The running joke on this trip was my naming Koreans “The Black people of Asia”. LOL They know how to season some chicken and make a good cocktail. Like a kid on the first day of his favorite class, I raised my hand and yelled “present” for allll of this greatness.
Some trips you return and have to unpack them in layers, this one is included. The food, site seeing, and cocktails can’t all be contained in one writing. Seoul, South Korea is a food and cultural bazaar! It’s one of the crown jewels of Asian that has cuisine spilling out into the busy streets through various vendors. For a foodie like me, Seoul made my soul happy.
In a destination, a spot can grab you for a sit down multiple times. Luckily this joint was down the hill from our hotel with late hours. Real Made Chicken had some of the best fried chicken that I’ve tasted in a very long time. It was so good that it deserves its own entry in ImOutOfTown, apart from the rest of my Seoul experience (which I’ll get to later). Before you get down the steep hill, you can smell that chicken sizzling in the grease. As you see in the photo, the cook is frying that bird in the front with the window open.
I had the plain fried and honey mustard wings with Soju, a Korean popular beverage. Them wings…them wings…. were great and hot out of the grease with a sturdy crispy, even after the sauce was added. Those bad boys was seasoned down to the bone!! And then there was Soju.
Most flavors of Soju taste like popsicles, but don’t let that fool you though!! The alcohol content is pretty intense, and the sweet taste will have you dranking and forgetting how strong they really are. It’s the kind of libation I like though…great taste with a kick.
The service at Real Made Chicken was great and the portions were hefty. High five for staff and the outstanding cook. I promise I’ll return to Korea, if for nothing else, to put my feet under their table for chicken and SoJu.
If you’re in Seoul and had a night out, Real Made Chicken is a slice of heaven. I have tons more to write about Seoul, but I Had to yell, “Chicken and Booze … Hallelujah”.
For more information about Real Made Chicken, click here.
Many of you have been to Los Angeles, and if you haven’t, you should go. I’ve been a few times and it’s been epic each stay. It’s always a plus when you know someone where you’re going, and in the “City of Angels” I know a few really good people. L.A. is different from the Northeast and those differences are evident in the landscape. In about a couple of hours, you can drive to the mountains, or you can be on a sunny beach rollerblading. I just want you to know that I’m here for every… single.. bit of it. I needed a break from Toronto’s winter, so a last-minute flight to Los Angeles had me at the airport listening to some Ole School while I had some “traveling cheer”. I rode that bird for 5 hours right on in there.
This trip I had a mission. In the past, I’ve either been there to shoot and/or handle business, but this time I had pressing things to tend to. People have been telling me about this cupcake place for years that I needed to try out. Now look, I’m a cupcake connoisseur so it was pressing that I make it to the west coast to see what all the fuss was about. Sprinkles is their name caking is the game. LOL I was already hanging out with my homegirl Ming from my Detroit years, so we drove over to their Grove location to dive in. Both of us grabbed a coconut and red velvet a piece. What better way for me to measure what they’re all about than to get my two favorite flavors right!
I started with the red velvet, then the coconut, and it was just …O.K. Both were topped with a butter cream icing and the cupcakes were fairly moist. I also have to take into consideration that I came in the evening and it’s possible that those particular cupcakes have been out for the day. They weren’t bad, but just OK! Now listen here, If anybody know anything about moist cakes, it’s me. LOL I’ve been eating cupcakes from Florida, Toronto, and these days around the world. I can almost tell you if they’ve used good butter or bad, or look at the icing and tell you if it’s sugar or creamed (I told y’all this cupcake love is serious LOL). Would I recommend you to check them out, of course, but are they that outstanding for you to go out of your way to have them…not judging by the two I had. I will say they’re affordable at $3.95 each for the size. I would’ve like the butter cream icing to be a bit more creamy, or at least fresh, and the cupcakes slightly more moist. Again, I take into consideration the time of day I made my purchase. I’m heading back to L.A. soon and I’m going to give them another chance at a different location. You know I’ll fill you in!
