Because, California is Always a Good Idea

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 8.10.16 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-28 at 8.10.36 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-28 at 8.11.10 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-28 at 8.26.06 PMThis is a quick message to let you know that Skinny Dip is officially on a belated Spring Break. I’ve been working on a new, exciting project for the past month (which, I look forward to sharing with you in the near future!) and on Monday, I’m heading back to Los Angeles for two weeks.  It’s my first real solo trip in years and I’m really excited.

So, while I have so much to say about books and love and Prince (oh guys, last week was rough), it will have to wait until I get back (or maybe not. Perhaps I’ll get a lightning bolt of inspiration while in the City of Angels.)

Until then, just know that I miss this space and you guys. Joe the Intern will once again be joining me on my travels, so in the meantime, make sure you follow our adventures on Instagram at simone_paget and joe_the_intern.

xox

S.

What I’ve Learned From 4 Trips to Vegas in 3 Years

Last week I was in Vegas for 3 nights. It was my 4th trip in 3 years. I never thought I would become a “Vegas Person”.  After all, I’d much rather go see the real pyramids in Egypt, than stay in a hotel shaped like one. However, somewhere along the line I fell in love with Sin City in all of it’s over-the-top glory. Vegas is home to so many great memories. When I stepped off my plane last Tuesday night, I had this weird feeling like I was coming home. However, unlike my previous trips to Las Vegas where I was hanging with 70+ bloggers at Bloggers in Sin City, this time I was there for work.

I spent last Wednesday and Thursday attending iDate 2014: The Dating Industry Conference with my friend & colleague Liz, on behalf of the website we both work for We Love Dates. Yes, a whole conference devoted to the online dating industry! Of course, Joe the Intern came along for the ride. It was definitely an interesting experience and I learned quite a few things…

1. Going to Vegas for work is a completely different story than going for pleasure – Going to Vegas for pleasure means long afternoons spent drinking by the pool, late nights and leisurely brunches the next day. Going to Vegas for work means getting up at 7 am because you actually have to be somewhere and look half-decent. With that said, after a long day of work and conferencing, you’ll likely want to blow off some steam and take advantage of everything the city has to offer (drinks at the Cosmopolitan’s Chandelier bar anyone?). The night usually ends late and you have to begin the whole process again the next day. How do you survive this? Eat as healthy as possible. Instead of going for that buffet brunch, stick with that yogurt and fruit cup from Starbucks. Even more importantly: have drinks but don’t get drunk. Failure to follow these guidelines will likely result in you getting the nods during a conference session called “Examining Modern Dating Algorithms in the Polish Market.” Trust me on this.

2. Your feet won’t make it out of this city alive – I arrived in Vegas with feet that I’d already blistered three days beforehand. This is the equivalent of arriving at the Superbowl with a blown out knee. Despite wearing flats, it only went downhill from there. There’s so much walking to do in Vegas, that I’ve had to make peace with the fact that no matter what, my feet will suffer. Fortunately, margaritas help with this.

3. The Luxor Hotel is a strange, strange place – Everything in the Luxor is Egyptian themed, and I mean everything. Around every corner there’s another Sphinx, Mummy, or painting of the pyramids. The soap in the rooms is pyramid shaped and Pharaoh inspired headgear is sold in all the gift shops. It’s hilariously bizarre. My younger sister was completely obsessed with all things Egyptian from ages 5 to 6. She would have loved this hotel. On my first night at the Luxor I texted my sister, “It feels like I’m staying inside your 6 year old brain.” Although the Luxor’s commitment to a theme was impressive, there’s only so long you can deal with it before you get the urge to seek out a “Pharaoh Free Zone” and flee the hotel like you are Brendan Fraser in “The Mummy.”

4. You will see things that can’t be unseen, especially if you attend AVN – Although I don’t spend much time watching porn (really) I do find the adult industry kind of fascinating. Attending AVN: The Adult Entertainment Expo at least once has been on my life list ever since I saw a documentary about it a few years ago. However, it wasn’t until I arrived in Vegas that I realized it was actually taking place on the same days as the conference I would be attending. So, when two of our afternoon speakers cancelled, I took the opportunity to head over to the Hard Rock Hotel and check out AVN.

