Portland, Oregon: a Strange, but Beautiful City on the River

Who thinks of going to Oregon? Yeah, me either. Portland is the largest city in Oregon and has roughly 650,000 residents. Named after Portland, Maine, the city covers 145 square miles and is seated in the Willamette Valley on the Western coast of the United States. This city became popular near the 1830s, due to its involvement with the Oregon Trail and its unique water access for the pioneers. This city is known for its environmentally conscious residents, large biking community, great public transportation, amazing public parks, overcast skies, and homeless people- there’s a LOT.

By the way, did I mention that Marijuana is legal there?

My Experience

Truth be told, I was NOT happy the first day I arrived. Leaving Atlanta, Georgia with sunny skies and 90 degree weather to 50 degree weather was almost TORTURE. (And guess who had a 3 hour flight delay…me!) But after settling into my nice hotel room at the Residence Inn, I slowly was put to ease upon arrival.

Driving around the city the following day made me feel, fresh. The green trees, brisk wind, and unique roads, really evoked a weird feeling in me. I am not sure what it is, but you just feel “different” in Portland. Needless to say, I had a BLAST (yes, I said it). Although I was only there for three full days, the city was captivating and had a nice sense of bustle while also maintaining its calm. Honestly, I had thoughts of going to Portland before, but never pulled the trigger. Everyone that I have talked to that previously visited the city told me that it was “Nice and Cool”, and I agree. The city offers a unique mix of San Francisco, Maine, Seattle, and mountain man vibes. With beautiful homes and buildings built into the mountains and rivers flowing through the city center, it’s definitely a picturesque city…if the sun is out.

Tips:

  • Traffic is strangely bad in Portland. If you want to go to dinner or to across the city, try to leave your destination by 4 PM. If not, you may get stuck in traffic for 2 hours!
  • It can be COLD…and rainy. Make sure to look at the forecast before packing.
  • Although I felt very safe and did not encounter any issues, don’t walk around the city by yourself. There are a lot of homeless people and some very “interesting” characters. While I was in town, there were at least two mass murders, 2 suicides, and some other super natural situations.
  • Oregon is a sales tax free state, so shop ‘til you drop. Also, Adidas, Nike, and Columbia are headquartered here, so check out their employee store and ask if your company gets discounts (50%!)

What to Eat

Due to the city’s residents, Portland has great, FRESH food. I honestly cannot say that I did not have one good and unique meal. While most of my meals were predetermined due to my meeting, I was able to sneak my way out to the following places:

Olympia Provisions- Food, Wine, and Charcuterie: this place, is awesome! The restaurant offers a Spanish, hipster deli feel and some unique dishes. I would recommend the Spanish ham and cheese board and the octopus. It was the BEST octopus that I’ve ever had!

Backyard Social: this super comfortable restaurant offers Portland made beers while providing a venue that literally makes you feel like you’re in a friend back yard. The food is good, and the prices are reasonable. Tips:

  • Try to order small plates so that you can try different dishes. It’s hard to envy what another table has ordered when you have a full stomach.
  • If you like desserts, try VooDoo Donuts. They are delicious!

Where to Party

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Portland isn’t really know for its great “party” scene. It appears that most people like to spend their nights drinking beer in a bar (or smoking Marijuana), than dancing is a club. However, me being the dance machine that I am, I was able to find some really amazing spots!

Breweries/Bars to check out:

Ecliptic– is a modern style brewery that serve seasonal food along with a variety of craft beers

Century– A chic sports bar that offers two unique bar experiences and a great patio for outdoor drinking. (One section of this bar actually looks sports arena, and has raised stadium seats.)

Places to Dance:

FORTUNE– please, please, PLEASE go to this place. This venue almost reminded me of one of my favorite places in Atlanta called Sound Table. The bar is intimate and allows you to speak with locals, while also have a great time with your friends and a nice drink. The music is perfect to dance too, and the drink are reasonably priced. (Music: hip hop, rap, reggae, dance, EDM, soul, house, jazz)

TUBE– this place, unfortunately, requires a $5 entrance fee, however, it’s a very unique venue. Made to look like a train in space, this bar offers a great playlist and an interesting crowd. (Music: hip hop and rap)

Tips:
If you are looking for places to go, ask your hotel bartender. Be SPECIFIC or you may end at the wrong place
The second day that I was in town, I went on a two hour river cruise. I think this was the best way for me to view the city and take some great pictures. Plus, it was one hell of a party.

