my favorites: 8 stunning views

bixby bridge in big sur, california

bixby bridge in big sur, california

every year around this time, i start to get a bit of cabin fever.  it’s officially “busy season” for me at work, and i leave civilization for awhile and hibernate in conference rooms around the dallas metroplex.  inevitably, the travel itch comes along as i dream of warmer weather, exotic locations, and – due to lack of windows in the aforementioned conference rooms – a better view.

central california: farm to rail to sea.

central california: farm to rail to sea.

there’s no sense in fighting it, so i’ve compiled a few of my favorite views from my travels.  seeing these sights in person have produced gasps, “ah ha!” moments, a bewilderment at this crazy amazing place we call earth, and a larger-than-i’d-like-to-admit terrifying fear of heights.  enjoy the views, and please let me know some of your favorites that i’ve missed!

the view of cape town from table mountain

the view of cape town from table mountain

my husband and i traveled to south africa this past summer, and absolutely fell in love with the country.  read more about my trip to cape town (and table mountain!) here.

new york, as seen from brooklyn.

new york, my love, as seen from brooklyn. it doesn’t get better than this. period.

a year ago,during a work trip to new york, i fought the urge to stay in manhattan and crossed the river to brooklyn for the entire weekend, and was more than pleasantly surprised.  more brooklyn tidbits here.

santorini, aka my favorite place the whole entire world.

santorini, aka my favorite place the whole entire world.

ok, so santorini seems fake.  the photos that look fake?  they’re not.  the entire island looks exactly this perfect (at least, when it’s not erupting).  read more about santorini here.  spoiler alert: it will steal your heart.

barcelona, as seen from park guell

barcelona, as seen from park guell

barcelona is a city of color and life and art.  my best friend and i visited two years ago and it has stayed with me since.  if you only have a limited amount of time in europe, this is a must-see city.  you can read more about my favorites in barcelona here and here.

oregon pine trees, as seen from the window of our train, en route to seattle from los angeles

oregon pine trees, as seen from the window of our train, en route to seattle from los angeles

the amtrak from los angeles to seattle was so unique and reminiscent of bygone days that i keep dreaming of my next train trip.  read more about the adventure here.

the stunning mcway falls in big sur, california

the stunning mcway falls in big sur, california. this was one of my favorite vacations to date…must write about it soon!

london on a layover

elizabeth tower (aka big ben) at the houses of parliament. hello, london!

elizabeth tower (aka big ben) at the houses of parliament. hello, london!

last summer, en route to south africa from dallas, i stopped in london for a 12 hour layover.  twelve hours!  i had never been to london before, so i was thrilled to speed into the city and look around for a few hours.  should you ever find yourself in the same situation, i’ve created a guide to the perfect speed-tour of london (the map below may only show up on non-mobile devices. if that’s the case, click here).

first tip: be rested from your flight over from the states.  pack some ear plugs, tylenol pm, an eye mask, and an aspirin (no blood clots for you!) to make sure you are well-rested and ready to explore once you touch down in the UK.  i flew into heathrow airport, which has a place, excess baggage company, to drop off bags for a fee. (pre-reserved storage plans are coming soon, which could save you time and money).  from heathrow, take the piccadilly line on the underground to hammersmith; exit the train, walk across the platform, and board the district line to westminster.  the trip into the city can take 45 minutes to an hour.  if you are willing to spend about $50 per person each way, you can take the heathrow express to paddington station, but you will then need to also take a cab once at paddington station.  i prefer the longer route in, and then the quicker route back.  second tip: mind the gap is for real.  there is a huge gap between the metro and the platform – be careful!

a quick walk across the westminster bridge gives you views of the london eye, the river thames, and the london aquarium.

a quick walk across the westminster bridge gives you views of the london eye, the river thames, and the london aquarium.

