Perhaps you’ve done a lot of traveling in your years. In fact, perhaps that’s the problem. You feel as if you’ve almost done too much traveling. You’ve seen everything there is to see, surely? You’ve gone to all the biggest capitals, seen all the most iconic sites (both manmade and natural) and skipped from continent to continent in order to experience every culture to some degree. While that’s fantastic in itself, there’s still very much to explore. There are smaller towns and cities that may never crossed your mind to explore, but contain intricit landscaps and incredible history. That means there’s always more for you to see, should you so wish. And don’t feel bad if you’ve only ever explored your local area because your chance to see more of the world could start right now! Here are some unique places to explore if you want to travel more.
Last month, I was fortunate enough to experience brunch at the infamous Lotte New York Palace. I’ve been in awe of the establishment since the days of Gossip Girl. But even before that huge television series filmed at the hotel, I have been in love with the architecture nestled behind Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. The beautiful structure has been there since 1882.
Last night, I was fortunate to attend the third presentation of Shorties by Condé Nast Traveler. I attended the event last year (check it out here!) and became enamored with the magazine, as well as the concept of one-minute video journeys around the world. Traveling is one of the greatest investment a person can make. The memories continue to grow over time, and your outlook on life changes almost drastically by being exposed to new cultures and traditions. There is something that is, for lack of better words, magical and feeds the soul when you travel.
The start of the holidays is also the start of the big travel season! I love traveling. I love going somewhere new, seeing new things, and just honestly shutting my phone off for a few hours. I also really love the idea of leaning back, watching a movie, and ordering snacks delivered to my seat. I really live it up if you can’t tell.
So what should you bring to keep you cozy on the plane ride? Great question. Here are a few essentials I typically love to pack, the 2016 edition!
Top 5 Must Haves:
In case you missed it, here’s part one and two. Finally, the end that you have been waiting for. Did we stay another night at the haunted apartment? What happened when we returned from dinner? Let’s find out…
Sitting at an outside cafe with our tapas and paella, we watched the locals relax into the evening. Work was over, and it was time to enjoy life. Something I relished about the European culture: delicious food, happy company, and the sense of no worries until tomorrow. But as our meal came to an end, a sense of dread loomed over my friend and me.
“How many more nights are we book at this apartment?” my friend asked as she sipped her sangria. I could tell neither one of use wanted to head back to the haunted flat.
I stabbed an apple slice floating in my sangria with my straw and let out a nervous sigh, “two more nights.”
“Oh my gosh. I honestly don’t know if we can do it,” my friend replied. “All day, I’ve been thinking of ways to make it work, but there is something wrong with that place.” There was a brief paused before she leaned in, “I didn’t want to freak you out earlier, but after we said those prayers I went into the kitchen to wash my hands. While I was in there, I glance up at the window overlooking the courtyard. In the reflection, I saw this dark figure. It was there only a second, but I felt its’ presence directly behind me.”
“There is something I didn’t mention as well,” I took a breath. “When I woke up after my dream, I looked all around the room before turning the lights on. At the end of my bed was a long dark shadow. I thought it was a bed post or something because that’s what it looked like.”
“Yeah…” My friend interjected as we huddled towards the center of the table, clenching our glasses.
“There’s no bedpost on my bed. I realized that when I turned the light back on.”
“Oh hell no! That’s it we can’t stay there another night. I mean what if you wake up tonight and turn to me speaking in tongues? I rather lose the money” My friend exclaimed pushing away from the table. “Uh-uh.”
“What should we do? Because the sun is setting as well speak and I rather not be possessed on this trip.”
“I’ll look up hotels, ” My friend whipped out her phone while I grabbed the check. Within minutes, she book a place for tonight while I paid the bill. If anything, this haunting experience has really made us work like pros together.
Five minutes later, we were standing in front of the apartment. I turned the lock to enter the dark foyer with green and brown peeling paint.
“How did we not notice this before, it is straight out of a horror flick?” I asked while looking at the walls.
We walking into the elevator that is only big enough for two people and pressed our floor. The doors shut and the light began to flicker. All of the sudden the elevator felt like it was rocking back and forth barely moving between floors.
“You got to be kidding me,” My friend said.
