A GUIDE TO HONOLULU - WHAT TO DO AND SEE AND WHERE TO STAY AND EAT ON THE ISLAND OF OAHU

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There is so much to say about this city and I have some regrets I waited so long to visit. Let’s not dwell on the the negatives and just focus on the fact that I got to visit Hawaii - Island of Oahu and I had the most incredible time - I cannot wait to return to the state and explore other Islands - I am looking forward to exploring Maui ; Lanai and Kauai. I visited the Island of Oahu and Honolulu is the largest settlement in Oahu. I spent five days on the Island including one day of lounging on the beach (all day) - It was excellent.

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GETTING THERE. There are direct flights from most major US cities - from NYC - it is eleven hours to Honolulu ; from Dallas/Houston - eight to nine hours ; from Los Angeles you have a six hour flight time. If you are planning a trip from London or Europe - you will have a challenge finding direct flights so I recommend flying to the West Coast or Dallas or Houston and then connecting from there for a direct flight to Honolulu. if not, you should plan for eighteen to twenty-fours hours travel time.

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GETTING AROUND. I recommend renting a car ; it will make life easier for you if you plan to explore the Island. If you intend to spend all your time on Waikiki, you may be able to get away without a car; but I think it is a huge miss to go to Oahu and only explore Waikiki. At the time of my visit, ride shares were not very popular and difficult to get during certain times of day. If you choose to rent a car - make sure you plan parking fees in your travel budget.

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WHERE TO STAY. I recommend staying near Waikiki Beach. I don’t recommend staying on the strip unless you have a large budget. Staying on the main strip of Waikiki can be a huge expense. I stayed at a hotel that was less than 10 mins walk to Waikiki ; from my balcony I could see the beach and I paid almost forty percent less than staying on the strip. I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach and other than the morning when the elevator access was cut off - it was an excellent stay and the hotel made up for the inconvenience so no complaints from me. The Laylow hotel is also an incredible option - while I did not stay here, I visited enough time during my time in Honolulu to know it is a great option.

Waikiki
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HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU NEED. I was in Hawaii for eight days - I had work commitment from Tuesday to Friday and stayed on my own account until Wednesday night so I had five full days to explore the Island and one of those days was spent lounging on the beach and another beach hopping in North shore.

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WHERE TO EAT. The food in Honolulu is amazing and I probably say that about every city I visit because besides doing my research on the city; I spend a lot of time researching the best places to eat; I talk to locals about their favorite spots to eats and make my dining decisions from that list. Don’t leave Honolulu without trying local Hawaiian delicacy - Ono’s Hawaiian food and Helena’s Hawaiian food. Ono’s is now permanently closed and I still feel incredibly lucky to have dined there just before they closed their doors after fifty years. Helena’s is equally delicious. Shaved ice is big in Oahu and I tried a lot of shaved iced - two spots I recommend are Matsumoto Shave Ice and Island Vintage coffee. Loco Moco is a local delicacy of rice ; hamburger meat and egg - sounds simple but so so good. I had an incredible brunch and Loco Moco at Koko head cafe. Other Brunch spots I recommend are LuLu’s and Heavenly Island lifestyle restaurant. Ramen at Marukame Udon was excellent. Malasada from Leonard’s was so good I ordered a dozen to take back home with me to the mainland; Shrimp Tacos at North Shore Taco (or Shrimp Tacos anywhere in North Shore); I stumbled on a Dim Sum spot in China Town called Mei Sum - it was delicious. For your coffee fix - I recommend Hideout Coffee at the Laylow hotel; Holoholo Café and Market for the best Iced coconut latter and Kona Coffee. Finally, don’t leave the island without trying Haupia Pie - a traditional coconut puddings. Many locals recommended Ted Bakery in North Shore and I was not disappointed.

