Humor Travel Life
Welcome and thank you for checking out the second entry in the Humor Travel Life Diversity Series. This series is about celebrating and featuring travelers of diverse backgrounds. Travel is about experiencing the world, and as we all know, our world is beautiful - and most importantly, diverse! I think it's important to acknowledge and celebrate that in the travel blogging industry. Thank you to my friends and fellow travelers who have agreed to be a part of this, and I look forward to celebrating you and your experiences as travelers.
Meet Raul Tafur!
Instagram: @vlogeandoando & @acouplethattravels
1. Where is your home base?
I'm based in Los Angeles.
2. How long have you been living there?
About 5 years. Prior to it, I lived in Vegas for 10 and before that in Lima, Peru.
3. What inspired you to start traveling?
Curiosity is in my nature. I've always wanted to see the world. My mom tells me that when I was a kid I would always say "I'm gonna get me a job that lets me travel the world. I'm gonna see everything!" For a while, I lost that vision and for years, I battled with my weight and for a while with anxiety and depression. I was so focused on "making more money" that I let myself go for a while. Once I was able to beat my anxiety, I decided to change my life little by little. First by moving to LA and doing what I really wanted to do and find a perfect balance of personal and work life and swore to never do things for money and to eventually have more countries than my age. At the same time I started getting more into food, different cultures, etc. So one day, I took a short trip to mexico, then a little further, and further and further and now traveling has become part of my life.
4. How many countries have you visited?
MMMMM...Great question...Over 25 countries, 100s of cities and airports too!
5. What is your favorite travel destination so far?
Asia. Japan is definitely on top. The country's versatility and uniqueness is out of this world. You can submerge yourself into Tokyo's modern life, or head out to Kyoto and explore a more traditional experience. And the food...oh the food!!! And don't even let me get started on the hospitality, harmony and culture!
6. Least favorite?
None. Everything, bad or good have given me a memory and no trip have ever left me such a bad taste that I can call it "least favorite" it's like friendships. They are all different, some more intense, some just for the weekend and in groups but all of them priceless and memorable. ALL trips teach you something. Bad or good, always something.
7. What is the craziest travel story that you have experienced?
Oh there are soooo many but the latest may be one for the books. Let's start with this: I love soccer and Have never been to a World Cup. After 36 years, Peru, my home country made it to Russia 2018. So for 18 days, with no hotel reservations in hand and with just a backpack and my dreams I went through Russia following every single Peru game. I barely slept, drink a lot, cried as much when sang my national anthem, screamed "GOOOOOL" and lived the most incredible adventure ever. P.S Thank you Russia for the hospitality!
8. Where would you like to travel to next?
The wife and I have the rest of the year on lock! San Francisco, Tokyo & Okinawa, Mexico city & Peru.
9. What's the best piece of travel advice you'd give to others?
Don't get intimidated by cost and the "what ifs" Go ahead and do it. Stay in hostels, eat at markets, use layovers to your advantage, learn traveling tricks and how to get the most for your money. No one wants to go with you? Don't let that hold you back! Can't take a long trip? Start small. Take short trips and build up confidence and knowledge. Last but not least RESEARCH!
10. How do you document your travels?
I've been vlogging for over a year every single day. I edit them myself and post on FB and YT. Additionally, I have two Instagram accounts: One for me and my photos and the other to document our travels as a couple.
11. What is your biggest peeve pet (if you have one) of the current state of social media as it pertains to travel?
No pet peeves actually. I feel that Social media opened the doors (and eyes) of lots of folks that have been wanting to travel and didn't think they could either afford it or do it. Also, a lot of hidden gems are being shared with the world and it's positively impacting some countries economy. If social media is doing something good is actually helping young (and old) folks across the world that you all can do it and that the planet is worth being seen!
I am so excited to share the first entry in the Humor Travel Life Diversity Series. This series is about celebrating and featuring travelers of diverse backgrounds. Travel is about experiencing the world, and as we all know, our world is beautiful - and most importantly, diverse! I think it's important to acknowledge and celebrate that in the travel blogging industry. Thank you to my friends and fellow travelers who have agreed to be a part of this, and I look forward to celebrating you and your experiences as travelers.
