a southern jaunt: a road trip through the southern united states

southern-jaunt-2015

last spring, my husband and i traveled through the southern united states on a road trip.  4000 miles, nine states, and 17 cities later, we had seen a part of the country that we had never seen before.  the trip deserves multiple posts, but an overview is also in order.  starting in dallas we headed west to hot springs, arkansas, detoured in little rock for a quick trip to the clinton library, then headed north to memphis for several days.  in memphis, we visited the civil rights museum, which would unknowingly create a lens through which we viewed every city visited henceforth.  truly, truly a gem.  after learning about the roots of rock-n-roll and starting what would be a long study into southern bbq, we headed south into mississippi.

the civil rights museum in memphis, tennessee, at the site where mlk jr. was shot

the civil rights museum in memphis, tennessee, at the site where mlk jr. was shot

in one day, we paused briefly in oxford to visit the south’s literary capital and buy a few books at the fabulous square books store on the square, then headed southwest to clarksdale, the (probably official?) blues capital of the world. a brief description of this unbelievable town will not do it justice, so i will reserve my words for a later post.  snaking further south through the delta, we arrived in yazoo city, home of my husband’s favorite author, willie morris, before heading further south to vicksburg to stay the night.  if you have not previously visited mississippi, and also not visited the delta, it is a must.  if you don’t believe me, anthony bourdain has an episode on the delta that may just change your mind; it is very much like no where else.  it is here where i started reading eudora welty’s, the golden apples, a novel from 1949 about a fictional town in mississippi.  after visiting the civil rights museum in memphis, the book (and our travels) took on a new meaning: the south’s past is troubled and its future is somewhat complicated.  i went ahead and purchased a book about james meredith, ole miss’s first black student who risked his life for equal education, and wondered how that happened only 53 years ago.  who can tell what the next 50 years will hold?

a view of the square in oxford, mississippi as seen from the balcony of square books store

a view of the square in oxford, mississippi as seen from the balcony of square books store

venturing east the next morning, we stopped in tuscaloosa for (more) bbq before a brief stop for croissants and a visit to the oldest baseball stadium in america in birmingham, alabama.  we ended the day with family in atlanta, where the heaviness of the south was refreshingly lifted in the urban city and things seemed to return to normal for a couple of days.  driving into atlanta, we explored inman park (spoiler alert: loved), and lounged in the botanical gardens while reading more welty.

a quick jaunt to the inman park neighborhood of atlanta - very walkable and full of unique shops and restaurants

a quick jaunt to the inman park neighborhood of atlanta – very walkable and full of unique shops and restaurants

following several days of relaxation with family, we headed northeast to charleston, where the south reigned again.  charleston is a lovely city that almost seems fake (similar to the feeling i had when visiting georgetown, dc); it is filled with gorgeous colonial houses, cobblestone streets, and preppy boys donning sea green chino shorts with embroidered lobsters.  the food was amazing, as expected (bourdain’s been here, too), and we had an excellent tour guide in my husband’s lovely aunt.  the sea views were also quite refreshing – there is just nothing like the smell of salt water and the sound of crashing waves.

the picturesque college of charleston

the picturesque college of charleston

at this point, we were about halfway through our jaunt, so decided to head back.  turning westward, we also looked north and several hours later arrived in chapel hill, north carolina.  i do not even know where to begin with north carolina.  it is divine, and by far my favorite state of the trip.  lush, green, hilly, and clean (so clean!), still firmly rooted in the south, but with a bit of yankee sense.  we explored chapel hill, raleigh, and durham with the help of old friends, and then further explored winston-salem with even more friends.  what a fabulous place.  heading west from winston-salem, we entered the much-anticipated blue ridge parkway, the highway that snakes through the appalachian mountains.  this is an absolute must-visit for anyone who lives in the US (no excuses), and i do hope i can return some day for the fall foliage.  we ended our north carolina jaunt with a night in asheville, which is basically the next denver or austin (just wait) and also happened to feature the most amazing restaurant at which i’ve eaten in quite some time: curaté.  if you love spanish tapas, this place is the real deal.  much more on this gem later.

