My Big Greek Vacation- Part 2: Mykonos

From Athens, Mykonos is just a thirty minute plane right away. From the moment I got off the plane, it was clear that the island was significantly different from the mainland. The roads are narrow and some aren’t even paved. The landscape is hilly with dry brown grass and bushes.

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Oh, and it’s windy.

I don’t just mean Chicago-style-windy either. When we went to the beach, the sand and water was blowing in our faces. We had to weigh down our books, towels and anything that weighed less than a cinderblock. I almost lost a 400 page book to the wind multiple times.

Despite the wind, it was still the most gorgeous beach I’ve ever visited. It was amazing really. While the island was dry and arid, the coastlines were absolutely stunning. I took so many pictures of the water that I had to delete a good number of them just to make room for other photos. Even with the pictures, I couldn’t help but be disappointed that there was absolutely no way I’d be able to recapture what it was like to stand there at my hotel and see the view. Swimming in it was even more surreal. I could see right to the bottom it was so clear. The cold water was so refreshing and so salty I could float without a problem. It was really interesting to be able to notice that the water had that much salt in it. It was a lot better than the New York and Florida beaches; I came out of the Aegean Sea feeling almost exfoliated.

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On the opposite side of the island from our hotel is a completely different kind of attraction. It’s the little cobblestone town of Chora. It’s filled with cute shops selling beautiful jewelry, soap, and all the Greek souvenirs you can imagine. The buildings were this nice bright white and they had bold blue shutters that caught my eye. They were small and simple but it was still awesome to see the interesting architecture I’ve never encountered before.

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They have beautiful bougainvilleas all over Greece, but this one in Chora took my breath away.

We did get lost in the town though. Multiple times. It was actually designed that way to confuse invaders, we were told by a local. The streets are all intersecting and you can’t really retrace your steps. Trust me I’ve tried. In a few cases I went in a complete circle. I was happy about getting lost though. Each street was a little different and I managed to find a cool magnet of Socrates while I was there.

Staying in Mykonos was an incredible three days. On the last day, we took a ferry to another Greek island, Santorini. Stay tuned next week for the third and final part of my Greek trip!

My Big Greek Vacation- Pt 1: Athens

My family is Greek. We’ve always wanted to visit Greece and experience the culture of our family and so we finally booked a two week vacation and headed over. I’ve just returned from said trip to Greece and I can safely say it’s the best vacation I’ve ever taken in my life. This is a country everyone needs to see before they die. From their islands to the mainland, Greece is stunning.

It’s the third most mountainous country in Europe, something I didn’t know until I got there. The capitol city Athens is actually in a valley surrounded by mountains on three sides with the sea on the fourth. It was also very dry and hot. It didn’t rain once while we were there but there was always a nice breeze even when the temperature in Athens reached above 100 degrees.

In all honesty, Athens itself isn’t pretty. It’s home to about five million of Greece’s eleven million people, and the buildings are crowded and littered in graffiti. In other words, Athens is like a regular city. However, it does have one major twist. The ancient Acropolis sits a few hundred feet above the city right in the middle of them all. Seriously, I could see the Parthenon from my hotel room.

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The Acropolis from my hotel window.

It was a real hike to get up to the Acropolis. My family and I had to stop and rest before finally coming face to face with the ruins that are thousands of years older than the USA. There are two main ruins up on top of the Acropolis. The big draw is the surreal Parthenon. This is the temple for the goddess Athena, who gifted the ancient Athenians and thus won the right to have the city named after her (according to mythology, that is). The other is a smaller but still gorgeous temple dedicated to Poseidon, another favorite of the Ancient Athenians.

Now I’m a writer, but overall I can say that everything in Greece I saw challenged me to even attempt to describe how out of this world the entire experience was. This feeling started at the Parthenon. It’s exactly like the pictures, but it’s so huge when standing next to it. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that someone built this. Ancient Greeks used perfect mathematics to form a giant temple that still stands today. Of course significant portions are missing and reconstruction efforts are taking place, it still felt amazing to stare up at these wide columns and symmetrical design.

The view from the Acropolis is also amazing. As the center of the city both today and in ancient times, you can see out over the whole city on all sides. I could see the Theatre of Dionysus, a theatre I was excited to see after learning all about Greek theatre at Emerson. I love Ancient Greek literature, so seeing the giant amphitheater where they would put on some of the most famous tragedies was, sorry to use the word again, surreal.