First up, meet the lovely and awesome Dynasty Huckleby!
1. Obviously as a travel blogger, you are a citizen of the world, but where is your home base?
I love the phrase “citizen of the world” that definitely represents so much of my aspirations. As far as my home base it is Los Angeles, California.
2. How long have you been living there?
I am originally from Detroit, Michigan. From there I moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan for undergrad. After finishing college I moved to LA and have made this my home for 4 years now.
3. In addition to travel blogging, are you involved in any other work or social media influencing?
Well that’s always the biggest question for me. I have my hands in quite a bit of pots and I always feel, why not! Along with travel blogging I also have a model event staffing/management company, I am in my last year of my psychotherapy grad program, and I am an actress and writer, which is the main reason I am based out of LA.
4. What inspired you to start blogging about travel?
It’s kind of funny but I basically fell into travel blogging. It is the most recent of my things that I focus on and it really just began out of my love for exploration, meeting new people, and wanting to know more about other cultures and customs. I feel as if travel is something that not enough people do and I try to inspire others to experience it because of the impact it has had on my life.
5. How many countries have you visited?
As I stated I am still pretty new to the travel world so not as many places as some of my travel role models. But, in the past two years or so I have been to 10 countries, which sounds like a quite a bit in 2 years but somehow I always feel like I could be traveling more.
6. What is your favorite travel destination so far?
That’s pretty hard for me to say because I find so much joy in every place I visit. It’s amazing to experience different cultures and discover all of the unique aspects that individualize each place has. I can say the place I keep wanting to go back to and explore more of is Thailand, which happened to be my first overseas journey.
7. Least favorite?
I don’t have a least favorite in regards to destination. I will say that I have discovered that I’d much prefer to be in nature or small towns as opposed to a big city.
8. What is the craziest travel story that you have experienced?
Ha, I’m not sure how everyone else defines their crazy travel stories but I’ve had a bunch of experiences that could possibly make the list. First Pattaya, Thailand - enough said. On another occasion I remember being in a small village of norther Thailand, stepping out of a car in a clear space with trees surrounding the clearing. A friend and I get out of the car just hoping to find a monkey. I have a bag of nut for the monkey meeting and we are so hopeful just to see at least one monkey when we start to hear a rustling of leaves and as we look up there over 100 monkeys swinging from the trees and running straight towards us. Now this plan was not looking like the smartest idea any longer, but as we are immediately consumed with fear the monkeys run full speed straight up to us then stop about foot away and hold out their hands. This was such an amazing experience to watch all of them interact act trick each other for the nuts while each one would just come up and hold out their hand asking for another. In hindsight I know now to be more careful in regards to dealing with wild animals but after seeing what I saw, I don’t regret a thing.
9. Where would you like to travel to next?
Goodness where wouldn’t I? I'm always down for any trip but, honestly feel as though it’s toss up between Ireland, Morocco, or The Philippines. I get inspired by those around me and these destinations seem like they would be right up my alley!
10. What’s the best piece of travel advice you’d give to others?
Have no expectations, just be ready for the experience.
Photo Credit: Twitter
Statement: Humor Travel Life is meant to focus on combining humor, life stories, and information all under the umbrella theme of travel. That being said, sometimes it is necessary to change gears a little in order to bring awareness to important issues. This is not a topic of politics; It is about humanity and how necessary it is to help those in need. Human trafficking may seem like it has nothing to do with travel, but in fact, the two intersect more often than we realize. And no, this is not some sort of Liam Neeson-action film reference; This is life and real human beings are being abused and trafficked around the world every day. Please take a moment to read about an organization whose work to fight human trafficking inspired me to write this article.