a quick break along the blue ridge parkway to take in the breathtaking views

a quick break along the blue ridge parkway to take in the breathtaking views

it is around this time that we began to tire of our nomadic life (shocker!). while i like to fancy myself an expert traveler, there really is no place like home.  we headed west through the gorgeous appalachians to nashville, where we spent several days exploring all of the hipster locales (i can’t wait to write about our adventures here) and ordering in food at night to rest our weary minds.  one last stop in fayetville and rogers, arkansas to see the absolutely stunning crystal bridges museum before we headed home.  this stop was a last minute decision and we almost nixed it due to our desire to head home,  but it was so close and i had heard such great things about the museum (founded by the walmart heiress, alice walton, from her personal collection), that we ultimately decided to add the extra night.  best decision of the trip.  this is a world class collection in a stunning building in the most unlikely place.  it is also free.  and did i mention stunning?  seriously, so very thrilled this level of art has been brought to middle america; everyone deserves access to the arts and this truly does not disappoint.  go!

inside the stunning crystal bridges museum in bentonville, arkansas

inside the stunning crystal bridges museum in bentonville, arkansas

after 15 days on the road, we headed back to dallas to our happy home.  what did i learn through my time in the south?  it’s complicated.  many places seem to still hold on to their storybook (for some) past, though those places are starting to see the futility of this choice.  while many places have since taken down the confederate flag, it still flies high in others.  the more urban areas have changed dramatically and offer truly exciting experiences with a diverse demographic.  nashville is no longer just for country lovers, and atlanta is much more than a cement-laden sprawling suburbia.  people are returning from the north to take advantage of more affordable costs of living and bringing with them new ideas and commerce that is changing the southern stereotypes.  i have a lot of hope for the south, and can’t wait to see what mississippi and north carolina are going to turn out in the next ten years.  but if you haven’t ever visited, do yourself a favor and plan some time soaking in the southern experience; it will definitely surprise you.

where are some of your favorite places in the south?

the gallery wall at the hatch show print shop, a local nashville institution

the gallery wall at the hatch show print shop, a local nashville institution

back in business

a parisian jaunt

a parisian jaunt

whoa boy.  not sure how this happened, but it has been seven months since my last jaunt post.  seven months!  i’ve missed writing so much, and after renewing my website for the next three years (we’re somewhat committed now), i felt like i may as well get my money’s worth out of it and write a few more posts.  let’s be honest, it’s my happy place.

as it turns out, some big things have been going on behind the scenes.  for starters, i’m expecting a baby boy in one month.  one month!  big news and the prep for said baby has taken up a significant amount of my free time (turns out you have to be prepared for another human to enter your life).  this is our first, so if any of you out there have any tips, they are all welcome.

quick shot in leuven, belgium after climbing the stairs to the library's bell tower.

quick shot in leuven, belgium after climbing the stairs to the library’s bell tower.

you’d think that would mean our travels would come to halt, but au contraire, mes amies.  in the time since i last wrote in march, my husband and i took a road trip across the american south, including arkansas, mississippi, alabama, georgia, south carolina, north carolina, and tennessee.  it was fantastic and i can’t wait to share my favorite spots with you.

one of many stops for the breath-taking views along the blue ridge parkway.

one of many stops for the breath-taking views along the blue ridge parkway.

then in july, we boarded a flight and headed to europe for one of the best vacations i’ve ever taken!  we visited friends in belgium, braved the unbelievably cold (and wet!) weather of amsterdam (one of my favorite cities now), partied at an amazing german wedding in stuttgart, and had an incredibly perfect week in paris.  i was not ready to come home to reality, but alas it happened.  such an unforgettable trip with so many new sites – much, much more to come on that.

the most delightful bar at the hotel du nord brasserie in paris.

