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48 Hours in Berlin



Why Go?

Berlin is a both gritty and beautiful in equal measures. While other major western cities have become homogenized and lost their individuality, Berlin has retained its radical edge. It still has a plethora of underground bars and clubs. The street art and graffiti are striking, vibrant and abundant. The vibe is slightly edgy, but refreshing in these days of globalization.

Recent history plays a major part in Berlin’s persona and the city is teeming with World War 2 sites including Hitler’s Bunker, Checkpoint Charlie and the iconic symbol of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall. With its plentiful and diverse museums combined with its alternative scene, Berlin is culturally rich and unpretentiously cool. It’s also much cheaper than most of the other major European cities. What’s not to like?

Getting There

Berlin’s Schonefeld Airport is located about 14 miles from the city center. It is well-served by a variety of airlines from the USA and all over Europe, including a growing number of budget airlines. On arrival, the cheapest way to get to the downtown area is by S Bahn City Train (45 minutes), regular train (30 minutes) or bus (50 minutes). Taxis are much more expensive but can be worthwhile if you have large amounts of luggage.

Checking In

Berlin has a wide range of accommodation to suit all budgets. Two of the most popular neighbourhoods to stay in are Kreuzberg and Mitte. In Kreuzberg, a fusion of Turkish immigrants, hipsters, hippies, anarchists and alternative lifestylers make it an interesting locale to hang out. There is a high concentration of cool bars and restaurants to choose from.

Mitte is in central Berlin and is close to all the major tourist attractions including Museum Island and Brandenburg Gate. There are plenty of cafes, restaurants, and shops to enjoy between checking out the sights.

Day One

You will need a little sustenance to kick off the first of two busy days exploring the delights of Berlin! Tomasa’s (Kreuzbergstr.62, 1096 Berlin) is the perfect place for a hearty breakfast. The old red-brick villa located in Kreuzberg is lovely. There is an outside terrace for summer days and a fire inside to ward off the chill in winter. The menu is extensive and the food delicious and substantial.

Museum Island has FIVE museums to explore. If you plan on visiting all of them, it will take the best part of the day. Alternatively, you could just pick out those that appeal to you most. One of the highlights is the bust of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti (1345 B.C.) which is situated in the Neues Museum.

Neues Museum, South Dome Room

Depending on your level of interest in history, art, and archaeology, it may be worth your while purchasing a Berlin pass This will give you access to up to sixty museums and attractions in the city.

In the afternoon head for the most iconic site in the city, the Berlin Wall. Separating East and West Berlin during communist Germany from 1961 to 1989, the wall is now an outdoor gallery of 120 paintings. Much of the artwork is vibrant and colorful but also has a powerful message to convey.

Two of the many images on the Berlin Wall

Checkpoint Charlie, nowadays a popular tourist attraction, was the crossing point between east and west. The nearby Mauermuseum recounts the history, escape attempts and stories of families living on both sides of the wall.

After stomping all over Berlin, it’s chill-out time. Indian/Asian food is the specialty at Amrit, a flamboyant chain of restaurants that can be found across the city. Dinner is enjoyed amongst Buddhas, ornate fountains, exotic plants and brightly-colored parasols. The food is varied and excellent value, as are the cocktails.

If you have any energy left after dinner, why not make tracks back to Kreuzberg to indulge in a little nightlife. LGBTQ venue, Rose’s Bar (Oranienstr. 187, 10999 Berlin) is a kitsch drinking den with pink furry walls, glitter balls, and bizarre sculptures. 80’s-90’s dance music entice the mixed crowd onto the floor.

Day Two

If you happen to be in Berlin on a weekend, don’t miss the huge Sunday market at Mauerpark. It’s essentially a flea market, but also has lots of arts/crafts stalls, live music, and food trucks. Why not try the German classic, Curry Wurst, for breakfast?! On summer afternoons, thousands of Berliners gather at the park to enjoy Bearpit Karaoke. A wide variety of performers take to the stage and no matter how bad they are, the crowd keeps cheering. The atmosphere is fantastic and it has become a popular weekly event.

Currywurst at Mauerpark

Two museums that are well worth squeezing into your two days are Schwules Museum and the Jewish Museum. The contemporary Schwules Museum is devoted to LGBTQ history. It is well-presented and has both permanent and temporary exhibitions The Jewish Museum is a poignant and informative look at the history of German Jews over the last one thousand years. Particularly striking is an art installation dedicated to the Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

Art installation at the Jewish Museum

No visit to Berlin would be complete without a glimpse of the neoclassical Brandenberg Gate, one of the great landmarks of the city. A stone’s throw away is the impressive, but sombre Holocaust Memorial. In the park opposite, there is a separate memorial for LGBTQ victims in the form of a concrete cube. Glancing through a slit on the side reveals an on-loop video of two men kissing.

Holocaust Memorial

For an authentic German dining experience, try Schnitzelei (Roentgenstr.7, 10587 Berlin). The schnitzels are a revelation and the menu includes a great choice of tasty German treats. A small glass of beer on the house makes for a warm welcome.

