Interview with Helene Choo of The HC Lifestyle Blog

food, lifestyle, travel

I’m Helene, creator of the HC Lifestyle Blog, where I talk about all sorts of experiences, mainly related to food, health/fitness, and of course, travel. I try to live life to the fullest every day, and I like doing things my own way. I would like to inspire others to do the same by sharing my experiences, and hopefully my positive attitude and energy, with them.

Man Travels World: Are you working full-time as a freelancer? Does your website provide you with a monthly income? 

HC Lifestyle Blog: No, I have a full-time day job. I would love to work as a blogger full-time, but it’s realistically not going to be possible for a while. And that’s cool! Slow and steady progress!

What inspired you to begin a blog?

I’ve always enjoyed chronicling my experiences traveling, with food, etc. somewhere. I figured, why not gather them all in one place, and share them with the world? Plus, I love photography, and running a blog is a great way to learn and progress.

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Sitting in Parc Guëll – taken in July 2017. Gaudí’s design makes for a must-see attraction in Barcelona. The structures there are like none seen anywhere else in the world!

You write about travel, food and a healthy lifestyle. What tips do you offer readers for maintaining a healthy lifestyle while traveling?

If I stay in a hotel, I usually use the hotel gym to do my regular workouts. Going for morning runs is also a great way to explore the new place! Additionally, I walk around a lot when I travel somewhere, and some places are great for biking. There are a ton of ways to stay active : )

Tell us a go to meal/recipe you enjoy frequently.

When I’m too lazy to cook, I’ll throw together some tomato and mozzarella, and drizzle it with olive oil, oregano, and green pesto. If I want something more filling, I’ll combine it with a salad (spinach, tomato, mozzarella, hard-boiled egg, and smoked salmon or tuna, with a pesto-dressing). You can also add avocado in there. Delicious and healthy!

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Barcelona Reggaeton Beach Festival – First edition of this festival, with many well-known Reggaeton artists and a great atmosphere!

From your experience, what dish/cuisine would you travel a thousand miles to eat?

My absolute favourite cuisine is Thai. A proper pad thai, pineapple fried rice, curry, or tom yam, and for dessert mango and sticky rice. I would absolutely travel all the way to Thailand just to get the authentic dishes! My other favourites are Korean, Vietnamese, and Chinese Dim Sum!

Any advice for new writers/bloggers that want to make this lifestyle legit?

Hustle every day! And build relationships with other bloggers, influencers, brands, anyone who you can help or who can help you.

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Helene at El Escorial – taken in May 2017. El Escorial used to be the royal residence in Spain and is fascinating to visit if one wants to get out of the city of Madrid for a day.

Your website is fantastic. How do you maintain it and what costs are associated with it?

Thank you! I have a set process where I do routine maintenance before I do anything else. I also have a list of ideas for improvement that I add to whenever I come across a cool feature somewhere. The cost is quite high, but it doesn’t have to be. Personal choice, I guess. I spend a lot on convenient web apps (design, social media scheduling) and plugins.

Top 5 travel bucket list experiences? Climb Kilimanjaro, scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef, etc…?

Scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef is definitely up there! Visiting Australia, in general, is an item. I would love to go on a proper African Safari, visit Disneyland, see Hobbiton (and the rest of the LoTR film sets), and see the New 7 Wonders of the World (already been to the Great Wall and the Colosseum, so I have 5 left plus the Great Pyramid of Giza!).

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I truly enjoyed Stockholm as a city, it’s so beautiful! There are loads of green spaces, and the architecture is charmingly Nordic.

Top 5 favorite books?

The Harry Potter series (out of nostalgia), the Bartimaeus series, the Kingkiller Chronicles, the Mistborn series, the Millenium series.

Top 5 favorite films?

Ah, don’t do this to me!! I’ll try to vary them by category, otherwise, it’ll be endless…

Disney: The Lion King, Marvel: Captain America – Civil War, Drama: Intouchable (the French one), Classic: Shawshank Redemption, Comedy: Ocean’s Eleven.

