Top 5 Things to Do in Siem Reap

This is a guest post by Trippy community member Vicky Iskandar, who is a nature- and road trip-loving travel writer, yogi, Afro-Brazilian dancer.

My journey to Siem Reap, Cambodia was inspired by Wong Kar Wai’s movie In the Mood for Love.  At the end of the movie, the main character played by Tony Leung travels to Angkor Wat, where he whispers his secrets to a hole, caresses it, and leaves, his secrets buried forever in the ancient ruins of the temple.  The scenes at Angkor Wat perfectly capture the temple’s mystery, melancholy and grandeur.

Ta Prohm

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Angkor complex consists of more than 200 temples built by the Khmer between the 9th and 15th centuries, surrounded by lush jungles and temple villages. To fully appreciate this world wonder, spend a week in Siem Reap if you can. Many of the major ruins deserve more than one visit, and you could have the quiet, smaller temples to yourself. Photographers will want to come back to the ruins at different times of day to capture the magical shifting light.

If you only have three days or less, here are the top five things to do in Siem Reap/Angkor:

1. Angkor Wat

Angkor’s main temple evokes melancholy, its lonely corridors an appropriate site to ponder life’s mysteries. Magnificent bas-reliefs depicting gods and demons of Hindu mythology and headless statues of Buddha in the lower level galleries are a reminder that the kingdom was once devoted to Hinduism before it converted into Buddhism. Come here at sunrise for an unforgettable view.

Upper Level Gallery at Angkor Wat
Upper Level Gallery at Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat at sunrise 2
Angkor Wat at sunrise

2. Ta Prohm

I was instantly transported to another world as soon as I walked into Ta Prohm.  The jungle-temple’s crumbling buildings and 200-year old trees make for the most dramatic temple of Angkor. Thick tree trunks and wildly grown roots, crushing and gripping the structures, lend this atmospheric temple a haunting, out of the world feel.  It’s truly the world’s best outdoor, living museum.

A view from Ta Prohm

3. Bayon

Another can’t miss temple, Bayon impresses all who visit it.  The line-up of gods and demons at the gates welcoming visitors into this walled city didn’t prepare me enough for the overwhelming sense of awe and astonishment when I climbed up the steps of Bayon and saw at first one, then three others, and then eight and more giant faces (of Khmer King Jayavarman VII as a Bodhisattva) smiling down at me. Best visited in the early morning and late afternoon, when the light illuminates the giant faces and bathes them with a golden glow.

Bayon

4. Banteay Kdei and Preah Khan

These adjacent Buddhist monasteries are off the major tourist path and quieter than the rest of the temples at Angkor.  I find the endless corridors and moss-covered walls – whose colors morph into differing shades of pink and green depending on the light and time of day – most inspiring and captivating to photograph.  Look out for an eerie mirror-like effect when you stand on one end of either temple and see another person at the other end of the temple’s long passage.

5. An afternoon massage

Afternoons are hot and humid in Siem Reap and best spent relaxing with a massage after a morning at the temples. As a former Beauty Editor who’d tried great, good, and bad massages from the cheap to the most luxurious, I find mid-priced, stand-alone day spas tend to offer the most authentic massage treatments at the best value. Try Frangipani Spa’s foot reflexology massage – a blissfully relaxing toe-to-head massage.

Bonus: Vicky shares her recommendations for must-try foods in Siem Reap on Trippy!

Vicky Iskandar is a Los Angeles-based travel writer, yogi, and Afro-Brazilian dancer who has a thing for nature and road trips.  Catch her travel recommendations on Trippy and be sure to follow her adventures on Twitter and on her blogs VickyGoes.com and Journeys to Bliss!

Are you a Trippy member who would like to contribute to the Trippy blog?  If so, please drop us a line at feedback@trippy.com!

10 Travel Questions That Trippy Can Answer For You (That You May Not Have Thought Of)

With such a diverse community of travelers on Trippy, it’s only expected that there would be a wide range of question topics about all sorts of different places.  From bachelor party planning to what to wear, here are 10 travel questions that Trippy can help you out with that you may not have thought of:

Trippy can help you….

