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Seattle is B*****in

This weekend I had the opportunity to visit another place on my bucket list. Seattle, Washington is pretty much what I thought it would be and a little more. Let me explain.

Arriving at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport I didn’t experience a lot of the fast past hustle and bustle as I usually do when I am leaving arriving in airports such as ATL, JFK, BWI or DCA. It was really slow paced and chill. I appreciated this because I was mad hangry (hungry to the point of getting angry) and had a slight headache. Flying for a total of 7 + hours can do that to you.

Where I stayed

During this trip I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Seattle – Downtown at
1821 Boren Ave and I couldn’t be more happier with my decision. The location was in walking distance to everything that I needed and surrounded by little cafe’s and coffee shops. It was about a 15 minute walk to Pike Street Market and a 10 minute walk to Pacific Place mall. I’m not exactly sure when the hotel was built, but it smelled pretty new. The decor was very welcoming and so was the staff. After a speedy check-in I made it to the room and was even more surprised at how clean it was. I am a huge stickler for bathroom cleanliness and updates, and was quite happy to see that it lived up to my expectations. The bathroom was not cramped and dank. The caulking around the tub was in good shape and there were no traces of previous visitors hair in the bathroom. (Yea, I am very very picky about this stuff)

What did I do

First things first, while in Seattle you most definitely have to spend some time down at Pike Street Market. Opening in 1907, Pike Street Market assisted with the demand for produce and goods from the city’s neighboring farms due to growth of the population of gold rushers, loggers, fishermen, shipbuilders and merchants during that time.

You can get just about anything from here just like any other local farmers market from fresh smoked salmon, dungeness crab, produce, fresh baked goods and cooked to order meals.

Next, take an Uber down to the Space Needle. It’s about $28.00 for entry but I promise you it’s so worth it. Take the elevator to the very top to get awesome views of the city. In addition to the Space Needle, please be sure to visit the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle (MoPOP). What I loved most about this spot was the exhibit dedicated to Horror. For anyone that truly knows me, this was definitely a treat.

Where did I eat

I want to keep it real with you all, the very first restaurant we tried down at Pike Street Market was absolutely horrible. I highly recommend you don’t waste your time or money at Emmet Watson’s Oyster Bar. Just don’t do it guys. Yuck

The next place I tried was Pike Place Chowder at Pike Street Market and I am very happy I found this place. The chowder was perfect, thick and hearty and they were not stingy with the clams. Now please keep in mind, this location has limited seating. Seats are available outside, however please keep in mind that Seattle is a rainy area and I’m sure you don’t want to eat in the rain.

If you’re looking for a good burger and you’re over in the Bellevue Square area take a quick peak into Tavern Hall. The service is great and their burgers are even better. With it being my first time at the establishment, I was given a piece of chocolate cake with ice cream on top in a jar. It was pretty damn good.

Last but not least was this Bit***n place called Biscuit Bit**! Yes you heard that right, it’s called Biscuit Bit** and the food and service gets absolutely 5 stars from me. The restaurant is very small, but the vibe is huge. With fowl mouth workers and current tunes on the loud speaker, this place is an automatic go to. Now lets talk about the food in this place. The grits absolutely blew me away, people on the East Coast that I have had grits from cannot compare to the grits that I have had here.

For great pictures, take a trip down to the Queen Anne area and hop over to Kerry Park. Kerry Park has an absolutely stunning view of the city of Seattle. I promise your pictures will come out with an amazing back drop. Seattle is definitely a very slept on location. I hope that this post will influence you guys to take a gamble and pay this awesome place a visit.

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What’s Going On

“What’s Going On”

What’s going on with the shutdown you ask? Well, as we look around us sh** has been shut down.

For those of you who may not be aware, the federal government has underwent a “partial shutdown.” So you may be asking what is a partial shutdown? From what many of us have seen so far, a partial shutdown happens when only some of the federal government’s agencies are funded and not all of them due to Congress not passing funding bills or the president fails to sign them before the previous appropriations run out. Why and how did this happen do you ask? Because democrats refuse to agree with the request of about $5 billion dollars to help fund steel barriers in high-priority locations along the American and Mexico border.  

So you’re probably saying to yourself. Well how does this affect myself, and what does this have to do travel? Well let me fill you in on some of the things that travelers like you and myself should be EXTREMELY concerned about. I will start off by listing a few of the agencies that have been affected:

  • -Department of the Treasury
  • -Department of Agriculture
  • -Homeland Security Department
  • -Department of the Interior
  • -Department of State
  • -Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • -Department of Transportation
  • -Department of Commerce
  • -Department of Justice

So lets just talk about a few of the agencies shall we, let’s begin with good old Department of Homeland Security.  With TSA workers not being paid to help assist in keeping us safe in the airports and in flight, this could lead to call outs and no shows. TOO DAMN LATE, they are already calling out and saying man “F*** this.” Them calling out has led to many terminal closures and making TSA check point lines unbearably long. But could you blame them? I think we have reached 30 days of many agencies being furloughed and about a week ago many furloughed employees have received paychecks that read 0.00. My heart truly goes out to these employees who are required to show with no pay, despite not having gas in their cars, or enough money to give their children for lunch for the week.

So what can we do about this? Nothing really, but I heard that some airports are accepting donations for TSA workers! For those of you who are doing this already, you’re the real MF’n MVPs. For those of you who would like to help and contribute, definitely contact your local airport and get the deets. I myself will make a donation this week, because I am blessed enough to have a paying job and travel while those that assist in my travel are not receiving funds that are owed to them. Please keep that in mind folks, and lets bless others.

For a few articles on airport donations check out some of the links below:

Orlando International Donation Drive:

Oakland International Airport:

Hopkins Airport:

TSA Food Pantry:

Another agency that is furloughed is the Food and Drug Administration, also known as the FDA. The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices; and by ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation. (https://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/WhatWeDo/default.htm)

So again, to the many travelers traveling around the United States, guess who is out there inspecting your food, and ensuring your poultry meets federal law and regulation? You guessed it, probably not a d*** soul because they’re furloughed. If you’re a little concerned about what foods to possibly avoid be sure to do a quick google, or start here.