On January 29, 2018, the i-5 Freedom Network held its second annual Big Cheese auction in San Clemente, a coastal suburban community in California’s upscale South Orange County. The i-5 Freedom Network is a training and advocacy organization that aims to bring together the community and business leaders to actively engage in the fight against human trafficking. Although local to San Clemente, the organization reaches out to other cities throughout Orange County and California. By focusing on specific goals that include community awareness, training, corporate engagement, and legislative advocacy, i-5 has helped highlight an issue that far too often goes unnoticed, along with active steps to help combat it.
An additional key component of i-5’s mission is survivor empowerment. Brenda Wells, founder and executive director of i-5, was made aware of the human trafficking epidemic in Orange County, and while she learned a lot from research and meetings on the issue, she felt that these meetings provided no real-world tools or opportunities to actually make a difference. Wells, who is also an instructor with Dale Carnegie’s Orange County division, believed that the skills acquired through Dale Carnegie’s training program would not only help her create a successful organization to fight human trafficking but also be effective in helping survivors. The Big Cheese auction’s focus was to raise money to sponsor survivors to enroll in the Dale Carnegie program. Wells stresses, however, that the courses do not substitute as therapy but instead are aimed at enabling survivors to become strong communicators and establish goals for themselves. Another part of the training includes delivering presentations, as many survivors express interest in sharing their story with others through motivational speaking. One such survivor, Jaimee, was a speaker at i-5’s auction and was one of the first to go through the Dale Carnegie program after coming out of human trafficking. Jaimee, who has created her own initiative to support fellow survivors, spoke of the success she found through this collaboration between Dale Carnegie and i-5. Dale Carnegie Orange County CEO Geri Cerkovnik, who was also a guest speaker at the auction, added, “It’s so hard to get them out of that world that it’s important to give them the skillsets that make them successful and not afraid.”
Visiting San Clemente, without much knowledge of the statistics of human trafficking, it would seem surprising to discover that this small, affluent community would also be a location disposed to such a problem, but Wells emphasized that it exists throughout the United States wherever the demand may be. People who are willing to purchase and take part in human trafficking include those from all demographics and incomes.
While most people may associate trafficking for sex-related purposes, labor trafficking actually represents a major portion of this underworld. Many times, people may hire someone to do housework through an agency, without knowing that the agency is actually sending trafficked laborers. In the United States, 80 percent of trafficked labor is foreign nationals, while 80 percent of sex trafficking victims are U.S. citizens, many of which include minors.
Because trafficking victims may travel frequently, airline employees have been in training for signs and behavior to be aware of. The work of i-5 intends to extend that awareness and training to the hospitality industry, where they can also regularly encounter trafficking victims. Wells also suggests specific ways the public can aide in helping the fight against human trafficking. One of those is to add the hotline number 888-3737-888 into your phone, so that when you see something suspicious you can quickly report it. Other ways include using your consumer dollars to support fair trade companies who do not engage in trafficked labor, as well as checking in with hotels in your area about their knowledge on the issue as a call to action to compel them to be better trained in this.
Human trafficking is vastly overlooked in our society because much of it is under the radar. The truth is that it is all around us in our communities, even places you’d least expect. The more we are conscious of it though, the better the chance we have to prevent new victims from falling into this world and helping to get current victims out of it. For the people who are fortunate enough to make it out though, it is also just as important to give them a chance at empowering themselves for a better life ahead. For more information on the i-5 Freedom Network visit there official website at: https://www.i5freedomnetwork.org/
A perk of the east coast United States is access to some really fantastic historic cities. Case in point: Philadelphia.
A mere 2-hour bus ride from New York City, this city is probably the most historic in relation to the Founding Fathers and the beginnings of the United States as an independent nation. Because of this, it makes for a fascinating trip, especially if you enjoy history. Personally, history has always been a favorite subject of mine since school, so I knew Philadelphia – or Philly – would be an exciting visit.
I took the Megabus from New York City bright and early at 6:50 a.m. and was in the heart of Philly by 9:00 a.m. Another perk? The trip only cost me $14 round trip! Budget travel for the win! If you are taking a bus to Philadelphia, make sure to book the route that drops you off and picks you up at Independence Hall. That’s the heart of where all the tourist sites like the Liberty Bell, Declaration of Independence, etc. are going to be.