How many countries have you visited/lived?

Visited, around 25, lived 5.

Next destinations in 2017/2018?

Santorini in a week, then Rotterdam, then Luxembourg (home). This summer I went to Shanghai, Barcelona, Stockholm, Valencia.

Edgard Marques - 2017-07-04 - Helene Choo (0114)

Follow Helene on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook! Be sure to get inspired at The HC Lifestyle Blog!

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Why Georgia? Book a Weekend, or Relocate to Atlanta, Dudes

food, lifestyle, travel

Honestly, I have never met a fellow traveler on the road saying, “I plan to visit Atlanta, Georgia on my holiday!” Oh, foolish, foolish people. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago. Sure, those bustling municipalities are tops of many lists when visiting the United States. Those beautiful white sandy beaches of Florida are definitely worth a visit too. This post is not meant to sway you away from visiting those locales, but instead, to add another absolutely worthy option to the list – ATL (handy airport code too).

Wheels up!

Guess what travel geeks? Atlanta is home to the major airline – Delta. Even better, Business Insider ranked Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport as the busiest airport in the world in 2016. Not only does this mean travelers will find great airfare deals, say via my favorite website for booking flights, Skyscanner, through this major hub, but if traveling elsewhere it’s “within a two-hour flight of 80% of the US population.”

Check out Skyscanner’s Deals Updated Weekly!

Spin That Outkast Vinyl

Every time I am around the city I pick up a copy of Creative Loafing. This local publication is chock full of happenings and is the best reference for the local music scene. Top concert venues include The Tabernacle, Lakewood Amphitheater, Masquerade, Fox Theater, Terminal West, Verizon Wireless Amphitheater and the Georgia Theater up in Athens.

Traveling from out of state or out of the country provides the opportunity to stay a while and take in a festival at nearby Piedmont Park or Centennial Olympic Park. Sweetwater 420Fest (sponsored by Sweetwater Brewery in April (duh), Shaky Knees and Shaky Beats in May, and soon to be Music Midtown (September 16-17, 2017) are the major jamfests in the city.  2017 Music Midtown Lineup

Netflix and Chill?

Ever heard of The Walking Dead? Of course, you have! The hit AMC television show is one of many productions that call Atlanta home. AdWeek reports, “According to Georgia’s Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office, 245 film and TV productions were shot in Georgia during the fiscal year 2016 (between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016). Those productions spent $2.02 billion during that time and generated an economic impact of $7.2 billion.”

Numerous Marvel movies including Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Spiderman, The Fate of the Furious, Netflix’s Stranger Things and FX’s Archer were all produced in ATLwood. And here is my shameless plug from that 1-second clip of me in The Watch with Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill (0:17 seconds).

Even ManTravelsWorld likes to pretend…erm…I mean act…

Whet Your Appetite AND Wet Your Whistle

Let’s be real. The single best part about traveling to new places is the opportunity to try new food and drink, in excess. And regret the gluttony later? Never! There is no better place on EARTH to overeat than in the United States. Mind you, this is not a “WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!” proclamation. On the contrary. Yet, Atlanta is home to some of the best up and coming chefs/restaurateurs and breweries in the United States so go nuts!

A great list of critics and readers picks can be found, once again, inside Creative Loafing’s “Best of Atlanta” section. I also recommend Atlanta Magazine’s “50 Best Restaurants” as a reference. As for the wild ruffians traveling to the metropolitan area, I found this reference from Thrillist to be quite exhaustive and much better than anything I could put together in 24 hours.

Let it be known I am a super fan of Bravo TV’s Top Chef. When I returned from studying in Valencia, Spain in 2008 it was the first show I really sat down and watched religiously. Partially due to my naive understanding of Spanish food and wine (I ate and drank plenty!), but this does not make one a gastronome. The show conjured up so many memories from my recent travels at the time. A featured cheftestant on the show was Richard Blais from Georgia. Since watching and becoming a fan of his, I began to notice how many incredibly talented people whip up good eats and bevs around the city.

