7 Questions With Debbie Lee, Trippy’s Community Manager

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 own Debbie Lee.

As Trippy’s community manager, Debbie welcomes new members to the site, helps them utilize it for trip or destination information, and highlights the conversations and friendships she sees growing through Trippy.

So, Debbie…

What is the kindest thing someone did for you while traveling?

One winter when I was road tripping around Western Europe a few years ago, my French driver accidentally put diesel into our gas car in Belgium.  Apparently, the color on the nozzles for gas and diesel in Belgium are the opposite from those in France.  Of course, we didn’t start the car for fear that it might explode, or at least ruin something inside the car.  The gas station attendant was super nice.  He called a truck for us, which took a while, and since it was cold outside because it was winter, he let us wait in the employee break room, offered us hot chocolate and coffee from the store’s vending machines, and even let us use their computer for internet.  People were just as nice at the car shop.  I also learned on this trip that AAA road side assistance from the U.S. is pretty awesome because they covered all of this.

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

This isn’t so much a subculture as it is a small ethnic group that I encountered in Yunnan, China, called Mosuo.  It doesn’t even feel like I’m in China.  Though many Chinese people still hold on to traditional morals and values, many aspects of Chinese living are very modern these days in terms of dress, technology, lifestyle, etc.  You don’t see that modernity at all in Yunnan, and some of their behaviors in regards to relationships, courtships, and family may seem taboo to modern society, especially the concept of “walking marriages” and the fact that they’re a completely matrilineal society.  The more I listened to them explain why practice some of the things that they do, though, the more I see why and how it works.  It was fascinating in the most humbling way.

When I close my eyes, I can smell and taste…

Mangosteen and it takes me back to every time I’ve been in Asia.  It’s my favorite fruit ever and it’s the one thing that I can’t get fresh in the States.  I love it so much that one time while packing on autopilot in Thailand, I accidentally packed one into my bag to go back to the United States and almost got in really big trouble for it.  It almost would’ve been worth it.  God, I want mangosteen right now.

One travel expense that is always worth the money…

Once in a lifetime meals, attractions, and overall experiences.  For example, when traveling to Switzerland, I was not expecting it to cost $100-$200 to visit each mountain, nor was I expecting $65/person fondue or $35 burritos.  But I was already there, so of course I wanted to experience it, and even though it was a lot of money for me, I have no regrets.  On a side note, I should really look into opening a Mexican restaurant in Switzerland.

The most incredible attraction I’ve ever seen is…

The entire Swiss countryside.  I can’t believe something as beautiful and idyllic as it exists on earth.

The best meal I ever had while traveling was…

At Union in Seattle.  I was brought there by one of my best friends and two of his friends.  All three of them were up and coming chefs in Seattle, so they knew where it was at.  I was fresh out of college and had never really experienced fine dining and gourmet food like that before because I had been a vegetarian and part time vegan for about a decade.  This Seattle trip, though, was where I started eating seafood again and Union was one of the most memorable places I went to that trip.  I wanted to go back to Union when I was in Seattle again this past year, but discovered that it was closed for good, but local celeb chef Ethan Stowell, who opened Union, still has a slew of other amazing restaurants in the city.  Now Union will just be forever immortalized in my mind as pretty friggin’ amazing.

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

Any trip that I’ve ever taken without a tour group.  Growing up, my parents were huge fans of joining all-inclusive tour groups and staying at all-inclusive resorts.  I’m really grateful for all those travel experiences that I had when I was younger, but I’ve discovered that I’m much more of a bootstrapped choose-your-own-crazy-random-adventure-at-every-corner type of traveler than a just-tell-me-where-to-go-and-when-to-show-up-so-I-can-be-shuttled-off-to-a-major-tourist-attraction type of traveler.

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Debbie is the community manager at Trippy.com, welcoming new members to the site. When she isn’t answering travel questions, you can find her on Twitter.

 

 

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

The Trippy Community’s Dream Holiday Destinations

Last week, while we were waking up from turkey comas and avoiding the mall with all our might, The Daily Mail put together a review of the top 2013 holiday destinations on the typical Briton’s wishlist. Unsurprisingly, Norway’s Northern Lights have taken over as the top of the collective bucket list, while the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt came in second, according to a poll conducted by Travelsupermarket.com.

CNN put together their own list of ultimate winter destinations, with classic holiday cities like Prague, Salzberg and Tromso leading the way with visions of frothy hot chocolates, snow blanketed town squares and holiday markets.

Meanwhile, the Trippy community has their own holiday travel wishlist. We asked and you answered. Here’s where you’re heading, or where you’d be heading in your wildest dreams, this holiday season.