After getting off the bus, I walked over to the Philadelphia Museum of Art where the famous Rocky steps are. If you’re familiar with the iconic film Rocky, starring Sylvester Stallone, then you’ll recall him running up those stairs to the “Gonna Fly Now” tune. And yes, you can bet there were plenty of tourists running up those stairs. One guy even had the music to accompany it. The Rocky steps are the only major site that is not in the main area. It’s a bit of a walk – but totally doable – from Independence Hall. I’d say somewhere between 1 and 2 miles. When you get there though, be mindful of people standing around offering to take pictures of you. Sometimes this can be a way for people to try and snatch your phone or demand money for taking your picture. If you are traveling on your own, try looking for another group of tourists to take your photo. There’s also a Rocky statue next to the museum as well that you can get photos with.
After snapping a few pics at the Rocky statue, I walked back to the Independence Hall neighborhood. Like in Washington D.C., Philly offers travelers a lot of free things to see and do. I kid you not, the only thing I spent money on that day was a Philly Cheese Steak (more to come on that later…)
Once I was back near Independence Hall, I went over to the Liberty Bell first. There’s a short line and you go through security, but it’s pretty low key. If you can, try to see Philly’s historic sites on a weekday, especially if you go during the summer. Even on a Thursday, which is when I went, there are locations that can get busy.
After the Liberty Bell, I hit up Independence Hall. This building was built in the 1700s and is the location where Congress was first held. It is also where the Declaration of Independence was signed and is now on display. Insert your Nicolas Cage jokes here.
Although Independence Hall is free, the part of the building where the Declaration of Independence was signed requires ticket reservations. Note: you do not need a ticket to actually see the Declaration of Independence though. The document itself is in another area at Independence Hall. Needless to say, I did not know about the need for tickets. The good news is that even if you do not get a ticket beforehand, you can still see other parts of Independence Hall and come back around 4:45 p.m. to get in line to see where the Declaration was signed. At that point tickets are not required. As it turned out, a lot of people forget that whole ticket thing. When I came back later in the day to line up, it ended up being an hour and a half wait to finally get in the room. It was worth the wait, but if you want to avoid long lines, get a ticket.
Tour guides are also at Independence Hall to tell you about the history of what went down there, which makes the experience all the more interesting.
Other spots I saw during the day included the Betsy Ross House and Benjamin Franklin’s grave. You do need to pay to get inside the Betsy Ross House, but you can still see the outside of it if you don’t feel like the paying. The same goes for Ben Franklin’s grave. His grave is visible from the street, but in order to enter inside the cemetery, you need to pay.
Next to Independence Hall are a bunch of other historic – and gorgeous – 18th century buildings. I went inside New Hall, which was the first headquarters of the U.S. military after gaining independence. I also went inside Carpenters’ Hall, which was the meeting location for the First Continental Congress in 1774. The first and second banks of the United States are also cool to check out while in the area. The layout of this area of Philadelphia is absolutely stunning. A beautiful park space surrounds these historic 18th century buildings. If you need a quick break, go sit on a bench and enjoy the scenery. It’s especially pretty on a warm, sunny day.
Now about that Philly Cheese Steak…
This is the one food item you have to try when you’re in Philadelphia. I went over to the Old City area, which is right near Independence Hall. It’s a neat place to walk around. This is the part of Philly that features cute coffee shops, stores, restaurants, etc.
I was determined to have a Philly Cheese Steak for lunch and decided on a local spot called Fezziwig’s Sweet Shoppe on 3rd Street. Don’t let the title fool you though. While they indeed have great desserts, they also have a terrific Philly Cheese Steak. It’s costs $9.50, but with tax is just over $10. It’s a big sandwich too. I couldn’t finish the whole thing, but two people could easily share just one Philly Cheese Steak. The best part though is the service. They are really nice!