the most delightful bar at the hotel du nord brasserie in paris.

finally, i’ve been traveling a lot for both work and family events – short trips to houston, san antonio, phoenix, tulsa, washington dc, and glen rose have made the summer a true delight.  fact: being pregnant does not mean travel ends (in fact, you actually get to skip a lot of lines during peak tourist season).  i’m finished with travel for the next few months, but excited to see what this new adventure in the form of an alien-like newborn has in store for me.  stay tuned for posts from the past seven months and hopefully some posts of the adventures of getting out and exploring with baby.

a piece of the berlin wall at the newseum in washington, dc.

a piece of the berlin wall at the newseum in washington, dc.

cheers!

travel tips: how to plan your best road trip

how-to-plan-a-road-trip

this time of year is my “busy season” at work, which doesn’t leave me much time (read: no time) to travel. but i have one busy season tradition that carries me through the long hours and weekends of work: the planning of the post-busy season trip.

last weekend, dallas had the most perfect weather, so my husband and i spread out the blankets in the backyard, played some music, and brought out my atlas to plan our spring road trip.  i’ve been dying to take a road trip across the southern US, and to finally visit some friends and family who live along the way.  planning road trips is one of my most favorite things to do, so i thought i would share some of my tips for planning fantastic road trips:

a perfect saturday: blanket, pug, atlas, and wanderlust

a perfect saturday: blanket, pug, atlas, and wanderlust

1. start with an atlas – looking at an atlas gives me ideas for scenic detours and sites to see that i may have missed.  kate spade’s travel book, places to go, people to see, mentioned that the drive from memphis, tn to vicksburg, ms is stunning, so we looked it up on the atlas.  guess what’s nearby?  yazoo city, home of willie morris, my husband’s favorite author.  note to self: detour to yazoo city on day three.  atlases will also list approximate driving times between cities, which comes in handy while planning number of days on the road.

2. stalk pinterest – set up a board for your road trip locations, and pin away as you research places to see.  map traveled to nashville recently, and i pinned most of the places they went to my tennessee board.  a friend at work recently gave me a magazine article on memphis, so i pinned the places that looked cool to me.  pinterest provides a great way to store ideas from all over the web in one place so you don’t forget.  if you’re looking for ideas on locations, check out my pinterest boards (organized by state and country) and also my road trip board for inspiration.

pinning by state has helped me plan the road trip - so many cool places i've pinned in the past that i had forgotten about!

pinning by state has helped me plan the road trip – so many cool places i’ve pinned in the past that i had forgotten about!

3. create a list on your phone – as you’re planning, you’ll hear suggestions from friends or through media that you’ll want to remember.  keeping a list on your phone will help you remember those tips since you can jot them down when someone suggests a place (that’s how i remembered kate spade’s recommendation for the memphis to vicksburg drive).

4. start reading! – i love themed reading.  i think this started when i read cannery road while visiting monterey, california – it brought so much life and history to the places i was seeing, that i was hooked.  if you’re looking for ideas on what to read during your travels, check out book lust to go by nancy pearl – she recommends books based on your travel destinations (genius).  for our road trip, i’m adding to my list john steinbeck’s travels with charley and william least heat-moon’s roads to quoz: an american mosey.

upcoming road trip reads

upcoming road trip reads

5. check out what the new york times has to say from 36 hours – i wrote an entire post on my love for 36 hours.  check it out and then read it before every trip you ever take (including short business trips).