Guys I wanted to bring this to your attention because this is a very serious issue. Like you and myself that enjoy the privilege of traveling the globe, many people can not at this time and I would like you to keep that in mind. On your next adventure, please be sure to thank your TSA folks and consider making a donation.

“Come on talk to me, so you can see, what’s going on” (Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On )

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Bland cheese steaks sandwiches

I wanted to squeeze in one more trip before the year ended. So I said, why not drive up to the city of brotherly love. Philadelphia, PA that is, for a short weekend stay and check out the city.

Where I stayed

I wanted to be close to everything nerd related, so I decided to stay at the Holiday Inn Express Philadelphia- Midtown on Walnut street.
There are convenient stores within a minute walking distance and there was a Starbucks on the corner. The hotel was pretty decent but please keep in mind you’re spending about $30 a night for parking. The hotel lobby was mad small and cramped but the elevator wasn’t far away. When we entered the room it was clean to our standards but man oh man was the bathroom tight in space. I’m talking about Time Square/Manhattan small. So watch your knees when using the bathroom lol.

Where we ate

First of all let me say this, I have heard of Philadelphia being the home of some of the best cheese steaks. So when it was time to choose a restaurant to try one we didn’t know where to begin. Someone recommended Ishkabibbles and we ubered to the spot on 337 South. I have to say I have a love for little hole in the wall spots and this location was one of them. The service was awesome but I have one complaint. Why didn’t they season the meat?! I had no idea that you had to request to have your meat of choice season with salt or pepper or whatever. Isn’t that a cooking rule mandate? When I got my sandwich the meat had no seasoning what so ever and I was highly disappointed. So if any of my readers are looking to try some Philly cheese steak please be sure you make sure to request them to season the meat of your sandwich. You don’t want a bland one. Trust me.

Another spot we checked out was the Reading Street Market. I absolutely loved this place because of all of the fresh food, sweets, breads, seafood and drinks you want. The market was about a ten minute walk and you absolutely can’t miss it. I wanted something a little different to eat and we ran into Becks Cajun Cafe. The restaurant was located in the terminal and I absolutely loved the walk up, and sit down diner feel of the establishment. Just about anything, New Orleans or Cajun you could want they had at Becks and I was most pleased. I ordered the chicken and shrimp gumbo over white rice and it truly did not disappoint.

For dinner, we went to a restaurant called the Saloon and it was a really nice date spot. It was located off of S 7th street and its a mix of Italian and chophouse style cuisine. The ambiance was perfect, and reminded me of a scene from the show The Sopranos. I highly recommend the crab stuff salmon with mash potatoes. It’s a tad on the pricey end, but is so worth it. Oh and did I mention that the customer service was dope?

Tourist stuff

Of course we went to see the Rocky statue, and ran up the steps as seen in the famous Rocky movies. But here’s a tip, if you want the steps all to yourself and don’t want to wait in line to take a picture with the statue, be sure to get there and do it all before 10:00 am. We got to the location around 9:45 am and there was no one out there. Just a heads up.

Over all this very short trip to Philly was a very good one, the locals are very friendly and helpful. But please, when looking for cheese steak, make sure it isn’t a bland one.

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Il mio fantastico viaggio in Italia(My awesome trip to Italy)

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Italy is full of history, great food, and even better shopping. If you’re looking to head to this beautiful country any time soon check out my blog post below. CIAO

After weeks of much research everything I read suggested that I should plan a trip in the off season. Which is typically in late October, and I am glad that I did. I caught a flight from John F Kennedy (JFK) in New York to Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino Airport (FCO) for around $500 via Delta Airlines. The ride wasn’t bad because we flew through the night. Don’t worry about not being able to find a shuttle or a cab ride from the airport. There will be many shared ride services available throughout the airport.

Where we stayed

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I wanted to lodge in an area near the Vatican that was close to a metro stop. Roma Cappoccia in Vaticano was just what I needed. It was a legit five-minute walk from the Vatican and in between the two metro stops Ottavanio and Lepanto.

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The owners of the bed and breakfast were very nice and helpful, they provided maps and suggested places to eat and explore. The bed and breakfast is located in a brownstone type of building on the 2nd floor. Every guest has their own private room and private bath, and did I mention the free breakfast? And yes the breakfast included fresh cappuccino EVERY morning, extra foamy.

Rome

Since Rome was our hub location, we wanted to be sure to cover as much as possible that we considered high level. So, one of our tours was of the Vatican and man oh man is this place huge. I highly recommend a small tour group so that you can get a real feel of the times and some of the purposes of the things you will see there. Please wear very comfy walking shoes. I am sure we walked over four miles in the Vatican alone!

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Another staple we wanted to check out was the coliseum. Going back to the beginning of this post, I mentioned being happy that we decided not to go to Italy in the high season. Looking at the crowds of people that were there in October made me feel better about my decision because I could not imagine the extra people who flock to these historical land marks in the summer time. I mean people were out there in the cold with babies in their arms, babies in strollers, and toddlers running around. Could you picture that in the summer with about 2000 more people in the smoldering heat? There is so much history surrounds the coliseum including the significance of it’s structure, important emperors at the time and the many scandals that took place. After leaving the coliseum we took a short walk over to Palatine Hill and our guide dropped even more knowledge on us that I don’t remember reading or learning in my history books in grade school. One of the most interesting things the guide shared with us was the Vestal Virgins. For a little insight about them click here 

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Next was a quick trip over to Trevi fountain, one of the most famous fountains in the world. If heading down to get pics of the fountain, I recommend on getting there pretty early. It gets really crowded there and many travelers want that “perfect” photo in front of the fountain.