Find a cool, bustling neighborhood to stay in.Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 5.10.46 PM

Plan the ultimate bachelor party.Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 5.02.24 PM

And bachelorette party (why should guys have all the fun?!)
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Trippy can also help you…

Plan an insanely romantic honeymoon.Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 5.01.47 PM

Figure out exactly what not to wear, where.Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 5.11.18 PM

Find the best on-tap brews.
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Find restaurants that won’t do damage to your health or your wallet.Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 5.12.15 PM

Discover extraordinary architecture.Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 5.12.35 PM

Figure out places worth seeing on your road trip that aren’t just giant dinosaurs.  Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 5.24.39 PM

And even find places to make your little sis think you’re a travel genius!Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 5.16.41 PM

Inspired to ask a burning travel question of your own?  Join us at trippy.com and ask the our community of seasoned travelers!

7 Questions with Chiara Townley, Trippy Member Extraordinaire

Trippy asked a panel of travelers from all walks of life to answer the same seven travel-related questions. Here are the stories behind the excursions of one of those travelers, Trippy member Chiara Townley.

Chiara Tenerife

Chiara is an expert on San Francisco, Milan, London, and Seattle among other place, so be sure to hit her up for travel advice if you have plans to visit any of those cities. And for more on Chiara herself, see her bio below!

What is the kindest thing anyone ever did for you while you were traveling? 

The kindest thing that ever happened to me was in London, the place where I believe anything can happen! I was waiting for some friends on Oxford Street when a man dressed with a suit, came to talk to me. He talked like if he knew what I was going through in that moment of my life, I remember I was sad because I had been looking for a job for a while and couldn’t get it. He said: “I have been there, I know it’s hard to start a new life but remember London is the center if the world and you have to fight and never give up because good things are coming your way! ” After that he asked me if I knew what was the color of the 20 pounds. I said “Violet,” and he put 20 pounds in my hand and left me a card saying that if I needed I could call him and that he liked to help people. I was shocked, when I told my friends the story they were worried the money was fake, but somehow I felt I could trust that person so the result was that I paid my dinner with those 20 pounds. I have never called this person but I never forgot this unusual, strange and beautiful act of kindness.

Chiara London

What’s the most fascinating subculture you ever encountered while traveling?

The most fascinating subculture I met was in Brazil. I have worked in Maceio, in the north east of the country in a resort in 2004. I was just 19 years old and everything was so different from Europe. I discovered the culture of this part of the world through the group that I used to work with so for me it was a little subculture in the middle of all the other Italians working there and the Italian guests. They were always smiling and they were very open minded with no prejudices no judgment and no taboo. My best friends were gays and bisexual, they used to dance in a very sexy way careless of the opinion of others because they were born with rhythm, when we had to change clothes for the musicals we performed they used to do it in front of me with no shame. I loved their attitude and they taught me a lot at that age. Thanks to that incredible experience of three months now I am very open minded, I know how to dance and I am always myself with no shame.

When I close my eyes I can smell/ taste the Ocean and it takes me back to my time in Tenerife. I lived two years in Tenerife, a Spanish island between Europe and Africa. Living in an island in Europe but so close to Africa makes you feel like in a sort of Neverland, away from everything else, it’s always warm there so you lose the track of time and space. The ocean was so close to me, and every time I needed some time for my self I would go to take a walk by the ocean so this is the smell I taste if I close my eyes.

Chiara Tenerife 2

One travel expense that is always worth the money is Greece. I went in 2008 with a group of friends, we took a flight to Athens and from there, ferries to the islands, we visited Paros, Mykonos, Naxos. Greece is a trip worth the money because it has a unique scenery, all the buildings of the islands are white and blue so the atmoshpere is paradisiacal plus the beaches are beautiful, the stay is affordable and the food is great.

Chiara Greece

The most incredible attraction I’ve ever seen is: the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. At sunset the vision of the Mosque with its lights is the most breathtaking attraction I have seen until now. In that moment I felt all the exotic atmosphere of the Arabic world embracing me.

The best meal I ever had while traveling was probably in Naxos, Greece in 2008. I don’t remember exactly what I had but because we were a big group I remember we shared many different dishes of meat and fish: we had moussaka, souvlaki, shrimp and Greek salad. I love Mediterranean flavors and especially Greek food because it’s healthy and cheap.

The first time I felt like a traveler and not a tourist was during my trip to Istanbul, Turkey. I have been lucky enough to be a guest in the house of a Turkish friend of mine. I lived in her house with her family and experienced a lot of their culture and traditions. Her parents didn’t speak English and unfortunately I couldn’t talk to them but I will always remember their love for me through their gestures and their smiles.