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The view from the top of the Acropolis
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Theatre of Dionysus! The ancient Greeks obviously didn’t have that screen or those modern chairs down there, haha.

Athens was such a new cultural experience that I won’t forget until the day I die. From the delicious gyros and fresh food to the after-dinner shots that comes customary after every meal, I think I discovered a whole new kind of eating experience to take back to America.

But, this was only the beginning. My family and I also visited popular Greek islands Mykonos and Santorini after Athens. Each had their own amazing and unique qualities, and I’ll tell you all about them soon!

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Just hanging out by the Parthenon

Surviving Festival Season: Concerts, Tours and All

You’ve waited for months, ever since you saw the lineup and qued up your computer in class to be the first to buy tickets. Congratulations, you’ve finally made it! The summer concert season is in full swing.

A huge gathering of artists sharing their craft for appreciative audiences, what is more beautiful than that? Reaching for your wallet to purchase that CD or band tee to find it missing from bag, is that beautiful too?

Here are some tips and tricks to surviving the concerts and tours with more than you showed up with.

  1. The Perfect Bag

I wish I could tell you all to wear a fanny pack with little locks on them, but even I refuse to do that. I know all of my belongings would be safer, but my pride would be ruined. There’s a certain appearance for each concert and festival one tries to create and attain and we’re not going to just ruin that for fanny packs.

People argue constantly on which is better, a purse or a backpack? When in all reality, if you choose wisely and use smartly, both are very effective and safe.

The first rule in choosing a bag: nothing open. I know you can get things easily, but so can others. Secondly, nothing loose. If your backpack is longer than your back, you’re not going to feel anything going on back there. The same goes for purses, tight straps across your body or smothered into your side. It’s like being your own doorman to your gear, you’ll know exactly who is going in and out of the realm of your possessions. And third and lastly to conquering your safety bag when swaying with hundreds of others to the beat, never keep your wallet easily accessible. At the bottom of your bag is best. If it’s not easy for you, it won’t be easy for anyone else. It’s not like you can’t get it, but you’re being smart about it.

  1. What to Bring?

Let’s think about this for a moment, truly consider the situations and scenarios you most definitely will be faced with and the one’s that could potentially happen. You’re going to get thirsty, fact. You’re going to want money, fact. It will be loud and bright, fact. So a bottle of water is needed, your wallet without a doubt, some ibuprofen would be smart, and sunglasses as well.

You could fall or spend the concert being kicked by overly-enthusiastic audience members so a small first aid kit with cleansing wipes and band-aids is smart. Did you check the forecast the day before? Is rain in your future or wind or shine? Plan accordingly.

The two final things to remember, make sure you have room for basic items you’ll also have to carry around as well. This includes house keys, car keys, back-up phone chargers and some memory cards. And under it all, you should find your wallet.

  1. What to Wear

I understand there is a fashion of tours and concerts, but weather is still a factor. Especially if it’s all day long, if you’re standing, and outside in the sun all day and night. Light and comfortable is best, even better if worn right from the start. If not, have options available. Wearing heels on grass for 8 hours isn’t practical, I don’t care what Sex & The City says. You start out in heels; you better bring flats with you.

Layers are great for winter, during testing seasons and for summer as well. Light layers, like a bandeau, a tank top and sweater are recommended. When it’s scorching and you’re boiling, you’re set until the wind comes flying your way and even then you’re set.

Make-up however, I know you don’t want to go out without it, it’s such a perfect photo opportunity, but if you’re smart, you shouldn’t have a problem. Wearing light coverage concealer, loose powder and sure long lasting products on your eyes will be best. Make sure not to touch your face often, especially if you’re sweating. Otherwise instead of being miraculous with the band, you could be smeared or breaking out from the sweaty make-up being re-absorbed into your pores. And even if all of that didn’t persuade you, how about the fact that the less you wear on your face, the easier it will be to breathe and, as a result, keep yourself cool.

Now go out and enjoy the music!

The ‘Sconset Bluff Walk in Photos

As I’ve written about previously, I have a penchant for exploring how the one percent lives without having to spend any money of my own. Public pathways like the Newport Cliff Walk and the lesser-known Sconset Bluff Walk are the perfect way to do this.

