my jaunts: paris

parisians line the canal st. martin during the summer months; one of my favorite places to visit

parisians line the canal st. martin during the summer months; one of my favorite places to visit

even with valentine’s day behind us, i continue to think back to one of my favorite and most romantic trips: paris.  yes, it’s a cliché and yes, everyone loves paris, but there is a reason it steals the hearts of so many; in my mind, it is simply perfect. and my most favorite parts were not the touristy parts that make paris so famous, but rather a few neighborhoods in the northeast part of the city that felt so removed from visitors (could it be true?) that i found myself returning again and again during our week in town.  i struggled with how to write about paris, so i went back to my trip journal so you can see it through my eyes.  i’ve chosen the parts that detail our time spent in my favorite arrondissements (aka neighborhoods in paris): the 10th, 19th, and 20th.  stay tuned for more posts about other areas, but these below were my very favorites.

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8.4.15
we are in paris!  i love this city more than i would have thought.  we arrived on sunday afternoon after taking the train from stuttgart, and headed north to our hotel in the pigalle.  this was formerly a seedy area known for sex shops and crime, but is quite nice now and does not have many tourists (bonus).  our hotel – the astotel hotel joyce – is fantastic.  whimsically decorated with lots of light and pops of color, it is perfect for our stay.  the rooms are small by american standards, but i believe quite roomy by parisian standards (and free breakfast!).

our cheery room at the hotel joyce

our cheery room at the hotel joyce

after unpacking and settling in, we took the metro to the 10th arrondissement, which surrounds the canal st. martin.  i adore this area as it is filled with people (everywhere locals surround the canal with picnics and wine – people of all ages – no tourists).  lots of young people, as well.  somewhat of a hipster neighborhood, cafes and bars line the canal, along with boutique shops (most closed either due to being a sunday night or the august holiday when the town leaves on vacation).  one cafe that looked v. pleasing was the cafe du nord, based on the movie of the same name.

dining along the canal st. martin on a sunday evening.

dining along the canal st. martin on a sunday evening.

we bought a pizza at the pink flamingo, where they give you a bright pink balloon upon ordering take-out.  you can then go sit along the canal with your balloon and they will bring your pizza to you.  so charming.  parker ordered a beer and i asked the waiter if it was ok to drink along the canal.  he laughed and said “of course – everyone does!”  loving paris already.

waiting for our pizza from pink flamingo while enjoying the warm summer parisian nights.

waiting for our pizza from pink flamingo while enjoying the warm summer parisian nights.

i can’t reiterate enough how much i loved this area – locals are everywhere, sitting along the canals, strolling across the bridges, crowding the cafés, as if it’s required for people to come here on a sunday evening.  we walked around for a bit enjoying the scene before popping into le comptoir général, part bar, part vintage store, part experience, all hipster. the theme changes every few months and this month was 80s US movies (think: cocktail, the goonies, gremlins, breakfast club, etc.).  the bar is located in a giant building at the end of an unmarked alley.  it is separated into rooms with different themes and decorated with memorabilia from each movie.  most parisians, however, crowded outside in the small leafy courtyard to smoke.

waiting for a drink in a (then) 80s-themed le comptoir général

waiting for a drink in a (then) 80s-themed le comptoir général

we crossed the canal and settled in at chez prune, which seemed quite popular.  parker ordered red wine and i had strawberry juice [pregnant at the time] and we sat and watched the locals as it grew dark.  still no tourists – how can this be?  that evening, when we headed back to the metro, which is on a large square called the place de la république, we found a movie being screened and hundreds of parisians sitting in the square to watch.

a public movie screening at the place de la république.

a public movie screening at the place de la république.