once at westminster, ascend the stairs from the metro, and hark!  the first stop on our speed-tour of london: big ben.  it is quite large and stately – very impressive after the ride in from the bland airport.  snap some photos and then walk east across the westminster bridge over the river thames (stop 2!) for a view of the london eye.  check out the people, snap a selfie, and head back towards big ben on the west side of the river for stop number three: houses of parliament.

the scene in westminster: tourists, cabbies, big ben, and the london eye keeping watch in the background

the scene in westminster: tourists, cabbies, big ben, and the london eye keeping watch in the background

ok, so this is kind of cheating because big ben is one of the three towers of the houses of parliament, but work with me here.  you will also need to take a deep breath at this point because you are in the midst of tourist mania.  school tours, asian tours, and a sea of selfie sticks will surround you as you try to catch a glimpse of the impressive buildings.  walk in front of the houses of parliament on margaret street, then head west on sanctuary street to check out westminster abbey (stop 4!), where will and kate exchanged their vows (i know you watched it).  there are a lot of tourist kiosks here, so buy yourself a couple of postcards; they’ll come in handy in a bit.

beware of the kicking/biting horses on horseguards avenue!

beware of the kicking/biting horses on horseguards avenue!

if you’re like me, you’re starving at this point, so to the pub we go!  walk north on parliament street, stopping briefly at the barricades on downing street to try to catch a glimpse of the prime minister (i had grand visions of hugh grant waving from the door of 10 downing street in “love, actually,” but alas i just saw a lot of police officers).  one block north, on horseguards avenue, i watched a horseguard (exactly as it sounds) change shifts…i am sure there was more to it, but i was pretty sleepy and completely overwhelmed by the british accents around me, so we moved on.

drinking outside at the harp. also, parker trying to look cool and british.

drinking outside at the harp. also, parker trying to look cool and british.

this is where things get a little tricky, so look alive here.  you’re going to pass a busy intersection (london cabbies!  big red buses!) and then duck right behind an impressive building (no idea what it is!) to find yourself at the harp pub on chandos place.  this place is extremely legit, so if you get lost, you must ask directions to get there (or check out the map here to put yourself back on track).  you may be the only tourist here (which is not the case at all pubs).  locals crowd around the bar and small tables.  order yourself a sausage sandwich, smother it with hp sauce, and enjoy an ale.  delightful.

the harp pub in london. one of my favorites of the day.

the harp pub in london. one of my favorites of the day.

lunch at the harp pub in london. extremely legit.

lunch at the harp pub in london. extremely legit.

once you’ve satisfied yourself on english fare, head north from chandos to new row street, boasting the most delightful row of shoppes (see what i did there?) and restaurants and coffee houses you ever did see.  pop into new row coffee and order yourself a flat white.  take some time to write a postcard or two and enjoy the people watching out front.

the adorable new row street in london

the adorable new row street in london

after your nice drink, head west to piccadilly circus, which appears to be the times square of london and only received one word in my travel diary: “disaster.”  i’m sure it has many wonderful qualities, but i missed them on that day.  there is a cheesy store dedicated to british wares; do not make the same mistake as i did and go inside.  avoid at all costs.

stop for a flat white at new row coffee in london - delightful!

stop for a flat white at new row coffee in london – delightful!

from piccadilly, head south (yes, you’re backtracking a bit; it’s worth it) to the mall. this street, which is closed to traffic on sundays and is bordered by st. james’s park on the south, leads directly to buckingham palace.  buckingham palace!  so, what are you waiting for?  walk forth!  take a detour into st. james’s park if you’d like, enjoy the larger-than-life flora, sit in a green and white striped lounger, and take in the (hopefully, but probably not) beautiful day.  walk around buckingham palace, snap a selfie with a guard, and then head west on constitution hill, bordered by green park to the north and buckingham palace gardens on the east.

the famous green and white striped loungers in st. james's park

the famous green and white striped loungers in st. james’s park

the larger-than-life flora in st. james's park in london

the larger-than-life flora in st. james’s park in london

buckingham palace and gardens

buckingham palace and gardens

ok, i’m not going to lie: at this point, i became extremely exhausted and maybe a little crabby.  this is a long walk.  we’d covered a lot of ground.  i hadn’t slept soundly in a while. i’d been wearing the same clothes for many hours.  this is where you need to give yoruself a pep talk and fight through it.  because just a few blocks away, further to the west, lies harrods.