Located on the island of Nantucket in the town of Siasconset, the Bluff Walk is a much more intimate experience than the Cliff Walk. Nearly unadvertised, the only official sign for the Bluff Walk is a stone post marked “Public Way.” No concrete path or tourism fanfare; just a beaten dirt path with views of the Atlantic on your right and the “quaint” summer homes of millionaires on your left.

Six Tips for Traveling Europe Cheap

Taking a European tour is a dream vacation for a lot of people. It’s also expensive, so many of those dreamers think they can’t afford it. Here a few tips to bring you closer to making that trip happen:

1. Remember the Exchange Rate

In years past, the euro and pound have been quite a bit stronger than the American dollar, with the pound being worth almost double. You definitely need to take into account what the exchange rates are and how much money you will lose or gain when switching currency. However, there is hope for us travelers! The euro’s worth has been dropping for a while now and it’s almost equal to the dollar. As of writing this article, 1 USD is equal to 0.90 euro, but it does change daily, so make sure to check the latest values before you go.

2. Money Fees

Make sure your credit card doesn’t charge foreign exchange fees! Although small, you’d be surprised how much of a killer these fees can be when using your card a lot. They really do add up. There are also fees when taking money out of an ATM and when you are exchanging money. ATMs charge a flat fee and then a percentage for exchange. Try to take as much out at a time so you aren’t stuck paying the ATM fee over and over again. Keep in mind that in Europe, many smaller businesses might not take credit cards. Airports and other money exchanges also charge a fee when exchanging cash. Some places charge by amount and others charge a flat fee, but often the best deal is, again, exchanging more money at a time. For all you Bank of America customers, they change it for free!

3. The Transatlantic Ticket

This ticket will probably be the most expensive part of your trip. Unfortunately, this will be expensive, but there are some ways to get the cost down. If you’re a student, try looking at StudentUniverse for discount flights. Also, always buy your ticket as far in advance as possible, because the price will rise as your departure date gets closer. Certain air carriers are also more affordable than others. I’ve had some luck with Aer Lingus and I know Iceland Air is also cheaper than the rest.

4. Find Cheap Flights in Europe

Unlike America, flights inside Europe can be really inexpensive. There are two cheap airlines in Europe: Ryanair and easyJet. When booking early, you should also check regular airlines as well to compare prices, but these two are often the best. Ryanair has flights starting at just 7 euro (about $8) and you can get most flights for around 20 euro ($23).  I have less experience with easyJet, but they do offer similar pricing, although fly to fewer places than Ryanair.

Also keep in mind how far the airport is from the city. Sometimes, Ryanair flies into airports without regular transportation to and from your destination city and traveling back and forth can be expensive. When I was in Paris, the only way to get to the airport I was flying out of was an hour-long, 17 euro bus ride. In many cases, the cheap airfare makes up for the more expensive transportation, but consider all your options. And, as always, book in advance!

5. Pack Light

The catch with cheap airfares are the additional fees. They almost always charge a fee to check a bag. With Ryanair, they charge different fees determined by the size of your suitcase. It’s much easier to just pack less. Bring a backpack with the essentials, especially if your trip isn’t long. A pair of pants, a couple shirts, a coat if it’s cold, a pair of sneakers, small toiletries, and maybe a dress and a nicer pair of shoes if you plan to go out is all you may really need. Plus, you are probably going to be carrying your stuff around before check-in and after check-out, so less is definitely more in this case. Some hostels let you store your stuff for free, but some charge a fee. It also might not be convenient or possible to go back to the hostel before you leave.

6. Share a Room with Strangers

I promise, it’s not as bad as it sounds. I stayed in lots of hostels and I never had a problem. I wasn’t even able to lock my stuff up all the time, because I didn’t have a lock. (However, I don’t suggest that. Bring a lock.) I met a lot of really great people at the hostels I stayed at and a couple of travel buddies. Staying in a dorm is so much cheaper than staying in a hotel room or even a single hostel room.

Hostelworld.com is, from my experience, the best website to find them, but there are a few others as well. Just make sure to read the reviews, because the cheaper you go the sketcher the hostels could be, especially in places like Paris or Rome, where they are always expensive. I want to stress the “could” though, because there are lots of cheap dorms in good hostels. Also, you might want to make sure the hostel has free WIFI, because not all of them have that, unless you don’t want it. Props to you for separating yourself from your phone. You go Glen Coco.