Home of the 1995 World Series Champions…

Atlanta is home to world-class, innovative athletic facilities like the brand spanking new Mercedes-Benz Stadium and recently debuted pro baseball stadium of SunTrust Park in Marietta. Notably, the city has not crowned a champion in any of the major leagues since the Braves in 1995. Tom Brady and co. dashed our hopes in Super Bowl LI last February. However, the sports gods are gracious as our city will host the 2018 College Football National Championship, Super Bowl LIII in 2019, and NCAA Men’s Final Four in 2020.

Professional teams calling the “A” home: Atlanta Braves (SunTrust Park), Atlanta Dream (McCamish Pavilion at Georgia Tech), Atlanta Falcons (Mercedes-Benz Stadium), Atlanta Hawks (Philips Arena), Atlanta United FC (Mercedes-Benz Stadium). Collegiate athletics are often larger events than many of the pro teams, and often times, fans of Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia roam the downtown and midtown areas cheering on their teams.

Don’t forget Atlanta was the host city for the 1996 Summer Olympics where Bob Costas, the former voice of Olympic coverage in the U.S. said this about his favorite moments when speaking to USA Today: “When I have to pick one, I always say Muhammad Ali lighting the torch in Atlanta in 1996 because it was such a unique moment. It seemed to pull together so much of his life and a good portion of the history of sports and social issues in the second half of the 20th century.” However, as much of the city has profited from stadium development, many former venues remain vacant and unused.

The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) hosted the athlete village and swimming and diving at their facilities and still thrive over 20 years later. [Side note — It’s worth mentioning GaTech is a globally renowned engineering and research institute where students get to play with lasers, robots and are sometimes badasses at public speaking.]


Remember, when planning your next international jaunt Stateside, or domestic getaway for the Americans out there, Atlanta should be creeping up your destination list as a frontrunner. This post doesn’t even hold a candle to what this city has to offer (don’t chastise me for omitting anything, ATLiens) and by no means is a comprehensive guide to Georgia’s capital city. Maybe there will be a Part II coming.

Let me know your thoughts and musings in the comments section!

What are some of your favorite underrated cities?

Seychelles: Culture, History, & Things to Do on Mahe Island!

lifestyle, travel

The following is a guest post by Elizabeth Wanderlust of Digital Travel Guru.

Seychelles a stunning tropical island located in the Indian Ocean, which lies 1000 miles of the East Coast of Africa. Mahe is Seychelles capital and biggest island. Seychelles has a total of approx 115 islands. The current population of Seychelles is approximately 90,000 on the island of Mahe that boasts wonderful tropical white sand beaches, with breathtaking jungle clad mountains as well as numerous island hopping adventures.

I booked a car for my two-week trip here and went exploring every day from sunrise to sunset. With over 60, yes, 60 beaches on this island, you won’t struggle to find a secluded one to call it your own to enjoy.

The island does not stop at just beaches. There are a host of other attractions and places to see. Today, Seychelles is also well known as a world-class honeymoon destination, endless tropical beaches, fishing, bird watching, sailing and scuba diving.

The great thing with Seychelles is that it has a FREE visa on arrival for all tourists. However, you need to show a return ticket and accommodation booking at the immigration counter before you gain entry which you might be asked for.

History of Seychelles

  • Seychelles was charted by the Portuguese and visited by Asians, the French were the first to officially colonize the Seychelles, in the mid-1700’s. They took control in 1756 at a time when piracy was very common. The islands were named after the then French finance minister, Jean Moreau de Sé
  • The Seychelles prospered better under the British, who came into the country between the 17th and 18th century, during the days of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. The 1814 Treaty of Paris saw the ceding of the Seychelles to Britain and it became a crown colony separate from Mauritius in 1903.
  • The British made changes on the islands economically, with the establishing of coconut, sugar cane, and tea plantations. Cinnamon and vanilla are also exported from the island.
  • The Seychelles was granted independence from Britain in 1976, and has been a free country since just the early 1990s and remains within the Commonwealth.