Chiara Turkey

Chiara, in her own words: I am a native Italian with the passion for traveling. I like discovering and experiencing a country with locals, I studied languages and tourism management to make of this passion my work. I have lived in Brazil, UK, Spain and US. I recently got married with my American love met in London and we live in San Francisco. I have a curious adventurous spirit and I am always ready and excited to discover and learn new things.

You can catch Chiara and her insightful travel advice here on Trippy!

Interested in answering these Seven Questions on our blog?  Then drop us a line at feedback@trippy.com!

10 Reasons You Need To Go To Morocco

This is a guest post by Trippy community member Ben van de Vusse, who took an epic 18 month honeymoon with his wife Annalise.

Today Annalise and I wrap up our two week adventure in Morocco, having visited the Imperial cities of Fes, Rabat, Casablanca and Meknes, the Sahara in the desert of Erg Chebbi, and the Middle Atlas cities of Ouazazate and Marrakech. It’s been a blast. Here are ten reasons why you should go to Morocco too.

10. Music
Morocco is alive with a beat. Live music is everywhere, especially in the evenings. There’s really nothing like sitting around a campfire, drinking some mint tea and hanging out listening to music under the stars.

Ahmed-and-Hassan-provide-some-beats-by-the-camp-fireAhmed and Hassan provide some beats by the camp fire

9. Riads
Riads are the guesthouses of Morocco, they are basically old buildings that have been renovated beautifully and converted for people to stay in. Usually there are only 3-5 rooms, so it’s a very intimate feeling. Breakfast is always included, and there usually is a terrace rooftop and an open roof which floods the place with natural light. And you can really get a bargain too – 40 euros a night was pretty common.

Riads-the-best-way-to-stay-in-MoroccoRiads – the best way to stay in Morocco

8. Mosaic Tiling
Attractive mosaic tiles can be found all over Morocco, they really add a splash of colour and intrigue to the landscape.

Mosaic-tiles-galoreMosaic tiles galore

7. Donkeys
These sweet creatures are found hauling lots of goodies and people all throughout Morocco, sharing the roads with buses, taxis and trucks, and squeezing into the narrow laneways of the ancient medinas. But they never seem to complain. Annalise managed to snap this fellow just before a sneeze, but he really does look like he’s smiling.

Service-with-a-smileService with a smile

6. The Sahara Desert
Heading down to Erg Chebbi near the Algerian border for a three night camel trek was one of the main highlights of our trip to Morocco. The golden red sand dunes are magnificent, especially during the sunrise and sunset. Sand boarding was great fun too – but I think we’ll be finding sand from the Sahara well after we return home late next year.

Enjoying-the-Sahara-Erg-Chebbi
Enjoying the Sahara – Erg Chebbi

5. The Markets
There is no doubt the market is the lifeblood of the Moroccan people. Souqs (covered markets) are found in every big city, selling everything from carpets to chameleons. The produce markets sell food at dirt cheap prices, and it’s all seasonal, organic and fresh. No doubt if we were only coming to Morocco as a sole destination we would have bought up big – the things you can find at the markets are amazing.

Just-a-small-selection-of-leather-slippers
Just a small selection of leather slippers

4. The people of Morocco
Moroccans are extremely friendly people. Granted, some of the people are out solely to wrestle dirhams out of you – but these are few. The majority of the people here are super friendly, genuine, and really helpful. The old man in the picture below was a super giggly chicken seller. He got a kick out of poking all his chickens at once, and having them all squawk at the same time – and then laughing his head off. It was hilarious!

Our-chicken-man-in-FesOur chicken man in Fes

3. Ancient Medinas
Ancient Medinas are the “old cities” of cities in Morocco. Fes has the largest Ancient medina of all -a walled city which contains more than 9000 streets, so it’s pretty easy to get lost, but that’s the fun. Constructed over 1000 years ago, It’s actually the only still functioning (in its original capacity) medieval city in the world. Forget Marrakech’s medina, this is the place to be. With so many hidden lanes, nooks and crannies, it was extremely easy to spend a couple of days here.

The-ancient-Medina-of-Ouazazate
The ancient Medina of Ouazazate

2. Camels
Camels are without a doubt some of the most interesting creatures we’ve interacted with on our journey so far. They are essentially pretty sweet animals, but they definitely do some weird things and make some bizarre noises. But we’ve really gone a bit camel crazy – three days in the desert can do that to you.

Annalise-with-Curly-our-favourite-CamelAnnalise with Curly, our favourite Camel

1. Food
Moroccan food is AMAZING, and very inexpensive. From delicious seafood for Annalise, tagines, couscous, dips and tapas, mint tea, fresh fruit from the market, and lots of sweet treats, we’ve really had an absolute feast here.