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Loco Moco
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Leonard's Bakery
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Heavenly Cafe
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Heavenly Cafe
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Matsumoto Shave Ice
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WHERE TO EXPLORE. Honolulu has got a lot to offer and if you are traveling with a group with varying interests - it is the best destination because there will be something for everyone. If you want to lounge on the beach - I recommend Waikiki Beach - if you can go early to rent a lounge chair and umbrella - for $40 you can rent one for the day and it is worth every penny. On one of my days in the city , I did just that and laid out in the sun all day - napping; reading and eating. It was the best part of the trip. I also did the sunset cruise on Waikiki which I absolutely loved (once I got over my bout of sea sickness). If you are up for it , take a stroll on the beach - it is a lengthy stroll but it is very worth it - I did the trek at sunrise starting at the Duke Paoa Kahanamoku Statue - it was incredibly beautiful - I got to watch surfers ride the first waves and see a sunrise wedding on the beach. My heart was full.

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For a beach less crowded - visit Lanakai beach - it is stunning. Hanauma Bay is an incredible reserve with a beautiful beach that is great for snorkeling. It is not free so plan accordingly if you add this to your itinerary. Sunset beach in North Shore - it is known for big waves in winter and it a lot less crowded than Waikiki.

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For jaw dropping views (and a workout ), there were three spots I thoroughly enjoyed hiking. Manoa falls is a great hike to see waterfalls - make sure you have proper foot wear. Diamond head hike rewards you with a stunning view of Waikiki - I saved it one for the last morning in Oahu . Makapu’u Point is very popular for tourists and locals alike and offers great views of Makapuʻu and Waimanalo Bay on one side and the Ka ʻIwi Channel on the other side. Nuʻuanu Pali is a cliff of the Koʻolau mountain located at the head of Nuʻuanu Valley has a beautiful panoramic view of the windward coast of Oʻahu.

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There are a few things that are uniquely Hawaiian (Honolulu) and highly recommended for your Itinerary. Do not miss the Halona Blowhole - this spot requires some patience but very worth it. Essentially as waves crash into the cliffs under the rocks the water surges out of a blowhole (Holona) shooting into the air. I waited almost half hour to see this; but I thought it was worth it. The Hanauma bay is an excellent spot to snooker or just lay out on the beach. Before making your way down to the beach - make sure to take in the spectacular view of the bay. The queue to get down to the bay does get lengthy - especially on the weekend; so keep that in mind. I mainly went for the view and I was very happy with it. Be aware, parking cost $1 even if you are just going to get a glimpse of the view. Dole Plantation is a uniquely Hawaiian experience - learn about the different species of pineapple; take a tour of the plantation and try pineapple soft serve ice cream - it is not like any other ice cream you have tried. Byodo-In temple is a Buddhist temples in the mountains of Temples Memorial Park - it is so perfect and beautiful here - it also feels like you are in Japan. ‘Lolani Palace was a great experience for me and perfect to learn about the history of Hawaii. It use to be the royal residence of the rulers of the Kingdom. Hānaiakamalama aka Queen Emma’s Summer home is another stop I recommend if you want to learn about the history of the Hawaii.

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inally, there is Pearl Harbor - if you wanted to, you could probably spend a half a day here. If you have Pearl Harbor on your itinerary, book your tickets early. Some of the monuments/memorials are free and others are paid. Either way, I highly recommend booking tickets online to explore USS Arizona memorial ; USS Bowfin and Ford Island for Battleship Missouri Memorial and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.

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24 HOURS IN MONTENEGRO - A DAY TRIP FROM DUBROVNIK

Kotor, Montenegro

Montenegro. This Balkan country known for narrow strip beaches along the Adriatic coastline; mountains and medieval villages is a must visit. Before my trip to Montenegro, the only thing I knew about the Country was that it was part of the former Yugoslavia. I had also seen pictures in my Instagram feed of Montenegro and thought it was a beautiful country to add to the list of “maybe someday”.