“This can’t happening”. I closed my eyes and began praying my freaking heart.
It took a minute, but the elevator finally moved and opened to our floor.
I turned the key to the apartment door and hesitantly stepped inside. The air is thicker than I remembered. The sun is quickly setting and the space was dark.
“I am going to keep the front door open, just in case,” I told my friend as I propped a chair in front of the heavy door. I didn’t want to be locked in here with evil spirits lurking.
I slowly made my way further into the flat, switching on lights as I went. I got to my room and turned the handle terrified to go in. As I creaked the door open. There it was, the mirror facing directly towards me again. There is no way for it to unlatch itself, there is no reason for it to be moving on its own. Something is living in this apartment and is not happy that we are here.
As fast as I humanly could, I snatched all my belonging from the closet and checked under the bed to make sure I had everything. I had never been so terrified in my life to look under a bed. I braced myself as I placed my head to the floor. I felt the thickness in the air surrounding my every move. I lifted the edge of the dust ruffle and looked. Only a water bottle cap was there. Oh thank goodness.
I picked up the cap, refusing to leave anything behind and I hauled my stuff into the living room to repack. I will never step foot in that room ever again.
As I was repacked at lightening pace I heard, “Ellese?”
My friend’s voice came from her room.
“Are you okay? Is everything okay?” I respond.
“Uh, yeah. Let’s get out of her quickly though.”
I zipped up the last bag, made one final sweep of the place and headed to the front door. I hung up the keys on the hook near the door before shutting it for good.
“Give me one of your bags,” I motioned for my friend to hand me one of her large suitcases. With her large suitcase, my large suitcase and a duffle bag I made my way to the stairs, “I am not stepping foot in that elevator.”
Trudging down the floors, I noticed that they were all dark with this giant marble stairway in the middle.
“Did you ever realize how much this looks like an old school?” I mentioned as we got to the first floor.
“It really does. It is eerily like your dream. Maybe the lone balcony is the principles old office.” My friend replied. Maybe so.
Once outside, I miraculously spotted a cab at the corner intersection. Unlike New York, there weren’t cabs at every block. So when I saw this one, I ran for it. I mean sprinted, dragging the bags with me and flailing one arm like a maniac. To me this was my only way out of this nightmare.
The cab driver looked at me like I was nuts, which honestly I didn’t blame him. We gave the hotel’s address and loaded into the taxi. I watched as the apartment was finally out of sight.
“So, why did you call my name before we left?” I looked down at my feet and realized I forgot to tie my sneakers before sprinting out.
“Before we left the apartment, did you move my luggage?” she asked me.
“No, why?” I laced up my shoes as she looked frightened.
“I had my purse was in the center of the bed, but when I went back into the room my purse was on the floor with credit cards, eyeliners, and lip gloss scattered on the ground.” My heart stopped when I heard this.
“I am so glad we are out of there,” I looked out into the night sky. “I can only imagine what would have happened next.”
Thank you for reading my real life ghost story in Barcelona. The events really did happen. I eventually worked with Airbnb to get a refund for our stay. They were extremely cooperative and even wrote this short email:
The rest of our trip was smooth sailing. I ended up visiting the Vatican in Rome where I bought a rosary, and St. Michael pendant for extra protection. I’m not even Catholic, but thought it can’t hurt! It was also where we met the legendary “Mr. Winker”, who I am all too excited to tell you about on Monday.
If you liked this post, please subscribe. If this is something you would love to read more of, let me know in the comments. Thanks everyone!
So, you’re brave enough to return. Hadn’t my real life ghost story freaked you out enough? Or are you dying to know what happened next?
Let’s see, where did I leave you? Ah yes, I was walking back from the bathroom after discovering the light was on. Something I knew for certain I turned off before going to bed. I am one of those people who needs it completely dark in order to sleep.
While heading down the long corridor to my room, I felt a strong energy following me. It drew closer and closer to the point that my neck started to tingle. Too afraid to turn around to see what it might be, I scurried to my room and flipped on the light. As the bulb flickered on, I saw my reflection greeting me at the doorway. The mirror somehow unhooking itself from the original position and turn 45 degrees away from the wall. “How does this keep happening?” I whispered to myself.