A Day Trip to Newport

Despite being a town known for its outrageous amounts of wealth, Newport is a place that offers visitors plenty of opportunities to experience that affluence without losing their own. I went to Newport without spending a penny. Sites like the Newport Harbor, the Cliff Walk and Ocean Avenue let people take in the glorious splendor of Newport, RI from it’s Gilded Age history to its identity as an East Coast beach hot spot.

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A Day Trip to Nahant

Despite being located on the ocean, there are few places (or at least not enough for me) to get to the open water from public transport in Boston. As I studied the coastline of Boston from Google Maps I came upon Nahant, a small mass of land jutting off from Lynn. I was fascinated. In the words of Liz Lemon, “I want[ed] to go to there.”

When I told my mom I wanted to visit Nahant, she didn’t respond kindly. Instead, she quipped with an overdone Masshole accent, “Ya wanna go to Naah-hahnt?” She grew up on the South Shore, but since living in Minnesota for the past twenty something years, she has most definitely lost her accent. I had been pronouncing it Na-hant (hant as in can’t) before I had talked to my mother, so maybe getting the help of a local is not so bad after all.

Separated by a spit of land, Nahant is an island with an area of one square mile with about 3,500 people. Native Americans originally called it “Nahanten”, meaning “twins or two things united.” It was settled in 1630 by Puritans and officially incorporated as a municipality in 1853.

Houses on the edge of Nahant Beach.
Houses on the edge of Nahant Beach.

It takes less than ten minutes to drive down the main street, Nahant Road, from the mainland off to the end of the island. As soon as we entered the town, we realized the local charm was turned up to the max. All of the makings of a classic New England community can be found here: 17th century houses, American flags, historic churches and town halls.

Houses in Nahant.
Houses in Nahant.

On the outermost tip of the island is Castle Rock, an inlet that seemed like it belonged in Maine. We were all in disbelief that something like this was 25 minutes north of Boston.

Canoe Beach in Castle Rock.
Canoe Beach in Castle Rock.

Unfortunately for us (and for all tourists,) the accompanying beach is “for residents only.” Still, it was definitely worth a drive down and I would recommend a bike ride for anyone visiting.

View of Castle Rock from a park bench.
View of Castle Rock from a park bench.

One thing to note about the geography of the island is that it is very hilly. There were multiple instances where we thought we’d drive straight into the ocean.

Side street in Nahant.
Side street in Nahant.

The aptly named Marginal Road is a perfect example of this. There is nothing protecting your downward car from the depths of the ocean except for a few rocks, so reckless drivers beware. Nahant is not the place to fool around. Driving down every road, I wondered how anyone was able to make it through the past winter.

Marginal Road.
Marginal Road.

Great views of the Boston skyline and Revere Beach can be found on the southern side.

The Boston Skyline, from the Bayside Room.
The Boston Skyline, from the Bayside Room.

Local businesses are scattered around the island, but reflect the town’s sense of pride. With names like Nahant Convenience Store, Nahant Seafood, Nahant Deli, you really know where you are in this place. The most popular restaurant is Tides Bar, which sits right atop Nahant Beach. It features family style dining and reasonably priced meals with a view.

The exterior of Tides Bar.
The exterior of Tides Bar.
Inside the restaurant: views of Nahant Beach and the open ocean can be seen from here.
Inside the restaurant: views of Nahant Beach and the open ocean can be seen from here.

The only chain store on the Island is a Dunkin’ Donuts, but even that was renamed to Dunkin’ Donuts Cafe in order to keep with the quaint vibes of the town.

Not your neighborhood Dunkin'.
Not your typical neighborhood Dunkin’.

If you’re looking for a place to spend a quiet day away from the city, Nahant is the perfect mini-vacation.

Nahant Beach.
Nahant Beach.

Getting there from Boston? Car most recommended. While there were plenty of bus stops lining the main road and one could walk the entire island in three hours, getting there is the main difficulty. It is possible to get there by public transport, but it takes about an hour longer, plus multiple transfers from T to bus.

Life in a Resort Town

Swifts Beach on a hot summer day, Wareham, Mass.
By Boston Public Library, Swifts Beach on a hot summer day, Wareham, Mass., https://flic.kr/p/4CoJ3e under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic License.