Philadelphia is the perfect day trip, because you can easily conquer the city in one day. I definitely gave myself more than enough time. By 7 p.m. I was basically just trying to kill time – in the form of recording myself doing the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air rap. I think I had waited my whole life for that moment…
This might seem like the silliest, most mundane idea for a travel blog post, but in the name of practicality, I realized that it might, in fact, be a great topic to discuss.
When it comes to travel blogs, we’re all looking for places to see and where to stay, but the truth is that when we’re actually out in the world traveling, we’re also trying to stay hydrated and connected. To put it bluntly: we will inevitably need to pee and/or charge our phones.
Right?! RIGHT?! We’ve all been there. You’re in some city you don’t know enjoying the day and instead of heading back to your hotel, you end up looking for somewhere you can use the bathroom or charge your phone for a bit without having to spend a bunch of money.
New York City is one of the busiest travel destinations in the world. As a writer who frequently works in coffee shops, which is usually a go-to option for travelers in need of a bathroom or an outlet, I’ve discovered some useful information along the way.
I’ve been residing in the Hell’s Kitchen area of Manhattan, so these locations will be near Midtown and Hell’s Kitchen, which is right near Times Square as well. Hey, there’s like a thousand coffee shops in Manhattan alone. I can’t reach them all!
Here’s my breakdown of places where there’s a (free) bathroom or outlet for you to charge your phone.
First up: Starbucks
This international coffee chain is not only a symbol of over-priced coffee (no joke, prices jumped again), it’s also a beacon for bathrooms and outlets. What’s important to remember is that not all Starbucks are alike when it comes to outlets, bathrooms, and seating.
Starbucks at 8th Ave & 52nd St. (Times Square/Hell’s Kitchen/Midtown)
What they offer: outlets, good seating, and bathrooms
Starbucks at 57th & 10th (Hell’s Kitchen)
What they offer: lots of seating, outlets, and a bathroom
Starbucks on 57th St. between 9th & and 8th Ave. (Hell’s Kitchen/Midtown)
What they offer: outlets and bathroom, but very minimal seating
Starbucks at 53rd and 6th (Midtown)
What they offer: No outlets, bathrooms, or seating. Basically, it’s just a pit stop to get coffee.
Starbucks on 53rd near Madison Ave. (Midtown)
What they offer: bathroom and good seating, but no outlets
Another place for free bathroom access near Times Square is the Macy’s store at 34th St. between 7th & 6th.
That’s it for now! If you find yourself in NYC, use this small but handy guide, because to quote the great Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park, “When you gotta go, you gotta go.”
Even though it’s a coastal city, New York tends to be more known for giant skyscrapers and larger-than-life Broadway shows than it does for beaches. In the summertime though, there’s access to many different beach spots like the celebrity-filled Hamptons, Brighton beach, and Jones beach. However, if there’s one iconic beach spot that you have to head to when visiting New York, it is definitely Coney Island.
Coney Island is located on the southwest tip of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. The good news is that it is easily accessible too. From Manhattan, take the Q subway train all the to the last stop, which will be Coney Island. From there, just exit and walk over.
Coney Island features a beach, boardwalk, amusement park, food, pier, and aquarium. I’m happy to report there are also plenty of bathrooms there too.
When it comes to the amusement park portion of Coney Island, the ride you have to go on is called the Cyclone. It’s the most famous ride. In fact, the baseball team The Brooklyn Cyclones were named after it! It’s $10 per passenger, and they do take credit cards. It’s well worth it too! The ride is really fun and features a lot of dips.
Food! OK. So, when it comes to food obviously there’s lot of choices. Don’t go to Coney Island thinking you’re going to get some sort of organic chicken salad; it’s traditional park food. The famous spot to head to for a bite to eat is Nathan’s hot dogs. Eating a hotdog from Nathan’s is a Coney Island rite of passage. A regular hot dog from there will cost about $5 with tax (officially $4.75).
The two biggest annual events at Coney Island are the Mermaid Parade and the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. The Mermaid Parade takes place in June, while the Hot Dog Eating Contest happens on the Fourth of July. It’s safe to assume those guys eating hot dogs will be passed out or throwing up by the time fireworks roll around. Yikes!