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Florence

Since we flew into Rome, we determined it would be best to simply take the high-speed train everywhere. One of our stops was Florence, but it was only for high end shopping. The Mall Firenze was our destination and it was about an hour on a coach bus through the Florence country side from the Firenze Santa Maria Novella railway station. What I noticed was that my friend and I were the only African Americans on the ENTIRE bus.

After we returned from shopping we simply just walked around the area and we ran smack dab into Basilica di Santa Croce. It stands tall over the city with a massive Renaissance dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, with the baptistery right across.

After that we walked around a little to grab some food and ran into the museum that housed the “David” made by Michelangelo. We did not purchase tickets to enter the museum and were unable to check out this masterpiece unfortunately. We ended the evening with a train ride back to Rome for our next adventure the following day for Milan.

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Check back soon for part two of my trip to Italy and our adventures to Milan and Venice.

CIAO

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To lounge, or nah?

Lounge

Often times, I would wonder why folks would get to the airport super dumb early. I truly thought it was because they wanted to be sure they did not miss their flights. But in actuality, it’s because they want to unwind and get their mind right for their journey in the airport lounges.

Many airports, and airlines have lounges that most people are not aware of. The lounges have access ability through their airline credit card or a major credit card so entry would be free. If you are not a holder of either, you can simply pay a fee to enter the airport lounge. Now, you’re probably saying “why would I need to go to the airport lounge?”

Having access to the airport lounge not only gives you an upscale waiting experience, before and after your flight. In addition, it is a great way to suck up time during a layover while not having to leave the airport. Lounges are often filled with complimentary amenities. For example, premium food and snacks, fully stocked bars, modern shower facilities, fast WiFi, lots of power outlets and secure business centers. But what many travelers are not aware of is that an airport lounge is a MAJOR networking opportunity! Many airport lounges have flyers from all over the globe that could be traveling for work within their industry, or just some one of high status that knows someone that knows someone. You feel me?

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I absolutely love having lounge access while travelling. It gives me the chance to have a snack before my flight and charge my electronics as I wait for my plane to pull into the gate. The airport lounge gives me some personal space to make phone calls and to mention they have VERY clean bathrooms. In the lounge I do not have to worry about kids running around screaming and travelers being extremely inconsiderate by hogging all of the seats with seven pieces of the luggage. Waiting on my flight back to the U.S. I checked out the “Plaza Premium Lounge” in Italy and it was just what I needed.

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If you’re looking to add a little you time to your travel journey, consider using the airport lounge. Be sure to check your credit card perks to see if you already have the benefit built in. If not, give it some though. I promise you won’t be sorry.

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D’ Windy City

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Chicago is home to some of the most recognized rappers, and singers in the game.  R. Kelly, Twista, Common, and Da Brat to name a few.  But it’s also home for some cool activities and great food.

Where We Stayed

Our hotel of choice was the Wyndham Chicago Riverfront. It’s location was great, and was up on East Upper Wacker and the rooms were pretty decent. It’s about a mile from Millennium Park and in my opinion it’s walking distance to some nice restaurants and just about everything except the Sky Deck. But I will talk about the Sky Deck later in this post. But please keep in mind, it is directly in front of the Trump hotel…..

What We Ate

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Everyone knows that Chicago is the home of the deep dish pizza and I totally understand why! Because I was super pressed to go, I did lots of research and was told to try the pizza spot Giordano’s on Van Buren. The location was right off of a major road way and the service was ok. Now lets talk about the PIZZA! I ordered a really simple personal pepperoni and cheese deep dish pizza and it was good. Was it slap your momma good? Naw, the deep dish was too bready for me, and I am not a big fan of crispy crumbly pizza. However, I wanted to give it a try and check it off of my bucket list.

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Now what I will rave about is the burgers from Portillo’s up on W Ontario. I absolutely loved the fact that it was walking distance from the hotel. Maybe a 10 minute walk.

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What I also loved about the spot was how it gave a sportsy vibe, and it had a little hustle and bustle. They have more than one register meaning they will have more than one line to place your order. Since the spot is pretty poppin’ they also have seating outdoors and upstairs. Now about the food…..

I had a pretty simple cheeseburger with mayo, lettuce, ketchup, pickles and mustard. You know, something simple so the wouldn’t mess it up. And man oh man I really enjoyed it. It’s a pretty nice size sandwich. The burger has a nice sandy bun, and the meat has a flame broiled taste. Everything was fresh and their small crinkle fries were perfect! It was so good yall I went twice. (Don’t judge me)

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Just about everyone has heard of Chicago’s legendary “Garret’s Popcorn” and I call it legendary for a reason. I call it legendary because I smashed an entire tin of it in no time because it was just that good! There are many Garret’s Popcorn locations around the city so don’t trip if you’re running low on time to snag some for yourself. Try the “Garret Mix” if your looking for a salty and sweet combination. It’s real cheddar cheese and sweet, buttery caramel will definitely be a treat and you won’t regret it. If that’s not your speed, here is the link to check out some of their other popcorn.

What To Do

While in the Windy City, it was only right that we checked out the “Sky Deck” at the Willis Tower. Tickets were about $25.00 each and you can take an elevator about 105 floors up. Now don’t get it twisted, all is well and cool until you walk up on that clear box and you can see God’s green earth beneath you. Lol I was so chicken I had to crawl into the box, psychologically  my brain said “girl don’t you walk into that glass box, crawl instead” Lol It was most definitely interesting experience and I highly recommend doing this activity with some of the homies that can capture some dope pics.

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Millennium Park

After grabbing our popcorn, we walked about a mile to Millennium Park. It’s South of Michigan Ave and is the home of the “Bean.” You know the huge silver thing ? Well while in the park we realized that there was an event going on called the “Young Artist Showcase” or YAS Fest. The vibe was everything and the temperature was just as on point.

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In conclusion, Chicago is most definitely an awesome place to visit. Be sure to check out where Michelle Obama went to High School and the Obama home as well. Remember to bring a jacket because this place is truly the windy city. All in all, I had a great time and Chicago treated me well.

Until next time!