Sights that I Wished I’d Seen

Due to the “lack of Sun”, extremely low clouds, and my short trip, I was unable to go out and really explore most of the city and its surrounding wilderness. Portland is truly a metropolis in the woods, so try to make time to hike and walk its amazing trails. The following locations are within 30-120 minutes away from the city center, and it’s worth it to go if you are able:

  • Mount Hood
  • Columbia River Gorge
  • Wine Country (yes, please)
  • Oregon Coast
  • Large rivers and hiking trails

Final Thoughts

Yes, Portland might be in everyone’s recent headlines for all of the crazy murders, suicides, and the hate crimes (yikes), but one has to remember that every large city has its ugly side. I really enjoyed my time in Oregon. The mountain, the sky, and yes, even the cold temperatures really brought out new senses that I never felt before. I immediately felt like hiking, kayaking, or breakdancing. Although, I could never live there (because I love the sun too much), I will definitely be back.

Portland…you surprised me.

Travel Girl- Ilea

 

(All photos and content created by the Girls Point of View Team ©2017. All Rights Reserved.)

Hawaiian Vacation from Hell?

Are we there yet? At the time I started this blog post, nope, not yet! My family and I planned an exciting adventure at Kauai in order to go to an annual Kung Fu seminar. Yes, you read that right. My family currently owns a Wing Chun school in Atlanta and this year decided to meet with fellow students from California and Germany and train in the beautiful Hawaiian Islands. Sounds like a good idea right? When I started this blog, I wasn’t quite sure I believed that…

Me, being the constant adventurer that I am, decided to utilize a buddy pass from one of my best friends. This has been successful for me in the past, and has taken me to some amazing places like France, Portugal, and Brazil. But it seems like everyone else in the entire world ALSO had the same idea as me. Which caused me to have an unbelievably horrible travel experience to AND from the Island.

My Flight Experience to the Island

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First, let me take a BIG breath. My travel to Hawaii started at 8:00 AM E.S.T. in Atlanta, GA. After successfully making my way through the airport, I found myself at my gate for the 11:30 AM connection flight to LAX. Everything was peachy. I was ready to board the plane, then WHAM. A woman, who I believe was doing hard core drugs in the bathroom, decided to come to the gate at 11:26 to board the flight. After behaving erratically and scaring a wide variety of children, the airline employee decided to let her on the plane. Unfortunately for me, she took my seat. This later led to me being bumped off the 12:30 PM and 1:50 PM flight to LA, great huh? And, after finally making it on the 3:00 PM plane, I ended up missing my flight to Hawaii by 5 minutes. Yes, FIVEEE minutes. (A similar situation also happened to me on the way back.) *Sigh*

I wasn’t the only one having issues with flights either. My family, who had standard airline passes, flew into Houston for their connection to Lihue, Kauai. After making their flight to Houston from Atlanta, their flight got delayed due to maintenance issues. Fast forward one hour, they finally were able to take off to Paradise. But guess what? Their plane had to make an emergency landing in LAX due to a medical emergency. Fast forward ANOTHER couple of hours and arriving in Honolulu, they missed their flight to Kauai. Go figure. And these types of stories were heard all over the airport for other travelers trying to go to “paradise”, which my cousin said was surely due to “Mercury being in retrograde”, or whatever (if you believe in that kind of stuff). Fortunately for me, I have family in California, and was able to stay with them in L.A. until my flight to Hawaii the next morning.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • Don’t use a buddy pass when flying nationally unless the person you got the pass from has been with the company for a long time.
  • Make sure that you are seen and NICE to the attendants at the airport- they have all the power.
  • If you can’t utilize a buddy pass, try booking one-way flights to your destination. It lowers the cost when booking last minute.

Out with the Bad, in with the New

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Okay, to be honest, the first part of my vacation was super shitty. On the way to the Island, someone had a medical emergency and caused most of the passengers to go on high alert. Thankfully, the crew on my American Airlines flight was well prepared and helpful and was successful in calming the situation. Finally, we landed, and I RAN to my family’s car screaming “Aloha Bitches!”…Super inappropriate, but who can blame me?

When you land in Kauai, you arrive in the city of Lihue. It’s a quaint “downtown area” that has great shops and low key buildings. One thing that I really enjoyed about this island, is that everything is low to the ground. You won’t find any high rise buildings or dense cities.
(Tip: the island doesn’t offer Uber and Lyft services. Taxis can be expensive, so it’s better to rent a car for your stay. But be warned, gas is expensive.)

What is Kauai?

This island…is beautiful and breathtaking! There isn’t one place that you look at and don’t want to snap a photo. Kauai is the oldest of the Hawaiian Island chain and has some of the most unique geographical and natural beauty of any island on earth. Known as the Garden Island, Kauai is also rated as being one of the wettest place on earth and has an average annual rainfall of over 36.5 feet. However, the island of Kauai is complete with deserts, rainforests, beaches, swamps, and mountains. Late August through September is the hottest time of the year (the average high during the summer months reaches 85° F). But, on the other hand, January is the coolest season and has an average high of 78° F, which makes it a perfect place to visit year round.