6. plan your nights – book your hotels, b&b’s, stays with friends, etc. in advance.  start with your budget to understand how much to spend per night, and then see if you have any friends or family along the way that you can stay with (don’t forget to pack hostess gifts, if so).  some of my favorite bookings sites are airbnb and jetsetter.  don’t forget about any hotel points you may have saved up that could give you a free night (or two!) at a national chain.

the stops on our summer road trip - most excited for yazoo city, mississippi and the blue ridge parkway in appalachia

the stops on our summer road trip – most excited for yazoo city, mississippi and the blue ridge parkway in appalachia

7. leave room for improv – as an accountant, i like to plan down to the minute.  this can make for some stressful travel experiences.  one thing i’ve learned is to build in some time to improv, an extra day to go where i want, a half-day to explore a new part of the city, etc.  one time while driving to LA from dallas, we saw a sign on I-40 for the petrified forest.  excuse me?  detour!  we spent a couple of hours looking at the craziest petrified wood (how is this possible?!) before jumping back on the interstate and heading west.

stay tuned for future posts on best road trip apps, and how to pack your car for the best road trip.  for now, fill me in on any of your best tips for planning road trips – i’d love to hear them!

travel-themed valentine’s day gifts for the ladies in your life

travel-themed valentine's day gifts for women

1. leather travel collection from aspinal of london, from $325  2. rose gold eye mask, $38  3. mexico: the cookbook, phaidon, $49.95  4. ban.do iphone 5 charger, $30  5. imaginenations flower power globe, $450  6. kate spade’s places to go, people to see, $40

aaaaaand i’m back!  with more travel-themed valentine’s day gifts, this time for the ladies in your life (click here for monday’s gift guide for the guys).  go the route of jewelry and flowers if you must, but wouldn’t it be so much fun to give a sense of adventure instead? a few travel necessities caught my eye, including the luxurious leather travel set from aspinal of london (*swoon*), the rose gold eye mask from anthropologie (this is a must for red-eye flights, as i’ve mentioned before here), and the heart-covered ban.do phone charger for when you’re out on the go (if you hate hearts, there is also an adorable pink and gold version here).

to inspire you for more adventure, i highly recommend kate spade’s “places to go, people to see” and phaidon’s “mexico: the cookbook.” i received “places to go, people to see” for christmas, and cannot put it down – it has everything from city guides to the best hotel cocktails to what to buy locally in cities around the globe.  plus, the photography is amazing (i keep fighting the urge to rip out pages and frame them).  my mother-in-law received “mexico: the cookbook” from my sister-in-law after her recent jaunt to san miquel de allende, and holy tamale, this book is amazing.  filled with pages of recipes and photos of the most amazing food you ever did see, this book has me wanting to hop on a plane and head south asap.

finally, i couldn’t resist including another imaginenations product.  wendy gold is so talented and i want every single thing on her website, including this stunning painted globe.  she personalizes both globes and maps (including push-pin maps to track your travels), and i can’t think of a better way to get inspired for future adventures.

what are some of your favorite travel-related gifts?

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

my jaunts: cape town, south africa

the colorful bo-kaap neighborhood

the colorful bo-kaap neighborhood, which we explored in cape town on our extra day that we added.

cape town is one of the most unique cities i have visited.  located in the southeastern tip of africa, it confusingly feels like europe due to the british and dutch colonization from years past, and is often described by the rest of africa as “not the real africa.”  yet look a little deeper, and something new is bubbling up.  as the nation continues to separate itself from the all-too-recent apartheid (a post on that later), the landscape is changing.  a new generation of youth who never knew (or only vaguely remember) the blatant segregation of races now together create a sense of optimism through shared beers at hipster pubs, the growing popularity of football among the entire nation, and a feeling of creativity that permeates the city, replacing the formerly rigid afrikaaner mindset.

stunning vistas while driving along the western edge of the cape peninsula

stunning vistas while driving along the western edge of the cape peninsula

also, the scenery is breathtaking.  table mountain surrounds the city center and provides stunning views on sunny days (though beware: table mountain is often shrouded in clouds, making breathtaking vistas impossible for days at a time), while cosmopolitan beach towns line the atlantic ocean with posh restaurants and cafes.  heading south from the city, the cape peninsula is a day’s drive and provides views only paralleled by big sur in central california (and minus the thousands of tourists).  if that’s not enough, the cape winelands are to the east of the city and boast unbelievably picturesque vineyards famous for cultivating excellent pinotage amid cape dutch architecture.