8.7.15
today we spent our time back in the 10th arrondissement, which i just adore.  we first went to the père lachaise cemetary and saw the graves/tombs of chopin, jim morrison, gertrude stein, oscar wilde, edith piaf, and sarah bernhardt.  spectacular atmosphere, much like the cemetary in buenos aires, but hilly and lush.  v. green.  really enjoyed it.

sarah bernhardt's grave inside the père lachaise cemetary.

sarah bernhardt’s grave inside the père lachaise cemetary.

we  rode the metro back to the canal st. martin and had a perfect lunch at hotel du nord.  i had a cream of leek soup with a fresh salmon salad with watermelon and pineapple.  p. had a cucumber/ricotta starter with the lamb for an entree.  très bien.  the service was excellent.  no one spoke english – was a delight.  it seemed like the quintessential parisian experience.

delightful meals and friendly service at the hotel du nord café.

delightful meals and friendly service at the hotel du nord café.

we walked up the canal, stopping in a few cute stores along the way (loved the bookstore, artazart), until we reached the joeurs station.  in the summer, paris has a program called “paris plage,” where the city transforms certain areas of the river/canals into beaches.  we stopped at this one – la villette – for a look.  parisians reading in loungers in their swimsuits, children playing in the sand, a gelato stand from which we eagerly partook, games, boats to rent by the hour to explore the canal, etc.  v. lively and fun scene – also diverse.

the artazart bookshop was a true delight!

the artazart bookshop was a true delight!

8.8.15
well, as it turns out, i have a horrible habit of never writing down what happens on my last day of a vacation (i’m usually writing a day in arrears, and i’m too sad on the flight home to recount that last day).  so alas, i’m writing this part from memory.  on our last evening in paris, we headed to the parc des buttes-chaumont, in the 19th arrondissement.  it. was. perfect.  this park should be a stop for every person visiting paris!

parisians picnic in the park while overlooking northeast paris

parisians picnic in the park while overlooking northeast paris

it is stunning.  it was built in 1867 by jean-charles alphand, and is full of steep green hills that take your breath away (literally, climbing the hills really took it out of my 6-month pregnant body). there are tall trees, footpaths, a waterfall, a stream, a temple atop a plunging cliff (the path to the temple was closed when we were there, but we witnessed a few daring teens in the temple anyway).  people are picnicking, running, walking their dogs, visiting with friends, reading.

stunning cliff views with the temple atop the parc des buttes chaumont

stunning cliff views with the temple atop the parc des buttes chaumont

my very favorite part of the park, however, was rosa bonheur, a seemingly parisian take on the german beer garden, and what the parisians call ginguettes.  cheap wine, cheese, sandwiches, meats, and ice cream, while loud 20- and 30-something parisians eat, drink, laugh, debate, and smoke.  it seemed like the perfect place for happy hour, and an even more perfect place to rest our feet while gazing out at the lush landscapes and enjoying a nice bottle of rosé (ok, i ordered water, but the two women in front of me in line split a bottle of rosé and a tub of cheese – perfection?).  get there before 7pm or risk standing in line for longer than you’ll want.

waiting for our snacks inside rosa bonheur, a ganguette inside the parc des buttes-chaumont

waiting for our snacks inside rosa bonheur, a ganguette inside the parc des buttes-chaumont

**enjoy!**

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!

 

jaunt chats: wherever you go, there you are

Just a day in England

Just a day in England

how delighted i was when an old friend from oklahoma wrote to tell me how much she enjoyed jaunt. it has been so much fun for me to write, and sometimes i just assume i’m the only one reading. kelly embodies the true spirit of jaunt, finding adventure wherever life takes her. she offered to write about living in a foreign land, as this is something about which she knows quite a bit. i was completely unprepared, though, for the beautiful post she returned to me last week. so perfectly worded and honest, please join me in convincing her to start her own blog. i want to read more.

India- riding an elephant on my birthday!

India- riding an elephant on my birthday!

“Having now lived, worked and volunteered in the US, Czech Republic, UK, India and Canada and travelled to 35 countries here is what I know. Not much. The more you learn the more you know how very little you can really know. I may have a Master’s but I’ve learned much more from experience and people I’ve really connected with the world round. I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma and sometimes I think back to the girl I was (our entire body – cells and skin – is replaced every 7 years so am I even really the same person? Just a thought… I would have been thrilled and delighted to hear that I would travel to and volunteer in India on my own, study at the University of London, marry my own Mr. Darcey and travel to 35 countries. How did I do that, it’s magic really. How did I get myself here? I often think… what else might be possible?