Island Tips:
1. The island is over run by Chickens and Roosters. Make sure to close your windows and stay in a place that has strong walls…they are EXTREMELY loud. Especially at 4 and 5 AM.
2. The sun is very strong on the island, however, be mindful…there aren’t a lot of street lights around the island. Be extremely careful driving at night!
3. Driving from one side of the island to the next can take a long time. This is because there are no major highways and there are low speed limits.

Food


The food, is sooo goooood…but you have to do some research. Like any other American tourist destination, everyone recommends that their place is the best, so make sure to look at the menu online before driving around the island. Another thing to be cautious of is that dinner is EXPENSIVE, so select your restaurant wisely. I have listed my favorite eateries below to hopefully help you make your decision.

  • Lihue- Kauai Beer Company and the Fish Express
  • Hanalei- Kalypso Island Bar and Grill, Sushi Girl, and Kitchen in a Barrel
  • Princeville- Tiki Iniki and the St. Regis Bar
  • Kapa’a-  Street Burger and Tiki Tacos

Night Life


Night life is kind of limited on the island (from what I’ve seen). Maybe it’s because of the laid back atmosphere or because you can’t see in front of your face once the sun goes down. However, there are some cool spots that you can check out in the major “cities”.

  • Lihue- Rob’s Good Times Grill and Nawiliwili Tavern
  • Hanalei- Tahiti Nui
  • Princeville- Tiki Iniki and Happy Talk Bar
  • Kapa’a-  The Local Bar and Oasis on the Beach (the strip also has some other cool spots)

Activities

Due to the great outdoor spaces, there are MANY different things for you to do on the island.

Recommendations: water ski, paddle board, surf, snorkel, swim, ride a boat, parasail, sky diving, zip lining, shopping, hiking, walking botanical gardens, and helicopter tours. Not adventurous enough? Try doing a ATV ride in places were Jurassic Park was filmed. Maybe you’ll see a TREX! One thing’s for sure, you’ll never get bored, no matter your age or preference!

Island Tips:
1. If you’re looking for a good Luau, try Smith’s Family Garden Luau beyond Coco Palms or Luau Makaiwa at the Coconut Beach Marriott.
2. Need a bigger thrill? Try out Queen’s Bath, The Blue Room, Turtle Cove, and Lumahai.

Apparently, those things “weren’t enough adventure for me”…said the universe. In addition to all of my excitement, I also became acquainted with a “King” or Chief of Atooi while having lunch with my mother and a German friend. This eventually led into me and my entire immediate family joining him and his daughter on a private boat ride around the island. Amazing, huh?!

(Tip: The Kingdom of Atooi, which translates into the Light of God, was known as the Polynesian Kingdom of Hawaii in the 1800s and is now the ancestrial name of the current state of Hawaii. Atooi was the also known as the ancient nation was a part of The Royal Union of The Pacific Nations located in the Polynesian Triangle. This triangle was later recognized and formed after foreign intervention by King Kamehameha III. In 1898, the Territory of Hawaii went under USA rule and then finally became an official state in 1959.)

Final Thoughts

Kauai is a “raw” and untouched island. It has a unique aura and “attitude” that is honestly hard to describe. Never have I gone to a place and felt so close to God. This island is a paradise, and the people that inhabit the island know it. Everything is highly preserved and protected by everyone. Being there really made me think about my life here on the “main land” and how stressed we get with little things. Life is precious, and we have to enjoy every moment and appreciate how beautiful the world is. So, even though my trip started off making me feel like I was in Hell…I found peace and serenity in Heaven.

Kauai, you truly captured my heart.

 

Aloha and Mahalo,

Travel Girl-Ilea

 

Want to learn Wing Chun? Check out the link below: http://www.iaw-atlanta.com/

Information on the Nation of Atooi: http://nationalunitygovernment.org/content/kingdom-atooi-nation-hawaii-unification-ceremony

Information about Kauai: http://www.kauai.com/

 

(All photos and content created by the Girls Point of View Team ©2017. All Rights Reserved.)

American Adventure- Dallas, TX

Dallas, a modern and clean metropolis in north Texas. This large American city is a commercial and cultural hub of the big state of Texas. With a population of around 1.5 million people, Texas is a great place to find cultural variety and southern charm.

Below you will find a quick re-cap of my stay in Dallas.

My Experience

During my short trip there, I was able to experience some great locations with some amazing people. Dallas has continued to surprise me with it’s great weather and southern hospitality. Growing up between Atlanta and Alabama, I felt right at home in this great city.
Recommendations:
The city is HUGE, so getting around can be difficult. If you do not have a car, I would recommend taking Uber and DART (public train) around the city.

Places To Go

Due to it’s interesting history, the city has a wide variety of great places to explore.

1. If you are in downtown, check out the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. This place commemorates the site of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963

2. In the Arts District, try the Dallas Museum of Art (admission is free to everyone!) and the Crow Collection of Asian Art cover thousands of years of art.
3. Want something a little more unusual? Take a look at the sleek Nasher Sculpture Center showcases contemporary sculpture.
4. If you’re looking for a great place to chill, try Klyde Warren Park. This beautiful park is located on top of the highway and has amazing views of the skyline.