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We Jammin’

We jammin’……… I wanna jam it with you…. We jammin’…. I hope you like jammin’ too” (Bob Marley)

Fellow LEOS, it is our season. Happy burf’ day to each and everyone of you! What did you guys do for your birthday? Cook out, birthday party, or did you go somewhere? I decided to head back to Jamaica for my birthday last week and it was everything I wanted. Let me explain.

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I took a direct flight from BWI to MBJ, and yall have to explain to me why the ham sandwich flights are so high to Jamaica. I paid almost $600 and I booked months ago! Ok enough of my venting, Landed in Jamaica and I met my cousin in the airport. We jumped on the shuttle and headed to our resort “Grand Palladium.”

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Grand Palladium is actually located in Lucea, Jamaica and not Montego Bay. It takes about 45 minutes to get to the resort from the airport but the ride there was very scenic. In route to our resort our driver was very comical and pointed out some need to know things and areas. Once we got to the resort they informed us to stop at the first desk to get our welcome drink. I passed on the drink because I knew it was probably mad strong (not a big drinker and it was too hot to be drinking) and I was hungrier then thirsty anyways. I checked into the hotel and met my homie there (who actually planned the trip) and her girlfriend and we all went to eat. One of the things I liked about the resort was the many places to eat on the grounds. I had a taste for anything jerk, and or curried and they did not disappoint. I ended up with a huge plate of curried goat over white rice and some fruit. Yall that curried goat was EVERYTHING. It was perfect.

After stuffing our faces, my cousin and I headed to the room to change into our bathing suits and hit the water. I walked into the room and to my surprise, I had balloons and a banner reading “Happy Birthday Anita.” Yall I felt like a little kid, even though I turned 30 it felt good to have my day recognized and the resort gave me a bottle of Appleton Rum.

Now, let me be 100 with yall, the beach was not impressive. The way/location of the resort to the beach is not a good one and actually there is no real beach unfortunately. Sigh but it was all good, I headed to the cabanna to get us a non-alcoholic fruity drink and sat up under the huge straw umbrella to unwind and enjoy the ocean breeze.

The next day, we planned to venture out into Jamaica via shuttle and head to Negril’s Margaritaville, light shopping, and Ricks Café. We planned our trip through one of the tour guides named “Andrea” and she was absolutely awesome. She made sure that whatever we wanted, whatever we needed, she delivered. If she was unable to do so, she would try her best to find someone who could. If you wanted some Guinep fruit, she would get some for us. If smokers wanted some blow/ganga/sticky/bobmarley/weed she knew who to go to.

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I believe it took about an hour to get to Margaritaville, when we got there it was not very crowded and we secured a table. The restaurant is right on the beach and yall, the water was absolutely beautiful. It was hot as balls outside but ya girl had to get out there and get some pics.

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The food wasn’t impressive so my cousin and I shared a platter and didn’t want to eat a lot anyways because our last destination was Rick’s café anyways. We stopped for about an hour to do some light shopping, and then we pulled up to Rick’s Café.

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As soon as we got off of the shuttle, I had about two men tell me they wanted to put babies in me and another that wanted to marry me. Lol Jamaican men are hilarious, I had a few offer me weed but I’m not a smoker and this was all before I even step foot into Rick’s Café lol.

Rick’s wasn’t too packed but it was jumping. We took a look at the cliff and the gorgeous water below and it was just breathtaking. Did I jump you ask, nope. Because I didn’t want to die on my birthday lol, and I am just a beginner swimmer anyways. For lunch I had the Escovitch Red Snapper and it was EVERYTHING. The people were very friendly and the DJ was pretty nice on the ones and twos.

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Andrea managed to get my cousin and I a shuttle to Dunn’s Rivers Falls last minute. I told you she could get stuff done! It took about an hour and a half to get there and along the way we saw where the fastest man Usain Bolt is from.  Andrea also told us about the legend of the “White Witch.” But what really caught my attention when she was dropping knowledge on us about the different herbs, and medicines Jamaicans use to live long and healthy lives.

 

Dunn’s Rivers Falls is absolutely beautiful! Our guide was hilarious and he made sure that we kill ourselves going up the waterfall. Now don’t underestimate going up the falls, because it will certainly put you on your back. There are several little holes and slippery spots along the way so definitely wear water shoes.

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All in all, I had a terrific time in Jamaica. The food, the culture, and bringing in my 30th. If you’re looking for a nice resort to unwind and kick your feet up with lots of restaurants on the facility, then Grand Palladium is it.  DON’T be afraid to jump on a shuttle and actually explore the island.

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Hole in the Walls

If you’ve ever attended a black southern barbeque, you may have heard a catchy tune flowing from the speakers.  The song talks about heading out to an establishment that one may not regularly go to for whatever reason.  It may look a little funky, may not have the best décor but you were somehow drawn to it.  But after spending sometime there, they actually loved it and didn’t want to leave.  Does this tune sound familiar? I am talking about Mel Waters’ “Hole in the wall.”  There is a line from the song that I absolutely love that states

“I walked into the room, with my nose in the air, It’s seven in the morning and I’m still in there” (Material Things, 1999)

Oh I think we have all had a similar experience when we talk about hole in the walls.  I would like to take the time to list a few of my hole in the wall restaurants that I have had the liberty of enjoying and not wanting to leave over the course of my travels.  I would like to call this blog post “Hole in the Walls.”

Being a fellow Charlestonian I have had my fair share of seafood.  Fish, scallops, clams, crabs, shark and the list goes on and on.  But there is something that I really like to have when I come home to the Chuck and it’s called “Garlic Crabs.