welcome to harrods. pass the people and head inside for the unbelievable food markets!

welcome to harrods. pass the people and head inside for the unbelievable food markets!

what is harrods, you ask? oh, harrods.  the ultimate department store with seven floors, food markets with oysters, caviar, macarons, tea, etc. a l’aduree downstairs and a cute restaurant lining the meat market where we enjoyed a glass of wine.  just go.

a quick class of wine at galvin demoiselle in harrods (next to the meat market)

a quick class of wine at galvin demoiselle in harrods (next to the meat market)

find the floor that interests you, and for sure stop for a completely and almost sickingly expensive glass of wine/beer.  if shopping isn’t your thing, instead head into  hyde park (the central park of london) and enjoy an hour or so of rest and relaxation among the bustling city.

the sea market at harrods - fish, caviar, and an oyster bar in the back.

the sea market at harrods – fish, caviar, and an oyster bar in the back.

at this point, you should probably be concerned about your flight, so hop in a classic london black cab and treat yourself to a ride to paddington station, where you can catch the express train (approximately $50 per person at the station, or $40 if purchased in advance) back to the airport.  this trip is a mere 15 minutes.  on our cab ride, we listened to the usa/germany world cup match (yes!) and the cabbie cheered with us as the US scored.

scenes of london while speeding by in a taxi

scenes of london while speeding by in a taxi

scenes of london while speeding by in a taxi

scenes of london while speeding by in a taxi

scenes of london while speeding by in a taxi

scenes of london while speeding by in a taxi

scenes of london while speeding by in a taxi

scenes of london while speeding by in a taxi

our london taxi that drove us to paddington station while listening to the usa/germany world cup match. USA!

our london taxi that drove us to paddington station while listening to the usa/germany world cup match. USA!

catching the heathrow express back to the airport from paddington station - cheerio, london!

catching the heathrow express back to the airport from paddington station – cheerio, london!

 

the merriest of travel gifts

best-travel-gifts-for-christmas

a couple weeks late, but happy new year!  the holidays are always a whirlwind for me with travel and catching up with out of town friends; it can be busy, but it’s by far my favorite time of year.  this year, i found everyone talking about their travels a bit more – is it because i usually have travel on the brain, or are people starting to value more the time spent exploring and make it a priority?  i hope the latter, but can’t quite be sure.  i was lucky enough to hear friends’ and family’s stories from their recent trips to belgium, mexico, germany, new york, peru, argentina, france, and india.  what fun!

the gifts i received this year reflected the jetsetter spirit, and made them so fun to open!  from handmaid linens from mexico to kate spade’s new travel picture book (please just go buy it – it is perfect), it seems that new sights and adventures were on everyone’s minds.  take a look, and let me know your favorite gifts from the holidays.

cheers to you and yours, and happy new year!

1. let’s be adventurers tote bag  2. maps of the imagination notecards  (also, please check out more of this artist’s phenomenal work here)  3. salt cellar and pink himalayan salt from the filling station at chelsea market from my bestie’s recent trip to nyc  4. handmaid table runner from mexico from my sister-in-law’s recent trip to san miguel de allende  5. belgian chocolates from galler chocolatier, courtesy of my friend, laura’s, recent adventures in belgium (yes, she lives there now)  6. kate spade’s places to go, people to see book  7. hand crocheted hand warmers from nepal, found in the paris christmas market by my dear friends  8. silver compass necklace

christmas with jaunt!

it is officially the christmas and holiday season, and i couldn’t be more excited!  the tree is up, some presents are wrapped, and my allergies are flaring up at my pine-scented candle.  ’tis the season.

such great memories from our group trip to new orleans this past summer!

such great memories from our group trip to new orleans this past summer!

