Top 5 Reasons to Visit Vitoria, Brasil

 

Let me take to you a beautiful place called Vitoria in Brasil. It is actually my mother and grandmother’s home town and one of the reasons my name is Victoria. Vitoria is a city with so much life and a lot to do, yet somehow manages to provide a laid back atmosphere. Whether you want to take a trip with your family, your significant other or with your friends, it is the perfect vacation spot for any age.  Here are my top five reasons, you should also visit this paradise.

1. Beach

The first thing I think of when I think of Vitoria is all the different beaches. Whether you’re a surfer or not there are tons of beaches for everyone. You can even try windsurf, paddleboard, kayaking and many other watersports on different beaches. If the water isn’t for you, worry not you can just lay on the warm sand while vendors walk around selling seafood, popsicle, beer, and corn. Going to the beach in Brasil truly is a party.

2. Food!

One thing you will quickly learn is, I proudly say Brasil has the best food in the world. (I may be a little biased!) The biggest attraction food wise in Vitoria is the seafood. Being so close to the beach means the freshest seafood around. The variety of seafood plates is mind blowing. For a true experience try either crab, “muqueca”, “siri”, fried fish or “bobo de camarao”. And if you prefer eating on the beach, there are tons of restaurants right on the coast. Pull a chair and enjoy some seafood along with some coconut water.

 

3. All The Comfort of a Big City With A Small Town Laid Back Way of Life

Vitoria in size and in the amenities it offers is considered a big city It has malls, countless restaurants, an array of nightlife options and many other things found in a metropolitan area. However, the best thing about this city is it doesn’t feel like a big city. Everyone is very laid back in how they act and dress. Walking around you never feel like you’re in the middle of the hustle bustle, it feels like a small town you’ve known your whole life.

 

4. Nightlife Options

Along with the the benefits of a big city comes options for nightlife. If you prefer a more relaxed atmosphere head to the nearest “barzinho” (bar) which is open all day long and has plastic chairs and tables and friendly staff which makes leaving really hard to do. A plus in Brasil is bars often offer food til late at night, so you can enjoy a beer while eating some “petiscos” (snacks) til late into the early hours of the morning. Some of these “barzinhos” are even located on the beach with live music. They also offer several “boates” (clubs) which is where you go for dancing. The different clubs cater to different music styles, but some clubs have special events that play several different types of music throughout the night. Whatever your preference of nightlife you are sure to find a good option there.

 

5. Garoto

If you are a chocolate lover, this reason is right up your alley. One of the biggest chocolate brands in Brasil is called Garoto, and the factory happens to be in Vitoria. The site offers factory tours, a free museum and a huge store filled with chocolate. If you plan on visiting the factory, pack a pair of pants, tennis shoes and short sleeve shirt or else they cannot let you in by health and safety regulations. If you cannot or don’t want to take the tour, I highly recommend stopping by the store. Grab a box as a perfect souvenir!

 
These are just some of the reasons you should visit Vitoria, Espirito Santo, Brasil. It is a fun, laid back, happy city that is ready with open arms to welcome you.

London Diaries – The Liz Chronicles- You’re a Wizard Harry

Waking up in London in itself was a dream come true. This was real, it wasn’t a dream, I was really in London. After more than 10 years of dreaming of this, it was truly happening. At the hostel, we get up excitedly and get ready for our very long day ahead of us. At the breakfast table, who do we find other than some of my people! We had breakfast with 3 Brazilians, two were leaving that day and one was trying to move to London. (Dude, same.)

Our first stop was the Sherlock Holmes House. And as silly as it is, I was just pumped to be getting on the “tube” to head over there. It really is the little things that make the trip memorable and exciting. Once we arrive, it’s no surprise we start with a photo shoot right outside 221B Baker St.