My husband, Mark and I at Kent Castle

My husband, Mark and I at Kent Castle

When you live in a different culture you are changed. You can never un-know the precise detail with which the English use our shared language. I never used the word pedantic before moving there. You start to see your own culture as outsiders do. This can be enlightening and uncomfortable. You could always pick out the Americans on the tube as they speak in a tone 8 octaves above every other sane person on the train. Was I ever that loud? Did I sound that brash? Yes. After 7 years in the UK trying to assimilate, taking tea, donning my vintage frocks and developing the usual pint after every imaginable activity (Film and a pint, jog and a pint, cycle ride and a pint , shopping and a pint… etc.) the foreign became the norm as did the aspects I adored about British culture. The humour interjected at every single possible opportunity, the non- PC flirting that on a good day boosts your self-esteem (it’s not doing any harm is it eh?) on a bad day it re-invigorated my feminism! When you fall into a pattern of life, the seasonal norms that are comforting, eating cream teas in pub gardens in summer, heavy pies and roast dinners in Autumn and Winter, picking up local venison from the country estate nearby, the noise of pheasant hunting in the distance on country walks and knowing that Christmas starts Dec 1st with heaps of minced pies, chocolates and brandy butter. It is expected and very well accepted to gain 5 pounds in December. Normal. You’ll need the fat to keep warm in poorly insulated old housing! I LOVE this mind set, much healthier than our skinny = successful, good, worthy, pretty, intelligent culture in the US. There were aspects of British life I could never quite adjust to and ultimately I knew I wasn’t happy to stay there forever even though I did get my British citizenship.

Citizenship Ceremony - Bristol England 2011

Citizenship Ceremony – Bristol England 2011

The daily bureaucracy is very trying. You think getting a correct electric meter reading is something fairly simple. Think again. Setting up bank accounts, converting your driver’s license, parking could all be quite stressful. Hence the frequent pub visits and tea times, but therein lays my revelation. In order to enjoy the lovely, (magical even) parts of living in England you just had to put up with and to really hit the nail on the head, joke about the utter pain of existing and operating in the UK. Sweet and sour if you will. The British have made an art of making fun of their own national short comings ( and everyone else’s) Something the US could really learn from. They could learn from our DVLA offices though, it’s really not that hard to process a driving license.

on holiday in Scotland March 2011 (very ill with morning sickness!)

on holiday in Scotland March 2011 (very ill with morning sickness!)

I now feel not quite American, not quite British, although there was quite a lot of proving, taking the citizenship exam. So I figured why not try being Canadian next? I am only 11 months in to living and working in Canada and I am reserving final judgements and anthropological assessments…

West Coast of Canada since 2013

West Coast of Canada since 2013

My shorter time in the Czech Republic was also trying (sobbing trying to speak broken Czech) and enriching (preforming with a folk dancing troupe in a 90 year old dress in the National Ball) in hind sight.

I lived in Prague 7 in an old villa, previously occupied by communist party officials. The family was welcoming in a Czech sort of way, which looks very different than an American welcome. I knew I was welcome because the house parents were often in their underwear on Saturday mornings! I knew I was welcome because I was invited to go drag car racing on an ex-communist air base along with the whole family. Cultural acceptance and immersion means getting out of your comfort zone and into a racing car with a full face helmet on. The area had become a nature reserve with high radiation levels in all the wildlife due to the poor management of military land. What a poignant way to learn this with deer racing across the drag strip.

Bavaria for a friend's wedding

Bavaria for a friend’s wedding

I found myself on trams out to the suburbs getting lost, trying to find niche folk dancing clubs and getting the oddest reception upon my arrival. Why do you want to do this? There was always genuine surprise at anyone’s interest in 1.the Czech Republic 2. Traditional dance. Cultural Anthropology was my (very useful) undergraduate major. I developed a close knit group of Czech friends through this dance and learned people’s personal stories and histories of the Velvet Revolution. There is so much more to Prague and the Czech nation than the normal 3 day tour can show you.