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What are garlic crabs you ask?  Well let me fill you in on how I think it is prepared lol.  I believe the blue crabs are steamed very well and the shell is removed.  The crab is then drizzled and or dipped into this very succulent garlic/buttery sauce that just makes the crabs oh so good!  It sure as hell beats drowning your crab with Old Bay Seasoning. (Take that Marylanders)

Why do I like these so much?  Well, when I come home and grab a plate of this it just reminds me of home and puts a spin on how we Charlestonians prepare our crabs.  How can you get your hands on these babies?  Well, on Savannah Highway there is a little seafood store called “Ravenel Seafood” .” It’s a little blue store/ restaurant where you can get yourself some garlic crabs.  But before taking the drive out there, be SURE that you give them a call to see if they have crabs available.  This is a very popular dish in the Chuck and they tend to sell out.

Ravanel Seafood

Second on my list of hole in the walls in a restaurant in Gatlinburg, Tennessee called ” Hungry Bear BBQ” . This little restaurant is small and seats maybe about thirty people but my God do they have some awesome BBQ.  The restaurant is located off of East Parkway and in the heart of Great Smoky Mountains.  Why do I like this restaurant?  It’s because of their small hometown, backwoods atmosphere.  There restaurant is decorated with the history of the area and a few trinkets of what TN is known for.  What did I eat when I was here?  I had some ribs, baked beans, string beans, and a roll.  The ribs LITERLLY slid off of the bone and it I want to bet that their sauce was probably homemade.  Their service was very warm and inviting and if I would’ve ordered more food I was most definitely not going to leave.

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Third hole in the wall on my list is a jammin’ little Jamaican spot in Cocoa, FL called “ Jerk Flavas.” I visited this restaurant on a weekend trip to Cocoa Beach, FL recently and was determined to support a black restaurant while I was in the area.  After some googling and reading of the reviews, I decided to give this place a try.

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I pulled up to the restaurant and it was small and cute. It’s tucked away in a little neighborhood and if you drive too fast you could easily pass it.  The restaurant opened at 11 am and to my surprise when I walked in FOOD WAS PREPARED!  I chatted it up with one of the employees and told her what I wanted and she was not stingy with the portions honey!  I got an order of oxtails, mac n cheese, cabbage, rice, plantains and banana vanilla cake. To wash it all down I finished it with a ginger lemonade, and if you have not had ginger lemonade definitely get some.

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What I liked about the restaurant was that it was ran by a family.  You could tell they were related by the way they spoke to each other and how they vibed with one another. Another reason why I liked this restaurant is because it’s black owned.  Many black owned restaurants are slept on and not given a chance because they compete with the chain restaurants.  However, these restaurants lack the love that a black owned restaurant puts into their food.  Don’t debate me.

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In conclusion, I myself thoroughly enjoy looking for a hole in the wall restaurant when I travel. Above, I provided three pretty tasty examples and hope that if you’re ever in the area that you would give these restaurants a try.

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Fam Travel to Europe Pt 1

Travelling with the fam (family) has its pros and cons, but with my family it’s always pros. My fam and I typically do some sort of travel together once a year and it’s nothing short of amazing. What’s your experience with traveling with your family and would you do it again? Why or why not?

This blog post will lay out part one of my trip to Europe, how I got my flight tickets for free and why traveling with my family was so dope.

Europe is full of history and mystery, and these two things get my nerd wheel turning. My cousin we will call “K” and I always talked about visiting Europe and what we needed to see once we got there. Of course, we wanted to see the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, and Buckingham Palace but the timing had to be perfect. K is a busy mother and wife, but when it comes to travel she gets it poppin’. I also invited a soror to join us on this trip and it worked out perfectly.

Earlier the following year, I secured a Chase Sapphire Preferred card because it was rumored to be a great card for traveling purposes. I spent $3,000 in three months and was rewarded with 50,000 points to use toward travel. With this card, cardholders receive 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Dope, right? When K finally decided on dates for Europe I scoured the net for flight deals and boom, there it was. Flights out of John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Paris for about $500.00 (which came out to about 50,000) was the perfect price so I secured them. K and I decided that it should be a multi-city tour and we would fly into Paris, spend a few days there and then take the Eurostar from Paris into London. The plan was that once we land in Paris, we would meet up at the Eiffel Tower and hit the ground running from there.

Trip Prep

Now that you have the background, let me explain how all of this went down. To get from Baltimore to JFK I took the Amtrak from Baltimore’s Penn Station to NYC’s Penn Station for about $90.00 round trip. It’s about a 3-hour ride but you get there quite quickly if you ask me. Once I got to NYC, I walked across the street to the shuttle stop to take me to JFK. Be very mindful about doing this because traffic into and out of the city could make you late resulting to you missing your flight. So be sure to allow your self an extra hour of travel time. I flew with Delta Airlines and the flight was maybe eight hours, I slept most of the way and the flight wasn’t that bad. My family flew from another airport and they reached Paris before I did. The plan was for my soror and I to get to the hotel, unpack and meet up with my family a little later.

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Bienvenue à Paris

Once in Paris, I couldn’t help but quickly notice all of the different brands of vehicles I have never seen before. There wasn’t many Hondas, Fords, and Nissans but yet little weird symbols of brands that I had never heard of. Our hotel was about 40 minutes from the airport and I slept most of the way because the jetlag was already kicking in. When we got close to the hotel my soror woke me up and I wish she hadn’t, the way the French drive is like something out of a movie. We got to our hotel “Eiffel Segur Paris” located in the 15th Arr, about a half a mile walk from the Eiffel Tower. The hotel rooms in Paris are mad small and this was no exception. The staff was very nice and told us we could leave our luggage there until it was time to check in while we hit the city. I grabbed a change of clothes out of my suitcase, a banana and we were ready for Paris!

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On our walk to the Eiffel Tower, I noticed lots of little produce stands and restaurants on almost every corner and I loved that! What I did not love was all of the smoking. I mean everyone was lighting up, and it rather annoying. The closer we got to the Eiffel Tower the more excited I got and once we were there, it was SELFIE time. I must have taken 50 selfies as I approached the tower and about another 200 when I got the chance to go inside of it. Yes, you can go inside the tower, but it is very crowded in there and your selfies may not be so great.