Kotor, Montenegro

Never in a million year did I think I will get a chance to visit until my friend “B” and I started planning a trip to Dubrovnik last summer. Given our travel arrangments, I was going to arrive in Croatia a day before she did and had a full day to myself. Since we had planned to explore Dubrovnik together, I did not want to start sightseeing until she arrived. I started researching options for a day trips. Montenegro came up as an option and it was a no-brainer. I booked the tour with Super Tours and counted down the days.

Kotor, Montenegro

You can either visit as a day trip from Croatia or plan a Montenegro (long) weekend getaway. There are weekly direct flights from London that will get you to Budva in about four and a half hours. Rent a car to get around the rest of the Country or explore other Balkan countries.

I was picked up at the agreed stop and joined the tour bus of about forty other tourists. Getting out of Dubrovnik was a bit of a hassle because of the immigration checkpoints. It took about an hour to complete the process of leaving Croatia and entering Montenegro. Once that was done and behind us; it was time to get this day trip underway. We made three stops in Perast; Kotor and Budva. While Kotor was the destination I really wanted to explore, Budva is the city that captured my heart and I will gladly go back to Budva (and Montenegro) any day.

Kotor, Montenegro
Kotor, Montenegro

Perast is a town in the bay of Kotor known as home to two artificial islands. According to legend, the Islet was the result of an oath local seamen made after finding an icon of Madonna and child on the rock. After every successful trip, they will lay a rock in the bay until the Islet gradually emerged from the sea. Today, it is home to the Church of Our Lady of the Rocks which is both a house of worship and museum housing over fifty paintings by the famous baroque painter - Tripo Kokolja. The cost of the boat ride to the Islet was not included in the tour price. It cost five euros (cash only) for a roundtrip journey. Our tour guide informed us the tradition of throwing rocks into the sea still happens once a year at an event call Fasinada. We were on the Islet for about forty-five minute before heading out to Kotor.

Perast, Montenegro
Perast, Montenegro
Perast, Montenegro
Perast, Montenegro
Perast, Montenegro
Perast, Montenegro
Perast, Montenegro
Perast, Montenegro

Kotor. The pictures I had seen of Montenegro were of the bay of Kotor so I could not wait to get there. The city is often described as southern most Fjord because of its shape but I doubt it is actually of Fjord (just looks like one). Most importantly the medieval old town is one of the best preserved old towns in the region and is a UNESCO world heritage site. The city has an incredible love affair with cats (I will not ruin it for you), but know cats are (very) cherished here. We happened to visit on a day when the cruise ships were docked and the old town and the area around it was swarming with tourist. The downside of visiting with a tour group is the limitation on time; we had about an hour and a half in Kotor and it was not nearly enough. The tour came with a guide who walked us into old town - I use the term “guide” loosely here because he handed us a maps; walked us into old town; pointed out a few things and left us on our own to wander around the city. I had the option of hiking up St. John’s hill or exploring the rest of old town. Unfortunately, a hiking injury sustained in Edinburgh ruined my record of hiking to the highest point in any city I visit. If you want to do the hike, it is 1,350 steps to get to the top with entries at north gate and behind Trg od Salate. I hear the views from the top are spectacular. I stayed on the low ground instead exploring old town via narrow alleyways; peeking into the courtyard and in the process, I stumbled on some points of interest along the way. If you want to plan out your trip, here are some other points I recommend - St. Trephine cathedral; Gurdich Gate (Southern entrance); St Luke’s church; St. Nichola church; Sea Gate; River gate and the cat museum. I found a fantastic coffee shop in my wanderings - O Clock coffee - they make amazing homemade scones and make a killer iced latte.