Wine Country - Kelowna British Columbia with my daughter Sasha

Wine Country – Kelowna British Columbia with my daughter Sasha

I suppose the only real lessons from these diverse, amazing, uncomfortable, confusing, heart wrenching and soul connecting, dancing in circles with strangers until they are your genuine friends moments and collections of moments that make up our utterly messy and beautiful lives is that everywhere you go there is something exotic. Everyone you meet may be on your wave length, even the hardened nuns I worked with in India- I softened them up in the end! Every place can be sacred, every field golden, every mountain a triumph. If you want to go, go. If you want to be a new person, you might already be. You can be a tourist in your own town; you can discover a new dish or shop or park in Rome or in the next county and it’s all part of being truly alive.”

Kelly Schaecher – Vancouver, Canada

Morocco

Morocco

my jaunts: venice, italy

i bought this postcard while i was there - stunning! it is framed in my office. st. mark's floods each year, and people must either boat across or walk across narrow benches that line the perimeter (see the background)

i bought this postcard while i was there – stunning! it is framed in my office. st. mark’s floods each year, and people must either boat across or walk across narrow benches that line the perimeter (see the background)

i’ve been dreading writing this post, because i  know it will simply not do venice any justice.  but it’s freezing and dreary in dallas today, and all i can think about is sweet, mysterious venice.  you see, venice is absolutely, definitely, hands-down my favorite city i have ever visited.  ever.  a lot of people don’t like venice.  i do not understand these people.  it is magical.  it is like no place you have ever seen before.  and if you can stay long enough to explore more than just the tourist sites, you will understand how people can fall in love with a city.

i just adored the houses on the water with their boats docked outside.

i just adored the houses on the water with their boats docked outside.

the first sight as you exit the train station is a large bridge and bustling canal with enough boats to create a traffic jam (you may also hear a native american band, which has always confused me, but i hear they are still there!).  there are no cars, no mopeds, no bikes.  the architecture is breathtaking – in fact, a simple square window appears only once along the grand canal.  the houses are faded, but each shows signs of former bright colors and detailed exterior frescos.  glancing inside the windows, you can still see the grandeur that was once venice – large chandeliers, carved ceilings, rich dark red and green walls, gold trimmings.

the grand canal on a cloudy day

the grand canal on a cloudy day

venice is filled with art galleries (the shopping is amazing with beautiful glass jewelry and home decor from the nearby island of murano), museums, and exhibits, and is host every other year to the huge biannual art show.  if you love art, plan in advance and do some research to find times to meet artists and attend exhibit openings.  the streets are paved with large gray stones, and rainbow pace (peace) flags hang from many windows.  the roads wind around and change names every few feet, becoming narrower and narrower until you are finally thrust into a huge, square plaza.  even with maps and the best of navigators (i.e. me), you will get lost.  multiple times.  just go with it.

outside of the biannual art show

outside of the biannual art show

though i highly recommend exploring the narrow and dark back roads for hidden restaurants, bars, and cafes, the tourist sites are also worth seeing.  along the grand canal sits st. mark’s square, with the famous harry’s bar, where cipriani invented the bellini (yum).  the piazza is grand, surrounded by st. mark’s basilica (inside, the floor ripples and dips and slides due to the marshy foundation underneath), doge’s palace, the campanile, and expensive restaurants with dueling orchestras.  definitely touristy, but an necessary visit for at least an afternoon/evening (if you’re willing to fork over some cash for the dueling orchestras, try florian’s, and be sure to tour the interior before leaving).  and everything truly is on a boat!  we saw a construction boat equipped with a crain, a fire boat with a hook and ladder, an ambulance docked outside the waterfront ER, a speed police boat, etc.

the exterior of st. mark's basilica - i wish my camera at the time had been better to capture the details

the exterior of st. mark’s basilica – i wish my camera at the time had been better to capture the details

across the grand canal is my favorite venetian site: the peggy guggenheim museum.  housed in her former palazzo, her surrealist collection that she amassed through supporting surrealist artists is breathtaking (let alone the views of the grand canal from her patio).  peggy was a kooky – some may say crazy – personality in venice, and she she ordered in her will that her art was never to leave venice until the day it sinks (which is happening, by the way – go quickly!).

