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Love It, Leave It: The Miami Edition

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Hi There! I’m Erin Oliveri — a sarcastic, yet unexpectedly friendly native New Yorker. My obsession with travel might be borderline unhealthy, but I’ve learned to combat this affliction with my pre-flight multivitamin. I’ve been to more than 35 countries and 6 continents, exploring the finest food and drink establishments a city has to offer.

In each city, there are those “can’t miss” hot spots that locals and tourists alike are queuing up around the block for. But, let’s be honest, many of those are overrated. I’m here to let you know what’s worth the hype and what’s not. And, maybe, just maybe, there are some under the radar places that should be on your checklist instead.

Love It, Leave It: Miami Edition

Ah, the 305. It seems like Miami is an ever-bustling scene that seamlessly transitions from beautifully buff and bronzed sunseekers during the day to slick suits, stilettos, celebrity sightings and nonstop revelry at velvet-roped South Beach clubs. Somewhere between the beach and the dancefloor, it’d be advisable to hit one (or a few) restaurants; otherwise, you may not make it to last call. With hundreds of restaurants to to snag a reservation at, you have to be careful not to fall victim to the tourist-ridden, glitzy beach spots just because they’re conveniently located.

Love It: Wynwood.

When a friend of mine took me to Wynwood for the first time, I was a bit bothered that I hadn’t discovered this hipster, art-obsessed mecca earlier. The area is most well-known for its epic, hand-painted and graffitied walls. Just search #wynwoodwalls on Instagram and you’ll get the picture, quite literally. The reason why most travelers might miss this constantly evolving community is that it’s a slight trek from the beach. From the iconic Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach to the main drag of Wynwood, it’s about a 20-minute drive (or Uber, let’s get real about it).

But, much like Williamsburg in Brooklyn, the hipster scene also churns out culinary works of art that compliment any budget (yes, even if only old movie stubs line your Velcro wallet). Let’s start with the budget-friendly joints – Coyo & KUSH. Coyo, a bustling Mexican spot on 2nd Avenue (where you typically start Wynwood excursion) dishes out reasonably priced, flavor-filled tacos, and also houses a hidden speakeasy in the back. Wait—is that possible? Yep. Go there. And KUSH by Lokal, sitting on the outskirts of Wynwood (awkwardly straddling the train tracks), has tons of local craft brews that wash down substantially sized, award-winning burgers. The Johnny Utah – which I had to try – is smothered in a homemade sauce and topped with a hearty handful of pastrami.

If you can tap into an expense account or you just saved up for one top-notch dinner, pull up a chair at Alter. This warehouse-turned-fine-dining-hot-spot is tasting-menu driven. Choose from the five or seven courses for $69 or $89. But, if you’re going all out, the ‘full chef’s experience’ comes in at $165. Bold flavors and artistically-plated entrees ensure the food tastes as good as it looks.

To keep you there all night long, Wynwood has microbreweries on what seems like every other street. From the popular Concrete Beach Brewery, with the kitschy “Drink art. Make Beer.” slogan, to the smaller J. Wakefield Brewing, decked out with the owner’s favorite Star Wars and superhero memorabilia, you’d be crazy to leave this trendy community without trying out a few taps.

Leave It: Lincoln Road Mall.

“The Beach” – Miami or South – is where nearly every tourist stays. With miles of soft sand surrounded by hotels, restaurants and clubs, dropping your bags here isn’t a question, it’s an innate decision. Yes, while one of these spots should be your designated ‘home base’ spot, venturing out a bit for your meals (and liquid refreshments) will be the highlight of your trip. The quintessential tourist trap, which I myself fell victim to and would certainly not blame you if you’ve been, is Lincoln Road. I don’t have many regrets in life friends, but this is certainly one of them. Jam packed with chain restaurants and shops, this road is one you may as well walk blindfolded down, since foot traffic moves at a snail’s pace. While shuffling down this mini-mall-esque street, you’ll see some names that might seem vaguely familiar: McDonald’s, Starbucks, Rosa Mexicano, SUSHISAMBA, ad nauseam. I kind of live by the motto that if you can eat dinner while staring at a Crocs store, you might want to re-evaluate some of your life decisions. How did I get here? Where did I go wrong? (All questions to ask your therapist in next week’s session.)