Places to eat

In addition to it’s unique locations, Dallas also has some amazing food options. If you’re looking for some great places to eat, I would recommend the following:

Fast Food: In-N-Out Burger, Whataburger, and Torchy’s Tacos
Texan Food: The Pecan Lodge, The Rustic, The Alligator Cafe
Unique Places for Foodies: Zaguan and Sablon

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Night Life

Night life in Dallas isn’t for the major party crowds. Due to Dallas’ insanely clean city, the “party” scene is more tailored for the Young and Bold professionals, so most places don’t stay open past 1 AM. If you do want to find a nice place to go during the weekday, try the places below:

Happiest Hour- beautiful skyline views of the city
Veritas Wine Room- for those who enjoy a great glass of vino
Arboretum- a unique place with charm

Final Thoughts

After having two great experiences in Dallas, I noticed that the city really offers more than the normal Texan stereotypes of big hats, cowboy boots, and large hair. Dallas is a beautiful city was large and unique buildings and amazing artwork. Don’t believe me, see for yourself!

Pack your bags, and say “Yeehaw”!

Travel Girl—Ilea

 

(All photos and content created by the Girls Point of View Team ©2017. All Rights Reserved.)

Brazil: Rio de Janeiro

Brazil- a country located in Latin America with a lot of rich history, picturesque beaches, and beautiful people. Brazil completely surprised me and exceeded my expectations. Not only did I feel comfortable and was able to explore it’s cities safely, but I also had a great time meeting new and unique people. Let’s go over my experience of this so-called “dangerous country”.

Flight Recommendations:

Thankfully, my flight experience to Brazil was, unbelievably amazing. I have the great pleasure of knowing several airline employees, who were able to bless me with a buddy pass for my trip, which landed me in first class. Buddy passes are non-revenue, standby tickets provided as a benefit to all airline employees that they can share with friends and family. While they are non-revenue, the passenger must pay any taxes, fees and charges related to the flight. While a buddy pass can be significantly lower in cost than a normal ticket, it can cause some passengers issues, since they rely on seat availability and employee seniority. Some individuals have been known to be stranded at several locations due to flight availability. If you are able to snag a buddy pass from a friend, make sure you calculate enough time to get to your destinations.

If you unable to utilize a buddy pass, I recommended:
– Flying directly out of Atlanta or Miami (Prices: $650-$1,200 USD for standard and comfort plus seating)
– Use travel points to upgrade your seats; the flight from Atlanta to Brazil was LONG
– Travel light and try to only take a carry on. Getting around the airport or ground transportation can be cumbersome with a lot of luggage

History

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As mentioned, Brazil has a vivid and interesting history. This country was officially “discovered” in 1500 by the Portuguese led by Pedro Alvares Cabral. Portuguese explorers went to Brazil in hopes to monopolize red wood trade and establish permanent settlements. After forcing out and killing many of the indigenous people, the Portuguese turned to African slave labor to create their Brazilian colonies. This in turn led to a extremely diverse population. After having some conflict with England, France, and Holland, Portugal dispatched a general to Bahia in 1549 to oversee the colonies. Later, Portugal experienced a golden age in the 17th century and moved the Brazilian capital to Rio de Janeiro for political and administrative reasons. After more conflict with France, Princess Isabel officially ended slavery in 1888, bringing a new era to the country. In the 1900s, Brazil went under a military and government dictatorship and continues to experience hard economic times. Even know the current economy and government still to have issues, the Brazilian people continue to display amazing resilience and hope, and really understand the importance of enjoying life.

My Experience

I had the pleasure of exploring this great country with four great friends, who happened to be Brazilian. But before I could make my way to the beach, I had to first get out of the airport. Thankfully, the airport in Rio was recently renovated due to the 2016 Summer Olympic games. However, making it from your gate to baggage claim takes, FOREVER. I estimated walking at least 1-2 miles before getting to baggage claim (again, why you should pack light and take something that rollsssss). We quickly discovered that the airline lost all of our bags. After waiting 30-40 minutes to talk to the airline representative, we finally made our way out of the airport and to our AirBnB in a neighborhood called Leblon.

Things to look out for at the airport:

– Be careful who you exchange money with: thankfully, my friend and I only exchanged a small amount of money before initially leaving the airport. However, the office that we exchanged with offered a low exchange rate and even deducted $20 extra for a “processing” fee without telling us. We later located another airport worker who offered the correct exchange rate and did not deduct a transaction fee.
– Some workers are unprofessional and pick and choose who they help: after discovering that our bags did not make it with us, it took a while to get our bag information. While waiting for an airline representative, we noticed several employees moving others in front of us in line and ignoring us. Also, the airport did not offer bag delivery services, so we had to go back the next day.
– Taxis, taxis, taxi: unfortunately, the Rio airport does not allow Uber to pick up travelers at the airport. Because of this, we had to take a taxi, which can cost double or even triple the amount of an Uber fare. Be careful, the taxi drivers like to take advantage of travelers (anyone who isn’t from Rio; yes, they can tell) and can overcharge you. We also had this experience and brought it to our driver’s attention. However, we decided to pay the fare, just to be on the safe side.