I did whole lot more in L.A. but I can’t tell you all my business. You give some and you keep some 😉 All I know is that they drink a plenty and that Happy Hour can be anytime of the day at any given “waterhole” all around the city. Me and my liver had to hightail it out of there. LOL Pastors drink, deacons drink, Uber drivers drink, old regal women drink, the whole town throws them allllllll the way back. If ever you want to lay around on the beach and “put a few away”, you’ll have no problem getting strong liquor and some folk that will sit right with you for the cause. LOL To be continued L.A. 😉
The route I took to Montevideo isn’t the standard. I did it this way to pinch some pennies, but only ended up pinching my nerves. I traveled every bit of a full day to get to Montevideo…a plane ride with a stop in Santiago, Chile for starters. Once in Chile, I had an almost two hour layover before loading back on to the same plane for a two hour flight to Buenos Aries, Argentina. Once in Buenos Aires, caught a boat for an hour to Uruguay. I reached Uruguay and chartered another coach bus for two hours to Montevideo, then finally a cab to my hotel. I must admit, that last coach bus ride to Montevideo had me a little bitter with mumblings of words that I choose to include for this blog. LOL Was it worth it? Absolutely and I’ll share why.
Montevideo is a bustling city that sits on the Atlantic coast in one of South America’s smallest countries, Uruguay. Its Spanish influence is undeniable in architecture and culture. One friend in our group that has been to Spain several times stated often that he felt as if he was in Spain. Montevideo is a destination that many Spanish countries visit, and is to many North American tourists, virtually unknown. During my journey there I was updating through Instagram and Facebook. Many asked,“Where is Montevideo?” I think that is what makes this trip extra special. It’s totally off of the radar for many North American travelers …and up until going… myself included. Now I get to share why this was such a great trip, and a full one.
Montevideo sits on the Atlantic Ocean and its climate is opposite of North America’s due to being south of the equator. So January and February are peak summer months. Temperatures average between a high of 82 degrees Fahrenheit, 27 degrees Celsius, to a low of 69 degrees Fahrenheit and 21 degrees Celsius. It’s shorts and beach weather for sure.
The currency is the Uruguayan Peso with average conversions of$1 USD equaling $28 UYU (Uruguayan Peso) and $1 CAD (Canadian Dollar) equaling $21 UYU. Of course, currency rates change almost hourly. The native language of Uruguay is Spanish. If you don’t know the language or have some familiarity with it, travel with someone who does. I was fortunate to have had a Montevideo native with me and two others that had some Spanish language proficiency.
For this trip, we opted for a hotel based on practicality over opulence. It’s summer there, and all I wanted was clean sheets, a functional bathroom, and accessibility to downtown attractions and transportation. Hotel Los Angeles fit the cost and the above criteria. It even included a decent continental breakfast if you woke up early enough from the partying the night before (which was a task). I always evaluate accommodations with the question “Would I stay there again?” I would! Cool and helpful staff and quite a bit of Old Spanish architecture made the stay welcoming and cozy. Listen, after the conversion, it was a little over $50 USD ($65 CAD) per night. There were no complaints from the home team over here.
FOOD & LIBATIONS
Now on to what I really like to check out in a place…the food and the booze. LOL I’ll start with the food first. Latin America is big on their meats (no pun intended lol). I had a few good meals but one of my favorites was in the port district of Montevideo. Estancia del Puerto served us the variety of meat that we kept hearing about. We had lamb, sausage, chicken, and beef… my goodness I’m salivating on my keyboard as I type. LOL All the meat was grilled, so none of us felt guilty about departing from our meal plans…at least I didn’t. What really made me happy was the price. A great variety of meat (and a little booze) for roughly $20 per person….I almost kissed the entire staff. LOL
Los Yuyos is another great restaurant but it was off the beaten path. We were lucky to have a cab driver that was taking music request. The stand out was a drink with a special kick called Caña. It’s super sweet and many take it in shots; if you’re brave enough to buy a bottle, have at it. One of our friends was that brave dude and …we salute him. LOLOL
I had one of the sloppiest sandwiches at La Pasiva called the Chivito. Anyone who knows sandwiches, understands that the sloppier, the better it taste.With beef, egg, olives, cheese, peppers, sauces all over it, I wanted to come back later for a doggy bag. lol
What were the odds that one of Montevideo’s Carnivals would happen during my stay and on the same street as my hotel? Well that’s just how fantastic this trip was. The carnival celebrated African heritage that inhabited Uruguay. For two nights, it was a culmination of bands, costumes, street vendors, beer, and plenty of people partaking in weed (for those who are into that, it’s legal in Montevideo). I wanted to dance in the street so bad, but I did get my robot in though. LOL
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I hate a long tour. I mean…I despise it. I do however love a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. Bus tours of this kind give you the option of staying on the tour, or hoping off the bus to explore the site of your interest. It’s for us that have tour commitment issues. LOL For approximately $25 USD or $32 CAD, you tour the city on a double decker bus with a guide (and headphones for English tourist).