a couple of years ago i started a tradition of purchasing ornaments from each place i travel.  unpacking the ornaments was so much fun this year after finally building up a little collection!  each ornament has a story, even if it’s just the story of trying to hunt one down (apparently christmas tree ornaments aren’t a big deal in africa – duh – so i had to fashion a key chain into an makeshift ornament).

this was originally a key chain that has now been transformed into some holiday cheer. cheers to south africa and safaris!

this was originally a key chain that has now been transformed into some holiday cheer. cheers to south africa and safaris!

my favorite is probably the clay creation we found in carmel, california during our first anniversary road trip up the central california coast (spoiler alert: central california is the most beautiful part of the country; not sure why i haven’t written about it yet!).  the store personalized it for us by writing each city we visited during our trip on the stockings – so fun!

i love this ornament! it includes all (ok, most) of the places we visited on our first anniversary road trip: san luis obispo (SLO), cayucos, paso robles, big sur, carmel, and half moon bay.

i love this ornament! it includes all (ok, most) of the places we visited on our first anniversary road trip: san luis obispo (SLO), cayucos, paso robles, big sur, carmel, and half moon bay.

see below for more photos of my favorites.  do you have any souvenirs you seek out while traveling?

ok, the truth is that my grandma gave me this ornament. but it's one of my favorites because new york is one of my favorites, so it makes the post.

ok, the truth is that my grandma gave me this ornament. but it’s one of my favorites because new york is one of my favorites, so it makes the post.

i bought this in sedona sometime between hiking giant red rocks and hugging trees while learning of the vortex. check it out.

i bought this in sedona, arizona sometime between hiking giant red rocks and hugging trees while learning of the vortex. check it out.

this is the alamo from san antonio. #neverforget my husband and i went there on our second wedding anniversary (to san antonio, not the alamo specifically). san antonio is awesome - do go!

this is the alamo from san antonio. #neverforget my husband and i went there on our second wedding anniversary (to san antonio, not the alamo specifically). san antonio is awesome – do go!

the newest addition to my collection: a mickey mouse hat! i went to orlando last week for training, and picked this cute guy up in epcot.

the newest addition to my collection: a mickey mouse hat! i went to orlando last week for training, and picked this cute guy up in epcot.

my jaunts: new orleans jazz

new orleans was always intriguing to me.  so close to where i grew up in oklahoma, but seemingly miles away in every other sense:  the food, the jazz, the slight sense of grit and corruption that lies just beneath the surface of its varied architecture.  i’ve known people who have moved to new orleans for school and then never left.  they say it gets in you and you can’t leave, even if you try.  so i was excited to (finally) explore the town and understand this spirit of new orleans.

jazz and beats at maison on frenchmen street

jazz and beats at maison on frenchmen street

we traveled with friends and found the most amazingly quintessential new orleans house on airbnb in the heart of frenchmen street, just across the street from washington square park.  note: do not stay in the french quarter.  rather, stay here, on frenchmen, amongst the jazz bars and the outdoor art market, and only a short walk away from the quarter (if you must, if only for cafe du monde beignets).

ok, cafe du monde is worth it. skip the line and go sit down: first come, first serve.

ok, cafe du monde is worth it. skip the line and go sit down: first come, first serve.

the jazz bars on frenchmen were my favorite part of new orleans.  walking up frenchmen, loud and urgent jazz rushes from inside the clubs and greets you, demanding you step in for a while.  should you accept, you’ll most likely find packed spaces, locals sipping abita beer, and potentially a bachelorette party or two.  step into the spotted cat music club, a small bar recommended by new york times’ 36 hours, where i spent the good part of an hour enthralled by the couples who charged in and started swing dancing with such purpose that it was both thrilling and catatonic.