The week prior to my trip, my parents had gone to Miami and told me a horror story, brought to you by the aforementioned SUSHISAMBA. As far as chains go, this is a fairly reliable joint for slightly overpriced sushi (we have a couple in Manhattan). But, the service at its Lincoln Road locale was nightmarish – incorrect orders and exorbitant food wait times. Of course I didn’t dare step food in this establishment, but headed over to a meat-centric eatery aptly named Meat Market. Hello again, horrendous service. These restaurants are so overcrowded, and with a slim wait staff that has to service both indoor and outdoor tables, creating the “can you grab our waiter?” effect. You know it well. When you sit down, look at the menus, have been ready to order for 15 minutes, and no waiter is in sight. You start tapping bus boys, hostesses, even other patrons, just dying for someone to jot down your steak tartare appetizer. By the time the food is set down on the table, you’re so ravenous that cardboard dusted in truffle salt sounds appealing. The service – or lack thereof – just destroys the whole dining experience. Head to Lincoln Road if you need a few $10 tank tops from H&M, not if you’re looking for a quality dining experience.

Originally posted 2017-07-07 19:40:13.

Erin Oliveri is the definition of an adventurous nomad — from eating highly questionable street food in Bangkok to plunging off of one of the highest bungee jumps in the world — there’s nothing she won’t try when traveling. A native New Yorker, Erin has eaten her way through nearly 40 countries and six continents — Antarctica, she’s coming for you next. She’s also pretty obsessed with puns, not going to the gym, and her French Bulldog, Toulouse (Erin’s #1 eating buddy and frequent star on her Instagram).

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Travel On A Budget

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It seems to me like people are taking shorter vacations or opting for trips closer to home, for a variety of reasons. Maybe you work a job that doesn’t pay as well as you’d hope, or maybe you’re a millennial (like me) who’s allegedly spent way too much on avocados and can’t afford a vacation (or a house).

Whatever the reason, this new trend of “I want to travel cheaply so I can buy groceries when I get back” is more popular than ever. But how does one manage this? Vacations seem to be expensive no matter what we do or where we go. And it’s true. Vacations always cost money, but there are ways to drastically reduce your expenses while away.

Off season for the win

Why get sucked into the tourist trap every single year when you can hit up the same spots a week before their tourist season begins? This can be tough depending on the area since some tourist seasons are dependent on weather. But you know what places don’t change much from week to week, whether it’s April or August? You guessed it: the beach. Most vacation spots will have dates for their busy season listed online. Once you have the dates, go a week (or two) early. Prices will be lower and hotels will be less packed.

Hostels and B&B’s

Speaking of hotels, don’t go near them. I’m serious. Go anywhere else. They’re expensive and boring, and bed-n-breakfasts are the hip new thing (unlike someone who still says “hip”). Not only are they cozier, they often have decent prices and are more laid back than hotels.

If you’re in Europe, hostels aren’t what the horror movies make them out to be. They’re actually quite comfortable, right in the middle of the city, and way more affordable than a hotel. If you’re in your late teens or early twenties, youth hostels are an even better choice. They’re more youth-friendly and you’ll be surrounded by people closer to your own age. Make friends while you make great financial choices!

ATM vs. traveler’s check

Traveler’s checks were great when ATMs weren’t a thing, and they can still be useful if there’s no ATM in sight and you happen to know where the closest bank is. But more and more, ATMs are the best option on vacation. You don’t want to carry all of your spending money all at once at the start of the trip, so when you get low on cash, find an ATM. Because there might be fees, take out larger amounts at a time, to limit the number of withdrawals while away. To save money, set yourself a spending/withdrawal limit. It’s tempting to treat yo’self while vacationing, but remember that once you get home, bills and food are still a necessity.

Guidebooks!

You are a strong, independent woman/person/man who don’t need no help. If you’re traveling somewhere unfamiliar, skip the travel agency/service. They’re a rip-off. A good guidebook sells for about $20 and will have all the same information you’d get from a travel agent, without the hassle.

Blend in, eat local

If you ignored my hotel advice, then at least listen to this. If the front desk or concierge recommend a great restaurant right down the street, go anywhere else! Chances are they tell literally every guest to go to that one restaurant, and it will be packed (and not that great). You might end up having to go a little farther from your hotel for a bite, but finding local places are a far more interesting experience than the chain places. And are often cheaper, as they’re not targeting visitors and tourists.