Mountains-of-manadrins-8-for-12-centsMountains of mandarins – $1 will get you 70 of them!

That’s all for now, we’re off to Mali!

52c5db8be4b0ebc104743f21_m5Ben hails from Melbourne and is currently a software engineer in Venice Beach, CA.  When he isn’t writing code or sharing travel advice on Trippy, he’s off globetrotting with his wife (he’s been to almost 50 countries!) and you can catch their travels on their blog Spoonful of Travel.

Would you like to contribute to the Trippy blog?  If so, drop us a line at feedback@trippy.com!

Not Your Grandfather’s Road Trip: The World’s Most Ridiculously Scary Roads

If recent questions on Trippy are any indication, a lot of you will be hitting the open road this year so with that in mind, we thought we’d take a look at some of the world’s scariest roads. Whether it’s hair pin turns or breathtakingly narrow highways, here are some ridiculously scary places to let the pedal hit the metal!

Trollstigen; Rauma, Norway
This gives the term “long and winding road” new meaning. It took eight years to complete this road which has a nine percent incline and 11 super-tight turns.
Trollstigen_ Rauma, Norway Photo credit- Fil BohacPhoto credit: Fil Bohac

Hindustan-Tibet Highway; Himachal Pradesh, India
As if this road weren’t dangerous enough, when an entrance point was closed a few years ago, some area residents, for whom this road is vital, drove on the wrong side of the road to avoid a longer route.
Hindustan-Tibet Highway_ Himachal Pradesh, India Photo by Chris PearsonPhoto credit: Chris Pearson

Passo dello Stelvio; Bormio, Italy
With no less than 60 hairpin turns, this is not recommended for people who get easily car sick. Although it was built in the 1820s, it was chosen by modern television show Top Gear as “the greatest driving road in the world.”
Passo dello Stelvio_ Bormio, Italy photo by Anonymous

Chacaltaya; La Paz, Bolivia
If you’ve ever doubted global warming, consider this: the glacier on this mountain, which was thought to be about 18,000 years old and was one of the highest glaciers in South America, is now completely gone.
Chacaltaya_ La Paz, Bolivia Pikes on BikesPhoto credit: Pikes on Bikes

Taroko Gorge; Hualien County, Taiwan
If it looks like this road has been carved right out of the mountain, that’s because it has. While scary and certainly dangerous, it lives up to the name “Taroko,” which means “magnificent and splendid” in the language of a local tribe.
Taroko Gorge_ Hualien County, Taiwan Photo by Matthew HinePhoto credit: Matthew Hine

Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road; Al Ain, United Arab Emirates
Looking a bit like a Hot Wheels track, this desert stretch is considered by many to be the world’s best driving road. That said, it’s not just drivers who love it; it’s a very popular training spot for elite cyclists as well.
Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road_ Al Ain, United Arab Emirates Photo by Arki97Photo credit: Arki97

Lombard Street; San Francisco, California
Used in countless movies and television shows, the curves on Lombard were designed in 1922 when the hill’s incline proved too severe for most cars. Don’t plan on testing your car’s handling on this one, though; the speed limit here is only five m.p.h.
Lombard Street_ San Francisco Photo credit- Vivid Explosion PhotographyPhoto credit: Vivid Explosion Photography

Castelmola Village; Sicily, Italy
As this hairpin turn is situated within viewing distance of Mount Etna, you’ll have to really remember to keep your eyes on the road here.
Castelmola Village_ Sicily, Italy Photo by atgof.coPhoto credit: atgof.co

Vrontados; Chios Island, Greece
While it may not be as famous as Crete or Athens, Vrontados has some pretty heady history. It’s said that the poet Homer may have been born here. Additionally, Christopher Columbus supposedly prepared for his journey to America here.
Vrontados_ Chios Island, Greece Photo by Stojn AwoutersPhoto credit: Stijn Awouters

Trail Ridge Road; Grand Lake, Colorado
Believe it or not, this snowy picture of Trail Ridge Road was actually taken on Memorial Day weekend! Not surprisingly, this road is closed during the winter.
Trail Ridge Road_ Grand Lake, Colorado Photo by Ben Timberlake
Photo credit: Ben Timberlake