Culture

The locals are known as Seychellois and their ancestors are a combination of, West Indian Creole, Asian traders, and a mix of British and French settlers. The official language is Creole. The island inhabitants through the centuries have developed their own music that features lots of drumming, dance, and dress, which are best seen during one of the main festivals, such as the Creole Festival.

Arts and crafts are prominent, too, with painted silk fabrics popular items to see in the galleries or souvenir shops. Jewelry and gifts here are crafted from coconut shells as well as pottery items and sea shells.

 

Below are 10 things to do & see on Mahe Island by car:

Car Rental Cost Per Day: £30 to £35 including insurance.

Taxi’s: Are extremely expensive so if you want to explore the island it will cost up to £30 for just one trip.

Tours: With a private driver will cost you from £130 for 1/2 a day tour and up to £175 for a full day tour.

Buses: The Island has buses, if you’re on a budget, or do not drive, are very cheap and reliable.

1. Botanical Garden

Located in Mont Fleuri, on the outskirts of Victoria, the Botanical Garden is one of Seychelles’ oldest National Monuments, dating back more than a century. The gardens are huge and have a wide collection of mature, exotic and endemic plants within the five acres of landscaped and beautifully maintained tropical gardens.

The garden is home to palms and a wide variety of spice and fruit trees most of which can only be seen in this garden. An added attraction is the population of giant tortoises from Aldabra, some of which are over 150 years old.

If you are lucky you may see fruit bat colonies in the taller trees overhead. The latest additions to the gardens is an orchid house which holds a collection of brightly coloured orchids including Seychelles’ own native orchids. A great and relaxing place to have a picnic. There is an entrance fee cost of apron £5.50 per person.

2. Takamaka Beach

Anse Takamaka is a beautiful, picturesque bay in the southwest of Mahé. Here, visitors can enjoy pristine sand and incredible turquoise water, as well as the stunning Takamaka trees that give the beach its name. Anse Takamaka is also a snorkeling paradise. We spent the day here chilling, swimming, snorkeling and had a beach picnic and there’s lots of space to park your car.

3. Victoria: Can be explored on foot

Some of the main attractions are:

  • Clock Tower
  • Seychelles National Museum
  • National Library and Art Gallery
  • Le Jardin Du Roi Spice Garden
  • Tea Factory
  • Bel Air Cemetery
  • The Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar, Temple is the only Hindu temple in the Seychelles.
  • Market’s selling crafts, food, and souvenirs

A great place to spend 1/2 the day exploring, there are lots of restaurants and small local cafes in the area and good parking.

The famous Intendance beach in southern Mahé offers half a mile of powder white sand and huge breakers. There is no reef so the waves are much larger than most of the other beaches around the island, making it more suitable for surfing rather than swimming at most times.

During the southeast trade winds the waves can reach fearsome heights, but in the northwest trade wind season, the sea is calmer. We did not swim in this beach as the waves were huge, however, it’s a great place to chill out and have a beach cocktail.

5. Mount Morne

Mahé has a mountain called Morne Seychellois that is over 900 meters high and located in the Morne Seychellois Park. The Morne Seychellois National Park offers many different day hiking trails, where the enigmatic, central part of the park is virtually deserted and can only be reached by walking trails.

Some of the most popular are:

  • Danzil to Anse Major following the rocky coastline
  • Glacis to Anse Etoile (buses are available from the Anse Etoile end point)
  • Victoria/Beau Vallon passing through the historical section of Victoria
  • Tea Factory to Morne Blanc (a fantastic walk through the beautiful foliage of the Morne Seychellois National Park)
  • La Reserve and Brulee containing one of Mahé’s best remaining palm forests with five of the six unique Seychelles palms present along the walk

6. Creole Cruise

Marie-Antoinette Restaurant is one of the best places on Mahé to enjoy authentic and delicious Seychellois comfort food prepared in the traditional way using local organic ingredients. The atmosphere is warm and relaxed and food reasonably priced, it is one of the most famous restaurants on the island with the locals, and tourists.