dancers and jazz at the spotted club music club

dancers and jazz at the spotted club music club

some bars require reservations for seats (such as snug harbor jazz bistro), while others pull you in spontaneously as you walk by.  one night, we walked past maison when we heard a mix of hip hop and jazz coming from inside.  it was different and immediately piqued my interest, and i couldn’t help but dance along.  we walked in to find a group of around eight guys, all young, that switched between rapping and raucous playing of their instruments (think: kanye’s “all of the lights,” though younger and more raw).  at one point, one member left the club to go outside for a smoke break.  he couldn’t resist the music, though, and started playing his trombone from the street in the middle of pedestrians walking by.  the music has a way of taking hold of you like that and not letting go.

maison jazz club

he couldn’t resist – a musician plays from the sidewalk during his smoke break

if the music at a particular place wasn’t doing it for us, we’d move on; there are too many bars offering different types of music that you should never settle for mediocrity.  our favorite spot one night would be boring the next.  keep walking, and you’ll find what you’re after.  some of my favorite spots (all within walking distance) were dba, spotted cat, and maison.  i also heard that blue nile was fantastic, though we never stepped inside.

live jazz at d.b.a. - lots of dancing here

live jazz at d.b.a. – lots of dancing here

each night, we’d walk up frenchmen, listen to jazz, dance along, drink, and cheer for more.  between sets we’d switch locations or stroll through the outdoor art market just next door (check out brett henderson’s booth for some really cool photos overlaid with maps of new orleans).

the art market on frenchmen street

the art market on frenchmen street

walking back to the house post-jazz, we’d buy pizza at the pop-up pizza pirate (it’s literally in the shape of a pirate ship) and sit on our balcony overlooking washington square park listening to the lingering jazz and conversations of late-night walkers pass by. this was new orleans by night, the time to see the city for what it is.  now that i’ve seen its spirit, i’m a believer.

the best of frenchmen street

the best of frenchmen street

my jaunts: the texas state fair

the ou/tx red river showdown in the cotton bowl. boomer!

the ou/tx red river showdown in the cotton bowl. boomer!

as cooler weather rolls in, summer is starting to wave good-bye, and what a great summer she was!  favorites included grilling out on warm evenings in our backyard (so nice to be back to the land of warm nights!), patio trips to boulevardier, brunch at the grape, trying to find the best pizza in town (cane rosso is currently winning that challenge, but you can expect this challenge to definitely extend into fall!), and picnic-ing across town with the lovely dallas picnic society.

lakeside park with the dallas picnic society

lakeside park with the dallas picnic society

but fall is here, and that means a lot of things: boots, apple cider, fire pits, college football, and of course, the texas state fair.  i haven’t been in several years, but this year my husband bought me tickets to the famous red river showdown football rivalry between oklahoma and texas, which takes place at the cotton bowl, which is situated right smack dab in the middle of the fair.  the temperatures had dropped significantly the night before, so we bundled up and took the train down to fair park to check it out.

the cotton bowl

the cotton bowl – scene of the famous oklahoma/texas red river showdown each october, in the middle of the texas state fair

it’s difficult to explain the texas state fair if you haven’t been before, so allow me to describe with a few photos.  the fair sits in the middle of the art deco fair park complex, which also houses the women’s museum, the texas discovery gardens, and an outdoor music venue, among many others.  in other words, it’s giant.  big tex greets you in his famous texas drawl as you walk down the main promenade.  this is the new big tex after the original from 1952 splendidly caught on fire in 2012 (funny/not funny – it was also the year big tex turned 60, was given an AARP card, and had shades of grey added to his hair – #godblesstexas).

the new and improved big tex

the new and improved big tex – howwwwwdy, folllllks

the fair has a livestock section with goat competitions, pig and ostrich races, cattle, and horses.  it has an automobile building that showcases new cars and a creative arts section with prize-winning quilts  and cooking challenges by chefs. there is a building filled with inventors hawking their latest gadgets and a relaxation tent filled with new hot tubs, massage chairs, mattresses, and more.  weirded out yet?

goats at texas state fair

these are goats. competing. with a giant ceiling fan.