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park; Hawai’i County, Hawai’i
Forget about chickens crossing the road. At Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, molten lava crosses it! Needless to say, it shuts down area roads in the process.
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park_ Hawai'i County, Hawai'i Photo by Chuck Peterson
Photo credit: Chuck Peterson

Canyonlands National Park; Moab, Utah
If you’ve got a 4 x 4 and nerves of steel you might want to give this one a go. While certainly not for the faint of heart, the views from here are completely unmatched.
Canyonlands National Park_ Moab, Utah Photo by oldmantravels
Photo credit: Oldmantravels

Via Krupp; Capri, Italy
While the story goes that Via Krupp was originally built by a German businessman who wanted a footpath from his hotel to his research station, some say the path was constructed to make it easier for him to get from his hotel down to some really, really raunchy parties.
Via Krupp Photo credit- Ron_Gwen McWhorter
Photo credit: Ron/Gwen McWhorter

Piazza Torquato Tasso; Sorrento, Italy
Known as “La Rampa,” this super-tight switchback road leads from the Piazza Torquato Tasso down to the nearby Marina.
Piazza Torquato Tasso_ Sorrento, Italy Photo by David Siedband
Photo credit: David Siedband

Serpentine Road; Dades Gorge, Morocco
If your nerves need a rest after negotiating these hairpin turns, have a stop at one of the many area kasbahs. Not only are they great places from which to enjoy the breathtaking views, they’re great places to stay the night as many have been turned into very affordable hotels.
Serpentine Road_ Dades Gorge, Morocco Photo by Ian Chappel
Photo credit: Ian Chappel

Mercantour National Park; Nice, France
This crazy road just north of Nice is a favorite of motorcyclists as well as serious bike riders. Amazingly, rocks aren’t the only thing to be on the look out for here; the area is full of exotic wildlife like ermine and mouflon.
Mercantour National Park_ Nice, France Joar Wisth Paulsen
Photo credit: Joar Wisth Paulsen

Transfagarasan Highway; Transylvania, Romania
Built in the 1970s by communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu, this road was meant to provide Romanian troops easy access across the Carpathian Mountain range. It won’t come as any surprise that it’s now a favorite among driving enthusiasts.
Transfagarasan Highway_ Transylvania, Romania_ Photo credit- Alex Mihalcea
Photo credit: Alex Mihalcea

7 Questions with Supun Edirisinghe, Developer at Trippy

Sup with kid

Trippy asked a panel of travelers from all walks of life to answer the same seven questions. Here are the stories behind the excursions of just one of those travelers, Trippy’s developer Supun Edirisinghe.

It’s a new year and with it comes the promise of new travels and new adventures! To get your travel blood pumping, we’ve asked “Sup,” as he’s known around the office, to reflect on some of his prior travels.

So, Sup…

What is the kindest thing anyone ever did for you while traveling?

When someone let me stay at their place while traveling around is probably the kindest occurrence. I’ve been invited to stay with a family that had a one-room apartment in the Muslim area of Ahmedabad; the family had a little newborn baby, talked pretty openly about the “race riots” that happened a few years ago, and gave me a hard time when I tried to give them a gift for letting me stay there. I’ve also been invited to stay at friend’s parent’s home in a little Romanian village. A bunch of ex-Israeli soldiers in vacationing Barcelona let me crash at their flat after exploring the city with them. It makes me think not everyone is as closed off as we think they are, and it inspires me to be a little less shy about opening my door at home.

What’s the most fascinating subculture you’ve ever encountered while traveling?

The Gandhians in India. They all idealized Gandhi and still were trying to make a difference in the world and had a pretty good system of passing on the ideals of cause and changing it down the couple of generations since Independence.

When I close my eyes I can smell and taste:

The manure pit behind the dorms of the sanitation institute where I was staying in Ahmedabad in 2005. One of the travelers in my group had found out that they could make a few gallons of biodiesel to power a rickshaw from the monthly output from the humans in the dorms and the cows in the stable behind us.

Sup race

One travel expense that is always worth the money is:

Travel insurance. Only had to use it twice when I got grounded after a thunderstorm in Chicago and I used it to get reimbursed for a night in a hotel and got to buy a set of clothes when my baggage got lost for a couple days

The most incredible attraction I’ve ever seen is:

The Taj Mahal.

Sup with kids

The best meal I ever had while traveling was:

At my heavily fortified hotel in Kabul. The street vendor down the alley made the best kebabs and Afghan bread.

The first time I felt like a traveler and not a tourist was:

My trip to Romania in 2004. First time I traveled alone and felt like talking to everyone.