Once arriving in Leblon, we were welcomed by a helpful man who was responsible for watching over the front gate of our building. This was reassuring, since I was traveling with all women. After doing a quick tour of our two story penthouse (which had a hot tub), we went out to grab something to eat.

Recommendations for accommodations:
–  Try AirBnB: after discussing our apartment information with locals and other travelers, it became apparent that we paid significantly lower than our peers. We also had a large condo with great views and security.
–  Beware of hostels: some hostels can be known for being unsafe depending on where you stay in Rio. Try to look find one in the nicer parts of Copacabana and Ipanema.

Food

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The food…man, was it good! The Brazilians definitely know how to throw down. I can’t say that there was one meal that wasn’t amazing. Brazilians pride themselves in using fresh ingredients, so the flavor is even more intense than in the US. My favorite meal included a shrimp filled Pastéis (like a deep fried empanada) with olive oil, meat, and chicken filled Coxinhas (fried cheese ball). Brazilians also LOVE to eat, so you can find a wide variety of restaurants, street vendors, and convenience stores around to grab a quick bite. We even snagged a bowl of Acai and fruit while sitting on the beach– it was delicious!

Additional take aways:
– Make sure to try all of the local foods and meat houses
– Hamburgers are super popular and widely accessible in the city (even more so than traditional Brazilian cuisine)
– If you forget to bring a snack to the beach, don’t worry! People walk around selling a wide assortment of food and drinks at all times

The Beach

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Rio has some amazing beaches, and depending on where you walk, the vibe can be different.

Leblon: more family oriented, young professionals, and wealthier people. (safest)
Ipanema: vibe is in between Leblon and Copacabana
Copacabana: more singles and parties (less safe)

Be prepared, it is HOT in January in Rio. I recommend ordering a few Brahmas (local beer) and Caipirinhas to cool you off! Also, make sure that someone is always watching your bags at the beach. A lot of thefts occur when people are taking pictures at the beach or asleep.

Nightlife
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Nightlife is great in Brazil, and there are many different places to go. Unfortunately, I was in Rio between Saturday-Tuesday and did not have a lot of nights out on the town. However, I did make it out Sunday night to Leviano, a great club in Lapa. This club is located in a large neighborhood of other bars and clubs, so feel free to explore. But, be prepared to pay at the door. Finding a way to sign up for a guest list is difficult for non-natives. My other nights were spent in house parties and low key bars with friends.

Making Friends

During my time in Brazil, I was fortunate to make a lot of new friends. I don’t know what it is (maybe it’s something in the air), but people actually TALK to each other and are genuinely interested in getting to know you. Although people do not speak English as much as they did in Portugal, I was able to connect with quite a few travelers from all over the world (Italy, Amsterdam, Holland, England, and Brazil). Don’t be afraid to talk to people, you might make a friend for life!

What to See

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Unfortunately, I was unable to do as much “sight seeing” as I wanted to do, because this trip felt more like a bachelorette party than a real vacation with 5 women. However, Travel Girl Natalia recommends the following:

  • Christ the Redeemer
  • Sugarloaf Mountain
  • Copacabana Beach/Ipanema
  • Rio Botanical Gardens
  • Imperial Museum of Brazil
  • Hippie Feria
  • Museum of Modern History
  • Samba studios

If you are brave enough, make your way to the Favelas. A lot of them have been pacified and are very safe. Just make sure to leave your belongings at home and only take some cash to get around.

Neighborhoods I Visited

Leblon, Ipanema, Copacabana, and Lapa

Final Thoughts

Honestly, many people paint a very weird and ominous picture of Brazil. It’s “too dangerous”, “too unorganized”, and while you’re at it, “watch out for Zika”, but I honestly cannot say that about my trip. Yes, I was more cautious of my belongings and paid a little more attention to who was around me than my other trips, but I made it home in one piece. Like any trip, you have to stay vigilant and make sure you do your research before going. But if you want my opinion, Brazil is a beautiful country with amazing people, and I will remember my time there for the rest of my life.

 

Pack your bags, and just go!

