Category Archives: Travel Tips

I’ve been there. Done that. Made the mistakes. This is my advice to you to help you have the best time possible.

Dia De Muertos in Oaxaca

Ok so lately I haven’t been doing as much research about the places I go. Fuck it! I’m trying to let things unfold organically and just go with the flow.  Less Stressful. I like to tell myself. So I only googled ‘dia de los muertos oaxaca’ a few times before my trip. Not much came up, but I  thought I had a basic idea of what I was getting in to. Turns out I did not. Have any idea what I was getting in to. I like solo independent travel. No groups, no tours. Authentic experiences only. Well in Oaxaca over dia de muertos those are REALLY hard to come by.

The hotel I stayed at had a tour desk offering Dia de Muertos tours. (It’s Dia de Muertos FYI…not Dia de los Muertos). I didn’t inquire because, like I said, I’m not a tour person. I thought I could do it on my own and I wanted an authentic experience. But once you get there you realize the area you’re dealing with is large and spread out. There are a shit ton of villages and there’s a lot going on. But nobody seems to know exactly what is going on where and when. So there’s no fucking way in hell you’re gonna be able to have an authentic experience on your own unless you speak to EVERY single taxi driver/person you see and ask if they know what celebrations are happening that night. See if you can get a general consensus and use that info to plan each night.

The celebrations start on October 31st and go through November 3rd or 4th depending on what village. There are a few very popular ones that you will hear about that are supposed to be ‘the best’ (like Xoxocotlan), but EVERY village has a celebration and there are a million villages so there not only are a shit ton of options, but there is quite a bit you will miss out on. And BTW Xoxocotlan is a shit show. Tours go to it. It’s VERY well decorated, but there’s a million people. I went by myself. Took a taxi that told me I’d be fucked on the way home ’cause there aren’t any taxis out there. So I panicked and rushed through the old cemetery (there’s an old one and a new one – which I completely forgot)  before I was stranded in Xoxo all night. before Only to find out it was all LIES! I asked a vendor and they told me there were group taxis (different than the yellow ones) around the corner and I got back to Oaxaca just fine around midnight. The other place that celebrates on October 31st is Atzompa. But in my panic about getting stranded in the middle of nowhere I forgot to write that down and missed out on that one. Damnit! Next time.

The next few nights were spent following a list that I found on line that listed a few other villages that celebrated on different days. The list was wrong. I took taxis to various villages and each one was a bust. The celebration was either the night before or the night after. But after that happened on November 2nd my taxi driver took me about 35 miles outside of Oaxaca center to a random village that was having their comparsa (village parade that lasts all night) which was absolutely amazing. I spend all night driving from village to village taking part in any comparsas we could find. It was an amazing experience. One that I will never forget.

And forget about asking at the ‘Tourist’ kiosks. They have pamphlets for the activities happening in town that are geared toward the 50/60/70 year old crowd that’s in town for the holiday. There wasn’t a single thing on their pamphlet that seemed authentic or was something I’d be interested in.

So short story boring. If you wanna do Dia de Muertos independently:
++Pretend you want to go on a tour and ask about which cemeteries they go to THAT night. Then…
++Find a reliable taxi to take you, wait, and drive you around all night. – BE CAREFUL WITH THIS ONE. I HAD VERY GOOD LUCK, BUT I DID MEET 2 YOUNG KIDS WHO’S TAXI THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO RETURN TO GET THEM NEVER CAME. IF I HADN’T HAVE COME ALONG THEY WOULD HAVE SPENT THE NIGHT ON THE SIDE OF A RURAL VILLAGE ROAD OR IN THE CEMETERY WITH THE FAMILIES I SUPPOSE. WE WERE THE ONLY TOURISTS THERE.
++Ask around as to what’s going on and where. And be prepared for a few misses. There is SO much going on. You might not necessarily get to where you wanted to go, but you might just end up having a better time if you are open and just roll with whatever comes up.

Have fun and be safe!
p.s. Oaxaca is the safest state in Mexico so use common sense but don’t be paranoid. Or scared. Or nervous. Or….

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Coney Island, Brooklyn.

Get out of Manhattan! Come on you can do it! Go spend the day at Coney Island. It’ll be amazing. Take the D, F, N or Q train from midtown. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour on the train, but it’s like another planet. The journey is worth it.