colorful houses and boats in burano, italy, just a quick boat ride away from venice

colorful houses and boats in burano, italy, just a quick boat ride away from venice

for a nice day trip, head to the surrounding islands of murano and burano.  stop first at murano, known for its colorful glass.  you can explore artists’ studios (and watch them in action) and tour the glass museum, which explains the history of venetian glass.  spend the afternoon in burano, known for its lace and colorful houses.  each window box is filled with flowers and each door has a brightly colored boat nearby in the canal.  it remided me of the canal houses in puerto la cruz, venezuela, where i lived for a year in high school.  the lido beach to the south is also worth a stop if you’re there in the heat of the summer months.

who should go: artists, romantics, those looking for a window into the past

what to pack: walking shoes!  for nights out, you may want a wider, stacked heel or wedge to navigate the cobble-stone streets.

where to stay: to save money (venice can be expensive), try staying in the quieter parts of town with less tourist traffic.  we stayed on the south-eastern end of town, and found that we were surrounded by locals, excellent bakeries, and still walking distance to, well, the entire city.

what to read: sognare venezia, photographed by fernando bertuzzi.  this is my favorite book on venice, and captures the essence of the city much more completely and beautifully than college eva.

best advice: if you go the route of a gondola ride, bring a bottle of wine (tip from my friend, erin!)

en route to the biannual art festival in venice

en route to the biannual art festival in venice

ready for my close-up with st. mark's basilica and the campanile behind me

ready for my close-up with st. mark’s basilica and the campanile behind me

 

my jaunts: gypsy flamenco caves in grenada, spain

a typical grenada balcony, as seen during our night stroll through the sacromonte neighborhood

a typical grenada balcony, as seen during our night stroll through the sacromonte neighborhood

so, honest truth: spain is my favorite country in the world (outside of the US, obvs). i’ve spent the most time there, i studied abroad there, i (somewhat) speak the language, i’ve learned its history and read its novels. and one of my favorite evenings out in spain was to watch the flamenco dancers in the caves in grenada. touristy? yes. but totally unlike anything i had ever seen before.

at the flamenco show at zambra maria la canastera in the sacromonte neighborhood of grenada, spain

at the flamenco show at zambra maria la canastera in the sacromonte neighborhood of grenada, spain

imagine my surprise when – while watching anthony bourdain’s ‘parts unknown’ – i saw those same flamenco dancers on tv talking with tony! and i’m not talking about a similar cave with similar dancers down the street. nope, anthony met and talked with the exact same dancers in the exact same cave over ten years after i met and danced with them.

one of the dancers at maría la canastera in the gypsey caves of grenada

one of the dancers at maría la canastera in the gypsey caves of grenada

a friend i was studying abroad with found this amazing deal where we were picked up from our hotel, brought to the cave for the flamenco dancing (which included a drink), watched (and participated in!) the flamenco dancing, and then were led on a night tour of grenada, which culminated in a perfect view of the lit alhambra from across the cliff. we thought – and rightly so – that it was one of our best nights in spain. we were poor students studying abroad and our idea of entertainment was the street buskers outside. these guys were a major upgrade.

a typical grenada balcony, as seen during our night stroll through the sacromonte neighborhood

this guy totally owned it. check out his castanets! think the kids in the back are having a life-changing moment?

click here to see a brief video of bourdain enjoying the flamenco. however, you’ll need to watch the full episode to see videos of the actual dancing and interviews with the dancers. and check out my photos from 2003 with the same dancers, all clearly taken before i invested in a digital camera (those were the old days, kids). enjoy!

walking through the grenada cobble-stone streets at night.

walking through the grenada cobble-stone streets at night.

my jaunts: where do i go next??

one great thing about my job is that i currently earn four glorious weeks of vacation per year. this seems shockingly high given some of my friends’ vacation accruals (unless you live outside of the US, and then you are probably laughing hysterically that four weeks seems high). however, it is always so difficult to find the time to take it! i have so many ideas for future adventures, yet there just seems too little time to take them. this weekend i attended the dallas gilt city warehouse sale with my friend, becca, and i purchased the jetsetter (travel arm of gilt) bon voyage book. with it comes the ability to have a jetsetter concierge plan a vacation for me, even down to creating the itinerary and booking the hotels. this makes me very excited. excited is actually an understatement. i am giddy!

so now on to the difficult part: where to go? i’ll let you in on a few of my ideas, and please let me in on a few of yours! there is literally nowhere where i am uninterested in visiting, so the sky’s the limit!