Round off your two-day sojourn in Berlin, with a visit to a jazz club, B.Flat (Dircksentr 40, 10178, Berlin). It’s an ideal place to relax, enjoy the cool vibe and some live music before heading back to the airport the following morning. Auf Wiedersehen Berlin…..until next time.

Originally posted 2017-08-20 15:40:08.

48 Hours In...

48 Hours in Honolulu



Why Go?

How about sparkling azure ocean, white sand beaches, surfers, hula dancers and swaying palm trees for starters? Throw in the opportunity to enjoy some world-class shopping/dining experiences and a laid-back aloha vibe. There’s no doubt where in the world you are when you hit the hedonistic streets of Waikiki. Before heading out to the other islands, make sure you take a couple of days to soak up the delights of this dynamic Hawaiian city.

Getting There

All flights arrive at Honolulu International Airport, from where you can take a taxi to Waikiki Beach about nine miles away. The other alternative is a shuttle bus. If you haven’t got too much luggage, you could take the airport bus, which is the cheapest option by far.

Most tourists stay in Waikiki. This is where the beach and most of the attractions are located. They are all within easy walking distance of one another. Honolulu’s downtown area is three miles from Waikiki.

Checking In

Although it is possible to seek out a bargain, hotels in Waikiki are on the expensive side. One of the most iconic places to stay is the romantic and luxurious Royal Hawaiian Hotel, located on the beachfront. Easily recognisable by its pink exterior, it has been used in many TV shows and movies. At the other end of the scale, check out the quirky Royal Grove Hotel, a great budget option and only a block away from the beach!

Day One

Before you head to the beach, enjoy a relaxed breakfast at Lulu’s While you tuck into local specialties Loco Moco or Longboard Benedict, check out the stunning views of Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach.

Waikiki is probably the most famous beach in the world, and deservedly so. Where better to learn to ride the waves than the birthplace of surfing? If you don’t bring your own board, you can rent one – the waves are perfect for beginners. As well as being incredibly warm, the ocean is the most sublime turquoise you will ever lay eyes on. If you prefer a more sedate experience, rent a sun lounger and simply chill in paradise.

Hit the waves! Many establishments hire out boards or give surf lessons

If you can tear yourself away from the beach, check out Waikiki Aquarium, which has a vibrant display of native fish, turtles and two Hawaiian monk seals.

For the ultimate Hawaiian shopping experience, make tracks to Ala Moana Center, a sprawling mall chock-a-block with stores and restaurants. There are regular Hawaiian music and dance events on the stage and lots of opportunities to buy souvenirs or sample local delicacies.

Make your way back to Waikiki Beach, with a pause at Moose’s (310 Lewers St. Honolulu) for Happy Hour and a bite to eat. The cocktails here are great value. You will soon be feeling the aloha spirit and  be ready to hit the beach again, this time to watch the sun sink over the ocean. The torch-lighting and hula show takes place on the beach most evenings, and crowds gather to watch the entertainment in the fading light. It’s a magical time of the day in Waikiki and the atmosphere is mellow as everyone enjoys the vibe and beautiful setting.

If you are in the mood to party, you can’t go wrong at Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand, Honolulu’s longest established LGBTQ venue. It’s a friendly spot, where both locals and tourists congregate. There are views over the ocean and live entertainment most nights of the week. The cocktails are potent and the staff welcoming

Day Two

Start the day energetically with a hike to the summit of Diamond Head, the dramatic volcanic crater which overlooks the city. Take some snacks and plenty of water. if you head out early, you will avoid the intense midday heat. The trail is steep and a little uneven, but the hour’s climb is worth it for the sweeping views of the ocean and city skyline.

After building up an appetite on the trail, enjoy a lunch buffet at the famous Duke’s Duke’s Barefoot Bar is right on the beach and serves up a buffet featuring locally grown produce and an abundance of tempting accompaniments. Alternatively, try the fresh fish dishes or burgers. There is often live music, and a visit to Duke’s is a quintessential Hawaiian experience not to be missed.

The Barefoot Bar at Duke’s

After some more beach time, stroll along to the historical Royal Hawaiian Hotel and take in the traditional ambiance. Treat yourself to a delicious cocktail at the Mai Tai Bar, a mere few steps away from the sand.

The Royal Hawaiian

Next up, take the elevator to the Top of Waikiki The revolving restaurant offers spectacular views, especially at sunset. Appetizers and cocktails are available during Happy Hour, which goes from 5.00pm-9.30pm. The perfect ending to two blissful days in Honolulu!

View from Top of Waikiki



Originally posted 2017-08-24 18:54:31.

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Getting Lost the Right Way (and Avoiding the Wrong)



Road trips are magical. The open road, the endless possibilities. But you know what isn’t so magical? Getting lost in the middle of nowhere (read: out in the boondocks where not even the coyotes know where the closest gas station is). That being said, there is a right way and a very, very wrong way to get lost on a trip.

If you want to get lost and enjoy yourself, it’s best to have a plan in place. Seems counterintuitive, yes. But getting lost on purpose is more organized than it sounds. To start, know the highways nearby and keep in mind that the point of getting lost on purpose is to see new things. When lost the right way, it’s certainly not about the destination, which is good to keep in mind. For one, make sure your tank is completely full. Nothing is scarier than getting lost in the countryside with only a quarter tank and no sign of civilization in sight.