Sup
Supun Edirisinghe is a developer at Trippy.com. When not at work on Trippy, Sup spends his time traveling and making the world a better place through countless good works.

Would you like to answer our seven questions? If so, drop us a line at feedback@trippy.com!

Haute Chocolate: 10 U.S. Hot Spots for Hot Chocolate

With at least two full months of winter left on the calendar, there’s plenty of time to indulge in the season’s best beverage. Whether you’re on the shores of Miami or the slopes of Aspen, there’s a cup waiting for you!

 

Sucre New Orleans via FB

Sucré New Orleans, Louisiana
Headed to the Big Easy? Stop in here to get your sweet tooth on with a cup of their piping hot chocolate (and a piece of chocolate or two or three).

 

Cowboy Ciao via FB

Cowboy Ciao; Scottsdale, Arizona
Local cowboys and cowgirls love this eatery’s famous “Cuppa Red Hot Chocolate” which is actually a pot de crème dessert reminiscent of chocolate ganache. Chock full of spice, it’s sometimes served with unique toppings like their “chewy spicy cookie chocolate bacon caramel popcorn.”

 

R. Charlton Coffeehouse via colonialwilliamsburg.com

R. Charlton Coffeehouse; Williamsburg, Virginia
History buffs, take note! At R. Charlton’s you’ll not only experience hot chocolate as it was prepared in the17th century (spiced and unsweetened), you’ll do it in a historic building surrounded by folks dressed in colonial clothing.

 

Eclipse Chocolate via FB

Eclipse Chocolate; San Diego, California
It may be 110˚ in the shade here, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying one of Eclipse’s unique sipping chocolate flavors, including rosemary mint, chile burnt caramel and orange peel vanilla bean. As if that weren’t enough, they top it all off with a gigantic vanilla bean marshmallow.

 

Proof on Main via FB

Proof on Main; Jefferson, Kentucky
In this case, the proof is in the pudding…and the hot chocolate. This James Beard favorite has amazing dishes all around. From appetizers to desserts and drinks, they do everything well.

 

French Bread Chocolate Lounge via French Bread Chocolate Lounge

French Broad Chocolate Lounge; Buncombe, North Carolina
There’s nothing like togetherness! While a lot of chocolate shops make their confections from pre-made chocolate, this husband and wife team get intimate with their sweets by making them out of cacao beans that they roast on their own.

 

Caffe Vittoria via Caffe Vittoria

Caffe Vittoria; Boston, Massachusetts
How do you say “yum” in Italian? Open since 1929, this Italian café serves up an authentic cioccolato caldo, not to mention just about every Italian pastry there is.

 

City Bakery via City Bakery

City Bakery; New York City, New York
Headed to New York for Valentine’s Day? Be sure to check out City Bakery! They’re so serious about hot chocolate here that every February they hold a Hot Chocolate Festival where they feature a new hot chocolate flavor every single day.

 

Artfully Chocolage via Artfully Chocolate

Artfully Chocolate Cocoa Bar; Alexandria, Virginia
Proving that there’s no business like show business, Artfully Chocolate has about a dozen varieties of hot chocolates, each named after a classic Hollywood starlet. Your only problem here will be choosing between “Liz,” “Lucy,” “Audrey,” and “Marilyn.”

 

Cacao Atlanta via FB

Cacao Atlanta Chocolate Company; Atlanta, Georgia
Get your hands on their “Aztec Sipping Chocolate and Marshmallow Set” and get ready to bliss out in chocolatey goodness. Their chile and spice-infused hot chocolate mix is a secret recipe so don’t bother asking for it.

5 Must-Eat NYC Meals for First Timers and Locals

The sheer amount of choices in New York City can be daunting to first-time visitors. If you’re looking for a restaurant, those choices can become even more overwhelming. But some meals are just so delicious that they stand the test of time and taste buds, and become favorites for both locals and those just out of the gate at LaGuardia Airport.

Based on our top voted questions, here are the Trippy community’s can’t-miss spots for an amazing meal and experience in NYC.

Looking for some authentic Russian cuisine?

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Or how about a great, filling deli sandwich?

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If you’ve come looking for pizza, you’re definitely in the right place.

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But there are specialty and gourmet foods in every borough.

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If you’re not into trying your luck and want to stick with a traditional favorite, you have many great options for a romantic sit-down dinner.

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And, of course, New York has her fair share of burgers, too.