Coney Island is at the very very bottom of Brooklyn and it has its own very unique vibe. There’s no other place like it. It’s very popular in the summer when Luna Park & the beaches are open (#shitshowcentral.com), but I like going out there in the fall and winter when there’s hardly anybody around and it’s much MUCH quieter. During the winter I think they do a polar bear swim every Sunday around noon. Crazy fuckers. And Tom’s on the boardwalk is open all year round. So do brunch at Tom’s and then go watch the Polar Bears. Then go drinking.

There are some great dive bars in Coney Island that are open all year round. Ruby’s on the boardwalk is a classic. They also have food for sale. Peggy O’Neill’s is another classic located under the baseball stadium on Surf Ave. They have good bar food and a great jukebox.  And the Coney Island Brewery recently opened right near Peggy O’Neill’s at 1904 Surf Avenue.

In between a walk on the boardwalk and bar hopping you should check out the Coney Art Walls and stop by the Coney Island Museum on Surf Avenue and see what’s going on there. They have quite a few OnlyInConeyIsland programs (Circus Sideshow anyone?) and they have a bar!

The hour on the train is totally worth it. Just do it!

 

 

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Savannah, GA – 1 day is 1 too many.

Savannah was one of my least favorite places I’ve ever been. EVER! It smells like shit and the nickname of ‘Slow – vannah’ is completely 100% right on because there’s fuck all to do. Dislike. But if you’ve already bought your ticket and you can’t get a refund then here’s some tips to help you survive your, hopefully less than, 3 days there.

Where not to stay:

DO NOT STAY at The Thunderbird Inn. They try to tell you it’s the ‘hippest hotel in Savannah’, but it’s a shit hole. There’s nothing hip about it. It’s dirty, old and overpriced. Being they charge over $100 per night, you’d think they could afford to make some improvements. AVOID AVOID AVOID.

What to do:

I love ghosts, ghost stories, cemeteries, haunted hotels, haunted pubs, etc…And Savannah’s claim as ‘The Most Haunted City in America’ is one of the reasons I decided to visit (that and the fact that you can drink in public). But all three ghost tours I went on more or less sucked. So choose your ghost tours carefully and it’s probably a good idea to lower your expectations. Then hope and pray you get a good tour guide.

Ghost City Tours has a money back guarantee. So technically you can’t go wrong with them. They even do a haunted pub crawl. Which I went on. It was OK. We didn’t actually go in to many places. Most of the time we just stopped in front of the place, the guides told a story and then we moved on. My tour guides weren’t the best :/

Spend an afternoon wandering around Bonaventure Cemetery. You can get a cab out there for around $10. I think that’s the easiest thing to do if you don’t have a car. It’s a beautiful cemetery, pretty big with lots of trees covered in Spanish moss.

Two of the most visited graves are that of Little Gracie and Johnny Mercer. Little Gracie is located at Lot 99 in Section E, off of Mullryne Way. Johnny Mercer is located at Lot 48 in Section H, along Johnny Mercer Lane.

When I went out there the Grave Finder machine wasn’t working and the office was close. Probably best to call ahead and get any gravesite information before you make the trip out there. If you are looking for somebody there is no way you’ll find them with out the location information. The place is huge.
Skip River Street. I wanted to like it, but it’s just a bunch of restaurants and shops for tourists. Nothing cute about it. Except for the cobblestone. The best part about it were the narrow, old, steep stairs leading from River Street up to Bay Street. Danger Will Robinson.
Moon River Brewing Company was one of my least favorite places in Savannah, but it’s seriously haunted so I suggest making a REALLY QUICK stop. Buy a drink and then ask to see the basement. I didn’t see anything or capture anything on film, but It’s supposedly extra special haunted. It’s been featured on Ghost Adventures and probably a few other ghost hunting programs.

Where to eat:

For breakfast I went to The Sentient Bean every day. They serve delicious vegetarian/vegan food and their coffee is organic and fair trade.

I had several delicious meals at Zunzi’s II. I highly recommend the Fisherman’s Deck Sandwich and their special sauces OMG. So good. They have a good beer selection as well. Reasonable prices and delicious food = lots of people. Be prepared for a bit of a wait. But it’s worth it!