The beach is beautiful, and what I liked most is that I felt like I was at a chilled ongoing party. There were plenty of volleyball games and ice cream vendors for everyone here. Now, of course we found an umbrella bar situation to throw one back. But most importantly, I felt safe!
Things To Remember
There are a few points I have to reiterate. I was informed that only a third of the population in Montevideo have some knowledge of the English language, and even fewer are proficient. I ventured out alone for part of a day, and got by, but at times really needed the crutch of my Spanish speaking friends. Also, as European as Montevideo looks, it is still Latin America. Just as you would be cautious in any North American or world-class city, use the same precautionary measures there. Lastly, unlike the pace of most North American cities, South America runs on it’s own clock. LOL There is no rush…at all here!
Yes, I went as my mother would say, “around the mulberry bush and through the woods” to get to Montevideo, however it was a fantastic inaugural voyage into South America. I’d do it all over again…every single bit of it. Montevideo has to be one of my favorite trips of all time. The laughs and fun will continue to linger for years beyond my stay!!!
I was afforded a do-over for Paris and I couldn’t have been happier. I felt I missed out on so much the first time, and I was nowhere near as experienced of a traveler as I am now. I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve come along way from my first transatlantic trip to France.
Arriving in Paris after a six and a half hour direct flight from Toronto, six hours ahead of EST(eastern standard time), I was picked up in a..yes..Mercedes cab, compliments of a family friend who drives them. They’re quite common in many cities throughout Europe.
Besides the transportation, another blessing was in the accommodations. Through a Booking.com recommendation from a good friend, I landed a gorgeous condo in the Hotel De Ville section of downtown. I definitely felt as if I redeemed myself from the hotel mishap from my first trip. The condo was fully furnished and equipped with a full kitchen including dishes. The neighborhood grocery store aaaaaaannnnd a liquor store across the street, helped your boy kick his feet up and make Paris REALLY feel like home for a few days. It’s all about traveling smart!
France too uses the Euro as their currency like the majority of Europe, so I advise anyone traveling outside of North America to have the currency on hand of the destination you’re traveling to.Paris is wonderful with taking credit cards, however, a growing number of retailers around the world are either eliminating American Express or frowning upon taking it for purchases. Keep that in mind wherever you travel!Enough of the preliminaries, I did quite a bit on this trip and I want to get to it.
I had been dying to go back to The Museum Louvre .For 15 euros, you can see many of the worlds greatest art collections, including the world renowned Mona Lisa. The Louvre’s structure is remarkable itself. Comfortable shoes are recommended because each wing is massive.
This time, I was able to explore wings of the Louvre that I didn’t get the opportunity to previously, such as the ancient Egyptian artifacts.
Less than an hour outside of the downtown core is Versailles. There I was able to visit the breathtaking Palace of Versailles. This should be a half day tour at the least, and make sure…again… you wear comfortable shoes for the amount of walking on this tour. I’m thinking I’m pretty healthy, but it wore me out towards the end. For the cost 18 euros, you can get both the palace and the spectacular gardens that’s a maze. It’s well worth seeing.
I promised before that I’d go into some of the nightlife…however… you give some and keep some..lol.You can’t tell EVERYTHING!! But I will say that many of the nightspots are open till 5am during the week and 7am on weekends. The Parisians know how to have a good time. Not too far from the condo was a joint named TaTa Burger that was non-conventional in appeal and service, with great food, but for sure a spot that is a haven for the liberally sound.
Within a year’s time I’ve visited 10 countries and France is the only one that I’ve returned to within that time and …Deservingly So! I always encourage people who want to take a once in a lifetime trip abroad, to consider Paris, France as that trip, or for new travelers to include it in their itinerary. Paris to Europe, is what Tokyo is to Asia in my opinion…the crème de la crème of their respective continents.
An eight-hour flight from Toronto to Rome landed me centuries back in history. Rome is a wonderful mix of architecture as far back to biblical days with a modern mesh of liberalism and old world charm. It’s as ancient as it is modern, and proved itself to be worth the trip. I’ll give you a few recommendations and the usual do’s and don’ts while in Rome.
Lets start with the currency. North America spoils us with the convenience of not having to carry cash, only using our debit and credit cards for purchases. Not the case in most, if not all of Europe. Western Europe is better but Rome is included with the majority. Definitely have some Euros on hand for restaurants and transportation purposes. American Express is almost never a favorite at all if you’re using credit.