7. Anse-Major

Anse Major is a beach bordering the preserved Morne Seychellois National Park on the northern coast of Mahe, Seychelles in the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of Africa. To get to the beach you must either hike the nature trail along steep granite slopes or hire a boat from the near by Beau-Vallon Bay. We were lucky to be staying 5 minutes from here and we went to this beach once by local boat and once by hiking.

8. Takamaka Rum Distillery

On this popular tour, you learn the story behind the island’s main distillery and about the rum-making procedure. The tour runs for between 30 and 45 minutes and concludes with a tasting and an opportunity to purchase bottles of rum. There is also a forest walk and a small stand of sugar cane. It has a great restaurant and bar on site. We bought 3 bottles of local rum which was approx. £8.00 per bottle.

9. Eden Island

The exclusive Eden Island development is located just off Mahé and is home to a number of luxurious villas, maisons, and apartments. The development also boasts a marina with private moorings for each residence on the island. Eden Island is also well equipped with secluded beaches, restaurants, bars, swimming pools, a gymnasium, child-friendly play areas and a world-class shopping centre. We sat and looked at the luxury boats and yachts in the marine worth millions of pounds, whilst having a cold cocktail. This is a luxury spot and drinks and food here are expensive. You can park at the shopping centre and walk around.

10. Anse-Royale

Anse Royale is one of the most popular beaches on Mahé, located on the southeast coast of the island. The small town that lies next to the beach shares the name “Anse Royale”, and contains numerous different facilities, including a petrol station, hospital, banks, the Seychelles University, and a number of different accommodations. This is a great beach for windsurfing and swimming. The village has numerous places to eat and shop and can be visited by foot. Transport options in this area are good.

 

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Pack a Bag and Go! Traveling is Easy.

lifestyle, travel

To travel is one of the easiest, yet most frightening ideas out there. Honestly, it scares the bejesus out of us. But how simple is it to grab a backpack, fill it with two days of clothes and hop in the car or on a plane and light out to a new locale? People come up with all kinds of excuses (myself included) to avoid these potentially life-altering travel experiences. And in our socially charged technological landscape, becoming instafamous and assuming a been there, done that mentality has saturated the basic goal of travel itself.

If you are debating a weekend road trip, backpacking around Asia, or thinking about a long-term shake up overseas, the truth can often be what everyone doesn’t want to hear – travel is often so simple.

Most Common Roadblocks

  1. Time: Minimal vacation (especially if from the United States), family matters, other priorities.
  2. Money: rent, car payments, mortgages, shiny toys.
  3. Anxiety (the unknown): One of my favorite quotes, “Fear of the unknown is the greatest fear of all.” This world is huge and we are mortal beings (for now).

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5 Tips to Pack a Bag and Go!

  1. Get inspired! Read a book, watch a film/tv show, or visit a local outdoor store to pique your interest. Since the early days of Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, I have always been inspired by Anthony Bourdain and the Emmy award-winning film crew at Zero Point Zero Productions.
  2. Pick a location/interest. Plan a trip to a concert, snowboarding trip, food destination.
  3. Save some scrilla. Sell those shiny toys or hustle side jobs to earn extra cash.
  4. Set a goal. No matter if it’s an actual date or a permanent idea. Ex) Traveling to all continents by age 30 (my goal!).
  5. Take the plunge and book the trip! The dream starts to become a reality. 

 

Share some of your travel adventures in the comments section! I am not instafamous but follow me on Instagram @ManTravelsWorld.

My Five Day Vacation in Thailand: Krabi and Ko Puh

food, lifestyle, Thailand, travel

Throughout October I am featuring Memory Monday. A throwback to past travel posts. No. 3 features a video after my quick vacation to visit ESL teacher friends in Thailand. What a life changing trip!

After my contract in South Korea ended, I went to visit some friends in Krabi, Thailand. We spent five days touring their town, riding scooters across the region, relaxing on the beaches in Ao Nang and Ko Puh, and finished the trip with a short layover in Bangkok. I don’t think this video gives justice to the beauty of the country and I surely will return to further explore this majestic landscape.