because then there is the food, the glorious fried food that booths compete over each year, trying to outdo each other with the most outlandish fried goodness.  there have been fried oreos, fried s’mores, fried coke, even fried butter!  this year i tried the fried sriracha balls (ok, delicious) and the fried pb&j sandwich with bananas.  but the classic is fletcher’s corny dog, freshly dipped upon your order and just absolutely amazing.

fletcher's corny dog

the famous freshly-dipped fletcher’s corny dog – a state fair must-eat.

beyond the food booths are the crazy carnival rides and games, which range from individual booths where you can shoot balloons to win a giant stuffed life-size gorilla to the texas star, a 212-foot ferris wheel that gives you views of all of dallas.

carnival games

carnival games at the texas state fair

and finally, the game.  oklahoma vs. texas, played at the exact half-way point between the two schools.  students descend in droves from norman and austin, and girls don teeny flowy dresses in school colors with the mandatory cowboy boots.  the players, the bands, the mascots – everything is a competition and the game itself never disappoints, especially when oklahoma somehow manages to win with a completely terrible offense.

ou/texas style

boots and legs and dresses and hats – boomer.

cool temperatures, corny dogs, and the red river showdown…fall is officially here.  cheers!

what are some of your favorite things to do in fall?

technology tuesday: afar and duolingo apps

technology-tuesday

after a (kind of long) hiatus, technology tuesday returns!  mainly because there are two FREE apps in my life right now – afar and duolingo – that a) i’m mildly obsessed with and b) are helping me become a better explorer.

the first is the afar travel app from afar magazine.  if you’re not familiar with afar, it’s a truly wonderful travel magazine that’s fairly new (started within the past couple of years), and provides off-the-beaten-path travel inspiration.  my best friend gave me a subscription for my birthday last year and i eagerly await its arrival each month.

the app is cool in that is lets everyone (i.e., its writers, its readers, and you!) create highlights of cool places to see, eat, and drink anywhere around the world.  creating a highlight is extremely easy: 1) snap photo, 2) write brief description of why your highlight (e.g., a cool restaurant) is worth someone’s time, 3) tag it with descriptors and a location, and 4) you’re ready to post and share!  i’ve created a lot of highlights for dallas, which you can see on my highlight page.

snapshots of the afar app

snapshots of the afar app: (left) highlights in downtown dallas based on reviews of members, and (right) scenes of highlights i’ve added throughout dallas

afar is also great if you’re planning a trip, as you can save other people’s highlights to an itinerary.  last summer before my trip to south africa, i saved a dozen or so highlights from cape town into an itinerary, which i then downloaded to my phone so i could view them without wifi or cell service.  genius.  it’s like pinterest for travelers on the go.

my afar itinerary

more of the afar app: (left) a couple of the highlights i saved to my south africa itinerary, with (right) the details of one of my saved highlights. good news: you can download it for easy viewing while traveling!

the second app, duolingo, was recommended to me by my friend, julia, and it helps you learn a new language or improve your skillls on a language you partially know.  my husband downloaded it about a month ago and started spending five minutes each day relearning german.  i heard him muttering phrases in german and became intrigued.

i decided to download to help refresh my spanish skills, which have been somewhat dormant since my summer abroad in spain, and several trips to argentina, chile, and spain (ok, i also like to order margaritas at mi cocina in spanish, but i don’t think that counts).  duolingo starts with a placement test, and then creates a lesson plan based on the results from the placement test.  i committed to five minutes per day, and each night i receive push notifications to complete the lessons before i go to bed.

learn a language with duolingo!

learn a language with duolingo! track your progress (left) and improve pronunciation skills (right).

the lessons are grouped by categories, and include translating sentences that are written and spoken, learning new phrases and verb tenses, speaking into the microphone to improve pronunciation, and improving knowledge of spanish sentence structures.  once i complete a lesson, it may prompt me to go back and brush up on skills i have already completed.  i like this because it keeps enhancing and improving my knowledge of the language rather than pushing forward all the time.  (bonus tip: sometimes the sentences to translate are…strange.  follow @shitduosays on twitter for the very best – #goldmine.)