The one thought that came to mind was what my boyfriend had once told me. In his culture, Jamaicans never bought used or old mirrors because it is believed that souls could remain trapped inside.
“Fantastic, I am so glad I have that thought crossing my mind right now,” as I climbed back into bed. I kept the light on for awhile longer, hoping to calm myself down enough to eventually fall asleep. I watched as the hours passed on the clock beside me. Two am, three am, eventually four in the morning I figured maybe I could finally rest. It was after the bewitching hour and nothing else had moved.
I turned off the light, and within minutes fell asleep. That was my greatest mistake.
[The next part is slightly disturbing and not appropriate for children, read at your own risk]
I fell into a deep sleep, during which I had a vivid dream. I stood near an establishment that seemed to be part school and part church. Children, parents, and familiar faces were dancing all around on a green lawn. There was a cascading gothic tower in the near distance. Everyone was celebrating and seemed to be happy.
Out of the crowd, a man who wore tattered overalls and had a look of desperation on his face, raged towards me. I panicked. I somehow knew him.
When he got closer he said “Please, I beg you. You cannot fire me. I need this job. I need this job.” I noticed white strokes on his jeans. He’s the painter for this establishment, and I must be partly in charge.
I shrugged and heard myself say, “there is nothing I can do.”
As I said those words I watched him stand up and angrily stammered, ” If I can’t work, if I don’t have a job, then I’m going to commit suicide,” and forcibly bolted through the crowd.
Heartbroken, I began yelling “Stop, Stop. Don’t do that!” As I began chasing after him I heard someone call my name.
“Ellese,” startled, I turned to see who knew me. I saw a tall clergyman cloaked in his traditional garb yelling. “We need you, there is a girl that needs help.”
Torn as to which was to go, I decided to follow the clergyman who seemed to be in charge. As we approach this large dark room with rows of empty beds, I slowed my pace. Something didn’t feel right. I took a couple of steps forward to turn the corner. There I saw laying on the ground a young girl who had her legs broken at the knees. I knew she was alive but I didn’t want to see more.
The man who knew my name and acted like a figure on the church was standing over her body. But his whole phsyic changed. His eyes became vicious and his voice more sinister. He said, “Look at what we were able to do in an hour, imagine what we can do together…”
That is when I stared him straight in the eyes and yelled as loud as I could “YOU B@$%@!D.” A phrase I never use, a word I never say.
At that precise moment, I saw his face shrink backward and I jolted awake. As I woke up I felt this huge energy force leaving my body. I never believed in dark energy, but this was unlike anything I’ve ever felt before.
For a few minutes paralyzed out of fear, I stayed stationary trembling on the inside. Every hair on my body stood on end. I looked around the dark room, panicked and disturbed. I repeated to myself that I am okay, I am safe, it was just a dream. I bravely reach my hand out for the lamp switch and let the light slowly fill the room. Nothing was there, nothing else had moved.
I looked at the clock, it was only six in the morning. I felt my body shaking from exhaustion and that odd feeling of having something leave me. I replayed everything in my head, trying to figure out what it meant.
Around 7:30, I heard my friend as she walked down the hall. I called her and told the whole story, praying she didn’t think I was crazy.
“No, I believe you! I felt some strange energy last night when I was alone. Maybe someone did commit suicide her and needs help. Let me text my brother to see what to do. He knows certain prayers to help the souls who are stuck.”
I nodded my head, thinking we need something if I am going to stay here again tonight.
She received a list of prayers, and we went room to room and read them off her iPhone. I pushed the mirror back into place and I turned to my friend and thought, this isn’t exactly what I imagine we’d be doing in Barcelona. After breakfast, I check the mirror in my room and it hadn’t moved! Maybe the prayers actually worked.
In the hopes of reviving the day, we left the apartment and took a tour bus around the whole city. I sat on the upper deck in the shade and watched the beautiful city pass by. I was pleasantly happy not having to move while listening to the history of the city. It made me forget all about last night and the apartment. Well, until dinner…
Come back at noon for the final cut!
Here are some photos from our Bus tour. At least Barcelona is gorgeous!
So you want to hear something spooky? A real life ghost story to set the mood for Halloween? Well unfortunately for me, and luckily for you, I have a pretty juicy one.