Kotor, Montenegro
Montenegro
Kotor, Montenegro
Kotor, Montenegro
Kotor, Montenegro
Kotor, Montenegro
Kotor,  Montenegro

Budva. What a city! Budva is located on the Montenegrin coast overlooking the Adriatic sea (literally). The city is known for its beaches (I think there are 20 in total); water sports and nightlife. Apparently, Budva is one of Europe’s top party destinations. Budva was also host to the famous Yacht week this year (I found out about this from friends we met while exploring Lokrum). I visited a few days before Yacht week kicked off and the Yachts were already trickling in - a black one that looked like something Bruce Wayne (Batman) would own caught my attention. I got seating at a restaurant with a direct view of the Yacht just to admire its beauty. Other things I did while in Budva - explore the promenade (there are several stands selling roasted corn on the cobb with a sprinkle of sea salt - it was divine ! I also explored old town (Stari grad) ; visited the town walls and lay on one of the twenty-something (reported) beaches in Budva. Morgen beach; “Hawaii” aka Sveti Nicola and Sveti Stefan came highly recommended but our time in Budva was too short. The citadel was also highly recommended but I did not get to it. After my very quick exploration of Stari grad, I wrapped up my day with lunch at La Villa which had a perfect view of the Yacht I fell in love with earlier.

We wrapped up our time in Budva early evening and made our made back to Dubrovnik. Instead of driving all the way, we took the car ferry which cut about 30 Km (45 minutes) off our drive time from Budva to Dubrovnik. if you do the drive on your own, I recommend driving the long way one-way and taking the ferry the other way.

Budva, Montenegro
Kotor, Montenegro
Budva, Montenegro
Budva, Montenegro
Budva, Montenegro
Budva, Montenegro
Budva, Montenegro
Kotor, Montenegro
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Kotor, Montenegro

Have you visited Montenegro ? Any cities or things you recommend because I am certain there is a return trip to Montenegro in my future.

THE SIMI EDIT YOUTUBE CHANNEL IS LIVE - CHECK IT OUT AND SUBSCRIBE

So! For years I capture footage from my many travels and never got around to doing anything manfully with them. One of my blog goals this year was to dig up the footage and make something of it. Hence, the youtube channel to complement the blog posts . There is no schedule for posting yet, but my goal will be to have at least two videos loaded per month (maybe more depending on my volume of travel in any given period).

I just posted a short video from our Easter holiday in Prague. We had an excellent time and hoped you see why in this video. I will appreciate it if you will check out the video; give it a like and subscribe. Also, share with a friend and tell them to subscribe here. If you need more Prague inspiration - click here for my guide to Prague.

THE LONDON GUIDE - THIRTY-FIVE FREE THINGS TO DO IN LONDON

I have avoided sharing a London guide for the last year and a half because there is just so much to do/see/ eat and pulling a post together was a tad daunting. I decided to break up the blog posts between the attractions; the food; markets; festivals, etc. and that way it seemed significantly less daunting. Kicking off the London series with a list we can all get on board with - FREE. Thirty-five things you can see and do in the city without spending a penny

London
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1. See Big Ben. If you are visiting before summer 2020, you will likely find this icon covered in scaffolding for long overdue renovations; but that does not make it any less of an iconic site in the city. Stop by to visit and explore the area around Big Ben; stroll along Westminister bridge including an incredible view of the London eye (riding the London eye will cost you money, but you can see it for free).

2. Visit the Tate Modern. Perhaps one of my favorite museums in London (and the World). I love this museum for so many reasons including the view of the St Paul’s from the 6th-floor cafe - very few views of St. Paul’s Cathedral as amazing as this one. The permanent exhibitions are free to see; a temporary exhibition carries a price tag.

3. Visit Regent's Park. Visit Queen Mary's garden to see the most extensive collection of Roses in London; pack a picnic and have a lazy afternoon exploring the grounds. If you are feeling to a trek/light workout, then make your way across the park to Primrose Hill.

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4. Hike Primrose Hill. The hill is located on the northern side of Regent's park and on a clear day you get a clear view of central London; Belsize Park and Hampstead.

5. Visit platform 9 3/4. London is home to several Harry Potter specific sights; you can catch the play or take a Harry Potter tour of London and while all of those will cost you. Visiting Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross (outside the Harry Potter shop) is free. The queue can be long, but it is always orderly.