Travel Girl—Ilea

 

Additional Recommendations:

  • Use Uber
  • Travel with someone who speaks Portuguese: even though I studied Portuguese and understand most of it, it was very difficult for me to communicate and understand people from Rio
  • Don’t carry a purse or pockets to store items: even though I didn’t have any issues, I still put my phone and wallet INSIDE of my pants and shorts when walking around the city. This made me less of a target

Historical information: http://www.nytimes.com/fodors/top/features/travel/destinations/centralandsouthamerica/brazil/riodejaneiro/fdrs_feat_129_9.html

(All photos and content created by the Girls Point of View Team ©2016-2017. All Rights Reserved.)

Road to Rio

Rio de Janeiro. The city of Samba, Copacabana, Caipirinhas, and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Visiting Brazil has always been a dream of mine since Bossa Nova music and the Martial Art of Capoeira came into my life. But before I can become a “Girl of Ipanema”, I first had to make sure that I could successfully get into the country, and that meant getting a Visa.

How to Get a Visa

A Visa is an endorsement on a passport that grants an individual entry, leave, or stay for a designated time in a foreign country. Many countries do not require this designation, however, after the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, Brazil re-closed its borders for tourists and again enforces Visas for all individuals visiting for vacation.

Applying to get a Visa, can be easy or difficult, depending on where you live in the US. Honestly, I found it difficult to locate the correct information on how to obtain a tourist Visa on the U.S. Department of State website, so instead, I reached out to my dear friend Dr. Google. This led me directly to the Brazilian Consulate.

In Atlanta, the Brazilian Consulate only allows scheduled appointments for the Visa process. These can be easily set up on their website and are only 15 minutes in length. The consulate requires the following in order to approve your tourism Visa:

  • Completed online application (takes about 15-30 minutes)
  • Valid US Passport (must be valid before and after scheduled time in country)
  • Recent 2×2 photos (must be taken within the last 6 months; this can be purchased at Walgreens or CVS for around $12 USD)
  • Self-paid USPS envelope with tracking information (Around $6 USD)
  • Money order for Visa payment ($160 plus $2 processing fee USD; this can be picked up at your local post office)
  • Planet ticket/flight reservation/airline employee badge Bank or Credit Card statement
  • Printed and signed application form confirmation (you can request this from the office if you are unable to print it yourself, but make sure you have the confirmation & application number before going to your appointment)

My experience at the consulate was very pleasant, easy, and quick. My appointment only lasted 10 minutes, and my passport and Visa are now being shipped to my home.
(TIP: It’s important to know, that if you do not have all of this information available at your appointment, you can email them to the consulate directly. At a minimum, have your application completed, photo available, passport in hand, USPS envelope, and money order to get the process started.)

What I am Expecting

To be honest, I do not have a lot of expectations. I have never been in Brazil, but from what I know from my Brazilian friends, I shouldn’t get stuck on making too many plans. Brazilian people love to have a good time, get to know other people, eat amazing food, and take their time enjoying their lives. My only expectation is that I will have a great vacation and do a lot of unscheduled things.

What to Look Out For

Let’s face it. Brazil is not the safest country on the planet, but that’s not going to change my mind in going. Yes, crime may be higher than some cities in the U.S., however, if you’re a woman traveling with a small group of females like I am (or alone), take the following under consideration:

  1. Don’t dress up- many pick-pocketers prey on those who seem to have a lot of money. Wear light and comfortable clothes in Rio. It’s a beach town, no need to go all out!
  2. Don’t take any expensive jewelry with you- again, this would draw attention to you and make you a target. Leave your prized possessions at home.
  3. Carry a small cross body purse or no purse at all- a thief can’t steal anything that they can’t see or feel!
  4. If someone confronts you and asks for your things, give it to them- some pick-pocketers are known to have weapons and aren’t afraid to use them. Don’t try to be a hero!
  5. If you don’t know Portuguese, don’t flaunt your native language. If someone suspicious walks by, wait until they are gone to have a conversation.

Final Countdown

As we get closer to my flight date, I can only think about how different of an experience this will be. Not many individuals get the luxury of going to this beautiful and unique country, and I feel really blessed. Even though there may be some uncertainty around traveling to Brazil, I am beyond excited to visit and see all that it has in store. Brazil, let’s make the best memories.

 

Travel Girl—Ilea

 

(Featured Photo Taken by grandtravelplans.com)

(All content created by the Girls Point of View Team ©2017. All Rights Reserved.)

2017- The Year of New Challenges or Opportunities?

Let’s face it, 2016 was a horrible year for many of us. It was a year of loss, civil unrest, fighting, hard-work, and Donald Trump. But now that the New Year has begun, how can we make sure that it is better than the last? Yes, we don’t have magical powers, and we can’t change the past or look into the future, but did you know that we all have several great personality traits and attributes to better our own lives? (ex. dedication, determination, imagination, and hard-work)

Like most people, I experienced many heart breaks and obstacles growing up. During the times when I felt low, I always worried how I could improve my life and make a positive change for myself. In 2015, I began researching easy ways to influence my life, and stumbled upon many quick and easy tips and tricks. Below are several steps that helped me improve my quality of life and get closer to achieving my dreams:

Think about what you want, seriously.