It all takes place in a familiar town of Barcelona, Spain. My friend and I had been dreaming of a European getaway, and Barcelona happened to call both of our names. I had never been to Spain before but lusted after their delicious tapas, and dreamt of afternoon siestas. The culture, architecture, and food encaptivated me. I was dead set on visiting.
When the moment came to book our tickets to Barcelona and find a place to stay, I was flooded with emotions of excitement and disbelief. I cannot believe I am finally going to visit the majestic city! Sorting through a list of Airbnb apartments to rent, my friend and I chose a two bedroom flat that was steps away from the Sagrada Familia. We turn to each other and exclaimed, I can’t believe this is happening!
Little did we know what we signed up for.
The day finally arrived! We were traveling to Barcelona and our cozy Airbnb apartment. However, unlike the first part of our trip to Copenhagen and Paris, this day seemed different. We had the hardest time tracking down which train we needed to get to the heart of Barcelona. We went the wrong direction, then took another train in the opposite direction, and still were nowhere closer to where we needed to be. Upon one of those trains, a woman from Austria sat down next to me. I overheard her speaking English and asked a question about the map. She was so delighted that I was from New York City that the rest of our short train ride was her talking about her desire to visit. We all got off at the same stop. The Austrian woman turned to us and said, “I am a witch! I want to bless you both on your journey through Barcelona.” Caught off guard I just smiled and said thank you. What do you say in a situation like this?
She gave both of us a hug and a blessing of protection before leaving. I immediately made sure I still had my wallet and id’s. I am a New Yorker, by default I am skeptical of everything and everyone. When I realized it was out of pure goodness, I decided maybe her blessing is a good thing after a long day in a foreign city.
The stop turned out to not be the right one. We ended up taking one more train and walking about a mile with our luggage. Up to this point of our trip, we didn’t get lost once. Nor did we get lost any other time after. I a pro when it comes to direction, and I found it very peculiar as to why it was so hard to find this apartment.
About four hours later we finally made it to a building that looked like it has seen a century worth of history. It was old, and had only one balcony under one window and that was all. “This is it,” I buzzed up to the Airbnb host who was waiting for our arrival. He was a single gentlemen in his late forties. He welcomed us into his flat with kindness and full of excitement.
He explain the city, gave us maps, and made sure we had all the essentials before leaving. Frankly, my friend and I were too exhausted from our excursion to really noticed the eeriness of the place. We somehow missed the peeling paint in the dark hallways downstairs, of the elevator with the flickering light bulb. We were too tired to notice how the apartment layout resembled a series of small classrooms with a long dreary hallway to attach the rooms.We were just thankful to had finally made it and for the man’s kindness.
Once our host left, my friend and I decided to grab dinner from around the corner. We were hungry, tired, and not up for another adventure. We brought the food back to our new place and sat to eat at the table. The sun had gone down, and the apartment was dark except for the little light above the table.
We decided to look up activities for the next day while having dinner. Might as well kill two birds with one stone! Especially since the likelihood of us being awake for much longer was slim to none.
I had forgotten my laptop in the room and went to get it from my bag. When I opened up my door and turned on the light, I saw my reflection staring back at me. I jumped from complete shock. There was a full-length mirror on the side of the bed that faced the door. Except I am pretty certain it was flat against the wall when I left initially. I went over to take a look. I noticed that the mirror was on hinges. I pushed it flat against the wall and heard it snap into place. I must have somehow knocked it when I was placing my luggage in the room.
I grabbed my laptop, turned off the light, and closed the door. After dinner, I decided to take a shower before going to bed. It had been a long, tiring, sweaty day of travel. It felt nice to rinse off the dirt from walking around Barcelona. When I went back into my room, I flipped the lights back on. The mirror had turned to it side again, staring straight at me. I slowly walked into the room. This time I noticed the how thick and heavy the air felt. Much different from other parts of the house. I went to the mirror and pressed it against the wall again, listening as it snapped back into place. “This is weird,” I thought. There is no windows open or drafts from outside.
I pulled down the sheets and yelled goodnight to my friend. Maybe I just need some sleep. But I couldn’t sleep. I kept hearing screams and yelling coming from the courtyard that my room overlooked. When I looked outside, no lights were on or sign of where the noise could be coming from.