The pavement in the city almost landed me on my behind a few times…talking about ancient…lol. Make sure you’re careful when walking these age-old streets! I almost busted my face up a few times because of the uneven side walks and loose pavement. I was convinced for a minute that Rome was trying to keep me down. LOL
While in Rome, I stayed at the Orange Hotel. The good people at this lovely yet quant hotel reconfirmed why I love and recommend boutique hotels whenever possible. Boutique hotels have fewer rooms and have personalized services that are missed with the larger hotel chains. The décor is intimate in feel, and the hotel bar is stacked and not as expensive. Orange is minimalist and sleek with pops of orange that is it’s signature…oh… and the bar is slamming. A major perk is that it’s within walking distance of the Vatican.
By now, you know what I detest the most on a vacation, you guessed it…long tours. The Vatican Museum tour was a long one, but the Vatican is massive so that’s to be expected. But I do highly suggest the Vatican tour, and let me tell you why. The tour places you in the front of the line (Vatican tour lines are extremely long) and include an informative guide. I’m warning you now, it’s a ton of walking but the art and history knowledge that you gain is worth it.
I was given a few travel warnings like, “Don’t wear shorts unless they’re past your knees”, “Make sure to only be in ear shot of one person if your conversation is remotely off color”, “Tank tops are NOT to be worn.” This was all before heading to Dubai for my birthday trip. I wanted to know all of them, because I didn’t want this blog becoming my journal of Locked Up.
After traveling 14 hours from Toronto non-stop, I arrived in Dubai around 7:00 P.M. (8 hours ahead of eastern standard time) to a scorching 90 degrees Fahrenheit. It was a sure reminder that I was in the desert.
Dubai is apart of the United Arab Emirates, making it a Muslim destination.Although Dubai is very liberal in comparison to other cities and nations in the region, there are some cultural etiquettes and exchanges one should know.
• When traveling, make sure you’re conscious of the train car you enter on. In Dubai they’re divided by men, women, and mixed.
• Always have their currency, the Emirati Dirham, on hand. Some merchants and most cabs will not take credit cards. ATM’s are readily available.
• Dubai is liberal with foreigners as far as their wardrobe, however be mindful to not offend by revealing too much. I was fine with tank tops and shorts.
I loathe long tours with short stops because they limit the time I have to explore sections of the destination. Long speeches about history while your sitting on a hot bus and not being able to wander and learn for yourself is a NO GO for me. Hell, I think my words here are starting to become lengthy..LOL.
Here is the must see attractions I was able to get to:
The Burq Khalifa is currently the tallest building in the world and an impressive structure to see. If you want, there’s a tour that will take you to the top floor and give you a certificate for doing so. Seeing it from the outside was good enough for me. (LOL)
Remember, don’t give me long tours! (LOL) The Dubai City Tour was perfect. It didn’t monopolize my entire day and I was transported through out the city to see Dubai’s finest architecture, the Dubai Museum, Palm Island, the residential areas, and the beach.
Dubai has the largest mall in the world by total area. I can’t even begin to tell you everything in it, but I’ll share some. There’s an aquarium, ice skating rink, massive waterfalls, and more food than you can think of.The shopping caters to the super wealthy and the aspiring ones like myself.(LOL) You have variety for sure!
Thanks to a special couple living there, one of the highlights of my trip to Dubai was dining on the marina. The beef brisket at Fume’ has to be the best I’ve ever had. I’m coming back for it!
For dessert and cocktails, we headed up to Asia Asia. It was my birthday, so you know I had to have some sweets and throw a couple back! The view of the marina and the ambiance ….BEAUTIFUL! I’m personally not big on Apple Strudel but this one was a winner with the coconut ice-cream on the side. Between the dessert, champagne, and the scotch…Asia Asia was the night cap my birthday needed.
Another tour that was worth the time and money was the Oasis Tour. It was 180 AED, which exchanges to $50.00USD and $65.00CAD. This excursion includes an SUV ride in the desert, a short camel ride, and a meal with belly dancer entertainment. Although this tour took a huge chunk of our day (which under normal circumstances would be a problem), the food was good and the entertainment matched. The camel ride was short, and after riding one, that worked for me as well. I didn’t care for having to partner up with someone for a single camel ride. It wasn’t the picture I wanted for this blog. You know, me riding off into the sunset on a camel with someone else behind me. LOLStill worth the time and money for those who want a true desert experience.
Now I’m asked, would I visit Dubai again? Not only would I, but I have another trip planned already to return. (However), Dubai is a destination to unwind, shop, and check out some cool yet odd things, such an ice skating rink in a mall that’s in the desert. Dubai is in its infancy as a city in comparison to most cities, so if you’re looking for history and loads of culture, Dubai isn’t your destination. When you think of Dubai, think of Las Vegas minus the gambling and sometimes rogue behavior. It’s a fun adult playground in a Middle Eastern desert.