  • southern africa – this is really at the top of my list. i’ve never visited africa before and, well, it’s huge. how do you even choose where to go in a giant CONTINENT? i read brendan’s adventures blog, where he drove a motorcycle through africa, and it has inspired me to explore the chobe national park in botswana and the red sand dunes in namibia. also, if you haven’t read his blog, you need to – beautiful writing and quite the adventure. i’ve also wanted to see victoria falls in zimbabwe/zambia and tour the wine country of south africa. sounds like i may be biting off more than i can chew, but when you’re already taking the longest flight of your life, you kind of want to take advantage of it. :)
  • yucatan peninsula, mexico – i have this vision of the most perfect road trip ever, but i’m still afraid for safety reasons of traveling to mexico (if you’ve been recently, please leave a comment letting me know if my fears are unfounded!).  i’d love to start in cancun, taking a brief jaunt to the islas de mujeres, where the beaches are supposed to be wonderful.  traveling south to tulum i could then take in the mayan ruins (though let’s be honest, can we really honor the mayans after the calendar-ending-in-2012 debacle?) and laze around on the breathtaking beaches.  next up would be a trip to the cenotes of the peninsula, which are these crazy sinkholes that have created other-worldly caves below the earth’s surface.  and finally, a trip to merida to see the old town and meet its people.
  • scandinavia – i don’t know much about scandinavia, but i’ve been drawn to it ever since the norway ride in epcot’s world adventure.  the design, the people, the bent on life – it’s all different and extremely fascinating.  i’d love to see the lush gardens, boat culture, clean streets, and try different foods.  from the cloud-covered island of litla dimun in the faroe islands to the glass igloos you can sleep in to view the northern lights in finland, i’m intrigued by the unique natural phenomenons that occur in this far north region.  viking river cruise, anyone?
  • turkey – well, turkey seems to have it all, and i’m always so excited to see friends post photos of trips here.  the markets look exotic with heaps of colorful spices; the country seems colorful and welcoming, with plenty to offer in the way of fantastic photo opportunities.  outside of the cities, the beaches are supposed to be beautiful, and the natural rock pools in pamukkale appear to be fake!
so where do i go? i’m leaning towards africa for the moment, but i am open to any suggestions. any if anyone has great ideas on how to fund these vacays, do fill me in on your secret.

my favorite: food markets

the gorgeous west side market in cleveland

the gorgeous west side market in cleveland

traveling a lot can become pricey, and one way i like to save a little money is by buying food at markets rather than eating every meal out at a restaurant. my husband and i did this in santorini for several meals (ok, it’s a little more fun when you’re eating a homemade sandwich overlooking the aegean from a private balcony). and in addition to saving money, i’ve found that i really enjoy exploring food markets. they give you a sense of the tastes of that area, allow you to talk with a lot of people, and they tend to be in colorful, bustling settings that allow for some pretty cool people-watching. smaller restaurants nestled inside the markets can have fantastic food, at a fraction of the price.

though difficult, i’ve narrowed down the list to give you three of my favorites. each was unique and very specific to city in which it’s located.

granville island public market, vancouver, canada – hugging the water on granville island across from vancouver, this market has it all. aside from quite the delicious breakfast, the market has the most gorgeous fruits that runs on for aisles. nestled among the food are wine stalls, gourmet food displays, stationery stores, and more. but that is just the beginning. head out back to find granville brewery (we stopped to try a beer flight), more shops, and great views.

inside the granville island public market in vancouver

inside the granville island public market in vancouver

west side market, cleveland, ohio – i was in cleveland for work last year, and took a cue from 36 hours to stop by the farmers’ market. heaven. i ordered a crepe from crêpes de luxe and sat high above the stalls, overlooking the fantastic architecture (over 100 years old) and customers as they shopped for their day’s meals. i had no idea cleveland was such a foodie city, and if you’re laughing about that as you read this, then you clearly haven’t discovered it yet, either. home to many renowned chefs, cleveland knows good food, and this market is the hub of it all.