Yes, yes…SOME women are known for not “knowing what they want”, but I genuinely think that deep down, we all do. In order to make your dreams a reality, you must first understand and acknowledge what you want, and what is practical and achievable. One method that I have found particularly helpful, is hand writing a 5-year plan and posting it somewhere you can view visually daily. I started this method back in 2015 when I felt that I was stuck in my current situation and wasn’t progressing in life. (TIP: try posting this on your fridge or where you get ready in the morning. Include check boxes next to each “project” to mark as completed when you have finished the related task.)5yr list_edited_edited.jpg

Research

In order to make your wants a reality, make sure that they are something that are achievable. For example, if you want to travel to a particular country, look up to see how you can make it a reality (flight costs, visa requirements, accommodations, cultural differences, personal budget).

Involve your friends and family

If you feel like you are struggling through a rough time or just want to make a positive change in your life, involving your family and friends can warrant many benefits. Not only will they be your personal cheerleaders and best resources, you will also influence them to invest more time in bettering themselves and becoming happier. And a family (friend) that grows together, stays happier together.

Add fitness to your routine

This may be one of the most important. As women (and men), our body image greatly affects our lives and self-confidence. I recommend setting up a weekly fitness schedule (ex. mine is every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday). Working out is great for improving your self-image and releasing unwanted stress. And…let’s face it, not only will you look and feel amazing, you will also improve your overall health! (TIP: If you have issues keeping a fitness schedule or regime, download apps like 30 Day Fitness Challenge or Fit Girls to assist)

Meditation can solve wonders

Sounds corny, I know…but it works! Taking 5 minutes out of your day (either when you first wake up or before going to sleep) can greatly improve your mood and stress levels. I tried this out for 3 months, and I honestly had never been happier. I also noticed more positive energy and changes in my life when I meditated regularly. (TIP: Try apps like Calm to assist you with your daily meditation.)

Lastly, trust the process—it takes time

Most of the “projects” written on your list will take time and maybe even financial support. So don’t expect them to happen overnight. You must be patient, dedicated, and truly confident in knowing that you are working towards bettering yourself and positively impacting your life. Don’t give up!

In summary, don’t believe in the negativity…You DO have the ability to change your fate and improve your quality of life. And with real determination, hard work, and support, you can make all your dreams a reality.

I urge you to seek happiness, and enjoy your life. There’s only one of it, so make each moment count.

 

Travel Girl—Ilea

 

(All photos and content created by the Girls Point of View Team ©2017. All Rights Reserved.)

Travel Flash Back- Portugal

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I fell in love with Portugal—the country of over 3,000 hours of sunshine a year and 850 KM of amazing beaches. If you didn’t know, Portugal is located next door to Spain and the Atlantic Ocean, and includes a wide variety of terrain: mountains, deserts, forests, and beaches.

Finding a direct flight to this majestic country from Atlanta is, how one can say, difficult and expensive. I myself had to stop in Paris before I could view this country’s beauty. Many major airlines (including Atlanta based Delta Airlines) do not currently offer direct flights to Portugal. This is because traveling to this country has not been very popular in the US, since most people chose to visit places like Spain, Paris, or Amsterdam. However, there has been a great increase in interest to travel to Portugal due to recommendations from frequent travelers and the countries low prices in comparison to other European countries.

FLIGHT RECOMMENDATIONS:
– Chose to fly directly to Paris or Spain (Prices: $650-$1,200 USD for standard and comfort plus seating)
– Purchase a separate round trip flight using a local European airline (Prices: 60-300 Euros for standard and upgraded seating)

HISTORY
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If you didn’t know, Portugal has a very vivid history. It was first inhabited by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Iberians, Celts, and Romans. In the 700s, the Moors took control of the country until the mid-1200s when it became an independent country under King Afonso Henriques. After its independence, Portugal launched a great exploration initiative, claiming many countries and colonies as its own. As many of you know, Portuguese is the spoken language in Brazil, however, did you know that Portuguese is also spoken in Africa (ex. Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique) and in Asia (ex. East Timor and Macao Special Administrative Region of China)? You can also see this diversity in Lisbon and other tourist locations.

After its many explorations, Portugal was then lost to Spain for 60 years. Once the country reclaimed its independence, it enjoyed roughly 100 years of great wealth and prosperity, until a major earthquake in 1755 erupted in Lisbon, killing thousands of people and destroying many major buildings.

In the 1900s, Portugal became a republic and survived a revolution. Now, the country strives towards attracting more visitors and increasing their growing economy.

 

MY EXPERIENCE

After taking a quick flight from Paris, I found myself in Lisbon. This was my first time traveling internationally alone, and I can say that I felt comfortable and safe once setting foot in Portuguese soil. Upon stepping outside of the surprisingly luxurious airport of Lisbon, I immediately was greeted by the country’s radiant sunlight and some of the bluest skies I’ve ever seen—no joke. Be prepared, the weather is perfect in August, and the feeling of the Portuguese sun on your skin is almost to die for.