And The Olde Pink House holy shit. One of the best meals I’ve ever had. It’s expensive, but worth the splurge. Sit in the basement. It has more ambience. And it’s haunted! By a girl who will lock you in the ladies room. I guess the toilet used to be the dry goods closet so she sees you in there, thinks you’re stealing things, then locks you in. At least that’s the story one of the employees told me. I didn’t get locked in. I was disappointed 🙁

Where to drink:

The best dive bar I found was Abes on Lincoln. Get it? Abes? On Lincoln? HA!

There’s a hidden speakeasy on Williamson Street. Supposedly you need to ask around in order to get a key so you can get it, but I had a few people tell me that all you had to do was knock on the door and they’ll let you in. I went on a Sunday and it was closed. Damn shame.

Instead I ended up around the corner at Chucks Bar (301 W River Street). And I loved every minute of it! It’s a gay bar, but you can’t really tell until you sit down and start talking to people. It’s very divey, they have a jukebox and it’s haunted! The bartender had some great stories to tell about spinning bar stools and furniture being moved around. His stories gave me chills. Really freaked me the fuck out!

My favorite coffee shops (from most to least favorite):

THE BEST PART OF SAVANNAH:

And last but not least the BEST part of Savannah is that one of the runways at Savannah/Hilton Head International was built around two gravestones. Apparently part of the deal with the airport was that they could use the land, and they could move everybody else that was in the family cemetery, but they couldn’t move the graves of Catherine and Richard Dotson. So if you’re on the right hand side of the plane pay attention as you’re taxiing and you can see them right before take off.

Airport graves at SVA.
There’s a headstone in the middle of the photo, slightly to the right.

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San Lazaro Cemetery

I wasn’t feeling Antigua. It was beautiful, but there were way too many tourists (most of whom are there to learn Spanish at one of the 3 million ‘Language Schools’ in the town) and I felt it was lacking authenticity. Whatever that means. I don’t know I just didn’t like it. I didn’t feel like it was very ‘Guatemalan’.  But it was the only place I went in Guatemala so what the hell do I know.

With that said, one of my favorite things about Antigua was the San Lazaro cemetery which is located directly behind the bus terminal.

With regards to safety…I’m not really sure. To me ALL cemeteries feel like the perfect place to get robbed. This one felt no different. I went with a friend. Perhaps it’s not the best idea to go by yourself? I’m not sure. I would ask the Tourist Police if it’s safe to do so (they have a booth near the campground). We were told not to go to Cerro de la Cruz by ourselves by…. I can’t even remember who….other tourists, the Lying Planet, Tripadvisor, all of the above. But when I asked the Tourist Police they said it was 100% completely fine to walk up there by yourself. SO. Ask the Tourist Police if you’re feeling hesitant. Be smart, but don’t let fear stop you!

Cementerio San Lazaro

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A long weekend in Memphis, TN.

I really liked Memphis! It’s gritty and kinda run down. A little scary at times :/ In some areas I felt like I could get mugged at any moment in broad daylight because I was the only person on the street, nothing was open and there were several, what look to be, abandoned buildings on the block – JUST a little sketch. But I dig that shit. There’s a lot of old beautiful buildings & vintage neon signs and it’s full of history and character.

Before I went there EVERYBODY I talked to (even people who live there) told me to be extra careful and to most definitely not take the bus or I would be murdered. Seriously? Come the fuck on people! They had me kinda freaked out. I mean…what gives? I wasn’t at all sure what to expect, but it turns out it’s very cool. AND I didn’t get mugged OR murdered. #GoMe What these fearmongerers SHOULD have said was ‘There are pockets of really bad/poor neighborhoods so it’s not really a walkable city (that Walking in Memphis song is a LIE!). And for the same reason don’t take the bus. Use a bit of common sense. Keep your head up. You’ll be fine! JUST LIKE EVERYWHERE ELSE. Have fun!’

With that said….here are my recs:

Where to eat:

Have breakfast at Brother Junipers. It’s touted as the best breakfast in Memphis. They make everything from scratch and it really is the best breakfast in Memphis. I should have gone there every day, but I didn’t! There’s a bit of a wait on the weekend, but they do a thing where if you call ahead (with in 15 minutes of your arrival time) they’ll take 15 minutes off your waiting time once you check in upon arrival. I had no idea who Brother Juniper was so I had to ask. I was told that Brother Juniper was the cook for St. Francis of Assisi. You learn something new every day.Brother Junipers.