I wish I had pictures of the incredible dishes we sampled while in Thailand. From kaeng keow wan (sweet green curry) to Massaman, the food alone is worth the trip.

Enjoy the footage and let me know what you think!

Vista point in Ao Nang, Thailand

A view of Railay Beach between Krabi and Ao Nang

Colombian Road Trip! Off the Beaten Path in Tayrona National Park

lifestyle, travel

Throughout October I am featuring Memory Monday. A throwback to past travel posts. No. 1 features a road trip that I took with some friends while volunteering with Emerging Voices and IVHQ in Cartagena, Colombia. 

I needed a weekend out of Cartagena. I also needed a break from the confines of our volunteer house. As the minority group of the volunteer clan, an adventure was needed to explore and raucously introduce Colombia to some North American male citizens. Relax, Mom and Dad. Only the clean material makes this blog! Barry, Eliot and I left Cartagena by bus in the afternoon with a destination of Tanganga, Colombia and the close by, majestic locale of Tayrona National Park. The plan was to stay in Tanganga overnight and then hike through Tayrona on Saturday morning. After a great first night, including the accommodations at the Davinga Hostel, and despite the forewarned and early construction wake up call, we happily ventured to Santa Marta to catch a bus to the park.
The entrance for foreigners is about $17 USD.

 The entrance for foreigners is about $17 USD.

Once inside Tayrona, we caught a quick ride about a 1/4 of the way into the park and began our three mile trek to an unknown campsite. We experienced breathtaking vistas and aqua-hued Caribbean Sea landscapes for much of that first day – which made the trek much more enjoyable. There were various campsites and small restaurants where we were able to stop and replenish our water as the sun beat down on us at midday. After two and a half hours we finally arrived at the Cabo San Lucas campsite and backpacker haven.

Tayrona National Park

For $10 we each had a dirt covered hammock for the night and a fantastic place to take in a swim. The atmosphere was relaxed despite the small population of Colombians and international backpackers scattered throughout tents, hammocks, and small huts. The night was uneventful except for the wild horses and donkeys running through the aforementioned sleeping situation. Eliot, who previously coined his personal slogan “Yo soy un burro” was woken up in the middle of the night by a donkey looking for some late night loving.

    Eliot loves the donkeys. It's a mutual feeling.
Eliot loves the donkeys. It’s a mutual feeling.

Sunday morning was an extremely difficult day in which we knew would be long, but never envisioned the technical hike taking four hours. We decided to take a different path this time around to a different exit within the park. Instead of a calm, leisurely stroll along beaches and crystal clear water, our path consisted of 1,000 meter vertical changes and gigantic boulders that we had to scale by hardened efforts. My clothes contained as much sweat as if I had taken a dip in the ocean. My hamstrings and quads felt like they would burst. Climb after climb our trek felt like it would never end. However, after the entire morning’s hike and multiple pit stops we finally arrived at the other exit and gulped down cold bottles of water without a care in the world.
Almost at the end of our 4 mile trek.

Almost at the end of our 4 mile trek.

Two more buses, a taxi ride, and five hours later, we maxed out our Colombian road trip experience. To celebrate our return “home” to Cartagena, we grabbed a cold Aguila beer and downed slices of local pizza while our street in Barrio Crespo, as content as the three of us on a Sunday evening, sighed a relief as the weekend was complete.

Catching up on some z's to Tanganga.

Looks like I am at peace with the world after a visit to Tayrona National Park.

A Football Weekend in Manchester

lifestyle, travel

The beautiful thing about backpacking in Europe is the sheer proximity of countries and emblematic cities. All within a bus, train or plane ride – and with some creative planning – the opportunities to cost effectively travel those distances. One constant reminder that has always been in my mind since studying abroad in Spain in 2008 has been exactly that. Especially compared to the travel costs and accommodation options in the United States. When the chance to visit a truly historical and football crazed city (with TWO teams in the English Premier League) came my way, you can bet I did not hesitate one bit to make that trip!