Thankfully my trip to Coney ended with just a mild sunburn, as opposed to an overdose on hot dogs.
Catch you on the beach!
That’s right. I finally found it: the best place in the entire United States to watch the fireworks on the 4th of July. Are you ready? Hold your firecrackers kids, because this is where it’s at.
The best place in the U.S. to watch fireworks on the 4th of July is…
The Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.!
Yes! The iconic location where Martin Luther King Jr. made his “I Have a Dream” speech. The place immortalizing one of the greatest U.S. Presidents. A place of protest and celebration of democracy. This is one of America’s most symbolic landmarks.
You might be reading this and wondering, 'What about the White House, Capitol Building, or the Washington Monument?’. Good question!
Certainly, those are also famous U.S. landmarks, but here’s where the Lincoln Memorial outdoes them: the view
Not only are you getting a personal firework show, but you are looking out onto the Washington Monument and reflecting pool in front of you as you watch one of the best fireworks shows in the nation.
You can even sit right on the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial too as you enjoy the show.
There’s no need to worry about getting there super early either. I managed to still find a great spot where I could sit on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial a mere 10-15 minutes before the fireworks started.
So, if you ever get a chance to be in the capital city of the United States on Independence Day, head to the Lincoln Memorial.
A word of advice though: PUT AWAY YOUR PHONES! Take a few photos and then put them away for crying out loud. We get so focused on documenting everything we forget to live in the moment, and let me tell you something, experiencing a 4th of July on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial is something to remember.
This past 4th of July I traveled to the capital city of the United States, Washington D.C.
Depending on your political beliefs, going to Washington D.C. in 2018 can either feel exciting or depressing, and just like in the rest of the nation, you’ll encounter a mix of views in D.C. as well. I would say though, at the end of the day, visiting D.C. is necessary. What I mean by that is the history that surrounds this city in every way - both good and bad. Our nation’s history and its intended purpose is preserved in the museums, in the monuments, and in the atmosphere. That’s why in today’s political climate - both liberal and conservative, Republican or Democrat - I’d recommend D.C. in a heartbeat.
The words of our Founding Fathers, their intentions, and the truth of our history can get lost in the dark corners of Facebook and Twitter. This city will remind you of how far we have come, where we still need to go, and the importance of protecting democracy.
Another reason to go? It’s cheap!
Almost every major site and museum in Washington D.C. is free. You read that right. I’m not pulling an Ed McMahon Publisher’s Clearing House stunt on you.
Washington D.C. is full of famous monuments and buildings that you can see: The Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Capitol Building, Supreme Court, and The White House.
My favorite monuments were the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. The best time to visit each of these two monuments is at sunset. It's so beautiful!
Additionally, there are plenty of incredible museums that are free to the public as well. My top pick to see is the Holocaust museum. This is a thorough museum that provides education and insight into this tragic moment in history in very poignant ways, the most of which is the opportunity to sit down and speak with a Holocaust survivor. I’m not talking a lecture in a large room. This is an intimate conversation around a small table. It’s an incredible experience and something I would recommend to anyone who is visiting the museum to take part in. I believe that one of the best ways of improving this world is to learn from the past. Something else to make sure you do at this museum is watch the video documentary on Anne Frank that plays in the auditorium. It's about a half hour long.
Another museum to see is the Smithsonian American History Museum. It’s a pretty cool place to check out, especially considering it’s in the nation’s capital. During my visit there, I saw Muhamad Ali’s boxing gloves, the All in the Family set, personal items belonging to George Washington, and even an original Apple computer. To this day though, I have yet to own a Mac though…
Another one of my favorite spots was the National Portrait Gallery. This features portraits of notable Americans throughout history, including Presidents and First Ladies. I was so excited to see the portraits for Barack and Michelle Obama. They were incredible!
A fourth museum that I did not have the chance to see but is something that is on my bucket list is the Newseum, which is a museum celebrating journalism and the First Amendment. Unfortunately, this museum is not free though.
Another spot to visit is the Botanical Gardens that are located behind the U.S. Capitol Building. It’s a pretty area and also…free!
