Travel Tips

Destination Dubai 1024 683 Chase Jennings

Destination Dubai

It’s just after midnight in Dubai, U.A.E., and my driver, a young Emirati named Omar, just made a sharp right turn off the highway. “Shortcut,” Omar tells me. We’re driving north from Dubai International Airport to the seaside emirate Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) and all I can see out the passenger side window, save for the occasional factory and camel farm, are vast swathes of desert that surround us. “OK,” I said. Not that I had much say in the matter.

Thirty minutes of desolately dark desert road later, our destination, Waldorf Ras Al Khaimah came into view. A colossal oasis shining so bright I wouldn’t be surprised if you could see it from the reaches of outer space. Pulling in to the grand Porte Cochère, it soon became clear that this was not only reminiscent of the palace in my Arabian desert dreams, it was actually designed to embody the look and feel of one.

Walking inside the grand foyer, a large open atrium with sand and sea inspired colors and décor, a nod to the properties windswept sand dunes and Arabian Seaside surroundings were only secondary to the 20-foot grand lobby clock. Designed to honor the regional Arabic culture, the clocks dials include the five daily prayer times and is inscribed with a traditional Bedouin poem “From your homeland travel abroad to find glory,” around its circumference.

With a total of 346 rooms, I made my way to the third floor where my one-bedroom sea-view suite was waiting and didn’t waste any time ordering a glass of red wine and a club sandwich from room service before sliding my balcony door open and letting the sound of ocean waves crashing against the shoreline lull me to sleep.

The next morning I put on my most modest floor-length maxi dress and made my way down to Azure—a Mediterranean inspired breakfast buffet when I was immediately struck by something. A woman in a cut-off tank top and shorts, standing behind another woman in a fuchsia bathing-suit and polka-dot sarong. This was not the “modest attire” I was expecting to see in U.A.E. I soon learned, RAK, unlike it’s emirate counterparts, is known for its relaxed, easy going ways. Because of it’s proximity to nearby Hajar mountains, local hot-springs, Bedouin camp sites and thousands of acres of desert where dune-bashing, a colloquialism for off-roading, and sand surfing have become popular pastimes, it’s only recently that RAK has firmly established itself as a premier adventure-seeker destination, with all the modern luxuries and over the top elegance you would expect to find in U.A.E of course.

I spent the next four days both off, but mostly on property. One of several five-star hotels in the area, with nine bars, lounges and restaurants, including my personal favorite Marjan—a stylish Middle Eastern eatery serving up local specialties including camel and reindeer meat, destination spa complete with a variety of steam and herbal sauna rooms, as well as my personal favorite amenity—pillow service menu, not to mention heated pools, water sports and 18-hole golf course, this really is seaside luxury at its finest. Even if you do have to trek through a dark desert road to get there.

Where to Eat, Drink & Stay in Reyjkavik 1024 683 Chase Jennings

Where to Eat, Drink & Stay in Reyjkavik

Canopy by Hilton
Centrally located on Hverfisgata Street in the heart of downtown Reyjkavik, Canopy by Hilton opened last year and is Icelands answer to boutique modern luxury. Surrounded by iconic attractions including Laugavegur, a street known for its shopping, eateries, and pubs, Harpa Concert Hall and Convention Center, as well as Old Reykjavik Harbor, which offers incredible views of Mount Esja and the landmark Hallgrimskirkja church, complimentary artisanal breakfast buffet, complimentary tastings of local beverages and canapés and bicycles for exploring the city are available.

Restaurants

Baejarins Bezty Pylsur
Everyone from Kim Kardashian to Bill Clinton and Madonna has tried the Baejarins Bezty Pylsur famous hot dogs. Be sure to order “the works” or “eina með öllu” in Icelandic which comes with a sweet yellow mustard, raw and fried onions, and a brownish mayonnaise-based remoulade with sweet relish.

Café Loki
Located directly across from Hallgrímskirkja Church, Café Loki is a perennially popular spot mongst locals and tourists alike. It’s also one of the best places to try some of Iceland’s delicacies including hákarl, fermented shark fin that’s as local as it is pungent, rye bread served with chunks of hand churned butter and meat soup.

Tapas Barinn
Smoked puffin with blueberry ‘brennivin’ sauce, langoustine in garlic sauce and minke whale, are just a few of specialties on offer at Tapas Barinn. It’s a casual affair here with some of the best eats in town. Whatever you do, don’t miss trying the succulent Icelandic lamb, some of the best in town.

Best Bars

Kaffibarinn
A perennial favorite in Reykjavik, Kaffibarrin is most recognizable by its London underground logo. As quaint and cozy as it is casual, this candlit local is a popular spot to try a pint of beer and enjoy a slice of Reykjavik nightlife.

Micro Bar
Craft beer is having a major moment in Reykjavik right now and Micro Bar has some of the best local brews in town.

