It’s not often I have the chance to make a post title the name of a Prince tune. You know you like it.
I’m sure you’re all bored of reading these, but I’m fulfilling my duty to Bobbi of Heels and Wheels, who graciously nominated me to complete my A-Zs of travel. Read your heart out.
A: Age in which you first internationally traveled.
I was 14 and went to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with my family. I wrote about it here.
B: Best (foreign) beer and where.
Hmm, this is tough. I had a really good chocolate-flavored German beer in…China. Makes no sense, I know, but it was delish. I love chocolate anything. I don’t remember the name of this beer, however.
C: Cuisine (favorite)
Italian. I grew up with a half-Polish, half-Irish mother who for some reason can cook amazing Italian. She even put my all-Italian grandma to shame, though nana did make bangin cakes and ricotta pies. I was pretty bowled over by all the pasta, pizza and pastry on my trip to Rome.
D: Destinations (favorite) and why? Least favorite and why?
Favorite: South Island, NZ, for its beauty and the quietness and peacefulness it lends; Rome, for the food, gelato, architecture, ruins and the Roman “way” of fast driving and talking and seemingly not giving a sh*t about what anyone thinks; London, because it’s the first place I flew over an ocean to visit and the buzz of being in my first European city has stayed with me; and New York, because I grew up going there and even now when I fly back, nothing compares to the gritty, super-charged energy of that city.
Least favorite: Puerto Vallarta, Paris and Disney World. I was too young to appreciate my first foreign country and Paris just didn’t impress me as much as I thought it would. I’m too old for Disney World.
E: Event you experienced that made you say “wow”
1) My first snorkel in Australia, near Manly Beach, when a Little Penguin swam beside me. I didn’t know at the time Australia had penguins. I never thought I’d get that close to one in my lifetime.
2) My entire road trip through the South Island, NZ. Its beauty smacks you in the face minute after minute, and it’s a different kind of beauty or landscape every time. Driving through the snow-capped mountains to Milford Sound was scary because of the weather but also surreally stunning.
F: Favorite mode of transport
Foot! It’s the best way to see a place and I can walk for hours. Plus, it’s cheap.
G: Greatest feeling while traveling?
Of being out of my element and in the moment. I’m usually able to completely unplug and forget about work, stress or my own neuroses and just soak up what’s around me.
H: Hottest place you’ve ever traveled to?
I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where?
I don’t think I’ve ever experienced incredible service.
J: Journey that took you the longest?
My initial trip to Australia — 16 hours to Hong Kong and another 10 to Sydney.
K: Keepsake from your travels?
Photos and bar coasters. I’ve got a coaster habit that formed when I moved to Sydney. It’s kind of a problem.
L: Let down sight? Where and why?
Las Vegas. I first went at 22, so it should have been an awesome time, but it was in the middle of a cross-country road trip. I was tired and cranky and just not feeling the seedy vibe. Plus, I don’t really gamble.
M: Moment where you fell in love with travel?
My trip to England, Scotland and Wales in 2000. This was my first European trip, and I committed myself then, at age 18, to traveling whenever I could in my adult life. I kept the promise.
N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in?
I stayed in a really nice Hilton once for a conference at my old job. I don’t remember which city though.
O: Obsession. What are you obsessed with taking pictures of?
Churches, landscapes, especially mountains and the sea, and anything weird, whether it be public art or a strange mermaid family advertising a store. Oh, and myself. I love taking self-shots.
P: Passport stamps. How many and from where?
I’ve had two passports in my life — the current one has 25, but many of the stamps are for the same countries. I have a few for the U.S., Australia, England and New Zealand, plus Ireland, Italy, France, China and St. Lucia.
Q: Quirkiest Attraction you’ve visited?
This isn’t an attraction, but on a trip to Auckland in 2010, my friend and I stumbled upon these pained mushroom cap constructions on top of a hill. I felt like I was in a Super Mario Bros. game.
R: Recommended Sight, Event or Experience?
Well, I think everyone should come to Australia and experience things like diving the Great Barrier Reef and seeing the Little Penguins and Great Ocean Road if they can. And also, a visit to South Island, NZ, which I think is one of the most gorgeous places on Earth.
S: Splurge! Something you don’t mind forking over for while traveling?
Food and booze, at least on one night. And tours, if it’s taking me somewhere I can’t get by foot or public trans.
T: Touristy thing you’ve done
A lot — Times Square, climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge, going to the Vatican. I’m a tourist all the time, even in my own city.
U: Unforgettable travel memory
On my first trip to England, my 18-year-old classmates and I met some thirty-something English men and women in Bristol. We were really excited to be able to legally drink in another country when we couldn’t in our own. They wound up introducing us to flaming Sambuca shots and taking us clubbing. In return, I let them sample my goldfish crackers, which they found really strange. It was my first experience making friends abroad and I’ll never forget it.
V: Visas. How many of them and for where?
Two — for Australia and China.
W: Wine. Best glass of wine had while traveling and where?
Surprisingly, given my love of Italy, my best glasses have been in Australia and New Zealand. I can’t pick just one — I’ve enjoyed many glasses of sauv blanc and shiraz on this side of the world.
X: eXcellent views and from where?
I really enjoyed the view from the top of Mt. Wellington in Hobart, Tasmania, with its sprawling swirls of green and blue.
Y: Years spent traveling?
In the States, most of my life. Internationally, 16 years.
Z: Zealous sports fan and where?
Me, not so much, but I’ll support the Phillies baseball team. Philadelphia fans are pretty intense.