6. Visit the sky garden. Spectacular view of the city from the Sky Garden; if you are in search of greenery in the cold months or just want a fantastic city view - head over to the Sky garden. While it is free, you have to reserve a spot on their website here and make sure to arrive early. There are restaurants and bars you can dine at with a reservation which also gets you access to the garden. However, if you just want access to the garden - reserve your spot and prepare to be awed.

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7. (Window) Shop on Oxford Street. Oxford Street is one of the busiest shopping street in the world and while I try to avoid it as much as possible - if you are visiting here; I think it is a spot to visit at list once. Stop by Selfridges for the ultimate window shopping.

8. Visit the National Gallery. Located on Trafalgar Square, the national gallery is a personal favorite in the city; it is home to over 2,000 paintings some of which date back to the 13th century.

9. Explore Kensington Gardens. Access to Kensington palace requires a ticket (paid ticket); However, exploring the gardens is entirely free home to one of the city's most ornate monuments - the Albert memorial. It is also home to the statue of Queen Victoria and Peter Pan. You can also visit the Italian garden or wander the allotment.

Oxford Street
London
London
London
London

10. Watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. This generally occurs on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sundays at Buckingham Palace. The ceremony begins at 11 a.m., but you are advised to get there early - I recommend taking your spot no later than 10:15 a.m. The celebration lasts about forty-five minutes. Before visiting, you can confirm the dates and times of the event here.

11. Visit Holland Park and the Japanese Garden. One of the lesser know parks for those who do not live in London; but a very favorite destination for residents. There is quite a bit to see/explore here, but my favorite spot is the Japanese garden. Watch the majestic peacocks and if you visit at the right time in spring - you can photograph the most beautiful cherry blossoms.

12. Explore Portobello Market and Notting Hill. While it was the backdrop for the famous 90's RomCom featuring Julia R and Hugh G; the market is famous all by its self. It is the most notable street markets in Europe where you can shop for antiques; second-hand clothes; food; and enjoy street performances. - then you already know about Portobello road and the market which was featured in the movie Notting Hill.

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Portobello Market
Notting Hill
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13. Flower shopping at Columbia Street Flower Market. This Sunday market is one of my favorite things to do on Sundays. Come rain or shine, the market is open till 1 p.m., and you can pick up the lushest floral arrangements. The area around the market has also got some fantastic bakeries; restaurants and coffee shops so you can make a day of exploring this part of London.

14. The Mayfield Lavender Farm. This is not free, but for 1 pound admission fee it might as well be. While Provence will always hold the price for sighting lavender; a very (close) second best is the Mayfield Lavender farm.

15. Recreate the Album Cover on Abbey Road. Warning - do this at you peril. This is a bustling road; but if you are patient and plan accordingly, you can recreate the iconic Beatles album cover on Abbey Road, just outside the studio where some of their hits were recorded.

16. Explore Borough Market. This is possibly the most known street food market in Europe; obviously, you have to pay to eat here (and I highly recommend it and have shared a post here to help you with the dining options); but you can also just walk through the market taking in the sights and scents and characters of the market.

Borough Market
Tower Bridge

17. Visit Barbican Conservatory. I cannot think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Keep in mind the conservatory is only open certain Sundays and bank holidays during the year; it is the second largest conservatory in the city, and it is entirely free to visit. For a fee, you can also have afternoon tea in the conservatory; afternoon tea requires reservations on the conservatory website.

18. Visit Somerset House. Somerset house is known for its winter skating rink; During the summer months, the water fountains are a perfect destination to cool off from the summer temperatures. The house also hosts several exhibitions during the year; most of which are free including free guided tours three days a week.

19. Photo op at Trafalgar Square. The iconic Trafalgar square is one of the most known public squares in Europe and if you are heading to the National gallery; then you are already there; get your picture in the iconic square with the fountains as a backdrop; if you are visiting London at Christmas, don't miss the annual Norwegian tree.