it is easy to be overwhelmed by a city such as this, and i had no idea where to start. we spent five days in cape town, and i still feel as if i did not see enough and that i missed out on some key sites.  to help future visitors, i’ve put together my ideas on must-sees, based on how many days you have on hand.

for one day in cape town:

if you get to choose which day to visit, choose saturday.  start by taking a cab to the old biscuit mill in the eastern, industrial part of town.  gradually turning from a warehouse district into a creative hub, the former biscuit mill houses the neighbourgoods market each saturday.  hundreds of vendors converge with clothes, jewelry, and food.  oh, the food.  stalls of african comfort food, sushi, paella, mediterranean salads, ostrich burgers, brai (african bbq), and more, surround rows of communal tables set with fresh flowers and burning candles.  you must go to see the new face of cape town: young, diverse, and all creating something that seems to be more brooklyn than africa or england.

the neighbourgoods market entrance in the old biscuit mill in cape town

the neighbourgoods market entrance in the old biscuit mill in cape town

following lunch and shopping, take a cab to the nearby convention center and hop on the double-decker tourist hop on/hop off buses.  for one day, i recommend the red route.  head to the top of the bus and listen to the guide as you speed through downtown, long street, and district 6, where black residents were forcibly removed from their homes in the 1970s and forced to live in townships outside the city (the district 6 museum is worth a stop).  if in need of a pick-me-up, stop at the mount nelson hotel (nicknamed uncle nellie) for high tea (make reservations in advance).  otherwise, continue on to table mountain.

a view of the city bowl district from the top of table mountain; looking northwest toward the atlantic ocean.

a view of the city bowl district from the top of table mountain; looking northwest toward the atlantic ocean. you can see the cape town stadium (from the world cup!) near the northern coast.

at the base, head to the cable car lines (tip: buy your tickets in advance to bypass the 45-minute wait), and zoom to the top of the mountain, which takes hikers approximately four hours to ascend.  the views are unbelievable and the photos do not do it justice.  back on the bus, head to swanky camps bay, a beach town known for its cosmopolitan vibe, and get out for a glass of champagne or espresso from a sidewalk cafe while watching the waves.  return to the bus for drives northward along the coast past more beaches, the world cup soccer stadium, and finally to the v&a waterfront.  very touristy, but worth a stop to see locals catching a televised rugby or soccer game at the large amphitheater.

the south africa vs. scotland rugby match at the v&a waterfront in cape town. the rowdy brazil world cup game followed with a packed ampitheater.

the south africa vs. scotland rugby match at the v&a waterfront in cape town. the rowdy brazil world cup game followed with a packed ampitheater.

add a second day:

hire a guide (i strongly recommend graham at wilderness touring) and head south to explore the cape point peninsula.  bring a camera to capture the winding roads hugging sharp cliffs that descend to crashing waves from the atlantic ocean.  pass quaint towns with cape dutch architecture, and head to table mountain national park for glimpses of ostriches and baboons near the cape of good hope.  eat lunch at two oceans restaurant, but don’t sit outside unless you’re willing to risk losing your dinner roll to a hungry baboon (seriously).  continue north along the eastern side of the peninsula, stopping at simon’s town to see penguins (penguins!!) as they frolic along the sand.  a total highlight.  end the day with a stroll through kirstenbosch gardens, the ethereal botanical gardens of cape town,and a true gem of the city.  complete the night with dinner at manna epicure in the gardens district.

penguin sighting at simon's point on the eastern edge of the cape peninsula - i love them!

penguin sighting at simon’s town on the eastern edge of the cape peninsula – i love them!

add a third day:

remember your guide?  bring him back for another day, and head to the winelands.  explore stellenbosch, a charming town in the middle of the winelands with a pristine downtown (think: santa barbara).  choose a few wineries to visit.  i would recommend vrede en lust for the wine enthusiasts, meerlust for the creatives (find charmaine gola and have her tell you everything you ever wanted to know about wine in south africa), webersburg for a traditional winery in cape dutch architecture, and delaire graff for a completely ridiculous display of wealth that will leave you awestruck.  people may suggest you stop in the french town of franschhoek:  skip it; too touristy.