Manchester, England is home to two of the most famous football clubs in the world – Manchester United and Manchester City. My local contacts and family friends that have been fans of either of these teams for their entire lives will tell you that the city itself has a severe superiority complex about which side is the true Manchester team. United encompassing fans of a higher class in the city itself, along with a massive base of fans from outside the municipality, and City being the bluer collar, edgier base. Especially when looking back at the last twenty to thirty years of the successes, and lack thereof, for both sides. United being the more dominant team over the course of three decades, as City has supplanted them in recent years due to new ownership. However, that is an entirely different subject.

Outside the stadium and fan shop entrance.

Outside the stadium and fan shop entrance at Old Trafford!

The complex contains the first team stadium with the Academy grounds linked by bridge.

Manchester City’s complex contains the first team stadium with the Academy grounds linked by bridge.                                                        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My weekend in Manchester was all about diving into the local football scene and experiencing the city as a traveling fan. Luckily, as mentioned earlier, the opportunity to visit the city and attend an English Premier League game, ironically enough in an adjacent town, was incredibly special. The chance to witness my first ever game in England at the Stoke City vs. Bournemouth match. United was at home over the weekend, but for those that are not privy to the difficulty in obtaining tickets (especially at an affordable price), my adventures in Manchester were limited to visiting the stadiums, surrounding pubs and fan shops. Plus the beauty of England as a footballing culture is that there are first-class teams all across the country.

Additional highlights in Manchester as a traveling football fan:

National Football Museum – http://www.nationalfootballmuseum.com/

Manchester United and Old Trafford – http://www.manutd.com/en/Visit-Old-Trafford.aspx

Manchester City and Etihad Campus – https://www.mcfc.com/the-club/etihad-campus-development

National Football Museum Entrance

The entrance is free and completely worth a visit if you are a fan of the sport.

Luckily for me Stoke-on-Trent was a speedy, yet serene train ride away and showed me a whole other side to the diaspora that is English football. Stoke another working class town with strong ties to the manufacturing industry, where the diehard fans spend their hard earned dollars to attend games every week, despite not having a tenth of the successes (in terms of trophies and league championships) that the neighboring football giants have procured over the course of history. Nevertheless, as I made my way up a winding, tree laden path away from the cold cobblestone streets below to the Britannia Stadium, home of Stoke City FC, the locals joined me in soaking up the atmosphere and what little sunshine was peaking its way through the clouds early that afternoon.

Over the past year I had the privilege of working directly with the Stoke City FC Academy coaches and staff. This is how I find myself visiting England to watch a home match for the club. And the afternoon was truly an unforgettable experience for me as I joined one of the coaches in the stands to enjoy a stressful, albeit victorious game for the home side. Personally, I think I was the good luck charm as this was their first win of the season! A massive thanks for the hospitality from the professional staff at the club during my visit.

All smiles after a 2-1 Stoke City victory at the Britannia Stadium.

All smiles after a 2-1 Stoke City victory at the Britannia Stadium.

One interesting side note is that fans can purchase and consume alcohol within the stadium (something not allowed in Spain), but cannot bring it into the stands to drink. And guess what? Their stands were almost spotless after the game. Imagine that as a fan in the United States. Half of the pull of the American entertainment that is called professional sporting events is the fact that it is a medium fueled by socializing, and if you choose, the chance to imbibe in a local, hop infused beverage – if not something stronger.

The home of Stoke City FC is set above the town and away from the surrounding neighborhoods.

The home of Stoke City FC is set above the town and away from the surrounding neighborhoods.

 

 

The magnificence of the world’s beautiful game is that there is non-stop play and a goal can happen in an instant. If you blink, and you miss a beat, or a pass, it could change the outcome of the entire game. So, fans are glued in their seats watching all the action. Not hanging out in a swimming pool with an umbrella drink beyond the grandstands. But, I digress.