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The Catacombs

On the Travel Channel, I would often catch an episode of the infamous Catacombs of Paris. So it was my personal mission to be sure I checked out this attraction for myself. I booked a tour for the Catacombs and I am very happy I did. The line for that sucker was around the block and going with a small group was more personal and we got to skip the line. If this is a tour you would like to check out be sure to where SNEAKERS and bring a jacket. It was chilly down there and wet so prep accordingly. The tour was about an hour and our tour guide was great. I learned about the true purpose of the Catacombs and that back in the day, the rich and prestigious would throw parties down there. Betcha didn’t know that.

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The Palace of Versailles

Pictures of this place here does not do it justice! My family and I took an Uber from Paris to the Chateau of Versailles and this place is huge. The grounds and the gate screams royalty, history, importance, and monarchs. When we arrived, we noticed a very long line from the palace to the street. We later found out that the line was for those wanting to go into the palace, and the waiting time was about two and a half hours. Naw, bruh we weren’t waiting that long and just toured the garden instead. The garden of the Chateau is jaw droppingly beautiful. From the manicured lawn, to the fountains, to the many mazes of endless shrubbery designed by André Le Nôtre it was a lot to take in. If this is an activity you would like to partake in grab a map, comfortable walking shoes, and some water because the gardens is massive. After about two hours of walking the grounds we ended up in the gift shop on our way out. Since this is a Chateau of royalty, many of the keep sakes in the gift shop is royalty themed. From the beautiful china, pens, and books. I won’t tell yall how much I spent in the gift shop, but just know I brought back some of that beautiful china lol.

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Here are a few things to keep in mind about Paris:

• Hotel Rooms are small

• There is heavy smoking in Paris

• The Euro ways heavier than the USD. Meaning that one Euro could cost you 1.2 USD

• Carry change incase you have to use the restroom, some bathrooms require you to pay to use

Check back next month for part two of my trip to Europe with my family as we ventured into London.

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Yes, Blacks Vacation in Colorado

In the black community there is often a conversation that begins with “black people don’t go there” “black people don’t do that.” For many black people that do not travel, many do not have the desire, knowledge to step outside of their comfort zone and try something new. Or, they may not have people in their immediate circle that travel so when they hear other blacks talking about traveling to a certain destination they are left bewildered.  Next comes the question, “Why do you want to go there, black folk don’t go there, black folk don’t do that.”  It’s this close-minded bull that made me choose to plan a trip out west to Winter Park, Colorado. This blog post is to share my planning, arrival, and adventure to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Let me be very clear and transparent, I have always been the person to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing.  I normally don’t follow the fads and the latest.  Lingering in the norm is dangerous and routine could be lethal in my opinion when it comes to travel.  My travel soul yearns for thrill and adventure and I plan my travel with those verbs in mind.  Colorado has not been a frequently talked about destination in many black circles for a while.  Especially traveling there in the winter.  This and pictures of the state intrigued me so I made the decision to make this my next destination.

Research

I discovered in my research that you have to be very mindful of your selected location in CO during the winter months.  With my travel buddy and I not being seasoned skiers, but still wanted a winter wonder land experience, we decided on Winter Park.

Living in Baltimore, M.D. I have great airport choices.  There is Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI), Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) and Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD).  Flights out of DCA in my honest opinion is the cheapest to fly in and out of in the DMV region. My route was from DCA to DEN (Denver) and my total was less than $250.00.  This was the closest and cheapest flight to Winter Park and I flew with Frontier Airlines.  I had absolutely no complaints with the airline, but if my memory serves me correctly there was no Wi-Fi on the flight and you paid for your luggage.

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Arrival

My flight was a smooth one and it took about 4 hours.  When we were landing I noticed the airport was super huge, but there was no snow on the ground.  I got a little worried and asked myself, “Where in the heck is the snow, I came all the way here for snow.”  But off in the distance of the mountains, there it was, snow covered mountains and I couldn’t wait to hop off the plane.

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I waited in the airport for my buddy and when she landed she told me they lost her luggage.  She was mighty pissed and I couldn’t blame her because we were headed up the mountains and she needed her warm clothing.  After her giving the airline she flew with a piece of her mind, we went to get a rental car and up the mountain we went. Please note that on the way to Winter Park, please stop at the Wal-Mart at the base of the mountain.  There is no other Wal-Mart in the mountains.

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It took us about 2-3 hours from the airport to get to the mountains, but the drive up the mountains was awesome! The scenery is to die for and the air is so clean, it’s so crisp, and you can actually taste the difference! The journey was very windy and had VERY sharp turns.

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The further up the mountain we got, the more snow we saw and I was super geeked.  We kept stopping to take pictures because the scenery was just unreal.  We pulled up to the resort and it was everything we wanted. It looked like something out of a movie set and it was just perfect. We stayed at the Vintage Hotel and it was an ok hotel. It really needed updating but it suited our needs.

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Activities

When one thinks of Colorado they think of two things.  Marijuana and extreme sports such as skiing.  Did I smoke weed while in Colorado, nope.  However, I was very curious about the dispensaries since they are legal there.  Our resort included shuttle buses into town and we hopped on the purple line.  It dropped us off about half a block from the dispensary called Serene Wellness.  It looks like a little house off in the cut and we knew from the name of the sign that we were in the right place.  Upon entering, we showed our identification and they gave us a pep talking about purchasing marijuana and trying to take it through the airport in other states.  Since I was not interested in purchasing neither transporting marijuana, I tuned the lady out and just looked around at all of the weed infused items in the store!  It blew my mind that they had weed taffy, weed tongue strips, weed lotion, weed everything.  I can see why this is such a profitable industry.