If you don’t feel like waiting in line for 2 hours for breakfast every day check out Cafe Eclectic. I visited the midtown location and I liked it very much. Good coffee, fresh food, good vibes… The have several vegetarian options and breakfast is served all day!

I don’t eat meat so trying to find somewhere good to eat lunch and dinner was a struggle. Especially since everybody and their mother recommends Central BBQ and Gus’s Fried Chicken. But I did find a great Mexican type spot in Overton Square call Babalu. It looks pretty vanilla from the outside, but it’s kinda cute inside. They have a nice bar area and patio and the tacos and guacamole made table side are to die for. Deliciousness.

What to do:

You must visit the Civil Rights Museum. It’s located at the old Lorraine Hotel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed on April 4th, 1968. I’m not a big museum fan, but it’s a must . You should come away with a better understanding of the civil rights struggle and what it means to be African American.Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel.

 

You also must do Sun Studio followed by Graceland.  In that order. This is an all day affair. The first tour of Sun Studio is at 10:30am. They don’t take advance reservations. But if you arrive and the tour is sold out there should be space on the next one so no worries. You can chill in the cafe (they make malts!) or explore the the neighborhood. Sun Studios is located in the Edge District which was my favorite area of Memphis. It definitely has an edge to it 🙂 On a Sunday it was pretty vacant. There was nothing open. But some of the buildings are just gorgeous and I found a few alleys with graffiti and street art so I was happy to spend an hour here wandering around.Sun Studio.

The Edge District where Sun Studio is located.
The Edge District where Sun Studio is located.

After Sun Studio hop on the free shuttle bus that leaves every hour around 20 after the hour from Sun Studio. It stops at Beale Street and then Graceland. TIP: I highly recommend buying your ticket for Graceland online before you leave home/get to Graceland. Buy it for the first tour the day you want to go then you can show up any point after that and go on the next tour. If you wait to buy it upon arrival there’s a chance that the next tour (and the one after that) will be sold out. And you’ll be tempted to spend the extra $40 on the VIP ticket just to avoid hanging around East Memphis for 3 hours. It’s a sketchy area and unless you like fast food and souvenir shops there’s fuck all to do.

I wasn’t really a big Elvis fan before I went to Elvis Presley’s Graceland. But I had to go. And I’m really glad I did. I enjoyed every minute of it and I have a lot more admiration for his legacy. The way it’s set up is very tech savy. They hand out headphones while you’re waiting in line and when you get on the shuttle bus to go across to Graceland they give you an iPad. Fancy! It’s fantastic because your tour is not only self paced, but narrated  by John Stamos. A+

One of the rooms at Graceland. #love
One of the rooms at Graceland. #love

For a list of what’s currently on in Memphis check out the I love Memphis blog. She’s got a ton of good recommendations.

Where to stay:

If you can afford to stay at the Peabody stay at the Peabody! I wanted to, but it’s a bit out of my price range :/ It’s located smack dab in the middle of downtown and it’s a Historic Hotel of America. Fancy!

I ended up staying at an airbnb near Overton Park. It was my first Airbnb experience. Lets just say I learned a lot! For instance I learned that I need a place to myself :/ Or at least a place where the hosts don’t wake up at 6am every day. I also learned not to book solely based on reviews. This place had really good reviews. And my experience really wasn’t that good!

My name is not Justin. Nor is it Kelly :/
My name is not Justin. Nor is it Kelly :/

How to get around:

Uber. By far the cheapest/best way to get around. The Taxis were overpriced and shitty. I stupidly took a taxi from Graceland back to the Overton Park area and it cost me $25!!! If I would have taken an Uber it would have cost around $13. Don’t take a taxi! They suck!

 

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Negril

Lucky you being in Negril and all! I’m envious. I I love Jamaica. Especially Negril. It’s one of my favorite places. That beach. OMG. Amazeballs. But get your ass off the beach, mon! There’s so much more to Negril than that beautiful 7 mile long stretch of white sand and crystal clear water. Well maybe not that much more, but you’ll need to eat, get around, at least go to the cliffs once to check it out, right?????? I got you covered. Here it is:

Where to stay:

Treat yo self and stay at Charela Inn. Smack dab in the middle of the beach and absolutely BEAUTIFUL! I really love this place. TIP: Spend the $20 more per night and get a room facing the beach. They’re much nicer than the rooms facing the garden courtyard and it’s worth it. Their food is overpriced. I wouldn’t recommend eating there because of this.