a few scenes from the easy-to-use duolingo app

a few scenes from the easy-to-use duolingo app

overall, duolingo is fun and i look forward to the five minutes i spend on it each day (let’s be honest, it usually turns into ten minutes).  i can also compete with friends and track my progress on a graph, which is always great for the accountant in me. and did i mention it’s free?  and it gets amazing reviews rivaled only by the (expensive) rosetta stone?  check it out.

do you have any favorite apps i should check out?

jaunt chats: trancoso, brazil

my friend, derek, recently traveled to trancoso, brazil for his honeymoon with his lovely wife, brandace.  i hadn’t heard much about trancoso, but vaguely knew of bahia.  his photos floored me and i begged him to write about his trip for jaunt.  thankfully, he agreed, and it’s safe to say that most of you will add trancoso to your travel list before you finish reading.  enjoy!

trancoso-brazil-beach

making your honeymoon your own…for better or for worse

when you became engaged, you are not only committing to a lifelong marriage but also to months of stressful wedding planning.  perhaps that is why the honeymoon has become the quintessence of unwinding.  luckily for me, my future wife and mother-in-law assumed most of the tasks of sorting through flower arrangements and table linens, thus leaving me with my favorite hobby: travel planning.

for me, thoughtfully arranging a vacation with my new bride was just as important as arranging our wedding itinerary. i began exploring options by visiting popular travel websites, “top 10 honeymoon destinations” slideshows, and other married friends’ facebook albums.  every location promised secluded romance, tropical beverages, and beautiful seascapes to take the obligatory “feet on beach” instagram.

trancoso-brazil-beach-shot

i settled on a spot that would deliver all of those requisites and much more; however, you would not find trancoso on any “top 10 honeymoon” list.  in the remote discovery coast of bahia, brazil, sits a half-century old fisherman’s town that only received electricity 15 years before our arrival. the inherent risks to choosing a place like trancoso for a honeymoon included all of the possible nightmares of foreign travel: 18 hours of planes, airports, dodgy roads, poor plumbing, and a language barrier. but doing a little homework would ease those fears and trancoso would prove to have come a long way over the last decade.

brazil – my own

my mother is brazilian and i have always considered myself half brazilian; that is, until i was forced to deny my dual citizenship in order to obtain a tourist visa, otherwise face the long battle of renewing a brazilian passport used only once as a toddler.  nevertheless, i was determined to explore a slice of my heritage and share the experience with my wife.  also weighing on the decision was the upcoming world cup, which would be hosted by brazil in the days following our departure.  for the locals, the anticipation of the world cup provided an air of excitement that outweighed the woes of preparation.

trancoso-brazil-resortthe eventual winners of the world cup would not miss the enchantment of the discovery coast, either.  in brilliant tactic, the german national team set up “camp” just north of trancoso so they could adapt to brazil’s weather conditions and train in relative privacy.  their accommodations seemed to fit the building code of coastal bahian living: natural wood framed, open-air bungalows equipped with modern luxuries.  no one who sees pictures of bahia’s beach-lined villas would say that these people are roughing it.  quite the opposite, the wealthy and fortunate vacationers have discovered a style of living that could only be achieved in coastal bahia.

trancoso - paradise discovered

the road to trancoso was not originally paved in gold.  in fact, the roads arriving to trancoso are still not paved at all.  the town and its locals seem to cherish some of its oldworld feels in spite of the recent renovations.  when the mode of transportation is not by foot, locals find a dirt bike or the rare pickup truck sufficient for traversing the 3-mile wide city.  for tourists, trancoso is mostly confined to your private villa resort and the town square called quadrado.  what you will not find confining in trancoso are the endless beaches. except for the few beachfront pousadas (private inns) and restaurants, you could easily stroll the main 1-mile stretch of beach without passing another person.

