Tuesday, June 17, 2014

#TravelTuesday: Top 5 Places I've Visited

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Last week I brought you my Top 5 Places I Want To Visit so I only thought it was fitting to now tell you my top 5 places I've already visited and why I love them! If after this list you aren't satisfied and want to take a look at ALL the places I've visited you can check out my Travel Bragging page. I usually keep this page up to date as to where I am, where I've been, where I'm going next.

Now I didn't number my list of places I want to go because at the end of the day it really doesn't matter to me what order they happen, all that matters is I eventually get to them all. This list I haven't numbered either except for my number one most favourite place in the world (so far) which will be at the end of this list. Well, let's start things off!

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Taking a photo of my rooms view in Havana 2013
Havana, Cuba

Holy Havana banana! I had an absolute BLAST when I won a trip down to Havana, Cuba, last year to compete in the Havana Club Gap Year competition which you can read all about HERE. Right now the winner, Julian, is somewhere traveling along the Trans-Siberian Express finishing up the last month of his year long trip around the world. I'm actually grateful I didn't win because I've had my own adventures across the USA this year and now I'm heading off to Dubai next month!

The reason I loved Cuba so much was because of the energy and people. I swear I should have been born Latin some days because I just have such a desire to dance all the time and can be overtly sexual at times. I find the latin people just get me. They aren't intimidated by sexuality and actually embrace it, which is very sexy. Also the music just vibrates through your soul and you can't help but start dancing. The Cuban people are also very warm and welcoming. During my time there I made friends with a local who showed me what the real essence of Havana was. It was such a blessing to spend 2 days with my friend Raul having him show me around and take me out for a good time on the town. He even took me back to his home and I met his whole family and wondered around his house with his nephew attached to my hip, the little guy was so adorable! If you want you can watch the video about my experience. I also really enjoy being all hot and sweating in a beach destination, it makes me feel all sassy and sexy.

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Edinburgh selfie circa 2007
Edinburgh, Scotland

While on my 2007 backpacking trip around Europe I ended up in Edinburgh twice. The first time was planned and the second time was because we'd loved it so much the first time we wanted to go back. Edinburgh is a gorgeous city with such a rich history it's hard not to fall in love. Scotland was our first stop on the whole trip and I was really excited because most of my heritage is Scottish and I've always wanted to see the "mother land." The first thing I noticed was how captivating the castle was up on its rock perch. I could only imagine the fights that raged around the castle walls with enemies trying to breach it. I also did the real Mary King's Close ghost tour and I swear to Buddha I saw a ghost. I was looking at the close while in another room where there was a presentation being given and clear as day I saw an old school police officer walk by the door. The tour guide even stopped and asked me if I was ok because apparently I looked like I had gone green. Scary stuff!! I did a lot of touring around this city and I'd love to go back some day, the Scottish people were so nice and I loved their accents!

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Overlooking the city of Barcelona circa 2008
Barcelona, Spain

When I was in Toronto for TBEX (Travel Blogger Exchange) I took a poll of the people around me at a party one night and Barcelona was top dog. There is just something magical about this city that draws you in and allows you to be a kid again with lots of adventure. I've been to Barcelona twice now and I absolutely adore the city. Both times I had fantastic experiences and stayed at hostels. The first time I stayed at the famous Kabul hostel just off La Rambla Street which is the main tourist area. It was perfect for 20 year old party me to stay in a hostel room with 20 other people but I would never do that again. There were awesome pub crawls we went on and made a load of new friends. I even keep in touch with one of the girls I met still to this day. I even spent Christmas with her and her family in 2007 as I was newly living in London and couldn't afford to fly home for the holiday. The second time around was more mellow and we spent more time on the beach, which is AMAZING, instead of getting wasted. I also have quite the fondness for Spanish/Latino men so Barcelona gets even more points in my books for the mere fact that sexy men are all around, all the time.

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Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terre 2007
Cinque Terre, Italy

I think I was around 14 or 15 years old when I was watching some travel show on TV with my Mom. This guy was taking a train through these 5 little cities on the west coast of Italy that all looked absolutely beautiful and quaint in their pastel colours. I told my Mom that I'd go there one day. Fast forward 5 years and all of a sudden I find myself in city of Riomaggiore which is on end of the Cinque Terre. I had no memory of this TV show with my mom until I was on the train coming back from the other end of the Cinque Terre when it popped in my mind. "OH MY GOD! I'm here! I'm really here!" The people around me must have thought I was freaking coocoo for coco pops but here I was, fulfilling a dream I'd had years ago that I didn't even remember I had. I've been twice now to the five cities on the west coast of Italy and I consider it my "holiday" spot when I'm traveling. It's a great little place to unwind after a month or so of backpacking and just chill out on the beach after doing the 9 km hike from start to finish. I've done the full hike twice and it took roughly 4 hours each time. I like to take my time and also visit in each town as you go along the way so it could be done faster but then you miss out on eating all that amazing gelato along the way! Be sure to also get yourself some fresh pasta, pesto and mozzarella with tomato slices and make up a nice Italian style dinner when you're here, your tastebuds will thank you for it. This will forever be one of my favourite relaxing holiday spots of the world.

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Out front of the Hagia Sophia on the European side 2007
Istanbul, Turkey

Simply put, go here. Not to mention it was voted 2014's top city by TripAdvisor to visit after jumping 11 spots from last year. Istanbul is a magical place where old is blended with new, east is blended with west and you can sip apple tea in Europe while you look out over Asia. I was lucky enough to have friends here that I got to stay with for a few days and they took me around to enjoy a real Turkish experience. Before I met with my friends though I spent a few days in a hostel on the European side and toured all the landmarks like the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar which is one of the worlds oldest and largest. The Turkish people were very polite and always accommodating. I don't remember much from my hostel but I do remember the rooms were very comfortable and felt more like I was staying at a family members than at a hostel. While I was there I met a guy who was going to check out a Turkish bath and I assumed what every gay man would, he was going to a bath house *wink* but no, that wasn't it at all! Apparently it was a real bath where you go and they scrub you down, put clay masks on you and then let you soak and steam until you're as ripe as a prune. I'm all for spa treatment so I tagged along and I have to say, I can't wait until I can go back! I thought I was a fairly clean person but when they scrub you down you literally have black crap coming off of you, it's wild. Afterwards they set you up in the lounge with some freshly squeezed pomegranate juice and send you on your way. I'm so glad I ended my 3 month European backpacking trip in this city. It was the perfect way to end an amazing adventure. Once I start flying with Emirates this is quickly going to become my top quick getaway spot for when I have a few days off. If you've ever considered going, just do it, you'll love yourself for it!

I want to name some honourable mentions of other places I've been but didn't quite make the cut for top 5 so here are a few more spots I'd highly suggest checking out: Vancouver, Toronto, Denver, Nashville, Berlin, Rome, London and Sofia in Bulgaria. Now go plan your next adventure!