the webersburg wine estate is a perfect example of cape dutch architecture.

the webersburg wine estate is a perfect example of cape dutch architecture.

add a fourth day:

continue to explore cape town.  spend some time strolling the city at leisure.  we stayed at liberty lodge in the gardens district (read my trip advisor review here), and it was a perfectly central location that was safe and allowed for walking to most city center sites.  shops and restaurants line kloof nek street, which turns into the famous long street as you head north to downtown.  stop in the vintage shops of long street, and especially at clarke’s bookshop, which specializes in cape town and south african literature.  walk through bo-kaap, the colorful muslim neighborhood with brightly painted houses set against the backdrop of table mountain; visit the bo-kaap museum to talk to residents and understand the history.  afterwards, enjoy lunch or tea at any of the hipster-esque cafes along bree street (i recommend dear me brasserie for excellent salads).  if you have the time, visit robben island to see where nelson mandela was imprisoned (you must reserve in advance).

the dear me brasserie near long street in cape town

the dear me brasserie near long street in cape town

add a fifth day:

rent a car and head to babylonstoren.  read my gush of a post here.

what to read: long walk to freedom by nelson mandela, you can’t get lost in cape town by zoe wicomb

what to watch:  searching for sugar man

when to go: summer is better weather-wise and allows for better views from table mountain.  however, winter is the best time for safaris, so you may be forced to visit capetown pre-safari in the winter.  weather is mild, but bring some layers (see my post on what to pack here).

my map of cape town!

my map of cape town!

my favorites: letterpress stationery

a collection of some of my favorite letterpress stationery and notes over the years

a collection of some of my favorite letterpress stationery and notes over the years

in honor of the national stationery show (nss) that occurred this week in new york city, i thought i would devote this week’s post to my love of pretty paper.  i’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere after college i fell in love with all things letterpress.  as someone who still prefers handwritten letters over emails, i find so much joy in a colorful or witty or charming notecard that has been made locally (anyone want to join my challenge to write one letter per day in july??  i totally stole that idea from someone, so apologies if it was you!).   see below for a few of my favorite stationery stops across the US.  and learn more about some of the best stationery in the business here (anyone want to go with me to nss in 2015??).

we are 1976 in bishop arts, dallas

the bishop arts location of we are 1976 – must.take.letterpress.workshop.

1. we are 1976, dallas, tx – this store has it all.  from greeting cards and graphic posters to felt donuts and handmade jewlwery, i could spend hours here.  with a couple of stores in town, i have found that my favorite is the bishop arts location, which i visited several weeks ago.  my heart just about skipped a beat when i saw the giant letterpress behind the counter and learned they also offer classes for cards, posters, and business cards!  can you even imagine how delightful teal pressed jaunt cards would be?  i can.

sugar paper los angeles poster

lovely words from sugar paper los angeles, next to my international vogues and venice postcard…bliss.

2. sugar paper la, los angeles, ca – what started as a small venture in the brentwood country mart has turned mega popular across the US thanks to their recent target line.  i adore their polka dots and gold inlay and basically anything they write in script, like my “work hard and be nice to people” poster i purchased from them a few years back.  they have the most pleasing cards and colors, and never cease to outdo themselves (seriously, check out their new kate calendar for 2015…never too early to plan!).

kate's paperie in new york city

ten years ago this summer (sigh), shopping for stationery with my bestie and coming out with too, too many finds (my bag not pictured!).