trancoso-brazil-beaches

trancoso has become a popular vacation destination for wealthy brazilians and urban youth looking to party.  during carnival and other summer holidays, trancoso will transform from a quiet hideaway to a 24 hour sun-drenched nightclub, a “paradox and dream” amongst urban brazilians and free-spirit bahians who have witnessed the intermingling of their complex and simple worlds.  more often, the locals are required to adapt to the draw of their own private paradise.

our honeymoon happened to land during the “off-season” (based on brazilian standards) when most beach-going brazilians choose not to put up with chilly 75 degree days and the occasional rainstorm.  for that reason, we were able to experience trancoso during its quiet season. we felt as though we had the beach and villa resort to ourselves.  and with all that space to yourself, you find it natural to want interaction with whoever crosses your path.  often that interaction was only with local staff or bartenders, and despite the language barrier (we created our own portuguese-spanish hybrid dialect), the conversation was always pleasant.

trancoso-brazil-honeymoon-resort

when planning the trip, i understood the key to a tranquil honeymoon was to keep the itinerary open and flexible.  we knew of a handful of activities offered by local groups but resisted scheduling anything more than a day ahead.  when the weather forecast called for rain the next day, we booked a canopy-covered, outdoor couples massage.  when we were bored of the beach, we booked a quick round of golf.  when we got tired of the same scenery and routine, we hired a car service to take us to another unique beach.

by the end of the trip, our minds and bodies were in perfect harmony with the trancoso way of life.

trancoso-brazil-relaxing

for better or for worse

making a vacation experience your own forces you to takea leap of faith.  the risks of traveling a less beaten path often means you will make new discoveries.  some good and some bad, but it’s usually the obstacles we overcome while traveling that give us the longest lasting memories.

after about two days of unwinding it had become clear that the memories my wife and i were making were always going to be our own.  a blank itinerary with only a room reservation and a return flight home gave us the freedom to face new challenges together.

trancoso-honeymoon

the “top 10 honeymoon destinations” lists will probably never bear the name trancoso.  truthfully, we (and the locals) do not care if it ever does.  it’s difficult to say whether our stories and pictures will ever inspire others to book a trip to trancoso.  but we hope that more couples make travel a mode for self-realization rather than just fulfilling a predetermined checklist.

after all, your honeymoon will always and only be your honeymoon. and much like your marriage, you have committed to a lifetime of building your own memories for better or for worse.  you have the opportunity to write the first review.

my favorite products: SoLA

i know it’s already mid-september (how?!), but i keep wanting to hold on to those last few scorching hot days. temperatures of 100+ degrees and crazy humidity?  bring it on.  as long as i get my warm nights and endless amounts of sun, i’m one happy camper.  so i’m pretty thrilled that i stumbled upon sisters of los angeles (SoLA), founded by three amazing angeleno women, who, between them, add architect, author, product development specialist, manufacturer’s rep, fashion/lifestyle publicist, and marketing expert to their resumes.  SoLA sells unique city-themed gifts that immediately brought back memories of living in los feliz and soaking up the sun.

and hark!  SoLA sells products for a variety of cities, though los angeles-themed goods make up their largest selection.  here are a few of my favorite gifts from their site.  (fact: i doubt i can live without that los angeles beach towel/sun or smog tumbler set.)  which are your favorites?

los angeles beach towel, $40:

los-angeles-beach-towel

dallas candle, $15:

SoLA-dallas-candle

new york friendship brackelet, $7:

SoLA-ny-friendship-bracelet

golden state rocks – sun or smog, $48:

SoLA-sun-or-smog

 

boston mug, $15 - 50% of purchase price will be donated to onefundboston.org which was founded by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino to help the people most affected by the tragic events that occurred in Boston on April 15, 2013.

SoLA-boston-mug

beaches women’s t-shirt, $42:

SoLA-womens-beach-tshirt

SoLA-womens-beach-tshirt-back

las vegas mug, $15:

SoLA-las-vegas-mug

big san diego beach tote, $35:

big-san-diego-beach-tote