It was definitely an interesting experience. I saw lots of porn starlets there, however what I really enjoyed was the giant adult product expo room (hundreds of square feet of toys & other goodies!) I even met a few reps from companies I currently work with. However, for every fascinating thing I encountered, there were a lot of things that just can’t be unseen – for example, the underwear-less woman who bent down in front of me and did something that I think in the animal kingdom is known as “presenting.” Needless to say, Joe the Intern found the whole experience puzzling to say the least.

5. Not all conferences or conference workshops are created equal – If a workshop sounds totally unethical and like the worst thing ever, for example: “Sex, Drugs & Herpes and How We Can Profit From it” most likely, it is. However, although not all of the workshop sessions were exactly what we hoped for, some of them were really helpful. We also managed to meet a handful of really great people. What I learned from this? After four years of practice, I’ve actually become quite good at networking – an activity that used to give me extremely sweaty palms. Now, I’m the shameless Canadian who loves to talk to strangers.

6. Your Vegas experience completely depends on the people you’re with – Vegas is one of those places that has the potential to be the worst place ever or the best place ever – it all just depends on who you’re with. My advice? Go with people who are laid back and have a sense of humour, because, let’s face it – Vegas is pretty ridiculous. If you can’t laugh at stuff like Sad Mickey together, what’s the point? I’ve been super lucky that every time I’ve visited I’ve been surrounded by awesome people. Liz was no exception. After four years of reading each others blogs, becoming friends and then co-workers, we finally met face to face and it was awesome. Liz is super sweet and getting to hang out with her was definitely one of the highlights of 2014 so far. I’m pretty sure Joe the Intern would agree 🙂

 

Guest Post | Sexiest Locations to Spend a Winter Getaway

As soon as the weather cools off and the grey November days (which are typical for the West Coast) start to roll in, my sense of Wanderlust gets even stronger. In fact, I’ve caught myself numerous times looking over photos from LA and Miami (two of my favourite destinations south of the border) and daydreaming about an impromptu trip to New Orleans. I can’t help it!

Since travel is obviously on my mind, today I thought I’d let my travel writer friend, Susan step in with a guest post. Take it away Susan!

When people think of getting away, they think of summer getaways to white sandy beaches and clear Blue Ocean. If a summer vacation is not within your budget or nor does it fall into the timing you need, consider a winter break with your partner or friends instead.Think about it –  it’s unique!

Winter Olympics in Sochi –

There are so many wintry destinations to choose from and winter next year is going to be very fashionable considering the Winter Olympics in  Sochi will be on the international calendar. If you can get tickets, what better way to remember your time together and take in the world’s best talent in skiing, snowboarding, bobsledding, ice skating, and even more. The Winter Olympics have been slightly controversial due to Russia’s conservative views on gay rights, but if you’re set on attending the games then book your accommodation well in advance. There’s sure to be a lot on offer nearby as Russia tries to make the most of the Olympic tourism traffic.

Ice Hotel Vacations – 

Quebec plays host to the world famous Hotel Glace. Take in the best of French Canadian culture at this luxury  spa hotel, which has first-class accommodation, a wonderful restaurant and bar, and every type of spa comfort and pampering service which you could possibly imagine. You can also get some wonderful photos in this incredible and unique ice architecture.

Whilst the Hotel Ranga is not an ice hotel, its location in Iceland is a prime place to see the Northern lights in 2013. Accommodation wise, you can stay in themed rooms that represent each of the 6 continents.

Hit the winter beaches of Hawaii – 

It might surprise you to know that Hawaii is very active in the winter months. More than just active in fact, Hawaii has unique attractions that really come into their own in the last quarter of the year. The waters are still warm, and from November onwards you can enjoy prime whale watching season with humpbacks a specialty in the area. Surfing fanatics can also enjoy the busy season from October to May. If you are an active, outdoor kind of couple, this might make the perfect winter beach getaway for you.

Scottish Highland retreat Scotland has some fantastic winter countryside, where you can escape the busy city. Many of Scotland’s most fantastic houses remain intact and they cater perfectly for a hot and spicy getaway. Prices are reasonable and the winter weather is actually a bonus, especially if you go around Christmas time. Check out cheap flights via air transat.

Winter getaways needn’t be a drag or a second-best option. They can be every bit as fun and as appealing as a summer trip. As you will be flying in the winter, and booking hotels and during less busy periods, you will also save yourself a lot of money and stress. Give a winter getaway destination a chance and find yourself pleasantly surprised by what the latter quarter of the year can offer.