20. Spend an afternoon at Neal’s Yard. Hidden down a tiny/narrow street in the seven dials; this is one of the prettiest streets in the city and while it covers a small area; you can spend hours here. It is a destination for locals and visitors alike with a variety of shops, spas; coffee bars, and restaurants.

Neal's Yard
Neal's yard
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21. Explore Covent Garden. If you are visiting Neal's yard; then you should make a stop to Covent Garden for a shopping and food experience that is uniquely London; you will also find the transport museum here (paid), and you can take in a variety of street performances.

22. Explore the colorful streets of Hampstead. Hampstead does not come up on a lot of London guides, but you will be doing yourself a disservice if you don't explore this part of London. It is like a village within the city. My favorite way to explore is on foot starting from the high street; then on to the Holly Bush; Hampstead Heath; Flask wall and others.

23. Explore the Natural History Museum. This is one of my favorite destinations to escape to in London; entry is free, but you may have to pay to visit a special exhibition. It is located in South Kensington and if you are already here; you should plan to stop by the Victoria and Albert Museum

24. Visit the Victoria and Albert Museum. While the museum is free; a donation is requested (if you can) and why not. The museum is the world's largest museum of applied and decorative arts and design including Michaelangelo's David. When you are done exploring, you can retire to one of the three cafes on the grounds for nourishment; treat yourself to afternoon tea in the historic Morris room (Fridays only) - reservations required. There is also a kid-friendly courtyard for your little ones to run around.

Victoria and Albert Museum
Covent garden
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London

25. Walk along Tower Bridge. It will cost you to visit the tower bridge exhibition aka the glass floor above the bridge; however, the trek across the bridge is free, and you can plan your itinerary to coincide with the lifting of the drawbridge. You can find the lift schedule here. The closest train station to access the bridge is Tower-hill.

26. Stroll along the Thames. The Thames path is about 23 miles long starting at Hampton court to the Albert Bridge with lots of beautiful scenery along the way, so I don't propose you trek it all; pick a start and stop point and stick to that. Save the rest for a different trip.

27. Explore Street Art in Shoreditch. You can pay a tour guide to take you around the area to see all the street art, or you can save your coins and wander Shoreditch on your own. You will have the best luck spotting street arts on these streets - Shoreditch high street; Fashion Street; Brick lane and Toynbee Street.

28. Explore Tate Britain. Not to be confused with the Tate Modern; The Tate Britain is a must visit - it holds the most extensive collection of British art after the National Gallery. The art collection, which includes the works of Turner; Reynolds and Hogarth is exceptional

Tower Bridge
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29. Complete the South Bank Walk. The South Bank walk itself begins at Westminster bridge and ends at St. Pauls. However, my favorite bit is abridged. I start at Borough market and trek along the bank toward Tate Modern; passing Shakespeare globe along the way; I like to make a stop in at the Tate Modern to take in the latest exhibition before making my way across Millenium footbridge to get to St. Paul. For the best view of the Cathedral, head over to the rooftop terrace at One New Change.

30. Explore the British Museum. It reportedly is home of a permanent collection of over eight million works of art sourced during the era of the British empire.

31. Visit the House of Parliament. Watch British democracy unfold at the house of Commons or House of Lords. To observe the proceedings, it is recommended you reserve well in advance.

London
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British Museum

32. Visit St James Park. At watching the changing of the guides; take time to explore St. James Park. The park is in proximity to Buckingham Palace and other landmarks and includes the mall and horse guard parade.

33. Explore Camden Market. Another favorite market - we have got a load of those here; I love Camden market because it still seems like a secret place for locals and it has got vintage shops; food and artisans - everything my heart craves.

34. Stop by Picadilly Circus. This round open space is one stop I recommend you make at night - it is so much more magical at night. It located in London's West End and connected Piccadilly to Regent-street.

35.Watch Deers at Richmond Park. Charles, I created the park in the 17th century as a deer park, and you can see these beauties on a trek across the park. A trip to Richmond park can take up to an hour and a half depending on your base in the city so plan accordingly.