Don’t trust that GPS will always be there for you. Like that one friend, it probably won’t be (Totally not something that happened to me recently in rural south Georgia, not at all). Depending on your carrier, data connection and location services can be spotty at best and nonexistent at worst. Don’t be like me, who learned this the hard way.

Use GPS even if you think you remember the way back. The last drive I went on, I followed directions very carefully getting there and believed that I would be able to remember the turns in reverse going home.This resulted in what I like to call: a disaster. What I didn’t consider was the fact that rural Georgia looks completely different at night, when every tree looks the same and you have the added hazard of deer all over the roads. I knew I was lost after twenty minutes, but I kept driving, foolishly positive I’d eventually find the right road again.

Maps are your friends. Remember how your parents always told you to keep a map or atlas in your glove box? They weren’t just being old-fashioned. When GPS has failed and you longer recognize any landmarks, a map is your only hope (barring meeting a friendly stranger or an extra cell tower magically constructing itself in the next open field).

Print out directions beforehand. I know, I know. Printing out directions Google Maps is almost as dated as paper maps. But believe me, it can’t hurt. Even if you don’t print them, the screenshot feature on smart phones exists for a reason. Before you hit the road, coffee and snacks stocked and ready to go, pull up GPS while you have bars or Wi-Fi, and find the turn-by-turn directions. Screenshot them. And then, when you inevitably lose service at some point in your voyage, you still have access to your route. I didn’t do this, and by the time I had service again, I was two and a half hours away from home, when the drive should’ve taken an hour. (Do as I say, not as I do, my friends).

If you realize you’re lost and know where you took the wrong turn, GO BACK ASAP.

There comes a moment when you’re lost when you can usually pinpoint where you went wrong. When that happens, turn around as soon as you realize, despite the hope that maybe you’ll find a familiar street. Realizing you took a wrong turn is a sign from the universe that you need to go back, rather than trusting your foolish instincts. It’s a losing battle, and you will get more lost. It’s practically the law of the universe.

Just ask for directions, no matter how much you hate doing it.

This applies to everyone, and I’m ignoring the stereotype because it really isn’t just men. If you see a gas station or a small business, just stop. It’s almost guaranteed that someone will know how to get back to where you were headed, and you might stumble upon a cool store or attraction or monument that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

The moral of the story, friends, is that getting lost can be an adventure. You learn things about the area, about yourself as a navigator (this could be good or bad) and best of all, you have a story to tell at the end of it. Just remember that if you’re gonna get lost, try to do it on purpose.


Originally posted 2017-08-24 17:57:03.

Also published on Medium.

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Metalhead Transgender Woman is Making Political History



As a long-time fan of metal music and an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, I am ecstatic that Danica Roem, band member of her band Cab Ride Home and transgender woman won a four-way Democratic primary on June 13th. In addition to being a musician in a metal band, she was also an experienced journalist in Prince William County, which is the county she wishes to represent if she wins the position a seat in the House of Delegates in Virginia.

However, while Roem has won the battle, she’s still fighting a war. In order to gain a seat in the House of Delegates, she will have to defeat Republican Bob Marshall who is currently serving his eleventh term. Bob Marshall supports one-man, one-woman marriage, believes that same-sex marriage has a negative effect on heterosexual marriage, introduced the Physical Privacy Act which would have prevented transgender individuals from using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity (luckily this bill failed), supports the idea that employers can fire someone based on sexual orientation and gender identity, has a weak idea of what equality means and twists around words to fit his agenda,

“There never were ‘heterosexual’ only water fountains in Virginia or other Southern states.  Separate elementary or secondary schools were not built for GLBTQ children.  Homosexuals and lesbians could sit anywhere they wanted on buses, trains and other public transportation.  Homosexuals were never enslaved as a class or brought to America in chains.  Homosexuals never were forbidden from ‘marrying’ heterosexuals.  Homosexuals did not have to engage in nationwide ‘sit ins’ at restaurant lunch counters to be served a meal.  Lesbians did not have to take “Literacy” tests as a condition for voting.” 

and many more discriminatory ideas. In comparison, Roem supports adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the Prince William School system’s nondiscrimination policy, protecting transgender students, and values people individually, not by what religion they belong to or what sexual orientation they may have.

With the current presidency comes a resurgence of ultra-conservative ideas and, because of that, it is a possibility that Bob Marshall will serve a twelfth term. However, Roem is off to a good start. By winning the Democratic primary, she is showing the US that even the most conservatives of states can switch courses and realize that members of the LGBT community deserve the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

Since 1991, when Marshall was elected, Prince William County has become more left-leaning as the population grows. It was one of the Republican-controlled counties that voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump which shows that the district leans more toward to progressive side, which is definitely good news for Danica Roem. Because of this, Roem has a real chance of winning a seat in the House of Delegates. Even if she does not earn the position, by running and winning the Democratic primary, Roem set the stage for future transgender individuals to run for a position in the government.

Originally posted 2017-08-24 11:48:44.

Also published on Medium.

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