After a quick and immensely entertaining UBER ride to my $100 a night posh Airbnb, I found myself walking down the vibrant mosaic streets in Lisbon, feeling oddly at home. Everyone is nice, and the majority of the local residents speak perfect English (this caused some problems when I tried to practice my Portuguese). This theme continued during my stay in Portugal.

Be warned, while 99.9999999% of the Portuguese people are insanely nice and helpful, there are those who like to prey on women tourists. While walking down the streets of downtown Lisbon, one of the women that met up with me during my trip was almost pick pocketed right in front of me. After we caught the man tugging at her purse, he merely looked at us and calmly walked away. (TIP: When exploring the city, carry a small purse that goes across your body. Make sure it locks securely, and walk with the bag in front of you. DO NOT WEAR IT BEHIND YOU. If you are traveling with camera equipment, purchase a book bag that has a secure lock and a small zip up pouch in the front for stashing your cell phone, debit cards, money, and IDs.)

Okay, back to the good stuff…

Food is everywhere—be prepared

Lisbon offers a wide variety of food to choose from and it’s delicious. Whether you want traditional Portuguese food, pasta, sushi, or hamburgers, it’s available and the competition is intense. Don’t be surprised when people come up and try to talk you into eating with them, and don’t feel obligated to eat at a restaurant just because you’re approached. They do this to everyone and they’re good at it. Lisbon offers any food that you could possibly want, so choose what you’re craving. If you want to try something more traditional, try the Cod, it’s amazing, fresh, and literally everywhere. (TIP: table water is free in Portugal, however, the bread is not. Every restaurant will offer and even place a basket on your table, but don’t eat it unless you are willing to purchase it.)

Portugal is not only known for its delicious food, but also its picturesque beaches, and there are many. Unfortunately, I was unable to visit the most famous ones, however, I was able to make my way to Cascais. Although this might not be the “prettiest” beach town in the country, it is absolutely beautiful. The beach town is booming with great music, delicious restaurants, and insanely good looking and fit people.

WIFI is everywhere. Yes, you read that right. It is EVERYWHERE in Lisbon and the surrounding cities, and free! WIFI is available in all hotels/Airbnb, restaurants, buses, metros, and trains, and even the beach! I, unfortunately, do not have an international phone plan, however, I didn’t need one while in Portugal. During my trip, I was able to connect to any open WIFI channel, and make calls using WhatsApp or Google Talk. This is important to let your family know that you are still alive… (TIP: if you have T-Mobile, you are able to make international calls for free.)

 

Night life in Lisbon is hard to describe…

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I can honestly say it was the best night life experience of my life. As soon as the sun goes down, the entire city of Lisbon transforms into a night club. From the streets of Bairro Alto to the upscale fashion avenues, there is music and dancing at every corner. The Portuguese really know how to get the people dancing, and love to have a good time any day of the week. My favorite memory of the entire trip was dancing at a free neighborhood block party outside of a Louis Vuitton store to House, Rap, and Hip-Hop on my last day in the country, which happened to be a Tuesday night.

LOCATION RECOMMENDATIONS

Due to my limited time in the country, I was only able to venture around the Lisbon area. Although Portugal is a small country in comparison to others, it has many amazing places to visit. The best way to view these locations is by using public transportation, which is easily accessible, relatively clean, cost-friendly (TIP: 24 hour passes for trains, buses, and metros costs 6.50 EUROS), and air conditioned. The locations listed below are all places I visited during my 5 day stay via public transportation, UBER, or walking. (I will do a more in depth review of each of these locations in another blog post.)

LISBON (LISBOA): Praça do Comercio, Sao Jorge Castle, Bairro Alto, Santa Justa Lift, Rossio Square, Restauradores Square, Avenida Da Liberdade, TimeOut Market

SINTRA: Palacio Nacional da Pena, Praia Grande, Castelo dos Mouros CASCAIS: local beach, bars, and shops

BELEM: Belem Tower, Jeronimos Monastery, Pasteis de Belem

In five days, I experienced a life changing trip that sparked my interest and confidence to travel alone. As this was the second European country for me to step foot on (I had stopped in Paris shortly before for less than 48 hours), I was completely unaware of what to expect, however, Portugal made me feel safe and at home. I will definitely be back!

 

Until I see you again, Portugal.

Travel Girl—Ilea

 

IMPORTANT MESSAGE: since my trip in 2016, Delta announced that they will be providing direct flights to Portugal (Lisbon Airport). Stay tuned for more announcements.

For additional information about Portugal, please visit https://www.visitportugal.com/en/

(All photos and content created by the Girls Point of View Team ©2016. All Rights Reserved.)