3.  kate’s paperie, new york city, ny – i stumbled in here on a trip to new york with my best friend, and we instantly fell in love.  first, it’s huge.  second, it has cards you’ve never even dreamt of.  perhaps this was the moment i fell in love with letterpress.  i’m pretty sure we spent a couple of hours (and many, many dollars) at kate’s, and came away with some delightful treasures.

do you have any favorites i should add to my list?

happy birthday to jaunt!

jaunt blog bike!

this is me on a bike that looks very similar to my own. except it’s blue and mine is brown. and it’s kickstand is down because i’m just posing in the lobby of the affinia dumont in nyc while concierge donald snaps my photo. (travel tip: sharing a hotel room with four other girls really reduces your hotel bill!)

pretty hard to believe, but this week marks jaunt’s one year anniversary.  what started as a welcome diversion from my day job has turned into…well…a welcome diversion from my day job. i have had oh-so-much fun with my new hobby this past year, and want to thank everyone who keeps reading (looking at you, stephanie and katie!).  a few things my dear blog has taught me over the past year:

  1. exploring new places really is my favorite thing to do.  even if it is just exploring the new dive bar down the street (ahem, ships).
  2. sharing stories about adventures (rather than people, work, or people at work) is the best.  huge huge thanks to all of my friends who have written guest posts for me (even if i do get incredibly jealous of your trips), as well as a loud shout-out to my new blogging buddies (namely, the wondernuts) who are beyond hilarious and make me super excited for a mini-travel community (i see a meet-up in our future, just sayin’).
  3. i’m not so great at drawing maps.  but i did join a map making class taught by prêt à voyager on skillshare (hello skillshare, where have you been all my life?), and i plan to be a master cartographer in approximately six to seven weeks.  i welcome any and all classmates who would like to also draw maps, create a map pinterest board, and not judge me for purchasing graph paper (she said to be creative, but i’m an accountant and former year-booker and i think in terms of picas and slopes.  #sosueme).

so cheers to fiscal year 2014, and here’s to many more! *raise bubbly here and then send me a guest post so i can stop feeling guilty about my tons of exploring but lack of writing about it recently*

texas skies

this is a photo of texas right after i crossed the border back in (see ya, california…well, really it was see ya new mexico since that was the neighboring state). there is also a bit of glare from the window because it is entirely too hot to roll your window down in texas in august.

my favorites: pizza

just a good veggie pizza at pizzeria regina in boston

just a good veggie pizza at pizzeria regina in boston

what’s better eating than a good slice of pizza?  pizza has always been a favorite food (does anyone not like pizza?), and here are a few of my favorites throughout the united states:
  • di carlo’s in los angeles – hidden in a non-descript building near the corner of hollywood and sunset in los feliz, this was my regular pizza joint for the duration of our time in los angeles.  it doesn’t look like much from the street, but the pizza is amazing, and you can have the leafy back patio with strung lights to yourself on most nights.  the owner is great (he’ll set aside the patio for you if you want to have a party), it’s byob (not even a corkage!), and the diavolo pizza is a personal favorite.  can’t go wrong here.
celebrating on the back patio at di carlo's in los feliz, los angeles

celebrating on the back patio at di carlo’s in los feliz, los angeles

  • pizzeria regina in boston – an oldie, but a goodie.  serving pizza since 1926, this north end tradition is sure to not disappoint.  i went a few years back with a good friend, and tried some pizza over a cask of chianti (i’m starting to see a trend here with the vino).  the pizza was amazing and the people were friendly – not sure what else you could want!
cask chianti at pizzeria regina in boston

cask chianti at pizzeria regina in boston

  • new york pizza, of any kind, provided it is cheap and sold by the slice – while i like a great pizza with wine and atmosphere, there’s nothing like stopping in a hole-in-the-wall pizza parlor in new york, chilled from the wind and the elements, ordering a slice of piping hot pizza, and perching against a standing-room-only table to wolf it down.  the entire process embodies new york for me almost as much as the obligatory morning bagel and chic evening cocktails.
  • the classic and delicious new york pizza by-the-slice

    the classic and delicious new york pizza by-the-slice

what are some of your favorite pizza stops?  i’m on a hunt for the best, so don’t be shy!