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Camden market
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FIVE LIFE LESSONS FROM MY TIME IN SAO PAULO // SAO PAULO , BRAZIL

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What an experience ? I still pinch myself when I remember my time in Sao Paulo. The opportunity to visit Brazil and spend time in this city has been one of the most significant life experiences of my thirties. Unfortunately, I don’t have a guide for you because I spent most of my time in the city working or commuting to and from work and/or nourishments. However, through interactions in those settings, I discovered away of being and life in Sao Paulo that I think I (we) could all do more with in our day to day.

KINDNESS OF STRANGERS. I cannot even tell you how many times strangers stopped to help me without prompting or asking. They saw the perplexed look on my face and always stopped to help. There were at least two occasions where I handed my phone to strangers to give the Uber driver directions on how to find me. The Sunday afternoon I arrived, I decided to make the most of the free afternoon to explore the city. I ended up at a cafe trying to figure out the paper map because my phone was acting up. A lady at the restaurant spent ten minutes helping me sort out how to get where I wanted to go. That willingness to lend a hand was really touching and made me love the people more. How could I forget mentioning after a meeting how several friends in the states had asked me to bring back Brazilian coffee but we were working too late for me to get to the supermarket before they closed. A member of the team made plans for someone to pick up coffee packs for me and my colleagues delivered to the office. If we all made a daily effort to give/show kindness - imagine how much better our communities will be.

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LEARNING TO SLOW DOWN THE PACE OF LIFE. The pace of life in Brazil is slower than the western world and initially I found that irritating because I have spent all of my adult life living and working in the United States and United Kingdom which is crazily fast paced but is that really the only way ? Most of my days are spent glued to my Computer and phone and since moving to the UK, I feel the work never stops - those hand held things that keep us connected have also become the source of more stress than I am willing to get into in this post. It took me almost a year of working in the UK to stop having panic attack of thinking I needed to be available 24/7. Don’t get me wrong, they work really hard in Brazil, there were days when we worked several hours past closing time; but It is not handled as THE most important thing and it as do or die as (I think) we approach it in the West. There is not a mad sense of urgency and they don’t let work consume them. They genuinely seem less stressed and happier than we are in the West so maybe there is something to this approach. I wonder how much more normalized my blood pressure will be if I put work in its place - meaning work hard; but also step away from it and experience life.

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IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY. They seem very community orientation (at least with those I interacted with); everyone looked out for each other. I am sure there is a Brazilian version of Corporate competition; but there was a sense of people and relationship first and everyone seemed supportive of each other. I observed this in the work setting; dining out and in the hotel we stayed in during our visit. There is something about that sort of connection that I think is a great value add for my life here and for all of our groups and communities.

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VALUE OF CULTURE. Brazilians truly love their culture and they are happy to share it with others and help you experience it. They are patience to share their traditions and discuss why it is important; they take time at lunch/dinner to explain the cuisine and the ingredients. They remind me of my people (Nigerians) that way. Even more important than loving and sharing that culture is the willingness to embrace and inquire about others and strive to get to know about others. There are times when people ask a question about where I am from and as soon as the words leave their lips, they are tune off. That was not the case in Sao Paulo. They are happy to share about their traditions and willing to listen and learn about mine as well. We could all do better listening (truly listen).

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WILLINGNESS TO REACH ACROSS. This goes hand in hand with my last point; their willingness to reach across and make other comfortable. I was the one visiting their Country and the only Portuguese words in my vocabulary were “Olá” ; “Obrigado” and “Por favor”. Everyone I interacted with made a great effort to communicate with me in English; even when they only knew a few english words; they strung those together to make me feel comfortable and welcome. I felt very ashamed - given I was the one visiting their Country; I should have been the one going above and beyond to communicate with them and not the other way around.

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My interactions with locals left a positive impact that makes me want to return to Brazil in future. I hope to properly explore Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. I want to visit the Christ the redeemer statue; get to beautiful beaches (maybe ring in the new year on Copa Cabaña) and spend time interacting with locals.