[VIDEO] LA’s Virtually Unknown Street Food Paradise

This is a guest post by Trippy community member Trevor Morrow.

Downtown LA’s Piñata District has surprises at every turn with delicious Salvadorian and Mexican street food, mountains of unusual candy, loud music, and of course, the most creative, original and strange piñatas you can imagine.

Los Angeles is known for its food trucks. In fact, you could say the city pioneered the mobile food industry which has since exploded into a national craze filled with gourmet offerings. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy food trucks as much as the next guy, but what happened to good old fashioned street food? The kind of food you don’t find based on a tweet about its location. The kind of food that doesn’t cost the same, if not more than lunch at a restaurant. The kind of food that comes from a place without fancy brand messaging. The simple answer is, it just doesn’t seem to exist in America — and if it does, it’s not always easy to find.

As a traveler, street food isn’t something I associate with America (hot dog vendors in New York City and trendy farmers markets don’t count). When I think of street food, my mind wanders to markets throughout Southeast Asia or Latin America. When I think of street food, I’m transported to a place far away where I’m eating things I’ve never eaten, learning about the food and the people who prepared it, and feeling like I’m a part of the local fabric.

To experience this in America, and to discover it just 20 minutes from where I live in Los Angeles, well, I was surprised to say the least.

Street-Food-1

It exists in an area of Downtown Los Angeles known as the Piñata District. Located near the intersection of South Central Avenue and East Olympic Boulevard, you may not even notice the row of small warehouses with their metal garage doors and colorfully painted facades when the district is closed for business. When the garage doors open however, when the street vendors set up their stalls, and when the music starts blaring, there is absolutely no mistaking where you are — this, is the Piñata District.

Out from the warehouses and overflowing onto the sidewalk you’ll find spices, candy, party decorations, and of course, piñatas. Then there is the crowning reason to come — the street food. The real, the authentic and the no-tweeting-of-its-location street food. It’s a sensory overload of delicious Salvadorian and Mexican fare with everything from hearty meals that’ll fill you up to sweet and savory snacks that’ll hold you over.

Street-Food-2

It was just a matter of minutes before I lost sight of any plans to contain myself and started digging in. I ate a pupusa, a traditional Salvadorian dish made of a thick tortilla stuffed with cheese and refried beans, a fried plantain topped with sweet condensed milk, crispy pork rind, and a plate of carnitas tacos with a side of sweet pink pickled onions.

Thoroughly stuffed, I then walked from warehouse to warehouse to browse the vast selection of party supplies, unusual and spicy candies, and the colorful and creative piñatas that give this patch of Downtown Los Angeles its name. I tried some candy and bought the biggest piñata I could find to finish out what was a full afternoon of traveling in my own city.

This experience is just one more example of how you don’t need to go far to travel. You don’t always have to get on a plane or spend a lot of money to feel far away, to learn something new, to try new food, and to meet new people. Often times, you can find these experiences right down the street or a short drive from wherever you are. All you have to do is simply get up, go, explore.

After visiting the Piñata District, I spoke with many Los Angeles residents about my experience and their responses ranged from “I’ve never heard of it,” to “I think I’ve heard of it,” to the rare, “I went there to buy a piñata once.” This helped solidify what I had expected all along, when it comes to buying a piñata, the Piñata District is known to a small degree, but as a street food paradise, I’d consider the Piñata District virtually unknown (that is of course, except to the members of the local community who fill the street every weekend while spending time with their family and friends).

So whether you’re a Los Angeles resident, or a visitor looking to get way off the beaten path and experience LA beyond Hollywood Boulevard, movie studio backlots, and sunny beaches, I’d recommend visiting the Piñata District. Like I was, you’ll be met by locals who are happy to share a smile, share their food, and share their culture.

WHAT I ATE

Pupusa
I started with a pupusa, a traditional Salvadorian dish. It’s a thick and somewhat doughy corn tortilla stuffed with cheese and refried beans and topped with curtido, a lightly fermented cabbage relish which looks similar to a cole slaw, and a somewhat spicy and watery tomato sauce.

Fried-Plantain
Moving through the market I skipped straight to dessert with a fried plantain. Poured over the top is a cream-based sauce and a drizzle of sweet condensed milk. I was eyeing these from the moment I arrived and couldn’t wait to get one (they are one of my favorite desserts).

Pork-Rind
Next up were a few pieces of pork rind, crackly and crispy fried pork skin. I’ve tried the pork rind you buy in a package from a convenience store, but I’d never had it fresh like this. I topped mine with a little salsa and a squeeze of lime.