 

Now that Memorial Day weekend has come and gone, summer is officially here. If you live on the East Coast, you may find yourself traveling to some summer hot spots such as Martha’s Vineyard, Newport or Atlantic City. While staying there for a week or two in the summer may be fun, living in these places is a whole different experience.

According to a government report on resorts in British Columbia, a resort town can be defined as “an area where tourism or vacationing is the primary component of the local culture and economy.” During the “on” season, resort towns are the best places to live and make a living. During the “off” season, they can be the worst.

For two years now, I’ve been fortunate enough to call myself a “seasonal resident” of Cape Cod. Cape Cod isn’t a resort town per say, but rather an entire resort peninsula. It is a 65 mile tourist haven with 77 beaches and hundreds of local businesses whose population in the summer surges from the permanent 200,000 to the seasonal 500,000.

The town I stay in during the summer can be classified as a resort town. Streets aren’t lined with a variety of local businesses but can instead be summed up in two industries: hospitality and food. Because of this, resort towns are a hotbed of job activity. I remember frantically applying for any job I could find last year in late June, and getting about ten interviews in a week.

“Lazy summer days” is a term that does not apply here. On the Cape, there is always something to do; whether it’s mini-golfing, sailing, shopping, dining or just beaching it, you get the sense that everyone is go-go-going all the time. The only time anything stops is when it rains; rainy days aren’t just considered a pity here, but can be called an economic loss for many businesses.

Summer holidays that usually bring people together, such as the Fourth of July, are the worst days of the working year for resort towns. If you’ve ever wondered what a highway would look like if it were transformed to a parking lot, try driving down Route 28 during any time of the day on July 4th. The few local grocery stores’ stock of hot dogs and hamburgers are wiped out at least three days prior to the holiday. This is true for all major summer resort towns. If you’ve ever wondered how nice would it be to spend the Fourth in [insert summer resort town destination here.] It’s not. If you’ve ever wondered about trying this, don’t worry, you’re actually saving yourself a lot of trouble by not going.

You will know a Cape Cod local if you ever meet one. They are extremely proud of the Cape, but also extremely over it. If you mention an attraction, they have most definitely been there and still don’t get what the hype is. And yes, despite it being their main source of income, they absolutely despise tourists. Yet, no one loves the Cape like the locals do. They stay here, year in and year out, through snow, hurricanes, slow economic times and boredom.

While tourists are the very reason Cape Cod survives in the summer, they are also the bane of its existence. They are the cause of ruin for everything: the clogged roads, the eroding dunes, the strewn litter everywhere. Even if they’re not, they are. Working in the restaurant industry, I can tell you some of the worst encounters I’ve had have been with tourists using the mentality that you can treat people terribly because you’ll never see them again.

(While we’re on that note: Why do people think it’s acceptable to be rude to people just because they know they’ll never see them again? First off, you don’t know that for certain, secondly it’s never ok to be rude.)

But there are benefits to living here.

I’ve known people who make their year’s worth of living in four months, leaving them three seasons to spend recuperating. The job opportunities created by tourism allow a variety of people to make money: international citizens, locals and college students like me. And, most importantly, when I need to sweat and commiserate after my summer job, I don’t do it at my house: I can do it at the beach down my street.

Driving Off the Map

When I was in high school, I always dreamed of taking a road trip with my friends the summer before we began our freshman year of college. Unfortunately, this never happened. But I still feel the urge to traverse across the country. I can just imagine driving in a car with friends, music blaring and windows rolled down as we speed along country roads to whatever destination we had planned.

As junior year approaches, I’m reminded once again that time is short. Soon, I’ll be working professionally full-time. I’ll have bills and student loans to pay and other important responsibilities that I can’t put off. This summer, I’m going to plan another road trip and I hope to actually go on it. As I’m thinking about it now, I realize that I don’t want to go anywhere really well-known. There’ll be too many tourists and too many kitschy baubles to buy as souvenirs. Also, many of my friends have already visited some of these major sites, like Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and LA. Instead, we could visit unique, not as well-known places. There are a number of really beautiful and fun places to visit that are off the beaten path. For anyone who would also like to take a road trip and visit someplace new, here are several stops I think are really great.