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Did we leave out your favorite New York City meal? Click on any of the answers above to leave your own comment, or tweet to @UseTrippy and let us know.

A Castle and Beach in Peñíscola, Spain

This is a guest post by Trippy community member Tiffany Weber.

IMG_7281
Peñíscola at midday.

Between Barcelona and Valencia, lies a stretch of turquoise coastline that is better not forgotten.  Along that stretch, just a 90-minute drive north of Valencia, Peñíscola is an easy day trip that is well worth the time in the car whether you have a few hours or all day.  It lies in the northern part of the Comunidad Valenciana in the province of Castellón.

The Beach:
When the weather is nice, the super-fine sand will squeak beneath your feet.  The beach is deep with a boardwalk running along it full or cafés and shops.  You can walk this extensive beach all the way from Peñíscola to Benicarló.

IMG_7293

The Church: 
Just before you reach the castle, you’ll come upon the old church.  It’s small, but beautiful and free to enter.

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The Castle:
The town is most known for the small island-like peninsula which sits at one end of the beach with palm trees, a bird garden, and a castle at one end.  The castle is well worth the self-guided tour if you have time.  Children up to age 12 are free.  Adults cost 3.50 which includes a souvenir post card.

IMG_7330
The view to the south from the top of the castle

Most of the castle rooms are sparsely furnished if at all, but they are good about putting up informative plaques on the walls in Spanish, Valenciano, German, and English so that you know a bit about where you’re standing.  It’s quite impressive actually.

It’s hard to know when the original castle was built or what it must of looked like because of so many changes that have happened over the centuries.  King James the First rebuilt it after the conquest in 1234.  Since then, it’s been the witness and catalyst of an incredible history here in this little town.  Declared the third papal see by Pope Pedro Luna who ended his life there, it was also the headquarters of King James himself, and the Order of the Templars from 1294.

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This is one of two doorways built as part of the new facade between 1294 and 1307.  The other was destroyed during the Independence War.

The self-guided tour allows you to relax and even picnic in the many open spaces within the castle walls.  The roof itself is even spectacular with stairs leading all the way to the top.  So spectacular that my 9-year old reached the top first and exclaimed, “Holy Cow!”

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A rainbow in the distance over Benicarló.

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The Lighthouse:
Behind the castle on your way to tourist-restaurant-row and the ship museum, you’ll walk by this pretty old lighthouse.

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The Town:
The tiny streets and white homes that surround the castle on the hill are picturesque on their own, but particularly striking against the aqua waters of the Mediterranean.  It’s easy to find a spot to sit and soak up the setting or stroll through narrow alleys and explore every nook.

To the right of the castle is a row of tourist shops.  They’re easy to spot and fairly tacky with most of the items made in China.  You can even find a Boomerang there which, I find, odd.  If you follow this road to the end before it curves,  you’ll find two wonderful things.  One is a bakery and the other is a wonderful shop that carries items only made by local artists.  It has some beautiful pottery and jewelry.

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There’s a lot here to see if you take the time to explore and read the information plaques.  Near the water behind the church is a small ship museum and then a string of restaurants that are geared towards tourists.

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The Food:
This is one of those seasonally touristy towns that serves up the most horrid food on earth for abominable prices and people smile though it because either the view is nice or they really think paella should taste that way.  It’s pretty sad.  There are a couple good restaurants, but this is definitely a place to ask a local.  I’ve eaten average here twice (the second time was the decision of a travel companion).

The one exception is, of course, a bakery.  If you look down the row of tourist shops to the right of the castle, the road slopes downward and at the very end before it veers right, there’s a bakery that’s been there since about forever.  The woman who works there will tell you about her father who ran it before her.  He was an extra in the Charleston Heston movie “El Cid” with Sophia Loren.  There’s a picture on the wall.  It’s a tiny storefront with no seating, but do try one of their pastries.  The people are friendly and the treats they create are authentic and delicious.  In fact, she’s be the perfect person to ask when seeking a good restaurant.

When to go?  Off season.  From late June through August, the town and beaches are completely packed.  It’s hot and crowded.  Go in the spring or fall if you can.  The crowds are gone the beaches will feel like your own private paradise.

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Kids:  Very kid friendly, the beaches are huge, the water is shallow and clear, there’s a playground on the beach, and they will even enjoy biking on the boardwalk.  Bring sunblock and lots of water and plan to spend the day.  The castle is free for children under 12.