Where are you daydreaming of this winter? Let us know in the comments!

Susan Varano is a freelance writer. Residing in the UK, but more often than not traveling the globe, Susan has spent over 15 years in freelance, writing about some of the worldís best and sometimes unheard of travel destinations.

Never Drink Absinthe in the Shower & Other Things I’ve Learned from Travel

This post originally appeared on my friend Caryn’s blog a few months ago. Other than my story about getting hit on by teenagers, I haven’t really shared much about my former life as a travel agent. Since I really liked how this post turned out and I’m hoping to make travel a key part of 2013, I thought I would re-post it incase you missed it the first time.

Travel has always been high on my list of priorities. When I graduated university in 2004 with a degree in Anthropology all I wanted to do was travel the world and experience all of the places I had only read about in textbooks. However, after 4 years of working multiple jobs and taking out student loans to put myself through school, I was completely broke with hefty loan payments looming in the very near future. What’s a broke girl with globetrotting dreams to do? I needed to find a job that would pay me to travel, so when it came time to look for my first “real job” I turned to the travel industry. After a very brief stint as a flight attendant for a Canadian airline, I realized working in the sky was not for me and I gladly accepted a desk job with a international company that specialized in educational travel.

For 3 years I had the best and worst job in the world.

I worked in a department that sold and produced international educational tours for high school students. If your high school ever did one of those “Go to Europe for 10 days and see 5 countries!” class trips, there’s a good chance that my former company was responsible. My job specifically was to sell these tours to teachers and then work with them throughout the booking process from recruiting students, booking the tour and following up with any “issues” once they got back (I’ll explain about that last part in a second)

The big upside to my job was that I got to work with some of the best people ever (many of whom are still good friends) and once a year I got to go on a free trip. In the three years I worked there I travelled to Germany, Paris, The South of France, Rome, Florence, Tuscany, Naples and spent 17 days in Greece taking in Athens and the Islands.

The downside? Most of this travel involved actually travelling with high school students. Yes, high school students – as in actual teenagers. From my experience, when you mix students and travel, crazy shit inevitably happens. The other 50 weeks of the year when I wasn’t traipsing around Europe, I was at my desk for 10 to 12 hours a day trying to “fix the crazy.” From exploding luggage, sinking cruise ships, bizarro teachers and stolen snowmobiles, to bus accidents and students giving birth on tour, you haven’t experienced “crazy” until you’ve worked in student travel. Anything that could go wrong, usually does at some point and you have to fix it. Yes you. The recent graduate who’s making 27k a year.

Here’s 10 life lessons I’ve learned from travelling and working in the industry:

1. Roll with the punches. This is true in both life and travel as both are totally unpredictable. You can prepare all you want but there’s always going to be something unexpected that happens. If you’re travelling, stay calm and work it out. Don’t let the fact that things aren’t absolutely “perfect” ruin your trip.

2. Your hotel room doesn’t matter. Ok, so I hope none of you ever have to have the following conversation with your travel agent: “So, that hotel you booked us into in Rome has blood stains on the wall” (true story) but at the end of the day, as long as your hotel room is clean and safe the rest doesn’t matter. It’s always amazing to stay at a super luxe hotel, however in my opinion, if you’re “doing travel right” you won’t be spending much time in your room anyways.

3. Not everything is going to be like home and that’s a good thing: I remember sitting in a restaurant in Nice with a group of students and chaperones from South Carolina, eating a plate of roasted chicken and fries that the waiter had just served us. As one of chaperones bit into her chicken she screamed out in horror: “This ain’t Southern Fried Chicken!” No, no it’s not – BECAUSE YOU’RE IN FRANCE. Although sometimes regional differences can be unsettling (this chicken did taste pretty weird, dude) try to embrace them. If we wanted things to always be the same we’d never leave home.

Hanging out in Delphi, Greece 2006.

4. Drinking Absinthe in the shower is a very bad idea: This sounds like it should be yet another story about me making a drunken fool out of myself, but for once it’s not! Two of the students I travelled with purchased a bottle of Absinthe in Rome and decided to spend the evening drinking it in their hotel room. In an Absinthe fuelled haze they thought it was a good idea to turn on the shower, promptly forgetting about it for the rest of the night. In the morning they woke up to a flooded hotel room. The lesson here: don’t consume strange alcohol or substances in foreign places, or at least not while you’re bathing.