Harpswell, ME

harpswell maine

Maine is one of those states that has a ton of little-known destinations. Harpswell, located in Cumberland County, is one of these. It rests along Maine’s coast and is the access point to three islands: Sebascodegan Island, Orr’s Island and Bailey Island. Here, you can bike a number of trails, spend the day at the beach, seal or whale watch, climb the Giant Staircase or buy handcrafted souvenirs. There are also several excellent restaurants where you can try Maine’s fresh lobster.

Asheville, NC

bitmore estate(Biltmore Estate)

Asheville, North Carolina is the perfect destination for a road trip. There’s something to do for everyone. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, lying just outside the city’s border, spans 500,000 acres. Hiking the trails at dawn or dusk gives you the best opportunity to see elk, bear, wild boars, turkey and deer. If you aren’t interested in wildlife, eat, drink and listen to live music at the Orange Peel Social Aid and Pleasure Club. In 2008, Rolling Stone named it as one of the top five rock clubs in the country. For book lovers, you can visit the Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site. This was the author’s childhood home and setting for his novel Look Homeward, Angel.

Cumberland Island, GA

cumberland island georgia

Looking for a beach town without the over-flooded tourism? Cumberland Island has miles of empty beaches and dunes to walk along. This nationally protected seashore is nearly untouched. While visiting, you can watch wild horses graze, take photos of the Carnegie mansion’s ruins and picnic on a deserted beach. To get onto the island, you’ll have to first go to St. Mary’s, Georgia, a small town nearby. You can then take a ferry onto the island, but beware, officials only allow 300 people on in a day. One way to plan ahead is to make a ferry reservation, which can be done six months in advance.

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Jasper, AR

buffalo national river

If you’d rather ride horses than watch them, visit Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Jasper, Arkansas. This dude ranch is located near the Buffalo National River and has been featured on HGTV and in Midwest Living magazine. The owners and operators, Barry and Amy Johnson and their four children, will give you an authentic western experience. For those of you who don’t know, a dude ranch is a ranch/farm that offers “western” activities. Some of the activities offered at Horseshoe Canyon include horseback riding, zip lining, rock climbing and target shooting.

Extraterrestrial Highway, NV

extraterrestrial highway

I try not to be superstitious, but sometimes I wonder about life in space. Are there aliens or other life forms beside the ones on Earth? Is Area 51 real? If you’re curious, why not take a ride down the Extraterrestrial Highway in Nevada? The Extraterrestrial Highway runs 98 miles and received its name—the official name is Nevada State Highway 375—in 1996. This highway is near the supposed Area 51 and visitors have reported seeing UFOs. The best place to start this journey is Rachel, Nevada. It’s the town closest to Area 51. However, since there’s no gas station in the town, your best bet would be to stay in Las Vegas, which is about 115 miles away, or camp at Horney’s Rest Stop. Remember to fill up the tank just before you reach Rachel.

Deadwood, SD

deadwood sd

Deadwood, South Dakota is an often overlooked vacation destination, but it’s actually a great place to soak in history and nature. Here, you can view re-enactments of Wild Bill Hickok’s murder by Jack McCall and partake in Deadwood events, which include costume contests and pub crawls. Also nearby are Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower, The Black Hills and The Badlands.

This list has something for everyone. Personally, I know I’d definitely want to visit Cumberland Island. I also know that there are many more places that are just as enjoyable to visit. These are just a few I found on a list of fifty most underrated summer vacations spots in North America on brobible.com and on tripadvisor.com. All of the destinations listed above are not close enough together to visit in a week’s time or even in one road trip if you don’t want to do an unbelievable amount of driving. However, you could always choose one and then move on from there. Also, if you find yourself vacationing in a nearby area, say with your family, you can take a day trip to one of these. As for planning your own road trip, find places that you want to visit. Map it out on a road trip planner like roadtrippers.com. Just remember to take turns driving, split gas money, and most of all, have fun.

A Weekend in New Orleans

By: Rebecca Szkutak

Three nights in New Orleans, Louisiana made for one of the best weekends I’ve ever had. The weather was beautiful and the action was non-stop as we made our way to all of the important sites, both touristy and not. I was traveling with my good friend, Andrew, and my boyfriend, Kyle, to see our other family friend, Britta.

Day One:

After two planes rides, a two hour layover in New Jersey and seven hours of traveling, we arrived at Loyola University, located in the uptown New Orleans neighborhood, where we would be staying for the rest of the weekend. Our lovely host, Britta, and her suite mates made us feel right at home immediately.