Shop big

A couple of months ago I went to Hawaii with my sister and parents. Before leaving, we’d all promised various friends and family that we would return with souvenirs for everyone. A local in Kailua-Kona was kind enough to warn us away from the touristy “ABC Stores” that seem to be taking over the islands. He said that if we wanted good, cheap souvenirs, we should go to Walmart (I know, I was surprised too).

Local shops are nice, too, of course, and it’s good to support small businesses (and not evil Walmart) but for large quantities of souvenirs, going the cheaper route goes a long way in not breaking the bank.

Free activities will free you

This one is easy. Go to the beach and find free parking. Sit in the sand and catch some sun. Splash in the surf to your heart’s content. Go hiking and find hidden waterfalls and creeks to play in. Anything free is your best bet (and gets you some fresh air).

Vacations mean spending some money, but it doesn’t have to empty your wallet. If you follow these tips and stay aware of what you’re spending, you’ll still have money left over for when you get home (and can buy all the avocados you want, maybe).

Originally posted 2017-09-06 11:10:28.


Also published on Medium.

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Love It, Leave It: The Boston Edition

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This little firecracker of a city is one that gives me the warm and fuzzies. It’s known as the quintessential college town, with 35 packed into a city that clocks in with less than 675,000 residents. More specifically though, it’s my college town. This is where my exorbitant student loan checks go every month…heartwarming. Alas, it’s a city where I came into my own — I read a few books, made some friends, stumbled into love and played a little rugby (what a lesbian). Oh, and I ticked off tons of restaurants in the process; I strived for the sophomore, junior and senior 15.

With several visits on my calendar each year, I make a point to pop into long-standing favorites while leaving time to sample some new joints. P.S. I’ll confess something now that I’ll most likely deny later; even though I’m a diehard New York Yankees fan, catching a Red Sox game at Fenway Park is a must-do…just don’t wear a jersey of the aforementioned team unless you enjoy some expletive-laden Bahston heckling.

Love It: The North End

Fuhgeddaboudit. I think there’s an actual official way people phonetically spell this out, but I went with my gut. If you’re a fan of Little Italy in New York City, you’re going to figuratively (not literally) lose your marbles — unless you have a shaky hand and typically travel with loose marbles — over the North End.

This was the OG neighborhood of Boston, settled by English Puritans in the 1600s. I don’t mean to be rude, but you’re gettin’ up there, North End. You can practically feel the rich history seeping through your Frye boots as you saunter down the intimate cobblestone streets; feel free to pause and give a quick shout out to that famous guy Paul Revere who once lived here. After you’ve eyed up some of that Freedom Trail everyone’s always going on about, it’s time for the main event. Head to one of the North End Italian institutions, kiss a large man named Tony (there will be a Tony, trust me) on both cheeks, tuck your napkin in your shirt, and start twirling some spaghetti. There are plenty of cozy, casual, and cash-only joints like Giacomo’s on Hanover Street (aka the main drag), where the menu is written on the wall, portions are anything but small, and you feel like you’re sitting in a Nonna’s dining room. Elevated dining experiences at high-end restaurants can also be found with little effort; spots like Mamma Maria exude elegance and romance with dimly lit, cozy nooks and plate riffs on typical Italian staples–rabbit pappardelle anyone?

Dessert is another hotly debated topic in the North End. You’re either a Mike’s Pastry or a Modern Pastry person (gasp, I’m into both). Grab a cannoli at either spot and maybe some napkins to wipe the powder off of your goofy, satisfied smile.

Leave It: Faneuil Hall’

Historically speaking, this is also a place you should swipe right to. Quincy Market has been in existence since 1826, slowly creeping up on its 200 year anniversary. The Mayor of Boston — Josiah, you guessed it, Quincy — thought the overflowing marketplace, full of wooden stalls hawking seafood and vegetables, in Faneuil Hall had become what we today would calleth a “hot mess.” Thus, the market was born. Today, the Faneuil Hall area is jam-packed with parents donning cheesy souvenir store t-shirts, with family in tow, heading to the kitschiest of chain restaurants; yes, including the likes of Cheers and Dick’s Last Resort. Plenty of smaller vendors like the Boston Chowda Co. line the market’s walls, but this is more for the 9-5 downtown work crowd that needs to pick up something for a fast bite. It’s not the place to head for memorable Boston grub. Pro tip: if you are looking for some quick eats, head to the Boston Public Market just a few minutes down the way; it showcases tons of local purveyors and has stands that sell everything from ramen to doughnuts.