I tossed and turned for hours. I figured maybe if I drink some water that would help. I opened my door and walked down the long hallway and noticed that the bathroom light was on. I cracked the door open slowly, not sure what to expect. I specifically remembered turning off the light before my friend and I went to bed. I know she hasn’t used the bathroom since then because I would have heard her get up. This is starting to get bizarre.
I splashed some water on my face and rubbed my eyes. I must be jetlagged and forgetting things. Heading back to my room, I felt a strange energy behind me. I quickly got back to my room and turned on my light. When the light fluttered on, there staring directly at me was…
Want to find out how this story ends, check back Wednesday! I will also be sharing the alarming email I received from Airbnb regarding the apartment I stayed at. Feel free to subscribe to stay tuned!
Last week I shared the quintessential Parisian dream of what it was like doing a photoshoot in front of the Eiffel Tower. Today I wanted to share what Paris is like by day. During my latest trip, I made every effort to live like a local. I stayed at an Airbnb in the posh neighborhood Le Marais. I spoke french everywhere I could. Leading to many incomprehensible conversations with locals that made both of us laugh. I learned that ‘may I have the bill’ in french is l’adittion (sounds like audition) and if you don’t ask for it, they will not bring you the bill for a very long time. I discovered while half the time the trip was sunny, the other half of the time when it rain made the city was even more romantic. I could easily get use to the culture of stopping work by 5 and seeing friends late at night even if it is a Monday. This trip filled my heart with so much love and gratitude. Grateful for the experience to live out my dreams.
Here is a collection of photos of what it was like to roam around the tiny streets and eat delicious chocolates at a local cafe in Paris. I hope you enjoy!
Paris. I mean what can I say, it is every girl’s dream to be whisked away to the most romantic city. The food, the culture, the atmosphere, the language; everything about Paris is well, magnificent.
This past visit was nothing short of exceptional. A good friend and I stayed in the ultra posh neighborhood of Le Marais. If you are visiting and want a truly Parisian experience, I highly recommend staying in this neighborhood. It was so much fun to get lost in the neighborhood coming home at night. Walking down the narrow streets in the rain passing by cafe after cafe, and boutique shop after boutique shop. On any given Tuesday, we watched as the locals sit unbothered at 11pm, having a drink while catching up with a friend. It filled my heart.
One of the biggest decisions we made on the trip was to do the ultimate dream… A photoshoot in front of the Eiffel tower. Days leading up to the shoot, we looked all over Paris for outfits and jewelry. We found the prettiest dresses in a cute Parisian shop. At one moment while trying on looks, my friends whispers to me through the velvet curtain “Ellese, we are in Paris trying on dresses in a vintage shop”, neither one of us could stop giggle with pure excitement that this is actually happening.
On the day of the shoot, we woke up very early to rain. That didn’t stop us. After all isn’t it even more romantic to see Paris in the rain? we put on our outfits, did our hair and makeup, and then added an extra layer of clothing to protect us from the cold, wet weather outside. we scurried to the nearby train and road with all the locals heading to work. I can only imagine what they were thinking when they saw these two American girls all decked out on this commuter train. But it didn’t matter. The only thing that matter was, we were actually going to achieve this beautiful dream of ours.
We got off at a stop that is a little further away than the Eiffel tower. A day in advance, we stocked out where we could get a clear photo of the Eiffel Tower in the background. Once there, we began to setup and stripped down to our dresses to start the photoshoot. Since it was raining, there were only a few tourist. Our biggest audience were the national guards who watched the area. They did stare quiet heavily, but never bothered us. In fact, we felt rather safe having them around while our belongings sat to the side.
My friend snapped these photos while it poured, juggling an umbrella in one hand and her professional camera in the other. About 15 minutes later, it was her turn. I bundled up as she changed. She handed over her extremely expensive and heavy camera. “Have you ever used one of these?” she asked. I shook my head and said “Nope” but what better time to learn than now while standing in the rain in Paris.
I juggled my umbrella while snapping photos, just as she had done for me. In the end, we have these incredible photos, and more importantly, these irreplaceable memories of that one time in Paris.
Feel free to visit my friends blog, Fabulizza, to learn how you can replicate this photoshoot on your next trip to Paris!