Of course, as I continue to travel chasing sport, there are other events that capture the essence of a city, or an entire nation, while I am there locally. Particularly during that weekend in Manchester for the England vs. Wales Rugby World Cup fixture. This game wasn’t just a Monday Night Football type match-up between two powerhouses. It wasn’t just a game seven of a MLB Championship Series feel. This game was an all out, match of the century, both nations’ pride at stake kind of event. England was the favorite on their home soil with pundits predicting it to be close, but vital for both countries rugby programs. The media hyped this game so much that even I was pumped to watch an entire rugby match for the first time ever.

That being said, I found myself in quite possibly the worst place to watch this epic game. Apparently at Waves bar in Manchester, chosen because it was close to my hotel and I was exhausted from the day, no one with the exception of two other backpackers, five men from Scotland, and a handful of older Brits, gave a flying f*** about the game. Needless to say Wales upset the mighty English side, the Bachelorette party inside the bar continued to pound shots despite the result and everyone went on their way to pretend the loss did not happen. I imagine this was not the best night to be celebrating as an Englishman.

The rest of my time in Manchester was spent walking the city, hopping on metro trains (and sometimes heading in the wrong direction for 45 minutes!), grabbing a drink at the famed Trafford Bar outside the United stadium and navigating my way through the grounds at Old Trafford and the Etihad campus. Despite not actually witnessing a match in Manchester during the weekend, my time was well spent as I covered more than most people would in that span. My feet were seriously happy that I was only in Manchester for three nights. Next time I’ll be sure to pack gel insoles.

Reflecting on My First Trip to Paris

lifestyle, travel

Paris.

A city synonymous with romance, cabarets and strolls along the Seine.

The Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Notre Dame.

Michelin-starred restaurants, oenophiles and haute cuisine.

Unlike my weak poetic structure, these landmarks and iconic bits of French culture have been influencing the world for centuries. Real life adventures and romanticized versions of this fashion, food and love symbol of the modern world have created an affinity towards France’s capital for many travelers. There is that special something in the ‘City of Light’.

Hastily, a week after my first visit to Paris those same amber-hued lights flickered for a brief moment. As lovers were taking in the night air, families were dining at their favorite brasseries and entertainment aficionados were enjoying a concert or a football match, one terrible act, in an instant, changed the course of their lives forever. But only for a brief moment. You see, the strength of an incredibly diverse Parisian landscape may have been battle-tested, it may have been targeted as a site for hatred, but it would not be held victim to terror. The French and international brethren across the globe would not let this global threat succeed in diminishing this masterful metropolis’ spirits.

I was conflicted as to how I wanted to write this post. Would it be a tribute to such a wonderful city? Or to the people whose lives were forever changed that Friday evening? Maybe I could voice my anger and disgust for those being held responsible?

We all had an opinion after the news unfolded in front of our eyes real-time via our cell phones, tablets and computers. Many of us having only dreamed of one day embracing this city, strolling along the cobblestone streets, retracing footsteps of other Francophiles. I was so very fortunate to share some incredible experiences with some incredible people a week before those terrible acts.

That is why I want to use this post as a reminder that if you dream of traveling, embracing a city or culture for the romanticized versions of what you seek, do not be afraid to chase those dreams. However, try to always remember the purity, the good. Remember that this world is beautiful. Nothing should stop of us from demonstrating our fervor by willingly enjoying the finer things in life with the finest people we know. No matter if that means sipping wine on a sunny day in front of the Eiffel Tower, listening to jazz albums on repeat, or simply having a Skype conversation with loved ones.

Paris taught us all a lesson we need not forget.

Royal Caribbean #AtSeaStories Featured Facebook Campaign

lifestyle, Royal Caribbean, travel

For the past two months I have been quite fortunate to be featured on the Royal Caribbean Careers Facebook page. Each #AtSeaStories post shows a glimpse into my life as a ship-based employee on the Adventure of the Seas. As I am on the homestretch of my first contract with RCL, it is an exciting time as I look to sign on again for another contract. Below I have included snapshots to each post. The page has over 135,000 followers around the globe and has generated some buzz. Check out the RCL Careers Facebook page for more information!

#AtSeaStories #1

#AtSeaStories #2

#AtSeaStories #3 

 

#AtSeaStories #4