5. Some people have a very bad sense of geography: Don’t assume that just because someone is booking a trip with you that they have any clue about where they are going…even if they’re a teacher. For example, “Monocco” isn’t a real country, nor is “Budapest” a country (and no, there’s currently not a war happening there). You can’t take a “quick ferry” from Costa Rica to Puerto Rico and driving from London to Athens isn’t “an easy day trip.” I know these things because I am Canadian, don’t live in an Igloo and have access to these things called maps.

6. My knack for attracting weirdos is an international phenomenon: While walking through a square in Florence I was stopped by a man who claimed to be a modelling agent. He asked me if I wanted to go out that night and “party with some of his girls” I’m pretty sure by “modelling agent” he meant “pimp” and by “party” he meant “recruit me into the white slave trade”. Lesson here: trust your gut. If something seems “off” – run in the other direction.

Posing in front of the Acropolis in Athens

7. If you’re going to engage in questionable behaviour, always lock the door: This goes out to the group of students who thought it was a good idea to make a homemade porno during their class trip to Italy, only to have their teacher walk in on them while filming. If you’re going to do something creepy like that, at least have the curtesy to lock the door. Your teacher now has that traumatic image burned into her brain forever, as do I.

8. Every travel experience changes you: No matter where you go, there’s always value in travel. I can’t think of a single trip I’ve taken – even if it’s just a weekend getaway – that hasn’t given me a new perspective of some kind.

9. Be nice to your travel agent: It’s bad karma to constantly complain and yell at her until she cries. If you don’t she might enact her silent revenge by specifying that the airline serve you “baby food” when it comes time to order your airplane meal. (That guy never complained again.)

Sitting on the black sand beach in Santorini – one of my favourite places in the whole world.

10. I’m stronger and more capable than I ever thought: I’ve consoled a crying father who hadn’t been able to get in touch with his son when the London subway bombings took place. I’ve also dealt with a tour that had to be evacuated from a sinking cruise ship and re-booked a group of 30 students who were stranded in Miami from the darkness of my living room at 3:30 AM. While I was doing these things, I kept saying “I’m clearly not equipped to deal with any of this” but the truth is I am and that’s something to be proud of.

What have you learned from travelling?

A Long Overdue Post about Portland, a Bus, Wine & More Wine.

Last week I was in Portland Oregon for 5 days. My sister was playing at a music festival in Portland over the weekend so my Dad and I decided to tag along & turn it into a family road-trip. I know what you’re thinking, “Two family road trips in one month Simone?! Are you insane?!” Truth be told, this road trip was a lot of fun and I kind of fell in love with the city of Portland and it’s denizens who seem to spend all their days eating & drinking delicious things, riding bikes and looking ridiculously healthy while doing all of it.

One of the things I love most about being part of the blogging community is that you automatically have this network of really cool people that you can hang out with wherever you go (going to events like Bloggers in Sin City where you meet bloggers from all over obviously helps with this.) When I told fellow #BiSC Alum Doni that I was going to be in Portland for a few days she invited me to join her on a Wine Bus Tour of Portland. As soon as I read the words “wine” and “bus” together, my response was “Yes please!”

Last weekend Portland was host to the 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference. Thanks to some of Doni‘s handy connections, last Thursday we were able to tag along on a “Wines of Chile Portland Bus Tour” that took us around Portland on a red double decker bus to some of the city’s finest dining spots where we sampled delicious food and Chilean wine. It was a fun afternoon full of hanging out with cool bloggers, yummy eats & delicious wine. OMG, SO MUCH WINE (I can’t emphasize this point enough.)

Doni and I met the group at the hotel and hopped on our ride for the afternoon:

Me, Doni and Elia on board the bus (drinking pink sparkling wine of course)

One of the nice things about blogger events is that you never have to feel guilty about being on your phone:

Our first stop was Andina, a delicious Peruvian restaurant where we sampled two different Chilean wines – Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc and Cono Sur Pinot Noir and ate what I consider my perfect meal – grilled fresh octopus with chimichurri sauce & caper majado de papa (so, so delicious) – before getting back on the bus to head to our next stop.

(More wine & photos after the jump)

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