west side market

outside the west side market in cleveland with the welcoming crew

la boqueria, barcelona, spain – i briefly touched on this market in my post on barcelona, but it deserves another mention. colorful fruits are next to fresh fish are next to bright juices are next to a candy display. the market is overwhelming yet exactly what i was looking for as i enjoyed a fresh salad from puerto latino and a café from el quím. and since it’s located just off the la rambla, the large pedestrian mall, the people-watching is superb.

spices and chilies and fruits, oh my! at la boqueria in barcelona.

spices and chilies and fruits, oh my! at la boqueria in barcelona.

do you know of any markets i should add to my list?

los huevos at la boqueria in barcelona.

los huevos at la boqueria in barcelona.

admiring the fruit at granville island public market in vancouver

admiring the fruit at granville island public market in vancouver

my jaunts: santorini, greece

view of the santorini caldera from our balcony at astra suites

view of the santorini caldera from our balcony at astra suites

my husband’s and my second anniversary was a couple of weeks ago (see our anniversary trip to san antonio here), and it got me to thinking about our previous trips together, namely our honeymoon that we took to the shockingly beautiful santorini, greece. i had seen the photos and thought there was no way it would be so astonishing in person. yep, it was. santorini can be expensive, but let me tell you, it is totally worth it.

these guys run the donkey rides from the port to the cliff's edge in fira.

these guys run the donkey rides from the port to the cliff’s edge in fira. no nonsense here. you get on a donkey and you ride. no regrets.

where to stay
so santorini is an island with multiple cities, not just one city like many people think. fira/thira is the port city, and is quite busy. filled with a lot of tourist stores (this is where the cruise ships dock on a daily basis), it also has some hidden gems. one in particular is the donkey ride you can take from the port down below (the only thing at sea level) up a winding (and completely dangerous by US standards) path to the cliff’s edge where the town resides. i highly recommend this, and i highly recommend doing it at night, so you can’t see just how sharp that cliff is that you’re climbing. oh yeah, if you’re into clubbing, stay in fira.

climbing the stone path from the port to fira on donkeys.

climbing the stone path from the port to fira…on donkeys…in the dark. terrifying/awesome.

oia is the nicest city in my opinion and lays claim to the most beautiful sunset in the world (i believe it – keep reading). it is also the furthest away from the port, so if you’re staying in oia and want to explore the island, you will definitely need a car or need to explore the bus options. imerovigli is between fira and oia, and is where we stayed at astra suites.

overlooking fira from imerovigli in santorini

overlooking fira from imerovigli in santorini

it is a 30 minute walk along the cliff’s edge to fira (which was a walk we made often and thoroughly enjoyed), which was just far enough away to get away from the crowds and enjoy a bit more of the true santorini lifestyle. i highly recommend astra (for more information on astra suites, see my triptease review) if for nothing else than you get the owner, george’s, suggestions for your time in santorini. which leads me to our next topic…

what to do
santorini was perfect for me in that it was big enough for me to explore and get to know another culture. but also small enough that you feel like you can sit at your hotel pool for a day and not feel guilty about doing nothing other than soaking in the breathtaking views. a few of my favorites things we did:

overlooking the caldera while hiking the santorini volcano

overlooking the caldera while hiking the santorini volcano

– boat cruise around the caldera – santorini is an island that was formed after a giant volcano erupted. there’s a chance it will still erupt. it’s the chance santorinians are willing to take when living on the island in exchange for living in utopia. the boat cruise we took sailed around the caldera and docked at the volcano site, which we hiked up while learning about the history of the island. we also visited the hot springs created by the volcano (which unfortunately have a strong sulphur smell) and swam in the sea while our captains made us dinner. we then sailed to oia where we watched the sunset while we were serenaded by saxophone (cheesy? yes. perfect? you betcha.).

the hot springs in santorini

swimming the hot springs in santorini – strong sulphur smells, but worth it!

explore the island – we rented a car one day and drove around the island. we stopped at megalochori, a small, quaint, narrow, white, artsy town with a cute square that held tavernas and wineries and giant fuschia flowers that appeared to be fake they were so pretty. adorable.