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Then, we go inside and the first thing we are met with is the souvenir shop. I didn’t know where to look or what to do with myself. They had stuff from the book version of Sherlock, which is what Liz loves, and they had from the show, which I love. Needless to say, I wanted to buy EVERYTHING! But rationale (aka Liz) kicked in and I held myself back from buying everything from sweaters to a pipe. I settled for a deck of cards with Benedict Cumberbatch’s face and a card holder with again Benedict Cumberbatch on them, the latter of which I of course used for the rest of my days in London!

After we had spent quite a bit of time at the store, we headed into the actual museum. And boy, was it awesome! We took tons of pictures in every corner of that house. What made it even more awesome was meeting Kait, a Canadian friend, who we spent the rest of the house touring with. Sherlock’s living room was basically our studio. They had hats, pipes, and a magnifying glass which of course called for an entire photo shoot. The funny part about this bit is as soon as we walked in Liz went for Sherlock’s stuff only telling me “You can be Watson.” And I of course followed her instruction only to remark how Watson of me to do it. And we ended our tour with a bathroom selfie in Sherlock’s bathroom.  But on the way back down, our first shoot wasn’t enough, we go back for more and find other props to use including the violin!  But when it was my turn with the violin I, of course, get caught and yelled at.

 

We, then. headed to the tube and carefully got on, as we had learned the day before that the doors did NOT open up again if you got stuck in them. (Liz’s leg got stuck and she pulled it out before the train started moving again.)

It was time to start our Harry Potter adventures and we were absolutely ecstatic. We had a rough start as we arrived at Leicester Square a bit confused as to where to go first. The great thing, is because we looked incredibly lost, we were immediately offered help by a passer by. But we soon got the hang of our walking tour map & papers. We hit a few different locations but mostly we were just happy to take in London. We saw our first red phone booth which called for pictures.

Next, came what ended up being one of my favorite spots on the tour, Hardys candy shop. It wasn’t my favorite because the walls were lined with candy from the ceiling to the floor. Or the fact that we were able to buy HP candies including chocolate frogs. No, all that was awesome but isn’t the reason I loved this place. I don’t think I have ever had this much fun at a candy store, and all thanks to Laurie. Laurie, happened to be the guy working behind the counter who provided me with all this sugary goodness. But Laurie was more than just a candy store sales man, he was a crumping genius, model extraordinaire, and fun loving man. As I took pictures with him, his poses blew me away, then we had a full blown dance party right there in the middle of this small candy store and it was epic. As we left this store, we promised Laurie we would tell his tale to all we knew so they would go visit him and have dance parties with him.

 

On our journey we encountered more Hogwarts students like us, Gringotts money, and an Aussie street performer. When we arrived at Trafalgar (a place we had to ask 3 different cute locals how to pronounce) Square, I was almost moved to tears. It’s true it’s a beautiful place, but that is not the reason I almost cried. I felt overwhelmed with emotion on the sheer fact that I was here. I wasn’t sitting at the office, I wasn’t at my house watching a movie, I was present in London and appreciating all it’s glory. When you dream about something for so long, it’s hard to explain how incredible it feels that this place not only measures up to your expectations but exceeds it. It was also strange to me how I didn’t feel like I was a tourist. I felt like I belonged, that I had finally found the city I was meant to live in. After moving around so many times, I had never felt so at home as I did in London. (Trust me, I don’t say this lightly.)

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At Trafalgar they had these lion statues and I saw so many kids on them that I was like “I WANT TO CLIMB TOO!” I should’ve definitely thought more carefully about my wish. Getting up there was such a struggle that Liz had to push my butt up, literally. The issue? We began laughing hysterically at the situation, which only made getting up that much harder. Oh did I mention I was in a dress and tights? Yeahhhhhh. You’re welcome Trafalgar Square visitors.

 

I would like to take a moment and dispel a common conception of Londoners. Most of the world has been told that Londoners are cold, rude and just unpleasant people. Within being there a day (and later on 4 more days) I can tell you with full confidence that, that statement is grossly untrue. Any local we stopped to ask for directions, help, information, to take a picture, guidance, opinion, or ask any question was incredibly graceful, kind and helpful. Even if they were in a rush they were never rude or talked down to us as if we were dumb tourists. So to anyone planning on visiting, I tell you the people were incredibly wonderful, and if you’ve had a bad experience I’m sorry.