To be quite honest, Prague was a city I knew little about, and to be brutally honest, I barely could point it out on a map. I came to the Czech Republic’s capital city completely naive and had very little expectations. Like most of Europe, there’s a six-hour time difference from Eastern Standard Time and a roughly 9-hour flight from Toronto. I can dig it…Thank God in business class though!!!
I arrived in the morning, and of course ready to unload my questions at the airport about currency and transportation options to the hotel. Nobody smiles initially upon interaction and to a westerner that can be off-putting. I later discovered that it’s one of their cultural nuances, so never take their dry approach to customer service personally.
Most speak English and once you engage in conversation, will help you as much as possible. It’s best to take the financial hit at the ATM machine and let your bank compute the exchange rate, than to exchange your currency at the kiosk inside the airport. More often than not…the airport will rip you off…without even smiling!! In Prague, always have their currency on hand, which is the Czech koruna. Not every merchant, including cabs, will take credit cards. I changed my money, grabbed my cab, and off to hotel.
I stayed at the Hotel St. George and it was very affordable thanks to the currency exchange favoring the American and Canadian dollar (1 U.S. dollar equals 24 Czech koruna roughly). The St. George was a great choice logistically because it’s within walking distance of the downtown attractions. A helpful staff with clean and spacious accommodations that’s hooker, pimp, and drug pusher free is all I wanted, and St. George gave me just that. Now really, how much time does anyone stay in a room on vacation anyway? It helps that Hotel St. George has old European charm, an aesthetic plus.
One of Prague’s crown jewels is the Charles Bridge. Like the rest of the city, the bridge was untouched by the devastation of World War II, so the architecture is stunning. From quaint restaurants to beer gardens in the vicinity, I found myself stopping every few seconds for the shopping (remember the great exchange rate). Many of the non-commercialized mom and pop shops surround the foot of the bridge.
Prague is paradise for the beer drinker. I’m not a beer drinker but however…I indulged in a Pilsner from the garden. Pilsner seems to be Prague’s beer of choice. They even have vending machines on the streets stacked with alcohol you can purchase along with a Snickers and hit the town if you choose. I couldn’t believe it so you know I had to take a picture.
Czech cuisine in taste for me was …interesting. I’ll still give you my recommendation for the restaurant that was fairly affordable and authentic. Restaurant Mustek is located in the Wensceslas shopping and dining district of Prague. I ordered a sampler so I get the full experience and it was giving it to me. LOL This dish was mainly beef, a slice of pork, potatoes, duck and sauerkraut all covered in its juices and gravy. By far one of the best meals I ordered the entire time I was there, with a stellar staff to match!
The Prague Castle is a must see, but be prepared to climb a TON of steps to get to it. The roads, castles, and most if not all of the infrastructure in Europe were built centuries before society became conscious of our handicaps or even electricity for elevators for that matter. I thought I was in pretty decent shape until I had to take a break before finishing my way up to the castle gate. It’s worth it once you get there and absolutely breathtaking. There’s also a church on the grounds named Katedrala Svateho Vita or St. Vitus Cathedral. The tour is approximately two-hours long.
Now what started this trek across the pond in the first place was an ice cream treat I’ve never heard of but read about, The Czech Doughnut Ice Cream Cone. It’s a fried doughnut shaped into a cone, lined with nutella on the inside, and stuffed with scoops of ice cream. I swear I ran to it with open arms in slow motion (*cue Whitney Houston’s “Run To You”*)!!! This was the sole reason I flew there from the start. It was everything and worth the entire trip…all by itself. The downtown core is full of stands and shops that make this dessert from scratch. Wasn’t long after throwing the napkin away that I met a couple of school teachers from the States that were high on weed and coke. The pair was determined to turn my trip into a Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas excursion. In the words of Iyanla Vanzant “NOT ON MY WATCH”. Lol That’s another story for another blog.
Many tourist walked the streets at night and myself included. Police presence was visible but not overbearing. If ever I had questions about landmarks and directions, other tourist and natives alike were very helpful. As a man of color, there was never a moment I felt uncomfortable.
I inaugurated this blog with Prague because it was a welcomed surprise and destination that I personally never heard people in and out of my circle talk about. Prague, and the experience it gave me has earned a repeat visitor with me. I encourage anyone that loves history, old world architecture and charm to visit Prague, or as they say, “The Heart of Europe”.