this a perfect area to stop for a light lunch or coffee. Stop by St. Oberholz to mingle with Berlin’s start-up crowd or indulge in a four-course dinner at Der Hahn Ist Tot! for 19 Euro. To really get to the heart of Berlin’s lifestyle, splurge on a tour with Henrik of Berlingaten. I’ve toured with him twice now and he eat, sleeps and breathes Berlin.