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A full moon lingers briefly above the edge of the castle wall
that Jaime built long ago after the Moorish fall.
Where Papa Luna spent his days and nights,
where the Templars staged their fights.
The wars called just and holy though by means hardly so.
It was long ago.  
And now I must leave too soon.
A walk along the beach shooting the moon.
Digging my toes into the sand that’s seen it all.
~TTWS

My first visit with photos:  http://verbosevagabond.com/peniscola-spain/
Photos here are from my second visit:  http://verbosevagabond.com/peniscola-spain-full-moon/

51b2a831e4b02b0b45b5365a_m5On top of being an awesome Trippy community member, Tiffany is also a mother of four, travel blogger, photographer, and foodie.  This is resposted from her blog Verbose Vagabond.  Follow her on Twitter to see where she’s trotting to next!

Would you like to contribute to the Trippy blog?  If so, drop us a line at feedback@trippy.com!

Gather Round: 10 Hotels with Cracking Good Fireplaces

Is there anything that signals winter like the crack of a log or the warmth of a cozy fire? Not to us, so now that Santa is safely away from the chimney, we’ve decided to have a look at hotels with really fantastic fireplaces. As you’ll see, hearths are far from the only thing these places do well.

 

Barvikha Hotel & Spa via Barvikha Hotel

Barvikah Hotel & Spa; Moscow, Russia

If this luxury hotel and spa are any indication, the dark days of Russia’s past are truly good and over. According to their website, Barvikha was established “to make sure that luxury was no longer on short supply” and it looks like they’re doing a darn good job of it.

 

Clift Hotel via Clift Hotel

Clift; San Francisco, California

How’s this for stylish: this Philippe Starck-designed luxury hotel not only boasts genuine Eames chairs, but a Salvador Dali coffee table (doesn’t everyone have one of those?). Be sure to check their website for specials like the “Silver Skates” package which includes ice skating tickets and skate rental.

 

Eden Amsterdam American Hotel

Amsterdam American Hotel; Amsterdam, The Netherlands

While this hotel really hit its heyday in the 1920s, the building has was constructed in 1900 and the fireplace is far from its only architectural gem. Be sure to check out the breathtaking stained glass windows in the hotel’s famed Café Americain which is so popular with local artists and writers that it’s often referred to as “Amsterdam’s Living Room.”

 

Sky Hotel via Sky Hotel

Sky Hotel; Aspen, Colorado

Even in Aspen, it would be hard to find a more beautiful après-ski hang out than this place. Not only can you enjoy the fireplace in the lounge area, if you choose the “King Suite” you’ll even have one in your room.

 

Distrito Capital via Distrito Capital

Distrito Capital; Mexico City, Mexico

This super-chic but understated hotel really reflects Mexico’s emerging position as a modern travel destination. Not only is the interior design absolutely breathtaking, so are the stunning views it offers of Mexico City.

 

Hotel St. Paul

Hôtel St. Paul; Montreal, Canada

Are you an earth or a sky? You might want to give it some thought since all the rooms at this very chic hotel are classed (and decorated) as one or the other. Not surprisingly, it’s received several awards for both design and hospitality.

 

Hotel 101

101 Hotel; Reykjavik, Iceland

With temperatures that often dip way below freezing, where you spend your time indoors is just as important as where you spend it out of doors. Luckily, 101 has everything from an in-house art gallery to a spa to keep you occupied when it just gets too cold to step out.

 

Hotel Hershey via Hotel Hershey

The Hotel Hershey; Hershey, Pennsylvania

The Hotel Hershey may have one of the best amenities we’ve ever heard of: a “Chocolate Spa.” Treatments include everything from a “Whipped Cocoa Bath” to a “Chocolate Bean Polish” to a “Chocolate Fondue Wrap.” It might also be one of the few hotels on the planet to offer falconry as an activity.

 

Loden hotel via Loden

Loden Hotel; Vancouver, Canada

“Affordable elegance” might easily be the motto for this modern hotel situated in one of the city’s best neighborhoods. Among the many enticing amenities are heated bathroom floors, step-out patios, in-room yoga mats, and even a little Buddha you can take home with you.

 

Island Hotel & Resort

Island Hotel; Newport Beach, California

While it seems almost impossible to trump the natural beauty that surrounds this hotel, the Island has just about done it. The very tastefully appointed suites here are equipped with everything from marble bathrooms to a pillow menu. There’s even an in-house dry cleaning service should you need a fluff and fold.

Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

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