town entrance to megalachori on santorini

town entrance to megalachori on santorini

we then drove to akrotiri, which houses the site of the (then closed) ruins of minoan civilization. we parked and hiked around the cliff to the red beach – stunning. it’s a small beach at the bottom of the red volcanic cliff just filled with people.

the red beach in santorini

the red beach in santorini (see the throngs of people at the bottom of the cliff)

the next stop was perivolos, which houses the black beach on the back of the island – called the black beach due to the small black pebbles that line the water instead of sand – very good at exfoliating, but also so hot!  kind of a party vibe if you’re looking for that (think tons of beach bars and thumping music).

pebble "sand" from the black beach on the back of santorini island

pebble “sand” from the black beach on the back of santorini island

we wanted to explore a little more, so we hopped back in the car and headed to pyrgos, a quaint town on a hill in the middle of the island. an old venetian fort stands on top of the hill and inside is franco’s cafe, which provides sweeping views of the caldera and black beaches, all with classical music playing. it was quite nice after the craziness of the black beach. also, order a freddo. last stop: oia. best. stop. yet. the streets are narrow and the pedestrian paths are paved in marble and lined with art galleries, jewelry stores, and nice restaurants (a far cry from the tacky souvenir shops of fira). we parked just outside of town and walked in, which leads me to my final must-do of the island…

oia, santorini

oia, santorini – so perfect for food and sunsets and watching beautiful people stroll by.

– eat fresh seafood in oia while watching the sunset. magical. at the edge of oia, we descended 250 OLD stone stairs to the bay of ammoudi. about 10 fresh seafood restaurants are located here and we had made reservations at dimitri’s, recommended by our trusty friend, george. we arrived in time for the sunset and sat at the edge (literally) of the bay. one wrong step and we could have easily fallen in. the owner’s wife is canadian and she waited on us and helped us order our meal – some mezedes (appetizers, and p.s. order as many greek salads as you can – they are divine), some wine, and one whole fish to split between us.

dinner at dimitri's at the bay of ammoudi in oia, santorini

dinner at dimitri’s at the bay of ammoudi in oia, santorini

while the travel costs and accommodations can be pricey (do look into hostels or cities on the back of the island if that’s keeping you from going), santorini is worth every penny. i promise.

the santorini sunset, as seen from the bay of ammoudi in oia

the santorini sunset, as seen from the bay of ammoudi in oia

my favorites: art museums

my friend, kate, and i on the lawn at the getty center a few years back

my friend, kate, and i on the lawn at the getty center a few years back

i’m a bit of an art junkie; i can’t seem to stay away from museums in any city i visit. the more modern, the better, but i appreciate it all. here are some of my favorite museums throughout the world. there is no way to narrow it down to just three, so stay tuned for additions to this list throughout the year. what are your favorites?

  • the menil collection, houston, texas – my friend, amanda, found this museum while we were both visiting my parents after they moved to houston. known for its surrealist art collection (it includes a room with other-worldly gadgets, knick-knacks, masks, etc. owned by the surrealists – a personal fave everytime i visit), this is a must-see for every magritte, dalí, and miró fan. and best of all, it’s free.
  • peggy guggenheim collection, venice, italy – i visited this museum, housed in peggy guggenheim’s former home in venice, while studying abroad in asolo, italy. overlooking the grand canal, the museum includes art peggy collected throughout her avant garde life. i highly recommend the tour, which provides scandalous insights into the life of the collector. sadly, i have no photos from the museum, so please check out this google images link to see how grand the setting is.
  • the getty center, los angeles, california – it’s hard to not fall in love with the getty. overlooking west los angeles, the getty’s unbelievable views are rivaled only by the architecture and bright gardens within the musuem’s campus. i love(d) bringing a picnic to eat on the expansive green lawn, and then taking a tour of the latest photography exhibit. while it does cost to park (discounted after 5pm!), entrance to the museum and exhibits is…you guessed it…free!
the cactus garden at the getty center in los angeles

the cactus garden at the getty center in los angeles

the gardens at the getty center in los angeles

the gardens at the getty center in los angeles

menil collection, houston, texas

my friend, amanda, and me at the menil collection almost 15 (yikes!) years ago. still one of my very favorites, even though my love for permed hair has lapsed.