Okay, back to the story. For lunch we headed to Sherlock Holmes Restaurant & Pub. Our goal this trip was to eat local and traditional plates and only drink local (or national) beers. The bar man’s sass was on point when he said

V:”Can we sit anywhere?”

Bar Man: “Oh you two? No I don’t think so.” With a straight face.

Liz began laughing and then the bar man couldn’t help but smile and reply “yeah, sit anywhere, but up here is where you order.”

Food wise we had bangers and mash (sausage and potatoes) and Liz had an English Ale called Old Speckled Hen while I had the Sherlock Holmes Ale (duh). Also the awesome thing was Liz taste tested a few of the beers before picking hers. And funny enough according to her “The Watson Wallop was Sherlock but less.” A fun fact about pubs in London, they’re all gorgeous! Most of them are black with gold lettering and have flowers all around the top and sometimes on the side. They look incredibly inviting and just beautiful.

 

After lunch came more walking and more filming locations. It was awesome to see first hand different locations and how they transformed those places into what we see in the movies. Then we were walking by the Thames river when our legs just couldn’t handle all the walking. It felt like we had walked all of London, which we pretty much had. And we sat on a bench, which was elevated (GENIUS) so that you get to see the actual Thames and not the barrier. Liz looked at me and asked me how I was feeling. The only word that came to my mind was Blessed. And not in the #blessed way people use it jokingly. It was real. I was blessed to be able to not only afford but be able to do this. So many people go through life unable to explore other parts of the world, or accomplishing life long dreams, and here I was doing one of mine. I was incredibly grateful to be able to do it. And regardless of how much I wanted to chop off my legs in pain, or how my shoulders hurt from my bag, or how cold I felt or anything else, I felt happy and calm. And that in itself was amazing to be able to feel that way. In that moment, nothing else mattered other than the happiness and peace I felt. (I’m getting sappy, I know, but just preaching the truth, that’s all.)

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The cool thing about this self-guided tour was that in it they had these awesome historical artifacts and locations that were off the beaten path and we were able to see those. As the sun began to set and the rain began to drizzle, we approached Borough Market. I had a change in hairstyle thanks to Liz and we looked around this awesome place. A place that definitely had the possibility of being the Leaky Cauldron location, but more importantly was filled with hoards of men spewing from the pubs. We looked at each other confused, it was only Wednesday after all. Why were all these men drinking at pubs on a Wednesday?

 

Well with that question still in our minds we headed to our last stop, Leadenhall. We had to ask for directions, of course, and this is where our lovely Liz becomes a heroine. This guy was actually walking us over to show us where to turn and he wasn’t paying attention to the traffic, so Liz had to pull him back so he wouldn’t get hit by a car. And Liz saves a life. No biggie. At this point exhaustion and hunger had gotten the best of us and we just couldn’t go on any longer. It was also 8pm, and we had started our day at 8am. 12 hours of walking is bound to make anyone quit. So we found Pizza Express and had a lovely pizza for dinner. Side note: this location also had pubs full of men.

After dinner Liz approached a group of guys our age to take a picture of us. We actually ended up pulling up a seat with them. Now, I don’t quite remember if they invited us to join or we invited ourselves, but regardless what I do remember is a lot of laughs. They asked us about our Americanness while we asked questions on their Britishness. It was a nice trade off. Liz and I got made fun of for ordering British Ales, that apparently are considered old men drinks, while we poked fun at their Gin & Tonics, an american older man’s drink of choice. After a few drinks and many jokes (that remained with Liz and I the rest of the trip) , one of our new friends had to leave so we wanted to capture this lovely group and took a picture with them. The other two stayed with us and we actually ended up hanging out for the rest of the evening. We headed to a martini bar after the pub where I learned that British boys are much more unafraid to dance than American boys, and that they were unafraid to order martinis, typically considered a girly drink in America! What we also learned from our new friends is the reason we saw hoards of men at pubs at 5pm is that it is very common for people after work to get together with their friends at pubs to socialize any day of the week. I absolutely loved that idea. It just fostered a more social environment that allows you to make new friends and create quality time with your friends that doesn’t have to mean you are all getting so hammered you don’t remember the previous night. All of this actually also meant that people are not in a rush to get married and that it allows them to actually enjoy their 20s and let things happen naturally.