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Our next activity was snowmobiling up the mountain.  We asked our front desk about snowmobile tours and we were in luck because our tour location was right across the street and they had slots open for the next tour within the hour.  The fact that my travel buddy and I are both Carolinians reminded us that our wardrobe was not up to snowmobile weather!  Our tour was with Grand Adventures Snowmobile and Off-Road Tours.  We rented snowmobile gear and our tour group was less than eight people. We signed waivers of course and got a quick tutorial about our snowmobiles and up the mountain we went.  This was one of the best experiences I had in my life.  You have not seen the Rocky Mountains until you have seen it from a snowmobile.  Our tour guide was awesome, he was very informative and he allowed us to stop many times to take great pictures and snow angels. Lol

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We also did a little snow tubing and tried a few restaurants.  One of the best burgers I ever had was from a restaurant called The Ditch on 40.  The burgers and fries we so fresh and the employees were super nice.  One of the things I liked about the restaurant was the vast collection of license plates from states across the United States.  Call me a nerd, but I like this kind of stuff.  It leaves a lasting memory in your mind and in your wallet if you let it lol.

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Were there any black people?

During the trip, I think I may have counted ten black people I saw the four days I was there.  Were the black people I say on the mountains, yes.  Were the black people I saw looked like they were having the times of their lives, yes.  Would you recommend other black people to visit this location, hell yes.  Why, because life is what you make it and we made Winter Park our bish.  If you are looking for an adventure in Colorado then damn it make it an adventure.  If you want to go to Colorado to just try the Kaboom, Pandora’s Box, and Urban Legend weed then go for it.  Don’t let the ignorance of other blacks prevent you from enjoying your best life!  It didn’t stop us!

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Miami King of Diamonds (KOD) Edition

Miami pic

Grad school was giving my college homie and I the blues.  We thought about taking a trip to a destination that we could enjoy the sunny weather, relaxation, good food, and a slight turn up.  The turn up was most definitely what we got, and I’ll explain how we ended up in Miami, FL and inside the infamous “KOD.”

2014 was the year and it was my homies turn to pick the next destination for our yearly trip.  She wanted a beach atmosphere and a little night life so we choose Miami, Florida.  Grad school was putting it’s foot in our necks and we truly just needed a true spring break.

Where we Stayed

In our research, we discovered that you had to be very specific as to where in Miami you truly wanted to stay.  We both agreed that we wanted to lay our heads in a more quieter part of Miami.  We didn’t want to hear loud music or people, so we decided to stay North of the strip in the “Mid-Beach” area.  The hotel we choose was “Westover Arms” located on Collins Ave.

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We loved this hotel because:

  • The location was perfect and right across the street from the beach
  • They provided dedicated beach chairs for their guests at no additional costs
  • It’s a renovated apartment/condo so it was very clean and had a cozy home feel

Kitchen

The address for the hotel is 4100 Collins Ave.  Even thought it says located in Miami Beach, please be aware that does NOT mean South Beach.  So if you’re looking for a location that isn’t too busy, and loud then north of the strip is where you should consider.  If you’re looking for swarms of people, and constant traffic then consider staying South of the strip in South Beach.

********PLEASE NOTE, STAYING IN SOUTH BEACH IS MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE*********

When considering a hotel anywhere in Miami, be sure to ask the following questions:

  • Is your hotel undergoing renovations
  • Do you have to rent/pay for beach chairs/umbrellas
  • What is the closest bus stop that can take you to South Beach and what are the times/cost

The first bullet is extremely important because many of the hotels fail to mention this on their website.  It would be a shame that you get to your hotel and the elevator is not working, the water pressure is low, and it smells.  : (   The next bullet can make or break your decision because many visitors to the beach do not want to have to pay an extra fee to their hotel to borrow a beach chair.  In my honest opinion, this fee should already be included in the hotel’s “resort fee” that slap on your bill. I’m just saying.

Bullet three will matter to some readers if they desire to travel down to South Beach.  Trying to find parking down there is bananas and if you are already paying a fee at your hotel for parking then I say leave your car there! By asking hotels what bus stop is near them and where exactly it stops at on or near South Beach can save you a pretty penny, and relieve you of parking war stress.

South Beach Tow

What did we eat

We didn’t want to do the typical chain restaurants, so we decided to ask a few of the locals where they ate and many recommended “Big Pink.”  Does it sound like a porn store, yes.  However, the food there is bomb and I highly recommend checking them out.  Big Pink is on 157 Collins Ave and it’s a cute little spot for eating.  Their customer service is awesome and so are their pancakes!  Did I mention that their pancakes are HUGE?

Pancake

KOD

Did we enjoy the beach? Yes.  Did we enjoy the food? Yes.  Now it was time for us to go and check out the skrippas. (Strippers)  KOD is an infamous strip club in Miami.  Just about every dirty south rapper has mentioned it in their songs like Rick Ross, Pimp C, and Jeezy.  If you haven’t heard of KOD then…….ask about them.

KOD

When my homie and I pulled up to the club, it was like something out of a music video!  Limos out front, the line was mad long, and dudes with their best pair of J’s on.  Straight flexing!  As we stood in the very long line, we got to chat it up with a few people.  Since it was just about everyone’s spring break across the nation, we got to chat it up with  people from Chicago, Queens, and even Dallas.  In each conversation we had with other club visitors they all said the same thing “We couldn’t go to Miami and not check out KOD.”

After about an hour of waiting in line, we finally got inside the club and it was all that I thought it would be!  The talent in KOD was top notch and they had some bad bishes you heard?  It was pretty crowded by the time we got inside and there was still a long line out front.  We were able to grab to seats in the left corner near a stripper that was in a circle with a pole all by herself.  I would like to call her “Pretty Flexy” and I’ll explain why.

She was about 5’4 and had a really pretty face.  Light skin with a booty on swol’ and very charismatic.  The dj played Young Thug’s “Danny Glover” and she was going in.  I was like a deer in headlights and couldn’t stop staring when a gentleman walking by had to stop and come back to check her out.  He stared at her as she mesmerized him with her moves and then she just pulls one of her legs all they way to her head.  This was so interesting because I was asking myself “did she stretch really good to pull that off?”  The guy and I looked at each other, smiled, and gave her a few dollars.