White Sands (right next door) is a good budget option, but they don’t have much of a beach. They do have a nice bar though!

Where to eat:

For breakfast I like to get a real Jamaican breakfast at Coletta’s just across from Rooms on the Beach. It’s a local joint where you can get ackee and saltfish, porridge and various other Jamaican breakfast items. She also serves pancakes and eggs and such if you’re into that kind of thing. It’s very affordable and delicious.  Get there early before the ackee and Saltfish runs out!

Niah’s Patties is great for a snack. He makes his delicious patties fresh to order. Tell him Rebecca sent you 🙂

For dinner you can eat cheaply from a jerk stand on the side of the road. Just pick one. You can’t go wrong. I don’t eat meat, but I’ve had some good conch and rice from those stands. I can’t remember how much I paid, I think around 700J, but it wasn’t much and the portions are large. They also usually have soup a of some kind.

Jerk cart in Negril.

OR if you’re looking for something more ‘fancy’. Check out Three Dives on the cliffs. Very affordable and GOOD. Order your food, sit down and chill while they cook it up. It might take a while as it’s made to order, but they have plenty of Red Stripe so you’ll be fine 🙂

Where to drink:

Tony’s Hut near Wavz Art Complex is by far my favorite bar on the beach. I love it. Perfect place to spend an afternoon/evening and then watching the sun set. Milton and Grace Ann are the best bartenders on the beach!

Best bar on the beach.
Best bar on the beach.

 

LTU Pub on the cliffs is my other favorite bar. It’s a nice mix of locals and tourists. It has a nice chill, local vibe. Another great location from where to watch the sun set.

If you want to do a pub crawl Lenbert Williams does a One Love Pub Crawl that will pick you up from your hotel lobby around 2:30pm and return you after sunset. He stops at several local pubs that are off the tourist track. Contact him for more info at bananaznegril@hotmaildotcom

What to do:

Mike’s Glass Bottom Boat can take you out snorkeling or out to a picnic on Booby Cay or anywhere else you wanna go. I love Mike and his brother Ricky. They are THE best. You can find them down the beach a bit from Charela (towards town). His # is 876-847-7699.

Floyd's pelican bar
Floyd’s Pelican Bar is on a sandbar a few miles out. They have Red Stripe and can cook you a fresh meal.

You MUST visit Floyd’s Pelican Bar while in Jamaica. You can get a driver for the day and stop at a few places. I’m not a big ‘organized tour’ fan so I chose to stop at Peter Tosh memorial (not much to see, but worth the $10 entry fee I suppose as it IS Peter Tosh) and then at a local cemetery (I like cemeteries). A driver for a day should cost around $100US if not a little more. That shit’s expensive. I couldn’t figure out a cheaper way to get a lot of ground covered in one day. The route taxis wouldn’t be direct to where I wanted to go and I didn’t want to hassle with changing taxis here and there.

What not to do:

Don’t ignore people. You’ll most likely be hounded constantly by people asking you to buy shit as you walk up and down the beach. But don’t ignore them. It’s disrespectful and they will take offense. A simple ‘hello no thank you’ will do. Absolutely DO NOT say ‘MAYBE on my way back’. They’ll remember you and they’ll hassle you some more on your way back.

Getting around:

I use Clive’s Transport for airport transfers. They’re affordable and I’ve never had a bad driver.  I think it’s $60 RT to Negril. Included in the price is a Red Stripe for the road. You’ll need it after that long ass line to get in to the country.

The best driver I’ve found so far is Chris. He has a nice car, he’s safe, he’s a good guy. You can reach him at 876-851-6029 or 876-280-1126. His email is chrisan_mia18@yahoodotcom. He’s the best!

To get between the beach and the cliffs use a route taxi. Simply walk out to the road. Stick your hand out. Tell them where you’re going and they’ll either tell you they’re not going there or to get in. It’s $130J to get to town and another $130J to get to the cliffs. This is how the Jamaicans get around. I use a route taxi all the time. At night, during the day, whatever. Simply use some common sense LIKE ALWAYS and this is a great and affordable way to get around.

Enjoy Negril, mon. It’s the best 🙂

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