Originally posted 2017-09-05 17:00:46.

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8 Homophobic Brands to Avoid

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Here at TravelPRIDE, our goal is total inclusivity and acceptance. Bigotry of all kinds is all too common, and we like to promote a message of love as much as possible. If you’re looking to do the same, knowing where not to spend your money is a great place to start. There are plenty of gay-friendly companies, but there are also plenty of homophobic ones. Boycotting these companies (not giving them your support/money) is the perfect start to ending hate.

Chick-fil-A

Plenty of LGBTQ people already avoid Chick-fil-A already (partly because the food is not great, but that’s my opinion) because of company president Dan Cathy’s open homophobia. According to Huffington Post, a report was published saying that as of 2010 the company had donated almost $2 million to anti-gay groups across the country. So if you want a chicken sandwich, I suggest going somewhere that’s open on Sundays.

Urban Outfitters

People are getting whiplash from Urban Outfitters’ stance on marriage equality. With a conservative chairman and recent push back for pulling a pro-gay-marriage shirt from its shelves, Urban Outfitters reportedly, according to an article from SFist, “donates 100 percent of its ‘Marriage Equality’ t-shirt sales to EQCA and NCLR,” which are two group leading the charge against the recent Supreme Court challenge on legalizing same-sex marriage.

With its history of flip-flopping on the gay marriage issue, it’s best to stay aware of Urban Outfitters’ current stance. They seem to be supportive now, but this could change as homophobia remains present across the United States.

Barilla

My little gay heart has been overjoyed at seeing gay couples featured in various advertisements. But according to Barilla’s chairman, you’ll never see this from the pasta company. In an interview with LGBTQNation, he went even further in his attack on the LGBTQ community, saying “I have no respect for adoption by gay families because this concerns a person who is not able to choose.”

So much for gaining more customers, Barilla. I think I’ll be buying generic from now on.

Exxon

This one will have you taking the bus to work from now on. With a history of eliminating domestic-partner benefits for same sex couples, according to an article on Queerty, you might want to reconsider that gas-guzzling car as your go-to mode of transportation. Taking the bus will not only take money away from big oil’s profits and homophobic practices, you’ll help the environment too.

Salvation Army (according to the same article from Queerty)

Between Salvation Army’s open homophobia and Goodwill’s exploitation of differently-abled employees, as revealed by Huffington Post, I’m at a loss as to where to donate my stuff. That being said, knowing that Salvation Army actively fights pro-gay-marriage legislation, I think I’ll be holding a lot more garage sales in the future, and you should too if you’re part of the LGBTQ community.

Purina

On the same Huffington Post list as Exxon and Salvation army, the Fancy Feast company refuses to provide benefits to same-sex couples. While they haven’t confessed anything more openly homophobic than this, partner benefits are still a huge deal and spending your dollars on other pet food brands might be a wise choice.

Boy Scouts of America

Surprise, surprise. A male-dominated group not supporting same-sex couples? Astonishing. This isn’t a company, per se, but the BSA relies on donations, and you can decide to support a better, more gay-friendly organization. While the Boy Scouts do allow openly gay males to join, it’s still taboo to be an openly-gay leader. It’s progress, but not nearly enough. If I were you, I’d donate to a worthier cause, such as the Girl Scouts of the USA, a group that is openly pro-gay and pro-choice

Cracker Barrell

While not at all shocking that a southern-themed restaurant wouldn’t support the LGBTQ community, it’s not exactly funny. In another Huffington Post article, it was reported that “In 1991, 11 employees were fired for not displaying ‘normal heterosexual values,’ as was prescribed by an intra-company memo.” The same article reports the company has been known to segregate its customers in restaurants. So add racism into the mix, and you get a company not looking good for any minority. So if you’re craving grits and biscuits, I’d recommend finding your favorite southern dishes elsewhere.

I think we all know that this list is far from complete. It would take weeks or maybe months to find and list every single company with anti-gay practices. If you want to help out your fellow readers, let us know in the comments what other companies you boycott because of their homophobic policies. We’d love your participation in adding to this list, so we can continue to fight hate wherever it appears.

Originally posted 2017-09-05 13:55:21.


Also published on Medium.

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