Staring

But make NO ERROR!  The party was just getting started and I saw so many people in KOD that I know personally from college and from my home town.  My frat brother happened to be in the building and I called him over to sit with me and my friend so we could catch up.  Apparently,  a family member of his was getting married that following week and they brought him to KOD to celebrate.  We reminisced about college and how we both grew and matured over the years.  We even played a game pointing out the fake booties from the real ones!

To sum it all up, Miami is an awesome place to lay your hair down and have a great time.  Be sure to bring some extra one dollar bills if you plan to hit up KOD or if you plan on taking the bus up and down the strip!

The Turn Up! CIAA Edition

CIAA Imges

I don’t know about you, but I attended an HBCU. Claflin University to be exact and I don’t regret my decision. We did not have a football team, but our basketball team was alright. It was in undergrad that I heard about the infamous CIAA weekend. Now of course many students in undergrad did not have cars or a lot of money for that matter, but right before refund checks were released, the campus would buzz with CIAA chatter. For those of you who are unfamiliar with CIAA, CIAA is short for the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association and is one of America’s oldest conferences.
If you’re a basketball person, CIAA weekend is just for you. But baby, if you’re looking for a college reunion, a quick turn up weekend with the squad, or just a weekend of unlimited parties then CIAA weekend is for you. Let me share with you my first ever CIAA weekend experience, and what to look out for/expect when attending CIAA.
My first CIAA experience was back in 2013 right before I got my braces put on, and I was making pretty good money at the time too. I brought the idea up to two of my college buddies. We planned everything in a group chat and BOOM it was on.
Preparation
First if you’re traveling from the DMV area that’s the DC-Maryland-Virginia area, you have a few ways to get to the “Queen City.” If you know for a fact that you’re attending CIAA then secure a Mega bus ticket as soon as possible! Why the Mega bus you ask? Because you can score bus tickets to Charlotte for as low as $20 round trip from Washington DC, yeah, I’ve done it. The best way to do this is to get a bus ticket for an overnight ride, so you can go to sleep and wake up in your destination. I’ve always taken overnight bus/train rides. If you would rather fly into Charlotte that’s cool as well. Flight tickets purchased a few months in advance can land you a pretty sweet deal. (CLT) Charlotte is a pretty decent airport and I’ve usually had no issues. If you’re a savvy traveler you could do both methods. Take the Mega bus down, and return by flying back to your destination.
What to Wear
BE ON YOUR SH** HONEY! When traveling down to CIAA to party you will notice that everyone has come to slay! Hell, even the men too! Weaves and lace front are slayed to the gawds. Faces are beat to oblivion, and nails/lashes are extra fleeky. If you step up to a party looking like an extra for the D4L “Laffy Taffy” video you will probably be turned around. No, I’m serious you will be turned around.
What Parties To Attend

CIAA Party Flyer

*Let me turn on my Jeezy my real quick* Is this thing on? So here is some advice on selecting a party hosted by celebrity, secure your ticket as soon as it becomes available for sale to the public. I cannot stress this enough. Most parties have entry tickets for about $20 and as high as VIP for two bottles for about $1,000. If you’re trying to party anywhere near the Epicenter please get your tickets in advance and consider getting an Uber to your party. Traffic will be jacked do you hear me? To be aware of what parties will be available, check out Eventbrite and type in “CIAA 2018” for a selection of parties.
Hey, let me ask you a quick question, have you ever been to a “Day Party.” Day parties are the thing now and it is so worth it. My first day party was in industrial area, I can’t lie, I thought we were in the wrong place until we pulled up and saw the massive line outside. The building looked to be about three stories. It felt a little out of the norm for me for some reason. But when we stepped inside….. COMPLETE Nostalgia. The DJ went to South Carolina State University (yes another HBCU) and he had that b**** lit do you hear me? Like he took us back in time to 2004 and worked his way back up to current day music. Let me tell you, I was in my zone baby! Liquor in the air, chicks smelling like sweat, sweet pea lotion and Spritz. Most importantly everyone was having a good time. No drama, no beef, no fighting. Everyone is on their grown and sexy. Girls in the corners with their squads showing them that they still got it. Dudes dripping with swag sauce trying to act hard and sexy, but can’t help but move when “Swag Surfing” hits the speakers. Meanwhile I’m in the middle of the floor reciting all the words to Jeezy’s “Bottom of the Map”
“I do it for the Trappers with the the the rocks, and the OG n**** with the the the blocks heeeeeeeeey.”

 

Thug Life
Places To Stay
You have several lodging options like Airbnb, your home girl’s crib, or a hotel. In my opinion, stay in the downtown area in an Airbnb. Please note, that you may pay extra because CIAA is a huge money maker for Charlotte. If you would rather stay further out, you will pay less in hotel lodging but will have to travel further and pay for parking downtown and at some of the hotels. In addition, you would want to move your car as little as possible. Why do you ask? Because finding parking at the hotel you’re staying at with thousands of other people flocking to the city to party will become a nightmare.
PLEASE be very mindful, Charlotte and Miami are notorious for overcharging African Americans during huge events like this. Read your receipts very carefully for any unusual fees and charges. Referred to as the “Black Tax,” Ritz Carlton Charlotte was blasted for this practice! STAY WOKE MY PEOPLE.

Black Tax
Places to eat

Nanas
Did you forget that you’re in the Deep South? Where the sweet tea is in abundance, The Waffle House are open and usually packed with a guy that’s missing two front teeth asking “how you doing”? If you’re looking for some authentic Southern Cuisine while in Charlotte for CIAA, I recommend you try Nana’s Soul Food Kitchen on Oak Lane Boulevard. I went there in 2013, I was skeptical about their buffet like style operation. But honey, when I tell you that mac and cheese and their ribs will put you on your back! It was so good I had to unbuckle my pants, take a break and dive in it again. No lie.

To sum things up, if you’re looking for a weekend of melanin drench turn up, CIAA is the place to be. So gets to planning because CIAA weekend is quickly approaching!