 

All in all this very long day, was so incredibly fun and full with adventure. And also just full of appreciation for London, Londoners, my life and Liz. It was truly a wonderful day.

Much love always!

# of Miles Walked According to My Phone Step Counter: 12 miles

15 ‘Must See’s in New York City


There are probably a million articles on the internet that include what to see in one of the world’s most popular cities, New York City. However, mine has already eliminated the classics: Central Park, Times Square, Grand Central Station and 5th Avenue. All of those are already on everyone’s radar, so why not learn about some lesser known attractions?

 

1. Coney Island

During the day in the summer, this place is absolutely packed. Plan to get there around 5ish when everyone who’s been at the beach all day is leaving. A few items to have in your purse in case you decide to head that way: hand sanitizer and tissues (the bathrooms were few and didn’t have toilet paper or soap by the time I arrived). Once there you MUST have a Nathan’s Hot Dog. It’s not only a staple there but it’s absolutely delicious. Even if you’re saying, I’ve had Nathan’s somewhere else before. I am here to tell you, you haven’t had Nathan’s until you have it at Coney Island. Go enjoy the hot dog and the rides. But I am telling you right now, if you are terrified of snakes like I am, please keep your eyes open as people like to bring their pet pythons to show everyone else.

 

2. Belvedere Castle

Central Park has been in many movies and is an absolute must see while in New York City. And let me tell you, no matter how many times you visit you will never walk all of it. Unless you are really determined to do it, then by all means feel free. However, one spot within the park that is a must see besides The Mall and Literary Walk, this castle is a lovely point in the park for pictures and gorgeous views of New York City and Central Park. It is also a great location to visit in the summer, spring, fall or winter. Just be sure to bundle up if you plan on visiting it in the winter time.

 

3. Riverside Park & Bryant Park

Believe it or not, Central Park is not the only park in the New York City. There are actually many other parks, but here are two of my favorites. Riverside Park is along the Hudson River and is a lot less crowded. It is great for a morning walk or if you need to get away from the busy streets of NYC. The have long paths and play grounds. And sometimes they even have events for your dogs! Bryant Park is one of my favorite places to visit in the winter time for their Winter Village. From ice skating, to hot chocolate to a market you will find it all here. It’s one of my favorite places to see in the winter. But in the warm weather it’s just as great for a nice lunch or snack outside.

 

4. Rockefeller Center

This one is also a classic but I needed to include it. It’s a great place to visit year round. From the fancy stores, to show signs and to being right next to 30 Rock is just a jaw dropping experience. And this is a must visit if you are heading over to NYC in the winter. The most amazing Christmas Tree you will ever see is there as well as the ice rink, home to many proposals.

 

5. Museums: Natural History, MET, MOMA, Guggenheim

I could go on and on about the amazingness of these places, but that would just take all day. They are all truly worth a visit, even if museums aren’t your thing. Here are some tips to help you with your visit.
Natural History: the ticket prices you see online are suggestion prices, that means you can certainly pay less. Buy them at the admission desk and pay what you wish.  It is a huge museum, so expect to spend a good amount of time in there.
MET: Just like the Natural History, the admission prices are recommended. Fridays and Saturdays the museum is open for a longer time, until 9pm as opposed to 5:30pm.
MOMA: For free entries you might want to try UNIQLO sponsored Friday Nights starting at 4pm. The line will get extremely long at that time, so they suggest stopping by at 6pm. You’ll have until 8pm, which is more than enough time to look around. A can’t miss in there is the sculpture garden.
Guggenheim: On Saturdays from 5:45pm to 7:15pm, it is a pay as you wish system as well. Also it is important to note it is closed on Thursdays.  