The great news is that all these places I mentioned about are walking distance since they are all in the same area near the National Mall – and no, that’s referring to where you can locate a Hollister. Do people still wear Hollister?
On the next post, hear about the best spot in the United States to watch 4th of July fireworks!
One of New York’s coolest neighborhoods is Little Italy.
The city’s epicenter of Italian heritage and food has been featured in many famous films, including The Godfather Trilogy – with Part II featuring the most scenes there.
It’s unique because it feels very old-school New York and European at the same time, making it a fantastic blend of Italian and American culture.
The streets are decorated with bright colors of the Italian flag, flower archways, and even a large sign that reads, ‘Welcome to Little Italy.’
The biggest draw to Little Italy though is the food. You don’t have to venture here if you’re looking for great New York pizza, but this is certainly the place to go if you want to have pasta in New York City.
Everywhere you look there are options for delicious Italian food. One of the main streets in this neighborhood is Mulberry Street, which features a variety of local Italian restaurants to enjoy. The best time to visit here is in the summer when the weather is warm, so you can enjoy the outdoor seating and people watch as you eat your meal.
I had lunch at a restaurant on Mulberry Street called Ristorante Capri. As I was trying to decide where I wanted – and could afford – to have some pasta in Little Italy, an upbeat round-belled actor/writer/host-with-the-most named Gustavo practically ushered me to a table before I could decide if the lunch special was something I wanted. At the end of the day though, some charm and a nice personality will go far, and so I decided to have my Little Italy lunch at this restaurant.
I am glad I did. The staff was very friendly, and I got a fabulous outdoor seating spot. With my Eat Pray Love book in hand (I am reading that for the second time) I ordered the lunch special, with lasagna for my pasta choice. The lunch special is $15 (and this was one of the cheaper options). The special included bread, a salad, and lasagna. It was incredible! The food was delicious. Everything down to the bread was really, really good.
Even though you feel like you’re in Europe, you still get that New York sense of urgency in which they are trying to get customers and in and out as quickly as possible. I would have loved to sit there and read my book a bit while I was having lunch, especially considering they didn’t have a line of people waiting, but it seems that enjoying the moment was not included in the lunch special.
The interesting thing about New York is that even though I am living here – at least through the summer – it feels like a place where you can have a vacation on your day off. I don’t know whether to attribute that to the fact that it’s all new for me or if it’s the magic of this city, but either way my trip to Little Italy felt like a mini-vacation.
Something cool to note is that Little Italy, Soho, Tribeca, and Chinatown are all right next to each other. You could easily explore all of them in one day. I didn’t see Tribeca, nor did I venture into Chinatown for the simple reason that I had already been to San Francisco’s, which is hands down the best Chinatown in the States to explore.
I did, however, walk around Soho. If you’re not familiar with Soho, it’s an upscale New York neighborhood that has more character in the aesthetic as opposed to glam. This is where you’re going to find expensive boutiques among really cool architecture while also catching celebrities, paparazzi, or both. In my case, I saw Cindy Crawford and her family. I was tempted to say hello to Cindy and see if she remembered me from the day I did background work on a Kid Rock music video during my first year in Los Angeles, but something tells me that she would not have remembered me though…
In conclusion, here are three things to remember:
1. If you want to see celebrities, go to Soho
2. Visit New York’s Little Italy and get yourself some Italian food
3. Never do background on a Kid Rock music video.
I have been a fan of talk show host Wendy Williams for a few years now.
I mainly watch The Wendy Williams Show for the hot topics segment. Considering it feels like the state of the world is constantly about to implode (just watch 10 minutes of CNN and you’ll get what I mean), celebrity culture feels more trivial than ever, but it’s Wendy that can make a story about a random reality television star I know nothing about actually interesting. Wendy’s funny and real, which makes her show so much fun to watch.
The show films in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City.
Now, I only did two television tapings during my time in Los Angeles. The first was a sitcom taping that ran WAY too long, but the reason I wanted to attend that sitcom taping was because the legendary Rita Moreno was in it. The 5+ hours was worth it though, since I got to meet Rita, chat with her briefly, and even get an autograph.