Carnitas-Taco-Pinata-District-
Then came the carnitas tacos. A beautiful plate filled with two tacos, pico de gallo, a delicious mixture of sweet pink pickled onions, a perfectly ripe avocado, and last but not least, a very spicy roasted chili pepper.

So-Spicy
This little pepper packed a big punch…and I never saw it coming.

Candy

After eating your fill of food, walk through store after store bursting at the seems with candy. I’m talking more candy in one place than you’ve probably ever seen in your life and flavors and brands you’ve probably never heard of.

Pinatas
And of course, a trip to the Piñata District just wouldn’t feel complete without taking home a big, strange piñata.

HOW TO FIND IT

BEST TIME TO GO

I’d recommend going on a Saturday when the Piñata District is most alive. Arriving around 11AM will get you there right before it gets crowded. Stay, eat, and shop for a few hours and watch as the market fills up with locals.

A very special thank you to everyone we meet in the Piñata District who were warm, welcoming, and excited to share their food!

Video Credits: Produced & Hosted by Trevor Morrow. Videographer: Michael Schleifer

Photo Credit: Video stills by Michael Schleifer.

trevorIn addition to being a stand out Trippy community member, Trevor Morrow is also an LA-based travel writer and host.  This is resposted from his blog Trevor Morrow Travel.  Follow him on Twitter to see what he’s up to next!

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

Great Holiday Markets Around the World

While it may seem hard to believe, the holiday shopping season is already upon us and if predictions are right, this one’s going to be a doozy. Here in the States, many stores opened their doors on Thanksgiving morning, for the first time ever, and Black Friday bargain hunters camped out at their favorite stores only to exit with wagons filled with presents.

While we here at Trippy love giving, we don’t always love facing a crowded mall, and so we’ve compiled a list of our favorite holiday markets around the world where you can sample crafts, gifts and even treats from the best and brightest creative holiday minds of their host cities.

via Bing Cherrylet

via Bing Cherrylet

Union Square Holiday Market; New York City, New York 

Like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or the tree at Rockefeller Plaza, the Union Square Holiday Market has reached bonafide tradition status in the city that never sleeps. It’s a great place for harried New Yorkers and tourists alike to slow down a bit, have a piping hot cup of homemade apple cider, and peruse the stalls that feature work by local artisans. Insider tip: for a really great overhead view of the whole thing, head up to the second floor of the Whole Foods across the street.

via Roxanna Salceda rox sm

via Roxanna Salceda rox sm

Great Dickens Christmas Fair and Victorian Holiday Party; San Francisco, California

It’s just like Dickensian London without the cold and hunger! Now in its 44th year, this market/fair offers visitors the full-on Victorian experience including parlour games, carolers, and a “Saucy French Postcard Tableaux Revue” for the adults. Shoppers can pick up some really unusual gifts like antique maps, hand-crafted stained glass, and one-of-a-kind ceramic pieces.

via Rictor Norton & David Allen

via Rictor Norton & David Allen

WeihnachtsZauber, Gendarmenmarket; Berlin, Germany 

In a country that is to Christmas markets what New Orleans is to Mardi Gras, it’s hard to choose a favorite. That said, the Gendarmenmarket in Berlin is pretty darn hard to beat, both for it’s beauty and it’s almost electric atmosphere. With over 150 merchants and food vendors there’s a lot to see and eat. If you’re still around for New Year’s Eve, take in the fireworks for just 10 euro.

via Gabrielskloof

via Gabrielskloof

Gabrielskloof ‘Our Favourite Things’ Market; Gabrielskloof Wine Estate, Botrivier, South Africa

You won’t find snow at this market but you will find a small group of about 30 vendors selling crafts and local delicacies (including oysters). It might be one of the few holiday markets on earth where shoppers wearing flip-flops outnumber those with boots.

via ErasmusofParis

via ErasmusofParis

Christmas Market on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées; Paris, France

As if Paris could get more charming, in mid November, the city’s most famous boulevard is transformed into a truly picture-perfect stretch of food stalls, craft sellers, and hot wine vendors. There’s even a mini-ice skating track if you’re game. While you’re there make sure you check out the goings on at the nearby Petit Palais and Grand Palais exhibition spaces, both of which always have something interesting going on.

via Anosmia

via Anosmia

L’viv Christmas Fair; L’viv, Ukraine

While holiday celebrations take place all over this up-and-coming Ukrainian tourist destination, the main market takes place in the town’s charming main square. Set up to look like rows of little wooden bungalows, the shopping stalls are at their best at night when, like the square itself, they’re lit up for late-night shoppers. Selling everything from traditional Montanka dolls to hand-painted eggs, the fair is just one of the many ways Christmas is celebrated here. Festivals, concerts, and even parades go on all through December and even into the new year.