 

6. Brooklyn Bridge

NYC may be known as the city that never sleeps, but it should also be known as the city that always walks. One of my favorite things about NYC is the fact that everyone walks everywhere. It is so refreshing to see everyone out and about. So, why not add to the experience and walk the Brooklyn bridge. Start from either end, and once you’ve completed you can proudly say you’ve crossed the Brooklyn bridge by foot. I have! And while you do that admire the beautiful NYC views.

 

7. 9/11 Memorial

Now this one is up to everyone’s discretion. This visit might just be another tourist attraction for some, while for others this really hits home. It is a beautiful memorial and if you have the time and the heart you should definitely stop by for a visit.

 

8. Highline

For more peaceful places to walk, try walking the Highline. It may be a popular tourist destination, but the strange sense of calm you will find there is quite the experience. People are walking and talking, yet it feels quiet and peaceful. Take a seat in one of the many designated seating areas and just watch the daily life go by right in front of your eyes. The Highline used to be train tracks, but now is covered in plants and a pathway. I definitely recommend heading over there to unwind after a long day, just before heading out for the night.

 

9. Ellen’s Stardust Diner

As you start winding down your night, may i suggest a true one of a kind experience you might only see in NYC? Ellen’s Stardust Diner, the place you go if you’re trying to make it on Broadway. All of their servers sing, and they will even take requests. Just imagine it, getting served dinner while the servers are singing and climbing on booths. It’s a fun experience and I recommend it for anyone headed to NYC.

 

10. Shake Shack

If a quick dinner is more your style, you should head to Shake Shack. While it is no longer only in NYC, it did start here! I am lucky to have a few of them here in Boston, but I had my first one in NYC and it was divine. Get ready for a wait whatever time you decide to stop by, but the line moves fast and it is so worth it.

 

11. SoHo

If you want to try out a more intimate quiet dinner, SoHo is the place for you. While this neighborhood might be best known for the cheaper and trendy stores, it’s true beauty is in the night time. If you’re not sure where you want to eat, just start walking down the streets. I am sure one of the uniquely cozy restaurants will call out to you. It’s perfect for romantic dates, or a girls night dinner and drinks.

 

12. Dylan’s Candy Bar

If you are a sugar lover like myself, this store will make your jaw drop and mouth water at the same time. The amount of candy stored in one place is truly amazing. My suggestion is getting the small tub that has a set price and packing as much as you can, I mean like really stuff it. It’s also a perfect souvenir for the kids, guaranteed!

 

13. Broadway

You cannot go to NYC and not go see a show! However, Broadway shows aren’t exactly cheap. Worry not, I have a suggestion! First thing in the morning, you should head to TKTS, a box office that sells tickets for half price. They have locations in Times Square, Brooklyn  and South Street Seaport. I have only ever been to the Times Square and for that one you better get there early, 9am for matinée shows and 2pm for evening shows. I’d give the other ones a shot too since they are a bit more out of the way, they might not have as long of a wait. Either way, enjoy the beauty of Broadway.

 

14. Rooftop Bars

If you only have one night or many nights, I recommend finding a rooftop bar. There is nothing like ending your day staring out into the bright lights and lively NYC from above. It’s an experience many should have, and something that can be easily found in NYC. A few are Plunge and STK Downtown.

 

15. Meatpacking District & Hell’s Kitchen

One of the areas I have really enjoyed going out in is the Meatpacking District. It’s a great area with a diverse options of bars. For clubs you better head over to Hell’s Kitchen area. There they have clubs like Pacha and Hudson Terrace, to name a few.

 

I hope these were helpful for planning your trip to New York City! Enjoy the Big Apple, City that Never Sleeps and the City that Always Walks! Please let me know if I miss anything or if you know any secrets I don’t!

 

Enjoy your adventure!