The other television taping was Jimmy Kimmel Live and that was also a good time – plus Jimmy is very nice as well.
FYI, unless you have a time machine to attend an I Love Lucy, Seinfeld or Friends taping, go catch a talk show instead. They are only several hours of your time, as opposed to the ridiculously long sitcom tapings.
Obviously, New York is full of amazing shows for you to be in the audience of. There’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live, and The View.
What sets Wendy’s show apart is how much her audience is included in the show – she even calls her studio audience her co-hosts. Originally, I had planned to go for my birthday, but since it would be during summer hiatus, I figured I better go as soon as possible.
I got my free tickets online via www.wendyshow.com. They gave specific clothing directions, which can best be summarized by ‘dress to impress’. Her audience is featured on-camera quite a bit, so yeah, it’s a great excuse to dress up!
We had to be in line outside the studio in Chelsea by 8:00 a.m. for the Thursday taping. Thankfully the weather was great, but if you are attending show tapings in the winter, be mindful to dress warm.
Once we got our paper ticket with a seating section, we went inside to the holding area. Before heading into the building though, everyone is required to go through security, so smaller purses are best.
In the holding area, we each wrote down a question to ask Wendy herself if picked for her Ask Wendy segment. Personally, I was hoping not be picked. I had three hours of sleep the night before after staying up late writing, so having a close up on camera for an extended amount of time was not on my to-do list. Truth be told, I had no interesting question anyway. I wasn’t picked. Thank God.
We were then brought into the studio itself. We went backstage and were given seating assignments by Wendy staffers. I actually ended up getting a great spot, and the good news is you can keep your purse with you – just make sure to turn off your cell phone though. As we were entering the studio, there was an incredible DJ playing an awesome set of 90s/early 2000s hip hop and r & b, creating a really fun club vibe in the studio. I have to stay, starting off with some fantastic throwback music is a great way to get the audience pumped up.
Once everyone was seated, the Wendy Show hype guy, Marco Glorious, came out and warmed up the crowd.
Normally at these TV tapings, it’s a mid-level comedian that comes out and tells some jokes. Meh. Whatever. But Marco was incredible! He didn’t do a stand-up set but instead got everyone excited by having us participate in the warm-up action. We were dancing, saying hello to our neighbors, and just having a fun party together. I hope other TV shows take note. THAT’S how you warm up a studio audience!
Right before we went to air Wendy producer and frequent on-camera personality Suzanne came out to say hello. I love Suzanne. She’s great and it was awesome to hear from her as well. 10 a.m. arrived and out came Wendy. I think I had been waiting all my life for that “how you doing?” moment.
The taping of the show went by really quickly, which was nice considering I was still operating on that 3 hours of sleep.
Wendy came up in the audience quite a bit actually, either between breaks or during taped segments. At one point she was standing right next to me. Afterward, she thanked us all for coming, and it was really nice to hear from her.
You can really tell that she appreciates her audience, and I think that is one of her best qualities.
Her entire staff was also SUPER NICE. I mean it. Every single person was fun, welcoming, and kind to us all. Lord knows I’ve encountered staffers who treat audience members like they are idiots (understandably some do act like that but not everyone). The Wendy Show crew though was hands down one of the nicest groups of people in entertainment. I made sure to thank them for that because it really does make a difference.
I will leave you with this:
If you are visiting New York City and want to attend a television taping – especially if you can only do one – go see the Wendy Williams Show. It is FUN. I promise you will have a great time.
HOW YOU DOING?
Jill Zwarensteyn is an actress, comedian, and writer who has been featured on Amazon, TruTV, The New York Times, Matador Network, BUST Magazine, Tiplr, YourTango, Thought Catalog, GoMad Nomad, Mashable, The Daily Mail UK, the Cannes Film Festival, LaughFest, Women's Lifestyle Magazine, and the Funny Women Festival LA. For more info visit: http://www.jillzwarensteyn.weebly.com