Did we miss your favorite holiday market? Tweet at us and let us know all about it!

12 Sizzling Volcanoes (PHOTOS)

A natural phenomenon even most hardcore travelers never get to see in action, volcanoes are among the world’s most fascinating wonders.

Whether it’s a mountain that blows smoke rings or a majestic, snow-capped peak that’s been dormant for decades, here are some volcanoes that overflow with beauty.

1. Piton de la Fournaise – Reunion Island
Translating appropriately to “Peak of the Furnace,” this very active volcano can be seen via local helicopter tours.
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More Sizzling Volcanoes behind the cut…

10 Amazing Works Of Architecture To Visit (PHOTOS)

Whether it’s intricate carving on an ancient temple or steel bended in ways you never thought possible, the complexities of architecture never cease to amaze.

Love them or hate them, these 10 extraordinary buildings selected by the travelers and staff of travel website Trippy.com bring new meaning to the art of the possible.

1. Printemps; Paris, France
While the stained glass ceiling at Galeries Lafayette usually gets all the attention, the one at Printemps is no slouch. As incredible as this may seem, the glass here was dismantled in the 1930s to protect it from bombing and then re-assembled years later.
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More Amazing Works of Architecture behind the cut…

7 Take-Your-Breath-Away Waterfalls Around The World (PHOTOS)

Between their danger and their beauty, waterfalls are undoubtedly among the earth’s most dramatic phenomena. They are treated with respect bordering on awe by almost every culture on Earth because their undeniable power is complimented by a mesmerizing sort of beauty. And falls come in many varieties: Some slink down from mountains and others explode off the edges of cliffs, rocketing spray into the air and soaking the travelers who come to visit them.

Whether three-tiered, pink or even frozen, these falls are among the world’s absolute best to visit.

Amicalola Waterfall, Dawsonville, GA – There are camping grounds here but if camping isn’t your thing, there’s a lodge you can stay in. Also, if you’re into hiking, there’s a hiking group that makes the climb up to see the falls by way of a challenging trail (which also happens to be part of the famed Appalachian Trail).
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More Breathtaking Waterfalls behind the cut…

14 Extraordinary Festivals Around The World (PHOTOS)

Whether steeped in solemnity or sprung from pure silliness, festivals around the world never cease to intrigue, amaze or, at the very least, entertain. From the ancient to the obscure, this list of festivals around the world shows local color both literally and figuratively. They are as diverse as they are bizarre.

They are also far flung, perfect excuses for hitting the road any time of the year.

1. Chalk It Up To Talent
Pasadena Chalk Festival; Pasadena, California
Beautiful but fleeting these sidewalk masterpieces last just a few days before nature, pedestrians, or cleaning crews wash them away. Now in it’s 20th year, the Pasadena Chalk Festival hosts artists who compete in categories that range from “Best 3-D Effect” to “Best Rendering of a Masterpiece.”
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More Extraordinary Festivals behind the cut…

10 Astonishing Cliffside Attractions (PHOTOS)

No vacation is really complete without a moment of true wonder and if these mountaintop attractions don’t do that for you, nothing will. We strongly recommend you not look down while checking out these super-steep and downright terrifying attractions because all of them are perched on the top of deadly, if scenic, drops.

Time to take out the hiking boots.

 1. Paro Taktsang Monastery; Paro Valley, Bhutan
Known colloquially as “The Tiger’s Nest,” this monastery dates back to the 1600s. As if the stunning location wasn’t enough, the buildings here also contain incredible works of art such as paintings and tapestries.
Monastère-de-Taktsang-District-de-Paro-Bhoutan-photo-03
More Astonishing Cliffside Attractions behind the cut…

How To Travel Like James Bond (PHOTOS)

Now this is business travel.

Smooth, debonair, and impossible to ruffle, James Bond hit just about every glamorous corner of the world to catch evil-doers and sample the local martinis. On the 50th anniversary of his creation we celebrate 007′s favorite destinations. Travelers can enjoy the sights, but they do well to avoid the stunts.

Khao Phing Kan Island; Phuket, Thailand
Even if you’ve never seen a James Bond film in your life you probably know this location which served as Scaramanga’s hideout in the movie, The Man With the Golden Gun. In fact, it’s become so associated with the movie that it’s often just referred to as “James Bond Island.”
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More Bond travel adventures behind the cut…

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