Talking Travel With Samantha Brown 1024 590 Chase Jennings

Talking Travel With Samantha Brown

Over her tenure as TV’s most loveable travel show host, whether she’s dressing up head to toe in geisha attire to attend a traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto or donning bright yellow waders to harvest oysters for lunch in Galway Bay, nobody knows how to embrace the spirit of travel quite like Samantha Brown.

After a two-year hiatus, today, the 47-year-old mother of four-and-half year-old twins Ellis and Elizabeth is back with her new show Places To Love on PBS.

“It’s the show that I’ve always wanted to do, but without the constraints,” Brown told me when we sat down with her last June. “I’ve always wanted to do a show based on what I’ve learned in travel and what I’ve learned is that every destination has a soul whether it’s a huge metropolis or a small village.”

In one part of the pilot episode which aired this January, Brown kicked things off in her hometown of Brooklyn, New York where she schmoozes with vendors at Prospect Parks beloved Smorgasburg trying everything from jelly Raindrop Cakes to a Pakistani version of a lentil cheeseburger and chicken mole nacho’s.

“What I’m not doing is an itinerary show,” Brown said. “It’s more about the journey and there’s more of a story behind everything and everyone we meet along the way.”

According to Brown, each 30-minute episode will have a strong focus on the people she meets in cities around the globe while highlighting culturally enriching moments from foods that define a city to historical landmarks.

“When it comes to travel, I’m always looking to have those moments that really connects me with a place or a person,” Brown said. “There are number of ways to do that, but perhaps my biggest piece of advice is to go for a walk. Go down streets because you think they look good, sit in cafes you haven’t heard of or haven’t been talked about, they don’t have to be on Trip Advisor. Go where people live and those moments start to happen where people treat you like you’re one of them and there’s a really wonderful feeling where you’re like huh, ‘I’m not an intruder, I’m not an observer, I’m actually a part of this’ and it’s your moment too.”

While Places to Love is very much Brown’s baby, it’s also a family endeavor. Her husband and the show’s producer Kevin O’Leary travels with her often as do her two young twins Ellis and Elizabeth. How does she do? Brown shared her one fail safe trick to the trade.

“My little trick is that we board (the plane) last, Brown said. “So the pre-board, my husband goes in with all the gear and sets up shop, secures the overhead bin space with car seats while I wait until the very last person gets on the plane so now were not subjected to the most stressful part of the entire trip which is the boarding process. No one likes that, I don’t like that, people have bags going over their heads you have announcements being made, people are stressed and little kids can feel that stress they absorb it, then they let it out.”

As far as what the future holds, Brown says she hopes people will love and connect with Places To Love. “I hope people love it, and that they’re happy to see me in a different role,” Brown said. “Nothing gives me more joy as when a 22-year old woman comes up to me and says ‘you know when I was ten-years old I watched you all the time, you were the one who said I could travel because you were the only woman.’ Now I’m traveling and now I’m still doing this because there really isn’t another woman doing it right now.”

The Truth About Being a Travel Writer Michelle Gross 1024 683 Chase Jennings

The Truth About Being a Travel Writer Michelle Gross

When I tell people what I do for a living it’s often met with one of two reactions. The first, and something I hear more and more these days is “Oh! I love to travel and I’ve always wanted to be a travel writer, how can I do it?” I literally get this question all the time. And don’t get me wrong, it’s great meeting likeminded people who share a love and passion for travel, so it’s not something I take personally or am offended by. Yes, I get how looking at my Insta or Facebook can seem like it’s all sunshine and pina colada’s on the beach for these perfect #instaready moments. But here’s the reality: it’s not all sunshine and sugary drinks. It’s working seven days a week, sometimes on long bus rides or wherever you can grab free Wi-Fi on the road, at weird hours, pitching, following up on pitching, writing. More pitching. It comes with a fair share of rejection, egos, flight delays and long layovers, missing friend’s birthdays and special occasions. Those things don’t make my IG feed though. They would be sad and frankly not sexy and no one wants to see that. All that said, being a travel writer is, in my opinion a tremendous privilege and something I wouldn’t trade or change for a second. It’s fun and crazy and exhausting and a constant roller coaster of emotions that lets you travel and eat and experience people and places that you may not otherwise be able to. I love it, highs and lows, smiles and cries.

That was what I told Anabella Brito, a Freshman at Valencia College in Orlando, Florida when she interviewed me recently. Anabella said she was interested in becoming a journalist and wanted to know if I had any advice or insight that I could share. I was on the road at the moment but asked her to email me her questions and I’d see what I could do. She sent over a few questions: ‘What drove you to become a journalist,’ ‘what’s something you weren’t expecting that comes with the job,’ and ‘what advice could you give to where it is I haven’t had the chance to go but would like to.’ All of Anabella’s questions are good ones and I spent a fair amount of time crafting my response to her. I’m also still on a journey of self-discovery and while I don’t have it all figured out just yet, I do know that I love and am so passionate about my job, and I hope that this site will be a space for me to share my travels more candidly and