After some unpacking and getting ready we headed to the Boot, a local bar and grill within walking distance from both Loyola and Tulane’s campuses. The weather that night was so refreshing compared to the harsh winds and cold temperatures we had left just a few hours earlier; it was in the mid 50s, perfect weather for walking outside. Starting the evening at 1 a.m. seemed late to a Bostonian like me, but I quickly learned that Louisiana nightlife works a little differently. After an hour of people watching, loud music and dancing, we headed back to Loyola to rest up for our first full day.

Day Two:

We had a late start due to some much needed sleeping in. We got up around 11 a.m. to head to a local diner, Slim Goodies, also located in Uptown, New Orleans. The diner offered cute, vintage decor with walls covered in old polaroid pictures and brightly-colored booths littered around the establishment. My breakfast was simple but delicious and full of southern flare with the taste of Louisiana baked right in.

Once we had finished a truly charming breakfast we headed back to the car for a day of sightseeing. Our first stop was in the French Quarter to walk around and take in all that it had to offer. We started out on Bourbon Street, a tourist classic. Then, we visited an open air market to browse before heading to a local thrift store.

The French Quarter really summed up everything I had imagined and expected about New Orleans; that it would be completely different from Boston. The weather was warm and a perfect change from the frigid winter we left behind in Massachusetts. The jazz music filled the quarter with life and gave the streets the soulful energy.

Once we got tired of walking, we headed back uptown to another college student destination, the Fly. The Fly is a park that includes a long stretch of grass at the cusp of the Mississippi river. We arrived with just enough time to soak up the remaining sunshine and watch the sunset over the river, an ideal ending to the afternoon.

We grabbed a quick pizza at a Loyola pizzeria and then started to get ready for our second night in New Orleans. First up on the schedule was a local band from Loyola made up of friends of Britta’s. The concert was only five minutes away from campus at the local Kava Bar. Kava is a root grown in the Pacific Island that is ground into a liquid similar in texture to wheatgrass that has intoxicating effects. After hearing a friend describe drinking the liquid as a feeling similar to an allergic reaction, I passed on the drink to just enjoy the live music. Three bands later, we headed back to campus to grab a cab downtown.

When we arrived in downtown New Orleans, it was clear that the city was even more alive than it was in the afternoon. The streets were packed with street performers, people dancing and–due to the open container laws–people drinking openly in the street with each other. Everyone including us was just having a great time absorbing it all in.

Our downtown destination was a Jazz club called Vaso. We stayed at Vaso for about an hour hanging out and enjoying the fantastic live jazz band that was playing. Once the band’s set was over we headed out to the famous Cafe Du Monde for some delicious beignets. These are a square pastry that are a mix between a doughnut and fried dough served covered in powdered sugar. They were as heavenly as you can imagine! Then, we headed home for the night.

Day Three:

We woke up to sunny skies and a warm temperature of around 70 degrees the following morning. We headed to yet another local diner, Coulis, which was another uptown breakfast location. The food was both cheap and delicious and offered a great way to start off our day.

We then headed over to Oak Street to explore the little shops and cafes. We were immediately drawn to a coffee shop right on the corner called Rue De la Course. It had a stunning atmosphere and the homemade lemonade I got exceeded my expectations. We then walked around checking out local thrift shops and a used book store.

Next, we headed over to City Park in Midcity, New Orleans. City Park was the most tremendous park I have ever seen, located right in the middle of the city! We set up a picnic blanket to absorb the sunshine (so much so that I got sunburnt!) We also visited the park’s sculpture garden which had sculptures made up of different materials and originating from different art periods. It offered a truly unique art exhibit experience.

Naturally, we visited the park’s cafe to grab some quick beignets–trust me, you really can’t have too many–to take a short break from walking and to listen to the live jazz. Then, we took a walk through the beautiful New Orleans Botanical Garden. And of course, there was a jazz concert going on inside! Another lovely afternoon cam to an end and we topped off the night by grabbing more pizza at a local restaurant and playing board games.

Having never been to the south before, New Orleans really opened my eyes up to a different part of the country and a new social culture. There was never a dull moment and I am already planning my trip back!

Interested in contributing to Atlas Online as a guest blogger? Email your pitch to emersonatlasmag@gmail.com!